The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Athens on a Budget

With a rich history spanning over 5,000 years, Athens is home to an incredible collection of Greek ruins and priceless antiquities. The city is also affordable and explorer-worthy, with plenty of budget-friendly food and easy access to the sun and sea. 

Our Athens budget travel guide is here to give you tips and tricks on how to navigate the city, eat, and have fun, all regardless of your budget. It’s perfect if you’re backpacking Athens or just want to be informed of the possibilities. 

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Athens, the birthplace of democracy, offers a delicious blend of history and affordability. Budget backpackers can get by on fumes (and souvlaki!), while luxury lovers can live it up in style. Here’s a breakdown to help you figure out your Athenian adventure:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low Budget: €55-€85 (cheap backpacking athens)
  • Mid-Range: €85-€150
  • High: €150+

Detailed Costs: Athens Backpacking


  • Low: Hostels or budget guesthouses (€30-€50 per night) offer a social scene and basic amenities.
  • Middle: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs (€50-€100 per night) provide more comfort and sometimes breakfast.
  • High: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments (€100+ per night) boast stunning views, spas, and all the trimmings.

Read: best hostels in Athens.

Public Transportation

  • Metro ticket: €1.40 (valid for 90 minutes)
  • Daily pass: €4.50 (unlimited travel for 24 hours)
  • 3-Day tourist pass: €22 (includes airport transfers and unlimited travel for 72 hours)

Entrance Fees

  • Low (mostly Free!): Acropolis (admission required for some areas), Plaka neighborhood, Syntagma Square
  • Middle: Ancient Agora (€10), Temple of Poseidon (€8)
  • High: Acropolis Museum (€20), National Archaeological Museum (€12)


  • Low: Grab a delicious and filling souvlaki (grilled meat in pita bread) for around €5.
  • Middle: Mid-range restaurants offer tasty Greek specialties like moussaka and pastitsio for €10-€15.
  • High: Fine-dining establishments with stunning views or Michelin stars can set you back €50+ per person.

Popular Food Staple: Gyros

  • Low: €2-€3 for a street food gyros pita.
  • Middle: €7-€10 for a gyros plate with fries and salad at a taverna.
  • High: Fancy gyros variations with gourmet ingredients can reach €15+ at upscale restaurants.


  • Low: Grab a strong, sweet Greek coffee (freddo espresso) for €1.50 at a local bar.
  • Middle: Relax at a charming cafe with a cappuccino for €3-€4.
  • High: Specialty coffee shops offering fancy brews or trendy areas can charge €5+.

Beer & Wine

  • Low: Quench your thirst with a local Mythos beer for €3.50 at a local bar.
  • Middle: Enjoy a glass of Greek wine for €5-€7 at a mid-range restaurant.
  • High: Sample craft beers or special vintage wines for €8+ at trendy bars or upscale restaurants.

Exploring Athens: Things to See & Do

Athens throws shade on the idea that ancient cities are boring. Sure, you’ll be gawking at jaw-dropping ruins, but Athens is also a city with a killer street art scene, delicious food, and nightlife that would make Dionysus himself jealous. 

Athens Must Do

  1. Acropolis & Parthenon: Ascend the sacred rock and marvel at the Parthenon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the enduring symbol of democracy.
  2. Acropolis Museum: After climbing the Acropolis, delve deeper into its history at this incredible museum filled with awe-inspiring statues and artifacts.
  3. Ancient Agora: Walk where philosophers like Socrates and Plato once strolled in the birthplace of democracy.
  4. Plaka: Get lost in the charming labyrinthine streets of Plaka, a historic district overflowing with shops, cafes, and neoclassical buildings.
  5. Monastiraki Flea Market: Haggle for treasures (or just window shop) at this sprawling flea market, where you can find everything from antiques to handmade souvenirs.
  6. National Archaeological Museum: Immerse yourself in Greece’s glorious past with this massive collection of artifacts spanning millennia.
  7. Temple of Olympian Zeus: Tower over the city at the ruins of this colossal temple dedicated to the king of the gods.
  8. Panathenaic Stadium: Imagine yourself as an ancient Olympian and jog (or stroll) around the stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
  9. Philoppapou Hill: Hike up this hill for panoramic views of the city and a chance to explore the imposing Philopappos Monument.
  10. Sunset at a Rooftop Bar: End your day with a cold drink and breathtaking cityscapes from a rooftop bar – the perfect way to toast your Athenian adventure.

