Things to do in Athens, Greece
You will have a better understanding of the history's timeline if you visit the Museum first. The Museum is very well done. It's an interesting concept of using a material you can see through in spots where they have excavated under the floors. I think there are a total of 99 columns to support the structure. Be sure and watch the short video they are showing on the history of the area.
When you are in Athens you can Acropolis and although it is always work in progress it is a must to go and admire the beautiful remains of the ancient history of athens.
This is THE most talked about site in all of Athens. Do have a really good guide book or pay a guide to tell you all about it's rich history and archeological values. If you are interested in Greek Mythology this is also a site of some wonderful stories. Do not miss this!
One of the best preserved Greek temples, after spotting it the day before from the Acropolis, I couldn't wait to see it up close. Your ticket to the Agora allows you to get up close with this exquisite gem of a temple. You can also check out the other sites in the same park.
Charismatic shops, restaurants and coffee shops, all set in a pedestrian only environment. Great place to dine on local and traditional dishes.
Not in the tourist area but well worth a short walk, the museum is curated in a way where each exhibit is given proper respect. Unlike other museums which seek to clutter their display cases (Italy) the statues were given enough space and smart lighting which highlighted their mastery.
Having seen pictures of this marvel in college, I was excited at the chance to view it up close! It truly is one of the wonders of the Classical World.
Great for an afternoon activity, in the summer an seven winter. Try not to visit in extremely hot days though. Suggest you take coffee in Kolonaki afterwards as the service at the cafeteria on top of the mountain is not the greatest.
You can hike to the top of the hill for an awesome view of Athens and also of the Parthenon. We visited here before going to the Parthenon and got some great shots of the coastline and the Parthenon both. Also known as Muses hill. There are several places to stop along the way as the climb can be taxing if you are not in the best of shape.
1. The Ancient Agora
Of all Athens' ruins, the famed marketplace of Agora makes the most fitting start to your sightseeing — it stands testament to Athens' status as a cradle of Western civilization. It was, in Socrates and Plato's day, the heart of public life, and among the site's extensive excavations you'll find temples, a concert hall and long, colonnaded arcades. Smaller finds, housed in the museum, tel: (30-210) 321 0185, are no less fascinating — settlement here spans five millenniums. Entry ($18) covers two days' admission to Acropolis hill sites.
For its size, Athens is remarkably low-rise. A good way to get a feel for life at street level is to stroll through Anafiotika, a 19th century neighborhood on the northern slopes of the Acropolis hill, beside the entrance to the Agora. The masons who built it hailed from the island of Anafi, and were brought here by King Otto I to build his palace. Nestled above Plaka, Athens' center, and bustling Monastiraki, the old bazaar, Anafiotika seems far removed. There, bougainvilleas splash whitewashed walls and cats stalk sunny paths, evoking the island life the masons left behind.
3. The Acropolis
Literally "high city," the Acropolis, tel: (30-210) 923 8175, is Greece's great marvel. Ascend through the olive groves of the lower slopes to reach the marble crown, before passing through the Propylaia gateway. You'll see the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon along with numerous fragments arranged for reassembly. The state's grand plan is to put right centuries of sackings, lootings and decay.
4. Acropolis Museum Restaurant
An archaeological museum might seem an unlikely lunch spot, but the menu at the new Acropolis Museum, tel: (30-210) 900 0901, is made to tempt grown-up Athenians back to the mound and offers absurdly good value. Start with smoked trout, then try the salad of spinach, basil and Lefkada salami, followed by custard pie (about $18 in total). Afterward, tour the state-of-the-art Bernard Tschumi building. The argument that Athens can't adequately house the Elgin Marbles has been given a handsome answer.
In Plaka's narrow streets, stores foist all manner of souvenirs on tourists — from fishermen's sweaters to jewelry. Much of the latter is mass-produced, but not that at Byzantino, tel: (30-210) 324 6605. Its exquisite handmade "museum-copy" jewelry — replicating ancient Greek pieces — is made in the Athens workshop of this family-run business. Uniquely Greek, Byzantino jewels were worn at Sydney's and Athens' Olympic ceremonies.
