Athens, the capital of Greece, is a city that has stood the test of time. With a history that spans over 3,400 years, it’s no wonder that Athens is one of the most visited cities in Europe. But Athens is not just about ancient ruins and history, it’s a modern city with a vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking views.
If you’re planning a trip to Athens, you may be wondering what to do and where to go. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to plan your itinerary. That’s where this post comes in – we’ve put together a list of the top 21 things to do in Athens, Greece, to help you make the most of your visit.
Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, an art lover, or an adventurer, there’s something for everyone in Athens. From the iconic Acropolis to the colorful neighborhoods of Plaka and Anafiotika, you’ll be amazed by the diversity of experiences that this city has to offer.
In this post, we’ll give you an overview of Athens as a travel destination, explain why having a list of things to do is important, and most importantly, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive list of 21 must-do experiences in Athens. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture of Athens, and let’s dive in!
Visit historical sites
Visiting historical sites in Athens is like taking a step back in time. Each site is a testament to the ingenuity, creativity, and skill of the ancient Greeks, and offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Athens. Whether you’re a history buff or simply interested in exploring the wonders of the past, these historical sites in Athens are a must-visit on your trip:
The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis is undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Athens. This ancient citadel sits atop a rocky outcrop that overlooks the city and is home to several iconic structures, including the Parthenon, the Propylaea, and the Erechtheion. The Parthenon, built in the 5th century BC, is an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of ancient Greek civilization. The Acropolis is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in history and architecture.
You can not visit Athens and skip visiting the icon of the Greek Capital! The Parthenon is something that everyone must visit in the city of Athens. Built between 447 and 438 BC, the massive building is an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of ancient Greek civilization. In the beginning, as a Greek temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena — the patron god of Athens, it also served as the city’s treasury. As time passed, it became a Christian Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 6th century and a mosque under Ottoman rule.
You would expect to see more hints about the building’s past when you visit the Parthenon. Unfortunately, the structure suffered an explosion when ammunition left by the Ottomans was ignited during a Venetian bombardment, in 1687. And, though the building has been under restoration work since the ’80s, it will never be the same again.
The Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora was the heart of ancient Athens, a bustling marketplace, and a center of political and social activity. Today, the site is a vast archaeological park that provides visitors with a glimpse into the everyday life of ancient Athenians. Some of the most notable structures in the Agora include the Temple of Hephaestus, the Stoa of Attalos, and the Odeon of Agrippa.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a massive ancient temple that was dedicated to the king of the gods, Zeus. It was completed in the 2nd century AD, after more than 600 years of construction, and is one of the largest temples ever built in Greece. Although much of the temple has been destroyed, the towering columns that remain are an impressive sight and a testament to the engineering prowess of the ancient Greeks.
Kerameikos is an ancient cemetery that was once the final resting place of many famous Athenians, including Pericles and Themistocles. Today, the site is a sprawling park that is home to several well-preserved tombs and mausoleums. The most notable structure at Kerameikos is the Dipylon Gate, an impressive entrance gate that once served as the main entrance to the city.
Discover museums and galleries
Visiting museums and galleries in Athens is a great way to explore the rich history and culture of the city. Whether you’re interested in ancient artifacts, modern art, or anything in between, there’s a museum or gallery in Athens that is sure to capture your imagination. So, make sure to add these fascinating institutions to your list of things to do in Athens:
The Acropolis Museum is a modern museum that houses many of the artifacts found at the Acropolis archaeological site. It’s located in the heart of Athens, just a short walk from the Acropolis itself. The museum’s stunning glass atrium provides a beautiful view of the Acropolis while you browse through the many exhibits, which include statues, pottery, and other treasures from ancient Athens.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is the largest and most important archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Its extensive collection of artifacts spans from prehistory to late antiquity and includes items such as sculptures, pottery, jewelry, and frescoes. Some of the museum’s most notable exhibits include the Antikythera Mechanism, the Mask of Agamemnon, and the statue of Poseidon.
The Benaki Museum is a museum of art and culture that is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building in central Athens. Its collection spans from prehistoric times to the modern era and includes a wide range of artifacts, from ancient pottery to Byzantine icons to contemporary art. Some of the most notable exhibits at the museum include the collection of Chinese ceramics, the Islamic art collection, and the collection of Greek folk art.
