Home to the mesmerizing Acropolis, symbolic of Ancient Greek civilization, the city of Athens is one you can’t miss when traveling to Europe. With a plethora of things to do in Athens in and around the city, be prepared for action-packed days full of exploring the capital.
From stunning natural lakes, offshore Mamma Mia-style islands, and never-ending ruins of Greek history Athens has plenty to offer. In this article, we’ll show you 25 of the best things to do when visiting Greece’s ancient capital city!
The Best Things to do in Athens
Visit the Acropolis
Probably the most famous landmark in Athens and even Greece, a visit to The Acropolis is a must-do activity in Athens. The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel on a rocky outcrop and a great spectacle with incredible history around it. The Acropolis itself offers some of the best views overlooking the city!
- Peak season (April-October): €20.
- Off-peak season (November-March): €10.
- Students and under 25’s: Free
- Book a Discounted Walking Tour
- Head to The Acropolis just before sunset, the views of the sprawling city are even more spectacular in golden hour!
Stroll through the National Gardens
If you’re looking to get away from the cobbled streets of Athens and switch it up for some luscious greenery, then the National Gardens are probably your best bet. Located centrally just behind the Greek Parliament building, the national gardens are full of natural beauty, including thousands of trees, several species of wildlife, and a few lakes.
The gardens are also home to a conservatory where plants are cultivated before being replanted – a must visit when heading to the park.
Eat Delicious Street Food
Athens arguably has some of the best street food in Europe and it’s pretty cheap too! You must try the local specialty of Gyros, which is either meat or vegetables tossed in an amazing blend of herbs and spices, tucked into a crispy and warm pita with french fris (potatos), or tzikiki. Our favorite spot is definitely To Souvlaki Tou Kosta, which is a small family-run business that has been going since 1946. For about €5 one can have a delicious meal on the fly. Consider checking out their great meat-free options, they’re just as tasty and more sustainable.
Have a cocktail at a Rooftop Bar Overlooking the Acropolis
There are an abundance of rooftop bars scattered throughout the city, and we’d definitely recommend picking one that has a view of Acropolis. Having a drink as the sun goes down over the Acropolis is one of the best things to do in Athens. Most of these will be located near Monastiraki Square and can also offer views over the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Mount Lycabettus.
A firm favorite amongst visitors is 360 Cocktail Bar, the cocktails here are incredible and its prime location has arguably one of the best views of the Acropolis from a rooftop bar. While the prices are high at €9- €12 per cocktail how often can you say you drank a gin and tonic while overlooking some of the oldest ruins in the world.
Climb Philopappos Hill
Philopappos Hill is a natural gem nestled in the heart of Athens’ city center. It consists of unique scenery overlooking the monumental sites of the Parthenon and the Hill of the Muses. Spend your day exploring the windy handmade cobble roads, while exploring some of Athen’s best cultural heritage sites. The walk isn’t too difficult and can be attempted by beginners so is perfect for a leisurely day out.
Make sure to visit the cave-like room hidden in the hill’s rock, it is labeled the Prison of Socrates and is often missed by visitors to Philopappos Hill.
Explore Anafiotika, an Island on the Mainland
Immerse yourself amongst Greek island vibes without actually leaving the mainland in the cute pocket of Anafiotika. The beautiful and tranquil area is located in Downtown Athens, just off the slopes of Acropolis Hill, and was constructed by builders from the Aegean Island of Anafi.
It is full of spectacular street art, white-washed cubic houses, and beautiful little churches making you forget that you are in the bustling metropolis of Athens. Finding Anafiotika can be a mission itself, you wouldn’t randomly stumble across it when exploring the city and it isn’t well signposted, however, this adds to the fun and allows it to remain one of Athens’ hidden treasures.
Visit the Monastiraki Flea Market
On a Sunday, the streets of Monastiraki are turned into a flea market consisting of shops painted by monks from Mount Athos. The shops include Artist workshops, numerous stalls selling clothing, crafts, and souvenirs along with plenty of delicious food stalls. The market is full of vibrant colors and has influences from a variety of diverse cultures including Eastern Europe, Albania, Turkey, and of course Greece.
