Greeks pride themselves for their philoxenia, or hospitality. Even in antiquity, many of them referred to Zeus as Xenios Zeus—the God in charge of protecting travelers. Today, Greek philoxenia is alive and well in the capital city, whether displayed in the kindness of strangers you ask for directions or in the thoroughness of your hotel receptionist's care. With 20% of the small country's GDP derived from tourism, philoxenia isn't optional.

The city is full of hotels, many of which were built in Greek tourism's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. In the years prior to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, financial incentives were provided to hoteliers to upgrade and renovate their facilities, to the effect that many hotels—such as the Athens Hilton—completely renovated themselves inside and out as they increased their range of services.

But while prices have increased since the Olympics, accommodations are still available at all price levels. In Athens you can find everything from boutique hotels dreamed up by prestigious designers and decorated by well-known artists to no-fuss youth hostels that for decades have served the backpacking crowds on their way to Mykonos and Santorini. Athens's budget hotels—once little better than dorms—now almost always have air-conditioning and TV, along with prettier public spaces and possibly even Wi-Fi. In the post-Olympics years, there was a notable increase in the number of good-quality, middle-rank family hotels. At the same time, the city's classic luxury hotels, such as the Grande Bretagne and the King George, introduced modern perks like modern spas.

The most convenient hotels for travelers are in the heart of the city center. Some of the older hotels in Plaka and near Omonia Square are comfortable and clean, their charm inherent in their age. But along with charm may come leaking plumbing, sagging mattresses, or other lapses in the details—take a good look at the room before you register. The thick stone walls of neoclassical buildings keep them cool in summer, but few of the budget hotels have central heating, and Athens can be devilishly cold in winter.