This is a list of 47 best things to do in Athens, Greece as you asked for it. Many come to Athens because it is a popular destination but usually they stay in for -maybe- 2 to 3 nights before hoping to an Aegean or Ionian Island.
But is Athens only for a couple of dvays or merely a weekend? The truth is it is way far from that. The reason? Athens covers a huge range of preferences. From ancient history, to soft outdoors, to culinary, even to hardcore outdoor activities.
Perhaps that is the reason why so many ask us for advisory on what are the best things to do in Athens, and so on, and yes, we are not just talking about Acropolis and the Acropolis museum. That is just one.
Having Athens as a base you can experience at least 47 best things to do, whereas each can offer 47 more! We mean pretty complete and fulfilling experiences! This city is our base so we know lots about this city. Here is our list of those things that will cover a huge variety of tastes, of all ages and peculiarities.
Many of them can be done through Guided Tours, so always check for a Special Pass as it can be a really good deal.
Either you are a tourist, a traveler (there is a difference), a business person, a family or all these together, you will be able to assemble many things that will cover more than 5 days (at least). These 47 best things to do in Athens are language independent. This means you don’t need to know Greek to experience them.
Sounds interesting, right? Let it roll!
The Active Part of Best Things to Do in Athens
Around the city, to all directions, a big variety of hiking, adventure & extreme sports locations exist. Let’s explore what to do in Athens in the active part.
Hiking & Trekking
Mountains of Parnitha and Imittos are in no more than 1 hour distance from the city centre. They are approachable with public transportation. Especially in Parnitha there are tons of routes, ending to organized shelters with food, sweets and wine. Read about some of them here, here, and here.
Either inside the city (towards the east side of Athens like Saronida, Kavouri, Sounio, or at 45 minutes driving (approx 1.15 with public transportation). At Artemida village you will find great beaches, surf and kitesurf bars and all the facilities to rent equipment or get taught by professional windsurfers. If you want to rent a car you get even more options, in areas like Xylokastro, Chalkida and more. Try something different when you wonder what to do.
Stand Up Paddling
As above you will find perfect conditions and installations at the beaches (known as Athens Riviera), so to rent your equipment and enjoy seeing the sea.
There are options to go for scuba diving near the area of Sounio, close to the temple of Poseidon. Many scuba diving schools organize such trips there. That is if you don’t want to move outside the city. If the latter is the case, even in 1-1.5 hours driving distance, you can have a variety of scuba locations (i.e. near Loutraki or Corinth).
You can rent a small or big yacht, sailing to any Aegean destination. You can do that for a small amount of days too, since many small islands with remote beaches are very close to the city. These guys here do a pretty good job.
City running? Many races are organized in and out of the city, in villages close and far, that belong to Attica region. Are you a trail runner? Then the mountains of Parnitha and Imittos will provide you with a good range of levels of difficulty to test your limits. Just bring your shoes or buy a pair while you are here.
Parnitha mountain has a variety of different routes with a variety of levels of difficulty and they are well marked and maintained. There are many Climbing Associations that are based in Athens, so it is easy to find where to go. This guy can be really helpful if you are seeking such. We climbed with him at the island of Lesvos. Even if he is not in the city during your visit, he will make sure to point you to the right direction.
Yoga & Meditation
Yoga, meditation and wellness is a must these days. Either combined with hiking, trekking or… just yoga you can attend a class as a drop-in and enjoy the benefits. Check this website where you can find out a certified yoga trainer, a retreat or/and yoga school.
Don’t just use Athens for a 2 day stopover. There more things when you wonder what to do. You can stay in Piraeus and explore a nice range of islands in just 1 day. Read this post for day trips. There are many 1 or 2 day cruises leaving from Piraeus port. You can rent a car or a bike or a hog bike and explore these small islands without necessarily having to move out from the city.
There is a good variety of locations for mountain bike. The city is relatively friendly for cycling around. There are some cycling routes that start from Piraeus Peace and Friendship Stadium with cycling by the sea, going through a variety of locations up near to Glyfada area. After that things become a bit difficult due to the lack of cycling dedicated pathways. There are some organizers (like this one) that put together cycling trips that start near Glyfada area and go up to the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio.
There are guides and small groups who organize walking food tours, to satisfy any possible variety. For example there is a walking tour related to historical monuments & sightseeing, another walking tour related to food, fashion, shopping, drinking, and many more.