6. Benaki Museum, Pireos Street Annex
The once industrial Rouf area has undergone significant regeneration. In 2004, the Benaki Museum opened its new annex here, tel: (30-210) 345 3111. As Athens' window on contemporary art and design, this outpost is well worth a visit.
7. Mount Lycabettus
Twilight is the best time to venture up this abrupt peak. At 745 ft. (277 m), Lycabettus stands high above Athens, commanding a clear view across the Attica basin and the Aegean. Facing the viewing platform is Agios Georgios, the tiny white-stuccoed chapel of St. George. There is also a superb café, although prices match the altitude. To get there, hike up the path that starts at the end of Aristippou Street in Kolonaki and winds upwards. Or you can opt for the funicular ($8.20), which leaves from Ploutarchou and Aristippou Streets.
8. Thiseion Cinema
So great is the Athenian ardor for film, there's hardly a walled garden in town that isn't now used as an open-air movie house. One in particular oozes charm: the Thiseion, tel: (30-210) 347 0980, on the south side of the Acropolis. Classic Hollywood flicks are popular, and these (like all non-Greek films) are shown with subtitles rather than dubbed.
This old gasworks precinct has supplanted Psiri as Athens' coolest nightspot, but don't come only for bar life. Around the metro at Kerameikos cluster countless eateries, music venues and art spaces. Dominating the skyline is the gasworks turned Technopolis, a vast mixed-use cultural center. For serious victuals, try the Butcher Shop, tel: (30-210) 341 3440, a stylish psistaria (roast house) that serves free-pasture boar ($22). Afterward, find a stool in the rooftop bar at industrial-chic Gazarte, tel: (30-210) 346 0347.
10. Monastiraki Flea Market
On Sunday morning, make your way to the flea market atAvissynias Square for a jumble of curios, from books to paintings, clothes to trinkets. Afterward, cross Athinas Street to Psiri, where interlocking streets secret away a wealth of galleries and vintage stores. Lunch at the proud old Oraia Penteli Café-Restaurant, tel: (30-210) 321 8627, is a perfect end to the outing.
Urban Agenda: 15 Coolest Things to Do in Athens, Greece
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. Though Greece is still recovering from a well-documented economic crisis, locals in Athens feel like the tide is turning and that neighborhoods both old and new are experiencing a resurgence of vibrancy, excitement and optimism. Recently Athens was named one of the top 50 places to travel in 2014, so if there was ever a summer vacation to start saving up for, this is the one. Just in case you still don’t think there’s much more to Athens than Instagram photos of the Acropolis and eating your weight in olives and Feta, here are 15 must-see locations—all approved by Athenian locals—to prove you wrong.
Good for: Sightseeing, history, sunsets, beaches
Located at the southern tip of Attica and an easy 45-minute drive from Athens, this historical site tends to be underrated compared to the Acropolis and its surrounding ruins. At Cape Sounion you'll find the Temple of Poseidon as well as some amazing beaches near the lower resort area. The area tends to fill up come time to watch the incredible sunset over the Aegean Sea, but if you're not into stunning clichés, plan your visit for the early morning.
A for Athens
Good for: Views, drinks
For those of you who don't want to climb up hill to the Acropolis, go ahead and enjoy it Athenian-style: Taking in the incredible view from this rooftop boutique hotel bar. You can sip on coffee by day or cocktails by night. While the crowd can be a little bit snobby, the drinks are reasonably priced, especially when compared to more mainstream spots like the Galaxy Bar at The Hilton.
Good for: Coffee, ouzo, ambiance
While drinking traditionally prepared Greek coffee may no longer be popular among younger Athenians, café culture is still very much a way of life. Head to Plaka, an old-school neighborhood downtown, which is full of small cafes overlooking the Acropolis. Glykys is a particularly picturesque one, located on a cobblestone side street that serves up freddos and frappes along with espressos and cappuccinos. Oh, and plenty of ouzo (an anise-flavored aperitif) to go along with your mezes.
