Athens is my city, and I love it! I’ve written this relaxed Athens 3 day itinerary to help you have a perfect vacation. It includes not just the famous sites and the touristy side, but also time to experience the everyday life in Athens.
How to spend 3 days in Athens Greece
I am often asked whether Athens is worth including in a Greece itinerary. My answer is a big YES, as our capital city has lots to offer.
Athens is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is also a vibrant capital, with almost 4 million inhabitants.
If you are visiting Greece for the first time, my suggestion is to spend at least 3 days in Athens. This way you can explore our famous ancient sites and visit a couple of museums. In addition, you can enjoy local life in our buzzing city without feeling too rushed.
In fact, I think that 3 days in Athens is the absolute minimum that you need in order to scratch the surface. One week is much better!
Here are my suggestions on what to do in Athens Greece in 3 days. As there is no single Athens itinerary that will fit everyone’s taste, I have included a few different ideas.
What to include in your Athens Greece itinerary
Before you start exploring Athens, it helps to have an idea of what constitutes the Athens city center.
Central Athens is roughly a 30-40 minute drive from the Athens airport, or more, depending on traffic. Looking at a map, the city centre is an area defined by several metro stations: Megaro Mousikis, Victoria, Metaxourgio, Kerameikos, Petralona, Syggrou-Fix and Acropolis.
The historic centre is a compact area within central Athens. There are a few pedestrianized roads and dozens of side streets and alleyways, often making navigation a challenge.
If you want to see different parts of the centre, you may prefer to use the Athens metro or a taxi. However, much of the historic centre is only accessible on foot.
Most of the main attractions in Athens are located in the historic centre.
Main attractions in Athens Greece
Athens, the cradle of Western civilization, has no less than seven ancient sites! The most famous one is the Acropolis. You can get a combined ticket, which allows entrance to all of them.
If you only want to visit one or two sites, it will work out cheaper to get single entrance tickets.
Apart from the sites, Athens has dozens of museums. Archaeology and history fans will quickly realize that 3 days in Athens are nowhere near enough! This is a list of the ten best historical museums in Athens.
Athens Greece might not be the most famous city for modern and contemporary art, but there are several art galleries and art museums all around the city.
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, my suggestion is to explore the city on foot. Go for a long walk on the beautiful pedestrianized streets and visit a few of our famous sites.
You will also have time to walk around Plaka, the best known neighbourhood in Athens. There’s a touristy side to it, but it’s lovely!
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 my 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.
Climb up the Acropolis Hill
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 definitely be included in any Athens 3 day itinerary!
The Acropolis is a large citadel, up on a hill. There are many temples and ruins, of which the most famous is the Parthenon. It was dedicated to Goddess Athena, one of the twelve Olympian Gods and the protectress of the city. Here is a cool myth explaining how Athens took its name.
The Acropolis is 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.
As you would expect, the famous site can get quite busy at certain times of the day, especially during peak season when cruise boats arrive. Moreover, it can get quite hot up on the hill. Some people might prefer to visit the Acropolis in the evening.
If you are visiting in summer, make sure you 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.
Explore the Acropolis Museum
Back on Areopagitou street, you will soon see the Acropolis museum on your left. As this is one of the most popular museums in Athens, it might be crowded. Inside the museum, you will see several artefacts that have been discovered around the Acropolis.
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. Bonus – it has a fantastic view of the Acropolis.
The museum’s opening hours vary by season and day of the week, so check their website for the latest information.
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!
Best places for Acropolis views
Once you are back on Areopagitou street, continue walking 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 in spring, summer and autumn. 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, an honorary citizen of Athens who died in 116AD.
Another popular viewing point is Mars Hill, or Areios Pagos, the court of Justice in Ancient Greece. It was also the spot that Apostle Paul chose to talk about Christianity in 51 AD. Areios Pagos offers some of the best views of the Acropolis, and is popular with first timers, returning visitors and locals.
