Top 30 Things To Do in Athens

Ancient wonders meet vibrant urban life in Greece's captivating capital, where history, culture, and culinary delights await at every turn.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

As the sun dips below the horizon, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink, you stand atop the Acropolis, gazing out over the sprawling cityscape of Athens. The modern metropolis stretches as far as the eye can see, yet right beneath your feet lies a testament to human achievement that has endured for millennia. This is Athens – a city where the ancient and the contemporary don't just coexist, they intertwine in a dance as old as Western civilization itself.

Athens is a city of contrasts, where 2,500-year-old monuments stand proudly alongside cutting-edge galleries, and traditional tavernas share narrow streets with trendy cocktail bars. It's a place where the aroma of souvlaki mingles with the scent of exhaust fumes, where the chatter of outdoor cafes competes with the honking of impatient drivers. But it's precisely this juxtaposition that gives Athens its unique energy – a pulsing, vibrant heartbeat that has been going strong for thousands of years.

As you explore this captivating capital, you'll find yourself on a journey through time. From scaling the heights of ancient wonders to diving into the depths of modern Greek culture, Athens offers an experience like no other. So lace up your walking shoes, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready to discover the very best that Athens has to offer. Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, an art lover, or simply a curious traveler, Athens is ready to surprise, delight, and inspire you at every turn.

Climb the Acropolis for Panoramic City Views

Tourists exploring the ancient ruins of the Acropolis in Athens, showcasing the iconic Parthenon and historic structures
Climbing the Acropolis was like stepping back in time. The Parthenon is even more impressive in person!

There's no more iconic image of Athens than the ancient citadel perched high above the city. As you ascend the rocky hill, each step takes you further back in time. The marble steps, worn smooth by millions of feet over thousands of years, lead you to the Propylaea, the monumental gateway that signals your arrival at the summit. As you pass through, the magnificent Parthenon comes into view, its columns reaching skyward in a display of architectural perfection that has inspired awe for millennia.

But the Acropolis is more than just the Parthenon. Take your time to explore the entire plateau. Marvel at the intricate carvings on the Temple of Athena Nike, or ponder the unique design of the Erechtheion with its famous Caryatid porch. And don't forget to pause and take in the breathtaking views of Athens sprawling out in every direction. From up here, you can truly appreciate the vastness of this ancient city and its incredible journey through time.

Key Information:

  • Location: Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens 105 58
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Winter (November 1 to March 31) 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: €20 (April-October), €10 (November-March)

Why Visit: Standing atop the Acropolis offers an unparalleled connection to the birthplace of Western civilization and spectacular views of modern Athens.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and the midday heat. The changing light at these times also makes for stunning photos.

Explore Ancient Agora's Historical Grounds

Ancient Agora ruins in Athens with the well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus, showing the heart of ancient Athenian public life
Wandering through the Ancient Agora, I could almost hear the echoes of philosophers debating. The Temple of Hephaestus is incredibly well-preserved!

Step into the heart of ancient Athenian life as you wander through the sprawling ruins of the Ancient Agora. This was once the bustling center of the city, where citizens gathered to shop, debate politics, and socialize. As you stroll along the ancient pathways, you can almost hear the echoes of heated philosophical discussions and the clamor of the marketplace.

The star attraction here is the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples in the world. But don't overlook the Stoa of Attalos, a reconstructed colonnaded building that now houses the Agora Museum. Inside, you'll find a fascinating collection of artifacts that bring the daily life of ancient Athenians into sharp focus. From political ballot discs to baby feeders, these objects offer intimate glimpses into the lives of those who walked these grounds thousands of years ago.

Key Information:

  • Location: Adrianou 24, Athens 105 55
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Winter (November 1 to March 31) 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: €10 (April-October), €5 (November-March)

Why Visit: The Ancient Agora offers the most tangible connection to daily life in ancient Athens, with well-preserved ruins and an excellent museum.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the chance to sit on the marble seats of the Bouleuterion, where the city council once met. It's a perfect spot for a moment of reflection (and a great photo op).

Marvel at the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Towering columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, showcasing the scale of ancient Greek architecture
The sheer size of these columns at the Temple of Olympian Zeus is mind-boggling. It took 700 years to complete this temple!

