Not many cities in the world can compete with Athens when it comes to their history. It was looted, burnt down, and rebuilt many times. If you spend even a day there, you will understand why everyone wanted it. Thanks to that rich history, there are so many things to do in Athens and its wider area.
Times have changed, and visitors today bring much stronger weapons – money, and Athens opens its doors. All jokes aside, it doesn’t matter if you have money or not; Greeks are generally incredibly hospitable people and always ready to help or chat. They will gladly give you some insider tips about what to do in Athens.
And that is what’s impressive about this country. Despite being a hot tourist destination, visitors are not seen as walking dollar bills, but as guests in a country they love so much. And they will make you love it too.
How to decide what to do in Athens?
Every visit to cities and regions with this much history creates a big dilemma – what to see? So, the question arises – do we do the usual tourist stuff, or seek adventure and walk the roads less traveled?
Well, you shouldn’t underestimate the “cliched tourist attractions” They became cliched because they are popular. And they became popular because they are interesting and enjoyable.
The Greek capital is a modern city riddled with ancient architecture, so it will become a challenge of its own to choose historical sites in Athens to visit if you have limited time.
The cheapest way to visit historical sites in Athens
There are many good deals for tourists, in the form of ticket bundles and free days to visit the historical attractions in Athens:
- Attraction ticket bundles are cheaper. You can buy a combination ticket that allows you to visit Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s Lyceum. If you plan to visit 3 or more of these sites, this is a real money and time saver. The great thing is that you won’t have to wait in lines to buy tickets at every location. Combination tickets can be purchased online or at ticket booths on the sites. Kerameikos is generally the least crowded place, so it’s best to visit it first and buy tickets there if you want to get it on-site.
Also note that ticket prices change according to season so if you are going during the low season, double check prices. There are also reduced prices for certain groups like students which might not be available online, and you have to get it on-site to enjoy the discounted price.
- Free admittance days. There are days when you can visit all of the archaeological sites in Athens for free – the first Sunday of each month from November 1 to March 31.
Tip: Since all the historical sites in Athens are open-air, the working hours depend on the sunlight, and they change accordingly. Keep that in mind when planning a visit. The timings are usually as follows but it is always good to double check on any changes.
- April 1 until September 30 – 8:00am-8:00pm
- October 1 until March 31 – 8:30am-4:00pm
Top things to do in Athens, Greece:
Visiting the Acropolis is one of the first things to do in Athens. This iconic landmark is visible from every part of the city. The way it towers over the democracy’s birthplace shows you know why it was chosen for the temple of Greek Goddess Athens.
One of the most famous historical sites in Athens is the Parthenon. However, the other buildings on the Acropolis – the Propylea, the Erectheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike are just as impressive. On the way to the top, you will go by some interesting building. The most famous is the Roman Theater (Odeon of Herodes Atticus), which is still being used for concerts and theater plays.
- This is the most popular attraction in Athens, so during peak seasons you might want to purchase the ticket online first for fast track access or get a combination ticket for several historical sites in Athens.
- Free entry days – the first Sunday of each month from November 1 to March 31.
- If you visit it during spring, summer, or early fall, bring some water, wear light clothes and a hat. The sun can be brutal there, and minimal shade is available.
- Go there early in the day. The sun is much more pleasant, and there aren’t many visitors. The real crowds begin to gather around noon.
- The walk to the Acropolis can be challenging because it is a large complex, and you are going up on a steep hill, so wear comfortable shoes. There is an elevator on the northwest side of the Acropolis, reserved only for people with walking difficulties.
Visit Mount Lycabettus
One of the first things you will notice when you start admiring the Athens skyline from the Acropolis is Mount Lycabettus. Although it’s the highest point in Athens, it isn’t really comparable to Acropolis. However, the way it stands out from the surrounding buildings makes it an excellent viewpoint to see the city and catch the sunset.
You can get there on foot, but there is a funicular if you don’t want to walk. The price for a return trip is €7, and the starting point is at the junction of Plutarch Street and Aristippou Street. The funicular ticket also gets you a discount at the restaurant on the top of this hill.
The funicular travels through a tunnel to the top, so you won’t really be able to see the view while going up.