Free things to do in Athens

  1. National Garden: Escape the city in this sprawling oasis filled with lush gardens, walking paths, and a small zoo – perfect for a picnic lunch.
  2. Changing of the Guard Ceremony: Witness this colorful and impressive ceremony held every hour in front of the Greek Parliament building (Syntagma Square).
  3. Free Walking Tours: Get the lowdown on Athenian history and hidden gems with a free walking tour led by enthusiastic locals (don’t forget to tip your guide!).
  4. Temple of Hephaestus: This beautifully preserved Doric temple, dedicated to the god of metalworking, is a free alternative to the Acropolis.
  5. Archaeological Sites: Several archaeological sites, like the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library, offer free entry on specific days, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.

Top Museums in Athens

  1. Benaki Museum: Explore Greek art and culture from prehistoric times to the present day at this sprawling museum housed in a beautiful neoclassical mansion (paid entry, free on the first Sunday of every month).
  2. Museum of Cycladic Art: Step back in time with this collection of Cycladic art, featuring fascinating artifacts from the islands of the Cyclades (paid entry, discounts for students and seniors).
  3. Byzantine and Christian Museum: Discover the influence of Christianity on Greek art and history with this collection of religious artifacts and icons (paid entry, free on Sundays).

Where to Stay on a Budget

Let’s be honest unless you’re starring in your own remake of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you probably don’t need to splurge on a five-star joint in Plaka (the postcard-perfect neighborhood surrounding the Acropolis, with a price tag to match). Athens offers a plethora of perfectly lovely and budget-friendly neighborhoods, each with its own distinct flavor.

Read: best hostels in Athens.

Check out these areas if you’re backpacking Athens on a budget:

Psirri: This up-and-coming neighborhood is a former industrial district brimming with trendy bars, art galleries, and hidden tavernas serving up delicious meze (think Greek tapas). While it might get a little lively at night (read: loud music), Psirri’s youthful energy and proximity to must-see sights make it a great choice for social butterflies.

Koukaki: Just a short walk away from the Acropolis but minus the Plaka price tag, Koukaki is a charming residential area with a local vibe. Think cute cafes, independent shops, and friendly tavernas where you can chat with the owner over a plate of souvlaki. It’s also close to the fantastic Onassis Steamship Museum, perfect for maritime history buffs.

Metaxourgeio: Edgy and artsy, Metaxourgeio is a great sport for street art, independent theaters, and quirky cafes. This once-gritty neighborhood is undergoing a cool transformation, attracting artists and creative types. Be prepared for some rough-around-the-edges charm, but that’s part of its allure (and hey, it’s close to the Acropolis Museum).

Neos Kosmos: This family-friendly neighborhood south of the Acropolis offers a relaxed atmosphere with a mix of cafes, restaurants, and shops. It’s a great choice if you want to experience a more local side of Athens, with parks and playgrounds perfect for a post-sightseeing picnic. Plus, it has excellent public transport connections, so you can easily walk around the city.

Eating and Drinking

Forget overpriced tourist traps and limp Euros – Athens is a paradise for budget-conscious foodies. Here’s how to navigate the city’s culinary scene without needing a loan for that next gyro.

Water: Tap water is perfectly safe to drink, so ditch the bottled stuff and refill your reusable bottle at any fountain or tap.

Affordable Eats: Greek Food

  • Souvlaki joints: These are the McDonald’s of Greece, offering skewered meats (chicken, pork, or lamb) in warm pitas with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. They’re cheap, filling, and perfect for grabbing on the go.
  • Psistaria (grill houses): Similar to souvlaki joints, psistaria offer a wider selection of grilled meats, often served with roasted vegetables and French fries. Be sure to ask for their “daily special” for the most wallet-friendly option.
  • Tavernakia: These small, family-run tavernas are hidden gems, serving traditional Greek fare in a cozy atmosphere. Look for daily lunch specials or “mezedes” (small plates), perfect for sharing with friends.
  • Tourist Trap? Tourist Tax: Tourist areas are notorious for inflated prices. Stray a few blocks from the Acropolis and Plaka, and you’ll find tastier (and cheaper!) options.

Athens Food Market: 

  • Varvakios Market: This historic market is a wonderland of fresh produce, seafood, and meats. Sample local olives, cheeses, and honey, or grab a quick lunch at a hidden stall.
  • Central Market: Located near Monastiraki Square, this market offers a more local vibe with fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. Be prepared for some friendly bartering!
  • Attica Market: Upscale and modern, Attica Market focuses on gourmet Greek products. It’s a great place to stock up on unique souvenirs like olive oil and local jams.

Affordable Food:

  • Gyros: Layers of seasoned meat (usually chicken or pork) cooked on a vertical rotisserie, wrapped in a warm pita with tzatziki, onions, and tomatoes. The ultimate Greek street food – cheap, delicious, and perfect for soaking up the city’s energy.
  • Loukoumades: These bite-sized Greek donuts are fried to golden perfection and drizzled with honey, cinnamon, or chocolate sauce. A sweet treat that won’t break the bank.
  • Spanakopita & Tiropita: Savory pastries filled with spinach and feta (spanakopita) or cheese (tiropita). They’re a delicious and affordable snack or light lunch option.