History & Culture
Possibly one of the top reasons Athens is known for. There are more than 100 ancient sites!!!
Acropolis of Athens
If you don’t visit Acropolis hill is like never being in the city.
The ancient Greek ruins of Acropolis are an attraction that is known all over the globe.
All your friends will ask you if you did that. Apart from the great view, you will find this well preserved monument to be more than just ancient stones. Do a little homework and you will find out how its architecture and real meaning affected many civilizations.
New Acropolis Museum
Getting down from Acropolis Hill, you will have to pay a (long) visit to the modern Acropolis museum. This is a building that hosts spectacular treasures and artifacts under modern architecture. You will spend hours in there. Allocate time to have lunch or dinner at the rooftop restaurant. The view is great.
Area of Plaka
Old Athens is found here. Today it is a combination of old architecture and boutique bars and restaurants. Some of the greatest tastes in any kind of food are in and around this area. It attracts a huge amount of young people from all over the world. Perfect area for day or night.
Anafiotika is an area inside Plaka where houses are build in an island style. Specifically it is the architecture of the cycladic island of Anafi. It is like a hidden village under the north side of Acropolis, with small pathways. This village was build from citizens of Anafi, when they were invited from king Otto to come and help in the restructuring/rebuilding of the city. Walk through these pathways and you will think you are in Cyclades. Extra Bonus: Amazing Graffiti!
Temple of Zeus
In 5 minutes walking from the metro station of Acropolis, is one over popular landmark. This temple (mostly known as the Columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus). The remaining part of the Temple of Olympian Zeus is part of a colossal temple that used to be there.
Temple of Poseidon
This is located at Cape Sounio area. You can drive there or take public transportation. The exact area of Sounio has a small number of beaches, but there are more in the intermediate part (like Mavro Lithari, Anavissos, and more). The temple of Poseidon is connected to the history of Theseus and the “black sail”. Aegeas killed himself there as he thought Theseus was killed by Minotaur. The ship carrying Theseus back would have to have black sails if Theseus was killed by Minotaur. Theseus was not killed but due to celebrations, sailors forgot to change the sails, so Aegeus thought the opposite. The Aegean sea is named as such after him. The sunset from the temple is spectacular and there is a small coffee shop on the spot to relax and enjoy the view.
There are such all over the city. Some are situated near the mountains of Imittos and Parnitha. Such churches are: Agios Eleftherios Church, Church of the Holy Apostles, Daphni Monastery, Kaisariani Monastery,
Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, Church of the Pantanassa, Petraki Monastery.
Plenty of museums are spread all over Athens. You must visit the: National Archaeological museum, War museum, Floating Naval museum, Museum of Cycladic Art, Benaki museum, Jewish museum, Greek Folk Art museum, Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments, Spathario Museum of Shadow Theatre, Emotions Museum of Childhood, Museum of the Ancient Agora, Numismatic Museum, National History Museum (Old Parliament).
Benaki Museum is housed in one of the most beautiful neoclassical-style buildings in Athens.
National Archaeological Museum is a must if you want to experience the past (and Greece). National Archaeological museum is situated at 44, 28th of October (Patission) str.
Art Collections & Galleries
When it comes to contemporary art you need to visit Taf The Art Foundation, Deste Foundation Centre For Contemporary Art, Frissiras Museum and many more where private collections are exhibited.
The area is known like that due to the old gas factory at the area. Take the Metro to “Kerameikos”. Here you will find another variety of restaurants, bars and events. Inside the restored Gkazi (gas) factory a very good number of events and exhibitions take place all year long.
Lycabettus (via Funicular)
Mythology claims that The Lycabettus hill was created from a rock goddess Athena dropped there. The top of the Lycabettus hill hosts a church and a nice restaurant. At the hill base exists a big area where many concerts take place during spring and summer time. The surrounding area is one of the expensive ones (Kolonaki).
Syntagma Square and surrounding area
This area is considered by many a central meeting point, yet it is not. The things to see here is the Parliament, the small coffee houses around the lower square (yet a bit pricey), and you can access the National Gardens for a nice walk. When in front of the Parliament arrange to do 2 things: To feed the pigeons and to watch the Guard change in front of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. If you plan to do some high price shopping then Kolonaki area is at 5 minutes walking from there.
