Ancient archaeological sites, cultural celebrations and afternoons by the water make Athens a great family-friendly vacation spot.
Though the city can be hard to navigate for anyone, much less for those with young ones in tow, once you get the hang of it, the city truly becomes your playground.
Give them a history lesson at the Acropolis
Teach kids about the birthplace of Western civilization and democracy at the Acropolis, the 2000-year-old ruins of the Parthenon that stand atop a hill offering impressive views across the vast expanse of the white city. At the base of the Acropolis stands the Acropolis Museum, which provides context to the ruins. The young ones will love testing out an interactive tour of the monument, in which they can explore the site and experience it as it might have been thousands of years ago.
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Walk them up (and tire them out on) Lykavittos Hill
Panoramic views of the entire city await on a trip to Lykavittos Hill. The base begins in the central neighborhoods of Kolonaki and Exarcheia – an easily accessible location from any central accommodation. If you’re an active family and want to tire the kids out, trek the full 277 meters (909ft) above sea level to the top. Otherwise, trek only up the highest points after taking the cable train. At the top, you can point out famous Athenian landmarks like the Acropolis and famous Agora.
Watch them watch the high kicks at the Evzones March
Every Sunday at 11am the guarding soldiers (or Evzones, an elite group of Greek soldiers) that watch over the tomb of the unknown soldier at Hellenic Parliament in Syntagma Square do a famous changing-of-the-guards march. Dressed in traditional garb, including stockinged legs, a special kilt, fez hat and pom-pommed shoes, the soldiers do a choreographed walk with air kicks-a-plenty that lasts around half an hour. The costumes themselves are enough to keep the kids entertained – never mind the march moves they’ll no doubt want to imitate all day.
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Take them to the waves at Kyma Surf School
Surfing is a trend that’s really picked up in Greece in recent years. Thanks to the city’s proximity to the coast, surf schools like Kyma have opened their doors to children as young as 5 years of age for lessons. Look to this fully insured surf school to keep your little ones entertained while you soak up the rays; should you fancy catching a wave or two yourself, you can also take lessons. Expect a morning or afternoon of surfing to really tire them out, ensuring that full night’s sleep you’ve been longing for.
Watch them play in the shade at the National Gardens
Escape the heat of the summer in the National Gardens, which stand between the neighborhoods of Pangrati and Syntagma Square. Dip into the dappled shade of the gardens, where the kids can search for terrapins that live in the cool expanse or peer over the ponds that are full of enormous koi carp fish. Be prepared and arm yourself with a ball or frisbee and keep them entertained in the patches of lawn across the park.
Recommended neighborhoods for kids and families
Consider Koukaki and Pangrati, both central neighborhoods that are close enough to walk to the historical sites you but just far away enough to relax just out of the crowds with your kids. Tree-lined streets, shaded restaurants and cafes and cute squares in which the children can play at a safe distance of your morning coffee are in abundance in these areas. Look to places like Frater & Soror in Pangrati for a leisurely brunch or lunch in a square in which other children also play. If you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up after visiting the historical sites of the Acropolis and Agora, make a beeline for the Museum of Islamic Art and its pretty terrace, which has plenty of room for the kids to play while you enjoy ice-cold coffees.
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How to get around with kids and families
Crowded, uncomfortable and a haven for pick-pockets, buses in Athens are not the ideal mode of transport, even without a family to take care of. Instead, opt for the metro and tram lines, which see significantly fewer people packed in like sardines and run as efficiently as transport can in Greece. Taxis are also quite cheap in the city; apps like Uber or the local app Beat make it easier to hail a cab than ever before.