Once you are back on to the pedestrianized street, continue heading towards Thisseio. You will find several cafes, snack bars and all-day restaurants where you can have a much-needed 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
After your break, continue walking towards Thisseio metro. If you are in the mood for another ancient site, turn left towards Kerameikos ancient cemetery.
Kerameikos was very important in ancient times. The area was originally where the potters and artisans lived, and it later became the cemetery of Athens. The small museum hosts several artefacts related to funerary practices.
Even though the site is quite big, you could probably walk around in about an hour. However, you can easily spend longer.
After Kerameikos, it’s time to stroll around the lovely, quaint neighbourhoods called Plaka and Anafiotika.
Plaka and Anafiotika
Walk up Ermou and Adrianou, turn right on Vrisakiou or Areos street, and head towards Tripodon. You’ve now reached the famous locale called Plaka.
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 the Anafiotika area before dark. Then you can have a nice dinner in one the many tavernas. I like Scholarchio, but there are many in the area to choose from.
Day 1 Athens – Overview
This was my suggested Day 1 of your Athens 3 Day Itinerary. beginning from Acropolis metro, and heading towards Thisseio metro and Plaka.
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
While this is part of a relaxed Athens 3 day itinerary, some people might find the day a little tiring. It’s best to avoid this itinerary if you are jetlagged.
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 my opinion, this large green area is one of the most fascinating spots in central Athens and shouldn’t be missed.
Note – this photo was taken in January. You will not 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 how ancient Athens evolved over the centuries.
Allow a 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!
Here is my complete visitor’s guide to the Ancient Agora.
Athens markets – Monastiraki and food markets
Once you are out of the Agora, check out the flea market in Monastiraki. This is located on Ifestou street and the surrounding alleys.
Although there’s a touristy side to it, you will also see second-hand bookstores, antique shops etc. If you are in Athens on a Sunday, check out the bigger antiques market, 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!
Athens central food market and street art in Psiri
And now, it’s time to experience the everyday life in Athens, and visit the Varvakios central food market.
There are 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. Here’s everything you need to know about the Varvakios central food market.
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 my 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!
Shopping on Ermou street
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, named after him, is one of the most commercial streets in Athens. You can find international 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 historical significance 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 Changing of the Guards
Head up Ermou, and you will arrive at Syntagma (Constitution) square, right in 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. In 1843, Athenians had a big demonstration here, 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 my article about the Evzones.
You can also visit the adjacent National Gardens and take a break from all the walking.
If your 3 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.
Explore 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, 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. As an example, Da Capo cafe has been an iconic cafe in Athens for several decades.
Day 2 Athens – Overview
Just to summarize, this is a perfect 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
While this might sound like a lot to do in one day, the actual distances aren’t too 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 the city centre.
Alternatively, you can take a half day tour to Cape Sounion, and see the temple of Poseidon.
The National Archaeological Museum
People who are into ancient history should definitely include the National Archaeological Museum in their 3 day Athens itinerary.
This is the largest museum in Greece, and it 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, I suggest that you visit this one.
Allow about four hours to see the museum properly! I know this sounds like a very long time, but you will need it 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.
The infamous Exarchia area
Ask ten people what they think about Exarchia in Athens, and you might get ten different answers. Cool, lively, authentic, gritty, shabby, dirty, dark, these are all words I’ve heard people use to describe Exarchia.
Indeed, 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 crowd. It’s a perfect neighbourhood to observe everyday life in Athens.
Apart from the many neoclassical buildings and cool street art, you will find plenty of cafes and all-day hangouts. For one of the best meals 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.
Athens Trilogy – Beautiful neoclassical buildings
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. From left to right, they are the National Library of Greece, the University and the Academy of Athens.
These magnificent buildings were constructed in the 19th century, after the designs of the Danish architects Hans Christian Hansen and Theophil Hansen. Sadly, 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, don’t worry. Athens has many more attractions apart from the famous sites and museums.
