Last updated on January 10th, 2020 at 06:54 am
Athens is the city we live in! Although there is a touristy side to it, life here is quite authentic for the most part. Here’s a relaxed Athens 3 day itinerary including not just the famous sites, but also time to experience the everyday life in Athens.
Three days in Athens Greece
We are sometimes asked whether Athens is worth including in a Greece itinerary. Our answer is a big YES, as our capital city has lots to offer.
Not only is it one of the oldest cities in Europe, but it is also a vibrant capital with almost 4 million inhabitants.
If you are visiting Greece for the first time, our suggestion is to spend at least three days in Athens. This way you will get to explore our famous ancient sites, visit a couple of museums, and enjoy local life in our buzzing city without feeling rushed.
In fact, 3 days in Athens is the absolute minimum that you need in order to scratch the surface!
Here are our suggestions on what to do in Athens Greece in 3 days. As there is no Athens vacation itinerary that will fit everyone’s taste, we have included a few different ideas.
What to include in your Athens itinerary
Before you start exploring Athens, it helps to have an idea of the main attractions, and where they are located around our city.
The historic centre is quite compact and can largely be seen on foot. You will find a few pedestrianized areas and many side streets and alleyways that often make navigation a challenge!
The historic centre is only a small area of the modern centre. Looking at a map, central Athens is more or less defined by Megaro Mousikis, Victoria, Metaxourgio, Kerameikos, Petralona, Syggrou-Fix and Acropolis metro stations.
If you want to see different parts of the centre, you may prefer to use the Athens metro or a taxi.
What is there to see in Athens?
There are seven ancient sites in Athens that you can visit, of which the most famous is the Acropolis. The sites can be visited with a combined ticket.
If you only want to visit one or two sites, it will work out cheaper to get single entrance tickets.
Note that the sites are open from 8 am to 8 pm in summer, and to 5 pm in winter. Closing times may vary during March-April and September-October, so check in advance.
Depending on the time of year you are visiting, you can choose to visit the sites either in the morning, or in the evening. It’s best to avoid visiting the Acropolis on summer afternoons, as it can get quite hot up on the hill!
Museums in Athens
Apart from the sites, Athens has dozens of museums. Archaeology and history fans should aim to spend longer than three days in Athens!
This is a list of the ten best historical museums in Athens for you to choose.
In summer, museums might be best visited during the hottest part of the day, as they are all air-conditioned.
Athens, however, has a lot more to see apart from these attractions. The quaint changing of the Guards, our cutting edge street art, the beautiful neoclassical buildings and the lively Athens markets are all pieces of our colourful city’s puzzle, and they are here for you to discover.
Day 1 in Athens
On Day 1 of your Athens itinerary, our suggestion is to explore the city on foot. Go for a long walk on pedestrianized areas and visit a few of our ancient sites.
You will also have time to walk around Plaka, the best known – though touristy – neighbourhood in Athens.
Temple of Zeus and Areopagitou street
Your starting point for the day can be the Temple of Zeus, close to the Acropolis metro station. If you are planning to visit three or more archaeological sites, this is a great place to buy the combined ticket.
Queues here are much shorter than at the Acropolis or the Ancient Agora. You can spot the Acropolis from right inside the site, so look out for that!
Upon leaving the temple, pass by the massive Hadrian’s Arch, built in honour of the Roman emperor Hadrian.
Cross the busy Amalias Avenue, and you will find yourselves right on Dionysiou Areopagitou street.
In our opinion, this is one of the most picturesque streets in Athens. It was pedestrianized just before the 2004 Olympic Games and it passes right through the historic centre.
As you are walking on this ancient road, you will literally be able to see ancient Athens for free.
Visit the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
As you are on Areopagitou street, heading towards Thisseio metro station, you will soon notice an entrance to the Acropolis. Our most famous ancient site should absolutely be included in any Athens 3 day itinerary!
You can choose to visit now, or in summer months you might prefer to visit in the evening. Chances are that temperatures will be lower and there will be fewer crowds.
In any case bring a hat, sunscreen and some water. Allow at least an hour and a half to explore the ancient site fully, or more if there are crowds.