Prepare to feel small as you approach the colossal columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This massive temple, once the largest in Greece, took nearly 700 years to complete. Today, only 15 of its original 104 columns remain standing, but they're more than enough to evoke a sense of awe at the sheer scale of the ancient world's ambitions.

As you walk around the temple grounds, try to imagine the completed structure in all its glory. The remaining columns, each 17 meters high, give you a sense of the temple's original grandeur. Don't miss the fallen column, its drum sections neatly toppled like a line of dominoes – a poignant reminder of the power of time and nature. From certain angles, you can frame a perfect view of the Acropolis behind the temple's columns, creating a stunning juxtaposition of Athens' ancient wonders.

Key Information:

  • Location: Leoforos Vasilissis Olgas, Athens 105 57
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Winter (November 1 to March 31) 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: €6 (April-October), €3 (November-March)

Why Visit: The Temple of Olympian Zeus offers a stunning example of ancient Greek ambition and architectural skill, with a scale that's truly awe-inspiring.

Insider Tip: Visit in the late afternoon when the golden hour light makes the marble columns glow, creating a magical atmosphere and fantastic photo opportunities.

Uncover Ancient Treasures at the Acropolis Museum

Glass floor in Acropolis Museum, Athens, showing ongoing excavations beneath, blending modern design with ancient history
The Acropolis Museum is a masterpiece of modern architecture. Walking on the glass floor and seeing the excavations below was surreal.

After exploring the Acropolis itself, dive deeper into its history at the stunning Acropolis Museum. This modern architectural marvel is a perfect counterpoint to the ancient hill it celebrates. As you enter, look down – the glass floor reveals ongoing excavations, setting the tone for a journey through layers of history.

The museum's crown jewel is the top-floor Parthenon Gallery. Here, the frieze that once adorned the Parthenon is displayed in its original configuration, with missing pieces represented by stark white plaster casts. It's a powerful visual representation of the ongoing debate over the Parthenon Marbles. Don't miss the Caryatids, the graceful maiden columns from the Erechtheion – their missing sister in London is represented by an empty space, a poignant reminder of the Acropolis' scattered treasures.

Key Information:

  • Location: Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, Athens 117 42
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) Mon 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Tue-Sun 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Fri 8:00 AM - 10:00 PM; Winter (November 1 to March 31) Mon-Thu 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Fri 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM, Sat-Sun 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
  • Admission: €10 (April-October), €5 (November-March)

Why Visit: The Acropolis Museum offers unparalleled insight into the art, culture, and history of ancient Athens, housed in a stunning modern building.

Insider Tip: Visit on a Friday evening when the museum stays open until 10 PM. The nighttime view of the illuminated Acropolis from the museum's terrace is unforgettable.

Journey Through Time at the National Archaeological Museum

Gallery of ancient Greek statues in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, displaying classical art and sculpture
Spent hours in the National Archaeological Museum. The detail on these ancient statues is incredible - it's like they could come to life at any moment!

Prepare for a whirlwind tour through 7,000 years of Greek history at the National Archaeological Museum. This treasure trove of antiquities is the largest archaeological museum in Greece, and its collections are nothing short of spectacular. From prehistoric finds to classical masterpieces, every era of Greek civilization is represented here.

Don't miss the gold death mask of Agamemnon, a haunting relic from Mycenae that seems to stare right through you. The bronze statue of Zeus (or Poseidon) hurling his thunderbolt (or trident) is a masterpiece of classical sculpture, its dynamic pose frozen in time. And the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient analog computer used to predict astronomical positions, will leave you marveling at the ingenuity of the ancient Greeks. Take your time in each gallery – there are stories and mysteries hiding in every artifact.

Key Information:

  • Location: 28is Oktovriou 44, Athens 106 82
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) Mon 13:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Tue-Sun 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM; Winter (November 1 to March 31) Mon 13:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Tue-Sun 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • Admission: €12 (April-October), €6 (November-March)

Why Visit: The National Archaeological Museum houses the world's finest collection of Greek antiquities, offering an unparalleled journey through the history of Greek civilization.

Insider Tip: The museum can be overwhelming, so consider renting an audio guide or joining a guided tour to make the most of your visit. Don't forget to take a breather in the beautiful garden courtyard.

Discover Greek Culture at the Benaki Museum

Traditional Greek costumes exhibit in Benaki Museum, Athens, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Greece
The Benaki Museum offers a journey through Greek history. These traditional costumes are so intricate and colorful!

