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Top things to do in Athens

For us, Athens is the city we grew up in and that is why we will try to be as objective and clear as possible. Athens is a city full of options for all tastes and moods. Every visitor, but also Athenian, has a variety of options that will surely meet their expectations.

Athens is the oldest capital of the world, where with its important findings and history, it has influenced the whole world with its civilization and glory. Apart from the Acropolis and the museums, where you will experience some moments of Ancient Athens, the modern city also has many interesting experiences to offer. Small picturesque neighbourhoods with traditional shops and taverns, intense nightlife and, generally its rhythms, will make you want to visit it again and again.

Usually, for tourists, Athens is a transitional stage towards their holidays on a Greek island, staying for one to two days. But the things to do and the places to visit are so many that one cannot do everything in two days’ time. The following list will help you decide what to do during your visit to Athens, so that you can enjoy it as much as possible.

The Acropolis

When you think of Athens, you cannot help but think of the Acropolis, the most important historical landmark of Greece. It rises in the center of the city, an imposing hill, upon which the Parthenon stands together with many more historical monuments. This is the part of ancient Greece, where philosophers challenged the universe, where democracy and freedom of speech were born, where beautiful statues and art were created and temples were built to honour our gods.

In the ancient site of the Acropolis you will find, beyond the Parthenon, the most famous temple, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena. We suggest you to plan your tour before visiting the venue to avoid queues for tickets. There are many organized tours with guides that will lead you to the ancient sites of the Acropolis and will give you as much information as you need. For more information see here.

acropolis in Athens
Acropolis Museum

A modern museum that opened its gates in 2009 and presents to the public thousands of objects discovered at the Archaeological Site of the Acropolis. Very close to the entrance of the Acropolis, the Museum is cleverly oriented to offer a continuous view of the Parthenon. It is built on top of ancient ruins and much of the ground floor consists of glass slabs, showing the ancient finds below.

With its three levels, visitors are transported on a journey through those centuries. On the first level are the ancient discoveries made on the Acropolis hill. Going up to the first floor, visitors encounter exhibits from the Ancient Acropolis while in the western section are sculptures from the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, as well as architectural elements from the Propylaea. The latter, with their imposingness emphasize the sanctity and the splendor of the sacred rock of the Acropolis. The next floor is exclusively dedicated to the frieze and the gables of the Parthenon, in a room with the same dimensions, column distances and the same orientation as the Parthenon. The well known Ionic and Doric rhythm are prevalent in the architecture, which was later adopted by many other architects globally.

The ticket price is 5 € in winter and 10 € in summer. Because the queue for the issuance of tickets can be long,  you can get them in advance and skip the queue. Also, you have the opportunity to plan an organized tour with a guide who will guide you and give you additional information about the exhibits of the Acropolis Museum, but also about the life of the ancient Greeks. For more information see here.

Ancient Agora and Temple of Hephaestus

The Ancient Agora is located between Monastiraki and the base of the Acropolis. In ancient times this area was the market of the city and where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, as well as many other ancient Greeks, used to gather. It is very easy to distinguish the archeological sites, streets and squares that house the ruins of those times but also from the most important temples, to distinguish the temple of Hephaestus.

The Temple of Hephaestus was built in the 5th century BC to honour the god of fire and metallurgy. It is one of the most well-preserved temples in Athens and one of the most impressive that is worth visiting. There are also guided tours that will give you additional information about the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus. For more information see here.

Temple of Hephaestus in Athens
Areios Pagos Hill

To enjoy the most beautiful view of the Acropolis, we suggest you climb the Areios Pagos hill. It’s located northwest of the Acropolis. As soon as you reach the top, you will be able to see from the port of Piraeus, the Acropolis and the view of the northern district of Athens. The access to the space is relatively inaccessible and slippery and that is why we suggest you wear comfortable and closed shoes so that you can enjoy this wonderful view.

The legend says that the god of war, Aris, killed the son of the sea god Poseidon, Alirrothios, and the place was used as the court of the gods in mythical times.

For us, this hill is the perfect ending of a day, where watching the sunset, we can enjoy the illuminated Acropolis and the night lights of the city.

Check our full detailed travel guide for Greece here.

Panathinaikos Olympic Stadium

Also known as Kallimarmaro, this stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It was built on the site of the original stadium for the Panathinaikos Games (330 BC), which were held every 4 years in honour of the goddess Athena. It is the only stadium in the world that is built entirely of white marble and has a capacity of about 68,000 spectators.

Today, Kallimarmaro hosts summer concerts and hosts important cultural and sporting events. It is the final point of the annual Athens Marathon. During the year of the Olympic Games, the Olympic flame travels from Ancient Olympia throughout Greece, before finally arriving at the Panathinaiko Stadium for the official handover ceremony to the new host country of the Games.

