Half the fun of traveling to Greece is settling into your hotel and finding the local treasures in the neighborhood you’re calling home for the next few days. It’s the restaurants, shops, and sights that give a neighborhood its identity. You may be wondering, “Where are the best places in Greece to stay?” We’ve got you covered. This guide breaks down the top places to stay in Greece’s most popular cities and island towns.
Best places to stay in Athens, Greece
Looking for places in Greece to stay? Look no further. Our top two picks in Athens are the Metaxourgeio and Kolonaki neighborhoods. Both of these are great Greece vacation spots to stay in, because they’re central enough that the top sites (say hey to the Parthenon!) are only a stone’s throw away. But, they’re far enough removed from the touristy city center that you’ll find locals out and about and eating at all the restaurants nearby.
This southwest Athens neighborhood is an up-and-comer that you’ll want to say you visited before it becomes one of the places to stay in Greece. Its name means “silk mill” and connects back to its roots as a hub for artisans. Here are some of the best things to do in the Metaxourgeio neighborhood.
The Municipal Gallery of Athens is a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Located smack dab in the middle of Metaxourgeio, this art gallery is bursting with 19th- and 20th-century artwork created by prominent Greek artists (around 3,000 pieces if we’re counting). The building itself even has a history that’s worth exploring. Danish artist Hans Christian Hansen, who left his mark throughout Athens, designed the building. It was almost a steam silk plant before becoming a hospital, and later, the museum it is today.
The street art is a hidden gem you should check out. Take a walk around the neighborhood during a sunny afternoon (thanks to Greece’s location, there are plenty of those, even in the off-season). Athens feels like an open-air museum and these pieces by talented street artists show how that still rings true even in the modern era. Head to the intersection of Konstantinou Paleologou and Samou to see the famous owl mural by Wild Drawing. Not only is it one of the more unique places to visit in Greece, it’ll also connect you to the city’s history. The owl symbolizes wisdom, a fitting way to represent the city that’s home to the world’s first democracy. Plus, it connects back to the mythical tales of Greek goddess Athena, who the city is named after.
Seychelles is one restaurant you need to eat at. While the name might make you think of the island chain off of Africa’s eastern coast, the cuisine is sure to delight those looking for delicious Greek food with a modern twist. The taverna has indoor and outdoor seating and is located right on the edge of centrally located Avdi Square. This historic square is a neighborhood landmark and gathering place. The menu features the classics (dolmas and feta, please), so it’s great if you’re craving no-fuss Greek food. If your taste buds are down for an adventure consider trying some of the more unique dishes. We recommend the pappardelle with slow-cooked beef that’s locally sourced from the Greek city of Komotini. No matter what you eat, you’ll be able to indulge in the country’s culinary heritage since all of the cuisine features seasonal, fresh ingredients sourced from across the country.
You’ll find this area just to the east of downtown Athens. It’s one of the best areas to stay in Greece thanks to its central location and upscale feel. For travelers looking for the best places in Greece to go shopping, look no further. Kolonaki is home to high-end stores and budget-friendly shops. There are also plenty of museums so you can spend a day getting your culture fix and picking up one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Here are some of our favorite ways to spend time in the Kolonaki neighborhood.
Mount Lycabettus is a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Sure, you can stay at street level and peer up at the mount, but the view from the top is the real treat. Some might say it’s even sweeter than baklava. The summit of the mountain is just under 1,000 feet high, making it the highest point in the city. According to Greek mythology, the limestone hill was once a refuge for wolves. This tale may also be where the name of the site comes from, as lycos is Greek for “wolf.” You can opt to hike up or take a ride on the funicular, or add the Mount Lycabettus Hike & Sunset Dinner excursion on our Greek Islands Adventure Tour to do both! Plus, you’ll get to do it all at sunset.
Anapseme is a hidden gem you should check out. You’ll want to pop into this store while perusing the shops in this chic shopping area. This woman-owned business is in the heart of Kolonaki and sells candles, reed diffusers, room mists, body oils, hair serums, and more. Some of the fragrances are inspired by the tales of Greek goddesses and others will simply remind you of the scents of the city every time you light the candle once you return home.