For a comprehensive look at Greek culture from prehistoric times to the 20th century, the Benaki Museum is a must-visit. Housed in a beautiful neoclassical mansion, this museum takes you on a journey through time, showcasing the evolution of Greek art and life across the millennia.

Start in the prehistoric galleries and work your way up through time. You'll see everything from ancient pottery and Byzantine icons to traditional costumes and 20th-century paintings. Don't miss the reconstruction of two fully furnished rooms from 18th-century Greek mansions on the second floor – they offer a vivid glimpse into the lives of wealthy Greeks during the Ottoman period. The top floor café offers a lovely view over the National Garden and is a perfect spot for a mid-visit break.

Key Information:

  • Location: Koumbari 1, Athens 106 74
  • Hours: Wednesday and Friday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Thursday and Saturday 10:00 AM - 12:00 AM, Sunday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Closed Monday and Tuesday
  • Admission: €12

Why Visit: The Benaki Museum offers a unique perspective on Greek culture, showcasing its evolution from antiquity to modernity in a beautiful setting.

Insider Tip: Visit on Thursday evenings when the museum stays open until midnight and offers free admission. It's a great opportunity to explore the collections at your own pace without the daytime crowds.

Soak in City Views from Mount Lycabettus

Panoramic view of Athens from Mount Lycabettus, showing the sprawling city with the Acropolis visible in the distance
The hike up Mount Lycabettus was worth it for this view! You can see the whole city, and the sunset was absolutely stunning.

For the best views in Athens, make the trek up Mount Lycabettus. Rising 300 meters above sea level, it's the highest point in the city and offers panoramic vistas that will take your breath away (if the climb hasn't already done so). You can hike up the winding path through a fragrant pine forest, or take the funicular if you're short on time or energy.

At the summit, you'll find the tiny whitewashed chapel of St. George, a popular spot for weddings with its stunning backdrop. But the real star here is the view. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the port of Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf. Stay for sunset if you can – watching the sun dip below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the Acropolis and the sprawling city below, is an unforgettable experience.

Key Information:

  • Location: Mount Lycabettus, Athens 114 71
  • Hours: Open 24/7, funicular runs daily 9:00 AM - 2:30 AM
  • Admission: Free (funicular round trip ticket: €7)

Why Visit: Mount Lycabettus offers the most spectacular panoramic views of Athens, especially magical at sunset.

Insider Tip: Bring a picnic and enjoy it at the top as the sun sets. There's a café and restaurant at the summit, but they can be pricey and crowded.

Stroll Through the National Garden

Shaded pathway in National Garden, Athens, with people relaxing, offering a green oasis in the heart of the city
Found a perfect escape from the city heat in the National Garden. It's hard to believe this tranquil spot is right in the center of Athens!

Escape the urban hustle and find a green oasis in the heart of Athens at the National Garden. Once the royal garden of the Greek monarchs, this 38-acre park is a refreshing retreat filled with meandering paths, towering trees, and hidden ponds. It's the perfect place to catch your breath and recharge between sightseeing adventures.

As you wander through the garden, keep an eye out for the resident peacocks and turtles. Discover the small zoo, the botanical museum, and the delightful children's library housed in a fairytale-like cottage. Don't miss the sun dial and the Roman mosaics scattered throughout the park. The garden is also home to some ancient ruins – columns and other architectural fragments that hint at the long history of this land.

Key Information:

  • Location: Leoforos Vasilissis Amalias 1, Athens 105 57
  • Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: The National Garden offers a peaceful green retreat in the heart of bustling Athens, perfect for relaxation and leisurely strolls.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to see local Athenians doing their morning exercise and to enjoy the garden at its most tranquil.

Experience Modern Culture at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Modern architecture of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, showcasing contemporary Greek design
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a marvel of modern architecture. The view from the rooftop park is incredible!

For a taste of contemporary Athens, head to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). This architectural marvel, designed by Renzo Piano, is a multifunctional complex that houses the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, surrounded by a vast Mediterranean park.

Spend some time exploring the park, with its winding paths, playgrounds, and a spectacular canal. Don't miss the chance to walk up the gently sloping park to the building's green roof for amazing views of the sea and the Acropolis in the distance. Inside, you can browse the public areas of the library or catch a performance at the opera house. The center also hosts a variety of cultural events, from concerts to art installations, so check the schedule to see what's on during your visit.

