This is from a trip I took several years ago for an overnight in Athens. My sisters and brother just went through Athens after a Greek Islands charter sailboat trip and I realized I never made a post so I could share my tips. So here it is, my tips for a quick trip to Athens, including when is the best time avoid the crowds at the Acropolis and a review of the New Hotel.

Whether on purpose (smart) or randomness, most flights and ferries coming back from the the Greek Islands invariably end up with a forced overnight in Athens. On my last trip coming back from the beautiful island of Folegandros (my posts on that trip are here), this stop was shorter than most, but here are my tips for how to get in and get out, while still enjoying every minute.

How To Beat The Crowds Visiting The Acropolis

It’s just mind-blowing that this beautiful symmetrical beast was built in the 4th Century BC. An enduring example of proportion and detail that impacted thousands of years of architecture. It was so advanced that even the columns are canted ever-so-slightly to counteract the optical illusion of them bending inward. Just for the beauty of it.

Parthenon early morning

Like everywhere in Europe, this can be a ghastly busy place as busloads of tourists and cruiseshippers are disgorged up here at the same time. Always in the heat of the day. Most people can’t wait to get out of here. But I have a suggestion on how to have it all to yourself, in the best possible light, so you can really drink it all in.

Crowded Acropolis
This is what a typical busy summer day looks like.
The Tourism Ministry says 16,000 a day fly through its gates.
Parthenon no people
You see that? There’s nobody here. All of your friends’ photos of the Parthenon are great, but they are always clogged with people, people angling over heads to get a selfie, your friends complaining about how intolerable the hoards of people are and how hot it is. I have a great suggestion to avoid all the crowds.

Pro Tip: Wake up early. Skip breakfast. Get to the entrance gates when they open at 8am. There’s nobody there, all the crowds that come later. You’ll have the place to yourself.

Then go have a nice leisurely breakfast. Enjoy the morning. Go catch your flight.

If you’re not hiring a guide or taking a tour, you can have your way around the Acropolis and be done in 45mins. Then you can walk around the Plaka or go back to your hotel for a nice strong Greek coffee and breakfast.

I loved the timing of this guard change. Part Wes Anderson, part Monty Python.

The Propylaeum — A Mastery of Stagecraft

propylaeum on Parthenon

Okay, forgive me while I geek out over the Greeks here for a minute. See these columns at the entrance? Most people just walk right past them to get to the Parthenon. But in a Greek & Roman Archeology class I took in Rome, the famous archeologist professor told us all about how cool and forward-thinking this little entrance was.

It’s called The Propylaeum. The original entrance to the Acropolis was through a rock ravine that ran through here. But then in 435 BC (!) they built this genius entrance. It doesn’t look like much today, but it was designed to maximize the surprise of the beautify of the Parthenon. Like a funhouse or maze.

Acropolis Propylaeum layout

If you look above and follow the path: They built the colonnade (in the first pic above) to shield the view, then forced people to walk up a zigzag ramp with walls so when you first start the ascent, you’re just staring at blank walls (1) and then the same as you make a second turn (2) and walk up higher, then when you turn (3) you just see a framed box of light that draws you further through the columns. Then when you hit (4) at the same elevation as the Parthenon, BOOM! it hits you. Like walking into the gates of Heaven.

Parthenon and Greek flag

The Parthenon

Parthenon in morning sun

It’s just amazing that this was built in the fifth century BC. And still standing 2500 years later. They’ve been working to restore this building for decades — I can remember it looking much the same in the early 80s. But they have really improved the whole acropolis, especially the lighting at night. You can see it from anywhere in the city. They purposefully color the repairs in white, pieces found bits together, so you can authentically tell what was there and not have it feel like a New England bank building.

Parthenon pediment

The pediment that’s missing was stolen by Lord Elgin in order to “protect” it from the years of flipflop wars between Greece and Turkey and the World Wars and it’s been in the British Museum since the 1800s.

But Greece has built an amazing new Acropolis Museum to protect and showcase all the great works, so the pressure is on for the British Museum to return the goods to its rightful home. If you have time before your flights, definitely go check it out. Everyone raves about the museum.

Acropolis column ruins
I just love how there are random capital and columns bits just laying around. Many with hand-chiseled greek lettering and graffiti from over the two thousand years.
Temple view from the Acropolis
Another reason to get here early: the views are just amazing and you can watch the sun rise over the distant hills and paint every building with a smile. In the middle of the afternoon, it all just looks hot.
overview of Athens

Stay at The New Hotel

When I stayed at the New Hotel in Athens, it was still brand new. And still looks good today. I found it, like all my hotels on Tablet Hotel’s awesome site, which has all the cool Athens hotels. It has a great central location, cool funky decor – I really loved the wood sculpture theme in the lobby and restaurant — and a great rooftop deck for cocktails and a view of the Acropolis. Really enjoyed my quick overnight there.

If you really want to do it up, check out the very upsale Hotel Grande Bretagne. Very pricey, but I hear it’s great for a fancy rooftop dinner looking straight up at the Parthenon.

The New Hotel rooftop
The New Hotel Athens restaurant
The New Hotel rooftop Acropolis view
Athens flag on Acropolis

— Last Visited September 2016, Posted June 2024 —

More Information on a Short Visit to Athens

Here’s a great article from The NY Times on 36 Hours in Athens. And another NY Times article on all the cool things happening in Athens the last several years. And an article from Travel & Leisure on how to spend the perfect day in Athens (see, I’m not the only one). And from Condé Nast Traveller UK on 16 amazing things to do in Athens. And The Telegraph on how to spend a weekend in Athens. And TimeOut’s call on all the cool hip things in Athens.

Here’s a recent article on the best hotels in Athens from Conde Nast Traveller.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow Us on Instagram @youshouldgohere