A roundup of the very best things to do in Athens, Greece
Why visit Athens? We cover 25 top reasons to visit Athens!
It was with lots of excitement and anticipation that we booked our very first trip to Greece. The plan was to spend the majority of our time island hopping in the Cyclades, visiting some of the most beautiful Cyclades Islands of Greece.
Arriving into Athens by air, it made complete sense to squeeze in a short stay in the city and explore some of the top things to do in Athens, visiting the top sights and learning more about this ancient Greek stronghold, before heading onwards to Mykonos from Athens.
I must be honest though, were somewhat unsure at first, given the mixed reviews and bad rep many visitors give Athens. Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised and would happily advocate a visit to the Greek capital.
In collaboration with other fellow travel bloggers, I’ve decided to collate a list of the best things to do in Athens, to hopefully inspire you to explore more of this wonderful city’s history, sights and experiences! So, what are you waiting for, add these to your Athens travel itinerary today!
1. Visit the Acropolis
By Marco from Travel-Boo
As far as famous landmarks in Greece go, it probably doesn’t get much more iconic than the Acropolis itself. Set up atop a hill, overlooking the ancient city of Athens, the Acropolis is arguably one of Greece’s most important archaeological and historic sites and should definitely feature as part of any Athens itinerary.
The term Acropolis is translated from Greek as meaning a high city, usually built atop a hill, of which the one in Athens is the most notable and well-known in Greece.
Made of limestone and located on top of four hills, the Acropolis includes the three most important temples, the Parthenon, the Temple of Nike, the Erechteion, as well as the theatre of Dionysus.
On our visit to the Acropolis, we opted for a private guided tour of the Acropolis in order to get to grips with this incredible site and its history. Although a tad pricey, it was definitely well worth the money spent.
When we stayed in Athens, we opted to book into the 3* Central Hotel which was not only centrally located in the neighbourhood of Plaka but also provided the most incredible views of the Acropolis from its rooftop bar. This was especially magical when seeing the Acropolis at night, illuminated, a stunning view and a memory of Athens I won’t easily forget!
2. The Parthenon
By Deb from The Visa Project
Even if you are not into architecture and history, the Parthenon is that one place in Athens, with the ability to fascinate you with its unique architectural features and its timeless beauty. Built between 447 and 438 BC, it is the epitome of the Athenian democracy at the height of its power.
Dedicated to Goddess Athena Parthenos, it is the biggest Doric temple to be ever built in Greece. Built on the highest ground of the Acropolis, the Parthenon served two purposes. One, to house the great statue of Athena commissioned by Pericles, and two, to serve as a new treasury.
Designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, it was built on the site of three earlier temples dedicated to the Goddess Athena.
Throughout its history that spans thousands of years, the Parthenon became a church, turned into a mosque for the Turks, was bombarded and largely destroyed in 1687, and was sold to the British Museum.
Vast restoration and conservation efforts began in the nineteenth century. Its beauty and grandeur, charms everyone who visits it. The views from there are breath-taking.
There are a few things you need to consider before visiting the Parthenon. It gets very crowded, so be there as early as possible. Wear good walking/hiking shoes as it involves an uphill climb and the footing around the place is uneven. If you get in the south entrance, then you will probably have a little shorter waiting line. And don’t forget to bring a jacket, because it might get windy up there even on warmer days.
As Greece is part of the Schengen zone, if you do need a visa to visit Greece, you can check the Greece Schengen visa guidelines here.
3. Explore the neighbourhood of Plaka
By Nina from Lemons and Luggage
If you’re looking for the top things to do in Athens then a nice stroll through the Plaka neighbourhood is an absolute must.
For those who are disappointed by modern Greek architecture, the exquisite buildings in Plaka will be a welcome change of scenery. Plaka is the Greek capital’s old town just below the Acropolis and is comprised of narrow alleys and colourful neoclassical architecture. This is the perfect neighbourhood to explore after a visit to the Acropolis.
Plaka is filled with tons of cosy cafés to relax in, preferably outside when the weather is good. This is where you can process the intensity of all the ancient history in Greece’s capital.
So, interrupt your stroll through Plaka with some time in an authentic Greek café. Just note that you will need to venture outside of Plaka if you’re looking for vegan restaurants in Athens.