Key Information:

  • Location: Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364, Kallithea 176 74
  • Hours: Park open daily, 6:00 AM - 12:00 AM; Building hours vary
  • Admission: Free (some events may require tickets)

Why Visit: The SNFCC showcases the best of modern Greek culture and architecture, offering a glimpse into Athens' future while respecting its past.

Insider Tip: Time your visit for one of the free outdoor concerts or movie screenings held in the park during summer evenings. Bring a picnic and enjoy the performance under the stars.

Wander Through Charming Plaka Neighborhood

Charming narrow street in Plaka neighborhood, Athens, with colorful buildings and shops, capturing the area's traditional
Got lost in the winding streets of Plaka and stumbled upon this picturesque scene. The neighborhood feels like a village within the city!

Step back in time as you explore the winding streets of Plaka, Athens' oldest and most picturesque neighborhood. Nestled at the foot of the Acropolis, Plaka feels more like a village than part of a bustling metropolis. Its narrow lanes are lined with neoclassical houses, small churches, and charming tavernas, creating a romantic atmosphere that's hard to resist.

As you wander, keep an eye out for the outdoor staircases adorned with cascading bougainvillea, and the hidden courtyards perfect for a quiet moment. Stop by the Museum of Greek Folk Art to see traditional crafts, or visit the Children's Museum for some family-friendly fun. When you need a break, settle into one of the many cafes and enjoy some people-watching. Don't forget to look up occasionally – the view of the Acropolis looming above adds a magical touch to this already charming neighborhood.

Key Information:

  • Location: Plaka, Athens
  • Hours: Always open, though individual shops and attractions have their own hours
  • Admission: Free to wander, individual attractions may have admission fees

Why Visit: Plaka offers a charming escape into old Athens, with picturesque streets, neoclassical architecture, and a vibrant atmosphere.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to have the streets mostly to yourself and to catch the neighborhood waking up. The light at this time is perfect for photography too.

Hunt for Treasures at Monastiraki Flea Market

Bustling Monastiraki Flea Market in Athens, with vendors and shoppers, showcasing the vibrant local shopping scene
Sunday at Monastiraki Flea Market is a treasure hunter's paradise. Found some unique souvenirs and the atmosphere was electric!

Dive into the heart of Athenian commerce at the bustling Monastiraki Flea Market. This vibrant neighborhood comes alive every Sunday when the streets fill with vendors selling everything from antiques and vintage clothes to handmade jewelry and old vinyl records. It's a treasure hunter's paradise and a great place to soak up local color.

Even on non-market days, the area is worth a visit for its eclectic mix of shops. Browse through stores selling traditional Greek sandals, spices, and souvenirs. When you need a break, head to A for Athens rooftop bar for a drink with a stunning view of the Acropolis. As the sun sets, the neighborhood takes on a different character, with street performers and a lively nightlife scene.

Key Information:

  • Location: Monastiraki Square and surrounding streets, Athens
  • Hours: Sunday flea market operates from early morning to late afternoon; shops in the area typically open daily from 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Monastiraki Flea Market offers a lively shopping experience and a chance to find unique souvenirs while soaking up the local atmosphere.

Insider Tip: If you're serious about finding antiques, arrive early on Sunday morning for the best selection. Don't be afraid to haggle – it's expected!

Explore the Artistic Side of Psyrri

Colorful street art mural in Psyrri neighborhood, Athens, illustrating the area's artistic and bohemian character
Psyrri is a street art lover's dream. Every corner reveals a new masterpiece - this neighborhood is like an open-air gallery!

Once a neglected industrial area, Psyrri has reinvented itself as Athens' hippest neighborhood. By day, it's a haven for artists and designers, with numerous galleries, workshops, and quirky shops. By night, it transforms into one of the city's hottest nightlife destinations, with an eclectic mix of bars, live music venues, and restaurants.

Start your exploration at Pittaki Street, where a canopy of colorful lamps creates a magical atmosphere. Hunt for unique souvenirs in the area's many concept stores and artisan workshops. As evening falls, join the locals for mezze and ouzo at one of the traditional tavernas, then bar-hop your way through the neighborhood's diverse nightlife scene. Don't miss the opportunity to catch some live rebetiko, the "Greek blues," at one of the area's music venues.