Tip: Another popular place for catching the sunset over the Aegean Sea is at the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion.
Visit The Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus
This is one of the most important historical ruins in Athens. Agora translates as “Market,” but it has a much broader meaning. It was a place of commerce, meetings, political and philosophical discussions – it was the center of life in Athens.
Some visitors may be disappointed because most of the complex is not preserved (piles of rocks) as with some of the other historical sites in Athens. There are a few buildings in the complex that are preserved or restored to their former glory. The Temple of Hephaestus, Stoa of Attalos, and the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles are just some of them.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
This is a comparatively new addition to the list of things to do in Athens. Opened in 2009, this impressive museum was built to preserve the priceless historical objects from the Acropolis. It’s not just remarkable from the outside but also filled with exciting discoveries inside.
The fantastic architecture with large open spaces and the glass floor on the first level that reveals ancient ruins underneath will take you to a completely different world.
Tickets cost from €5 to €10, depending on the summer and winter season, but you can visit it for free on March 6, March 25, May 18, October 28, and the first Sunday of each month from November 1 to March 31.
Visit the National Archaeological Museum
This is the most significant archeological museum in Greece, and here you can find one of the finest Greece antiquity collections in the world. Trying to list the artifacts would require days. For museum nuts, this is one of the best places to visit in Athens.
6€ -from November 1 – March 31
12€ – April 1 – October 31
Tip: It is close to the city center -Syntagma Square. In the neighborhood, you can also find other museums: Benaki Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art, Byzantine Museum, War Museum, National Gallery.
Take a stroll through the Varvakios Agora
One of the most local things to do in Athens is visiting this market. The Varvakis Agora, AKA Dimotiki Agora, is like Oriental bazaars, with a lot of shops and stalls selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, spices… everything that you could ever imagine, and then some.
Greece is a significant food producer, so this is a great chance to buy olives, fruit, fish, and cheeses at the source, all fresh and yummy, and not in a tin can somewhere halfway around the world.
Tips: Avoid wearing expensive or slippery shoes. The floor, especially on the fish market, can be slippery and have puddles.
Also – do not be surprised when you see pieces of meat or even whole animals hanging in front of the stores. It’s just the tradition and adds to the “raw” charm of the market.
Get to know the charming neighborhoods in Athens
Some of the most beautiful parts of Athens are neighborhoods Monastiraki, Anafiotika, and Plaka. These are some of the oldest districts in Athens. All conveniently located next to the Acropolis, they are very accessible places to visit in Athens.
Besides the picturesque architecture and delightful old houses, you will be able to enjoy great food and drinks in many tavernas and coffee shops.
If you are up for some shopping, Monastiraki is also one of the city’s best shopping places. One of the most fun things to do in Athens is a visit to the picturesque Monastiraki Flea Market. Here you can also find all sorts of weird and funky stuff as with many flea markets.
Tip: It’s okay to bargain with the sellers and trying to make them drop the price. In fact, it is kind of expected.
Shopping in Athens
If trendy is more of your jam, then you should check out the Kolonaki district. This is the place to visit in Athens for upscale stuff. It extends from Syntagma Square to the foot of Lycabettus Hill and is famous for its fancy coffee shops, restaurant, and high-end boutiques.
Tip: Winter sales in Greece always start on the second week of January, and summer sales begin in the second week of July. The prices can go up to 80% lower than usual. The downside is that there are large crowds everywhere.
If you don’t want to walk, you can see Athens while comfortably riding in the back seat of a Hop-on Hop-off bus or an electric Tuk Tuk.
The prices are from €12 to €42, depending on the length of the tour.
Beaches in Athens
If you are visiting in the warmer months, one of the best things to do in Athens is definitely checking out the beaches. The closest beach to the city center of Athens is Edem. Other great beaches in Athens are Sounio, Kape Beach, Dikastika, Vouliagmeni Lake, and Yabanaki. The last one is an entire complex with fun activities, great for families with kids.
Try Greek Traditional food and drinks
Greek cuisine is internationally famous, so sampling as much Greek food as possible is one thing you must do in Athens! You shouldn’t miss these traditional Greek drinks: Cipro, Uzo, Metaxa, Retsina. Ellinikos (Greek Coffee)
They go great with traditional Greek food: Dolmadakia, Tiropita, Greek Salad (Choriatiki), Gyros, Souvlaki, Saganaki, and so much more.
