Athens is the colourful capital of Greece, that offers things to do for all kinds of travellers and for every budget. I’ve put together a list of our favourite things to do in Athens, which includes archaeological sites, museums, beaches, shopping recommendations, unique tours, and what to see on day trips as well.
1. Climb up to the Acropolis
Ask anyone what to do in Greece, and they’ll tell you that a trip to Athens is not complete without climbing up on the hill to watch the beautiful sites of the Acropolis.
Some tips for visiting the Acropolis:
Get the combined ticket for visiting all the 7 archeological sites in Athens and skip the line. The Acropolis is also included in this ticket, but it’s better to buy it at another site (we bought ours at the Ancient Agora), and then you can just enter the Acropolis without having to queue at the ticket office. The combined ticket is valid for 5 days, so you don’t need to rush to visit all of the sites on one day.
There is a smaller entrance on the southeastern side of the Acropolis, try to enter there to avoid the crowds at the main entrance. Arrive early to avoid the big tours and the sun during the day. The best time to visit the Acropolis is before 10 AM and after 3 PM. Bring enough water and a pat to cover yourself from the sun, as there are no stores to inside to buy water.
From the entrance, it’s a steady uphill walk past the other sites (Theater of Dionysus and Odeon of Herodes Atticus), until you arrive at the top of the hill with the Parthenon and the Erechtheion.
2. Visit the less known archeological sites as well: Temple of Zeus, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library
After you have taken in the most popular sites in Athens, don’t forget that your combined ticket is also valid for visiting the other sites in Athens. One of the best things to do is just walk from one to another, as they are all very close, and you can also just take in the city view.
Ancient Agora was the center of the social, political, and commercial activity in Athens until the Roman Agora took the place of the ancient Greek one. Both are interesting to visit, however, the Ancient Agora is much bigger and full of ruins of ancient buildings. In the Ancient Agora, you can also find the Temple of Hephaestus, which is the most well-preserved temple in Greece.
Hadrian’s Library is right next to the Roman Agora. Unfortunately, this site is not very well preserved, as it was forgotten for nearly 1600 years. It was of course founded by Hadrian, and it was a huge library with lots of papyrus and 100, 8-meter tall Corinthian columns.
Kerameikos is the biggest and oldest cemetery in Athens, which is often left out from the itinerary of the visitors. It’s also included in the combined ticket, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Temple of Olympian Zeus is a huge temple -actually only its ruins. It took more than 700 years to finish this temple, but at the end of more than 100 columns, there are barely 15 still standing today.
Want to learn how to cook Greek cuisine? Or take some of the amazing tours of Athens!
Join a market tour or learn how to cook Greek food in Athens!
Join this Best of Athens City Tour with Ancient Agoras & Plaka Walk, and First Entry to the Acropolis
3. Take photos in the most charming areas: Anafiotika and Plaka
The most beautiful parts of the city and one of the best things to see are definitely the cute and charming streets under the Acropolis. In the eastern part of the Acropolis, you’ll find some of the most photogenic streets of Athens. Plaka is full of yellow-painted houses, and narrow streets with Greek restaurants and cafés.
Anafiotika is right next to Plaka, this area only consists of about 5-6 streets, and if you go up on the hill, you will find yourself closer to the Acropolis. The cute streets of Anafiotika are completely white, and also very narrow. The streets are full of cats, and this part is less known and less crowded than Plaka.
4. Visit the Athenian Riviera
While Athens is definitely more famous for its historical sites than for the beaches, you will be surprised that the closest beaches are only about 30 minutes far from the city center. You can easily hop on a tram or bus, and head to the beach area. There are lots of luxurious beaches with an entrance fee, but there are free beaches as well. One of the most famous classic luxury beach on the Athenian Riviera is the Astir beach, but we visited the free Glyfalda beach a bit further from the center, and it was beautiful as well.
5. Watch the sunset from Lycabettus Hill
Lycabettus Hill is the most beautiful spot to watch the sunset in Athens. On top of the hill, there is also a restaurant and a little church. That spot next to the church gets super crowded before sunset – definitely for a reason. If you want a great spot to watch the sunset, get there early because it is one of the top places to visit in Athens. You can also watch the sunset from the side of the hill, as you walk up, you will find lots of people standing on the stairs and all around the hill. The sky above Athens turns pink and the purple, and you’ll definitely enjoy the view from the top of the Lycabettus Hill.
If you prefer watching the sunset from a rooftop of a hotel, we can recommend you the Coco-Mat Athens BC sustainable hotel. We also wrote a review of this hotel on our blog, read it here!
6. Go shopping at the Monastiraki flea market and get some antiquities and Greek souvenirs
Don’t forget to shop for some Greek souvenirs! The Monastiraki square is also probably one of the best places to get traditional Greek food. One of the most fun things to do in Athens is just wandering around the streets and squares, checking out all the cute Greek taverns, cafeterias, restaurants. Monastiraki square is famous for its flea markets and antiquarian stores.
7. Visit a museum
If you like to immerse yourself in art, then you’ll for sure love to explore Greek art, history, and culture in the stunning museums of Athens. The top museums are definitely the Acropolis Museum and the National Archeological Museum because in these ones you can learn more about the history of the city and the most important archeological sites. However, in the Museum of Cycladic Art, you can learn about artistic techniques and customs of the Ancient Greeks in a fun way. In the Museum of Modern Arts, you can watch some of the coolest Greek contemporary art pieces. If you have some extra time in Athens, definitely include some of these museums in your itinerary.
8. Try the delicious Greek food and drinks
Do you fancy tzatziki sauce and Greek pita bread? In Athens, you can explore the traditional Greek cuisine, and it doesn’t even have to be expensive. You can find Greek taverns that fit every kind of budget. Even vegans and vegetarians can enjoy Greek cuisine, as lots of restaurants offer vegetables, like eggplants, and other fried veggies with delicious olive oil. Ouzo is considered as the national drink of the Greeks, and it’s a quite strong liquor that you have to taste at least once when you visit Athens.
9. Take and eco or wildlife tour
If you want to have a unique and untouristy experience, far from the crowds, then we recommend you to take an eco or wildlife tour with Natural Greece. Greece is less famous for its special wildlife and nature, which is a pity, as the Greek territory is home to lots of turtles, birds and bear species.
When we visited Athens, we took a half-day tour to the Archelon Turtle Rescue Center to visit the injured turtles that are being taken care of by volunteers of the rescue center. You can read about our experience here.
10. Take a day trip to Temple of Poseidon
Temple of Poseidon is in Sounion, on the Cape Sounion. It’s further from Athens, so you’ll need to take a tour or rent a car, to visit it. This temple is probably one of the most famous, well-preserved monuments of the Golden Age of Greece.
If you would like to plan a weekend trip to Athens, you can read our detailed itinerary on our blog as well.
About Zsuzsi and Dante of Deer Traveler
We’re Zsuzsi and Dante, a part-time traveler couple and the creators of the DeerTraveler. We write budget-friendly and sustainable travel guides for eco-conscious backpackers on our blog. You can follow our couple travel adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, and read our travel tips and guides at our blog.