Key Information:

  • Location: Psyrri, Athens
  • Hours: Varies by establishment, but the area is lively throughout the day and well into the night
  • Admission: Free to wander, individual venues may have cover charges

Why Visit: Psyrri offers a glimpse into Athens' creative and youthful side, with a perfect blend of art, shopping, dining, and nightlife.

Insider Tip: Look out for street art as you wander – Psyrri is home to some of Athens' best murals and graffiti art.

Discover the Hidden Gem of Anafiotika

Picturesque white-washed houses with blue doors in Anafiotika, Athens, resembling a Greek island village in the heart of the city
Anafiotika feels like a slice of the Greek islands dropped into Athens. The contrast with the rest of the city is incredible!

Tucked away on the northeastern slope of the Acropolis lies Anafiotika, a tiny oasis of tranquility that feels worlds away from the bustling city below. This miniature neighborhood was built in the 19th century by craftsmen from the Cycladic island of Anafi, who recreated their island homes in the heart of Athens.

As you wander through the narrow, winding alleys, you'll feel as if you've been transported to a Greek island. Whitewashed houses with blue doors and windows, cascading bougainvillea, and sleepy cats lounging in the sun create a picturesque scene that's a photographer's dream. The neighborhood is tiny – just 45 houses – and it's easy to get lost in its maze-like layout, but that's part of its charm. Take your time, soak in the peaceful atmosphere, and enjoy stumbling upon hidden viewpoints of the city below.

Key Information:

  • Location: Anafiotika, Plaka, Athens
  • Hours: Always open
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Anafiotika offers a unique slice of island life in the heart of Athens, with stunning views and a peaceful atmosphere.

Insider Tip: Visit in the late afternoon when the light is soft and the day-trippers have left. Bring a bottle of wine and find a quiet spot to watch the sunset over Athens.

Sample Local Flavors at the Central Market

Vibrant food stalls with colorful fresh produce in Central Market (Varvakios Agora), Athens, showcasing local Greek ingredients
The energy at the Central Market is contagious! The colors and aromas of fresh Greek produce are overwhelming in the best way possible.

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of Athenian culinary life at the Central Market, also known as Varvakios Agora. This bustling marketplace is the beating heart of Athens' food scene, where locals have been buying their fresh produce, meat, and fish for over a century.

Wander through the market's different sections, marveling at the colorful displays of fruits and vegetables, the impressive array of olives and cheeses, and the sometimes-startling sight of whole animal carcasses hanging in the meat section. Don't be shy about sampling the wares – vendors are usually happy to offer a taste. For a true local experience, stop by one of the no-frills eateries within the market for a quick, hearty meal. The tripe soup is a traditional favorite if you're feeling adventurous!

Key Information:

  • Location: Athinas 42, Athens 105 51
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM, closed on Sundays
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: The Central Market offers a vibrant, authentic slice of Athenian life and a chance to sample the fresh ingredients that make Greek cuisine so delicious.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to see the market at its liveliest and to enjoy breakfast at one of the traditional coffee shops nearby.

Take a Culinary Journey with an Athens Food Tour

Group enjoying a variety of Greek dishes on a food tour in Athens, sampling local culinary delights
This food tour was the highlight of my trip! Tasted the best souvlaki of my life and discovered so many new Greek dishes.

Dive deep into Athens' food culture with a guided culinary tour. These tours take you off the beaten path to discover the flavors that locals love, from traditional Greek dishes to modern interpretations. You'll explore neighborhood markets, visit family-run tavernas, and sample street food from the city's best vendors.

As you eat your way through the city, you'll learn about the history and culture behind each dish. Taste loukoumades (Greek donuts drizzled with honey), savor perfectly grilled souvlaki, and sip on Greek coffee prepared the traditional way. Your guide will share stories about Athens' culinary traditions and the role of food in Greek social life. It's not just a meal – it's a journey through Greek culture, one bite at a time.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various locations in Athens
  • Hours: Tours typically last 3-4 hours and are available most days
  • Price: €50-€70 per person, depending on the tour

Why Visit: A food tour offers a delicious introduction to Greek cuisine and culture, led by knowledgeable local guides.

Insider Tip: Come hungry and pace yourself – there's a lot of food to try! Also, let your guide know if you have any dietary restrictions; they can usually accommodate them with advance notice.

