Athens is a living breathing museum, a place where archeological sites blend seamlessly with modern life elements. Inviting visitors on an immersive learning journey about the society and institutions that shaped Western civilization. If you’re planning to visit this fantastic city, you’re in for a treat. Here’s our curated list of recommendations on the very best things to do in Athens.
Use the index below to guide you through the post and find our top things to see and do in Athens. Before you scroll down, make sure to check our Athens travel guide, filled with practical recommendations of hotels, restaurants and more. Now, let’s explore itinerary suggestions for 2 and 3 days in Athens!
Best things to do in Athens
There’s so much to see and do in Athens, especially if you’re interested in Greek history and mythology. Spending 2 or 3 days in this city will never be enough to enjoy all it has to offer, but it’s a good start. To help you make the most of your visit, I’ve compiled information and tips about the best places to visit and things to do in Athens. Feel free to explore the interactive map below and get ready to be utterly captivated by the city’s wonders!
1) The Acropolis
The Acropolis is the most popular attraction in Athens and one of the most visited historical sites in the world. It’s the scenery that comes to mind when you think of Greece. More specifically, the classic image of the Parthenon perched atop a limestone plateau overlooking the city of Athens and the sea!
This 2,500-year-old archeologic complex stands as a testament to ancient Greece’s heritage. It was constructed to worship the Olympian deities and serve as a grand display of Athenian dominance and cultural prowess. But it went beyond its original purposes and became the birthplace of groundbreaking concepts of philosophy and right to free speech. I’d say no trip to Athens is complete without a visit to the Acropolis. As it’s the ground is where Athens itself sprouted, evolving over time into the illustrious city we recognize today.
In the apogee of the Greek Empire, between centuries V and VI BC, the Acropolis represented the political, cultural, and religious center of Athens. And it was during this period when most monuments and temples were built, including the Parthenon. Over the centuries, most of these structures suffered damages, especially during foreign attacks on the city. However, there’s quite a lot still in place to be visited and admired;
In your visit to the Acropolis complex, you’ll want to check the:
- Temple of Athena Nike
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- Theater of Dionysus
As the most popular attraction in Athens, the Acropolis tends to gets very crowded. Thus, I’d recommend getting there before its opening time at 8 am, or a couple of hours before closure time. You’ll get to experience this marvelous site in a more intimate and calm way. Plus, you’ll also be avoiding the extreme and uncomfortable mid-day heat. That’s what we did and 100% recommend the early wake up call.
It cost 20€ between April 1st and October 31st and 10€ between November 1st to March 31st. You can check the opening times here. If you’re planning to visit other historical sites in Athens, you may consider buying a combined ticket, as per below.
The combined ticket costs 30€ and includes access to the Acropolis as well as six other historical sites. They are the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Keramiekos, and the Aristotle’s School. Since the ticket to the Acropolis alone costs 20€, the combined ticket can be a good deal. Especially if you plan to visit 2+ other attractions on the list!
You can buy the ticket online in advance. By doing so, you’ll need to select the date and time slot of your visit and won’t be able to change it later. Thus, if that’s not something you would like to settle on, I recommend buying the combined ticket directly at the ticket booth of any of the included attractions instead.
The booth at the Acropolis usually has very long lines, so make sure to arrive slightly before opening time. Alternatively, visit some other attraction first and buy the ticket avoiding a long line. Later you can use the ticket to skip the lines in the most popular attraction, such as the Acropolis or Zeus Temple.
2) Acropolis museum
Nestled right next to the iconic Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum offers a seamless continuation of your Athens exploration. For the most enriching experience, consider visiting the museum right after exploring the ancient Acropolis ruins. This way, the stories and memories will still be fresh, allowing you to dive deeper into the historical narratives presented by the museum. That’s what we did and thought it was a great idea.
The Acropolis museum ended up being one of the best we’ve ever visited. I was surprised not only with the quantity but also with the quality of the historical artifacts it holds. That’s not to mention the beautiful views of the Parthenon you can get from the upper level of the museum. History and views combined – it doesn’t get much better than that!
The museum spans three floors brimming with sculptures and artifacts unearthed from the temples and structures of the Acropolis. In the basement, you can explore the remnants of communities that once inhabited the Acropolis hill and gain insight into their way of life. I recommend setting aside at least 3 hours to fully appreciate the museum.
