Athens is known as the birthplace of western civilization. But there are many more reasons to visit Athens Greece beyond its historical appeal – the markets, the food, the nightlife, the people! Here are twelve great reasons to visit Athens right now.
Twelve great reasons to visit Athens
Athens is my city! I have lived here most of my life, and I find it an exciting place to explore.
The Greek capital combines history, culture, markets, shopping, cool cafes, lovely tavernas, and vibrant nightlife. Not to mention the incredible mazes of little streets where you can wander all day long.
Though some visitors only spend a couple of days in Athens, there are so many things to discover in this amazing Greek city. Here are twelve great reasons to visit Athens in Greece.
1. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world
With a recorded history of several thousands of years, Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The city is filled with ancient ruins and historical landmarks dating back to the 5th century BC, and there are several historical museums.
The most famous archaeological site in Athens is undoubtedly the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking the sprawling city. Other magnificent sites include the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Most people visit the Acropolis Museum, which hosts findings from the Acropolis Hill. In addition, the National Archaeological Museum is home to some of the most impressive collections of ancient Greek art in the world.
How to visit the ancient sites in Athens Greece
You can easily visit the ancient sites on your own. If you are planning to see three or more of the sites, you should get a skip-the-line combo ticket which will save you time and money.
However, a guided tour of the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum is a great introduction to the ancient city. You will see the archaeological ruins under a new perspective, and learn a lot about the Ancient Greek Gods.
Read more here: Combined ticket for the archaeological sites in Athens
2. Athens has dozens of museums and galleries
There are plenty of things to see and do in Athens to keep visitors of all interests entertained. Apart from the historical sites and museums, there are several art museums and galleries to explore.
Art lovers will be delighted to hear that numerous art galleries have opened in the last few years. These include the National Art Gallery, the Goulandris Art Museum and the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
For those who want to learn more about Greece’s music, a visit to the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments is a must. It hosts an extensive collection of musical instruments, and you can listen to several pre-recorded songs and tunes.
Read more here: The best museums and galleries in Athens
3. Athens has a lively arts / music / festival scene
Greece’s capital has an incredibly lively arts and music scene, with several live music venues. Hundreds of music festivals, theater performances and other artistic events happen year-round.
The Athens & Epidaurus Festival, which takes place from May to October, is one of the most popular annual events. The festival features a wide range of performances, including music, theater and dance.
If you’re visiting Athens in the summer, don’t miss the opportunity to see a performance at the open-air Theater of Herodes Atticus, also known as Herodion.
Located just below the Acropolis, the ancient theater hosts a variety of events with world-famous artists. Performances are often sold-out, so check well in advance of your visit.
Read a month-to-month guide on Athens festivals here: Best time to go to Athens
4. Athens is famous for its vibrant nightlife
Athens has hundreds of bars and clubs, and nightlife in the city is very varied. Whether you’re looking for a cozy place to have a drink or a lively club to dance the night away, you’ll find it in Athens.
Psiri neighbourhood is one of the most vibrant nightlife hot-spots, filled with late-night tavernas and cool bars. Read more here: Psiri neighborhood
Gazi is another popular area, especially with locals and club-goers.
If you want a more laid-back experience, head to one of the many rooftop restaurant-bars. Two of the most established bars are A for Athens and 360 Cocktail Bar right on Monastiraki Square, at the very heart of the city. They both offer amazing views of the Acropolis at night.
And if you are here in summer, you can check out the various clubs and restaurants at the coastal areas of Glyfada or Voula.
5. Athens is a food lover’s paradise
Greek food is world-renowned for its healthy, delicious ingredients and Athens offers some of the best Greek cuisine in the country. You will find plenty of traditional, low-key Greek tavernas, as well as restaurants offering fine dining.
Anyone with a sweet tooth shouldn’t miss the opportunity to try some traditional Greek desserts, like baklava, kataifi and galaktoboureko. And don’t miss out on the excellent ice-cream and gelato shops everywhere in Athens!
Craving a curry, some sushi or a bahn bao? These days you can find all of those ethnic cuisines in Athens. (In all honesty though, Athens is not the best capital city in Europe for international food. Still, things are way much better than 10 years ago).
One of the best ways to learn more about Greek food and taste several delicacies, is this Athens gourmet food tour! You will also be offered several local products to take home with you 🙂
And if you are a true foodie, consider adding another city, Thessaloniki, to your trip… You’ll thank me later!
6. Athens offers great street markets and many shopping opportunities
Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, hand-made jewelry, or designer clothes, you’ll be able to find everything and anything in Athens. There’s a wide variety of shops, from shopping malls and chain stores to small family shops selling unique items.
The main shopping street in central Athens is Ermou street, a pedestrian street leading from Syntagma Square to Monastiraki Square. The side-streets are also worth exploring, as you’ll find specialized shops that you never knew existed!
Continue walking, and you’ll come across Monastiraki Flea Market. Here you can a selection of different clothes and shoes, quirky antiques, second-hand records and books, and all sorts of random items.
Some of the best things to buy as a reminder of your journey include a backgammon board, leather sandals, Greek jewelry, or a bottle of extra virgin olive oil!