Hike the Trails of Mount Hymettus

Hikers on a trail on Mount Hymettus with a panoramic view of Athens in the distance, showcasing natural beauty near the city
Escaped the city for a hike on Mount Hymettus. The trail was beautiful and the view of Athens from up here is unbeatable!

Escape the urban jungle and discover Athens' wild side with a hike on Mount Hymettus. This mountain range, located just east of the city, offers a network of trails that wind through pine forests and offer stunning views of Athens and the Saronic Gulf.

The most popular trail leads to the 11th-century Kaisariani Monastery, a beautiful Byzantine complex nestled in a lush setting. Take time to explore the monastery's frescoed church and peaceful gardens before continuing your hike. As you climb higher, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city sprawling out below. Keep an eye out for local wildlife – the mountain is home to numerous bird species and even some wild tortoises.

Key Information:

  • Location: Mount Hymettus, east of Athens
  • Hours: Always open, but best visited during daylight hours
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Mount Hymettus offers a refreshing escape into nature, with beautiful hiking trails and panoramic views of Athens.

Insider Tip: Start your hike early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat, as shade can be limited on some parts of the trail.

Relax at Vouliagmeni Lake

People enjoying the clear, turquoise waters of Vouliagmeni Lake near Athens, a natural spa with therapeutic properties
Vouliagmeni Lake is like nature's own spa. The water is so clear and warm - perfect for a relaxing swim after days of sightseeing!

When the summer heat becomes too much, join the locals and head to Vouliagmeni Lake. This geological wonder is a brackish water lake fed by both the sea and underground thermal springs, maintaining a constant temperature between 22 and 29 degrees Celsius year-round.

The mineral-rich waters are said to have therapeutic properties, and you'll often see people floating peacefully or receiving natural "fish spa" treatments from the lake's tiny resident fish. Surrounding the lake are sun loungers and a few small beaches where you can relax and soak up the sun. There's also a walking trail around the lake's perimeter, offering beautiful views of the unusual landscape. When you're ready for a break, the on-site restaurant serves up delicious Greek cuisine with a view.

Key Information:

  • Location: Vouliagmeni Lake, Vouliagmeni 166 71
  • Hours: Daily, hours vary by season (typically 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM in summer)
  • Admission: €15 for adults, €10 for children (includes use of facilities)

Why Visit: Vouliagmeni Lake offers a unique swimming experience in mineral-rich waters, surrounded by dramatic scenery.

Insider Tip: Visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds. Bring water shoes if you have sensitive feet, as the lake bottom can be rocky in some areas.

Watch the Sunset from Cape Sounion

Iconic columns of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion during sunset, with the Aegean Sea in the background
Watching the sunset at Cape Sounion was magical. The way the light hits the Temple of Poseidon is something I'll never forget.

Cap off your Athens adventure with a trip to Cape Sounion, home to the stunning Temple of Poseidon. Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea, this 5th-century BC temple is one of the most dramatically situated ancient ruins in Greece.

Arrive in the late afternoon to explore the temple grounds and learn about its history. Then, find a spot to watch as the sun sinks into the sea, painting the sky and the ancient marble columns in shades of gold and pink. It's a magical moment that perfectly encapsulates the blend of natural beauty and ancient history that makes Greece so special. Look for Byron's graffiti on one of the columns – the romantic poet carved his name here during his travels in the early 19th century.

Key Information:

  • Location: Cape Sounion, Lavreotiki 195 00
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Winter (November 1 to March 31) 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: €10 (April-October), €5 (November-March)

Why Visit: Cape Sounion offers one of the most spectacular sunset views in Greece, framed by the ancient Temple of Poseidon.

Insider Tip: Combine your visit with a stop at one of the nearby beaches for a refreshing swim before watching the sunset. The small tavernas in the area are great for a post-sunset dinner with a view.

Take a Day Trip to Ancient Delphi

Ancient ruins of Delphi with stunning mountain landscape in the background, showcasing the historic Oracle site
The journey to Delphi was well worth it. Standing where the ancient Oracle once prophesied felt truly mystical.

While not in Athens itself, the ancient site of Delphi is well worth a day trip. Considered by the ancient Greeks to be the center of the world, Delphi was home to the famous Oracle, whose prophecies influenced major decisions throughout the ancient world.

As you climb the Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo, you'll pass by the treasuries of various ancient city-states, each competing to leave the most impressive offering. The stadium at the top of the site, where the Pythian Games were held, offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Don't miss the Delphi Archaeological Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts found at the site, including the famous Charioteer of Delphi.

