It's likely that you'll arrive in Athens in the afternoon, groggy and disoriented after a long flight. The ride into town from the airport is unlikely to help your spirits. You'll whiz along an efficient but anonymous highway that could be anywhere, before being fed into Athens's ferocious traffic; or you'll be underground in the Metro, itching to get to your hotel. Somewhere, you know, not far away, must be the blue Aegean and the lofty Acropolis. But where?
When you get to your hotel, jump into the shower, take a nap, and then set off for an evening stroll through elegant Syntagma (Constitution) Square past the House of Parliament. Take a few minutes to explore Syntagma's handsome marble Metro station, with its display of finds from the excavations here. Sit on a bench or at one of the cafes and have a cup of coffee or a snack as you take in the city, its citizens, and your surroundings. (Syntagma Sq. has free Wi-Fi, so you have many reasons to return here and linger during your stay.)
If it's too warm out, escape into the shade of the National Gardens -- an oasis of calm and cool in the heart of Athens. You'll discover shady benches; a small cafe; the excellent Aigli restaurant in the adjacent, wider, and more formal Zappeion Gardens; and lots of opportunities to watch Greek families out for a stroll. Keep an eye out for the shockingly well-preserved Roman Baths, have a seat and linger by the Zappeion's handsome fountain for a while, and then head into the Plaka, the old neighborhood on the slopes of the Acropolis that has more restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops than private homes. If you get off the Plaka's main drags, Kidathineon and Adrianou, and follow one of the streets such as Thespidos that run up the slope of the Acropolis, you'll find yourself in Anafiotika. This district, built in the 19th century by immigrants from the Cycladic island of Anafi, retains much of its old village character. As you stroll, look up: You're bound to see the Acropolis, perhaps floodlit -- the best reminder of why you came.
After you have had your first Greek meal, head for the Archaeological Promenade, stop by Thissio at the cafe/bar/restaurant Athinaion Politeia or the beautiful Chocolat Café for a glass of wine, and slowly head back to your hotel and get a good night's rest so that you'll be ready for your first real day in Athens.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.