The museum ticket is not included in the Acropolis entrance pass. Therefore, you’ll need to purchase a separate ticket priced at 10€.
To avoid potentially long entrance queues consider buying your ticket in advance here
I’d recommend scheduling your Acropolis visit early in the morning and heading to the the museum at around 11 am. At this time, the museum should be quieter and able to offer a serene escape from the scorching sun.
3) Mont Aeropagus
At the base of the Acropolis lies Mount Aeropagus. A place that has served as both a stage for the sermons of the Apostle Paul and a gathering place for crucial meetings on politics and law in the Ancient Athens. Beyond its historical significance, the hill boasts breathtaking views of the Acropolis and the city of Athens.
It’s a prime spot to catch the sunset in Athens. I enjoyed watching the sun dip behind the mountains so much that I felt compelled to return the following evening to admire the stunning vistas over Athens. As well as the Acropolis illuminated in the backdrop. The stuff Greek travel dreams are made of!
4) Ancient Agora
A short distance from the Acropolis lies the Ancient Agora of Athens. An archaeological site that has hosted markets, residences, and gathering places over the span of 5,000 years. The very inception of democracy took place in this place. As about 2,400 years ago the Agora was the heart of Athens’ civic, commercial, political, and leisure activities. The ideal context for democracy to blossom.
As I strolled through the Agora, I couldn’t help but imagine the pioneering debates that led to the birth of this widely-adopted form of governance that we know today. It was quite an experience to absorb the profound historical significance of this location holds for all of Western civilization. At the Agora grounds, we were able to explore not just the remnants of its structures. But also the Stoa of Attalos which houses the Archaeological Museum of the Athenian Agora. In addition to the Temple of Hephaestus.
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5) Temple of Hephaestus
The temple of Hephaestus lies on the Ancient Agora grounds and is one of the best-preserved temple in Greece. Built during the 5th century BC, this magnificent temple was dedicated to Hephaestus – the revered god of fire, metalwork, and craftsmanship. Beyond its rich historical and mythological significance, this area boasts one of the most breathtaking views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
The entrance to the Ancient Agora of Athens complex is included in the combined ticket. However, if you prefer, you can purchase a separate ticket for 10€ during the high season and 5€ during the off-peak season.
6) Roman Agora
The Agora was established during the reign of the Roman Empire over Athens in the 1st century BC. Specifically under the leadership of Julius and Augustus Caesar. It featured a market dedicated to the trade of goods, and alongside it, several other adjacent structures were built. Notably, within its premises stands the Tower of the Winds. Often hailed as the world’s first meteorological station.
The visit to the site is short and fascinating. In the premises you can also visit the Fetiye Mosque, built on the ruins of a Christian temple during the Byzantine period. So much history packed in one place. Athens is really a city for the books!
Entrance to the complex is included in the combined ticket. However, should you wish to buy a separate entry, it’ll cost you 8€ during peak season and 4€ during the off-peak season.
7) Hadrian’s Library
This library was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 1st century AD with the intent to house the era’s most significant papyrus scrolls. The rectangular edifice once boasted over 100 pillars, a central garden, a pool, and numerous rooms dedicated to reading and studying. Today, little remains of what was once regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious libraries. Yet, a visit is undeniably worthwhile, not only for its historical significance but also for its unparalleled views of the Parthenon.
Access to the site is included in the combined ticket. However, should you wish to buy a separate entry, it’ll cost you 4€
8) Panathenaic Stadium
Dating back to the 1st century BC, this stadium was originally built to host games in honor of Athena, the city’s patron goddess. It was later revamped with gleaming marble to host the inaugural modern Olympic Games in 1896. Given its monumental role in Olympic history, this stadium is where the Olympic flame is first lit for every edition of the Games.
Visitors can not only get to walk its historical grounds but also embrace the spirit of the Olympics by taking a jog (or a sprint if you’re up for it) on the legendary track. While it holds profound historical significance, its location is slightly off the main tourist path, which might explain why many travelers skip it. However, if you have a penchant for sports or are just looking to immerse yourself deeper into Athens’ history, it’s worth taking the time to visit.
