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The best things to do in Athens, Greece

Updated On 10th May, 2021

Athens is hands down one of the best cities in the world to experience, not to mention one of the oldest in Europe, and that as far as capitals go, fairly cheap to visit. It’s one of the best capital cities to visit in Europe and without a doubt a must if you’re heading to Greece. There are so many things to do in Athens and with its historical importance, there’s no way you can miss a visit to Athens.

Even if you wouldn’t say you’re a ‘city person’, you have got to visit Athens at least once in your life. It’s essentially an open air museum, an insight into the beginnings of civilisation as we know it today, as well as being authentic and rustic. 

From the world-famous landmarks such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis, to the fantastic museums such as a the New Acropolis Museum, and the neighbourhoods of Syntagma with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to Plaka and its floral cobbled backstreets, there is so much to see and do in Athens. Athens is one of the best places to visit in Greece. 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

If you’re planning a trip to Europe and are thinking of adding Athens to your itinerary but have no idea what to do in Athens, you’ve arrived at the perfect blog post. In this Athens travel guide, I’m going to pass on what are, in my opinion, the best things to do in Athens in 2021.

Grab your pen and paper and let’s dive in to all the Athens travel guides, Athens travel tips and the best things to do when you visit Athens!

Where to stay in Athens, Greece…

If you’re looking for accommodation in Athens, there is plenty to choose from. There are lots of hotels in Athens, as well as Airbnbs in Athens and hostels in Athens. For hostels and hotels in Athens, check out booking.com. 

In terms of hostels in Athens, when I went to Athens I stayed in Bedbox Hostel, great for those of you visiting Athens on a budget or if you’re looking for cheap accommodation in Athens. The staff were friendly, everything was really clean, it’s right in the city centre (so perfectly located for exploring!) and I had everything that I needed! 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

20 best things to do in Athens...

1. Acropolis and Parthenon.

Visiting the Acropolis and the Parthenon is one of the best things to do in Athens; you simply can’t miss it. There are many ancient sites to visit in Athens, and this one should absolutely be on your Athens bucket list.

An ‘acropolis’ is defined as a citadel, or fortified part of an Ancient Greek city, and they’re usually built on top of a hill. There are many acropoleis throughout Greece, but the Acropolis of Athens is the most famous one. 

The Acropolis of Athens has existed since around the 4th millennium BC, and been inhabited since the 5th century BC when Pericles organised the construction of the main buildings on the Acropolis site, including the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

The Parthenon is the most famous building in the Acropolis, one of the most famous buildings in the world, and one of the best places to visit in Athens. It was built to honour the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos (the patron of Athens), and has since served as both a Christian Church and an Islamic Mosque. Since 1975 the Parthenon has gone (and is still going) through extensive renovation and so when you visit the Parthenon you will more than likely see scaffolding.

Within the Acropolis site you can also visit The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an ancient theatre on the south western slope of the Acropolis of Athens. It was built by Herodes Atticus in 161 AD, in memory of his dead wife, and seated 5000 for music concerts until it was destroyed in 267 AD. It was restored in the 1950s and continues to be a popular music concert venues, with performers such as Frank Sinatra, Nana Mouskouri, Pavarotti, and Andrea Bocelli. One of the best things to do in Athens is to see a concert here! 

There is also the Theatre of Dionysus on the south slope of the Acropolis, dedicated to the Greek God of drama. It is easy to imagine watching one of the first classical Greek plays as you sit on the stone seating.

To visit the Acropolis and the slopes, tickets are 20€ for a single-use ticket or 30€ for a combined ticket which covers the Acropolis and its slopes, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School, and lasts for 5 days. Get your tickets here. 

2. Acropolis Museum.

One of the best things to do in Athens is to visit the new Acropolis Museum. It’s a great thing to do in Athens when it rains! Learn about the history of Ancient Greece as you view the artefacts from the Acropolis and Parthenon itself. The museum is really close to the Acropolis site, so you can make a day out of visiting the site in the morning and heading to the museum in the afternoon.

Tickets are 5-10 depending on whether you visit in the summer or winter. Check out the dates and get your museum tickets here. 

3. National Archeological Museum.

The National Archeological Museum in Athens is the largest collection home to one of the largest collections  of Greek antiquity artifacts. It’s one of the best museums to visit in Europe and its full of Greek history. It’ll take you days to really see everything in the museum, but pick and choose the bits you are most interested in. Get tickets here. 

If you love museums, history and art, make sure you also visit the Benaki Museum in Athens, home to a huge collection of art throughout different eras of Greece. With some pieces dating from prehistoric times, and a lot of Islamic, Byzantine and Asian art, too, you”ll be sure to learn a lot about Greek art here.

4. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Syntagma Square.

Watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in front of the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square, is one of the best free things to do in Athens. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a memorial to Greek soldiers who have died at war, as it is guarded at all times by the Evzone guards. The changing of the guard takes place every hour on the hour, but the best displays are on Sundays at 11am when there is also a traditional march. 

5. Ancient Agora & Temple of Hephaestus

The Ancient Agora was the Central Square in ancient Athens and acted as a gathering place for citizens to discuss affairs of state, marriages, and partake in religious rituals. Over time, as the Agora developed, it also became a marketplace, selling goods, food, pottery, and religious artifacts. 

The grounds of the Athenian Agora are full of walkways and ruins for you to see, but there are two main buildings you must visit. The Temple of Hephaestus is an extremely well-preserved Greek temples, built to honour Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, fire and metal work. The Stoa of Atallos was restored in the 1950s and is home to the Museum of Ancient Agora, that is home to Athenian, Byzantine and Turkish artifacts. 

One of the best things to do in Athens is to get a combined attractions ticket, which covers the Acropolis and its slopes, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School, and lasts for 5 days. Get your tickets here. 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

6. Hadrian's Library.

Hadrian’s Library is located right in the centre of Athens, between Monastiraki and Plaka. Hadrian’s Library was the largest library in Athens and stored literature and administrative documents, as well as being a lecture hall and hosting many philosophical schools. 

One of the best things to do in Athens is to get a combined attractions ticket, which covers the Acropolis and its slopes, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School, and lasts for 5 days. Get your tickets here. 

7. Roman Agora.

The Roman Agora was a market and collection of buildings constructed during the rule of Julius and Augustus Caesar. There are many things to see here: the entrance through the Gate of Athena, the remains of the agora itself, and the Tower of the Winds (the world’s first meteorological centre with a sundial, waterclock and weather vane).

One of the best things to do in Athens is to get a combined attractions ticket, which covers the Acropolis and its slopes, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School, and lasts for 5 days. Get your tickets here. 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

8. Kerameikos.

Kerameikos is a neighbourhood in northeast Athens also known as Ceramicus (ceramic in English). The area is named after the potters that lived in the area. Kerameikos is also famous because it is home to the largest cemetery in Greece, used by the Romans during the 6th century AD. It was customary in Ancient Greece for bodies to be buried outside the city walls (which protected the Agora), and therefore this became a resting place for many. The cemetery was forgotten about and rediscovered in 1862 and then again years later, when the Greek government decided to excavate the site. 

Nowadays, the archaeological site is open to the public, and it houses several tombstones and funerary monuments. There is also the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum which houses the findings from the excavation of the cemetery. 

One of the best things to do in Athens is to get a combined attractions ticket, which covers the Acropolis and its slopes, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School, and lasts for 5 days. Get your tickets here. 

9. Plaka.

My personal favourite place to visit in Athens is Plaka. This district is one of the oldest settlements in Europe and its located very close to the Acropolis. Here you can find a charming atmosphere, ancient ruins, beautiful churches such as the Panagia Kapnikarea, narrow cobbled streets and an abundance of independent restaurants and cafes. You immediately feel like you’ve escaped the city and have been transported to a village or small town. For an island-like feel, check out the nearby neighbourhood of Anafiotika with its old, white buildings and winding roads. 

10. Walking tour.

For me, the absolute best thing to do in Athens is… everything! There are so many things to do in Athens and it would be a shame to miss out on something because you ran out of time. Taking a walking tour, free or paid, gives you an overview of the city so that you can get a snapshot, see everything, and learn from a local, and then you can decide which places to visit in Athens you want to go and spend more time in. I’d also recommended a street art tour in Athens as another way to see the city! 

11. Philopappos Hill.

Filopappou (or Philopappou, Philopappos or Filopappos) Hill is a beautiful green space to the southwest of the Acropolis. It is a favoriteplace to visit in Athens among locals and boasts great views of the Acropolis, the whole city of Athens and the Aegean Sea that surrounds Attica. One of the best things to do in Athens is walk up Philopappos Hill. As you walk to the summit expect to see the Prison of Socrates, the Tombs of Kimon, the ancient Koili Odos street, Iroon Mousaiou, and the Philopappos Monument The walk up (approximately 30 minutes) is a great hike right in the centre of Athens. 

