Athens is a gold mine of historic relics, offering history buffs an abundance of ancient sites to visit. With the Acropolis, Parthenon, Hadrian's Arch, and the Temple of Zeus to choose from, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to see the best that Athens has to offer before it's time to get on a flight home.
Today, the city is extremely urban, spread out over a vast area. Don't be intimidated by its size. The joy of Athens is finding unexpected treasures amidst the bustle — like the tiny Byzantine church of Kapnikarea which sits in the middle of a busy pedestrian shopping zone. If you're confused about where you start your exploration of the city, Syntagma Square is always the easiest choice. Once here, you can easily walk to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Parliament Building to watch the changing of the guard, wander the streets of Plaka's flea market to find some cheap gifts and souvenirs or visit the priceless exhibits at the Benaki Museum. If you're visiting in the summer, go sightseeing as early as you can since the afternoon heat can be brutal, especially at places like the Acropolis where there is little or no shade.
With ancient Greece all around you, don't forget to experience Athens' incredible nightlife. The city's bars and clubs come to life after midnight and are well worth the effort of staying up past your bedtime. Try Gazi and Psirri for more modern nightspots, while Plaka is where you will find traditional Greek bars and plenty of cheap ouzo.
Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH), the main airport for Athens flights, is actually located in Spata, about 30 kilometres away.
Direct flights to Athens from Toronto are offered on airlines like Air Canada and Lufthansa, but these will not be as cheap as flights with stopovers in London, Amsterdam, Paris, or Rome. Other airlines flying this route include United, US, Continental, and Delta, some of which have codeshare agreements with European carriers for the sector. Passengers travelling on to the Greek islands can get connecting flights on Olympic and Aegean Airlines.
Athens is one of the world's top tourist spots and is a crowded place for most of the year. The summer months see temperatures going as high as 30-35°C but despite the city's proximity to the sea, the humidity levels are not as high as you might expect. Spring and fall are more pleasant times to visit although cheap flights to Athens may still not be quite as readily available as they are in the winter.
Athens gets most of its rainfall between November and March and this is the off-peak season for travel to the city. Although this is not as popular a time to visit as the summer (when the beaches near Athens fill up quickly), there are still a significant amount of tourists around. So the best bet for getting cheap Athens flights is to book in the month of August when most Athenians leave the city for the holidays around the Feast of Assumption, and most European and North American families return home for the first week of school.
Flights to Athens will arrive at either the Main Terminal or the Satellite Terminal, and a pedestrian walkway connects the two. If you're waiting overnight for a connecting flight to the Greek islands, there's a hotel inside the airport near the arrivals area, which offers discount deals for overnight stays. For more information on your transport options to the city centre, check the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH) website.
Bus: Bus numbers X93, X95, X96, and X97 serve the airport, connecting it with destinations in Athens as well as the port at Piraeus. Buses depart from the area between Exits 4 and 5 on the arrivals level.
One-way tickets cost about €5 and you can get discounts of up to €2.50 for children, seniors, and students. Tickets are valid for 90 minutes only and can be bought on board or at the counters located near the stops. You can also get buses to regional destinations like Rafina, Makopoulo, and Keratea from outside Exits 2 and 3.
Train: Line 3 of Athens' metro system serves the airport. The city's suburban rail system also connects the airport to the Athens Central Railway Station and the Piraeus port. The station for both services is located at the departure level of the airport, and directions are clearly indicated from the arrival gates onwards.
One-way tickets on the metro and suburban rail cost approximately €8 and discount fares are available for children. If you're travelling with several other people, it may be cheaper to get group tickets for the metro — about €14 for two people or €20 for three.
Taxi: Taxis at the airport operate on a flat rate system. Daytime fares for trips to the city centre are about €35 while prices for the same distance from midnight until 5 a.m. go up to €50. You can also book a cab in advance by emailing of telephoning the Taxi Union Association, but remember that there will be an additional fee charged for this service.
Car Rental: Avis, Budget, Hertz, National/Alamo, and Sixt operate on-site services from the airport and their counters are located at the Main Terminal on the arrivals level.
Other: If you've booked a limousine from the airport, the meeting point for these services is between Exits 3 and 4 on the arrivals level.