Athens is the city where I live. Although it’s a big, chaotic city, the centre is fairly compact, and it’s easy to get around. Here are the 10 best things to do in Athens if you are here for a few days.
10 best things to do in Athens
Athens, the birthplace of western civilization! You’ve no doubt heard these words a thousand times. Apart from its ancient side though, Athens has many different faces.
Here are just a few of my favourite things to do in Athens!
1. Climb up the Acropolis
Stereotype or not, you simply can’t visit Athens and not go to the Acropolis. Well, you can, but I don’t suggest it! The ancient citadel is right in the centre of our bustling city, up on a hill.
The most important temple inside the Acropolis complex is the Parthenon. You will also see the ruins of other temples, like the Erectheion with the famous Caryatids.
If you are not taking a guided tour of the Acropolis, you can watch this video, explaining the history of the Parthenon. It will help you understand why Ancient Greece is considered the birthplace of western civilization.
You can buy a single ticket for the Acropolis. My advice, however, is to get the combined ticket for all archaeological sites in Athens and visit all of them!
2. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
If I only had time for one historical museum in Athens, I would visit the National Archaeological Museum. This fantastic museum offers a great overview of Ancient Greece’s long history. There is also an impressive section with Egyptian artefacts.
I know most first-time visitors go to the New Acropolis Museum, which is also more conveniently located. Yet, the National Archaeological Museum will give you a much better understanding on Ancient Greece.
The museum is quite big, so allow a few hours if you want to see it properly. You can always take a break in the downstairs café.
There are many more historical museums in Athens, so have a look and decide which ones you are most interested in!
3. Walk on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street
This long, pedestrianized road is one of my favourite areas in Athens. If I only had a half day in Athens, I would visit the Acropolis and then walk this beautiful route.
Start at the Acropolis metro, and follow Dionysiou Areopagitou street towards Thisseio metro. If you are using Google Maps, you will notice that the name of the street changes into Apostolou Pavlou.
As you are walking, you will have the Acropolis, Areios Pagos and Ancient Agora to your right. The green hills to your left are Filopappou and Nymphs Hill. Hike up for some great views of the Acropolis.
Along the route, you will see buskers, artists and local vendors, selling jewelry and souvenirs. Who knows, maybe you would see similar people in Ancient Athens!
Read more: Pedestrian-friendly Athens
4. See the Changing of the Guards and visit the National Gardens
The image of the Greek Guards wearing the traditional uniform is one of the symbols of Athens. Day and night, rain or sun, the Changing of the Guards happens 24/7, every hour, on the hour.
After you’ve seen the Changing of the Guards, head to the adjacent National Gardens. Designed by Queen Amalia, the wife of King Otto, the gardens are one of the loveliest green spaces in central Athens. They are perfect for a break on a warm summer day!
5. Visit the central food market
The Varvakios central food market in Athens is really quite unique. There are separate sections for meat, fish and fruit and vegetables, as well as numerous shops selling local goodies.
Unlike other food markets in Europe, the central food market in Athens is authentic, maybe even quite raw. This is where I do some of my own shopping, and I love it!
6. Check out the cool street art in Athens
Did you know that the word “graffiti” comes from the Greek word “γράφω / grafo”, which means “to write”? It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Athens is one of the best European capitals for street art.
Walk around Psiri, Kerameikos, Metaxourgio and Anafiotika areas, and you will see some fantastic murals and smaller artworks. Venture into Exarchia, the area next to the National Archaeological Museum, and you will discover loads more.
If you are feeling adventurous, take the metro to Katechaki station and head to the University campus. You will find some of the best and less photographed street art in Athens!
7. Hike up Lycabettus hill in Athens
If you haven’t had enough hills and viewpoints, you can go up Lycabettus hill, known in Greek as Likavittos. It’s a bit out of the tourist centre, but still walking distance if you like walking.
In the above picture, Lycabettus hill is the one on the left. You can reach the top after a short hike, but you can also take a taxi or the cable car. The views from the little Agios Georgios church are pretty cool.
On your way down, stop at Kolonaki area to have a coffee and watch the people go by!
8. Take a half-day trip to the Temple of Poseidon
If you’ve had enough of our busy city, you can take a half day trip to Sounio area, about 70 kms from central Athens. Here, you can visit another great temple, the temple of Poseidon. You can get there by public bus, rented car, taxi or take a guided tour.
The temple is built right on the edge of the Attica peninsula, and views towards the Aegean sea are really stunning. Try to go for sunset if you can.
9. Explore Greek food
No visit to a foreign country is complete if you don’t taste all of the amazing food! And Greece has lots to offer in that respect.
From our rich meat dishes and hearty pies to our healthy salads and light grilled fish, the Greek cuisine is quite versatile. Top that with various types of cheese and dozens of vegetarian dishes, and you will have an amazing experience! Here are 50 popular Greek dishes for you to taste.
10. Have a drink with a view of the Acropolis
Ten or fifteen years ago, bars with a view to the Acropolis were pretty hard to find. Crazy! Nowadays, there are plenty, especially if you include the rooftop bars of recently opened hotels.
Some of the best rooftop bars with a view to the Acropolis include 360 and A for Athens near Monastiraki Square. That said, many hotels in Plaka, Monastiraki and Koukaki areas have great views. Depending on where you are staying in Athens, you may even be able to see the Acropolis from your balcony!
Best things to do in Athens
These are just a few of the best things to do in Athens. Here are some more Athens guides that you will find useful:
- 2 days in Athens itinerary
- Itinerary for 3 days in Athens
- 15 free things to do in Athens
- Best things to do on a Sunday in Athens
Hi! I am Vanessa, and I was born and raised in Athens. I love my city’s many different faces! The above list should help you plan your time in Athens, especially if it’s your first time here. Feel free to ask any questions right below!