Travelers to Europe’s hottest city will find enough to interest them, from historic landmarks to delectable street fare. We’ve put together a list of some of the top things to do and see in Athens, Greece.
Greece’s capital city, Athens, is named for the Athena-dedicated goddess. The Platonic Academy and the Lyceum of Aristotle were both located in Athens, making it the ‘birthplace of democracy’ and the ‘Cradle of Civilization.’
Athens (also known as Athenai) has a long history, reaching back 3400 years, with many ancient wonders to see.
Athens, once a city of temples, ruins, and god statues, is now a mix of new construction and historic landmarks.
There are many exciting things to do in Athens besides the history and architecture that the city is famed for.
Some of the things I enjoy doing in Athens, no matter the season, have been included in this guide for those who are considering a visit.
Everything on my Athens itinerary is free! It’s taken me a long time to put it together just for you. I appreciate it if you use my affiliate links to book hotels, rental cars, or activities. At no additional expense to you, I’ll get a little commission! Thanks.
Restrictions on travel to Greece in 2022
Greece will open its doors to tourists, including those from the United States, in May. Within 72 hours of your flight, you must produce confirmation of your COVID-19 vaccinations or a negative PCR test.
All hotels, tourist sites, and private tours have been reopened with enhanced safety measures in place (like wearing masks indoors).
Guide To The Best Athens Attractions
Ancient Greece’s Greatest Wonder, the Acropolis
A trip to Greece wouldn’t be complete without making the ascent to the Acropolis. This ancient citadel positioned on a hilltop above the city of Athens is a testimony to Greek wisdom and culture as one of Athens’ most significant places and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Athena’s Parthenon temple is one of numerous ancient remains on the Acropolis that are devoted to her.
Purchasing the Acropolis Combo Ticket is the ideal method to visit the Acropolis (and save some money) because it grants you access to other Greek ruins across the city for five days.
Spend at least a few hours, if not a half-day, on the Acropolis hill. Many stairs, treacherous rocks, and a lot to see are all part of the experience. You can count on a good work out!
The Parthenon, despite being a component of the Acropolis complex, requires special attention. Ancient Greek architectural splendors are on display in this temple built in 447 BCE atop the Acropolis hill with Doric marble columns that become thinner as they rise.
The Parthenon ruins, which are dedicated to the goddess Athena, are a must-see site in Athens during the day, and the towering columns, illuminated at night, appear stunning from across the city.
It’s best to avoid the crowds by visiting the Acropolis as soon as it opens in the morning or in the final few hours before it closes.
Self-guided smartphone tours are also available if you don’t want to pay for a tour guide but still want to learn about historic places like these.
Heracles Atticus’ Odeon
Herodes Atticus Odeon is an ancient theater located on the Acropolis’ southern slope. Concerts by Sinatra, Nana Mouskouri, Pavarotti and Bocelli have all taken place here.
To commemorate his late wife, Herodes Atticus had the steep-sloped Odeon with a cedar roof erected in 161 AD and used for musical performances until it was demolished in 267 AD.
Since it was restored in the 1950s, it has played host to a slew of well-attended musical events. A concert in Athens is a must-see if you happen to be here at the time!
Museum of the Acropolis
On the southern side of the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, which houses ancient antiquities from the Acropolis ruins, opened in 2009. It is possible to combine a trip to the museum with a trip to the Acropolis, which is only a 400-meter walk away.
From 1874 to the 1950s, the Acropolis Museum was home to a collection of around 4250 artifacts. An ancient Athens neighborhood with streets, houses, and shops that date back to 3000 B.C. can be seen beneath the museum.
The Temple Of Hephaestus and the Ancient Agora
When people of ancient Greek cities gathered to discuss matters of state or to get married, the Agora served as the city’s focal point for civic life. The Agora became a marketplace over time, selling products, food, pottery, and religious items.
