This list of 15 free things to do in Athens is perfect if you want to enjoy the city without breaking the bank. Here’s what to see and do in Athens for free.
Free things to do in Athens
Visitors often ask how much money they should budget for when visiting Athens. The answer depends on many factors.
Most people’s main expenses will typically be accommodation, transportation and food / drink. In addition, you should allow for entrance fees to archeological sites and museums.
However, you don’t need to pay a fortune to appreciate what our lovely city has to offer. There are many free activities in Athens, some of which are pretty unique.
Here is my list of 15 free things to do in Athens, Greece.
1. Walk around the ancient monuments
This is my favourite thing to do in Athens. I have walked around the ancient ruins more times than I can remember, and I will never get tired of it. You can see a large part of the archaeological sites without actually going in.
Don’t get me wrong – you should absolutely visit at least a few of the sites, if possible with a licensed guide. However, if you want to save money, you can just stroll around them.
Start your walk from Acropolis metro station. Take the long pedestrian road, Areopagitou, heading towards Thisseio metro. As you walk, you will have Acropolis and Herodion theatre on your right hand side, and the New Acropolis Museum to your left.
Further down, you will see paths leading up Filopappou Hill to your left, and the Ancient Agora on your right. Eventually, you can end up on Mars Hill, known in Greek as Areios Pagos. Both of these hills offer some great views of the Acropolis and a lovely sunset.
And that’s not all – you can still walk around Kerameikos ancient site, Hadrian’s library and the Roman Agora!
For more information, have a look at my article on how to see Ancient Athens for free.
Tip: As you are walking around, you are likely to come across several buskers, playing literally every type of Greek music, and not only. Please support them if you can, as they make the city a better place.
2. Look out for free admission days for museums and sites
When you visit Greece, look out for free days for public museums and archaeological sites. Here are the days with free entry:
- 6 March – In memory of Melina Mercouri, the iconic Minister of Culture of Greece in the 80s and 90s
- 18 April – World Heritage Day https://realgreekexperiences.com/world-heritage-day
- 18 May – International Museums Day (most private museums, including the Acropolis Museum, are also free on this day)
- The last weekend of September – European Heritage Days
- 28 October – The “Ochi” public holiday
- The first Sunday in November, December, January, February and March
Note – Popular attractions like the Acropolis, the New Acropolis Museum or the Ancient Agora will typically be busier on those days. Still, if you want to save money, it’s a good opportunity.
3. Enjoy the free museums and galleries
Unless you are visiting on a free admission day, most of the museums have an entry fee. The most expensive ticket is for the National Archaeological Museum, which costs 12 euros during the summer months. However, there are a few free museums and plenty of free contemporary art galleries.
As an example, the Benaki Museum offers free entrance on Thursdays, and the National Historical Museum is free on Sundays. The Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments is no longer free, but it’s totally worth the small entrance fee of 2 euro.
Check out my detailed guide of free museums in Athens for more information.
4. Take a free Athens walking tour
Google “Athens free walking tour” and several companies offering free tours will come up.
A free tour is a great way to get a quick introduction to our city, so you could plan it on your first day here. The tours are based in the city centre, and they will help you get your bearings.
Even though these tours are technically free, please leave a tip. The people running them have put in considerable time and effort.
You can also look up “This is Athens with a local”, a voluntary project where locals show you the city through their eyes.
5. Explore the different neighbourhoods
If tours aren’t your style, you can explore the city at your own pace. While central Athens is relatively compact, each little neighbourhood has its own feel and flavor.
Plaka, on the foot of Acropolis Hill, is a great place to start. It’s full of neoclassical buildings, churches, cafes and restaurants, and a few interesting museums. There’s a touristy side to it, but its charming nevertheless.
Close to Plaka, you will find Anafiotika, one of the most unexpected neighbourhoods of our city. The houses were originally built in the mid-18th century by construction workers who came from the Cyclades to work in Athens. As a result, the area looks like a Greek island! Be prepared to climb a few steps, and discover a unique Cycladic architecture.
You can then wander around Monastiraki flea market. This is a small area with a mix of tourist stores and shops selling cheap – and not so cheap – clothes. It’s located close to the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora.