Good for: Casual food and drink, events, movies
This is a multipurpose art space located in the newly gentrified downtown neighborhood of Gazi. There's a movie theater (usually screening two Greek or foreign indie films) and a bookstore downstairs, while upstairs you'll find a "library lounge," somewhat similar to the Library Bar at the Hudson Hotel in New York. There's also an adjoining outdoor area called "Teratsa," which simply translates to terrace, with an outdoor bar and seating scattered amongst pomegranate and tangerine trees. This is a cool, laid-back space where you'll find a mixed crowd enjoying dinner and cocktails.
Good for: Museum, concerts, cultural events
Located nearby to gazARTE, Technopolis is an event and art space within an old natural gas processing plant. It has sort of a MoMA PS1 vibe. The industrial museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. Visitors learn about the work conditions in the old plant and its experiential approach to its operations during the 19th century. Most Athenians, though, will simply tell you to check the venue's events calendar for any upcoming concerts, parties, DJ sets and exhibits.
Good for: Shopping, cafes, bars
To bring in a New York comparison, this is pretty much the Soho of Athens: A great little neighborhood for walking around, browsing through a mix of designer and affordable shops and grabbing an afternoon coffee or cocktail outdoors. The bar scene has a slightly more upscale and trendy vibe at night and there are plenty of cool spots to check out, but keep in mind that they're all pretty small and tend to fill up quick during the weekends. You know, just like Soho.
Good for: Classic Greek food, live music
If you'd prefer a classic dinner to trendy bars, head back towards Gazi and hit up this restaurant, which, in English, translates to "Parrot." A favorite among locals for long, traditional meals, Papagalos also has live music on Friday and Saturday starting at 11 p.m. and Sundays from 6 p.m. It gets packed—and rowdy—on the weekends, so it's good to make a reservation. That way you'll also ensure you have your own chair to dance upon if the crowd is feeling especially rambunctious, which tends to happen after a few bottles of Xinomavro.
Baba Au Rum
Good for: Specialty cocktails, lively atmosphere
As strange as it sounds, this Greek, rum-focused cocktail joint has actually been named one of the world's 50 best bars. The cozy spot has a groovy 1950s feel and is located on a small, pedestrian street close to Syntagma Square. With tables outside and no cars to worry about, visitors tend to simply take over the street, turning the small bar into an awesome block party. It boasts a ridiculous selection of rums from Cuba, Trinidad, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the list goes on. While there is a set cocktail menu featuring everything from Tiki drinks to non-rum varietals like Pimm's Cups and Bloody Marys, patrons can simply tell the bartender what they're in the mood for and they'll mix something unique up especially for you. Don't despair if you can't make it to an island during your first visit to Greece, you'll definitely get the happy-go-lucky summer vibe here (even if it's more Barbados than Mykonos).
Good for: Cocktails, soul and jazz music
Athens is a great town for soul and jazz music, so it's no surprise that this downtown bistro has become incredibly popular. With a giant photo of the bar's namesake Rat Packer gazing over the crowd, the décor, like Baba Au Rum, is decidedly 1960s and the menu features an eclectic mix of international cocktails. The hangout opens at 10am and stays open until 5am, Thursday through Sunday. Whether you're looking for breakfast, brunch or a late snack, it's all here—and it's all set to a solid mix of classic tunes.
Good for: Sightseeing, history, scenery
This gorgeous public park in central Athens is surely in the tour guides, but Athens insiders claim that it may not actually be something most people (tourists and locals alike) know about or simply tend to gloss over during their visits. With 38 acres of greenery featuring a duck pond, small zoo, café and Botanical Museum, it's especially beautiful during the spring and summertime.