Anyone who loves art will be happy to know that there are several art museums in Athens. Some of them have only opened in the last few years. I can recommend five main art museums in Athens:
- National Gallery, which opened in 2021
- Goulandris Foundation collection
- National Museum of Contemporary Art
- Benaki Museum, Pireos 138 branch
- Municipal Gallery of Athens
If you are looking for free activities, check out my article on free museums and galleries in Athens. You may be surprised – and this is why 3 days in Athens are nowhere near enough!
Visit the Panathenaic Stadium
Another fascinating attraction 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, but fell into disuse when Christianity prevailed. Many of the materials used for its construction were removed to be used elsewhere.
Towards the end of the 19th century, certain people decided 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. Allow at least an hour and a half to visit the impressive 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. Depending on traffic, this activity should take you about 4.5-5 hours if you are leaving from central Athens. 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 which doesn’t include any of the Greek islands. While Sounio is far from just beach destination, a half-day trip can give you an idea of the coastline.
Take a walking tour
If you don’t feel like visiting any other tourist attractions, you could consider taking a walking tour.
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 experience the everyday life in Athens and Greece these days!
Day 3 overview
I have deliberately left day 3 with no suggested itinerary. You may choose to do any of these activities, or totally ignore them and do your own thing! After all, this is your own holiday, and you should do what you feel like doing.
A few Frequently Asked Questions
The above gives an overview of what you could do in 3 days in Athens Greece. Here are a few answers to FAQs:
How many days in Athens are enough?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question! Athens is a vibrant capital city, with many attractions, bars and cafes, but also noise and crowds. As an Athens resident, I’ve been calling it home for over 40 years, and I’m not tired of it yet. If you want to properly experience the everyday life in Athens, you could consider spending at least one week here.
What are a few common mistakes first timers to Athens Greece make?
Athens is the city of famous sites like the Acropolis, and undoubtedly has a touristy side. However, I think the biggest mistake a visitor can make is to not experience the everyday life in Athens Greece.
In addition, many visitors underestimate the summer heat! Here are a few travel tips on how to stay cool in the summer in Athens. The most obvious one – explore the museums and galleries during the hottest part of the day, and benefit from the air-condition.
What is the best time to visit Greece?
Not necessarily summer! Most people will enjoy late spring or early autumn more. Here is my opinion on the best time to visit Athens and Greece.
Which Greek islands should I visit?
Greece has over 100 inhabited islands, so choosing between them can be a tough choice! Here is an introduction to the Greek islands that should help. Also, here are a few Greek islands near Santorini – that might even be better!
Is Crete worth visiting?
Among all the Greek islands, Crete is my favourite. However, to make Crete worth visiting, it’s best to spend longer than a few days or one week. I’ve spent several months in many different trips, and still haven’t seen all of Crete!
How can I get from Athens to the Greek islands?
Some Greek islands, like Santorini, Mykonos or Milos, have airports. If you decide to fly there from Athens, t’s best to book your flight as early as possible, as last-minute prices tend to be very high.
I prefer to travel to the islands on a ferry. I use Ferryscanner, a search engine, to check ferry itineraries and book my ferry tickets. If you use this link to book yours, I will get a small commission. It helps me run this website, at no extra cost to you!
Here’s an introduction to the several Greek island groups.
Athens 3 Day Itinerary
I hope that the above ideas, example itineraries and travel tips have helped you plan your Athens 3 day itinerary. Is there anything else that you consider a must-see in Athens? Let me know in the comments!
….and if you only have two days in Athens, here’s my 2 days in Athens itinerary!
Hi! I am Vanessa, and Athens is the city where I live. While it is far from a perfect city, I find it absolutely fascinating, as it has so many different faces. This Athens 3 day itinerary should help fist timers figure out the main attractions. In addition, it offers some useful insights on where to eat and what to avoid in Athens Greece.