A cruise from Athens is the perfect way to see the best of the Greek Isles and the Mediterranean without the hassle of many short flights, island hopping, or packing and unpacking your suitcase between different destinations.
All you need is one international airfare to and from Athens.
Get ready for a cruise vacation like no other by finding a cruise starting from the Port of Piraeus, the principal seaport of Athens, the beautiful capital of Greece.
We have the ultimate 2-day guide to make your vacation unforgettable. Explore this vibrant city before starting your cruise from Athens, and plan some excursions further afield to gems such as Olympia or Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. Ensure this is not just your port stop but an adventure worth remembering.
Athens – the vibrant capital of Greece
Athens, a treasure trove of European history, immerses you in a bygone era. Beyond its iconic structures, the city pulses with life, offering a vibrant atmosphere and delectable cuisine that add to its allure.
In this article, we look at how to explore the city before starting your cruise from Athens with a 2-day guide including travel info, tips, and itineraries.
Discover an exciting mix of old and new, with modern buildings alongside centuries-old ones. It is easy to find your way around (pick up a street map from your hotel concierge) – an orderly grid of small, narrow side streets are between the main avenues. Explore iconic landmarks, including the ancient citadel Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Hadrian’s Arch before your cruise from the port of Piraeus.
Transport options to and from Athens International Airport
Here are the transport options you have to get from Athens International Airport – officially called Athens Eleftherios Venizelos – to your city center hotel:
Airport Shuttle Buses
If you are traveling on a budget and want to save money, Athens has an excellent bus system, which can take you anywhere in the city center. The bus is the cheapest option, but the trip can take up to 60 minutes, depending on traffic conditions in Athens.
Syntagma Square is the most central stop in the city. Purchase tickets at the airport. Alternatively, buy them onboard the bus, but you will need cash. The fare is 6 euros per person and half price for children under 18.
Taxi or Uber
A taxi or Uber (bookable through the Uber app) will cost you about €40-€50 and takes approximately 40 minutes. This is the most expensive option; however, you don’t have to carry your luggage and get door-to-door service straight to your hotel. If you are four people traveling together, this will be the most convenient option and offer good value for money.
Be sure to take a taxi from the official rank outside the arrivals terminal. It’s signposted. Never take a cab from someone who approaches you and offers you a journey.
Another alternative is the metro station from the airport to Syntagma Square in the center.
The trains depart the airport train station frequently. Follow the signs to the train station. It is located adjacent to the airport and is reached by an elevated walkway. A single ticket costs €10 per person. Be aware of pickpockets during your stay, particularly around the central train station, Athens-Larisa station, and avoid this area in the evenings.
Where to stay in Athens
Hotel options in Athens are endless, making it difficult to choose the perfect one. We have narrowed it down and picked some of our favorites to help you. We have included top-rated hotels and more affordable ones, so there is something for everyone.
We prefer to stay in downtown Athens, near Acropolis Hill. You will be close to the main attractions, the best shopping streets, many bars, cafes, and restaurants, and all the public transport options available.
The areas to focus on for the best hotels in Athens are:
Acropoli, Monastiraki, and Plaka
- Divani Palace Acropolis
- Plaka Hotel
- Lotus Center Apartments
- Attalos Hotel
- Hellenic Vibes Smart Hotel
- Ergon House Athens
- Electra Metropolis Athens
- Athens Capital Center
- The Zillers Athens
- The Modernist Athens
- Coco-Mat Athens
- St. George Lycabettus
Hotels in Piraeus, near the port
- The Port Square Hotel
- WYZ Piraeus
- The Alex Monte Kastella
We have gathered our favorite hotels in Athens, including hotels near the Piraeus cruise port, on one page. Click here to search and book hotels in Athens.
Two days in the city before your cruise from Athens
Here are the best ways to spend two days in this extraordinary city, starting with the iconic Acropolis.
Day 1: Classic Athens – the essential sights
The Acropolis in Athens is one of the most famous attractions in Greece and was once a fortress that saw many battles over its long history. Start early and walk to this UNESCO World Heritage site, surrounded by some of the most iconic buildings in Greece.
We highly recommend either starting or finishing your day at the Acropolis. This way you have a better chance of beating the heat and the crowds. However you plan your visit, the majesty of this place is undeniable. Search for guided tours to the Acropolis and other sights if you prefer to visit with a knowledgeable local guide.
Parthenon Temple, Erechtheion, and The Temple of Athena Nike
The Acropolis, or high city, was once a place of worship and was crowned by the famous Parthenon Temple. At its creation in the 5th century BC, Athens was the icon of the golden age. The temple was dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena.
Walk the pathways of the Parthenon, then make your way over to the north side of the Acropolis to Erechtheion, famous for its Porch of Caryatids. These are the six beautiful columns depicting maidens carved in the intricate detail of marble. Pass through the imposing entrance, and you will find yourself in the ruined center of one of ancient Greece’s most important religious sites.
After visiting Erechtheion, walk towards The Temple of Athena Nike. This temple was built 500 years before the Parthenon and is central to Athenian history. The temple was dedicated to Athena Nike (Athena Victorious), a goddess who helped Athens win their war against Sparta. She was seen as a protector of both democracy and civilization.