The first time you see to this square is a “gathering of all nations”. Many (really many) people meet here and then move to Psiri, Plaka, Thissio that are close. A good number of roof top bars exist here, with a spectacular view to Acropolis. Monastiraki square is surrounded by many ancient monuments and a number of buildings having their origin into the Ottoman period. The well known Flea Market is also located here. It is a road with many shops that ends to Thissio area.
Athenian Street Art
While you walk inside Athens you will see a good number of graffiti art. We refer to art as these works are characterized by impressive visual elements and imposing meanings. You can find such in Anafiotika area (as you leave that “village” inside Athens), but also in the areas around Athens centre. Such contemporary graffiti represent the feelings of the city. If you visit the yoga place mentioned above you will even see a huge Hanuman at the building entrance.
If you plan to visit this mountain -and a suburb- of Athens then do arrange to go to Penteli Observsatory, which is the National Observatory. Here is the schedule.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)
A brand new multi facility to spend lots of time during day and night. It is a cultural center and you will find many things to do here. If you like city running many teams meet here and run. In SNFCC you will also find bikes to rent for short or long rides, having SNFCC as a base.
A must visit just for the pleasure of seeing it. This is a stadium mostly used for ceremonies. Great for pictures and to know the story behind it. It’s history is related to modern Olympic Games.
Herod Atticus Odeon
This is a place to visit and feel the ancient spirit of Greece. Many events, concerts and theatrical performances take place. Many are in Greek but (depending on the summer period) there is a variety that is “language-independent”.
Fun Things to Do with Kids
Visit the National Gardens (next to Syntagma square) and feed the ducks or chase the pigeons. Enjoy the luscious green of this city oasis.
Volunteer and save the sea turtles. Every weekend at the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Glyfada (Athens Riviera).
Get creative at the Hellenic Children’s Museum and play Greek games, with Greek kids.
Play & learn at the Stavros Niarchos’ Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Faliro. That is an all seasons complex devoted to culture.
Ride the “Athens Happy Train“. A toy-like street hop-on train. Tour starts from Syntagma Square & Monastiraki Square, going through the historical center of the city, the old neighborhoods and the hill of Acropolis.
Visit the Goulandris Natural History Museum at Kifisia, Athens. There are departments of botanology, entomology, marine biology, minerals and paleontology. It is one of the most visited museum from schools.
Definitely visit the Attica Zoo Park. It is huge with lots of animals and things to do and learn. The zoo occupies 20-hectares and is located in the Athens suburb of Spata, Greece and is open 365 days per year. It is home to around 2000 animals representing 400 species.
Athens Food, Wine & Nightlife
Do read this post here about 25 Delicious Dishes of Traditional Greek Food . Do you like local food and fine dining? Then this post with the top 100 restaurants in Athens and all over Greece, marked per location/city, will become hand.
Is it Greek, is it Turkish? Who really knows. Many claim the origin of this coffee but you have to taste it. Leave aside espresso or cappuccino and instead drink this one. Find places where they actually slowly boil it inside warm ash/cinder and avoid the “instant” version. This means, avoid “large chain” coffee houses. Seek for traditional ones. They are named “kafeneia” or contemporary ones that make coffee like that. When prepared properly it is a completely different experience when it comes to taste and aroma. Accompany it with a glass of cold water and maybe some sweet delight or some “koulouraki”. It is the kind of coffee that you have to stop and take a break to enjoy it.
You may hear about street food and come to worry. In Athens this is not the case. If you have dirty kiosks or smelly canteens in mind, then you are lucky as these are rarely met in Athens. Street food inside the city means small food shops who make “Souvlaki” and other non-Greek ethnic delicacies (like Fallafel) to take away or eat on the spot. They are really tasty.
Vegan, Vegetarian, Hallal Food cuisine
For those who avoid any kind of meat, or pork only, the variety is huge. There are hallal specific restaurants (for Muslims, Jews). A big range of snack shops or restaurants serve snacks and meals suitable for vegans/vegetarians.
Better not to expand to this one as the general rule for Athens is “everything goes” for every taste, age, preference or orientation. Crisis has affected nightlife too but depending on the day of week people will meet for coffee or a drink, while things will get bit wilder in Friday and Saturday mostly.
Every different suburb of Athens has a different range of days where people get out, and different options to have fun. This is also affected by season.