Plaka is also home to an array of souvenir shops if you’re looking for a gift for someone. And while there are definitely tons of cheap and unoriginal products you can also find more unique items, such as elegantly crafted olive wood products. For the foodies amongst us, don’t forget to buy some herb mixes or extra virgin olive oil.
And then Plaka houses various museums that may not have the reputation of the Acropolis Museum or National Archaeological Museum, but still, display important aspects of Greek history and culture. Some examples are the Jewish Museum of Greece, the Museum of Greek Folk Art, and the Museum of Popular Music Instruments.
Finally, one tiny neighbourhood within Plaka is Anafiotika which transports you right to the Cycladic islands with its whitewashed houses reminiscent of the Aegean. If the hustle and bustle of Athens are a bit too much for you, then this is where you can go to escape for a while. And who wouldn’t want to get the feel of a picturesque island in the middle of a busy metropolis like Athens?
4. Enjoy a drink at Bar Brettos
By Baia from Red Fedora Diary
If you’re wondering what to do in Athens at night, then look no further!
Located in the Plaka neighbourhood, Bar Brettos is the go-to place for many locals and foreigners, being one of the oldest bars in town boasting a quirky and unique interior.
Established by Michail Brettos in 1909, Bar Brettos is the oldest distillery in Athens. He started the business producing ouzo, a local aperitif with anise flavour, along with a selection of liqueurs and brandy using ancient recipes from the prehistoric Greek city of Smyrna that today is in Turkey.
The moment you step inside, you’ll be astounded by colourful glass liqueur bottles adorning its walls and striking wooden barrels Brettos originally used for making the beverages. This novel interior is presumably one of the reasons why the bar is one of the most famous and photographed spots in Athens and considered one of the top things to do in Athens at night.
Being one of the most popular Athens bars, this tiny bar does get crowded every evening, so make sure to come here as early as possible to get a table or a spot at the bar.
The menu is quite diverse offering various types of ouzo, more than 50 different liqueurs, and over 200 different Greek wines. However, bartenders are happy to help you out and choose something soothing according to your taste. The most common flavours of ouzo include watermelon, limoncello, mango, coconut, coffee, and orange to name a few.
Remember that the recipes of all the beverages are original dating back to the 19th century, so you’ll be trying the most authentic liqueurs, wines, and brandy. And if you enjoy whatever you try, you can buy the bottle to bring it back home as a memorable item.
Besides this, you can also attend wine tastings from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. So, make sure to include a stop in Bar Brettos into your Athens Itinerary!
5. Hadrians Library
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Right in the heart of Athens, just a five-minute walk from Syntagma Square sits Hadrian’s Library, built in the 2nd century AD. And in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s named after the same guy who built Hadrian’s Wall across the north of England.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian erected many great structures all over his vast empire, but this library was the largest structure of all. In fact, it was more than just a library, it was a huge cultural centre that also included music rooms and lecture halls, where musicians played and philosophers debated.
While the Roman Agora nearby was the commercial centre of ancient Athens where trade was conducted, the library and its surroundings served as the civic centre. The library itself was a square marble building, and its walls were covered with wooden shelves where thousands of papyrus scrolls were stored.
After the fall of the Roman empire, the complex was repurposed in various ways. In the 18th century, it was even turned into a fortress. In the 1950s, those later additions were finally cleared away, leaving just the Roman ruins to provide a better sense of what it originally looked like.
Entry to the library is included with the combined ticket for the Acropolis, which costs a steep 30 euros but grants entry to not only the Acropolis but also six other sites, including this one.
6. Watch the Sunset at the Temple of Poseidon
By Mansoureh from Travel with Mansoureh
When you are in Athens, you find yourself busy walking around from place to place. You might feel overwhelmed and a bit tired. That is why you need to end your day in the best way possible by watching the sunset in one of the best spots in the city.
You can take a tour or you can go by the public transport to the impressive Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion, 70km south of Athens, where you can get away from hustle and bustle of the city and have a relaxing and wonderful evening.
The Temple of Poseidon was built in 444 BC and dedicated to Poseidon, God of the Sea. One of the main monuments of the Golden Age of Athens stands on top of this 60-meter cliff. You can’t go inside the ruined Temple but you can get close to take some photos. When Lord Byron visited this place, he was so impressed that he carved his name on one of the columns.
