Last updated on January 22nd, 2020 at 07:45 am
This list of 15 free things to do in Athens is perfect for enjoying 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 us how much money they should budget when visiting Athens. Apart from accommodation, transportation and food, another expense is the entry fees to most of the famous tourist attractions in Athens.
At the same time, you don’t need to pay a fortune to appreciate what our lovely city has to offer. There are many free things to do in Athens, and we consider them to be pretty unique.
After some thought, we’ve created this list of 15 free things to do in Athens, Greece.
1. Walk around the ancient monuments
This is probably our number 1 free activity in Athens. The ancient sites are phenomenal, and you should absolutely take a paid visit, if possible with a licensed guide who will make them come alive. However, you don’t actually need to go inside if money is tight. Arguably, the Acropolis is equally stunning as seen from afar.
Here’s how to walk around the area where the ancient sites of Athens are located.
Start your walk from Acropolis metro, continue towards the Acropolis, and stroll along the pedestrian road passing by Thisseio metro. Then you can walk towards the Kerameikos ancient cemetery.
You can also make your way around the Ancient Agora, and eventually end up on Mars Hill, known in Greek as Areios Pagos. Here, you can get some great views of the Acropolis and a lovely sunset. If you have time, go up Filopappou Hill to see Athens from above.
For more information, have a look at our article on how to see Ancient Athens for free.
2. Try the free Athens walking tours
Google “Athens free walking tours” and several companies offering free Athens tours will come up. This is a good way to get a quick introduction to our city, and you might want to do it on your first day in Athens.
The tours are based in the city centre, and they will help you get your bearings.
Even though these tours are technically free, be sure to leave a tip as the people running them have put in considerable time and effort.
If you are interested in a more personal experience, you should definitely look up “This is Athens with a local”.
Depending on her availability, Vanessa is participating in this voluntary project, which aims to show you Athens through a local’s eyes.
These tours are totally free and we do not accept money or tips of any kind – though most of us won’t say no to a coffee or a beer!
3. Walk around Anafiotika
Anafiotika, at the foot of the Acropolis, is one of the most charming and unexpected neighbourhoods of our city.
The houses in Anafiotika are among the oldest in Athens. They were originally built in the mid-18th century by construction workers who came from the Cyclades to work in Athens.
This small, maze-like neighbourhood is built on the hill between the Acropolis and Plaka. Be prepared to climb a few stairs, and discover a unique Cycladic architecture that you won’t find anywhere else in Athens.
You will also discover some cool street art in Anafiotika!
4. Check out the archaeological findings inside the Athens metro stations
The metro system in Athens is one of the best in Europe. During the time when it was being constructed, archaeologists were delighted to excavate numerous findings from Ancient Greece. Today, many of them are exhibited inside the metro stations.
Some of the best metro stations to visit if you want to see some of the archaeological findings are Acropolis, Monastiraki, Syntagma, Panepistimio, Eleonas and Cholargos.
5. Watch the Changing of the Guards
Most people who visit Athens will want to see the Changing of the Guards. While it has been described as quirky or even cheesy, we actually think that it is a very interesting sight.
The Changing of the Guards in Athens takes place in front of the Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, right next to Syntagma Metro. It happens every hour, on the hour, rain or shine – even when it snows!
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, and there are more intricate uniforms worn for special occasions.
There is a bigger, ceremonial Changing of the Guards every Sunday at 11am. If you want to watch that, be there 10-20 minutes earlier to find a spot with decent view. The Sunday Changing of the Guards is one of the most popular things to do in Athens.
6. Enjoy our city’s free museums and galleries
Most of the museums in Athens have an entry fee, which is never more than 8-10 euros. At the same time, there are a few museums and plenty of art galleries in Athens that offer free entrance.
Check out our detailed guide for free museums in Athens for more information, and take a note of free days throughout the year to visit all museums in Athens.
7. Look out for some fantastic Athens street art
Slowly but steadily, Athens is becoming one of the best European capitals for street art. If you walk around the city, you will discover amazing murals and several other art works.