A progressive area where you can mostly find small bars and small restaurants. During day time the area has crowds and lots of traffic due to many flea market style shops. During night time it is transformed to a all-Athens-stage. You access it from Monastiraki Station and you walk in it. Don’t try to fit a car in those narrow roads.
A great area at walking from Acropolis, with many coffee houses and bars, plus a few good restaurants with great view to Acropolis. A stone paved road starts from Thissio, ending to Temple of Zeus. In the intermediate you have additional options for different stops and explorations, while watching Acropolis all the time.
Food & Wine Tours
A small but clever amount of services provided by locals exist to help you taste the city (literally). There are food and wine tours, even cook-with-a-local tours.
Cine Paris in Athens
This cinema was built in the early “20”s. In fact it was the first built the first out-door cinema. It was constructed by a Greek hairdresser, who used to live in Paris, so he named it Ciné Paris!
A good number of SPA’s exist mostly inside hotels. As mentioned, there are hammam’s for those you seek a different type of relaxation. Do seek for Hammam houses for a different kind of experience and relaxation.
Agora – Athens Central Market & Varvakeios
If you stay in an apartment and want to cook, then do go there to shop fresh materials of everything. Outside these you will find many shops who also sell fresh herbs, nuts and any kind of spice.
You will find a huge variety of such near Monastiraki and inside the Monastiraki Flea Market.
Fashion & Shopping
Well there are shops for any taste anywhere, if this is what you like to shop like in any other city.
Hop on-Hop off Bus
Athens Weather & Temperature
If you plan to travel to Athens then better do that between March and May & from September to November. Spring and fall weather in Athens is fantastic. There are less crowds & airplane tickets are cheaper compared to summer. Check this post for the weather in Greece, in general.
In winter months (December to February) Athens is a bit chilly but far from freezing cold. Weather is mild and sightseeing can be really comfortable.
March-May: Walking around Athens, exploring Acropolis and Ancient Agora area will be far comfortable. Less tourists and mild weather. The coast from Athens center is less than 15km away.
June-August: Hot season in all ways. Large amounts of inbound tourism. Tourists usually stay in Athens for a day or two, and then head to the islands. Athens if far more than that of course. In mid-August some business in Athens close for vacations, so plan ahead. Temperatures hit high scores (about 40-43 Celsius). If you are on for culture then a range of festivals happen during that time. These are: Athens & Epidaurus Festival, International Jazz & Blues Festival, Rockwave Festival, Athens International Dancing Festival, August Moon Festival
September-November: Weather is still warm but not boiling hot. Hotel and related prices drop a bit. Things are happening in the city, among which the Athens International Film Festival.
December-February: There will be rains but not that often as Athens doesn’t have a tropical climate. Most rains will happen on December and June. At the end of January you may encounter 10-15 days where temperatures and close to spring (Alkyon Days). Room prices are far better. In February and first days of March the Athens Carnival takes place.
Athens Tours With Guides
In the last 5 years, a series of really well organized tours of Athens, or nearby locations, even day excursions has been seriously developed. There are tours related to culinary events, sports activities, cultural activities and many more.
There are wheelchair accessible tours, skip the line ones, private tours and more. In fact there are around 400 different styles of tours in Athens all the time. Since Athens is close to other landmarks and interesting locations you can choose a day trip tour. Click and read this post for ideas. We have been to all these places.
This one is a reliable tours and tickets provider that works with locals and we have tested them both in Greece and abroad.
Here are selected Athens tours and why to get these (an advice from locals).
- Acropolis Early Morning Guided Tour: It is better due to warm weather and you will get better pictures when sun hasn’t reached mid-day.
- The Greek Street Food Discovery in Athens: Having someone to take you from one popular local delicacy location to another inside Athens will save you lots of time and you will learn a lot about the history behind each food location and food ingredients.
- Delphi Day Trip from Athens: Better not drive up to Delphi. Apart from the cost, it will take you more than 4 hours driving time.
- Athens – Full Day Tour & Sailing to Agistri, Moni & Aegina: These islands are really close to Athens and really beautiful to visit while you are in the city.
- Cape Sounio – 5-Hour Sunset Tour: Skip the driving with this tour. It usually takes 2 hours back and forth from Athens to Sounio and vice versa. Sunset is indeed beautiful from the Cape and possibly that is the only place in Athens worth admiring that.
Where to stay in Athens?