Afterwards, check out Psiri, a small, buzzing neighbourhood with cool street art and a local feel. It’s a great spot to check out some street art, appreciate Greek culture and possibly listen to some live Greek music.
Finally, if you want to window shop, stroll along Ermou street and its side streets. This is a popular area with Athenians. You can even sit at a coffee shop and indulge in some people-watching!
6. Look out for some fantastic street art
Slowly but steadily, Athens is becoming one of the best European capitals for street art. As you walk around the city, you will discover amazing murals and several other art works.
The most famous neighbourhoods for street art are Psiri, Kerameikos and Exarchia. Recently, the municipality of Athens has sponsored street artists who want to add a bit of colour to our city.
Here are a few photos of some cool street art in Athens.
7. Check out the archaeological artifacts inside the metro stations
The metro system in Athens is one of the best in Europe. At the time of its construction, archaeologists were delighted to excavate numerous findings from Ancient Greece. Today, many of them are exhibited inside the metro stations.
Some of the best stations to visit for ancient exhibits are Acropolis, Monastiraki, Syntagma, Panepistimio, Eleonas and Cholargos. The ancient aqueduct in Monastiraki is particularly impressive.
8. Watch the Changing of the Guards
Most visitors have heard of the Changing of the Guards. While it has been described as quirky or even cheesy, I find it fascinating.
The Changing of the Guard takes place in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This solemn monument is in front of the Parliament building, next to Syntagma Metro Station. The Changing happens every hour, on the hour, rain, shine or snow!
The Guards are known as Evzones. They are specially selected Greek soldiers, and being in this force is considered an honour and a privilege.
You will notice that they are all tall, which is a prerequisite for being a Guard. Their handmade uniforms vary by season. There is a more elaborate traditional uniform, worn for special occasions.
There is a bigger, ceremonial Changing of the Guards every Sunday morning at 11 am. Be there 10-20 minutes earlier to find a spot with decent view, as it’s one of the most popular Athens attractions.
Here is all you need to know about the Changing of the Guards in Athens.
9. Visit the National Garden
Our city can’t boast the huge parks of London and Berlin. Regardless, we have a beautiful park, the National Gardens, also known as Royal Gardens or Botanical Gardens. They are located just next to the Parliament building, and stretch all the way to Zappeion.
The National Gardens in Athens were originally designed by Queen Amalia, King Otto’s wife. She overview the whole process, and planted hundreds of different types of trees. Allegedly, she wanted to be reminded of her homeland, Germany.
Today, the National Gardens are home to over 7,000 trees and several thousand bushes and other plants. Some of them are the original trees planted by Queen Amalia!
The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset and can be a pleasant break from the hustle and the bustle of the city. Many Athenians go there for a stroll or a jog, while you can see the occasional yoga or tai chi event.
Once you leave the National Gardens, spend a few minutes to check out the ruins of Roman Baths on Amalias Avenue.
In addition, you can visit the Panathenaic Stadium, on the other side of the park. This is where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. There is a 5 euro fee to go inside, which is totally worth it.
Here is my full guide to the National Gardens in Athens.
10. Check out the Athens central food market
If you are interested in real life in Athens, you should definitely visit the Varvakios food market. In my opinion, it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in the city.
There are three distinct market sections where you can buy meat, fish and fruit and veg. You will also see shops selling cheese, olives, honey, nuts, bread, cookies, spices and many other Greek delicacies. All in all, this area a feast for the senses!
You can easily visit the Athens central market on your own. If you want to know more about the Greek food culture, you can check out my walking tours.
The market is located on Athinas street, not far from Monastiraki flea market and Psiri area. It is open from Monday to Saturday, and some of the shops close around 15.00.
Here is some more information about the Central Food Market in Athens.
11. Hike up Lycabettus Hill
Lycabettus Hill is one of the popular green spaces in the city. You can go up and enjoy some of the best views in Athens.
To get there, you can take a taxi or the funicular railway. However, hiking up the hill will give you a different perspective – plus, it’s free. If you don’t fancy walking up the hill, you can always go up in a taxi and then walk down.
It should take you about a half hour to walk up Lycabettus Hill. The highest point is St George’s church, which is a fairly popular spot, primarily with tourists.