Not only is the Temple of Poseidon impressive, but the panoramic view over the Aegean Sea is indeed breathtaking. You can visit the temple in the morning, but I highly recommend you to go in the evening when you can experience one of the unforgettable sunsets in your life as you admire the views out over the Aegean.
It is a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes since the surrounding terrain can be quite uneven at times.
7. National Archaeological Museum
By Nisha from Nerdy Footsteps
After being impressed by the Archaeological Museum during a weekend trip in Thessaloniki, we could not dare to miss the largest archaeological museum in Greece. The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art.
It was founded in 1829 to collect and protect antiquities from all over Greece, and displaying their historical, cultural, and artistic value. It was the first museum in Greece after its liberation from the Ottoman empire. The original headquarters were in Aegina which was the first capital of Greece. When the capital was moved to Athens in 1834, the Museum was transferred along.
Fun fact: During World War II, the artefacts and antiques from the museum were sealed in special protective boxes and buried, to ensure their safety from attacks and loots.
Today the museum houses extensive collections from Prehistoric times (including the gold funeral Mask of Agamemnon, dated 1550–1500 BC), Sculptures (including the bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon), Vase and Minor Objects Collection, Metallurgy Collection, Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities Collection and more. I highly recommend visiting the museum to learn more about Greek history and antiques.
Tips and suggestions:
On Tuesdays, the museum opens after lunch and stays open till late afternoon.
The admission fee is half the original price (6 euros instead of 12 euros) in the off-season (November 1st until March 31st)
If you want to see more museums in Athens, you can consider buying a three-day Special ticket package which is valid for the National Archaeological Museum, Epigraphic Museum, Numismatic Museum, and Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens.
The museum’s entrance is free for all visitors on 6 March, 18 April, 18 May, the last weekend of September, 28 October every year as well as every first Sunday of each month during off-season.
Apart from this, youngsters up to the age of 25, students, from EU member-states get free/reduced entrance. You need to show an ID card for verification of their age and country of origin.
8. Temple of Zeus
By Derek from Robe Trotting
If you’re lucky enough to spend even one day in Athens, you should make your way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, one of the most historical places in Athens. In all respects, the site is ancient ruins and not a structural temple. Still, like many sites in Athens you can picture the grandeur of the temple that once dominated the site.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus took 638 years to finish. It was completed in 131 AD by Roman emperor, Hadrian after his Greek and Roman predecessors delayed or stopped construction due to lack of financing. When it was opened, the massive structure was held up by 104 colossal columns and displayed one of the largest ceremonial statues of antiquity.
The grandeur of the Temple of Olympian Zeus did not last long, as it was pillaged during a barbarian invasion in 267 AD and never fully restored. Once the Roman Empire fell, the temple’s fate was sealed. The temple was reduced to ruin and quarried for building materials. Parts of the temple were used to construct medieval houses and churches in Athens.
Despite the slow fall into ruins, the remaining portion of the temple is quite impressive today. Sixteen of the original columns remain with 15 standing and one on the ground where it fell during a storm in 1852. The other columns have survived earthquakes, wars and centuries of the elements. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is an important archaeological site in Athens and today it is an open-air museum. The temple is a protected site, but with paid admission, you can enter the grounds, or you can simply visit the area and photograph the structure. It’s also visible from the hill of the Acropolis and makes for a great photo from above.
9. Taverna Klimataria
By Stephen from Asia Hikes
Taverna Klimataria in Athens is one of my favourite restaurants in all of Europe – a piece of Greek village-life plopped into the heart of the capital city. Old wine barrels line the walls and a vine-shaded courtyard provides cover from the warm Mediterranean sun at lunchtime and a cosy family atmosphere into the night.
The welcome is equally warm no matter the time of day of a visit – the restaurant is family-owned, and has remained in the hands of just two local families since it first opened in 1927.
The real highlight is an early evening visit as the band warms up and the temperature cools; ordering a carafe of house wine and settling into a very local spectacle of traditional Greek music powered most nights by the house musicians on guitar, contrabass, and the Greek Bouzouki (a sort of long-necked lute). The sound of the band becomes an all-encompassing experience as diners join in to sing familiar tunes – often if arriving late I’ll hear the singing and music from the restaurant before I turn the final corner off the market square.
