WHEN TO GO
Sunny Athens swelters in June, July, and August, with temperatures regularly in three figures and drought a constant threatbut it's a relatively comfortable dry heat that drops off at night. In August, Athenians leave en masse (many to the islands) and the city feels empty; also, many restaurants shut down altogether during this month. Winter is too cool to swim and somewhat rainy, with snow in the surrounding mountains (and sometimes even in Athens itself). Spring and fall are enchanting, with balmy days, few tourists, and lower hotel rates.
HOW TO GET THERE
Athens International Airport, Eleftherios Venizelos, lies about 15 miles southeast of the city center (30-210-353-0000; www.aia.gr). Taxi is a good way into the city, since the six-lane Attiki Odos connects directly with the new ring road. Even better, if you are not overly encumbered with baggage, is the Metro (30-210-519-4012; www.ametro.gr), which is within walking distance of the arrival gates and will take you almost anywhere in central Athens more quickly and less expensively than a cab (6, compared to 7).
The Metro is a wonder (and a bargain at 1.50 cents Euro, or about $2.40), especially since it's also a free museum (30-210-519-4012; www.ametro.gr). This being a center of the ancient world, amazing artifacts were unearthed during the digging and these are now on display at the Acropolis, Syntagma, Thission, and Panepistimiou stops. Lines run from Kifissia in the north to the port of Piraeus in the south, and to the airport in the southeast. The futuristic $500 million T-shaped tram network is equally amazing, if less widespread and, despite being capable of zero to 60 miles per hour in eight seconds, a lot slower, thanks to its many local stops (30-210-997-8000; www.tramsa.gr). It is useful for reaching the metropolitan-area beaches.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap. Hail them in the street, even if they're full—sharing is common, though you have the right to refuse extra passengers. For this reason, few bother with "for hire" lights. Tipping is not customary.
Tel: 30 210 325 3123
Greek National Tourist Organization
Tel: 30 210 870 7000
Tel: 30 210 3310392
Open Mondays through Fridays 9 am to 6 pm; Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 4 pm.
Eleftherios Venizelos Airport
Hall of Arrivals
Tel: 30 210 353 0445
Open Mondays through Fridays 9 am to 6 pm; Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 3 pm.