Temple of Hephaestus stands next to Athenian Agora and was well-preserved in comparison to other temples. The Hephaisteion Master erected this Doric temple between 449 and 415 BC to worship the deity of workmanship, fire, and metalwork, Hephaestus.
There is an excellent museum of ancient Agora nearby, located in the Stoa, which houses items from Athens as well as Byzantium and Turkey.
The Agora of the Roman Empire
The Roman Agora was built much later and encroached on the Ancient Agora’s position to the east. The gate of Athena Archegetis was the only way to get in. The Fethiye Mosque, built in the 17th century, may be found at the far end of the agora.
The Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes, commonly known as the Tower of the Winds, stands 12 meters high in the agora and is said to be the world’s earliest meteorological station. The tower, which is also known as Areides, has a water clock, various sundials, and was originally home to a Triton weather-vane.
Varvakios’s main shopping district
Variations of these terms refer to the central market in Athens known as Varvakios Agora or Dimotiki Agora (not to be mistaken with the Central Market where food trucks congregate). It’s a great place to get fresh seafood and meat, as well as a wide variety of fruit, souvenirs and shops specializing in specific items like olives or spices, so bring your appetite!
A wide selection of commodities, low costs and freshness make this a popular source for local restaurants. More than 400 employees work in the fish market alone, which sees up to 5,000 customers a day.
Between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Varvakios market is open every day but Sundays.
Jog around the Panathenaic Stadium.
During the first modern Olympic Games, the Panathenaic Stadium was built on the same site as an even older ancient stadium where nude male athletes participated in track events.
The contemporary Olympic Stadium can contain 45,000 spectators on 47 decks, whereas the 335 BC stadium could house 60,000 people.
My husband and I jogged around the track with our kid Dylan, believing we were competing in the Olympic Games. It’s possible to get a better perspective of the stadium from the top, and there’s a three-tiered podium where you may pose for pictures.
The stadium also houses a small museum of Olympic history, replete with Olympic torches from previous competitions.
Find out more about Plaka’s history and culture
Small pubs in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens serve up some of the best Greek cuisine in the city. Visit the Library of Hadrian, the Kapnikaréa Church, the Metamórfosis Church, or one of the many shops on Ermou Street as you meander through the narrow streets.
Take a stroll around the Anafiotika neighborhood, which is just a few blocks away, and enjoy a drink at the Restaurant Staircase on Mnisikleous Street.
The National Museum of Anthropology
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece’s greatest archaeological museum, was founded in the nineteenth century. Over 11,000 artifacts and five permanent collections are housed in a Neo-classical building designed by L. Lange.
In addition to prehistoric relics from the Mycenaean and Neolithic periods, Greek pottery from the 11th century BC, Egyptian artifacts from 5000 BC, marble Cycladic figurines, and gold objects from the Mycenaean period there’s a lot to see here.
Climb Lycabettus Mountain
Lykavittos or Mount Lycabettus, a cretaceous limestone hill dominating Athens, rises 300 meters above sea level. Pine-covered hillsides make the hill an ideal place to trek to the top, where visitors are rewarded by breathtaking cityscape views of Athens.
Take the Lycabettus Funicular up to the top after visiting the Chapel of St. George if you don’t want to climb.
Stray Cat Detection in Athens
There are a lot of stray cats in Athens, same like in Istanbul, Turkey. Residents and business owners in the area provide some care for the cats by leaving out food and water, but the cats themselves remain wild and free to roam the city.
A delightful surprise for cat-lovers! During our wanderings around the city, we kept an eye out for stray cats and even purchased some dry cat food to feed them.
The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in the Plaka area is a great site to catch stray cats.
The Arch of Hadrian
The stunning Hadrian’s Arch may be found on one of Athens’ most important thoroughfares. To commemorate Hadrian’s entrance and honor him for his generous contributions to the city, it was built in 131 BC.
Between the Acropolis’ rock and Zeus’ temple, this building’s architecture is reminiscent of Roman arches. It’s close to Syntagma Square.