12. Check out the free festivals at the Technopolis
The Technopolis cultural centre is a large space in central Athens. It hosts various free concerts, photo exhibitions and other events throughout the year, along with some ticketed events.
If you are visiting Athens during May / June, check out the Jazz Festival. This cool event brings together jazz musicians from different countries. It’s one of the most popular free events in the city.
The Technopolis cultural centre is located right next to Kerameikos metro station. You can check their Facebook page for information on future events.
13. Explore the churches in Athens
If you are you interested in religion, architecture, or just places of worship around the world, Athens will delight you.
We have literally hundreds of temples and churches all around the city. Most of them are contemporary, but you will also find several Byzantine churches spread around the centre. A famous one is Kapnikarea, right in the middle of Ermou street.
While a dress code is generally not strictly enforced in churches in Athens, please avoid entering the temples in shorts or tank tops.
A special time to visit the churches in Athens is during the Holy Week, the week before Greek Orthodox Easter. There are certain special ceremonies and events, including a solemn procession on Good Friday. Just remember that and Catholic / Protestant Easter are rarely on the same weekend!
Here is some more information about Greek culture and Greek Easter.
14. Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre is a large art foundation in Faliro, a little out of central Athens. It consists of several impressive buildings and a large outdoors area.
The “Niarchos”, as Athenians call it, is home to the National Library of Greece. In addition, its large halls are used for art exhibitions and similar events. There are also frequent fitness and well-being activities.
There have been numerous exhibitions and gigs so far. Famous artists like Neneh Cherry and several well-known Greek bands have played at the Niarchos.
You can visit just to have a look, or combine it with one of their numerous events. Some of them are ticketed, but most are free to attend. I love the dancing fountains!
A free shuttle bus operates from Syntagma Square to the Niarchos. The bus runs every 30 minutes on Friday evenings and weekends, and also on event days. The pick-up point is on the street, right outside the McDonald’s restaurant.
15. Go to the beach!
Last but not least, if you’ve had enough of the hot, busy centre, there is an easy escape – go to the beach! Athens is in the centre of the Attica prefecture, which is literally surrounded by the sea.
There are several easily accessible beaches that you can get to on the tram. The part of the west coast between Faliro and Voula, often referred to as the Athens Riviera, is dotted with beautiful beaches.
You can take your pick from several free beaches. There are also a few ticketed beaches, which offer changing rooms and showers.
If you are looking for more secluded, wild beaches, you will generally need to travel further away. One of the best wild beaches is Schinias on the east coast, an hour and a half out of the city on the bus. It’s a beautiful, long stretch of sand, shaded by pine trees. You might be able to find some information on bus routes here, though the website isn’t always translated in English.
FAQs about Athens
Here are a few frequently asked questions about Athens!
How many days do I need in Athens?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I have spent several decades here, and I’m not tired of it – well, not yet! If you are a history buff, you could easily spend a week or even a month. Most people only have two or three days in Athens, which are fine to get an idea of the city.
When is the best time of year to visit Athens?
My favourite times of the year in the city are spring and early autumn. Avoid summer if you can, as it can get very hot! Here is my article on the best time to visit Athens.
What are the best things to do in the Greek capital?
To a certain extent, this depends on your interests. Here is my guide on the best things to do in Athens.
What’s the easiest way to get around?
If you like walking, the best way to get around the city is on foot. In some cases, it’s the only way, are many of the alleys and paths are car-free. There are also many, many steps around the city! For longer distances, you can use the Athens metro or a taxi.
What should I wear?
Athens is a vibrant European city, and you will be fine in most clothes. Check out my guide on what to pack for Greece, depending on the season.
Travel Guides To The Greek Capital
If you’re interested in more guides to contemporary and ancient Athens, you might also like to read:
- Pedestrian-friendly Athens
- Best things to do on a Sunday
- How to take the airport bus
- How to take the airport metro
- How to stay cool in the summer
See Athens for free
I hope you have enjoyed this list of free things to do in Athens! Are there any other free activities you enjoyed in our city? Let me know in the comments!
Hi! I am Vanessa, I am an Athenian, and I love helping people discover more about my city. As you see, there are many interesting sights in the city, and many of them are free! If you are interested in finding out more, leave a comment below. Alternatively, get in touch on my FB page and FB group.