Grocery Gems for Backpacking Athens:

Want to cook your own budget-friendly feasts? Here are some grocery stores known for their low prices:

  • Lidl: This German discount chain offers a wide variety of groceries at rock-bottom prices.
  • Sklavenitis: A Greek supermarket chain with a good selection of local and international products at competitive prices.
  • AB Vassilopoulos: Another popular Greek supermarket chain that is known for its frequent discounts and special offers.

Bonus Tip: Bakeries in Athens offer a variety of savory and sweet pastries at affordable prices. Grab a “bourekia” (filo pastry filled with cheese or vegetables) or a koulouri (sesame-seed ring) for a cheap and satisfying on-the-go snack.

With a little planning and this guide in hand, you’ll be a pro at navigating Athens’ delicious (and affordable!) food scene. 

Popular street in Athens

How to Get Around

Forget overpriced tourist taxis and chariots pulled by grumpy mythological creatures (seriously, those things haven’t been a thing for millennia). Athens boasts a public transportation system that’s the envy of many a budget traveler. Here’s your comprehensive guide to navigating Athens like a local hero.

Understanding Athen’s Public Transportation

  • The Metro: The mighty Metro is your rapid transit chariot, whisking you between major landmarks like the Acropolis and Plaka faster than a greased-up Olympian wrestler. Tickets are affordable, with options ranging from single journeys (valid for 90 minutes after validation) to zappier multi-day passes (perfect for extended exploration). Here’s the lowdown on tickets:
  • Single Ticket (€1.20): Valid for 90 minutes after first validation, allowing unlimited transfers between buses, trams, and the metro within that timeframe.
  • 5-Day Ticket (€8.20): Your best friend for budget-minded adventurers, this ticket grants you unlimited travel for five whole days on all means of public transport in Athens.
  • Family Ticket (€4): Traveling with a pack of mini-explorers? This ticket allows a family of up to two adults and three children under 18 unlimited travel for one day.
  • Reduced Tickets (€0.60): Available for students, seniors (over 65), and holders of a disability card. Be sure to carry your ID for verification.

Pro Tip: Metro stations often double as mini-archaeological museums, showcasing cool artifacts unearthed during construction. Keep an eye out for these hidden gems!

The Buses

  • Athens’ extensive bus network covers every corner of the city, venturing where even the mighty Metro can’t reach. Perfect for exploring off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods and hidden gems. While buses can get a tad crowded during rush hour, they offer a more “on the street” experience, allowing you to soak in the city’s vibrant energy.
  • Here’s a heads up: Tickets cost the same as the metro tickets (€1.20 for a single journey), and validation works the same way.

The Trams: Charming and convenient, the trams go through the city center, making frequent stops at key landmarks. They’re a fantastic way to sightsee and avoid the hustle and bustle of the main roads. Tickets are priced the same as metro and bus tickets (€1.20 for a single journey).


  • Multi-Day Pass: Ditch the single-ticket woes and grab a multi-day pass (like the 5-Day Ticket) if you plan on exploring extensively. They offer unlimited travel within a specific timeframe, saving you money and precious vacation time spent buying single tickets.
  • Student & Senior: Flash that student ID or senior citizen card and enjoy discounted fares on all public transportation options. Every euro saved is a euro earned for that extra baklava you’ve been eyeing!
  • Walking: Athens’ city center is surprisingly walkable, and getting lost (in a good way) is part of the adventure.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Athens

Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH)

  • Metro: The most economical option! Take the metro line M3 (blue line) directly from the airport to Athens central station (Monastiraki). The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs €10 (a single ticket specifically for the airport journey).
  • Bus: Several bus routes connect the airport to various points in Athens. The X95 bus route takes you to Syntagma Square, a central location in Athens. Tickets cost €6 and can be purchased from the kiosks outside the arrivals terminal. While not as fast as the metro, the bus can be a good option if your accommodation is closer to its route.

Best Time to Visit Athens

Finding the perfect time to visit Athens is like finding the Minotaur’s hidden chamber – it requires a bit of strategy. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons to help you choose the Athenian odyssey that best suits your travel style:

  • High Season (July & August):

Pros: Long sunny days, vibrant nightlife, most attractions open with extended hours.
Cons: Brace yourself for crowds, soaring temperatures, and inflated accommodation prices.

  • Shoulder Season (April-May & September-October):

Pros: Pleasant weather, smaller crowds, and more affordable flights and hotels.
Cons: Some shops and restaurants may have shorter hours, and there’s a chance of occasional rain showers (especially in April and May).

  • Low Season (November-March):

Pros: Rock-bottom prices, minimal crowds, and a more local Athenian experience.
Cons: Shorter days, some attractions with limited hours, and the possibility of colder weather (though rarely anything too extreme).