Museum of Cycladic Art
The Museum of Cycladic Art is a museum dedicated to the ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus, with a focus on the Cycladic civilization. Its collection includes many exquisite pieces of ancient Cycladic art, including figurines, pottery, and jewelry. The museum also houses collections of ancient Greek and Cypriot art, as well as modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
Enjoy outdoor activities
Athens isn’t just a city with a rich history and ancient landmarks, it’s also a city with plenty of outdoor activities to offer. From hiking to relaxing walks, Athens has a variety of outdoor experiences to offer visitors. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, or just want to get some fresh air, here are some outdoor activities to add to your list:
At 277 meters, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point of Athens. And by saying that, I think that it’s already obvious that from its top you will get a great view of the city. You’ll actually get to see as far as Piraeus, on the coast of Athens!
To go up on Lycabettus Hill, you can take a short ride on the House of Metaxa funicular railway which runs from the Kolonaki neighborhood to the top.. While you won’t get to see anything during this ride except the interior of a tunnel, the projections inside make it a pretty cool experience.
This scenic hill that’s one of the largest green areas in Athens is a great spot for a relaxing walk, a picnic with a view, or even some light hiking. Located southwest of the Acropolis, Filopappou Hill provides stunning panoramic views of Athens and the surrounding mountains. Here, you can see the monument of Filopappos, a structure built in honor of the Roman consul Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos. And on your way up or down, you can visit the prison of Socrates.
An alternative to Philopappos Hill is Pnyx Hill. Located right in the middle of Athens, it is one of the places which has played an important role in the birth of democracy. This is where the Athenians used to gather for their popular assemblies ever since 507 BC.
The National Garden
A green oasis in the heart of Athens, the National Garden is a must-see for nature lovers. Located behind the Greek Parliament building, this spacious garden features a variety of trees, plants, and flowers, as well as small lakes, streams, and a charming café. Visitors can also spot peacocks, ducks, and other wildlife roaming around the garden.
It’s weird to go to Greece and not even get to the sea (unless you got to Athens from a port!). The most relaxed and cheap way to do it is to take the subway to Piraeus and then go on a ride on the Athens coastal tram. You will get to see the Athens Riviera, and, if you feel like sunbathing or going for a swim, you can hop on and off anytime you want, at no extra cost!
The Athens Riviera offers a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. This stretch of coastline is dotted with beaches, seaside resorts, and small fishing villages, each with its own charm and character. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports, as well as exploring ancient ruins and historical landmarks such as the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
The changing of the guards in Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square is where you can admire the imposing buildings of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Palace. Right next to them, there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Go on a Sunday at 11.00 to see the full spectacle of the changing of the guard, or catch a less fancy one during the week. You can also check out the video below:
Explore the local cuisine
Athens is not only rich in history and culture but also in gastronomy. The city boasts a wide range of food and drink experiences that will leave your taste buds begging for more. From bustling markets to traditional taverns and rooftop bars, Athens has something to offer for every food lover.
Monastiraki Flea Market
The Monastiraki Flea Market is a bustling, vibrant market in the heart of Athens that offers a unique shopping experience for visitors. This open-air market spreads over several streets in the Monastiraki neighborhood. It’s filled with a wide variety of vendors selling everything from expensive gold jewelry to old vinyl records and used books, from fur coats to cheap clothes, and from handmade leather sandals to girlie golden laurel wreaths.
This bustling market is not only a great place to shop for souvenirs but also a food lover’s paradise. The market is packed with food stalls selling everything from traditional Greek pastries like bougatsa and spanakopita to mouth-watering gyros and souvlaki. You can also find fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and spices here.
Central Market (Varvakios Agora)
The Central Market, also known as Varvakios Agora, is a bustling marketplace in Athens where locals gather to purchase fresh produce, meat, and seafood. Walking through the market, you will be greeted with colorful displays of fruits and vegetables, the smell of fresh herbs and spices, and the sight of fishermen and butchers preparing their products. You can also find a variety of Greek cheeses and olives here. That’s why I recommend the Central Market as a great place to get a taste of the local cuisine and experience the bustling energy of Athens.
Traditional Greek taverns
Athens is known for its delicious cuisine, and no visit to the city is complete without sampling some of the traditional Greek dishes that have made the country famous. Traditional Greek taverns are dotted throughout Athens and offer a warm and welcoming atmosphere where visitors can enjoy classic Greek dishes. The taverns are often family-run businesses, providing an authentic taste of the local culture.