From the Theatre of Dionysos and Odeon of Herodes Atticus to Areopagus
While in the Acropolis, you will see two theaters, first the Theatre of Dionysus and then the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
The Theatre of Dionysus contains a stage with seats for 12000 people. Five rows of seats were believed to be divided into three sections on each side of the central aisle.
The Odeon has stunning views over Athens and can be used as a theater today.
About a 20-minute walk from the Acropolis, you will find the Areopagus. Areopagus is a hill covered in stone seats. It was the site of the first democratic parliament in Athens; Areopagus offers fantastic views, especially if you are there at sunset. It can be a bit of a climb, and the stones can get slippery, so wear good walking shoes!
Hadrian’s Library and Monastiraki Square
From the Areopagus, we walked 20 minutes to Hadrian’s Library. The Library, built in AD132 by the Roman emperor himself, was a gift to Athens. The streets of the Areopagus are dusty, hot, and lined with street sellers and shops selling all kinds of souvenirs.
Just a short walk from Hadrian’s Library is Monastiraki Square. This popular tourist destination is home to the historic Monastiraki Flea Market. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants around here. The central transport hub of Monastiraki Square metro station is nearby.
As with most areas in Athens, be extra vigilant regarding pickpockets. They are very clever, and you don’t want to be targeted. If you have luggage with you, for example, when first arriving in the city, we advise traveling by taxi instead.
From the Acropolis Museum to an evening in Plaka
End your sightseeing day with a visit to the Acropolis Museum. Surrounded by crumbling neo-classical buildings and sizzling souvlaki stands, the Acropolis Museum is a must-see.
The museum houses all the artifacts ever found on the Acropolis and great interactive exhibitions. Book tickets before you leave home to avoid a long wait. Buy your tickets on the official Acropolis Museum website.
By now, you’ll be hungry. Walk into Plaka, the historic heart of Athens, and choose one of the many traditional Greek taverns serving good food. The Plaka neighborhood has a village feeling and is a busy, colorful place with plenty of eateries and local craft shops.
All around, you will find a mix of new tiny boutique hotels where abandoned buildings once stood. And where once stood dusty, grubby Plaka eateries are now trendy cocktail bars and casual dining venues with shady outdoor seating areas.
Day 2: Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon
On your second day, get out of the city and visit Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.
We recommend booking a guided tour with a trusted supplier. That way, you get the transport pickup directly from your central Athens hotel and a local guide to teach you the historical significance of the sights you are about to see.
The drive to Cape Sounion takes just over an hour. Have your camera ready for fantastic coastline views along the Attic Peninsular. Perched on the headland are the remains of the Temple of Poseidon. You will have plenty of time to walk around the site if you book a half-day tour. And you’ll be back in the center of Athens for a late lunch.
Beat the heat with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour or rent a bike
Athens can be very hot in the summer, with immense crowds and long queues. If you visit in high season, we strongly advise starting early in the morning to beat the high temperatures and groups but also consider booking the hop-on/hop-off bus.
Use your bus ticket to explore the area of Athens that you didn’t see on your first day. The bus route will take you around most of the major sights. You can choose your itinerary at your own pace. And you will not be so exhausted.
Alternatively, renting bicycles is another fun way to cover more distance than walking, and there are plenty of good bike paths. Better still, bike with a guide. This way, you get a guided tour of the local life in Athens and the top tourist attractions.
Syntagma Square, The Old Royal Palace & National Garden
Enjoy a walk following the path through the National Garden. You’ll come across the ancient Roman Bath, and from there, you will see the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. The gardens close at 7 pm, but then you can head to Syntagma Square, just a short walk away. Syntagma Square sits below The Old Royal Palace, which houses the Hellenic Parliament.
The surrounding area has many cafes and restaurants to enjoy a souvlaki meal. Finish the evening with a quick visit to Le Greche for a double scoop of gelato or an Ekmek kataifi dessert!
How to get to the Port of Piraeus for your Cruise from Athens
Port of Piraeus is located about 15 km southwest of central Athens. To reach your cruise from Athens from your central hotel, you have the following options:
- Taxi: The average cost of a taxi is about 30 euros. The journey takes about 30 minutes depending upon traffic and road works. Your hotel can help you book a cab to the port. Book this in advance when you first check-in. Show your driver the number of the port terminal you need to reach (this information is on your cruise ticket). And the name of your cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your departure point.
- Private Transfer: If you are more than four people, pre-booking a private transfer could be cost-effective before you leave home. You can share the cost as this is the most expensive way to get from Athens city center to the port. Inform your driver of your pickup hotel and which port terminal your ship leaves from (this information is on your cruise ticket). And give them the name of your cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your departure point.
- Metro: A train will take you from the Athens center to the port for about 2 euros per person. Get on at Syntagma metro station. The journey time to the metro station at Port of Piraeus is about 20 minutes. When you arrive at the port metro stop, take a taxi to the cruise ship terminal (the walk is about 25 mins, which is very long if you have a lot of luggage).
- Bus: Express buses go straight from the center of Athens, Syntagma, to the port. The journey is about 40 minutes or longer; buses go every 30 minutes. Hop on the X80 bus for 4 euros and climb off at the cruise port. It’s a cost-effective way to get to and from the port to central Athens, but also our least favored option as the buses can get crowded and stop very frequently along the way.
Check our our preferred partner for transportation in Athens.