For most Athenians, one of the best things to do on Sunday in Athens is to go for a coffee. While this is a great way of spending your Sunday in Athens, there are tons of other things to do. Read on for a few ideas!
Athens on a Sunday
In many countries, Sundays are special days. Athens Greece couldn’t be an exception.
Traditionally, Sundays were days to spend with family and friends. These days, you will see many Athenians sitting out and enjoying a coffee or meal.
While many shops and other businesses are closed on Sundays, visitors will find plenty to do. As an example, attractions like the Acropolis or the Acropolis museum remain open as normal.
In addition, Sundays are great days to visit some of the flea markets in the city and the outskirts.
Let’s see a few things you can do if you are in Athens on a Sunday.
See the Ceremonial Changing of the Guards
You may be familiar with the Evzones, the Greek Presidential Guards dressed in traditional Greek costumes. They are guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is in front of the Parliament building, right on Syntagma Square.
The Changing of the Guards happens every hour, on the hour, on a daily basis. Many people, locals and visitors, come to watch this short ceremony.
In addition to the hourly changing though, there is a spectacular parade at 11.00 every Sunday. The Evzones are dressed in elaborate, ceremonial costumes, and there is also a band playing. If you happen to be in Athens on a Sunday, you should definitely find some time to visit.
As this event is very popular, I strongly suggest that you get there early to get a good viewing spot. Wherever you decide to stand, try to be in the first row if possible. Also, bear in mind that the military guards will be cordoning people off at certain times.
If you feel like splurging, you can always watch it from the rooftop of the Grande Bretagne hotel.
After the end of the parade, you can follow the Evzones back to their barracks. These are located towards the back side of the National Gardens.
Here is some more information on the Changing of the Guards. This detailed article will hopefully help you appreciate this unique aspect of Greek culture.
Visit the National Gardens
After you’ve seen the Changing of the Guards, you can wander through the National Gardens. On Sundays, you are likely to see many Athenians strolling around or jogging. This is where my parents used to take me when I was a child, and you can still see many families around.
Though the Gardens are not massive, there is a huge variety of trees and plants. There are also a few ducks, turtles and other animals, as well as a small zoo. Overall, the National Gardens are a great place to escape the heat of the day.
Visit the Panathenaic Stadium
On your way out of the Gardens, pass by Zappeion Hall and exit on the south side. You will then be very close to the Panathenaic Stadium.
This massive stadium, dating from the 4th century BC, was completely restored in the 19th century. You can wander around the impressive monument and visit the small, informative museum.
Visit the Acropolis on a Sunday
For most people coming to Athens, the number one activity is a visit to the Acropolis. The ancient citadel is located up on a hill, overlooking the city. From up here, you can see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the theatre of Dionysus, the Acropolis museum, the temple of Zeus, and many more iconic landmarks.
Inside the Acropolis complex, you will see the ruins of various temples and other buildings. The most famous temple is the Parthenon. It was dedicated to the Goddess Athena, who was the patron goddess of the city.
Other temples include the Erectheion, dedicated to God Poseidon, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
Any day is a good day to visit the Acropolis, so it’s not necessarily a Sunday activity. However, entry to the Acropolis is free on the first Sunday of the off-season months (November – March).
If budget is an issue, this is a great time to visit. Just be prepared for some queuing, especially if the weather is good, as many locals will also want to go.
There are two entrances to the Acropolis. One of them is a short walk from the Acropolis metro station. It’s marked on Google Maps as “ticket office for the Acropolis“. I find this entrance more convenient, and there seem to be shorter queues.
The Acropolis hours on Sundays are the same with all other days. Closing time is 20:00 in summer and 17:00 in winter. Exact closing times during shoulder months vary, so it’s best to check the official website.
Visit the Ancient Agora on a Sunday
Another archaeological site you should visit in Athens is the Ancient Agora. This large outdoors area was the heart of Athens in ancient times. This is where people came to discuss, socialize and buy certain goods.
As you are walking around the Ancient Agora, you will see many ancient ruins. The most impressive building is the temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved ancient temple in the whole of Greece.
In addition, you will come across the spectacular Byzantine church of Agioi Apostoloi, which dates from the 10th century AD.
Visitors should allow enough time to visit the interesting museum of the Ancient Agora, which explains a few things about life during the ancient times.
Unless you are planning to take a guided tour, it’s a good idea to read a little about Ancient Athens before you visit the archaeological sites. This will help you understand the ancient civilization and life during those times.
Apart from the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora, there are a few more archaeological sites you can visit in Athens. You can find more information in my article about the combined ticket for the ancient sites in Athens.
Visit an Athens museum on a Sunday
When in Athens, you can visit a museum or two. There are over 80 museums in Athens, so you can choose the ones you are more interested in.
Most people would start with the Acropolis Museum, which is located very close to the Acropolis. You will see artefacts which were discovered in and around the Acropolis. Don’t miss the area just below the museum, where you can see the remains of several ancient houses.