Our city boasts quite a few neighbourhoods where there is a lot of street art, such as Exarchia, Kerameikos and Psyrri. Recently, the municipality of Athens has sponsored street artists who want to add a bit of colour to our city.
For more photos of cool street art in Athens, check our detailed article.
8. Meet the buskers
You are probably aware that some of the best musicians started off playing on the street! This is very true for our city too.
Typically, busking is illegal in Greece. To our delight however, most authorities turn a blind eye on buskers. In this particular case, we don’t see anything wrong with breaking the law!
If you walk around the pedestrianized streets in Athens on a sunny day, you are likely to come across several buskers, playing literally every type of music.
You will find most buskers on Ermou street and on Areopagitou street. Please support them if you can, as they make our city a better place!
9. Check out the central food market in Athens
If you are interested in real life in Athens, you should definitely visit the Central Food Market in Athens. Located on Athinas street, between Monastiraki and Omonia metro stations, it’s a feast for the senses, and one of our favourite free things to do in Athens.
There are three distinct market areas where you can buy meat, fish and fruit and veg. All around the market you can see shops selling cheese, olives, honey, nuts, bread, cookies, spices and many other Greek delicacies.
The market is open from Monday to Saturday, and some of the shops close around 15.00, so go earlier.
You can easily visit the market on your own. If you want to know more about the Greek food culture, however, join us for one of our Athens walking tours.
10. Visit the National Botanical Gardens in Athens
While central Athens can’t boast the huge parks of London and Berlin, we have a beautiful park, the National Botanical Gardens. They are located just next to the Parliament, and stretch all the way to Zappeion.
The National Gardens in Athens were originally designed by Queen Amalia, King Otto’s wife, who allegedly wanted to be reminded of her homeland, Germany. She made special efforts to plant hundreds of different types of trees, many of which are still intact.
While the Gardens are not very large, they are home to over 7,000 trees and several thousand bushes and other plants. They 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.
Read our full guide here to the National Garden in Athens.
11. Hike up Lycabettus Hill in Athens
For some of the best views in Athens, you can go up Lycabettus Hill. It is possible to take a taxi or the cable car, however hiking up the hill will give you a different perspective. 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. The highest point is St George’s church, which is a fairly popular spot, primarily with tourists.
12. Go to a free event 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, and there are also some ticketed events.
If you are visiting Athens during May / June, make sure you check out the Jazz Festival. This cool festival brings together Jazz musicians from different countries, and it’s one of the most popular free events in Athens.
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
Are you interested in religion, architecture, or just places of worship around the world? Athens will delight you. We have literally hundreds of churches all around the city. Most of them are contemporary, but you will also find several Byzantine churches spread around the centre and beyond.
A special time to visit the churches in Athens is during the Holy Week, when there are certain special ceremonies and events. Remember that Greek Easter and Catholic / Protestant Easter are generally not on the same weekend!
While a dress code is generally not strictly enforced in churches in Athens, please avoid entering the temples in shorts or tank tops.
14. Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre has to be seen to be believed. The “Niarchos”, as Athenians call it, is really unlike any other cultural centre in Athens, and very impressive by Greek standards to say the least.
You can visit just to have a look, and enjoy a coffee at the outdoors area. Even better, check out their busy events page and you will find some of the best free things to do in Athens.
So far, there have been numerous exhibitions and gigs. Famous artists like Neneh Cherry and several well-known Greek bands have played at the Niarchos. There are also frequent fitness and well-being activities.
Some events are ticketed, but most of them are totally free. One of their most popular events for summer 2019 was the dancing fountains!
A free shuttle bus operates from Syntagma to the Niarchos. The shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes on Friday evenings and weekends, and also on event days.
The pick-up point at Syntagma is on the street outside the McDonald’s restaurant.
15. Go to the beach in Athens!
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 close to Athens is Schinias beach, on the east coast. It’s a long stretch of sand shaded by pine trees, and it’s around an hour and a half out of Athens on the bus. Check out this link for more information.
Free things to do in Athens
We hope you have enjoyed our list of free things to do in Athens! Are there any other free activities you enjoyed in our city? Let us know in the comments!
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