National Holidays & Peak Festivals

  • Greek Orthodox Easter: A major holiday in Greece with fluctuating dates (usually falls between late March and April). Expect most things to shut down on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and prices might be slightly higher during this week.
  • New Year’s Day (January 1st): Most things are closed, but celebrations erupt at midnight.
  • Epiphany (January 6th): Traditional blessing of the waters at various locations around Athens.
  • Independence Day (March 25th): Military parades and celebrations take place. Public transportation might be busier.
  • Labour Day (May 1st): Some shops and businesses may have shorter hours.
  • Assumption of Mary (August 15th): A major religious holiday with many shops and businesses closed. Island ferries might be crowded.
  • Ochi Day (October 28th): National holiday commemorating Greece’s rejection of Mussolini’s ultimatum in 1
  • Christmas (December 25th): Many shops and restaurants close, but festive decorations and celebrations abound.
  • Athens Epidaurus Festival (June-August): Classical theatre performances under the stars at the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. Booking tickets in advance is recommended.
  • Athens International Film Festival (September): A showcase of international and Greek cinema. Film buffs, take note!
  • Technopolis Christmas Festival (December): A festive celebration with lights, music, seasonal treats, and a vibrant atmosphere. Perfect for getting into the holiday spirit.
  • Athens Open Air Film Festival (Summer): Enjoy classic and contemporary films projected outdoors at various locations around the city. A unique and atmospheric experience.
  • Rebetiko Festival (Various Dates): Immerse yourself in the sounds of Rebetiko, a unique Greek genre of bluesy music.
  • Documentary Film Festival (March): A celebration of independent and international documentaries.
Streets in Athens

Athens city

Essentials, Money & Safety Tips

Before you leap into the Aegean like a fearless explorer, make sure you’ve packed the essentials and brushed up on some Athens-specific safety tips.

Athens Backpacking Essentials

  • Sun Smarts: Athens is a sun-drenched city, so pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher is recommended). Don’t be that lobster-red tourist wandering around the Acropolis – trust us, it’s not a good look.
  • Comfortable Shoes: Athens is a walkable city, but those cobblestone streets can be treacherous in flip-flops. Pack sturdy walking shoes that can handle exploring ancient ruins and navigating bustling markets.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated and save money on bottled water by packing a reusable bottle. Athens has plenty of fountains where you can refill throughout the day.
  • Cash for Taxis & Small Purchases: While most places accept cards, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for taxis, small cafes, or street vendors.

Athens Safety Tips

  • Beware of Bag Snatchers: Petty theft can happen anywhere, so keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas like Monastiraki Square or on public transportation.
  • Stick to Well-Lit Areas at Night: Like most cities, some areas are best avoided at night. If you’re exploring after dark, stick to well-lit streets and main roads.

Athens Common Scams

  • The “Friendly Bracelet” Scam: This one involves someone approaching you with a “gift” of a bracelet and then becoming aggressive when you don’t pay them. A polite but firm “no thanks” is all you need.
  • Overpriced “Official Taxi Ranks”: There are a few fake taxi ranks around tourist spots that charge exorbitant fees. Hail a regular taxi from the street or use a ride-sharing app instead.

Things Not to Do in Athens

  • Smoking Indoors: Greece has a strict smoking ban in most indoor public spaces, including restaurants, bars, and museums. Light up on designated outdoor areas only.
  • Public Displays of Nudity: While Athens has a relaxed vibe, nudity on beaches is generally limited to designated areas. Keep your swimsuit on at public beaches.
  • Loud Outbursts in Churches: Athens is home to many beautiful churches. Be respectful of worshippers and keep your voice down while visiting these sacred spaces.

Interesting Athens Passes

  • Athens City Passes: These passes grant you free entry to several major archaeological sites, including the Acropolis and Roman Agora, plus skip-the-line access to some, saving you precious time and money waiting in queues.
  • 5-Day Ticket for Public Transportation: If you plan on exploring extensively, this pass grants you unlimited travel on metros, buses, and trams for five whole days. It’s a lifesaver for your wallet and your legs!

Budget Tips for Athens

  • Free Walking Tours: Get a historical and cultural overview of the city with a free walking tour. Just remember to tip your guide if you enjoyed the experience!
  • Museum Free Days: Many museums in Athens offer free admission on specific days (usually the first Sunday of the month). 
  • Lunchtime is for Souvlaki: Skip the expensive tourist traps and grab a delicious and affordable souvlaki or other street food during lunchtime. It’s the perfect way to fuel your explorations and experience authentic Greek flavors.
  • Picnic: Pack some fresh goodies from the local markets and enjoy a picnic lunch in a park or with a view. 

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