G R E E C E
Make the most of your time in this magnificent city
I recently traveled solo to Athens, Greece and safety for travelers to Athens was among my questions – along with where to enjoy authentic Greek cuisine and how to get the most out of a visit to the spectacular Athens’ Acropolis.
I visited Greece in May of 2022, to take a week-long sailing excursion in the Saronic Gulf. But I was on my own in Athens for one night before the trip, and two nights after. I had heard that Athens was an incredible city and that one day and night wouldn’t be enough.
Exploring cities solo is actually something I really enjoy. And Athens exceeded my expectations in every way, and yes, I felt very safe, even when I was walking around the city on my own. Three days to explore Athens was wonderful, and I would have happily stayed longer.
I am sharing tips for navigating Athens safely, and making the most of your time in this stunning capital, rich with culture, history and welcoming people.
How Safe is Athens?
Europe is generally very safe for tourists, with theft and pickpocketing the most likely problem visitors encounter. According to recent data of crime rates across Europe’s largest cities, Athens is safer than many of its contemporaries. In fact, it’s statistically safer than Rome, Paris, Dublin, Brussels and Hamburg. And all of those cities are considered “safe for tourists”, including solo women travelers.
Athens can be a little rough looking in places, there’s certainly lots of street art, but violent crime is rare. That said, it’s important to stay vigilant with regards to your possessions, especially in popular tourist areas and when riding the Athens’ Metro. Pickpocketing is common in Athens, as with other European cities. TIP: Keep valuables and purses secure and be careful about waving your phone around or leaving it on a cafe table next to a busy pedestrian traffic area, where a passerby could easily grab it.
Arriving in Athens - Airport to City
I’ve learned that when you arrive in a new place, bleary-eyed and jetlagged, it’s nice to have someone waiting in the airport, holding a sign with your name on it. I booked my airport transfer with Welcome Pickups, which allowed me the comfort of knowing my transfer was set. My driver was indeed waiting when I arrived, helped me with my luggage. His taxi was parked just outside the airport. (He was also a regular taxi driver.)
A Welcome Pickups booking is made online with a credit card so I didn’t have to worry about cash in the local currency. And Welcome Pickups will monitor your flight and know if it’s early or delayed. Email and phone support is available 24/7. Current prices to Athens City Center are €43 during the day and €58 between 11 pm and 5 am.
You can get a taxi at the Athens airport for 3 euros less: the fare is €40 from 5 am to midnight, and €55 from midnight to 5 am. I have had people tell me that when they arrived in summer, the wait for a taxi was 45 minutes or more – something to keep in mind. TIP: I’ve heard it’s wise to be sure that your driver starts the meter.
On a tight budget? Greece has a very good public transit system and taking the Metro is a budget-friendly option from the airport. Athens’ Metro Line 3 connects the airport to the city centre (Syntagma Square), and trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6:30 am to 11:30 pm. One-way tickets cost €9 (€4.50 for children, teenagers, and 65+).
Where to Stay in Athens
The most popular areas to stay while in Athens are all considered safe – these include the Plaka, Kolonaki, Monostiaraki, or Syntagma Square where the highly rated popular Hotel Grand Bretagne is located.
The Plaka neighborhood, which was the original city at the base of the Acropolis, is a pedestrian-only neighborhood with cobblestone streets and a charming village feel. Apparently, It is also called the “neighborhood of gods” because of the archaeological sites and proximity to the Acropolis. It is interspersed with Ancient Greek and Roman ruins. That said it is crowded and noisy, a true hub of activity with people around day and night.
I stayed my first night in Greece in the Monastiraki area, and the other two nights in Kolonaki. When I am traveling solo, a location that positions me to be able to walk around on my own is preferable to a hotel with fancy rooms or amenities. I walked extensively in Athens, day and evening, and always felt safe.
In Monastiraki I stayed at the Attalos Hotel, a 3-star accommodation with a great location, a short walk from the bustling Monastiraki Square.
Rooms were simple but clean and very comfortable. What a pleasant surprise it was to walk out to the balcony and see the Acropolis in the distance. The rooftop patio also offered great views. The only downside was a very small shower. I was able to wedge myself in there, but it would be tight for many people.
At the end of my trip, I spent two nights at the Periscope, Athens, a 4-star boutique hotel with only 22 rooms. It was modern, stylish, and filled with art. I found the staff welcoming and helpful and appreciated the all-day snacks and drinks in the lobby. It was also double the price of the Attalos and while very nice, not sure it was worth double. Overall though, Athens hotels seemed very affordable compared to hotels in other large European cities.
Kolonaki was definitely quieter and Monastiaraki was more lively, and a little more centrally located.
First Night in Athens
For your first night in Athens, I highly recommend taking a guided walking tour. I love to do this in a new city when I’m on my own. A guide can answer questions and acquaint you with the city and offer tips for making the most of your visit.
