There are many cultural and fun things to do in Athens. However, there are some you shouldn’t skip in order to get the ultimate Greek experience. Follow this list and you will discover the real Athens, the one only true travelers get to know!
1. Visit the Acropolis of Athens
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 dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the patron god of Athens. In the beginning, as a Greek temple, it also served as the city’s treasury. As time passed, it was turned into 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 its 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 works since the ’80s, it will never be the same again.
2. Watch 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:
3. Ride the funicular to Lycabettus Hill
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. 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.
4. Explore Anafiotika
Anafiotika is a maze of beautiful streets in the Plaka neighborhood, from the larger Acropolis area. 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 will make you feel like you are on one of the Cycladic Islands, though you haven’t actually left the heart of Athens.
In Anafiotika, you will also see some of the Greek Capital’s best street art.
5. Take the Athens coastal tram
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!
6. Hike one of the hills of Athens
Besides Lycabettus Hill, where you can take a funicular to go to the top, there are two other hills you should hike in Athens. Maybe you don’t feel like going up on both of them, but here are your options:
- Philopappos Hill, in the Koukaki district, is one of the largest green areas in the city of Athens. At the top, you can find the Philopappos Monument, and on your way up or down, you can visit the prison of Socrates.
- Pnyx Hill is located right in the middle of Athens. It is one of the places which has played an important role in the birth of democracy. That is because this is where the Athenians used to gather for their popular assemblies ever since 507 BC.
7. Enter a Greek-Orthodox church
I used to think this isn’t such a special thing, and I’m not speaking here about believing in God or not. Compared to other churches, the ones in Athens are small, usually dark, crammed with icons and other religious objects, and bear a heavy smell of incense. I realized the sight and smell of a Greek Orthodox church is something new to most people when I saw the reaction of Mathieu and other tourists from other areas outside the Balkans.
The church in the image has quite an interesting story and it’s one of the ones you should consider visiting in Athens. Agia Dynami is a symbol of the resilience of tradition in front of the modern world.
You might also enjoy reading
Top 5 churches to visit in Athens
8. Get lost in Monastiraki’s flea market
The flea market spreads over several streets in the Monastiraki neighborhood. Here, you’ll find a bit of 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.
You can also go souvenir shopping here. You can get the usual ceramic magnets, the golden plates, and amphoras or lovely carved olive wood objects.
9. Have Greek food in Thissio
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 (kind of lasagna with eggplant or potato layers, with ground meat in-between).
You can also watch your figure by eating Tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, dill, olive oil, and spices) or the famous Greek salad!
10. Discover the Athens nightlife in Syngrou-Fix
In Syngrou-Fix (or Fix) there are places where only travelers go, not tourists. This is where you can have authentic Greek experiences. 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!
Have you been to Athens?
What were the best things to do in Athens that you discovered?
What kind of experiences are you looking for in the city of Athens?
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