Back on Areopagitou street, you will soon see the Acropolis museum on your left. Understandably, this is one of the most popular museums in Athens, so it might be crowded, depending on season.
The museum’s opening hours vary by season and day of the week, so check their website for the latest information.
Apart from the galleries, there is a newly opened area just underneath the museum, where parts of the ancient city have been excavated.
Furthermore, the museum’s café is a great spot to have a break from all the walking and climbing. As you would expect, it has a fantastic view of the Acropolis.
Unless you are taking a guided tour for either of these attractions, you might want to brush up on your ancient Greek history before you visit!
Areopagitou street, Filopappou Hill and Areios Pagos
Once you are back on Areopagitou street, continue walking in the same direction, towards Thisseio metro. You will soon see Herodion theatre on your right, and Filopappou Hill to your left.
Herodion theatre is only open during evening performances, which happen in spring, summer and autumn. However, you can see the theatre’s interior from up the Acropolis hill.
Filopappou Hill is a large green space where you can climb for some great views of the city. On top of the hill, you will also find the Filopappos tomb monument. This is dedicated to the Syrian Prince Filopappos who was an honorary citizen of Athens and died in 116AD.
Another popular viewing point is Mars Hill, or Areios Pagos, the court of Justice in Ancient Greece. Devoted Christians will recognize it as the spot that Apostle Paul chose to talk about the newly founded religion, in 51 AD. Areios Pagos offers some of the best Acropolis views and as such is a popular spot.
Once you are back on to pedestrianized street, you will notice that the name is now different – Apostolou Pavlou. Continue heading towards Thisseio, and you will find several cafes, snack bars and all-day restaurants where you can have a break.
Some popular suggestions in the area include Thissio View and Athinaion Politeia. Alternatively, you can choose to have a break in one of the smaller sidestreet restaurants, such as Syntrimmi or Savor Charms.
Kerameikos ancient cemetery and Plaka
After your break, continue walking towards Thisseio metro. If you are in the mood to visit another ancient site, turn left towards Kerameikos ancient cemetery. This site is quite massive and was very important in ancient times. However, it doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as the Acropolis!
You will probably want to spend about an hour in the cemetery. Even if you are visiting in winter, when closing time is 5 pm, you should still have plenty of time to visit.
After Kerameikos, you may have had enough of ancient history! It’s now time to stroll around the lovely neighbourhood called Plaka.
Walk up Ermou and Adrianou, turn right on Vrisakiou or Areos street, and head towards Tripodon. You can’t miss it!
Plaka is a small neighbourhood with lots of restaurants, bakeries and cafes. It’s also full of charming neoclassical buildings, some nice street art and an assortment of tourist shops.
You can easily spend a few hours here, or even perhaps climb up Anafiotika area before dark. Then you can have a nice dinner in one the many tavernas. One that we have liked recently is Scholarchio, but there are many in the area to choose from.
Day 1 overview
This was our suggested Day 1 of your Athens 3 Day Itinerary. To sum up, you could visit the following attractions in one day in Athens:
- The Temple of Zeus
- The Acropolis
- The Acropolis museum
- Filopappou Hill
- Mars Hill
In summer, it is perfectly possible to fit these ancient sites and the Acropolis Museum in the same day. Note that it might be a long day for some people, especially if you are jetlagged or tired!
If you are visiting in winter, you might run out of time to visit Kerameikos. This will largely depend on your pace and your stops along the way. It’s best to see all the other attractions without feeling rushed, and perhaps return to visit Kerameikos on Day 2 or 3.
Day 2 in Athens
On your second day in Athens, you can see a couple more ancient sites, but also have a taste of the local life! Visit markets, commercial streets and areas where Athenians hang out.
Visit the Ancient Agora in Athens
Start your day with a visit to the Ancient Agora, located close to Monastiraki square. The Agora once was the social, financial and commercial heart of the city.
In our opinion, this large green area is one of the most fascinating spots in central Athens and shouldn’t be missed.
Note that this photo was taken in January. You are unlikely to need a coat in the summer – more like shorts and a T-Shirt!
