by Anastasia Valti-Spanopoulou
Condé Nast Traveler’s readers just voted Greece as the best destination in the world (nothing we didn’t know already), but what with the flocks of lovers travelling across the world to get their perfect Santorini honeymoon, what with the thousands of people saving money half of their lives to get to see those outlandishly romantic vacation spots in the Greek islands, by now you’re surely suspecting that Greece also one of the most romantic destinations in the world. And since we brought them up, the Greek islands are indeed some of the best romantic getaways in the country, which is why we made a list of the best Greek islands for each kind of traveler in a previous post, so you can plan your weekend escapes from Mykonos or Santorini to Athens, from Athens to Crete and a lot more Greek island hopping with confidence.
Nevertheless, the capital always has that indescribable charm of its own, so if you and your belle or beau are planning your romantic vacations in Greece, don’t leave out our crazy, but absolutely enchanting Athens. From monumental landmarks that changed the world’s history, to serene green spaces and mellow sunsets, to tiny hidden spots oozing with that modern Greek livelihood, Athens truly has it all for adventurers looking to devour the whole wide world together. But because we hate nothing more than seeing you get confused, here’s a list of the best romantic places and top things to do in Athens, based on the true story of our own romanticising and slow-strolling around the city.
#1 Catch the Sunset Where it Counts
Okay, so we know a sunset is romantic pretty much anywhere, so maybe you’re thinking this isn’t something very original. But: trust us, if you pick the right spots in Athens, watching the sun go down while sipping on a beer is one of the most unique things to do in Athens, which is why many locals also consider it one of the best things to do on a date while the weather still permits it (and locals know!). So now that we convinced you - hopefully - there are two romantic places we’d definitely suggest for that sort of thing. The first one has got to be Aeropagus, which is basically a hill on the west of the Acropolis. There’s a ton of history behind that hill, as is the case with most landmarks in Greece, but that’s not the topic of this post; what you really need to know right now, is that it’s only a short walk from all the major local attractions of the city center, so after you’re done with your sightseeing you can reach Aeropagus and catch an insane view of the Acropolis and the larger part of Athens. Just make sure you wear appropriate shoes - safety first! The second perfect sunset spot in Athens is Lykavittos, which is the tallest hill in Athens i.e. has a breathtaking view of the whole city as well. To climb it, you need to get on the Lycavittos cliff railway, which departs from Aristippou street, in the area of Kolonaki. And speaking of Kolonaki, this area is one of the poshest ones in the city, with plenty of chic boutiques, but also restaurants, cocktail bars and clubs. In other words, it works pretty well to catch the sunset at Lykavittos and then take your significant other for a tall glass of wine and a taste of that awesome Athens nightlife, don't you think?
#2 Explore the Best Restaurants in Athens
Let’s not kid ourselves - all romantic ideas for couples either start or end with food. Lucky for you, whether you’re looking for a Greek restaurant or a bite of something international, there’s plenty of mouthwatering food in Athens, and most places take really good care of both their decor and service, so it’s easy to find something with a little atmosphere to it. For starters, if you’re spending the day exploring the gazillions of Greek tourist attractions in Monastiraki, you can try Cafe Avyssinias - a taverna which somehow manages to remain hidden right in the middle of the flea market and continue to win our hearts with its ‘real deal’ Greek food, its unique rustic decor, live traditional music on weekends, and beautiful view to the Acropolis for those sitting upstairs. For a classier date scenario, we suggest Kolonaki, and specifically By the Glass, for excellent meat and a long list of great wines, and Ratka, for all sorts of well-cooked international dishes, drinks, and delicious desserts. For those of you who want a dinner overlooking the sea, head South and don’t miss out on Matsuhisa (inside Astir Palace Resort), which is known to be not only one of the best Japanese restaurants, but also one of the most romantic places in Athens (try the cocktails and the black cod). For those of you preferring a touch of green, an all-time classic in the peaceful suburb of Kifissia is Blue Pine, with a beautifully lit garden, exceptional service, and mouthwatering French cuisine cooked the traditional way. If there’s a special occasion on the table (pun intended), such as spending your honeymoon in Greece, proposing, or just celebrating the fact that you have a little extra money to spend, Funky Gourmet Athens is the place for you, as it's one of the top restaurants in Athens right now, with not one but two Michelin stars under its belt! There’s some serious experimentation with food going on in that kitchen, so if you’re the type who enjoys molecular gastronomy and surprising food combos, a visit to Funky Gourmet is definitely one of the best quirky things to do in Athens. Of course, romance is a subjective notion, so if you prefer to lay low key and try a Plaka restaurant or just grab a falafel wrap from Falafellas in your hand to combine with a stroll around the center, we totally hear you! If you feel like a coffee (and a teeny weeny bit of dessert) to wake you up after lunch, the selection of cafes in Athens is literally endless. For an extra shot of snugness, we often prefer Portatif in Kolonaki, or Lotte, near the Acropolis.
#3 Drink to Yourselves in the Best Bars in Athens
All the city tours in the world cannot give you a real taste of Athens without a sip of its nightlife. Athens bars are very close to our hearts, not only because of the people mingling that goes on in there, but also because each of them has a unique character, decorative twist, cocktail list, and music profile. There’s something out there for literally everyone. So yes, going drinking is one of the most fun things to do in Athens, but less because of the actual drinking and more because of the experience and sense of vividness the city gives you at night. As far as lovebirds go, there are countless romantic places to visit at night in the city, such as the classic Noel, with its gorgeous retro interior, cocktails and bistrot bites, which makes it perfect for couples, but not only. The street Noel is found on, Kolokotroni street, is one of the most famous streets in Athens as far as locals go, as it’s filled with little bars and young people enjoying their drinks on tables set outside. So if you do choose to visit Noel, you’ll have plenty of other places to try next, and make this a long night out. Another fantastic choice for couples going on holidays in Athens are the city’s numerous rooftop bars - a relatively recent trend which resulted in many several bar owners in town creating amazing bars with a view of the city and/or the Acropolis. You can find details about Bios Terrace, A for Athens, and the rest of what we consider as the best rooftop bars in Athens in our relevant guide. To impress on a date, you can also try secret bars, such as Fouar, Black Duck, or any other of the cozy little spots, or just undeniably awesome nightlife spots listed in our Athens' guide on the best hidden bars, which are impossible to let you and your S.O. down.