Philopappou Hill can be climbed
When Philopappou Hill (also known as Filopappou Hill) was designated an archaeological park in 1955-56, it was made a habitat for a variety of indigenous birds. It’s also a terrific way to get a bird’s eye view of Athens! Because of this, the birds seem to enjoy it.
Among the many attractions are the Nymph’s Hill, the Pnyx, and Mouseion Hill, which is home to the Philopappou Mausoleum and Monument.
This mausoleum honors the memory of Commagene prince Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, who reigned from 65 to 116 AD. People in Athens and the imperial family were shocked and saddened by his death.
The Temple of Zeus, Olympian
Walking distance from the center of Athens, the half-destroyed Temple of Olympian Zeus can be reached via public transportation. The temple featured 104 columns, each 17 meters high, at its height.
However, in 267 AD, Athens was attacked and the temple was ruined. Theodosius II, the Byzantine emperor at the time, banned the “worship” of ancient Greek and Roman gods in the temples of Constantinople. The magnificent marble of the temple was gradually removed by the populace for use in the construction of churches, residences, and other structures.
Church of Panagia Kapnikarea
The Panagia Kapnikarea Church in Athens’ capital city is a Byzantine gem and one of the city’s oldest churches. Assumption of the Virgin Church, built in the 11th century on ruins of a Greek temple, is located on Ermou Street near Monastiraki in Athens.
Mosaics and religious artwork decorate the walls, which are illuminated by lights rather than chandeliers.
Fill Your Stomach With Greek Cuisine
Everyone in Athens has a different opinion on what the top eateries are in the city. Athens is home to a plethora of excellent tavernas and dining establishments.
The Mnisikleous Restaurant Staircase and the many tavernas in Plaka and Psiri Quarter are great locations to eat. We enjoyed many lunches at Old Ithaki, which is located near the Athens Cathedral.
Try the rooftop bar of the Grand Bretagne Hotel for a more opulent dining experience with a view of the city. Watch the sun set over Athens while sipping on a beverage at this bar!
Art Gallery Of The Cycladic Islands
The Museum of Cycladic Art, founded in 1986 by Nikolas and Dolly Goulandris, is located in the Kolonaki Quarter.
It has around 3000 Cycladic and Greek artifacts, as well as Cypriot art. The majority of these artifacts date from the 4th to 6th centuries BC and are all from Nikolas’ personal collection.
The Flea Market at Monastiraki Square
In this 19th-century neighborhood to the north of the Acropolis, you’ll find a thriving commercial district. A wide variety of goods are available for purchase by tourists from stalls and businesses on the streets. At one of the city’s many casual eateries, you can take a break from your work.
The Monastiraki Flea Market at Monastiraki Square is a great place to get unique gifts, handcrafted shoes, and other local wares.
Visit the rooftop bar A For Athens for a spectacular view of the square and the city!
Get to know Athens’ historic Psiri area.
When it comes to Athens’ best nightlife, you can’t miss Psiri Quarter, which is also known as Psyrri (or Psirri). You’ll discover restaurants, pubs, cafes, tavernas, and street art all across the city.. Gentrification has brought new life to one of the city’s oldest districts, which had a bad reputation for crime until recently.
Little Kook Magic Cafe is a must-visit while you’re here. An umbrella-covered side street and a plethora of creatures, characters from fairy tales and beautiful flowers adorn this whimsical coffee and dessert shop. You can’t go wrong with this location for an Instagram post!
Amphipolis Hill At Sunset
At the entrance to the Acropolis, Areopagus Hill (also known as “Mars Hill”) is a massive granite formation. Athens itself may be seen from a new viewpoint from the rock’s summit, as well as the Acropolis.
The hill was formerly a popular gathering spot for philosophers and lawyers, and it is also the site of one of St. Paul’s most renowned speeches. If you’re up here, sunset is a great time to relax!
The Socratic Prison
Is This the Prison where Socrates was Locked Up?
There has long been speculation that the great philosopher Socrates was imprisoned in this cave-like structure on the Hill of Muses before being executed. Nobody can say for certain.