The food – like at many restaurants in the surrounding Psirri neighbourhood – is traditional Greek workers’ fare. Expect lots of cheeses and chickpeas for starts, ham or beef baked dishes for mains, or fresh fish and octopus plucked straight out of the Aegean and bought daily from the municipal market nearby.
Perhaps most surprisingly, it’s cheap – starters for a few Euro, mains for 8-10 Euro, litres of wine for less, and dessert more often than not provided on the house.
For a pure local experience, authentic atmosphere, and incredible value it’s one of the best I’ve found anywhere on the continent – and I make a point to visit once or more every time I visit Athens.
10. Panathenaic Stadium
By Sara from WanderMoore
One of the most popular tourist spots in Athens, the Panathenaic Stadium is the original home to the modern-day Olympics. This historic site is worth seeing on any visit to Athens!
A Brief History:
The original stadium was built in the 4th century B.C. and was used to host the city’s sporting events, including the Panathenaic Games. Later, in the 2nd century A.D., a massive public works project added new, extravagant buildings to the site. There was also a complete renovation of the stadium, which transformed it into a horseshoe shape, increased capacity and added lavish décor.
Hosting the First Modern Olympics:
In 1894, the French gathered a world congress to discuss the concept of hosting a modern-day Olympic Games. Greek representative, Dimitrios Vikelas thought that Greece deserved this honour and lobbied for Greece to host in 1896. The world congress agreed!
The Panathenaic Stadium was refurbished and returned to its former glory. They even used marble from Mt. Penteli, which was also used to construct the Acropolis. Greece went on to successfully host the first modern-day Olympics! They had the honour of hosting again in 2004.
Today, the Olympic flame travels from Olympia to the Panathenaic Stadium where the official hand-over to the new host country takes place.
Visiting the Panathenaic Stadium today:
The stadium is open to visitors year-round, see operating times below. You can explore on your own or utilize the audio tour (included with admission). The audio tour is really well done and explains the history of the stadium, and is offered in several languages. The tour takes about 20 minutes if you listen to the entire thing.
Make sure to check out the Olympic Museum too! Here you will find posters from past games, historical displays, original Olympic Torches from several games and a ton more. Super fun to explore! There is also a small coffee shop on-site and very nice bathroom facilities.
Admission fee: Adults: 5 € | Students and senior visitors (over 65 years old): 2, 50 €
Opening Times: March-October: 8 am – 7 pm | November–February: 8 am – 5 pm
Closest Metro stations: Syntagma or Evangelismos
Address: Vasileo Konstantinou Avenue Athens 116 35
Phone: + 30 210 75 22 984-6
11. Acropolis Museum
By Loredana from Destguides
A couple of days in Athens is just enough time to explore some of the sites and attractions the city has to offer. Before you journey through one of the top places to visit in Athens though, the Acropolis, you should visit the Acropolis Museum first to learn more about the massive archaeological site. Interestingly, the museum itself is built on top of an ancient city where parts of it can be seen through glass panels you stand on from above.
When inside the museum, you’ll come across many archaeological findings from the Acropolis itself and the surrounding area (artefacts found from the hillside it sits on top of). It is a modern building that features various exhibits. Two to three hours here should be plenty, but you can, of course, always hire a tour guide if you’d like. The museum is also family-friendly. There is a fun Lego model of the Acropolis near the gift shop.
Photos are not allowed to be taken inside the museum. There is, however, a great outdoor cafe and patio that offers fantastic panoramic views of the Acropolis. So why not grab a coffee and chill out here for a bit before you head to the Acropolis? It is a bit on the pricier side, but it offers tasty Greek treats!
12. Daphni Monastery
By Bhushavali from My Travelogue by Bhushavali
Daphni Monastery is just on the outskirts of Athens city. It is one of the 3 Byzantine monasteries listed together under UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Greece. The thing that attracted me most to this monastery is its fascinating mosaics. Mosaic work is a major art form and feature of the Byzantine period where tiny pieces of coloured stones are used to create complex murals!
Daphni Monastery was built in 6th C CE, however, the current structure belongs to 11th C CE. As soon as you enter, is the inner courtyard with the church on the right and inside the church is where the magic is! The mosaic work here belongs to 11th C CE, which is from the Middle Byzantine Period. Right on the dome, in the centre is Jesus Christ and on the walls are angels, prophets, saints, martyrs etc.