Watch out for pick-pocketers as this has become increasingly more of a problem in Athens; with the vast crowds in the flea market along with lots of tourists, it is a paradise for pick-pocketers.
Take a Trip to Coastal Piraeus
Dubbed as ‘Coastal Athens’ the city of Piraeus is located just a 30-minute drive from downtown Athens. Piraeus is typically visited due to its prime location allowing access to the plethora of nearby Greek Islands. The port city provides a variety of marina-front restaurants and bars boasting a bubbly atmosphere and is great for a night out. You can get there via uber/taxi for €20 or take the local bus for €4. Make sure to visit the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus when visiting!
Explore the Charming Streets of Plaka
Plaka is the oldest and arguably the nicest neighborhood in central Athens and is located just underneath the Acropolis, making it a perfect stop after visiting the famous landmark. The area is packed with family-run shops with a variety of different stalls: including ceramics, jewelry, and food shops from a diverse range of cuisines. Plaka also consists of some of the finest street art from famous modern Greek artists, so keep your eyes peeled to view some great artwork.
If buying jewelry, it is best to be aware that the ones that are hand-made by the artists will have more value than the mass-produced pieces. Look online for advice on the best stalls, we loved the Byzantino Jewelry Store.
Watch a Movie in an Open-air Cinema Overlooking the Acropolis
Finish your day at one of Athen’s open-air cinemas. Here you can watch a movie under the stars whilst snacking on some of the signature homemade delicacies. One of the most popular cinemas is Cine Thisio which has a gorgeous view of the glowing Acropolis and presents a great selection of movies.
It is important to note that these cinemas are closed in the winter months, schedules start from May and finish in October. Tickets cost €6 Monday-Wednesday and €8 Thursday to Sunday. Make sure to book in advance if you are going in the peak months as these tend to be very popular amongst tourists and locals.
Visit the Panathenaic Stadium
A visit to Panathenaic Stadium is a must-do activity for sport and history lovers. The first Modern Olympic Games were held at Panathenaic Stadium and it is the oldest operating stadium in the world. It’s also one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe. Built-up with white marble tiles and a capacity of over 60,000, the exterior of the stadium is spectacular. General admission is €5. This is reduced to half price for students at only €2.50. As there isn’t much shade it’s best to check it out in the evenings for cooler weather.
Experience Athens’ Hedonistic Nightlife
The locals of Athens love to party and the city is known to have some of the best nightlife in Europe. If you are heading on a night out don’t expect to sleep until the early hours of the morning. There are a variety of different options for an excellent night out, from heading to one of its famous beach clubs or sipping on local Greek spirits down a cobbled back street. If you’re seeking a higher end outdoor vibe head to Astir Beach!
Visit to Monasteries of Meteora
The Monasteries of Meteora provide a fantastic landscape view of spectacular mountains and boulders. The captivating region provides a surreal feel with some of the most unique and beautiful sites in all of Greece.
The easiest way to travel here is by train which will also provide incredibly scenic views of cities, lakes, and rivers. The UNESCO World Heritage Site provides the perfect combination of history and nature with the mountaintop monasteries being described as a marvel of human creativity. The cost to enter the Monastery is €3 each and day trips from Athens running about €60. It’s best to book in advance as it’s a popular destination!
Climb to the Highest Point in Athens
Much less touristy and arguably more spectacular than Athens Hill, climbing Lykavittou Hill or Mount Lycabettus, was one of my favorite things we did in Athens. A short but steep trek, the climb will take you between 25-35 minutes to reach the peak. Despite its steepness, it is well worth it as when you reach the top you will be blessed with spectacular views of Athens’ sprawling metropolis. Pack yourself a picnic and gaze into the distance before heading back down the much more relaxed route.
Visit the Ancient Agora
Despite being typically ignored in favor of its more famous neighbor The Acropolis, The Ancient Agora is arguably just as beautiful and is another one of those fantastic things to do in Athens. On arrival you will be presented with panoramic views from all different levels, along with spectacular architecture. There are ruins spread across Ancient Agora rather than one attraction so make sure you leave plenty of time to explore. The cost is €8 but entrance is also included in the multi ticket purchase available at the Acropolis ticket center.