Athens is a big city. Most of the things you want to see are in and around the downtown. The popular areas near the Athens centre are Plaka, Monastiraki, Syntagma, Koukaki, and Kolonaki.
With these you have access to Metro or you can even walk to most of the landmarks and things worth seeing.
- Best Luxury Hotel in Athens: By far it is Grande Bretagne, located on Syntagma Square 1 min walking distance from central Syntagma station
- Best Boutique Hotel in Athens: Electra Palace Hotel in the Plaka
- Best Cheap Hotels in Athens: Myrto Hotel (Plaka) – Phaedra Hotel (Plaka) – A for Athens (Monastiraki area) – Athens Center Square (Monastiraki area)
Visiting the islands? You need to be close to the port then these are suitable (in Monastiraki area): Adrian Hotel – A for Athens – Plaka Hotel – 360 Degrees Here is a list of suggestions per area close to Athens centre.
Hotels in Plaka
Hotels in Monastiraki
Hotels in the Koukaki
Hotels in Syntagma
Hotels in Kolonaki
Hotels in the port of Piraeus
Athens International Airport to Downtown Athens
After arriving to Athens International Airport, you do want to get in your hotel in Athens, right? Maybe you need to take the ferry from Piraeus directly after your flight?
Athens airport is around 30-45 minutes driving time from the Athens center, but there are many ways to get into the center and is not that expensive.
For all cases of buses and Metro you can buy your tickets at the airport, same as in all European cities.
Getting from the Airport to Athens center
There is a range of nice hotels near the airport but we assume you are not staying to one of those. If you don’t rent a car for your Athens itinerary but just need to get to your hotel or ferry, then you have 3 options:
- Grab a taxi
- Take the bus
- Ride the Athens Metro
Airport Taxi to city center
Cost is no more than 38 euro (airport to Athens center comes with that flat fee), which makes it cheap enough for 2 persons or more. These taxis are relatively spacious and comfortable. You will find plenty waiting right outside your arrival gates. No need to walk far. Taxis in Greece come with a yellow color. Taxi fares change when you either get it at the airport after midnight or arrive to your destination from the airport after midnight with the taxi. In that case the flat fee goes up around 30%.
- Day time tariff (05:00-24:00) from Athens Airport to Athens city: 38 €
- Night time tariff (24:00-05:00) from Airport to Athens city: 50 €
Athens Airport Metro to center
Clean Metro but not easy to get to it. Needs quite some walking. There are trolleys in the airport to get your luggage near the Metro entrance but you need to walk (around 10 minutes). Before entering the station there are ticket counters. Better get your ticket from there.
Finding the right platform is not that complex as for example in cities like London, Barcelona, Paris and such. There are few and specific ones so it is nearly impossible to make a mistake.
Metro is not available after 11.30 pm (runs between 6.30 and 23.30). Ticket cost is 10 euro p.p., but you can book a couples ticket for 18 euro, or even a triple one for 24 euro.
Taking the bus from Athens Airport to center
Bus comes at 6 euros p.p. Four different buses serve 4 different location in Athens.
- Bus X95 bus taking you from the airport to Syntagma square. From there you can take another line or taxi all directions in Athens
- The Bus (X96) to get to Piraeus port
- A different Bus (X93) for the Kifissos Avenue Rural Buses station
- Another Bus (X97) taking you to Elliniko area (East of Athens)
For many, Athens boundaries are not clear enough. Many travelers think that the broad historical center is… the city of Athens. However, Athens is another municipality in the broader Attica region and the largest one.
Locals, consider as Athens, many municipalities that extend to the North, East, West and South part of Athens historical center. When you search for accommodation don’t get confused if you see a location named as Kifissia, Athens or Glyfada, Athens. This is a different municipality inside Athens city, but to a different direction.
Athens is an extremely safe destination for tourists. Period. On top of that it is amazingly interesting and not just for a couple of days.
If you make a plan to experience these best things to do in Athens above, you realize that you need quite a few days even to have a quick walk-through. An extra set of articles for Athens can be seen here. As you understand there are tons of things to see in Athens and lots of ideas on what to do in Athens.
All kinds of cultural elements and activities blend in a very nice way in Athens. Best thing? When you want more you can take a boat and move to the amazing islands of Greece!
P.S. If you want more inside info, or want to suggest more tips drop a comment below. Share this with your friends!