#4 Dinner and a Movie and a Garden
There is absolutely no Greek who does not look forward to the outdoor cinemas opening when summer finally arrives. First of all, as a viewer you find yourself sitting in a small garden somewhere in the middle of the city, which is in itself super cool. Secondly, most open air cinemas in the capital date back to… well a long long time ago, which gives them an air of nostalgia and, inevitably, romance! Are you wondering where to find the best open air cinemas in Athens? Our outdoor cinemas guide, obviously, because we’ve got you covered at all times. This includes, but is not limited to Thission Open Air Cinema, which CNN Travel listed as the best outdoor cinema in the world. So grab your lover, treat him or her to a beer, slushie, ice-cream, slice of pizza, or anything else yummy in this world, and don’t be ashamed to hold hands during the movie - it’s common practice around here.
#5 More Gardens for Everyone
If you’ve done a little research, we’re sure you know that the National Garden is an absolute must see. It goes without saying that it’s also great for romantic walks, as the beautiful plants, flowers (and several small animals) make you forget that you’re right in the middle of Syntagma. It’s located right next to the Parliament House and opposite the Kalimarmaron Olympic Stadium where the first modern Olympics took place, so you can easily combine it with some sightseeing. Perhaps an even more impressionable green spot in Athens is the Philopappou Hill - a hill covered in pine trees, marked by several ancient myths (we told you so), and named after a monument of a Roman emperor that still stands there. Apart from its serenity and colorfulness, you will be thrilled by Philopappou because of its amazing view to the Acropolis. You can simply stroll around if you don’t have much time to spend, but keep in mind that, as long as you don’t litter, you are allowed to have a picnic there, which is one of the most unusual things to do in Athens.
Unique experiences for couples? check our hand-picked selection
#6 Discover Athens Neighborhoods with Character
Okay, it’s true that literally every neighborhood in Athens has character, but some characters are more romantic than others. We probably don’t need to tell you that a stroll in Monastiraki, the best flea market in Athens, is loads of fun as you get to dig into piles of knick knacks, discover toys and CDs you haven’t seen since you were a kid, and even bargain for an antique little something you can fit in your pocket. From there, you can walk to the quieter and more picturesque area of Plaka, and specifically the neighborhood of Anafiotika, where you will find ancient monuments mingled with traditional tavernas, cute little coffee places, and local residents riding their bicycles. If you have days to spend away from the center, the Northern suburb of Kifissia is definitely worth a visit, not just because of its boutiques, as we already told you in our shopping guide, but also because of its green spaces, little parks, and plenty of chic bistros, well-decorated cafes and stylish cocktail bars. Still, we realize Greece is almost synonymous to ‘sea’, so of course we also suggest a walk pretty much anywhere around the Athens Riviera. The areas of Glyfada and Vouliagmeni are good examples of places you can enjoy a view to the sea, and even take a swim. By the way, if you’re looking for more suggestions on where to take a swim in the city, make sure you take a look at our post on the best beaches in Athens. Back to our romantic stroll however, Flisvos Marina in the area of Faliro is also an option - it’s basically a small port for yachts, but it’s surrounded by cafes and restaurants, so you can sit there for a coffee and gaze at the yachts coming and going. If anything, it is a travel experience you get in very few places, so it’s well worth considering.
#7 Be Active Tourism Buddies
Surely you won’t see as many people running or riding a bicycle around Athens as you would do in other European cities, but that doesn’t mean that there are no options for you active types - several local activities can bring you closer to your other half while helping you discover Athens better. First off, sightseeing tours via ebike rental are a very popular way to get an overview of the major landmarks in Athens. If adventure tours are not your cup of tea, going for a run around the Athens Riviera can be a different travel experience for you - you don’t get to run by the sea every day, especially with your loved one. We gave you several tips in our running guide but apart from that let us remind you: hats, sunscreen and water! And if before we tempted you to take a dive in the sea, let us now inform you that in several places you can also try water sports, so hurry up and sign up for that windsurfing class or scuba session you've been telling yourself you'll try while the weather's still a delight.
#8 Live the Travel Experience of a Lifetime at Cape Sounio
Call us cheaters if you must, because indeed Cape Sounio is not in Athens, but 70km South of the capital. Still, if you’re okay with day trips and are searching for adventurous things to do, you’ll find that Sounio is one of the best places in Greece for those seeking antiquity in modernity, romantic spots, great picture shots, and a breathtaking view. Cape Sounio is a promontory by the Aegean Sea, and at its highest point still stands today the ancient Temple of Poseidon, god of the sea. We know we already covered the ‘sunsets’ topic, but the sun setting over the temple and into the sea at Sounio is a different thing altogether! The way to get there is either by car (about an hour's drive) or by the public bus which departs from Pedion Areos, takes about two hours to get you there, and costs EUR 7 one way. We don’t believe anyone can forget an excursion to Sounio, nor with whom they went on that excursion - that’s probably why many consider it the ultimate couples getaway in close proximity to Athens. You tell us when you’ve been there!
P.S. All the opinions expressed above are 100% personal, and not promotional in any way.