Good for: Drinks, concerts, exhibits
Sure, it's a bar, concert venue, and gallery, but the main draw of six d.o.g.s for locals is the "secret" garden in the back. While the downstairs passageway looks like leads to a dark basement dive, you'll actually come out the other end surrounded by trees, which, considering the bar's central location, is extremely rare. Enjoy coffee during the day as well as late night snacks and drinks, unless there's a rock show going on in which case, prepare to get down with a young crowd.
Good for: Coffee, cocktails
You can find this cocktail bar/micro-roastery in the hip, up and coming part of town called Agia Irini. What is a micro-roastery? According to the folks behind the counter, it’s an establishment where small quantities of high quality raw coffee are roasted daily, ensuring that customers are getting fresh brew from specific, trusted farms. Here you can order from a selection espresso, filtered coffee and tea whether its 8 a.m. on a Monday or 3 a.m. on a Saturday. There are plenty of funky cocktails as well, but if it’s Friday night and you’re still jonesing for a buzz, don’t worry, there’s an espresso martini on the menu, too.
Good for: Cafes, bookstores, modern history
While tourists may be warned to steer clear of this part of town, this neighborhood, situated between the University of Athens and the Politechnion, offers a glimpse into the country's recent political turmoil as well as the intellectual and counter-culture side of the city. Here's where you'll find a genuine mix of characters, from Greek families, immigrants and students to anarchists, drug addicts and stay dogs—just about everyone except for cops who tend to stay out of the area simply avoid trouble. So go ahead and check out the awesome guitar and record shops and comic book stores. Be smart and leave if you here rumblings of a riot.
Good for: Beaches, DJs, drinking, partying
Located in the seaside section of Glyfada, this renowned beach club is one of the neighborhood's summer hot spots. With no shortage of lounge chairs, cocktails and a rotation of local and world-class DJs, you'll feel more like you're spending your day at a Miami or Vegas pool party than relaxing by the ocean in Greece. Astir Beach is open year round, and all day and all night.
Good for: Culture, scenery, seafood
If you're looking to stay by the water but prefer an area that's a little more low-key, head to Pireaus, the ancient port of Athens and still one of the largest in the world. Take a leisurely stroll through the scenic streets, check out the open air Vaekeio Theater (which hosts a ton of modern and folk concerts during the summer) or Allou Fun Park (the largest amusement park in Athens), but, most importantly, eat at one of the neighborhood's incredible seafood restaurants where you can enjoy the freshest seafood for (in many cases) a jaw-dropping cheap price.
Where to Stay in Athens
Athens Studios is a really nice hostel/hotel in the heart of the city just within walking distance of the Acropolis. My friend and I split the cost of an ensuite room which ran us 60€ per night.
It even has a small kitchen!
Right next door is an amazing restaurant, Fish Café, a laundromat and sports bar. It’s not quite backpacker “cheap” but they also have shared dorms and a sister hostel called Athens Backpackers nearby which offers inexpensive beds. I’d highly recommend it!
My room at Athens Studios
Tips for Getting Around Athens
- Flying In: If you fly into Athens, it’s 8€ (or 14€ for two people) to take the metro to the Acropolis station. The Athens metro system is incredibly easy in Athens and you will only need to make one change from the blue line at Syntagma to the red line and exit Acropolis.
- Note: The journey takes around 45 minutes, so if you decide to take the metro back to the airport when you leave plan accordingly.
- Ferry from Greek Islands: Ferries will vary in price if you are coming from another Greek island. I actually came to Athens from Mykonos on a fast ferry for around 50€. When you arrive at the port you can get a cab (don’t pay more than 20€) and have them drop you off at your hotel or the Acropolis metro if they aren’t familiar.
- Here’s a metro map for reference:
Day 1: Get your bearings of the city
- Breakfast: Included if you stay at Athens Studios (Free for guests)
- Walking tour with Athens Backpackers: I went on a walking tour my first morning in the city so I could get some background info and get a feel for navigating the city. Show up at Athens Backpackers a little bit before 10 am and bring cash.