However, unlike its counterparts in Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios, this is in a more ruined state. The mosaic works & frescoes are more intact and elaborate in the other 2 places.
While entry to this monastery is free, keep in mind its peculiar opening hours. It’s open on Mon, Wed, Fri – 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The best way would be to spend half your day here in the early morning and then probably head to Hosios Loukas & Delphi as a day-trip.
13. Athens Food on Foot Tour
By Dawn from 5 Lost Together
We all know how heavenly Greek food is and it is certainly one of the highlights of visiting Greece. The best way to taste authentic Greek food while learning about Greek culture is on a walking tour with Athens Food on Foot.
Anna, the owner is passionate about showing visitors real Greek food and took us to local institutions that we would never have found on our own. It allowed us to taste foods beyond typical visitor fare like moussaka and souvlaki. We learned what makes Greek yoghurt different, the differences between ouzo and raki and how the Greek treat hangovers with a special soup.
With all the walking on the tour, we didn’t have to feel bad indulging in the many samples that filled our bellies. While the focus was on food, we learned so much about the history and culture of Athens, making this a great activity to do on your first day in Athens.
We walked through the picturesque neighbourhood of Anafiotika, the main market of Athens, and the flea market of Monastiraki. We chatted with families that have sold olives or cured meats for centuries. We felt good supporting a small local business and getting an intimate look at the real Athens. Best of all, Anna was able to cater to us as vegetarians and family travellers.
14. Temple of Hephaestus
By Chrysoula from Athens and Beyond
The temple of Hephaestus in Athens is a pristine Greek temple on the site of the ancient Agora of Athens and is a wonderful spot for photography and learning about Ancient Greek history. The Doric temple, built in around 415 BC, has been well-preserved for centuries, with the grand columns, marble steps and friezes making it one of the most impressive sights in the city.
The temple was originally dedicated to Athena (Goddess of Pottery and Crafts) and Hephaestus (God of Fire) but was later used as an Orthodox church and later still as a burial place for the non-Orthodox Europeans.
Visitors can visit the Temple of Hephaestus as part of their entrance to the Ancient Agora and will be able to see the temple standing proudly on the hillside overlooking the site. The temple is best visited in the morning when the columns are bathed in golden light, but to be honest, this spectacular site looks fantastic at any time of day!
Travellers can purchase tickets to the Ancient Agora grounds for €10 or purchase a combo ticket for all of the main archaeological sites in the city for €30.
15. Lake Vouliagmeni
By Karolina from Lazy Travel Blog
One of the best things to do in Athens, Greece is a visit to Lake Vouliagmeni, a hidden gem with an extraordinary landscape and magical healing properties. The striking contrast its aquamarine water creates with dark cliffs that surround it creates a fantastic image that will leave you spellbound. To catch it at its best, view this lake during sunset and see the cliffs glow as they are touched by the sun’s light.
One of the best places to visit while in Athens, Lake Vouliagmeni, is also known to have healing powers. The lake’s warm, brackish water, which stays at a temperature of 21 to 27 degrees all year round, is said to be a great relief for arthritis as well as dermatological and gynaecological conditions.
A dip into Lake Vouliagmeni is like a soothing visit to a spa. Salt and minerals found in Lake Vouliagmeni’s waters purify and soften the skin while little fish known as Garra Rufa help in exfoliating dead skin cells. You will leave the lake’s thermal waters feeling like Aphrodite with your glowing skin. If you are looking for a bit of luxury in your spa experience, then indulge yourself by booking the exclusive “Prive Area” which comes with sunbeds and private service. You will definitely get the goddess treatment!
For hiking enthusiasts, the area around Lake Vouliagmeni is filled with stunning landscapes waiting to be discovered. The most popular is the trail from the village of Perachora to the Heraion Archaeological Site, which was once known as the sanctuary of the goddess, Hera. This 10.5-kilometre hike, which takes you through olive groves and pine forests, can be finished within 3.5 to 4.5 hours.
To get to Lake Vouliagmeni by public transport, you can take a taxi from the town centre of Athens for just €20 or hop on the 122 Saronida Express from Ellinikon.
16. Lycabettus Hill
By Helena from Just For One Summer
At 277 meters above sea level, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in central Athens and a popular place to watch the sunset above the city. Thanks to the shady forest covering its northern slopes it is the perfect place to escape the summer heat as well.