You will see many ancient ruins, including the temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved temple in Greece. Look around for the Byzantine church of Holy Apostles, and don’t miss the excellent Agora museum.
Take your time to read the informative signs, which explain in detail how ancient Athens evolved over the centuries.
Allow a good couple of hours for the Agora and the museum, as there is a fair amount of walking. Make sure you take in the beautiful views of our city!
Athens markets and street art in Psiri
Once you are out of the Agora, check out the flea market in Monastiraki, located on Ifestou street and the surrounding alleys. Although you will find some touristy shops, you will also see second-hand bookstores, antique shops etc. There is a bigger antiques market on Sundays, which begins very early in the day.
For a quick break, you can go up the 360 rooftop café. They offer drinks and snacks with an unbeatable view of (guess what?) the Acropolis!
Next step? It’s time to get a feel of the authentic life in Athens, and visit the Varvakios central food market! This is a big food market, with different sections for meat, fish, fruit and veg and several other products. You can visit just to have a look, but also to buy any Greek products to bring back home.
Note that the market stalls start closing at around 15.00, and the market is closed on Sundays. You can read more about the Varvakios central food market here.
Once you’ve visited the market, it’s time for lunch. While the notorious Diporto underground taverna is an interesting place to visit, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. You can try Klimataria, on Theatrou square, which has kept its authentic character and offers dishes to match.
One of our own all-time favourite places is Mavros Gatos on Navarchou Apostoli street, in Psiri area. They generally open around 13.00-13.30, so you will be just on time for small Greek dishes! If you were thinking fish, Atlantikos on Avliton street is another great spot.
Apart from great lunch spots, Psiri area has some cool street art. Wander around and see how many beautiful works you can discover!
After lunch, walk up the pedestrianized Ermou street, heading towards Syntagma square. In Ancient Greece mythology, Ermis / Hermes was the God of commerce (and not only). Τhis street, bearing his name, is one of the most commercial streets in Athens. You can find chain shops, but also local stores selling mostly clothes, shoes and homeware.
Right in the middle of Ermou, you will see Kapnikarea Byzantine church, dating from the 11th century. In the 19th century, when Ermou street was being designed, the church was nearly demolished. Fortunately, its importance was taken into account, and it was preserved and restored instead. If it’s open, go inside and check the frescoes, designed by the prominent Greek artist Fotis Kontoglou.
The side streets and alleys around Ermou street are also great for bargain shopping. This is where you should head if you are interested in fabrics, beads, jewellery or crafts materials. You will also discover some cool cafes, a few more works of street art and many buskers.
Syntagma square and the Evzones
If you head up Ermou, you will arrive at Syntagma (Constitution) square, the centre of Athens. The imposing building that you will see on the opposite side of the square is the Parliament. This was once the Palace of King Otto, where Athenians had a big demonstration in 1843, asking for a constitution.
Right outside the Parliament building, you can see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Changing of the Guards. This happens every hour, on the hour, day and night, rain or snow! For more information, read our article about the Evzones.
You can also visit the adjacent National Gardens and take a break from all the walking.
If your three days in Athens include a Sunday, you could consider checking out the Ceremonial Changing of the Guards. This happens at 11 am every Sunday – just be there earlier to secure a viewing spot.
Lycabettus Hill and Kolonaki area
Unless you’ve spent a very long time shopping, there will be plenty of time to go up Lycabettus Hill. It’s possible to hike up, however you might prefer to take a taxi, or perhaps the cable car. The sunset views from up the hill are pretty cool!
Afterwards, you can head down to Kolonaki area, one of the most upmarket areas in central Athens. You can have a meal or a drink, and watch the people go by. One of the most popular streets is the pedestrianized Tsakalof street, which is full of cafes and all-day bars.
Day 2 overview
Just to summarize, this is a suggested itinerary for your second day in Athens:
- Ancient Agora
- Monastiraki flea market
- Varvakios food market
- Psiri area
- Ermou street
- Syntagma Square
- The Parliament
- Changing of the Guards
- National Gardens
- Lycabettus / Kolonaki
While this might sound like a lot to do in one day, the actual distances aren’t very long. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes to help you walk on the cobbled streets and enjoy walking around Athens!