Explore the Athenian Riviera
Athens can sometimes be overpowering with its busy city center, so a venture 30 minutes out towards the coast can be a relaxing change of scenery. Here you will find picturesque coastal regions: think glistening turquoise waters, pristine and rocky coastal hideaways, along with beautiful beach side restaurants.
Consider dining at the coastal restaurant of Krabo, it has an excellent location on a secluded bay in the area of Kavouri. It has a simple and chic aesthetic with stunning views overlooking the ocean.
Visit the Temple of Poseidon
At the tip of the Athenian Riviera is the spectacular Temple of Poseidon. An incredible site for those who are interested in early Greek Civilization, this temple lies around 40 miles from Athens’ city center. Here you can wander around the temple whilst enjoying incredible views of the Aegean Sea.
On a clear day, you can see some of the area’s surrounding islands, including Kea, Kythnos, and Serifos. You can also take a dip in the calm waters of the Aegean Sea and spend the afternoon hanging out at one of the nearby beaches. The cost is €10 for General Admission and €5 for students.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
At the Odeon of Herodes Atticus lies an ancient theater kept in pristine condition despite it being built in 161 AD. Located just a few minutes walk from the Acropolis in Athens, it’s a great bonus activity for history buffs.
Not only is it a spectacular historic monument that is great to observe, it has also now become a restored music venue where the likes of Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, and Liza Minnelli have performed. Be sure to check to see if there are any live performances before your visit.
The cost ranges between €10- €20, but is also included in the Acropolis special ticket. If you don’t buy the Acropolis special ticket, and don’t want to pay the full cost to see this landmark, then you can still get a great view of the ancient theatre on your ascent to the Acropolis.
Take a Dip at Edem Beach
Take a trip to the region of Anavyssos, where you can take a dip in one of the best places to swim close to Athens. The beach is equipped with pristine waters and is home to a number of activities to explore, including jet-skiing, renting a boat, kayaking and waterskiing. In the evening you can wind down at one of the local restaurants, of which many offer live music creating a vibrant atmosphere.
Don’t forget to grab a meal or a drink at Edem Taverna, its located centrally on the beach and often has a great selection of live music.
Take a Day Trip to Delphi
Surrounded by alpine meadows and spectacular valleys dropping down into the slopes of Mt Parnassos, lies the ancient village of Delphi. Not only is Delphi packed full of interesting archeological sites but it is also one of the loveliest day-hikes in the Mediterranean.
You can spend your days hiking through the mountains experiencing striking views of picturesque villages and alpine hills. Visit the famous sites of Corycian Cave and the Sanctuary of Apollo, before heading for a cup of coffee in the beautiful village of Arachova. General admission is €12, and make sure you visit the Sanctuary of Athena, as well as The Sanctuary of Apollo as it is often overlooked despite being just as beautiful.
Have a Picnic in Kifissias Park
City parks are always a must-visit when travelling to a new place; they present a tranquil atmosphere, which is certainly a great way to escape city crowds after days of sightseeing. Located centrally, you will have plenty of shop options to pick up a picnic, so whip up a traditional Greek feast of baklava, local wine and bread, along with some hummus and relax in Kifissias Park.
Take a Sailing Trip to the Saronic Sea
There are several tours available from the Athenian Riviera which take you on a fantastic day out on a beautiful catamaran to the Saronic Sea. Spend the day exploring the mesmerizing islands of Agistri, Moni, and Aegina where you will have the opportunity to swim and sunbathe at different locations.
Explore the Saronic Sea’s underwater marine life with options to snorkel or dive, these will strike up an appetite for lunch that will consist of delicious Mediterranean-Greek food, along with an array of beverages.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
Immerse yourself in the world of the Acropolis Museum, one of Athens’ top attractions which contains some of the most valuable collections of ancient Greek art and architecture on the globe. A recent development built-in 2007, it is located just below the Acropolis hilltop and has a vast and unique layout that incorporates an ancient Athenian neighborhood style. Cost of admission ranges from €5 -€10 depending on the season.
Explore Olympieion: Temple of Olympian Zeus
Take a trip to explore one of the largest and most luxurious temples in Europe. Home to arguably the most important and famous God in Greek History: Zeus, these ruins project a monumental presence. Despite only eight pillars remaining it’s easy to imagine how grand the temple was in its complete form. Located centrally, the temple is only 500 m southeast of the Acropolis and 700 m south of Syntagma Square. The cost is € 12 for General Admission or €6 for Students/U25.