For more information, have a look at these other guides:
7. Athens is (still) relatively inexpensive to visit
Unless you are opting for a 5-star hotel, a trip to Athens won’t break the bank. You can easily find good value accommodation and food options, so you can visit Athens even if you are on a budget.
As an indication, you can find a private room from about 35-40 euro a night outside peak season. The price for a dinner for two people can vary a lot, but you could easily eat for 15-20 euro.
Tip #1: Avoid the summer season, when accommodation prices rise and Athens is touristy. Visit in the shoulder season or winter instead! My favourite months in Athens are April, May, October, November and December.
Tip #2: If you visit Athens between November and March, you can benefit from half-price entrance to the archaeological sites. Also, entrance is free on the first Sunday of each month. There are a few more free entrance days throughout the year – check them out!
These articles will help you visit Athens on a budget:
8. The city center of Athens is easy to get around
Athens may be the largest city in Greece, but the center is quite compact, with plenty of interesting neighborhoods to explore. If you like walking, you can easily see the Athens city centre entirely on foot.
The major sites and many of the museums are located no more than 2 kms (1.2 miles) from Syntagma Square. For example, it would take you 15-20 minutes to walk from Syntagma to either the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora or the Cycladic Museum.
Read more here: How to get around Athens
9. There are so many beaches all around Athens
Very few capital cities in the world are built so close to a wonderful coast! You can easily take a bus or tram from downtown Athens, and you’ll be on the beach in no more than 30-40 minutes.
Or you can take the KTEL bus to more secluded beaches around the east coast – this is a beach in the Marathon area.
One of the most popular half-day trips from Athens is a tour to the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. In my opinion, the location is one of the most wonderful places in the whole of Greece.
And if you are going in your own vehicle, you can stop for a swim on the way back!
Read more here: Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
10. Athens is a convenient gateway to the Greek islands
With many ferries and flights departing from the city, Athens is the ideal base for island-hopping in Greece.
There are daily ferries to most Greek islands. Among others, these include:
- the Cyclades, such as Mykonos and Santorini
- the Saronic Islands, like Hydra and Poros
- Greece’s biggest island, Crete
- The Dodecanese, like Patmos, Kalymnos or Nisyros.
> Book your ferry tickets here: FerryScanner <<
11. Athens has a Mediterranean climate
Contrary to popular belief, Athens is an ideal destination for any time of year! In fact, it’s a fantastic place to visit during the shoulder seasons, when the weather in many European capitals is still cold and rainy.
Visiting in the off-season is another option, as you will get the ancient sites and other attractions to yourself! Just don’t forget your winter jacket.
Tip: It’s actually best to avoid July and August, as the weather can often be too warm. Yet, if this is when you are planning your vacation, here are a few tips on how to stay cool in Athens in summer.
12. Athenians are friendly and welcoming!
Greeks are known for their hospitality, which is an essential element of Greek culture from ancient to modern times. They make travelers feel welcome from the moment they arrive until they leave.
Athenians are no exception, and they are happy to share their city with visitors. What’s more, most Athenians speak at least some level of English, so you’ll have no problem in communicating!
Bonus: Athens grows on you
You may have read comments by other travelers, saying that Athens isn’t a pretty city, and you shouldn’t bother spending any time here.
I know where these people are coming from! Sure, Athens is not the tidiest or cleanest city in Europe. The amounts of graffiti and the crumbling buildings in some areas can be overwhelming and off-putting for some people.
Yet, if you take some time to appreciate the Athenian lifestyle and the city itself, you may start to realize what all the fuss is about. And who knows? You might even move here one day, like so many thousands of expats! 🙂
FAQ about Athens
Here are a few questions that first-time visitors ask about Athens:
What is the best thing about Athens?
The best thing about Athens is that it combines ancient history and culture with lovely walking routes, vibrant markets and modern city life.
Why is the city of Athens special?
Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. This is where concepts like philosophy and democracy were born, thousands of years ago.
What are some reasons to visit Athens?
Some good reasons to visit Athens include the ancient history and culture, the lively markets, the cool cafes, restaurants and bars, and the friendly people.
Is Athens worth visiting?
Yes, Athens is definitely worth visiting at least once in your life. While it’s not the cleanest or most organized city in the world, it’s incredibly charming! After all, where else can you see attractions like the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora?
Is a week in Athens too long?
No, a week in Athens is not too long at all. There’s so much to do in the Greek capital! And if for any reason you get tired of it, the islands are only a short ferry ride away!
Read more here: Islands close to Athens
More travel guides about Athens and the Greek islands
If you enjoyed this article, have a look at these other ones:
- Best things to do on a Sunday in Athens
- How to take the Athens airport metro
- Athens Airport Bus to Athens Center
- Day trips from Athens
- Useful words and phrases in Greek
- How to swear like a Greek
- Handy apps for your trip to Greece
- Athens in November
- How to get from Athens to Thessaloniki by train
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens. My city is not the most perfect city in the world. But it’s what I call home, and there’s so much to do and see here! Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more info and photos of Greece.