The entrance fee is a modest 3€
9) Temple of Olympian Zeus
This temple was constructed in the 6th century BC in honor of Zeus, the god of Olympus. While initially intended as the grandest temple in the world (even surpassing the Parthenon), its grandeur was short-lived. The Zeus temple once held 104 columns each standing at 17.25 meters tall. But shortly after its completion in the 2nd century BC, the temple suffered significant damage during barbarian invasions.
Today, only 15 of its original columns remain. Yet, they provide visitors with a glimpse of the temple’s historical significance and what it once symbolized for Greek civilization. A majestic place from an era mythology and daily life were intricately intertwined. It’s a big ground with ruins spread all over, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and light clothes if you’re visiting during summer. We enjoyed the visit, but I must say it wasn’t the most impressive site we experienced in Athens!
Access to the site is included in the combined ticket. However, should you wish to buy a separate entry, it’ll cost you 6€
10) National Gardens
Located just a stone’s throw away from the Temple of Zeus is the National Garden of Athens. A stunning forested area dotted with Greek sculptures. It offers an ideal setting for a peaceful stroll right in the center of Athens. Being in such a prime location, it was a perfect pitstop between our sightseeing itinerary. We took our time walking there enjoying the park’s cool breezes and inherent beauty.
11) Explore Plaka district
Plaka is one of Athens’ oldest and most traditional neighborhoods. It stretches from the base of the Acropolis to Syntagma Square and encompasses many of the attractions listed above. Plaka is a lively tapestry of people, bustling restaurants, eclectic shops and vibrant bars. All of that combined with ancient ruins and stunning Byzantine churches. Needless to say, it’s a district like no other!
I’d say no Athens visit would be complete without wandering through its quaint alleyways. So, let yourself get lost amidst its charm, taking your time to explore with curious eye. We spent a whole afternoon wandering around Plaka with no agenda and it was a delightful experience.
For those inclined towards shopping, focus on Ermou Street, which brims with unique boutiques. While in Plaka, don’t miss out on the Panagia Kapnikarea Greek Orthodox Church, a historical gem dating back to the 11th century. As well as the Plaka staircase surrounded by colorful restaurants and street musicians!
If you’re headed to the Greek Islands, you’ll want to check our exclusive travel guides here
12) Visit Varvakeios market
Exploring local food markets is a highlight for us in every city we visit, and it couldn’t have been different in Athens. The Varvakeios market is specially bustling and filled with fresh seafood, vegetables and varieties of meat. There are a few local restaurants in the area where you can get a snack or a traditional Greek meal. You can choose to visit the market on your own, or join a guided tour for a deeper experience.
Find the best gastronomic guided tours in Athens here!
13) Explore Anafiotika
While many Athens travel guides overlook Anafiotika, this authentic area ended up on top of our favorites things to do in Athens. Nestled just a short walk from Plaka, Anafiotika offers a world of its own. As you meander its pathways, you’ll discover quaint homes reminiscent of the Cycladic islands, starkly contrasting with the usual Athens cityscape around it.
This distinctive architectural style tells a tale of island workers who once migrated to Athens, taking residence near the Acropolis’s base. Yearning for the familiar comforts of their homeland, they crafted homes reminiscent of those on their native Cycliades islands. This heartfelt homage not only connected them to the islands but also gifted Athens with one of its most scenic and storied nooks. It’s truly one of the most picturesque places in the city!
14) Wander in Monastiriki Square
Monastiriki Square feels like the beating heart of Athens. Conveniently situated near iconic sites like the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Hadrian’s Library, this square is both lively and iconic. And a stroll around it offers a living lesson in Greece’s rich tapestry of history.
Here, an Orthodox Greek church stands in harmony with an Islamic mosque – a tangible testament to the myriad of cultures that once called Athens home. Surrounding the square, multiple shops beckon visitors with authentic Greek products, quirky souvenirs, and vintage finds. It’s well worth spending some time immersing yourself in this vibrant, traditional part of Athens. For those keen on catching a panoramic view with a meal or drink, venues like 360 Cocktailbar and A for Athens offer the most perfect angle!
15) Visit Psyrri
Psyrri remains untouched by mass tourism and has managed to keep its genuine charm. As you meander through its captivating alleys, you’ll you’ll discover alternative restaurants and bars alongside fascinating little shops. Undoubtedly one of the most original regions in the city!
