Zeus and Athena, Socrates and Plato – some of the well-known philosophers and adored Greek Gods from our history classes. All came from one of the oldest cities in the world – Athens. More than just a relic of its glorious past, today the city is bustling with curious tourists every year. From ancient ruins and world-class museums to charming neighborhoods, exceptional food and lively people, Athens has a lot to offer that made our visit alive and never boring.
We started our Greece trip with a hectic schedule of visiting Athens amazing cultural attractions. It was a completely different vacation experience from the idyllic Greek islands, crowded at times but compensates with plenty of discoveries. Here are the things we recommend you to visit and do while exploring the city.
1. Climb the Acropolis and See the Parthenon
Our first on the list was a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most recognized sights in Athens – the Parthenon, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena. According to tour pretty guide Martina, it is considered to be the most important remaining building of classical Greece and a symbol of western civilization. It’s impressive and upon seeing it, I felt like I’m in the setting of the movie “Hercules”. However, at the time of our visit, there was a lot of restoration work being done. In the Acropolis, you can see the Parthenon, the old temple of Athena, the Erechtheon, the Nike temple.
- Tickets are available for purchase at the site but expect a long queue. Fee is 30 Euros.
- Plan to visit in early morning, before the crowd and the heat, depending on the time of year become unbearable. Or go in the early evening, before the sunset. We went in the 1st week of May and the weather was 11 – 14 degrees.
- Wear non slippery shoes/sandals as you need to trek a bit and marbles are scattered in the area
2. Check out the Artifacts at Acropolis Museum
Visit the New Acropolis Museum below the Acropolis hilltop. This museum contains valuable collections of ancient Greek art. The area follows a chronological order and they are divided into 4 levels. While we can take photos for some, special artifacts are prohibited but the husband captured one! I know, he’s a crazy guy!haha Surprisingly, we didn’t fell asleep while our guide explaining all those histories! I must say that Greek mythology is very interesting.
- General admission fee: 5 Euros
- Open everyday but with different closing time, check here for exact timings.
- The area is quite expensive for dining. I would recommend eating somewhere else if you are on a budget. Eating under the Acropolis means that you can afford the extra euros.
3. Explore Old Athens in Plaka Neighborhood
The charming neighborhood of Plaka is the most picturesque and traditional part of Athens. It’s my favorite part of the city and I can return to Athens for this sole reason. Many taverns, old houses with beautiful balconies, and narrow streets that is full of restaurant tables. Here, time wasn’t important as people enjoy chatting while listening to good music, drinking beer and eating delicious food. Some are dancing and they’re really having fun! We just love the vibe of this place!
- Take the Monastiraki metro stop to go here.
- You can buy your souvenirs in this area but the Flea Market offers cheaper options.
- There are good leather shops here selling handbags and shoes.
- Make sure to have a street map, as the neighborhood can be a bit of a maze.
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4. Take a Photo in Panathenaic Stadium
Since this stadium was the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896, I guess a photo in the area is a must. Though you can’t enter the stadium except during events, one side is enclosed only by a fence for easy viewing. Even if you don’t care at all for sports like me, it doesn’t fail to draw you in visually. It’s an amazing experience to imagine the history of this place.
5. Explore the Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square is the center of Athens where you can take different routes from. Pretty much everything are walking distance from here, including Plaka, Acropolis, National Garden, Temple of Zeus, Academy of Athens and the Parliament building. Aside from that, you can just sit down in a café here sipping a cup of your Greek coffee while watching the world go by. If you care for a photo op, there’s a beautiful fountain just opposite of the Parliament.
Read More: Where we stayed in Athens?
6. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum ranks among the best museums in the world according to their official site. While it is closed during our visit, a lot of travelers suggested visiting the museum. Still gorgeous even on the outside! The beautiful neoclassic building is situated in Exarhia neighborhood of downtown Athens, just a short walk from the Viktoria metro station.
- Admission fee is 10 euros
- Open from Tuesdays to Sundays, and Mondays has reduced hours. See this link for full timing details.
7. Watch the Changing of Guards at the Parliament building
It’s cool to watch the changing of guards in front of the Parliament building so I’m including it in this list. The guys are huge and the clothes they’re wearing are traditional Greek clothing so better not to make fun of them. It happens every hour only, so there is a good chance to catch that when you’re in Syntagma Square.
8. Pass by at Hadrian’s Arch
The Hadrian’s Arch is just a few steps away from the Temple of Zeus. It is believed that this monumental gateway was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the city. From one side, this was written on the arch “This is Athens, the former city of Theseus”. And at the other side of the gate this was written “This is Hadrian´s city and not Theseus”. Viewing of the arch is free as it sits in plain view at the roadside.
9. Visit the Temple of Zeus
The largest temple of the ancient ruins in Athens and conveniently located in a central location. It won’t take long to visit the site but it’s still impressive. Entrance fee is 2 euros but if you have visited the Acropolis and this temple within 2 days, it’s for free. Open Tuesdays until Sundays but closes earlier during winter at around 5 pm.
10. Chill at the National Garden of Athens
The National Gardens of Athens is the best place to escape the city and enjoy some shade and greenery between the monuments. I advise you to bring your honey here at daytime just like what I did 🙂 so you can enjoy some quiet time, a break from exploring the city and taking tons of photos! With all those tall beautiful trees, sound of birds, less crowd and chill weather – this made it on my favorite spot in Athens. It is open daily, and the entrance is free.
11. Pass by the Zappeion Conference Hall
A short walk from the National Gardens of Athens, you can see the Zappeion building. It is generally used for meetings and ceremonies, both official and private. While we can’t enter the main conference hall, we just took photos and enjoy some downtime walking to its beautiful garden in the front.
12. Discover Omonia & Monastiraki Square
Two popular neighbourhood of the city are Omonia and Monastiraki Square. Omonia has some of the oldest buildings in Athens. You’ll find here the Central Market, some great cafes and shops. Avoid going at night as the area is said to attract prostitutes and unpleasant characters. On the other hand, Monastiraki has its own vibe of youthful energy as at night, musicians come to play. Check out the area, explore striking street art and get lost!
13. Be Artsy and See the Athenian Street/Graffiti Art
Graffiti art is almost everywhere in Athens. At first, it looks creepy to see those “vandalism” but if you’re artsy, you’ll realize that there’s actually an art in most of it! Much of it feels like political protest but some are transformed into street arts and artistic expression. Best areas to see it are in Monastiraki and Plaka area.
14. Keep it Local with Traditional Greek Food
Our favorite past time in Athens was eating! haha I guess most of you will agree with us if we say that Greek food is everyones favorite? Pounds piled up after this vacation as we ate gyros and souvlaki everyday while in Greece! The authentic Greek salad and yoghurt here are also superb! Be sure not to miss it! I’m using a lot of exclamation point here to show you that I’m a real fan of Greek food! haha
15. Shop at Flea Markets
One of the best places to buy just about anything is the Flea Market at Plaka or Monastiraki. It’s like of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul though not so grand where most of the shops sell the same stuff you find in the tourist shops on the islands. Beware of pickpockets as the area was expected to be visited by a lot of tourist that made it crowded. You can find really cheap souvenir items here, bags, clothes, shoes and more. Its a few steps away from Monastiraki subway station.
So there you go, the 15 things we suggest you to visit and do in this fascinating city. Did we miss something? We would love to hear your suggestions so our readers can include it in their list. Sharing is caring 🙂