Athens has an interesting program called “Athens with a Local,” free guided experiences. You choose the theme of you walk – choices include getting to know a specific neighborhood, or an architecture tour or food walk. Find out more at Athens Walks with a Local. Remember that if you enjoy your experience on a free tour, it’s customary to tip your guide well.
For my first night, I explored Athens on a tour I booked through Athens Food on Foot. It was a three-hour city tour that ended with a delicious dinner hosted by our guide, Penelope Triantafyllidou. She took us to one of her favorite restaurants, Ella Cafe, and took the guesswork out of ordering; everything she suggested was fantastic!
Penelope was an absolute delight to spend time with. In addition to being incredibly knowledgable, she’s a former field archeologist with Greece’s Ministry of Culture. Six years ago she became a tour guide because she wanted to share her love of Greece with visitors. Penelope offers customized tours, from a couple of hours to multiple days. Please comment below if you would like to contact her about a tour, and I will pass on your email to her.
I was able to ask Penelope many questions during our evening together so took the time to ask about safety and being a solo woman traveler in Athens. She reassured me it was very safe to walk around central Athens on my own, day and evening, including the National Gardens.
Siteseeing Solo in Athens
My favorite way to explore European cities is on foot, and although Athens is a sprawling city, central Athens is compact. Everything I wanted to see was within a 30-minute stroll of the hotels I stayed in. After my first evening with Penelope, I felt comfortable exploring the city on my own.
If you are nervous about evenings on your own, I recommend evening tours/dinners with a guide or dining close to your hotel. This is another reason having a centrally located hotel is great – more within walking distance.
I explored several areas on my own and walked during the day from Kolonaki to the National Archaeological Museum which I highly recommend. It has the world’s best collection of ancient Greek art, spanning 7000 BCE to 500 CE.
Seeing the Acropolis - Do You Need a Guide?
The Acropolis or “city on a hill’ is considered the most significant ancient sight in the western world and is absolutely worth visiting. It is stunning, especially at sunset.
It is easy to see on your own, which I did on my trip. Of course, you can join a guided tour to see the Acropolis. GetYourGuide has many tour options or if you would like a private guide, consider hiring Penelope, the guide I used.
If you are on a budget and prefer to explore on your own, as I did, I have a great tip. Download the Rick Steves App and listen to his Acropolis walking tour which lasts about 2 hours and gives you lot of great info and context about what you are seeing. I used it for other walks I did on my own in Athens as well.
Depending where you are staying, the Acropolis should be within walking distance of your hotel. From Kolonaki, it took me about 30 minutes. In warm weather, I recommend visiting early or late as it is less crowded and less hot.
Visiting the Parthenon in Athens
The crown jewel of the Athens Acropolis is the Parthenon. It served as a temple for Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. A massive gold-and-ivory statue of her was installed inside when it was finished, although is no longer there. It also served as the treasury.
Its genius design seems be the reason its withstood many earthquakes. Kudos to its astounding architects: Ictinus and Callicrates, and to the sculptor Phidias. (A separate story with tips for exploring the Acropolis is coming soon).
Although often partly covered by scaffolding, there is no question the Acropolis should be a part of every visit to Athens. It is easy and safe to walk to, from the popular areas and with so many people around, you should feel quite comfortable. Again, your biggest concern is just keeping belongings secure.
Getting Around Athens
Athens was always known for its ancient monuments, but in the past, also for terrible traffic and air quality. Investment in the city’s infrastructure has changed that. Pedestrian-only areas and a great metro/transportation system have reduced traffic and made it much more enjoyable to walk around.
As I said, I mostly walked. But I also took a short trip on the Athens metro, although with a group at that time. It seemed very easy to use, and was clean and modern. Rather than going into further detail about that here, you can learn everything you need to know at Athen’s official tourism website: This is Athens: Getting Around.
5 Reasons Why Athens Is More Than a Stopover
- Athens is a living museum. Much like Rome, ancient monuments are scattered around the city – you turn a corner and happen upon them. And the incredible Acropolis, “city on a hill” is worth the trip alone.
- The hospitality of Greeks is well known; I found everyone to be friendly and helpful. English was widely spoken, making it easy for a tourist who could count her Greek vocabulary on one hand.
- Athens has wonderful energy, nightlife, and many interesting small businesses. I read that the economic crisis, and resulting job loss, actually led many young people to start businesses. Athens is filled with rooftops for dining with a view of the Acropolis, very pretty at night.
- The food is incredible, and I loved the focus on seafood, salads, and vegetables, like greens and eggplant (both were in season when I visited) Then there’s the spinach pie and deep-friend cheese.
- And it’s all so affordable! I found it cheaper than Rome, Paris or Madrid.
I hope I have reassured you that Athens is a very safe city to explore, whether or not you’re traveling solo, and that you should stay a few days if you can. As with travel in any large city, it’s important to take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, especially in crowded areas and when taking public transit.
After three days, I wasn’t wondering, “Is Athens Safe”, but rather when I would have the chance to return.