While good planning can avoid some airport-related delays, sometimes your only option is that dreaded long layover. If you're stuck at the Athens International Airport on one of those dreary layovers, there actually is plenty to do to occupy your time. The airport is convenient to an excellent hotel where you can take a nap or spend a night, not far from wine tasting at Greek wineries and, for shorter layovers, you'll find ample shops, boutiques, services, art, and dining within the airport itself.
In a specially-designed area of the Main Terminal Building, there is a display of artifacts from the Acropolis on loan from the main Acropolis Museum. As you study the pieces you'll have a window into life in Greek antiquity. The exhibition includes cast copies of the west Parthenon frieze and a cast copy of the Peplos Kore statue of a young girl, one of the most noted and beautiful pieces from the Acropolis. While you are there watch the short video presentation on the Acropolis Museum.
See Archeological Artifacts
In Athens International Airport's (AIA) Main Terminal Building (Departures Level - Entrance 3), you'll find a permanent exhibition of archaeological artifacts discovered in Mesogaia, a region of Attica in Greece. The exhibit, open Monday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., houses 172 archaeological artifacts dating from the Neolithic and Early Helladic to the Post-Byzantine period.
Copies of some of the more important artifacts discovered during the construction of AIA can also be found at the front entrances to the airport on the Departures Level.
Grab a Taxi or Take the Metro
If you have the time and are confident enough to leave the airport, the Attica area offers great wineries, restaurants, and other points of interest. When taking a taxi, negotiate prices beforehand; otherwise, they may try to charge you a higher rate. If you have five or more hours to fill, it may be a good option.
When riding the Metro, you buy and validate your ticket before getting on. The Athens underground connects important landmarks of the Greek capital, such as the Acropolis, Athens Airport, Port of Piraeus, Central Railway Station and Olympic Stadium, in addition to connecting downtown Athens with the suburbs. Having a map and figuring out your route and timing is essential when on a layover. In some of the underground stations, there are archeological exhibits displaying artifacts found during construction.
Store Your Luggage
Your stay at the airport will be lightened both emotionally and physically if you drop your luggage at the luggage drop located at the end of the terminal. It will cost you for this privilege, but you won't regret it. You'll then be able to take a taxi to a restaurant, spend time looking at the artifacts in the airport's museum areas and enjoy a nice meal—all without your cumbersome luggage. Baggage storage is located at the Arrivals Hall next to Gate 1 and operates 24 hours a day.
Visit the Pharmacy
This may not sound exciting on the surface, but the Athens International Airport has an excellent pharmacy. While it offers medicines—many needing no prescription—its greatest strength lies in a wonderful array of health and body products all by Greek manufacturers.
The white-coated saleswomen will be glad to help you find a whole new beauty regime at a fraction of what similar products cost in the United States even with the Euro exchange rate. The pharmacy is located on the Arrivals Level, Free Access Area.
Airport shopping areas can be dismal, but this one is a pleasure and has boutiques you may want to seek out even if you don't have much time between flights. There is a long list of duty-free shops, specialty stores, food, books, and electronics shops. Hellenic Gourmet offers dozens of good Greek wines and to refresh yourself, there is Apivita selling natural, holistic products for the face, hair, and body by the oldest Greek manufacturer of natural beauty products. There are also several newsstands offering books, toys, and other treasures.
If you want to have a drink, have a change of scenery or stay overnight, walk directly across the street to the Sofitel Hotel. They'll serve you a drink in the lobby. Spend a moment on the way looking at their small pond and feeling the grass under your feet instead of airport tiles. They even have screens showing flight times and other departure information.
And, it's an ideal place to stay overnight if you have a long layover. Sofitel Athens Airport is only 35 minutes from central Athens by metro. Enjoy the hotel's 5-star facilities including restaurants, bars, and hotel spa.
Learn About the Importance of Eleftherios Venizelos
A permanent display honoring the famous Greek politician, Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), is found on the Departures Level of the Main Building. It is understandable that the exhibit is in the airport because the establishment of Greece’s first Ministry of Aviation by Eleftherios Venizelos was a milestone in the country’s development of civil aviation.
You'll also see illustrations of the important role played by Venizelos in shaping the history and social direction of the Greek government. A series of photographs illustrate the most significant events in his life and highlight political events in modern Greek history.
Enjoy a Greek Meal
Several restaurants are open 24-hours a day and so you can have a bite to eat no matter when you arrive. You can enjoy Greek food at places including the Kir-Yianni Wine Bar or check out the restaurant café, Eat Greek, offering authentic traditional Greek plates, including legendary gyros, fresh sandwiches, and small plates.
Airport lounges are often open to those who are not airline members if you are willing to purchase a day pass. Airport lounges provide good food and drinks, and reliable WiFi, in a quiet environment. You can buy passes online or use your membership in a lounge program to gain entry to one of these lounges.