This neighborhood quickly became one of my personal favorites in Athens. I adored its authentic yet slightly trendy atmosphere. So, I highly recommend spending time here; perhaps indulging on a delightful dinner or savoring a drink amidst its unique ambiance?
16) Have a drink in Thiseio
Thiseio might be one of Athens’ more understated neighborhoods. However, it’s utterly charming, boasting an array of bars and restaurants with views overlooking the Acropolis. After soaking in a sunset at Mount Aeropagus, a stroll through Thiseio is a logical next step, given their close proximity. It promises an evening steeped in authentic Greek ambiance and awe-inspiring vistas.
In this bohemian neighborhood you’ll find the iconic Cine Thision, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. It’s an open air cinema featuring classics and new movies right by the Acropolis. If you’re a movie lover, I’d definitely recommend catching a session in the evening. The updated schedule can be checked here!
17) Check the views from Lycabettus Mount
Mount Lycabettus stands as the highest point in Athens, reaching an elevation of 280 meters. From its peak, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled views of the Acropolis and the sprawling city below. We were in awe when we got there and saw the “sea of white houses” for as far as you can see in the horizon.
Reaching the summit involves a combination of a scenic walk and a ride on the funicular, which can be accessed from Aristippou and Ploutarchou streets for 7€, Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi ride straight to the top. Once there, make sure to indulge in the breathtaking panoramas, and if timed right, a mesmerizing sunset that paints the Athenian skyline. No doubt a must-visit for those chasing the best vistas in the city!
18) Visit the Archeological Museum
If you have enough time in Athens, I’d recommend visiting the National Archaeological Museum. It holds one of the finest collections of artifacts from Ancient Greece. And offers a deeper dive into the country’s illustrious past.
Admission to the museum is priced at 12€ during high season and 6€ in the off-peak season. Tickets should be purchased separately, and if possible, it’s advisable to buy them in advance through the museum’s official website. This ensures a seamless entry and a chance to delve deep into the rich tapestry of Greek history.
19) Visit Syntagma Square
At Syntagma Square lies the Greek Parliament and the poignant tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A monument dedicated to soldiers who lost their lives in battles Greece has undertaken.
Syntagma Square may not top the list as Athens’ most picturesque spot, but its strategic location calls for a visit. Especially for the hourly changing of the guard, a captivating ritual performed by the Evzones, the prestigious members of the presidential guard unit. While it may not rival the grandeur of other European change of gard ceremonies, it was pretty cool to watch this emblematic ritual!
20) Wander in Petralona
Petralona is an adjascent neighbohod to Thiseio. It’s really charming and authentic, slightly outside of the main touristic route. It’s where the unique Zéphyros Movie Theater is located. An open-air movie theater offering the unforgettable experience of watching a movie under the starts. And right by the Acropolis of Athens, a real dream come true for movie lovers!
Tickets cost 7€ and schedule is always being updated. Come early to get good seats and enjoy the magical atmosphere of this movie theather!
21) Lake Vouliagmeni
If you want to take a break from urban environments but don’t fancy going to a beach, a visit to Lake Vouliagmeni may be your best option. You can reach the lake in about 30 minutes by car and 70 minutes by public transportation from the capital. Once you get there, you’ll be presented to an oasis of thermal crystal clear green waters with temperature ranging 22 to 29°C. The complex has good structure and naturally gets crowded during weekends, so avoid these days if possible.
The entrance fee is 15 EUR during the week and 18 EUR during weekends. The ticket will give you access to a sun lounger and sun umbrela.
22) Hit a beach close to Athens
Did you know you can swim in Greek waters even if you don’t plan to visit the islands? While the mainland’s coastline might not dazzle with the same turquoise hues of the islands, it’s filled with nice beaches. They are mostly located in what’s called “Athenas Riviera” and some can be easily accessed by public transportation in less than 30 minutes from the city center. These are the most popular:
- Glyfada Beach: blue waters and good structure. A perfect place for a day at the beach!