As mentioned before, travellers mainly visit Lycabettus Hill to get a birds-eye view of Athens. However, there is more to see. The two churches of Lycabettus, St. George on the top and the St. Isidore a bit lower on the northwest slope, are both built in the traditional Greek Orthodox style and are as picturesque as it gets.
A walk through Lycabettus varied landscape is another good reason to visit. Large colonies of opuntia cacti cover the sunny southern side while the rest is shaded by a dense pine forest, perfect for a refreshing walk. And if you are lucky, you may even spot a turtle or two slowly but noisily making their way through the shrubs. At the top of the hill, near the church of St. George there is also an outdoor café and restaurant for those who want to enjoy the views with a little bit more comfort.
At sunset, you may be tempted to head straight to the top of Lycabettus Hill to get that perfect shot of the Acropolis bathing in the beautiful evening light. However, the viewing platform in front of Agios Georgios Church can get incredibly busy around sunset and your view will be obscured by some unsightly flagpoles. Instead, find yourself a quieter spot alongside the ascent path on the southern slope of the hill. The view will be as stunning but the crowd noticeably smaller. Also, don’t leave Lycabettus right after sunset. Watching the city and its ancient monuments slowly light up during the blue hour is a magical experience.
There are multiple ways to reach the top of Lycabettus Hill and choosing one will mostly depend on your fitness level and stamina. Walking from Syntagma square or Panepistimiou metro station is definitely the best way if you want to soak up the views. However, it is a steep climb and may not be for everyone.
An easier option is to take a taxi to the Lycabettus theatre and walk just the final few hundred meters. There is a funicular as well that goes right to the top of the hill, but it is quite overpriced for its short length and viewless so it is probably better left as the last resort.
17. Museum of Ancient Greek Technology
By Ania from The Travelling Twins
Athens is renowned for its ancient sites and artefacts such as sculptures, helmets and earthenware; but what about the fun and discovery of Ancient Greek engineering and contraptions? During our visit to Athens with kids, we discovered the Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, and it was priceless.
It is a little private museum with all sorts of contraptions lovingly recreated by the museum’s founder, either from ancient documents and drawings or from archaeological remains. There is a warbling burglar alarm operated by pulleys and weights, a whistling alarm clock, a barber’s mirror that plays tunes as it is adjusted for height, and even a cup that punishes anyone who is too greedy in serving himself with wine. Oh yes, and there is even a robot automaton to serve the wine.
These cranky contraptions are all mind-boggling fun. They are displayed alongside the more serious inventions of Archimedes and others, which allowed those magnificent historic sites across Ancient Greece to be constructed. Here you’ll see geared winches, water pumps, and mechanisms for automatically opening massive temple doors.
There are even examples of surgical apparatus including a hole-saw for cutting the cranium for brain surgery. This is known to have been effective because ancient Greek skulls have been found where the bones have healed over.
The main exhibition and the basement (with some children’s toys, musical instruments and the Syracusa) are separately payable at €5.00 or €3.50 for youngsters aged 6-17 years. Opening hours are 9am -5pm.
The Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology is within walking distance of the Changing of the Guard in an area full of lovely restaurants, coffee houses and small-town squares with shady trees. As we walked away, the kids were skipping and laughing still full of wonder. They were emphatic in voting it the “best science museum ever”. We adults thought it was great fun too.
18. Free Walking Tour of Athens
By Kate and Kris from What Kate and Kris Did
Free walking tours are one of the best ways to get to know a new city quickly. Since they are hosted by locals or people really familiar with the city, you can see not only the popular sights but also personal favourites of your knowledgeable guide. Making it one of the best free things to do in Athens.
Athens free tours take you around ancient temples – the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, through the National Gardens and around the streets of Plaka and Monastiraki. We stopped to see the changing of the guard when pairs of elaborately dressed Presidential guards march in perfect synchronisation to change with the next shift.
The best thing about this free walking tour was our guide. Energetic and enthusiastic, he was full of stories of Greek myths and legends. At points along the walk, we stopped as he jumped around, excitedly telling us tales of Greek gods and monsters. We came away more knowledgeable about Greek history, ready for our road trip of ancient Greek sites.