Swim in Lake Vouliagmeni
Located just a 30-minute drive from central Athens are the crystal-clear waters of Lake Vouliagmeni. The lake lies in a beautiful nature reserve surrounded by vast rocks with scattered vegetation. Water temperatures are relatively mild so you can spend the day hopping in and out of the water without getting too cold.
The lake is also home to many small fish that will gently nibble on your feet when entering the water. At first it gives you a tingly feeling but after a while you get used to it.
Food and drink at the lake can be relatively expensive but as you are given a wristband on entry you can leave and enter whenever you’d like. We’d recommend taking a picnic and eating it on the beach just a few minutes walk away from the lake.
Day Trip to Hydra Island
A popular activity for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city is to catch a boat over to the beautiful car-free island of Hydra. Hydra island is one of the Saronic Gulf Islands and is located just a 90-minute ferry ride from the mainland, a return ticket will cost you around €30.
Once you arrive on the island there are several great outdoor activities, from visiting one of the many hidden coves scattered across the island to taking a hike up to Profitis Ilias Monastery, or just enjoying the vibe of a car free Greek island!
More Athens Travel Tips
- The Athens City Pass offers admission to the main sights and museums in Athens. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sight seeing it may be worth getting!
- Safety: Athens has a bit of a reputation for being grimy and dirty and while these are valid points that I agree with it doesn’t mean that Athens is unsafe. The main thing you should worry about is pickpockets, especially after dark. Always be away of your surroundings, and consider an Anti Theft bag.
- The Best Time to Visit Athens, and Greece for that matter is May, June, September, and October when the weather is cooler. July and August are scorchers and will have you constantly seeking heat relief.
- How Long Should You Spend in Athens? Is really up to you! If you have extra time and are really into history and archeology then you may want to stay up to 4-5 days exploring. For me I always find one day in Athens to be enough to see the main sights before heading on to the beautiful Greek islands.
Get Around Athens
- By Plane: Many trips to Greece start and end in Athens. Athens airport is a major hub in the Aegean, Balkan and East Mediterranean regions with international carriers from around the world flying in and out. Air Canada, American and Delta maintain non-stop flights from North America while Aegean Airlines is one of the most prominent airlines in Greece.
- By Car: One of the best ways to get around mainland Greece is via rental car. If you are traveling to Athens for one day and then have plans to continue elsewhere in mainland Greece it may be worth it to book a rental car. We use Discover Car Hire for rentals, and last time were able to get a car rental in Greece for around €30 a day. That being said if you are staying in Athens for a few days having a car will become more of an issue and hindrance as you try to explore the main sights. The streets are chaotic and parking is a nightmare.
- By Metro: The Athens Metro will get you between destinations like Piraeus – Kifissia, Anthoupoli – Elliniko, and Nikaia – Doukissis Plakentias – Airport. Tickets start at €1.40.
- Bt Tram: The Athens Tram is rather limited, but it can be used for tourists who want to get between the coast and city center. Tickets start at €1.40.
- By Bus: The City of Athens has a relatively good bus network that will get you to a plethora of destinations (combined with some walking.) Bus routes show up on Google Maps and is the cheapest way to get around the city. You can also book a Hop On Hop Off bus to get you to all the tourists sites.
Where to Stay in Athens
Moving Onward from Athens
Most visitors use Athens as a great in and out base from international destinations to the Greek islands. Besides Corfu, Crete, Santorini, and Mykonos very few Greek islands have international flights. Meaning that visitors will either enjoy Athens at the beginning or end of the Greece trip.
There are two ways to get to the Greek islands from Athens. By plane or by ferry. Some island groups like the Cyclades or the Saronic Islands are only a few hours ferry ride away from Athens while some like Crete require an overnight journey via ferry.
Athens has three main ferry ports, Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrion with Piraeus being the main the will connect you easily. I like to play around on Ferry Hopper to see what islands I can travel to easily. Some great destinations that are close to Athens are Hydra, Spetses, Milos, Naxos, and Paros.
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