There are so many tasty foods in Greece that trying to resist them all would be a Sisyphean task. For foodies who not just want to sample, but also learn more about traditional Greek delicacies, you can also consider taking a food tasting tour.
After a wild Athens night out, it is handy to know that Patsas is a great soup for hangovers.
Check out the Changing of the Guards in front of the Parliament
Undoubtedly one of the most popular things to see in Athens. The changing of the guards takes place on Syntagma Square. It is similar to the one in front of Buckingham Palace, London. The stars of the show are the Evzones, an elite military unit. They perform an intricate choreography before replacing their brothers in arms.
Tip: The ceremony is more impressive on Sundays at 11 am – it involves a larger group of soldiers.
Enjoy the Athens nightlife
Some of you might be wondering what are some fun things to do in Athens at night. There are a few options. You can visit some of the fancy cafes, western-type nightclubs, and international restaurants, or you can go partying Greek style.
If you go to kafenio or taverna, you will be able to taste and feel Greece. Traditional meals and live music will make you want to sing along or even dance the Syrtaki or Zeibekiko with the locals. And they will gladly show you how to dance, so don’t be shy!
If you want something more, you can visit Kentro Diaskedasis, which translates as “Entertainment center,” and the name describes them perfectly – they are tavernas on steroids. They are also known as “bouzoukia.”
These establishments are like exceptionally large restaurants, but with a center stage. The most famous Greek singers perform on those stages, while you eat, drink, and have a “Louloudopolemo” – a flower war. Visitors buy plates with flower petals and throw them at each other or the performer. It’s a Greek tradition.
Some of the best nightlife spots in Athens are Estate Athens, Grammes Live, Iera Odos Club, Gazarte, Votanikos Club
Keep in mind that the biggest Greek stars, even Eurosong contestants, perform there, and the prices can be very high.
How to get around Athens?
You can get around Athens by Taxi, Uber, Subway, Buses, or Tram. The city is generally well connected with public transport. It has only three subway lines, but the stations are near bus or tram stops. Public transportation is sufficient for getting you to the main attractions in Athens.
The one-way ticket costs €1,2, and a 5-day ticket is much more worthwhile as it costs €8,2.
Where to stay in Athens?
As a prominent tourist destination, Athens offers a wide range of accommodation options catering to different travelers and budgets. Here are some well-rated accommodations that are popular among travelers.
Hostels in Athens
Selina Athens Theatrou: Selina is a known brand with branches around the world. It is known usually as a more upscale hostel, often with a nice community team running it. The Athens branch offers a cinema room and a roof top bar with view of the Acropolis.
Bedbox Hostel: Conveniently located in the city center, Bedbox Hostel offers dorms with good level of privacy with curtains on each bed and a huge locker space. Some rooms also feature a private terrace which is great for summer.
Midrange Accommodations in Athens
Rastoni Athens Suites: Practical and well equipped apartments that serves your holiday needs. It is right in the popular Plaka district, placing in one of the best locations to explore the highlights of Athens.
BED in Athens: Despite the not so creative name, this is a popular hotel that have spacious looking rooms with clean and modern design. It also has a good location in the Prisri area, 300m from Monastiraki Square.
Luxury Hotels in Athens
Electra Metropolis: The hotel is right in the heart of Athens, and features insane views of the city. Rooftop pool, sun terrace and retro style lounge are just some of the amazing amenities that guests can enjoy. If you are looking to pamper yourself, this is definitely an option to consider.
Acropolis View Deluxe Penthouse & Luxury Apartments: If you are looking for a place with your own amenities, the Acropolis View offers that with comfy, well equipped apartments. Some of them even feature enviable views of the city.
Athens is good for all seasons
Museum tickets in Athens are much cheaper in the low season. Greek winters are also pretty mild and great for taking strolls and visiting attractions in Athens.
I would encourage visiting during the shoulder or less crowded season for a reasonably priced but full experience of Athens. Athens is also an excellent location for escaping winters.