Day 3 in Athens
If you have booked to stay 3 nights in Athens, you still have a whole day to yourself. On day three in Athens, you can decide if you are interested in any of the other museums and attractions in our city. You can also take a half day tour to Cape Sounion, or just spend some more time walking around the centre.
The National Archaeological Museum and Exarchia area
People who are into ancient history should definitely include the National Archaeological Museum in their 3-day Athens itinerary. The largest museum in Greece will give you a pretty good idea of Greece’s long and complex history. In fact, if you only want to visit one museum in Athens, we suggest that you visit this one.
Allow about four hours to see the museum properly! We know this sound like a very long time, but it’s definitely needed if you actually want to read about the exhibits. There is a café downstairs where you can take a break if you want. The museum closes at 8 pm in summer, and at 4 pm in winter, and you can check their website for information.
The National Archaeological museum is right next to an area of Athens called Exarchia. Some people might find this area slightly intimidating, mostly due to the amount of graffiti. Yet, this is a vibrant area of the city, and it’s particularly popular with the younger population.
Apart from the many neoclassical buildings and cool street art works, you will find plenty of cafes and all-day hangouts. For one of the best meals you can have in central Athens, head to Oxo Nou on Emmanouil Benaki. They have a huge menu, large portions, amazing dishes and lots of Cretan raki on the house.
After leaving Exarchia, stroll by Panepistimio metro, to see the so-called Trilogy of Athens. These are three of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings in Athens. They were constructed in the 19th century, after the designs of the Danish architects Hans Christian Hansen and Theophil Hansen. At the moment they are not open to visitors – hopefully one day!
Explore the art galleries and free museums
If history is not your thing, you will be happy to know that there are several art museums in Athens. Check out our article on free museums and galleries in Athens. You may be surprised!
Visit the Panathenaic Stadium
Another attraction worth visiting is the Panathenaic Stadium. This massive stadium was originally built in 329 BC to host athletic events, starting with the Great Panathinaia. The stadium continued to be in use during Roman times, and was refurbished during the reigns of Emperors Hadrian and Herod.
During the next centuries, when Christianity prevailed, the stadium fell into disuse. Much of the materials used for its construction were removed to be used elsewhere.
Towards the end of the 19th century, certain people had the idea to revive the Olympic Games. For this purpose, the Panathenaic Stadium was reconstructed, and was home to the first modern Olympics in 1896.
Nowadays the stadium hosts several events from time to time, but is also open to visitors. Closing times are 7 pm in summer and 5 pm in winter, so you can plan your visit accordingly. It’s best to avoid the hottest hours of the day! General admission costs 5 euro. Allow at least an hour and a half to visit the stadium and the small museum.
Visit the temple of Poseidon at Sounion
If you are interested in exploring the wider area of Athens, you can take a half-day trip to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. This trip will take you at least 4.5-5 hours from central Athens, depending on traffic. The temple is a popular sunset spot, as it’s right at the edge of Attica peninsula.
People who are happy to rent a car can easily combine a visit the temple with a few hours on the beach. Most areas on the so-called Athens Riviera are suitable for swimming.
Note that on summer weekends there will generally be a lot of traffic, so plan your visit on a weekday. This is a good alternative for people planning a Greece 3 day itinerary not including any of the Greek islands.
Take a walking tour with us
If you don’t feel like visiting any other tourist attractions, you could consider taking a walking tour with us. While you can see a lot of our city on your own, it will be difficult to get to know all its little secrets. Plus, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about life in Athens and Greece these days!
Day 3 overview
As you have seen, we have deliberately left day 3 with no precise schedule. You may choose to do any of these activities.
At the same time, you may just want to totally ignore these suggestions and do your own thing! There is no right or wrong – this is your holiday, and you should do what you feel like doing!
Athens 3 Day Itinerary
We hope that the above ideas and example itineraries have helped you plan your Athens 3 day itinerary. Is there anything else that you consider a must-see in Athens? Let us know in the comments!