Kallimarmaro in Athens
Columns of Olympian Zeus / Hadrian’s Gate

Dedicated to the god Zeus, the temple of Olympian Zeus, or Olympion, was the largest temple in Ancient Greece. The church dates back to the 6th century BC, but was not completed until the second century AD by the emperor Hadrian. Over 100 columns 17 meters high once supported this majestic temple that was once full of statues of gods and emperors. Over the centuries and after much “looting”, only 15 columns are left standing today, while the 16th fell to the ground after a storm. Unfortunately, nothing has been saved from inside, not even the large statue of Zeus that is said to have been the most impressive of the temple.

However, at a very close distance from the temple of Olympian Zeus is Hadrian’s Gate. A monumental gate reminiscent of a Roman triumphal arch. It was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, to honor him for his beneficial rule in Athens. The large marble gate was a boundary between ancient Athens and the new city of Hadrian, as shown by the inscriptions on each side of the arch. A visit to this amazingly symmetrical location is a must for anyone visiting Athens.

Olympian Zeus temple in Athens
Lycabettus Hill

For the panoramic view of Athens, the top of Lycabettus Hill is the ideal place! It is located at an altitude of about 300 meters above sea level, and its peak is the highest point in Athens. There are two ways to go up: on foot or by cable car.

For those who choose to climb to the top on foot, the route is pleasant, with a lot of pine trees all around, and uphill and difficult for those who do not have a good physical condition. The cable car, on the other hand, is an easy solution and departs every half hour. However, it passes through a tunnel and you will not be able to admire the view during the ascent until you arrive.

You will enjoy the view from the hill of Lycabettus better at sunset, especially when the lights of the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathinaikos Stadium and the Ancient Agora are lit. You will also see that Athens is surrounded by the sea with amazing views of the Aegean. At the top is the picturesque chapel of Agios Georgios. In addition, you will find a café for breakfast and lunch. Reservations for dinner can be made at the very luxurious Orizontes(Horizons) restaurant, which also has amazing views across Athens.

Book your transfer from/to the airport and ports of Athens here.

Monument to the Unknown Soldier-Evzones

Under the building of the Greek Parliament, in Syntagma Square, is the cenotaph for all the Greek warriors who fell during the wars. The monument was carved in the early 1930s and on its steps and wall are inscriptions that record battles from the First and Second Balkan Wars, the Greek-Turkish War, the First World War and the Second World War.

The monument is monitored by the soldiers Evzones, of the presidential guard and there is a change of guard every hour. Do not forget to watch the change of the guard that takes place on Sunday at 11 am, where the Evzones are dressed in the Greek traditional costume.

Monument to the Unknown Soldier-Evzones
National Garden

The National Garden covers a huge area of ​​about 16 hectares and has three entrances: from Amalias Avenue, Vasilissis Sofias Avenue and the Zappeion Palace. It was created between 1838 and 1840 by order of Queen Amalia, the first queen of Greece. It imported more than 500 species of plants from Greece and around the world, including many tropical plants. Unfortunately, over time, some of these plants did not survive the Mediterranean climate, but those that have survived, create a wonderful environment to relax in.

Originally, it was named the Royal Garden because it was fenced and only the royal family had the right to walk there. People were allowed to walk in Zappeion, another small park next to the Royal Garden. However, after the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1975, the park was renamed the National Garden and opened to the public. Today it remains open from sunrise to sunset.

The neighbourhoods of Plaka and Anafiotika

Plaka is located at the top of the settlements of ancient Athens, in the shadow of the Acropolis. It is a quiet neighborhood, with narrow, picturesque alleys, with small low houses reminiscent of old 19th century times and blooming bougainvilleas in summer. Plaka is full of family shops, each with something tempting, from ceramics, musical instruments, handmade jewelry to traditional food shops such as olives and spices.

At a very close distance are Anafiotika, below the rocky northeastern slope of the Acropolis. An equally picturesque neighbourhood with plenty of Greek restaurants and cozy cafes and bars.

The square in Monastiraki

Monastiraki square is an open space, surrounded by a combination of old and new buildings. A sign on one side of the square marks the road to the flea market. Narrow streets with shops selling everything from jewelry and souvenirs to new and second hand clothes and everyday items are what you will find in the open-air market of Athens in Monastiraki. From the square, you can see the Acropolis rising high above, and a short walk from the square takes you to Hadrian’s Library.

Monastiraki also has many options for food, for those who want to get a souvlaki or any other traditional Greek dish. You will also find plenty of roof bars around to enjoy your coffee or cocktail overlooking the city of Athens and especially the Acropolis.

