10 Best Things to do in Athens, Greece
Are you planning your vacation in Athens, Greece? Discover everything in advance with our Athens travel guide! Discover the best things to do in Athens, its beautiful beaches, the finest Athens hotels, and the best restaurants in Athens with local cuisine, as well as a wide variety of breathtaking photos of the city landscape!
Best Things to do in Athens
Athens, the historical capital of Greece, is considered by most travelers a simple stop to their Greek islands vacation. Athens is a lot more than this. There is such a plethora of exciting things to do in this cosmopolitan heart of Greece, the heart of all Western culture actually, that it can be really hard to decide what to choose. Here is a list of the 10 best things to do in Athens, chosen by Athenians with a deep love and knowledge of this iconic destination, full of history and surprises.
1. Visit Acropolis and the Parthenon
Acropolis hill, with its Parthenon temple, is one of the most unique sights in the world. Climbing this sacred rock will give you the chance to watch over centuries of civilization. Acropolis was the center and the glory of the ancient city of Athens, with the emblematic temple of Parthenon, the largest temple of the classical antiquity period.
During summer the opening hours from 8am to 8pm, allow you to visit this site on a tight schedule. An Acropolis guided tour can make your visit more interesting and rewarding.
A small advice, especially during the hot days, is to visit the Acropolis hill early in the morning and then at midday visit the Acropolis Museum, which is air-conditioned. You can also buy a Skip the Line Acropolis ticket, to avoid long queues.
2. Visit an Athens Museum
There are more than ten must-see museums in Athens. Still, we suggest the two not-to-miss museums in Athens: The Acropolis Museum and the National Archeological Museum.
The Acropolis Museum
This modern and excellent museum started to receive visitors in 2009. Filled with natural light, it presents one of the most valuable collections of ancient Greek art in the world. Its bright orientation gives you endless views of the Parthenon temple. It is also built over ancient ruins. The ground floor has glass panels and open spaces, showing the old neighborhood below.
The National Archeological Museum
Founded in the 19th century, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens is one of the largest and richest museums in the world. It has an impressive collection of the most remarkable worldwide antiquities and ancient art. More than 11,000 exhibits offer a comprehensive overview of Greek civilization from prehistory through the classical period to late antiquity.
3. Discover Plaka and Anafiotika
This tourist hot spot, also called “the neighborhood of gods,” is located in the shadow of the Acropolis hill. It is the oldest neighborhood in Athens. This picturesque area with the narrow pedestrian streets, neoclassical houses, small gift shops, and traditional restaurants contrasts the traffic-heavy modern city. Feel free to choose your unique gifts among the best leather products, ceramics, handmade jewelry to specialty food shops with Greek olives and spices. Then pick up a “gyro” or try a “meze” in one of the traditional “tavernas” in Plaka.
Between the northeastern slopes of the Acropolis hill and Plaka, hides a secret “island”: Anafiotika, a steep whitewashed neighborhood with pastel-painted houses settled in the 19th-century reign of Otto of Greece when workers from Anafi Island moved here to work for the renovation of King Othon’s Palace, which is now the building of the Greek Parliament. Take a stroll through this picturesque setting when you’ve had enough of ruins and museums.
4. Discover Monastiraki and Psirri
Leaving the area of Plaka and heading to Monastiraki Square with all the tourist shops, where you can find souvenirs for your friends and family. Plus, this is the place to chill out and watch city visitors and locals pass by, as everyone in Athens walks by this spot.
Historical sites are all over the Monastiraki Square: a 9th-century church, a 19th-century mosque, and in few meters away from the Hadrian’s Library and the ruins of the Roman era. Wonder around the flea market, buy souvenirs or make a stop on a rooftop bar around the square, with brilliant views of the Acropolis hill, is one of the best things to do in Athens.
Walk across Monastiraki Square, and there you are at Psirri! The best nightlife neighborhood in Athens, full of cafes, bars, music tavernas, and restaurants for all tastes.
5. Lycabettus Hill and Philopappos Hill
Lycabettus is the hill you watch just opposite the Acropolis, and it is one of the highest peaks in Athens. Hike up the slope through the pine trees and get the best views of the Parthenon and central Athens. There’s also a cable car that runs every 30 minutes to the top to help you climb the whole way. Watching the sunset from Lycabettus Hill and the Acropolis all lit up is one of the best things to do in Athens.
You can also have fantastic views of the city center and the best photoshoot of the Parthenon temple if you choose to visit Philopappos Hill. Its name comes from Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a prince of the Kingdom of Commagene in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Scroll southwest to the acropolis hill and pass through the pathways with pine trees. You will find on the top a monument showing Philiopappos as a Roman consul. This hill is also known as Hill of the Muses. Ancient Greek believed that the nine muses inhabited the hill and that Musaeus, a poet and disciple of Orpheus, was buried here.
6. Visit Cape Sounio
Cape Sounio is a viral day trip from Athens. It is located only 70 km south of the city center. It is famous for the stunning ancient temple of Poseidon, the God of the sea. Overlooking the Aegean Sea was built in the 5th-century. From here, you can admire a glorious Greek sunset.
There is a bus from Athens from the Mavromateon Terminal, and you can also get it from Syntagma Square. Look for the bus going to Sounio. You can also take a day trip to Sounio.
7. One day cruise to Greek Islands
Missing a trip to a Greek Island while in Athens? You can still do it!
Join a full-day tour that takes you to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina islands aboard a luxury cruise ship.
Another option is to take a Day Sailing Trip. Most of these sails are on catamarans making it easier for the non-sailor to visit a Greek Island. The coast is so close to Athens city center and this sailing day trip can get you away from it all and just enjoy the sea.
8. Taste Athens
Visiting Athens is not only history and ancient glory. The capital of Greece is a true wonderland for foodies!
Searching for your favorite “gyro” is one of the best things to do in Athens. Early in the morning, choose a bakery that sells pies like “tiropita” (cheese pie) and “spanakopita” (spinach pie). A must-try is the “koulouri,” circular bread coated with sesame seeds, eaten fresh and hot out of the oven.
You should also pay a visit to a classic outdoor “laiki” (meaning popular) market with shouting vendors of Greek fruits and vegetables that look and smell amazing. Traditional Greek cheese and olives can also be found here with the best quality and prices ever. Most of the vendors don’t speak English, but you can point to items you’re interested in and often taste them for free! Just use body language, and you will enjoy the most authentic and fun Greek food experience.
Last but not least, don’t miss to take a coffee, drink, or meal on a rooftop bar or restaurant, offering panoramic views of the Acropolis hill and the city of Athens. It will be one of your best memories while visiting Athens!
9. A night in an Outdoor cinema
If you are an Athenian, you know that summer in the city starts when the first outdoor cinema opens up!
There are a lot of open-air cinemas that operate during the summer months in the center of Athens. Some of them also offer incredible views of the city and the Acropolis like Cine Paris and Cine Thissio, in case the film is not the only thing you want to enjoy.
10. Athenian Riviera
Going to a soft sand beach, sunbathing, and smelling the sea air while visiting the city is also one of the best things to do in Athens.
There are plenty of beaches to explore not far out of the city center. You can choose between the luxurious beach bars and sunbeds of Astir Vouliagmeni and Yabanaki or find a spot that suits your style.
Some beaches are easily accessible by taxi or public transport. Still, if you want to find something a little quieter, it’d be better to hire a car so you can go further.