- The tour is awesome and offered Monday-Saturday at 10 am for only 6 euros.
- The tour lasted over 3 hours and took us to all of the archeological sites in Athens. Our guide, George, was incredibly knowledgable and gave us really good advice on how to spend our time in Athens. (6€)
- Our awesome guide, George, from Athens Backpackers
- Visit the Acropolis Museum: Take an hour or so to get some history and view some of the preserved ruins of the Acropolis. The Acropolis Museum is a must see! The entrance and parts of the museum have glass floors that look down on ancient ruins. (5€/3€ students)
- Lunch at the Acropolis Museum: You cannot beat the view from the café at the museum. After you finish exploring the museum be sure to stop in for a bite to eat. It is on the second floor and the outdoor patio looks out to the Acropolis in the distance.
- It is absolutely stunning!
- Also, every Friday night the Acropolis Museum Café is open until midnight offering a specialty dinner. (Free WiFi)
- The entrance to the Acropolis Museum
- Stroll the Royal Gardens & window shop: Enjoy the beautiful gardens in the late afternoon. They’re fairly small so you can walk through them in under and hour. You can then walk to Syntagma Square and down Ermou Street to the main shopping areas. (Garden entrance free)
- Sunset at Athens Backpackers: Enjoy the sunset behind the Acropolis from the rooftop at Athens Backpackers. Grab a drink from the rooftop bar and enjoy the view! (Free)
- Greek Dinner: Be sure to try a traditional Greek salad and Gyro Pita! It’s cheap, tasty and you can find them on EVERY corner! (Salads 6€/Pitas 2.50€)
Day 2: Start visiting the archaeological sites
- Breakfast: Included if you stay at Athens Studios (Free for guests)
- Acropolis: After breakfast get an early start at the Acropolis. Enter at the South entrance across the street from the Museum and explore the perimeter of the Acropolis on your walk up the Sacred Rock. The whole visit will take anywhere between 1-2 hours. (Buy your pass for all of the sites here 12€; 6€ for students)
- The Ancient Agora: Take the north exit and walk down to the Ancient Agora. Parts of it have been beautifully restored and the museum is fantastic. (Included with your pass)
- Lunch: I grabbed a light lunch of a feta filled crossaint and freddo cappuccino from one of the many cafés across from the Acrolopis metro station. It was a good power lunch to keep me going without filling up. (2.50€ coffee with free pastry)
- The Temple of Hephaestus at the Ancient Agora standing strong!
- Walk to the Athens Flea Market: Check out the cheap souvenir shopping and grab some fresh fruit to snack on. There are little fruit stands all over selling inexpensive cherries, nectarines and pretty much everything you could imagine!
- Dinner by Recommendation: While you’re out during the day, ask some of the shop owners/vendors where they like to eat. Best advice ever: Do as the locals do! (Especially with food!)
Fresh fruit at the market
Day 3: Last day of sightseeing
- Breakfast: Included if you stay at Athens Studios (Free for guests)
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus: The largest temple of the ancient ruins in Athens and conveniently located in the heart of the city. It won’t take long to visit the site but it is quite impressive. Be sure not to miss it! (Included with your pass)
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Lunch at Fish Café: Located next door to Athens Studios… this place rocks! Honestly one of the best meals I had in Athens. It’s cheap, delicious and they bake their bread fresh every day. Try the veggie or fish burger! (3-8€)
- Lunch at Fish Café
- The Library of Hadrian: The last of the major ancient Archeoligical sites to visit! Be sure to get there with time to visit the museum inside the site. I got there 30 minutes before closing and didn’t have time to check it out. (Included with your pass)
- Snack Attack: Summertime in Athens is HOT! I ended up there on the hottest day of summer. Luckily, there’s Snoyo! It’s a Greek frozen yogurt shop on the strip across from the Acropolis metro station. Try the plain yogurt with cherry spoon sweets.