Key Information:

  • Location: Delphi 330 54, Greece (about 2.5 hours drive from Athens)
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Winter (November 1 to March 31) 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: €12 (April-October), €6 (November-March)

Why Visit: Delphi offers a glimpse into the spiritual heart of ancient Greece, set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty.

Insider Tip: If you're not comfortable driving in Greece, many tour companies offer day trips to Delphi from Athens. Booking a guided tour can enhance your understanding of the site's historical significance.

Discover Athens' Street Art Scene

Person admiring a large, colorful street art mural on a building in Athens, highlighting the city's vibrant contemporary art scene
Athens' street art scene is incredible. This massive mural stopped me in my tracks - the city is like an open-air gallery!

Athens has emerged as one of Europe's street art capitals, with colorful murals and thought-provoking graffiti adorning walls throughout the city. A street art tour is a great way to discover this vibrant aspect of Athens' contemporary culture.

Neighborhoods like Psyrri, Metaxourgeio, and Exarchia are particularly rich in street art. You'll see works ranging from small, witty stencils to massive, building-high murals. Many pieces comment on social and political issues, offering insight into the concerns of modern Greeks. Even if you're not usually an art enthusiast, the creativity and skill on display are sure to impress.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various neighborhoods in Athens
  • Hours: Tours typically last 3 hours and are available most days
  • Price: Around €45 per person for a guided tour

Why Visit: Athens' street art scene offers a window into the city's contemporary culture and social issues, showcased through impressive and thought-provoking artworks.

Insider Tip: If you prefer to explore on your own, pick up a street art map from a local bookstore or tourist information center. Remember to look up – some of the best pieces are above eye level!

Enjoy a Performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Illuminated Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens at night with a performance on stage, showcasing the ancient theater's modern use
Watching a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus was surreal. Imagine - this theater has been hosting performances for almost 2000 years!

For a truly magical evening, attend a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This ancient theater, built in 161 AD and restored in the 1950s, hosts concerts and performances during the Athens Festival each summer. Nestled into the southern slope of the Acropolis, it offers a uniquely atmospheric setting for enjoying music, theater, or dance.

As you take your seat on the stone steps, you'll be following in the footsteps of ancient Athenians who gathered here for performances nearly two millennia ago. The acoustics are surprisingly good for an open-air theater, and the backdrop of the illuminated Acropolis adds an extra layer of drama to any performance. Whether you're watching a Greek tragedy, an orchestral concert, or a modern dance piece, the experience of seeing it in this historic venue is unforgettable.

Key Information:

  • Location: Dionysiou Areopagitou, Athens 105 55
  • Hours: Performances typically start at 9:00 PM during the Athens Festival (June-September)
  • Admission: Varies by performance, typically €10-€100

Why Visit: The Odeon of Herodes Atticus offers a unique opportunity to enjoy world-class performances in a stunning ancient setting.

Insider Tip: Bring a cushion or rent one at the theater – the stone seats can get uncomfortable during longer performances. Also, dress in layers as it can get cool in the evening, even in summer.

Ride the Historic Athens Metro

Modern Athens metro station with displays of ancient artifacts, blending contemporary infrastructure with historical preservation
Only in Athens would you find ancient artifacts casually displayed in the metro! It's like a museum and public transport in one.

Athens' metro system is more than just a means of transportation – it's a journey through the city's history. Many stations double as museums, displaying artifacts uncovered during the metro's construction. The Syntagma station, in particular, features an impressive archaeological exhibit showcasing the layers of the city's history.

Take a ride on the green line, the city's oldest, which connects Piraeus to Kifissia. As you travel, you'll pass through some of Athens' most historic neighborhoods. Don't miss the beautifully restored Thissio station, which offers great views of the Acropolis as you exit. Even if you're not going anywhere in particular, a metro ride can be a fascinating way to explore the city and its history.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various stations throughout Athens
  • Hours: Generally 5:30 AM - 12:30 AM, with extended hours on weekends
  • Fare: €1.40 for a 90-minute ticket, €4.50 for a 24-hour ticket

Why Visit: Athens' metro offers an unexpected glimpse into the city's history, with many stations featuring archaeological exhibits.

Insider Tip: Purchase a multi-day tourist ticket if you plan to use the metro frequently. It's cost-effective and allows unlimited travel on all public transport in Athens.