The neighbourhood of Psyrri

It is located right in the center of Athens, next to the metro Monastiraki, about 15 minutes walk from Plaka and the Acropolis. It is considered one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the city with wonderful street art wherever you look and many food options for all tastes.

Initially, there are many options for snacks and food but also for desserts and coffee. For a light snack, head to the Koulouri bakery, which is open 24/7! In just 50 minutes you can have a delicious local snack to carry on until your next meal. Also, in Heroes Square, we suggest you try the traditional bougatsa, pie with cream or other savory options, where they are always fresh and you can see them making them while you wait for them.

For dessert we recommend the “Nancy’s Cherbet House” and the “Psyrri Cherbet”, where you can try fresh traditional Greek and Oriental sweets. Do not forget to visit the shop “Little Kook”, a special shop for coffee and sweets, with bright decorations all over the street. There are many choices of traditional taverns and Psyrri is famous for its lively nightlife.

The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio

Very close to Athens, on Cape Sounio is the Temple of Poseidon. This marble temple was built by the ancient Athenians to honour Poseidon and to guide sailors safely to their home.

Pro tip: choose to visit the Temple of Poseidon, in the afternoon to gaze at the beautiful sunset, with the sun falling on the sea and offering you a wonderful landscape.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is an exciting cultural center that organizes exhibitions and festivals all year round. The complex has the National Library of Greece and the National Opera among other galleries and theaters that highlight Greek culture.

It is an architectural work of art and an excellent space for indoor and outdoor events. With an ice rink in winter and summer sailing when the weather is nice, there are plenty of fun activities for both adults and children.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Coastal Line

While there is much to see in the city, your heart may long for the soft sand and the smell of the sea air when you visit Greece. If so, you are in luck, as there are many beaches to explore not far from Athens, with blue flags.

From the luxurious beach bar and sun loungers of Astir Vouliagmeni or the popular spot of Edem, all along the coastal line to cape Sounio and around it, you will definitely find a spot that suits your style. Some beaches are easily accessible by taxi or public transport, but if you want to find something quieter with cleaner waters, it would be best to rent a car so you can drive a little further.

Useful Sites and Apps

Throughout the years we have been travelling we usually look for apps or websites that help us to get around better, either before or during the trip. In this way we have access to useful information like where can we get the best deals and expand our options. We usually make our choices on what activities we are going to do and where to go with help from those apps and follow the best ratings. Some we used are:

Booking.com

With a plethora of choices, traveller points that help you get better deals the more you travel, promo codes for you and your friends, with available credit options as well and much more. Start booking and see for yourselves. For available rooms and prices look here.

Ferries in Greece

For ferry tickets to all of Greece as well as destinations like Italy and Turkey. Immediate service and cooperation with the largest services in Greece. Search available routes here.

Air Bnb

With more than a million properties around the world and still growing. A very popular choice for those looking for more affordable options even at the most expensive locations. Having the choice to pick an apartment or even a whole villa would make you feel more at home while you travel.

Hotels.com

Registering here is free and easy. Every hotel on this platform will grant a free tenth night, so if you stay for ten nights the tenth night is free.

Trip Advisor

I don’t know anyone that has ever travelled and not used this platform for reviews or information about almost any location around the world. Hundreds of millions or reviews are available for most interesting locations when one is traveling. It can even help you find interesting things to do where you live and haven’t noticed yet.

Omio.com

Anything you need a click away. Find the best deals on trains, buses, flights, or even ferry tickets. Travel to thousands of destinations in Canada, the USA, and Europe. I often check here when I am already on a trip and I need to visit some neighbouring town or city. Check available routes here.

Kiwi.com

The first place to visit before any trip for advice on the fastest and most efficient search engine for flights. We love the option to choose any location and get the cheapest options for a fixed timeframe. This way you don’t even have to pick where to go, save money and have a spontaneous trip. For available flights and prices look here.

GetYourGuide

And for whomever likes activities and adventures or are even interested in museums and historical locations there is anything available to do and can be mostly found on this platform. You can even set a time and location to find what to do and not waste time waiting. Only make sure you check the reviews to know what to expect at each different activity or visit. We have used it many times throughout Africa, Asia, and the USA without any issues. For available activities and tours check here.

Discover Cars

For car rentals at the lowest prices, servicing in over 150 countries and with the best deals and support in over 12 different languages for your own leisure.

Hotel Tonight

Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room. You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the trustworthiness of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.

City Maps 2Go

Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay.

You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.

EXTRA TIP

Once you have marked all the places you want to visit prior to your trip, you can also book your accommodation accordingly. This way you can be sure you’ll be staying somewhere close to all places of interest.

iVisa.com

More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.

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