There’s quite a bit to do around Athens International Airport, so you’ll find something to do whether you have a few hours to pass or a longer layover.
My top suggestions are to visit rescue donkeys or do some wine tasting as well as the classic sightseeing, of course! Also, take a moment to pick up a book at the WH Smiths in the airport. It’s one of the places to get English books in Greece.
Things to Do with A Short Layover at Athens International
Visit the Airport Museum
There’s a small museum upstairs from the departures floor of the airport near exit 3. It houses both temporary and permanent exhibitions. The permanent exhibition shows finds from the Mesogaia region of Attical, and it’s just one room.
But it’s a great way to get a little taste of ancient Greece, especially if you’re passing through on international flights and don’t have time to venture into the heart of the city.
There’s also a permanent, interactive display about the Greek leader Eleftherios Venizelos, after whom the airport is named.
I recently saw the 100th exhibition in the Art & Environment area, UN-LIMITED SKY. It was a collection of collages created by students from West Attica University. I fell in love with this one.
Chill in an Airport Lounge
There are seven lounges at Athens Airport:
Departures – Area A (Non-Schengen)
- Aegean Business Lounge
- Skyserv Handling Services – Aristotelis Onasis
- Goldair Handling
- Swissport Lounge
Departures – Area B (Schengen)
- Aegean Business Lounge
- Goldair Handling
- Lufthansa – Business Lounge
- Skyserv Handling Services – Melina Mercouri
If you’re eligible to enjoy one of these through your airline or other ticket access, then a lounge can be a great place to escape the crowds and enjoy some complimentary food and drink.
Do Some Gift Shopping at the Airport
If you need some last-minute Greek souvenirs, then there are plenty of souvenir shops at the airport. There are some really nice shops selling natural Greek food and drink products. And others with non-food-related gifts. For an idea of what to bring back, you can have a look at this post I wrote about unique Greek souvenirs.
At the airport, look out for shops like A Piece of Greece, It’s All Greek to Me and the Greek Designers Store.
If you need inspiration, here are some unique Greek souvenir gift ideas.
Splurge on Some Luxe Goods & Duty-Free
If you’re looking to splash the cash then there are always good offers on premium skincare and perfume brands in the duty-free shops. For clothes and accessories, there are several luxury brands located within the airport.
Look out for:
- Emporio Armani
- See by Chloé
- Armani Exchange
- Michael Kors
- WEEKEND by MaxMara
- Salvatore Ferragamo
- Mont Blanc
as well as several others.
Enjoy the Sofitel Hotel
The Sofitel is the only on-site airport hotel, and it’s very convenient for an overnight stay. But you don’t have to book a room for the night to enjoy the facilities.
Work or Sleep in a Day Room
If you need somewhere quiet to sleep or work, then you can book a day room from 10am – 6pm. Prices vary depending on the date, and you can’t book online. But if you contact their reservation department, they’ll give you information and book you in.
Relax in the Spa
There’s a small spa within the hotel that’s also open to non-guests. There’s a pool, sauna and treatment rooms, plus a tiny fitness centre. But it’s enough to feel refreshed and revived after a busy holiday or either side of a long flight.
Have a Meal
The hotel’s restaurants are both open to non-guests. Go over to Mesoghaia Restaurant for breakfast after an early flight or enjoy food and drink with a view in the evening at Jenny’s Rooftop Restaurant Bar
Have a Greek Beer
Even if you’re only passing through the airport, you can partake in some Greek culture. Don’t know where to start? Have a look at this post I wrote about Greek beers. You can enjoy one at the airport or in Athens while enjoying an iconic view.
Explore the Local Wineries
Staying with the alcoholic, head to one of the nearby wineries for a tasting.
Roxane Matsa Estate offers a tour and tasting with transfers from the airport so you can head straight out. It’s about 15 minutes away from the airport so all you need is 3.5 hours free to enjoy nature, great wine and a light meal.
Things to Do with A Long Layover
Take a Tour of Historic Athens – Book Here
For those of you with long layovers, you’ll have enough time before your next flight for a whistlestop tour of Athens. There are a few different options for how you can do this.
Private Tour from the Airport
To absolutely maximise your time you could arrange a private tour where the driver meets you directly at the airport. He’ll take you into Athens to see the sights, and usually, private tours are customisable to what you want to see. So make your list.