Experience the Athens Classic Marathon

Runners in the Athens Classic Marathon passing the historic Panathenaic Stadium, showcasing the iconic sporting event
Cheering on the marathon runners at the Panathenaic Stadium was electrifying. This race follows the original 2500-year-old route!

If you're lucky enough to be in Athens in November, don't miss the Athens Classic Marathon. This annual event follows the original 26.2-mile route that the messenger Pheidippides ran in 490 BC to announce the Athenian victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.

Even if you're not running, being a spectator is an exhilarating experience. The streets come alive with cheering crowds as runners from all over the world make their way from the town of Marathon to the finish line at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The atmosphere in the city on marathon day is electric, with a palpable sense of history and human achievement in the air.

Key Information:

  • Location: From Marathon to Athens (finish at Panathenaic Stadium)
  • Date: Usually the second Sunday in November
  • Participation: Registration required for runners, free to watch

Why Visit: The Athens Classic Marathon offers a unique blend of athletic challenge and historical significance in the birthplace of the marathon.

Insider Tip: If you want to run, register well in advance as spots fill up quickly. As a spectator, find a spot near the finish line at the Panathenaic Stadium for the most exciting atmosphere.

Structuring Your Athens Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Now that we've explored the best things to do in Athens, let's put it all together into a week-long itinerary. This plan balances ancient wonders with modern delights, giving you a comprehensive taste of all that Athens has to offer. Remember, this is just a suggestion – feel free to adjust based on your interests and energy levels!

Days 1-2: Ancient Athens

Start your Athens adventure by diving into its ancient history.

  • Begin early at the Acropolis, beating the crowds and the heat. Spend the morning exploring this iconic site and its surroundings.
  • After lunch in Plaka, visit the Acropolis Museum to deepen your understanding of what you've just seen.
  • On day two, explore the Ancient Agora in the morning, followed by the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
  • End your day with a sunset viewed from Mount Lycabettus.

Food Tip: Try a traditional Greek taverna in Plaka for dinner. Ouzeri Lesvos is a local favorite.

Days 3-4: Cultural Immersion

Delve deeper into Greek culture, both ancient and modern.

  • Start day three at the National Archaeological Museum, allowing plenty of time to explore its vast collections.
  • In the afternoon, take a stroll through the National Garden.
  • Begin day four at the Benaki Museum for a journey through Greek culture.
  • Spend the afternoon exploring the charming Anafiotika neighborhood.
  • End the day with a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus if it's festival season.

Food Tip: For a modern take on Greek cuisine, try dinner at Funky Gourmet, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant.

Day 5: Urban Exploration

Get to know modern Athens and its vibrant street culture.

  • Start your day early at the Central Market, experiencing the bustle of local life.
  • Take a street art tour in neighborhoods like Psyrri and Metaxourgeio.
  • Spend the afternoon shopping and people-watching in Monastiraki, staying for the sunset views of the Acropolis from A for Athens rooftop bar.
  • Enjoy the nightlife in Psyrri, perhaps catching some live music.

Food Tip: For dinner, try modern Greek meze at Ama Lachei in Exarchia.

Day 6: Athenian Riviera

Take a break from the city and enjoy Athens' beautiful coastline.

  • Start with a morning swim at Vouliagmeni Lake.
  • Spend the afternoon at one of the organized beaches along the Athenian Riviera.
  • End your day watching the sunset at Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.

Food Tip: Have a seafood dinner at one of the tavernas in the small port of Mikrolimano in Piraeus.

Day 7: Day Trip or Relaxation

Option 1: Day Trip to Delphi

  • Take a day trip to Delphi, exploring this important ancient site and its museum.

Option 2: Relaxation and Last-Minute Explorations

  • Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the morning.
  • Spend the afternoon revisiting favorite spots or doing some last-minute shopping.
  • End your trip with a farewell dinner at a rooftop restaurant with views of the Acropolis.

Food Tip: For your last dinner, try the rooftop restaurant at the Grande Bretagne hotel for stunning Acropolis views.

Remember, Athens is a city that rewards exploration. While this itinerary hits many of the highlights, don't be afraid to wander down that interesting side street or pop into that quirky-looking café. Some of the best experiences in Athens are the ones you stumble upon by chance. Kalí diamoní! (Have a good stay!)

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:11 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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