The St. George Lycabettus hotel’s rooftop is an ideal spot for drinks. Go during the day to enjoy sunny views of the Acropolis, or head there after dinner to see the Parthenon perched on the hill with the city twinkling around it. Lucky for you, this is one of the most unique hotels on our tours. So, grabbing a drink here is as easy as stepping out of your room and taking the elevator up to the rooftop.
Top places to stay in Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is one of the best places in Greece, and for good reason. I mean, have you seen those stunning windmills and the glittering azure water? If you’re looking for Greece vacation spots to stay in while visiting this dreamy isle, our two recommendations are the Tourlos neighborhood and the Old Port. Read on to see why we love these two areas on the island and how to spend free time in Mykonos.
Located right off of the Port of Mykonos, this neighborhood is easy to jet over to as soon as you get off the ferry coming from the mainland, or a surrounding island. A little bit more under-the-radar, this area offers a quieter atmosphere compared to some of the other spots on the island. But, the signature spots you’ll visit while on tour in Mykonos are only an eight-minute drive away. Check out some of the top things to do in the Tourlos neighborhood.
Agios Stefanos Beach is a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Ok, so technically this beach is located right on the outskirts of Tourlos. It’s just such a stunning oasis that we had to include it on this list of the best places in Greece. That signature shade of Aegean blue stretches right out into the horizon and cliffs flank each side of this beach. Safe to say this is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece to visit during your free time.
Hagia Sophia Church is a hidden gem you should check out. You’ve might have heard of the iconic blue-domed churches across the Aegean, but a red-domed one? Now that’s something new. Head inland to see the Hagia Sophia Church. The whitewashed exterior contrasts against the bright red roof and doors. Plus, the entire church is surrounded by the pebbly pathways that you’ll find all over the island. This is the perfect place to stop for a photo op, and really soak in that you’re on tour in Greece.
Mathios Tavern is a restaurant you need to go to. Tourlos is located right next to the port where travelers are coming and going from the island each and every day. And where there are people, there are restaurants ready to curb their cravings. One of those spots is Mathios Tavern. With seaside views and an ocean-inspired design, this restaurant overlooks the water and serves all the Greek staples.
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Of all the places to stay in Greece, specifically in Mykonos, the Old Port may just take the cake. Charming shops and authentic restaurants are found down every twisty pathway in the neighborhood. It’s truly the perfect place to wander and stumble upon little viewpoints that’ll make you wonder if you should just take up residence here. Take a peek at the best things to do in the Old Port area.
The seaside windmills are a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Could we write about Mykonos without mentioning the absolutely iconic windmills? Definitely not. The western area of the Old Town is easily one of the most popular places in Greece because it’s home to the 16 towering windmills that adorn postcards and souvenirs alike. Fun fact: These windmills are actually flour mills that the Venetians started building in the 16th century. Looking for more ways to spend free time here? Check out our guide for more activities to do while on tour in Mykonos.
The Archaeological Museum of Mykonos is a hidden gem you should check out. Mykonos is one of the great places to stay in Greece if you’re looking for quaint shopping streets, show-stopping ocean vistas, and a bounty of bustling restaurants. Being on an island also calls for taking it slow (a little bit of R&R, if you will). If you’re looking to get your history fix and escape the summer heat and crowds, head to the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos. This indoor-outdoor museum is home to vases, statues, and pottery dating all the way back to the 25th century BC.
180º Sunset Bar is a place you need to grab a drink at. Finding a bar with delicious cocktails and ocean views is a necessary part of any island vacation. Lucky for you, Mykonos is one of the best places in Greece for this type of activity. 180º Sunset Bar is located northeast of the bustling Old Port and its higher elevation makes it the perfect place to watch the sunset with a drink in hand. The extensive drink menu also comes with a higher price tag than you may find elsewhere on the island, but if you’re looking to treat yourself to a night out, this is the place to do it.