12. Areopagus

Areopagus a prominent rock, right next to the Acropolis of Athens. It’s also known as Areios Pagos, translate into “Hill of Ares” from Ancient Greek. In Ancinet times it was a court that tried cases of murder, assault, religious matters and arson, this function being linked to its name. Ares was supposed to have been tried by the gods on Areopagus for the murder of Poseidon’s son Halirrhothius.

Nowadays, you’re unlikely to find court cases there. Instead you’ll see great views of the Acropolis and the city centre, which are particularly beautiful at sunset and sunrise. At sunset you’ll find locals playing music, drinking, and generally having a lovely chilled evening with a stunning view. 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

13. Panathenaic Stadium.

The Panathenaic Stadium is famous for hosting the original ancient and modern Olympic tournaments and is now the place where the Olympic torch is lit every four years. The original stadium was built in 300BC and then rebuilt in 2nd century by Herodes Atticus. One of the best things to do in Athens is to run around the tracks and pretend you’re an olympian, or visit the Olympic Museum to learn more about the origins of this international sports competition.

14. Temple of Olympian Zeus & Hadrian's Arch.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus was set to be one of the most magnificent ancient temples in the world when it was built. When it was finished it was the largest temple in the ancient world, with 104 huge columns. Unfortunately it was destroyed by the barbaric invasion in the 2nd century AD, but 15 of the columns remain to be marvelled at.

Hadrian’s Arch is located very close to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and it’s a beautiful structure on one of Athens’ main roads. It was built to thank the Roman Emperor Hadrian for his contributions to the city.

One of the best things to do in Athens is to get a combined attractions ticket, which covers the Acropolis and its slopes, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School, and lasts for 5 days. Get your tickets here. 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

15. Mount Lycabettus.

Mount Lycabettus is the tallest of the hills in Athens and boasts magnificent views of the city and in particular of the Acropolis. If you have a spare few hours, one of the best things to do in Athens is to climb Mount Lycabettus. 

Mount Lycabettus is 277m tall and boasts views of the entire city across to the coast and as far as the Peloponnese mountains. It’s not a difficult walk up but it is a little steep in places and I’d recommend wearing trainers or walking boots over summer sandals or flip flops. The walk usually takes 30-60 minutes, but there’s also a cable car, the Teleferik, if you don’t fancy walking. The most popular path up for walking is from Plutarchiou Street. 

16. Little Kook.

I just happened to stumble across this fairytale/Mary Poppins themed cafe as I was wandering around Athens… and wow! It’s one of the most instagrammable cafes I’ve ever been to, and definitely one of the best places to visit if you have got a sweet tooth and are willing to be encompassed by the magic. Athens really is a city of contracts and this brightly decorated cafe is in the Psyrri distract of Athens, near the Acropolis. The theme changes with the season, and the staff dress up and act too, so get ready to release your inner child!

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

17. Local food.

I absolutely love Greek food and Athens is one of the best places to try it all. From the koulouria in Monastiraki Square to the many gyros and kebab restaurants across the city, to the fresh ingredients you’ll find in a Greek Salad or a moussaka… not to mention the feta…! Greek food is to die for and you must try some while you’re in Athens. 

For a traditional Greek drink, try rakomelo, raki warmed up with honey. Another great thing to do in Athens is to head to a traditional bouzouki night for local music and dancing! 

The best things to do in Athens, Greece

18. Monastiraki.

Monastiraki Square is a great place in Athens for some hustle and bustle. Exploring the Monastiraki Flea Market with a traditional koulouri in hand is one of the best free things to do in Athens. This is also a great place to get souvenirs to take home. Monastiraki is also a great central location for exploring ancient sites such as the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library and, of course, the Acropolis. For a rooftop view over Monastiraki Square as far as the Acropolis, head to A for Athens.

If you love markets, makes ure you check out Varvakios Agora near Monastiraki or the Central Market in Omonoia. 

19. Lake Vougliameni / Porto Rafti Beach

There aren’t many places to go swimming in Athens city centre, but if you’ve got time for a day or half day trip and you want to be near the water when you’re visiting Athens in summer, there are a few places you should try. 

Lake Vougliameni is about 23km south of Athens and its a picturesque place to go swimming. The water here is said to have therapeutic properties. If you prefer the beach, Vougliameni Beach is also in this area! 

Porto Rafti, 35km south east of Athens, is a beautiful cove that can get busy in the summer, but its still worth visiting. There have even been ancient ruins found in this suburb of Athens! 

Glyfada Beach and Alimos Beach are closer to Athens city centre, so if you don’t have time and you’re looking for things to do in Athens in summer, consider heading there. Just bear in mind that they get busy quickly because of their proximity to the city centre! 

What are the best things to do in Athens?

What’s on your Athens bucket list? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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