The Absolute Best Views in Athens

Athens has plenty of altitude to go along with its attitude—on-high vantage points include not only the Acropolis but also rooftop bars and luxurious hotel terraces. From many of these places, you’ll feel on top of the world.

Acropolis, Athens 116 36, Greece
Obviously, you can’t visit Athens without climbing up “the rock” (as locals fondly call the Acropolis) to commune with its crowning glory: the Parthenon. Although visible from most places in the city, getting up close to one of the undisputed masterpieces of Western civilization is an experience that never disappoints. Even on a scorching day, with hundreds of visitors around and the concrete city clamouring for your attention, the impact is profound. The Parthenon has a timeless beauty, striking in its symmetrical simplicity. Other glorious monuments scattered around the slopes include the Erecthion, propped up by the graceful caryatids, and the Temple of Athena Nike. To fully appreciate the complex history of the Acropolis—which has been everything from a Christian church to a mosque to an arsenal and a shanty town over the ages—it’s well worth enlisting the services of a professional guide, or investing in Mary Beard’s wonderful book, The Parthenon. That way you won’t make the same mistake as Shaquille O’Neal; when a reporter asked whether he’d visited the Parthenon during a trip to Greece, O’Neal replied: “I can’t really remember the names of the clubs we went to.”

Top tip: Buy a multi-site ticket that gives you single access to the Acropolis and 10 other archaeological sites and is valid for five days. Go as early, or as late, in the day as you can to avoid the summer heat and crowds.
Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
Rooftop cocktail bars are a new craze in Athens, but this place was 20 years ahead of the curve. A prime Athens spot on a hot summer (or spring, or fall) night, Bios is a hybrid of watering hole and cultural center—the rooftop bar is legendary for perfect Acropolis views, but there’s a lot more going on inside: two music halls, a theater, rehearsal rooms, exhibition areas, and additional hangout zones. Events are well-visited by the Athenian cool crowd, but the atmosphere is relaxed, not contrived. Come for culture, company, and sweeping views over the city’s rooftops, under the stars of the warm Greek sky.
Filellinon 16, Athina 105 57, Greece
Owned by the world-renowned art collector Dakis Joannou and smartly decorated by quirky Brazilian designers the Campana brothers, the New Hotel is the city’s coolest upscale design-centric property, with 79 rooms (including seven suites) and an intimate restaurant. Although centrally located, just a five-minute walk to Syntagma Square, it’s tucked back in a modernist building on a side street so it feels hidden and discreet. The interiors are both playful and smart; the Campanas created much of it with items recycled from the previous hotel. Imagine puzzlelike walls and chairs constructed of layered, repurposed wood intermingled with sculptural chairs of their own design. In the rooms, they had fun riffing on Greek cultural objects, like the Karagiozis, a shadow puppet, and multiple versions of the glass “evil eyes” used to protect against ill omen. Bottom line: stylish contemporary design, excellent location, and friendly service.
Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364, Kallithea 176 74, Greece
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)—new home for both the National Library and National Opera, designed by Renzo Piano and financed to the tune of €630 million—is a wonder to look at, walk through, and relax in. The library and opera are state of the art; the 42-acre grounds include a salt-water canal where you can learn to sail or kayak, fantastic playgrounds and fountains to keep kids entertained, and the Great Lawn where free concerts, open-air screenings and festivals are staged year-round. Take advantage of the center’s location and drink in the 360-degree views of the city and sea from the Lighthouse, a glass-walled lookout and terrace shaded by a vast solar panel that powers most of the sustainably minded complex. This neighborhood is, after all, called Kallithea, which means “wonderful view.”
21 Δώρας Ντ Ίστρια
At 300 meters, Mount Lycabettus is the highest peak in Athens. Every half an hour a funicular whizzes up to the summit. Among other attractions, there’s a restaurant with sky-high prices and views to match. On a clear day, you can see the island of Aegina shimmering on the horizon. The tiny chapel of St. George is a magical place to watch the sunrise (especially on Sundays, when the church service starts at 7:30 a.m.) or sunset.
Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 46, Athina 115 28, Greece
On the rooftop of the Athens’ slablike Hilton Hotel, the Galaxy Restaurant & Bar serves elegant cocktails and delectable Mediterranean cuisine—but here the nearly cinematic view of the Greek capital steals the show. Come at dusk and take a seat on the terrace to watch the sky gently blanket the ancient city in blue, then darken and sparkle. Glamorous and alluring, this venue usually attracts an international crowd.
Atop Nymph’s Hill, a quick climb from the Plaka, is the National Observatory of Athens, a research institute and true observatory. Visitors by day get a lovely view of the city from the tree-lined grounds which surround beautiful mid-19th-century neoclassical buildings designed by Theophil Hansen; and visitors by night get a chance to view celestial bodies through a 170-year-old telescope. In 2017, the observatory was the site of an extensive installation by Argentinean artist Adrián Villar Rojas.
Filopappou, Athina 117 41, Greece
Marble footpaths meander up pine-clad Filopappou Hill, a peaceful hideout for picnickers and joggers. Hidden in a rocky clearing is the Pnyx, the world’s first democratic assembly, where the great orators Pericles and Themistocles held court in the 5th century B.C.E. The Pnyx could hold 18,000 citizens on wooden benches, with standing room for thousands more. Imagine the scene when the founding fathers of democracy took to the podium—and enjoy the phenomenal cityscape from this historic vantage point, with the Acropolis in the foreground. Climb all the way to the summit of Filopappou (also known as the Hill of the Muses) and you can see all the way to the port of Piraeus, with the promise of nearby islands shimmering on the horizon. Crowning the adjacent Hill of the Nymphs, the National Observatory is Greece’s oldest research institute. Set in lovely landscaped gardens, the charming 19th century building contains rare books and antique astronomical equipment. Occasional evening tours offer the chance to stargaze through a refracting telescope and learn about the Greek myths written into the constellations.
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