This is a list of 40 best things to do in Athens, as you asked for it. Many come to Athens Greece because it is a popular destination but usually they stay in Athens for -maybe- 2 to 3 nights before hoping to an Aegean or Ionian Island.
But is Athens only for a couple of days 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 40 best things to do, whereas each can offer 40 more! We mean pretty complete and fulfilling experiences! Athens 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.
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 40 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.
Hiking & Trekking
Mountains of Parnitha and Imittos are in no more than 1 hour distance from the very center of Athens. 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.
Windsurfing in & around Athens
Either inside Athens (towards 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 and move outside Athens (no more than 1.30-2 hours) you get even more options, in areas like Xylokastro, Chalkida and more.
Stand Up Paddling
As above you will find perfect conditions and installations at the beaches of Athens coast (known as Athens Riviera), so to rent your equipment and enjoy seeing Athens from 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 Athens. 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, leaving from Athens 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 Athens. These guys here do a pretty good job.
City running? Many races are organized inside Athens, outside Athens, in villages close and far from Athens, in villages that belong to Attica region (like Athens does). Are you a trail runner? Then the mountains around Athens (Parnitha, 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 and he is based in Athens. Even if he is not in Athens 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. One of the well known yoga trainers in Athens is Aris Kapetanakis at Ashtanga Yoga Athens Shala in the center of Athens. That is where we go when we are in Athens. It is conveniently situated 5 minutes from Monastiraki Metro station, so it is approachable from all over Athens.
Athens-Piraeus One Day Cruises
Don’t just use Athens for a 2 day stopover. You can stay in Athens or Piraeus and explore a big variety of islands in just 1 day. There are many 1 or 2 day cruises leaving from Piraeus port or from ports close to Athens. You can rent a car or a bike or a hog bike and explore these small islands without necessarily having to move out from Athens.
Cycling in & around Athens
There is a good variety of locations for mountain bike. Athens 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 tours inside Athens, to satisfy any possible variety. For example there are tours related to historical monuments & sightseeing, food, fashion, shopping, drinking, and many more.
Best things to do in Athens: History & Culture
Possibly one of the top reasons Athens Greece is known for. You may not know that Athens has more than 100 ancient sites!!!
If you don’t visit Acropolis hill is like never being to Athens. 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 Athens. Walk through these pathways and you will think you are in Cyclades. Extra Bonus: Amazing Graffiti!
Temple of Zeus
In 5 minutes walking distance from the metro station of Acropolis, is one over popular landmark of Athens. This is the temple of Zeus (mostly known as Columns of the Olympian Zeus). The remaining part is part of a colossal temple situated right 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 to Athens 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 Athens. Most of them are located in the center of Athens, but 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.
A quite big variety of museums are spread all over Athens. Many are around the center of Athens, and a good number resides at the northern suburbs. 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).
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. Metro station is “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 hill of Lycabettus was created from a rock goddess Athena dropped there. The top of the 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 of Athens (Kolonaki).
Syntagma Square and surrounding area
This area is considered by many a central meeting point or the center of Athens, 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 distance 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 Athens 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 the center of Athens. 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 of Athens. 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”. For example in 2017 there are many non Greek ones. Check the schedule here.
Food, Wine, Nightlife in Athens, Greece
Do read this post here about 25 Delicious Dishes of Traditional Greek Food .
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 variety 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, also in the center of Athens. 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 distance 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. For example these people here. These ones form here can also arrange for a multi-cultural and multi-theme experience.
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 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.
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 Greek islands!
P.S. If you want more inside info, or want to suggest more tips drop a comment below. Share this with your friends!