Tours run at different times, depending on the time of year. All year round there is a tour at 9.45 am, with tours at 2 pm, 5 pm and 6pm. You book online on their website.
As with all free walking tours around the world, you give a ‘tip’ at the end of the tour to the guide, based on what you can afford and what you think the tour was worth.
By Stephen from A Backpackers Tale
Monastiraki is hands down one of the top things to do in Athens. It’s a maze of alleys and streets surging with stores, restaurants, and merchants. It’s a place where you can buy everything from fresh fruit to an antique pocket watch.
Monastiraki is often labelled as “touristy.” And that label isn’t wrong, there’s a good chance you’ll be steering your way through swarms of other tourists. But look deeper and you will see that Monastiraki walks a fine line between the ancient and the modern.
This is what I love about Monastiraki. Though it is an epicentre of souvenir shops, street vendors, cafes, and restaurants. But when you think about it, this area would have been the same during the peak of the Greek Empire over 2,500 years ago. And it’s really the historic heart of the Greek capital. Monastiraki’s also within walking distance to some of the most iconic sites in Athens like the Acropolis, Plaka, the Theater of Dionysus, and the Temple of Hephaestus.
Monastiraki is a thriving, living being. It’s a part of Athens that flows at its own pace and has a completely distinct atmosphere from the rest of the city.
Stephen is the brains behind A Backpackers Tale. Check out his guide to the Best Islands in Greece.
20. Byzantine and Christian Museum
By Ashley from Impact Winder
The Byzantine and Christian Museum is one of the lesser-known attractions in Athens, but well worth the visit. This museum is perfect for Byzantium history buffs, containing the largest collection of Byzantine art and expansive history of Byzantium, the cultural heritage of the Roman Empire, and Hellenistic history.
The permanent exhibition is divided into two sections, the first is devoted to the Byzantium which dates from the 4th century to the 15th century AD. The second section looks at Byzantium from the middle ages to the modern era. Both are fascinating and provide ample information to leave the museum with new knowledge.
Founded in 1914, the museum moved into the beautiful Tuscan-style Villa Ilisia (it’s current home) located in the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens in 1926 (not opening to the public until 1930).
Whether you head there for the history or the beautiful architecture, you won’t be disappointed. Tucked off of the main busy road, the courtyard of Villa Ilisia provides visitors with an expansive garden which provides a lovely oasis in the middle of Athens. Filled with fruit trees, herbs, and fountains visitors can find ample seating and enjoy a calm afternoon under the Greek sun.
If you have time, grab a coffee or dessert from the museum cafe and relax after a bustling day of visiting Athens’s ancient sites.
21. Book a Sailing day trip
By Chantae from Chantae Reden
If you have an extra day in Athens, it’s worth venturing on an all-day cruise from Athens, through the Saronic Gulf, stopping at a handful of islands before returning to Athens for dinner.
Pick one that stops at the quaint islands of Agistri, Moni, and Aegina. On Agistri, you can swim, rent a bicycle and wander around the island, stopping for a swim and a snack at Skala. Skala is where you’ll find an iconic white sand beach prime for swimming and sunbathing.
Meanwhile, Moni offers a fine contrast to Agistri. The island is surrounded by rocky ledges, making it a prime place for snorkelling and swimming. Cruises often stop for lunch here. Enjoy your meal while being surrounded by unabashed sunshine.
The final stop of the day is Aegina, an island with a port town and an intriguing history that stems back to the 5th century. Relics and ruins of its past are found throughout the island. History buffs might even want to skip the beach in favour of more time at the local museum.
Bring a bit of cash onto this island and take full advantage of the pistachio offerings. On the shorefront, you can purchase pistachio butter, oil, ice cream, sweet treats—and tens of other types of pistachio goods. Who knew that there could be so many ways to serve pistachio?
Tip: it’s best to choose a company with a smaller boat and a tour that offers fewer stops. Because it takes time to transit, dock, and be briefed, you won’t get a ton of time on the islands. A larger boat might be faster, but it also means you’ll be sharing stops with hundreds—rather than tens—of other tourists who might get lost or run late back to the boat. Time is precious when travelling, so splurge for the smaller tour. It’ll be well worth it.