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Where to stay in Santorini, Greece
We don’t play favorites when it comes to the best places to vacation in Greece, but based on what we hear from our travelers, Santorini may just be the crème de la crème—especially for first-time travelers. If you’re looking to cross Santorini off your bucket list, Fira and Kamari are two of the top places in Greece to stay. These areas are located on opposite sides of the island. That means that each location features a unique assortment of things to do and see. Keep reading, and check out our Santorini Travel Guide, for more info on these two neighborhoods.
This centrally located, capital city hugs the western coast of the island. Its clifftop location means there are plenty of panoramic viewpoints that you won’t find on many of the other popular Greek Islands. If you’re wondering where to stay in Greece, Fira is a great option. You get the perk of being a taxi ride away from most top spots, but it’s more affordable and less crowded than the touristy areas, like Oia. Read through our recommendations of how to spend free time in Fira.
The Old Harbor Trail is a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Fira is one of the best places to stay in Greece because of the unbelievable views you get of the caldera no matter where you are in town. Plus, its location on the island means it has a direct connection to the Old Port. To really soak in the view and get your steps in, hike down to the Old Port via the Old Harbor Trail. Head out in the morning to beat the mid-day heat or about two hours before sunset to admire that golden glow. The best part of this experience? You don’t have to hike back up! Hop aboard the cable car (a ticket only costs six euro) and enjoy the speedy, three-minute ride back up to Fira.
Ilias Lalaounis is a hidden gem you should check out. Did you know Greek designer Ilias Lalaounis was world-renowned for his jewelry designs? Or that he’s the only jewelry designer to be selected to join the Académie des Beaux-Arts—a prestigious French fine arts society? You can browse a beautiful selection of his designs at the Ilias Lalaounis store in central Fira. Many of the symbols and designs on the pieces tie back to ancient Greek history. Pop into the store if you want to splurge on a souvenir for yourself or admire the craftsmanship that goes into the gold and silver pieces. Looking for more ways to spend free time in Santorini? We have a guide for that! Check it out here.
Bagiatiko Food Bar is a restaurant you need to go to. Calling all gyro lovers! This is the place for you. This fast-casual restaurants serves up one of Greece’s signature dishes for just €2.50. It’s walking distance from all the top spots in Santorini and you can enjoy your gyro on their outdoor deck, which features wooden swings. Is there any better way to dig into local cuisine? See our full list of dishes to eat on the Greek Islands.
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This town is nestled on the eastern coast of Santorini, just a stone’s throw from those dreamy black-sand beaches (more on those in a little bit!). It’s more local than popular places like Oia, but still has restaurants, cafes, and shops galore. It’s one of our top recommendations for places in Greece to stay because it’s where the island’s rugged volcanic landscape really shines. Here are some of our favorite ways to pass the time in Kamari.
The black-sand beaches are a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Many people come to Santorini to set foot on these beaches. All of them are located on the eastern side of the island, and Kamari Beach is one of the best ones. The beaches get their black color from volcanic materials that’s mixed in with the sand. Seeing the dark sand contrast against the clear, blue water is a sight to behold. Spend the day laying out in the sun, swimming in the sea, or talking a walk along the shoreline. The beach is free to enter, so you can save your cash to buy a drink or afternoon meal at one of the cafes that line the waterfront.
Open Air Cinema Kamari is a hidden gem you should check out. Ok, so seeing a movie probably wasn’t on your Greece to-do list, but you haven’t seen a cinema like this one. This open-air theater is decorated with fresh green foliage and vibrant pink bougainvillea. It even has a full bar with those signature Santorini architectural details. Aside from being a stunning place to see a film, the design of the cinema harkens back to the cultural practices in ancient Greece. Greek theaters always had open roofs, and many became cinemas as movies grew in popularity throughout the 20th century. Head here on a balmy spring, summer, or fall night to watch modern movies, like James Bond and Mamma Mia!, on the big screen.