When Socrates’ teachings were considered hazardous in Athens, the morality of the Greek community began to deteriorate. A new Athenian democracy feared that citizens would disobey established laws and rules or fail to perform their civic duties, which would eventually lead to the overthrow of the new political system. ‘
Consequently, Socrates was imprisoned and subsequently murdered by poison hemlock in 399 BC. Antiquities from the Acropolis and the National Archeological Museum were also hidden here during World War II.
The Archbishopric of Athens
As the “official” church of Athens, the Metropolitan Cathedral serves as a focal point for the city’s worshipers. More than 70 churches that had been abandoned or demolished were used to build it, and the inside features a 24-meter-high dome with famous frescoes and icons.
There’s a smaller church, the Church of St. Eleftherios, just next door to the larger one. This 12th-century chapel, which houses 90 relief pieces in honor of Agios Eleftherios, bears his name.
A New Guard Is Assumed
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands in front of the Greek Parliament as a memorial to all Greek soldiers who perished in past conflicts. You can see the presidential honor guard rotate every hour on the hour.
It’s a popular pastime in Athens because it’s free, and a large audience gathers to watch. The tomb, which is called a cenotaph, was built in accordance with Ancient Greek tradition and is currently vacant.
At 11 a.m. on Sundays, a much more impressive ceremony takes place in front of the Parliament, with a large group of Evzones (presidential guards).
The Library of Hadrian is known as Hadrian’s Library
Besides being a library, Hadrian’s Library also featured music and lecture halls. One hundred columns encircled the courtyard, which was laid out like an ancient Roman forum. A pool was in the middle.
The neighboring Roman Agora served as the city’s major market during Roman times, although it primarily served as the city’s civic center. Hadrian, Roman emperor from 117 to 138, was particularly enamoured of Athens, where he built a slew of monumental structures, including the Athenian Library.
Getting Around Athens with Public Transportation
Discover Cars is the best place to reserve a car. In order to help you get the best deal possible, they search both local and international automobile rental providers for you. Renting a car in Greece has never been easier than with this method.
Uber or a Taxi, which is better?
In Athens, taxis are everywhere. Drivers that haggle over pricing should be avoided. If you’re taking a taxi, make sure it has a working meter and is registered with the appropriate authorities. Radio cabs, Uber, Taxibeat, and Taxiplon are all options for getting around.
Cyclists in Athens used to be few and far between, but that’s all about to change. Athens Bikes and Funky Ride offer bike rentals, as do Panorama Bikes and Athens Bikes.
With lines running from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m., the Athens Metro System is simple to use and offers many options. Lines 2 and 3 run till 2 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.
Most trains, buses, and trams in Berlin accept standard metro tickets costing €1.50 for a 90-minute travel. There are also €4.50 one-day admissions and €22 three-day tourist cards available.
Athens’ lodging options range from the inexpensive to the extravagant. Staying near the city center, public transportation and restaurants and stores is ideal. Hotels and hostels in Syntagma, Plaka, Monastiraki, and Koukaki are your best bets.
Advice on Visiting Athens
We spent three days in Athens, and I think it was just enough time to explore a lot of the city’s highlights. If you can, plan to stay for at least two days.
The months of March through May, or September through November, are ideal for visiting Athens and the rest of Greece. Summer is a busier time of year, and it’s also considerably hotter!
The city of Athens offers a free walking tour of the city, which you can take advantage of. An excellent approach to get a feel for Athens is to pick one up at one of the city’s many tourist information centers.
In Costa Rica, if you’re on a tight budget, carry your own tent for camping rather than paying for a bed each night. The cost of a campsite in Costa Rica is low (around $5), and the surroundings are frequently breathtaking.
Homestay lodging is becoming more popular among residents who want to earn a little additional money by renting out their homes to tourists.
Get the Athens City Pass! The city pass offers discounted entry to a number of locations, as well as transportation to and from those locations.