The National Archaeological Museum is another popular choice. It contains thousands of artefacts that have been excavated all around Greece. You would need at least four hours to explore it properly! Like the Acropolis, it has free entrance on the first Sunday of the off-season months.
The lesser known National Historical Museum, which presents Greece’s most recent history, is free to visit on all Sundays.
Other popular museums in Athens include the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Byzantine and Christian Museum and the National Gallery.
And if you want to avoid entrance fees, there are some free museums and galleries in Athens that you could visit on a Sunday – or any other day.
Shopping in Athens on Sunday
A question I often get from visitors is “are shops open in Athens on Sunday?” The quick answer is that some of them are, but most of them aren’t. This includes malls and department stores.
High street stores are generally closed on Sundays, with a few exceptions throughout the year. These are certain Sundays around Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the first Sunday of each sales season. Suggested opening hours for those dates are from 11:00 to 18:00.
Supermarkets in Athens are also closed on Sunday. This includes the sprawling Varvakios food market. Some, but not all, of the bigger supermarket chains open on certain Sundays of the year.
However, if you need some groceries, don’t worry. You will generally find that smaller markets and corner shops are open on Sundays. In addition, there will always be a kiosk at walking distance from your hotel.
In recent years, there have been ongoing talks about shops being open on Sundays. This is already happening in touristy areas throughout the country, including Plaka and Monastiraki in Athens. More on this below.
Ermou street shops opening hours on Sundays
It is named after Hermes, the ancient Greek god of commerce, and is lined with clothes, shoe and cosmetics stores. It is one of the most important shopping streets in central Athens.
Most of the Ermou street stores are closed on Sundays, apart from the dates mentioned above. That said, I have occasionally seen some of them being open on a few other Sundays as well.
If you want to go shopping on Ermou, your best bet is weekdays, when opening hours are quite long. Bigger businesses are open from 9.00 to 21.00 on weekdays, and they close somewhere around 18.00 – 20.00 on Saturdays. Smaller stores typically close around 15.00 – 16.00 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Still, Athens Sunday shopping is absolutely possible. The areas of Monastiraki and Plaka are great for shopping on a Sunday.
Monastiraki flea market on Sundays
If you are in Athens on a Sunday and you like street markets, you are in for a treat. The Monastiraki flea market is full-on! For some people, it’s one of the best reasons to visit Athens.
This Athens street market is the best place in central Athens to get your fix on antiques, traditional cutlery and crockery and random bric-a-brac.
The market expands on lower Ermou and Ifestou streets, as well as on most side streets and alleys around them.
You can also find some antiques stores in the nearby Psiri area, across the street from Ermou street. Apart from shops, you will also see random stalls and street vendors.
Along with the antiques and vintage items, there is a range of other shops in Monastiraki. You can find used books, vinyls, CDs, DVDs, leather goods, clothes, shoes, military accessories, knives and bicycles.
All sorts of souvenirs are also available. Here’s a guide to the best souvenirs you can buy in Greece.
The Monastiraki flea market hours aren’t exactly set in stone. Some street vendors might set up their stalls as early as 5 am. Many of them will still be around until the late afternoon or early evening.
It’s best to go early and take your time, especially if you are after specific items.
You can spend ten minutes or several hours around the Monastiraki Athens flea market. Sunday is the best day to visit if you are after antiques, but most other stores are open every day.
Visit the market in Plaka Athens
Between Monastiraki, Syntagma and Acropolis metro stations, you will find the popular Plaka area. It’s one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Athens, and one of the most colourful.
Plaka is one of the best places to go souvenir shopping, though prices are slightly higher than around Monastiraki. You can find clothes, leather goods, olive oil products, and all sorts of classy or tacky souvenirs.
Opening hours of shops in Plaka Athens are quite long, with many of them remaining open well after dark.
Those not interested in shopping can still enjoy the lovely streets, beautiful neoclassical buildings and cozy tavernas. Plus, Plaka is home to several small museums that you can visit.
Other Athens markets on Sundays
Apart from Monastiraki and Plaka, there are some more Sunday markets in Athens, some distance from the centre. These markets are a lot more authentic, so if you want a less touristy experience, go for it.
In terms of actual purchases though, don’t hold your expectations high. The majority of the items can probably be classified as junk. Still, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so you never know. Prices are low, generally matching the quality.
Arguably the most interesting Sunday market Athens is close to Eleonas metro, on the blue line. This massive, open-air market is marked as “Παζάρι Σωματείου Ρακοσυλλεκτών” on Google Maps. Go early, as many of the stall holders start leaving around midday.
Piraeus port, Greece’s largest port, is home to one of the most colourful markets in Athens. The market is right outside Piraeus metro station, on the green / blue line – you can’t miss it. You can find anything and everything, from rugs and coins to clothes, baskets and kitchenware.
