Ho-ho-ho-boy… you’re stuck in Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos for six hours. Well, lucky you. Born for the 2004 Olympic Games, this airport is modern, clean, and chock-full of ways to while away your layover. There’s so much, I’ve compiled an awards list to help you decide where to focus your energy.
Best Of Athens International Airport
Best Aromatherapy: Terkenlis bakery, baking traditional Greek breads and sweets right there in the airport. Try tsouréki, a braided sweetbread.
Best place for having a conversation: Puro Gusto. The atmosphere is fresh, the coffee is good, the chairs are comfortable, and it’s much less crowded than up at Departures so you’ll be able to hear the person across from you.
Best way to pamper yourself: Konstantinos Xatzis Salon offers makeup, haircare, and manicure treatments. Open from Monday to Saturday 8 t0 8, Sunday and Holidays 11am-7pm. 210.35 30 870-1.
Best way to deal with idle hands: Komboloi (worry beads) are how locals funnel their anxiety into play.
Best Free Entertainment: 2board magazine is well designed, well written, and features spectacular places in Greece and the rest of the world.
Most Educational Use of your Time: Go to the top level (dominated by McDonalds advertisements) and you’ll find a long wall dedicated to the Airport’s namesake and one of Greece’s most important leaders of modern history, Eleftherios Venizelos. Did you know he was greatly admired by Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill?
There’s also a small museum displaying pieces from the New Acropolis Museum and all of the archaeological findings of the area around the airport excavated during its construction.
Most Original Shopping
For something a little more interesting than the standard luxury name brands (Hermes, Hugo Boss, Diesel) and that found in Duty Free shopping, look for these stores:
Metropolis – Buy a CD of Greek music by composers Manos Hadjidakis or Mikis Theordorakis to add to your eclectic music library. Check out their music on the Local Flavor blog post “Athens Playlist no 1.”
Papasotiriou Art Point – unique baubles and conversation pieces inspired by Ancient Greek artwork of all periods.
Korres Natural Cosmetics – the Greek line of cosmetics and skincare based on plants, herbs and oils, can be found next to “Accessorize” in the general shopping area.
Hellenic Gourmet is a last minute stop for Greek honeys, high grade ouzo and extra virgin Greek olive oil along with hoards of other specialty foods.
Mastiha Shop: What do candies, cookies, liqueur, chewing gum and mints, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste have in common? In this case they’re all made with the regionally exclusive, miracle ingredient mastiha. A flight attendant friend of mine swears by the hard candies for helping with ear-popping, nausea, and digestive issues caused by the plane ride.
Both Hellenic Gourmet and the Mastiha shop are found in terminal B past the “boarding pass only” zone.
Presspoint – Snacks, magazines, books on Greece, and the modern designs of Breathtaking Athens official souvenirs.
When you’re on a budget – McDonald’s is up high with a great view.
For a civilized meal – The Olive Tree is a regularly functioning restaurant set away from the hoi polloi.
Local Flavor: Inside “Food Village” is a Greek restaurant serving traditional meals. Try the vegetable briam for something light, mousaka for something weighty.
Best way to “fly away” – Mini bottles of Greek spirits, tsipouro or ouzo, accompanied with olives and feta.
FOR THE BOLD
With six hours you can:
Go to the zoo. The city’s only zoo is in the same area as the airport.
Visit the Acropolis. Read how in the Local Flavor Post How to Get From the Airport to the Acropolis in One Hour.
Go to the beach. The Attiki Odos (Road of Attica) accesses the coastal highway quite easily. You only need half an hour before you’re at the beach. With one hour you reach the Temple of Poseidon at Sounio.
Most of these things (with the exception of the Acropolis) will require a car and driver, which can be arranged at the 24 hour travel desk of Pacific Travel. Expect to pay around €35 per hour on top of the transfer cost to and from the airport (usually €50 per way) but don’t forget to include time to get back unless you’re having such a good time you decide to spend the holidays in Athens.