Thissio is a great place to try traditional Greek food at lower prices than in the center, where all the tourists stop. Try some souvlaki (chicken skewers with Tzatziki, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, usually served with pita and fries) or some gyros (usually tender beef meat, with Tzatziki, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, usually served with pita and fries). Or have a delicious moussaka (a kind of lasagna with eggplant or potato layers, with ground meat in-between).
You can refresh yourself on hot summer days by eating some cold tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, dill, olive oil, and spices) or a famous Greek salad!
Rooftop bars and restaurants
Athens is home to a vibrant nightlife scene, and there’s no better way to experience it than by visiting one of the city’s many rooftop bars and restaurants. From trendy cocktail bars to elegant rooftop restaurants with stunning views of the Acropolis, Athens has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a romantic spot for a date night or a lively venue for a night out with friends, the city’s rooftop bars and restaurants offer an unforgettable experience.
If you’re not in it for the view, head to Syngrou-Fix (or Fix) for an authentic Greek experience. And, best of all, you’ll party like a local for cheap. So grab a Mythos beer or whatever floats your bubble and have fun!
Discover neighborhoods and local culture
Athens is a vibrant city that is a perfect destination for those who love to explore the local culture and experience the way of life in Greece. One of the best ways to do this is by exploring the different neighborhoods that make up the city. In this section, I will tell you about some of the most popular and interesting neighborhoods to visit while in Athens.
Known as the Neighborhood of the Gods, Plaka is one of the oldest and most picturesque neighborhoods in Athens. With its winding, narrow streets and traditional neoclassical buildings, it’s easy to get lost in the charm of this area. Plaka is also home to many souvenir shops, tavernas, and cafes, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat or pick up some souvenirs.
Located just below the Acropolis, Anafiotika is a maze of beautiful streets. You can go here for a walk in the afternoon and get lost in narrow streets under arches of bright flowers. The whitewashed walls of the homes with blue shutters will make you feel like you are on one of the Cycladic Islands though you haven’t actually left the heart of Athens. It’s easy to see why it’s a popular spot for Instagram-worthy photos.
In Anafiotika, you will also see some of the Greek Capital’s best street art. This area is also home to several small churches and has a tranquil atmosphere that makes it a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Known as the Bohemian neighborhood of Athens, Exarcheia is a unique and alternative area that is home to artists, musicians, and activists. The streets are covered in street art and graffiti, and there are many small independent shops and cafes to explore. Exarcheia is also home to the National Technical University of Athens and has a rich history of political and social activism.
A rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, Koukaki has become a popular spot for young professionals and families. The streets are lined with trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants, and there are several small parks and green spaces to enjoy. Koukaki is also home to the Acropolis Museum and is just a short walk from the Acropolis itself.
Find the magic of Athens: best things to do in Greece’s Capital
As we come to the end of this travel blog post, it’s clear that Athens has a lot to offer to visitors looking for an exciting and enriching travel experience. From its rich history and cultural heritage to its vibrant neighborhoods and delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone in this ancient city.
To recap, my list of 21 best things to do in Athens includes visiting historical sites such as the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, exploring world-class museums like the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, enjoying outdoor activities at Mount Lycabettus and the Athens Riviera, savoring the local food and drink scene at the Monastiraki Flea Market and traditional Greek taverns, and immersing oneself in the local culture of neighborhoods like Plaka, Anafiotika, Exarcheia, and Koukaki.
I hope this article has inspired you to visit Athens and try some of the experiences mentioned here. Don’t miss out on the chance to explore this ancient city and discover its many wonders. Book your trip today and embark on an unforgettable journey to Athens Greece!
Mirela Letailleur is a travel influencer and blogger who has established herself as a prominent authority on European travel. With her extensive experience living in the South of France, she has become a go-to source for travelers seeking insider knowledge and unique travel experiences. Mirela’s travel blog, The Travel Bunny, is a treasure trove of information for anyone looking for affordable travel ideas in Europe, and her free travel guides are indispensable resources for those seeking to explore the continent on a budget.
Mirela’s expertise extends far beyond just budget travel, however – she is a local travel expert with a knack for problem-solving and a passion for helping travelers make the most of their journeys. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor to Athens, Mirela is the ultimate guide to the best things to do in Greece’s historic capital city.
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