Whether you want to eat some food with a wonderful city view at Lycabettus Hill, see the Acropolis of Athens from up close or afar, run around the track at the Panathenaic Stadium, visit the Roman Agora, National Archaeological Museum or the Benaki Museum put it to your transfer company and have them work out your itinerary.
For private airport transfers and tours you can book with a company like Welcome Pickups and George’s Taxis.
Join a Walking Tour
Joining a traditional walking tour with a knowledgeable guide might be the best way for you to make the most of a short day.
Find Your Own Way Around the City
With several hours to discover the city at your own pace, I’d head into downtown Athens by either taxi or metro. If you take the metro, get off at Syntagma. The metro station is right at Syntagma Square, the bustling heart of Athens.
From there some of the things you could mix and match into your day are:
- watch the changing of the guards every hour on the hour outside the Greek Parliament Building
- find some respite from the heat in summer months at the National Gardens and its pretty cafe
- wander down to the temple of Olympian Zeus. (Currently, it’s mostly scaffolding.)
- visit the shops at Ermou the main shopping street in the centre
- visit the cathedral and then the iconic Byzantine church in the middle of Ermou
- soak up the atmosphere at Monastiraki Square, a busy spot with locals and tourists
- enjoy a rooftop view of the Acropolis at one of Monastiraki bars or restaurants
- visit the Museum of Illusions
- spend some money at any number of souvenir shops or the Sunday flea market then
- meander through Plaka past various archaeological sites to the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum
- explore the famous ancient ruins of the Parthenon.
This area is known for the Archaeological Site of Brauron and its good little museum. They’re set amongst the wetlands that are part of the European Natura 2000 network, along with areas of Andros and Naxos.
After a bit of culture exploring these, you could head to Vravrona Beach and/or book as a day guest to relax at the Dolce by Wyndham Hotel.
Go to The Beach
As well as Vravarona Beach above and Sounion Beach, if you decide to head to the Temple of Poseidon (below), some others are within easy reach.
If you’re staying overnight at the Seasabelle Hotel and you want to stay local to that and the airport, then Artemis Beach is right on your doorstep.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could see out Kokkino Beach at Limanaki. It’s a bit harder to access with lots of steps, but it’s a nice little beach.
Alternatively, there’s Rafina Beach at Rafina Port. It has a beach bar area plus plenty of sand without chairs. Down the coast, there’s also Marikes Beach, which is a bit rocky for swimming.
Small pier between the organised and natural sections of Vravarona Beach
Visit A Museum
As well as the small museum within the airport, others are close by.
The Olympic Musem at Golden Hall embraces the spirit and values of the Olympic Games.
Although not all the information at Goulandris Natural History Museum is translated into English, there’s still a lot to look at here. Note this museum is closed throughout August.
The Vorres Museum will introduce you to both modern Greek art and folk tradition. It also has lovely gardens for some fresh air after a stuffy flight.
As well as shopping at the airport itself and on Ermou Street in central Athens, these are good hotspots:
Kiffisia – a smart neighbourhood with lots of shops. It’s handy if you’ve been to the natural history museum.
Golden Hall Mall where the Olympic Musem is. There’s an Attica Department Store with designer brands as well as some other designer shops in the shopping centre.
McArthur Glen Retail Park and Smart Park is a combined retail park super close to the airport. It’s an outdoor locations and my favourite place to shop in Athens. As well as shops there are lots of places to eat, fun for kids and there’s a cinema too. Note it’s closed on Sundays in the winter.
For details and more locations see this post about the best shopping in Athens.
Visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
This is quite a famous temple and a good alternative to the busy Parthenon. The temple sits atop the rocks at Attica’s most southern point of Cape Sounion. It’s stunning at sunset but a pleasant visit at any time of the day (heat permitting!).
There’s an onsite restaurant with good food and wonderful views. Next to the archaeological site there’s a lovely sandy beach with facilities.
I wrote a whole post about visiting The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion here.
Get Some Love at Donkeysland
Instead of visiting Attica Zoological Park, go to Donkeysland, the Hellenic Donkey Centre. All the donkeys are rescues. You can have a tour in English to meet them, brush them and hear their stories. You’ll meet cute cats, a docile dog and some cute bunnies too.
More Ideas and Useful Information About Athens
If you’re heading into central Athens, then this post has all the information about the various ways to get into Athens’ city centre from the airport, including what you need to know about Athens airport taxis and using the Athens Metro system.
If you arrive late in the day, here are the best things to do in Athens at night.
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