- Alimos: a sandy beach with good structure
- Vouliagmeni: which charges a small entrance fee and has good structure
- Kape: more secluded beach
If you’re willing to rent a car, you can find the most secluded and beautiful beaches in the Riviera. As a rule of thumb, the further you drive, the more pristine the beaches will be. Check this post for more information about the best beaches in the Athens Riviera.
You can also join a boat tour across some of the most beautiful beaches in the Athens Riviera
23) Other great things to do in Athens
Besides the abovementioned attractions, you may also be interested in visiting or seeing:
- Temple of Poseidon
- National Museum of Contemporary Art
- Museum of Cycladic Art
- Joining a street art guided tour
Are 2 days in Athens enough?
2 days are enough to check most of the best thigs to do in Athens, but I must warn you it’ll be a whirlwind adventure. If you’re someone who enjoys savoring each moment, lingering over meals, diving deep into museum exhibits, or simply strolling calmly, then I’d recommend staying for 3 full days. That’s what we did and couldn’t have appreciated more. Here’s a suggestion of what to do in Athens in 2 or 3 days.
How to spend 2 days in Athens
- Day 1: Visit the Acropolis first thing in the morning and then head to the Acropolis Museum, Ancient Agora, Hephaestus Temple and Hadrian’s Library. Explore Monastiriki and its streets filled with vintage shops and then head to Plaka and Aniofitika. Catch a sunset at Mount Aeropagus and move on to an evening stroll in Psyrri. You’ll find many restaurants in the area.
- Day 2: Start your day at the Panathenaic Stadium, then head to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, National Gardens, Syntagma Square and Central Market. Watch the sunset from Lycaettus Mount and take an evening stroll in Thiseio and Petralona. You’ll find many restaurants in the area.
How to spend 3 days in Athens
- Day 1: Visit the Acropolis first thing n the morning and then head to the Acropolis Museum, Ancient Agora, Hephaestus Temple and Hadrian’s Library. Explore Monastiriki and its streets filled with vintage shops and then head to Plaka and Aniofitika. Catch a sunset at Mount Aeropagus and spend the evening in Plaka.
- Day 2: Start your day at the Panathenaic Stadium, then head to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, National Gardens, Syntagma Square and Central Market. Watch the sunset at Lycaettus Mount and take an evening stroll in Thiseio and Petralona. You may want to check one of the open air cinemas in the area.
- Day 3: Explore Psyrri in the morning and head to the National Archeological Museum in the afternoon. Alternatively, you can join a guided food tour, head to the beach or visit Temple of Poseidon in the afternoon. Have dinner at a restaurant with great views, maybe at Athens Gate Hotel, GH Attikos or A for Athens?
Budget for 3 days in Athens
Athens is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe. Which means you can easily plan for a more luxurious trip that you would in other European cities. Here’s a brief overview of traveling costs in Athens:
- 30€ per person and per night at a simple, but comfortable accommodation like City Circus Athens or Athens Hawks
- 100€ per night at a charming accommodation like the Plaka Hotel
- 250€ per night at a luxury/boutique hotel like the Electra Palace Athens
Not only in Athens, but in the whole of Greece, food is very reasonably priced. It’s the perfect place to indulge in abundant meals paired with local wine if you’re not on a tight budget. But even if you are, you’ll still be able to enjoy succulent and filling Greek meals for less than 10€!
To get the most of your meals in Athens, I recommend visiting local tavernas, ordering various small dishes to share pairing with house local wine. You can budget considering the following:
- Starters at a local taverna vary between 3€ to 12€
- Main meals at a local taverna vary between 8€ to 20€
- Local house wine won’t cost you more than 5€ per 500 ml
Most of our meals were comprised of a few starters, two mains, wine, and beers, and the bills varied between 50€ to 70€. Which is a very good deal considering European standards!
But, if that sounds a bit steep to you, fear not, my friend. I’m here to tell you that’s totally possible to eat well in Greece for less than 20€ a day. As long as you make conscious choices and indulge in Greek street food!
- Vising the city of Athens and not its historical sites and museums is like a travel heresy. So, I advise you budget at least 40€ to get the combo ticket to the Acropolis and the ticket to the Acropolis Museum. With these two tickets you’ll be able to visit the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and more.
- It’s a good idea to buy the three-day tourist pass for 20€. With it you’ll have unlimited transportation rides within the city and to/from the airport.