10 Best Things to Do at Athens Airport During a Layover

Athens International Airport

Nirad / Getty Images

While good planning can help you avoid some airport-related delays, sometimes your only option is a very long layover. If you suddenly find yourself stuck at Athens International Airport, you'll be delighted to find 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 the night and not too far from wine tastings at local Greek wineries. For shorter layovers, you'll find plenty of unique shops, boutiques, services, artwork, dining—and even an interesting exhibit highlighting archaeological artifacts from the area—within the airport itself.

01 of 10

Visit the Animals at Nearby Attica Zoological Park

Attica Zoological Park in Athens, Greece

Attica Zoological Park

If you're craving some fresh air and have several hours to kill, take a 15-minute taxi ride from the airport to Attica Zoological Park, where you can see everything from lions, alligators, and Asian elephants to tortoises, snakes, and zebras at the 49-acre park. Home to mammals, marine life, amphibians, reptiles, and birds of all shapes, sizes, and species, it's a great place to stretch your legs after along flight and makes a great way to pass the time, especially if you're traveling with curious little ones.

At Yalou Spata, Athina 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0663 4725
02 of 10

Spend a Few Hours at a Nearby Beach

Voula Beach on the Athenian Riviera

SHansche / Getty Images

If you've got an extra-long layover of five hours or more, why not secure your bags at the airport (more on that later) and head to the nearest Athenian Riviera beach? Instead of sticking around the airport, spend a few hours outside soaking up some sun, strolling along the sand, and noshing on fresh seafood at a local taverna. Popular Athenian Riviera beach towns to the east include Artemis Beach (15 minutes away) and Rafina (25 minutes away). Otherwise, try Vouliagmeni Beach or Voula Beach, located just 25 minutes west of the airport.

Voula Beach, Voula 166 73, Greece
03 of 10

Get Your Fill of Greek Food

Greek gyro

Juanmonino / Getty Images

If you're going to be hanging around the airport for a few hours, you might as well tuck into some tasty Greek food. Stop by Eat Greek, a restaurant and café specializing in traditional Greek dishes including homemade sandwiches, hot and cold drinks, and of course, legendary Greek gyros.

If you want to pick up some Greek culinary treasures, Fournos Theophilos is located in the departures level of the Non-Schengen area, while Kostarelos is located in the departures level of the Schengen area. Each offers authentic Greek cheeses, cookies, fine nuts, and other treats to enjoy as your last taste of Greece.

Of course if your layover is extra long and you end up heading into Athens (more on that later), you really go wrong—the food is amazing everywhere in the city so keep an eye out for where the locals are lining up and enjoy!

Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0353 0000
04 of 10

Store Your Luggage

A checked bag tagged for Athens International Airport

 Tetra Images / Getty Images

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 a little for this privilege, but I promise you won't regret it, as you'll then be free to take a taxi to a nearby restaurant, spend some time looking at the artifacts in the airport's museum areas, or enjoy a nice meal, all without the additional burden of your cumbersome luggage. Care4Bag Baggage Storage is located in the Arrivals Hall next to Gate 1 and operates 24 hours a day.

Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0353 0000
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Chill Out in the Lounge

Lounge at Athens Airport

Karl Baron / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Depending on the type and airline it is connected with, some airport lounges are open to those who are not members if you are willing to purchase a day pass, providing good food and drinks, reliable Wi-Fi, and a calm, relaxing environment to pass the time in. See if you can buy passes online through LoungeBuddy, or else you'll need to rely on having high status with the airline or other connections to it through travel rewards credit cards, which sometimes allow access to Priority Pass lounges (at this airport, those would be the Skyserve lounges listed below).

Athens International Airport's lounges are located inside security in Terminal A (Non-Schengen) and include the Aegean Business Lounge, Swissport Executive Lounge, and Skyserv Aristotle Onassis Lounge. In Terminal B (Schengen), you'll find the Skyserve Melina Merkouri Lounge, Aegean Business Lounge, and the Lufthansa Business Lounge. There are also two Goldair CIP Lounges, each located inside security in Terminal A (Non-Schengen) and Terminal B (Schengen).

Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0353 0000
06 of 10

Rest Up at the 5-Star Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel

Sofitel Athens Airport

Sofitel Athens Airport / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you are craving a change of scenery or want to let your hair down and stay overnight in a real bed instead of a packed airport seating area, walk directly across the street to the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel, where you can enjoy the property's 5-star facilities including restaurants, bars, and a luxurious hotel spa. Spend a moment on the way in checking out its small pond and feeling the grass under your feet instead of airport tiles. There are even screens showing flight times and other departure information so you won't miss a beat. Best of all, Sofitel Athens Airport is only 35 minutes from central Athens by metro in case you feel like venturing in.

Athens, International Airport, Spata 190 19, Greece
Phone +30 21 0354 4000
07 of 10

See Archeological Artifacts Up Close

Athens International Airport Museum

Dimitris Kamaras / Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

In Athens International Airport's 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 periods. 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.

Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0353 0000
08 of 10

Grab a Taxi or Take the Metro into Athens

Patrons enjoy an outdoor wine bar in Attica, Greece

 Weekend Wayfarers / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

If you have the time and are feeling confident enough to leave the airport, the nearby Attica area offers a number of great local wineries, restaurants, and other points of interest. When taking a taxi, negotiate prices beforehand; otherwise, drivers may try to charge you a higher rate. If you have five or more hours to fill, this may be a good option.

When riding the Metro, expect to 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 (the cruise terminal), 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 during a layover. In some of the underground stations, you'll be able to see archeological exhibits displaying artifacts discovered during construction.

Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0353 0000
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Get Some Much-Needed Retail Therapy

Shops and travelers at Athens International Airport

Travpacker.com / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Airport shopping areas can be dismal, but this one is a pleasure and has a few boutiques you may want to seek out even if you don't have much time between flights. There's a long list of duty-free shops, specialty stores, food, bookstores, and electronics shops. Hellenic Gourmet offers dozens of good Greek wines and to refresh yourself, Apivita sells natural, holistic products for your face, hair, and body by the oldest Greek manufacturer of natural beauty products. There are also several newsstands offering books, toys, and other treasures.

While it may not sound exciting on the surface, Athens International Airport is also home to an excellent pharmacy, which offers medicines—many without a prescription. Its greatest strength lies in a wonderful array of health and body products all created by Greek manufacturers. The white-coated saleswomen will be glad to help you find a whole new beauty regime at just a fraction of what similar products cost back in the United States—even with the Euro exchange rate. The pharmacy is located on the arrivals level in the free access area.

10 of 10

Learn About the Importance of Eleftherios Venizelos

Statue of Athens' Airport's Namesake

Martin Belam / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

A permanent display honoring the famous Greek politician—and the namesake of this particular airport—Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), is located 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 him was a major milestone in the country’s development of civil aviation.

You'll also see illustrations of the important role Venizelos played in shaping the history and social direction of the Greek government. A series of photographs illustrates the most significant events in his life and highlights political events throughout modern Greek history.

Attiki Odos, Spata Artemida 190 04, Greece
Phone +30 21 0353 0000
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10 Best Things to Do at Athens Airport During a Layover