Finally, if you are prepared for absolute surrealism, take a taxi and go to Shisto market. This flea market is a few kilometres out of Piraeus, marked as “Pazari Sxistou” on Google Maps. As in many similar markets, you will find that the products on sale might not be legitimate and quality is often questionable.
Whether any of the items in these markets will be worth buying, is another matter. Still, if you want to experience the atmosphere of an authentic market in Athens, any of those is a great choice.
Note that the vendors start setting up very early in the morning and start closing in the afternoon. Go early, be prepared to bargain, and make sure your valuables are safe.
Also, have a look at this article about shopping in Athens.
Where to eat in Athens on a Sunday
And now for everyone’s favourite subject: food! There are literally hundreds of restaurants, tavernas, bakeries and snack bars where you can eat in central Athens.
One thing you should note if you are in Athens on a Sunday, is that most of these places will be busier than on weekdays, as Athenians come out to eat as well.
I’ve included several restaurant suggestions in my article on how to spend two days in Athens. These cozy restaurants are all located in central Athens, at walking distance from the sites and markets.
And if you are unsure about what to eat in Greece, my article with 50 (!) traditional Greek dishes should help.
The ultimate Sunday activity: Go for a coffee in Athens
If you want to feel like a local, do as the Athenians do, and go for a coffee! Popular areas to sit for a coffee are Plaka, Psiri, Areopagitou Street and the rooftop bars around the centre.
Bonus tip: What to do in Athens on Easter Sunday
If you happen to be in Athens on Easter Sunday, most of the above won’t apply. Easter Sunday is the holiest day here in Greece, so sites and tourist attractions will be closed. Don’t worry though, you can still find somewhere to eat.
If you are in Athens on Easter Sunday, you can wander around the city and enjoy the quietness. You can stroll on Areopagitou street and take in the monuments from a distance.
However, if you want to experience a traditional Greek Easter, you could take a day trip to Arachova. This small village up on Parnassos mountain celebrates Easter in the traditional Greek way.
There will be a lot of food, such as lamb on the spit and Easter eggs. It’s a good opportunity to jump into Greek culture!
Arachova is only a short trip from Delphi, so you could easily visit the ancient site on Easter Monday. Allow enough time for the fantastic museum.
Getting around Athens on foot
Visitors who like to walk will love Athens. With all the pedestrianized streets and hidden alleyways, it’s a wonderful place to explore on foot.
Make sure you have good walking shoes on, as our cobbled streets can hurt your feet. Also, wear loose, comfortable clothes. This article should help you decide what clothes to bring to Greece.
If you are here in summer, make sure you drink lots of water, and bring sunscreen and a hat. Also, follow these other tips to make sure that you don’t get a heatstroke.
How to get around Athens on transport
While walking around Athens is very rewarding, it might not be suitable for everyone. The Athens metro system is a very efficient way to cover longer distances, at a very low cost.
Alternatively, you can always use taxis, which you will instantly recognize as they are painted bright yellow. Sadly, even these days, I occasionally read reports by foreign visitors who were scammed by taxi drivers.
You can also arrange a taxi through your hotel, though the apps make it easier these days. Note that if you are travelling as a small group of 3-4 people, a taxi might cost less than the metro.
Another popular way to explore Athens is the open-deck bus. It might be best to use it on your first day in Athens, as it will help you get your bearings. You can hop off at any point of interest, and wait for the next bus. Or you can just stay on the bus until it does a complete tour of Athens!
FAQs about Athens on a Sunday
Here are some questions that people who come on a trip to Athens often ask:
Are things closed on Sunday in Athens?
Generally speaking, the only establishments that you might notice being closed in Athens are high street stores. Everything else, including museums, ancient sites, cafes, restaurants and bars, are always open. In addition, the Athens Sunday markets are worth exploring.
What is there to do in Athens on a Sunday?
If you are visiting Athens, there are some things that you can only do on Sundays! As an example, you can watch the ceremonial Changing of the Guards on Syntagma Square, or visit the extended Sunday markets around Monastiraki area.
What locals do in Athens?
Most foreign visitors are always surprised with the number of locals sitting at tavernas, cafes and bars in Athens. I think our favourite activity is socializing!
What should I not miss in Athens?
Apart from the Acropolis, some of my favourite things in Athens include the Changing of the Guards, the National Archaeological Museum, the Varvakios market and walking along the pedestrianized Dionissiou Areopagitou street. In terms of neighbourhoods, I like Plaka, Thisseio, Monastiraki and Psiri.
What should I avoid in Athens?
One thing you should avoid if you are in Athens in summer, is visiting the Acropolis during the afternoon. Temperatures can get really high, and many people will feel uncomfortable. Try to visit first thing in the morning, or after 5 pm.
What to do in Athens Greece on Sunday
Have you been to Athens on a Sunday? What did you end up doing? Did you think it was much different to a weekday? Let me know in the comments!