22. Enjoy a rooftop drink overlooking Acropolis
By Ellie from the Wandering Quinn
Sightseeing in Athens can get pretty intense and tiring so after a long day exploring, head to Syntagma Metro Station which is well located in the centre of the city, walk into Syntagma Square and look up to find a rooftop bar to have a drink at with an epic view of the City and the Acropolis, it’s even better if you can make it in time for sunset!
Some bars are fancier than others, some adhere to a stricter dress code and require a reservation, whilst other rooftop bars in Athens are more relaxed and offer food and drink at a more reasonable price.
Either way, you will be treated to an outside seating area high above many of the old, cream coloured buildings that surround you, and perched on top of the hill in front of you will be the Acropolis. It’s one of those ‘pinch me’ moments and views showing that you don’t need to go to a Greek island like Santorini to feel like you’re on holiday and get an epic sunset view!
I really recommend visiting a rooftop bar Athens is known for such as the Roof Garden Snack Bar at Plaka Hotel, GB Roof Garden Restaurant and Bar, Electra Metropolis Roof Garden and AthensStyle Rooftop Bar and Restaurant for a rooftop view of the Acropolis in Athens day or night! Undoubtedly some of the best views in Athens.
By Alexander from Engineer on Tour
For Greek Island’s architecture in the historical centre of Athens, be sure to head to Anafiotika. With its narrow streets, colourful doors and window frames, and lots of cats. Its unusual architecture and atmosphere made it our favourite places in Athens.
The history of Anafiotika starts in the 1800s in times of the first modern king of Greece. He invited workers from Anafi island to do palace renovations and gave them the land on the Acropolis hill. The Acropolis sits right over Anafiotika.
I have heard that in summer Anafiotika is crowded, but when we went there in November – it was quite free. We met only a handful of tourists, which gave us enough time to set up photos. It is an outstanding place for a travel photographer like me.
And there aren’t only streets to photograph. There are lots of cats! They look very healthy, probably because locals and tourists feed them well. They love the attention and always come to cuddle.
The highest point of Anafiotika opens an outstanding view onto Athens. Both times when we were there, we saw some street musicians. It is an outstanding spot from which to enjoy the sunset whilst looking out onto the busy city and listening to music.
24. Benaki Museum, Museum of Greek Culture
By Tiffany from A Girl and Her Passport
This small but rich museum is located in the city centre in a historic neoclassic building. After visiting many of the archeologic sites around Athens, you will want to visit this museum. The collection contains artefacts from the prehistoric era to the modern era.
There is also something for all interests. Artefacts include marble sculptures, gold jewellery, Byzantine art, Greek family heirlooms and costumes. These artefacts come from all over including the mainland and the Greek Islands. There is even a full-size carved reception room from a mansion in Macedonia. Of course, the building itself is worth a visit in its own right.
After exploring all the floors of the Benaki Museum, you can visit the museum cafe. The cafe sits on a covered balcony overlooking the National Gardens across the street. It is a peaceful place in the heart of Athens and serves a wonderful cup of coffee.
25. Vegan/Veggie Mushroom Gyros at Cookoomela
By Caitlin from The Vegan Word
Athens is home to countless souvlaki restaurants, but only one that specialises entirely in vegan mushroom gyros! Head to Cookoomela for a taste of vegan Athens (a surprisingly vegan-friendly city. The chef at Cookoomela is an avid lover of mushrooms, and you’ll find the walls of this tiny eatery covered in posters and books about different types of mushrooms.
The dedicated chef crafts the most delicious vegetarian souvlaki out of mushrooms, paired with freshly baked bread and homemade vegan mayo. Everything here is handmade! The menu is short but sweet (or rather, savoury) and features mushroom gyros with different toppings. In spite of being an avowed mushroom hater, my mushroom souvlaki at Cookoomela ended up being my favourite meal in Athens! I recommend the ‘yellow’ wrap, with grilled mushrooms, mustard, potatoes, vegan mayo, lettuce and avocado.
Cookoomela is takeaway only but they have a few small tables out front. They’re also committed to sustainability and are plastic-free; their gyros come wrapped in paper and served on reusable wooden trays.
Not located in a part of town most visitors get to, Cookoomela is located in the Exarchia neighbourhood, known as Athens’ anarchist area. I enjoyed my visit off the beaten path and ended up wandering around enjoying the local street art!
Exarchia’s well worth a visit if you like street art… but don’t forget to grab a gyro at Cookoomela while you’re there!