Almira is a restaurant you need to go to. Head to the northern reaches of Kamari Beach and you’ll stumble upon Almira. This restaurant sits right above the black-sand beach and is the ultimate place to indulge in some delicious Greek food alfresco. Since Santorini has pretty temperate weather throughout the year, you can enjoy the outdoor dining experience even if you visit in the off-season. They serve all the healthy Mediterranean dishes your heart could desire. We’re talking fresh seafood, mezzes so good you won’t want to share, mouthwatering moussaka, and flaky baklava to top it all off.
Cool places to stay in Crete, Greece
Roughly the same size as Puerto Rico, Crete is the largest of Greece’s 2,000 islands. When it comes to places to stay in Greece, Crete’s size lends itself to having plenty of interesting neighborhoods to call home while visiting the island. Our two top picks are Heraklion and Chania. Both are main hubs located on the northern side of the island. Read on for why we think these are two of the of the best places in Greece to stay.
Heraklion is Crete’s capital city and has everything your traveling heart could desire. A charming Old Town? Check. Authentic restaurants? Of course. Here’s how to spend time in the bustling port city of Heraklion.
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a neighborhood highlight you have to see. On many of our Crete tours, you’ll head to this world-renowned museum in the heart of Old Heraklion. The artifacts on display cover more than 5,500 years of Cretan history. As you walk through the 27 rooms in the museum, you’ll take an archaeological journey from the Neolithic period all the way to the era of Roman rule. The best part? You’ll have a local guide leading the way and filling you in on all the factoids and history to really bring the exhibits to life.
The Venetian Walls of Heraklion are a hidden gem you should check out. These walls have been around since the Middle Ages and encircle the city. They also offer a unique way to see Heraklion. The walls are almost three miles long; you can walk the entire loop, or opt to explore a smaller segment. The walk offers panoramic views of Old Heraklion and the Aegean Sea. Head out in the morning or at golden hour to dodge those strong island rays—safe to say the Venetians weren’t thinking about creating shade when they built these defensive walls!
Avli is a restaurant you need to go to. Affordable and authentic, Avli delivers on those fresh Greek flavors you’re likely craving on a tour of Greece. Plus, it has a patio that spotlights that laid-back, breezy Mediterranean ambiance. The classics, like tzatziki and spanakopita, are always a safe bet if you’re wondering what to order. We also recommend trying some of the dishes that feature local ingredients. Our personal picks are the seared kefalograviera cheese with homemade tomato jam and sour-cherry ice cream made with Chios Mastiha, pine-flavored resin native to Crete.
Head west from Heraklion and you’ll hit Chania. This part of the island is a great spot for foodies. Not far from the city center are olive groves and vineyards serving up some of the country’s best olive oil and wine. Take a look at our favorite activities to do in Chania.
Old Chania Market is a neighborhood highlight you have to see. Some of the best souvenirs are the ones that remind you of the flavors of a country. That’s why this covered market is a must-visit while in Chania. You can buy Greek culinary staples like feta, herbs, spices, and olive oil (pick up the little ones so you can put them in your carry-on!). It’s also a great place to mix and mingle with the local shopkeepers, as well as the residents who come here to pick up fresh-caught seafood and meats for their home-cooked meals.
Etz Hayyim Synagogue is a unique cultural site you should check out. Did you know Chania was once home to a thriving Romaniote Jewish community? Etz Hayyim is the only synagogue on the island and a symbol of the Greek-speaking people who practice this religion. Today, the church is a melting pot for people of all religions. The community helped restore the synagogue, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews now gather to practice their faith.
Secret Tastes is a restaurant you need to go to. While we often recommend travelers head out of the city center when it’s time to eat, Secret Taste is one of those restaurants that makes it worth breaking that cardinal rule. The interior design of the restaurant won’t knock your socks off, but the food sure will. Head here for affordable, farm-to-table foods. The menu changes based on what’s in season, but favorites like fish soup often make an appearance.
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