- To. Die. For.
Made by the Greek gods themselves!
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN ATHENS, GREECE
From the temple of mighty Zeus to the beautiful pine covered slopes of Filopappos Hill, Athens, Greece offers some of the most beautiful and culturally significant attractions known to man. Journey back in time with this countdown of Athens’ most beautiful and important attractions.
1. Roman Forum & Tower of the Winds
In the first century AD, the Romans moved Athens’ marketplaces here from the old Agora. Smaller than the original, the marble-pillared courtyard was a grander placed to set up shop, and this became the commercial and administrative centre until the 19th century. Its greatest attraction was the unique and brilliantly designed Tower of the Winds.
2. Temple of the Olympian Zeus
The majestic temple to the ruler of the pantheon was the largest on mainland Greece. Inside stood two colossal gold and ivory statues: one of the god, and one of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Though the temple’s construction began in 515 BC, political turmoil delayed its completion nearly 700 years. To thank Hadrian for finishing it, in AD 131 the Athenians built a two-storey arch next to the temple, whose inscription announces Hadrian’s claim to the city.
The temples on the “Sacred Rock” of Athens are considered the most important monuments in the Western world, for they have exerted more influence on our architecture than anything since. The great marble masterpieces were constructed during the late 5th-century BC reign of Perikles, the Golden Age of Athens. Most were temples built to honour Athena, the city’s patron goddess. Still breathtaking for their proportion and scale, both human and majestic, the temples were adorned with magnificent, dramatic sculptures of the gods.
4. National Archaeological Museum
More than just the best museum in Greece, this is one of the most important and exciting museums in the world. It is packed with famous, influential and beautiful works from the great Bronze Age cultures described by Homer to the Golden Age of Classical Athens and beyond. The temporary closure of part of the museum in 1999 has afforded the chance to improve the display of the priceless finds amassed here.
5. The Agora
Athens’ ancient marketplace, founded in the 6th century BC, was the heart of the city for 1,200 years. It was the centre for all civic activities, including politics, commerce, philosophy, religion, arts and athletics. This is where Socrates addressed his public, where democracy was born and where St Paul preached. Because of its varied uses, the rambling site can be confusing. But, unlike the sweltering Acropolis, the grassy Agora is a great place to wander, imagining the lively bustle that once filled this historic centre.
6. Filopappos Hill
The pine-covered slopes of Filopappos Hill offer a pleasantly shaded maze of paths leading through monuments marking centuries of history. Known as “the hill of muses” in antiquity, countless poets have drawn inspiration here. On the first day of Lent, the hill is swarmed with hundreds of Athenians who traditionally gather here to fly kites.
7. Benaki Museum
This vast museum gives a panoramic view of Greek history from the Stone Age (7,000 BC) to the 20th century, by way of Classical Greece and the era of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Over 20,000 objects are laid out in chronological order in 36 rooms, showing the evolution of Greek painting, sculpture and handicrafts.
The outer walls of ancient Athens run through Kerameikos, once the edge of the Classical city. Warrior and priestesses returned to Athens via two separate roads through here (one to a brothel, the other to a temple). Statesmen and heroes were buried beneath showy tombs lining the roads. And it was also the scene of far shadier activities: the haunt of prostitutes, money-lenders and wine-sellers.
9. Museum of Cycladic Art
A delightful setting in which to ponder elegant, semi-abstract Cycladic figurines – remnants of a culture that flourished in the Cyclades from 3200 – 2000 BC The beautiful marble carvings are unlike anything found in contemporary civilizations. Most are female forms – possible cult objects of a goddess religion – and their elemental shapes have inspired many 20th-century artists.
10. Byzantine Museum
From the fall of Rome in 476 to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Byzantine Empire dominated the Mediterranean region. The mysterious and wealthy Orthodox Church was the most important political and artistic influence in Byzantium, leaving behind a vast legacy. This world-renowned collection embraces 15,000 objects taken from that fascinating period.