Things To Do in Athens

One of the world’s oldest cities, continuously inhabited for at least 5,000 years, Athens is a favorite among history and archaeology buffs, home to ancient ruins, legendary monuments and renowned museums, but it offers a whole lot more than that. Alongside centuries-old attractions ae modern delights, including an outstanding food scene from mouthwatering street fare to fabulous fine dining.

While you’re here be sure to put at least some of these things to do on your must-experience list.

Acropolis, Athens
Acropolis Museum, Athens

Climb Acropolis Hill

One of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Acropolis Hill is a sight that seems almost surreal when viewing it up close for the first time. Few experiences can compare to gazing at the Parthenon perched atop it, looking over Athens as it has for more than 2,500 years. This was the ancient city’s heart and today it’s considered an enduring symbol of ancient Greece, Western civilization and Athenian democracy. To those who build it so many centuries ago, along with other monuments at the Acropolis, they were a celebration and thanks to the gods for the Hellenic victory over Persian invaders.

The Erechtheion and The Temple of Nike, are the two other temples of major importance erected during the classical period. Along with the Parthenon, they are all dedicated to various aspects of the Goddess Athena. Ideally, to get the most out of the experience, join a tour to gain insight from an expert guide.

Explore the Acropolis Museum

The impressive Acropolis Museum sits along the southern slopes of the Acropolis, showcasing countless finds that have been uncovered on the hill and beyond. You’ll discover all sorts of fascinating treasures that survive from the Archaic to the Roman periods, with a focus on the 5th century BC and the Acropolis. The institution reveals its multiple layers of history, including ancient ruins that can be seen through the glass floor beneath the building. The four-level museum features thousands of relics on display with millions more being preserved and cataloged, allowing visitors to get an especially in-depth look at the history and purpose of the Acropolis.

Enjoy a private tour of the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum on our 8-Day Private Tour of Greece.

Mingle with the Locals at Varvakeios Central Market

Discover authentic daily life in the city by visiting the Athens Central Market, in operation for more than a century as a popular hub for buying local vegetables and fruits, cured meats, fresh fish, spices and herbs, decadent desserts and much more.

Ancient Agora, Athens
Mount Lycabettus, Athens

Follow the Footsteps of Ancient Greats in Agora

Located in the shadow of the looming Acropolis, the ancient Agora offers the chance to walk in the footsteps of ancient Greeks like Socrates and Plato. An important trading and meeting place, it served as the central public square for ancient Greeks. Not just a marketplace but the seat of justice, government, industry and religious activity. One of the highlights is the 2nd-century BC Stoa of Attalos which was entirely reconstructed in the mid-20th century by archaeologists. On the ground floor is a museum with finds from 5,000 years of the city’s history, from a voting machine to pottery, sculptures and even a children’s potty seat.

It’s fun just to wander around, enjoying the views of the Acropolis, people watching, the aromatic herb garden and flowers, and some well-preserved temples.

 Take in the View from Mount Lycabettus

Taking in a fantastic view of the city from Mount Lycabettus from the top is really a must. While some of the more adventurous climb it by using ropes and helmets, visitors can also reach the summit by way of funicular train. Running up and down the mountain, passengers can take in interesting sights along the way before gazing out at the commanding vista from nearly 750 feet above the city all the way out to the endless expanse of the sparkling Aegean Sea. Near the viewing site is a tiny white chapel, Agios Georgios as well as a café and an amphitheater that hosts frequent live music.

Go Back in Time Through Ancient Drama

A great way to experience ancient Greek history, Fimonoi Theater is located in the heart of Athens at the Athinais Cultural Center. On the stage are contemporary performances of classic Greek tragedy and romance, an especially unique thing to do for culture buffs who love drama, the classics and theater.

Parliament in Syntagma Square, Athens
National Garden of Athens

Watch the Changing of the Guards and View the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Head to Parliament in Syntagma Square and you can watch the Changing of the Guards which takes place every hour around the clock. Members of this special unit known as Tsoliades have to go through rigorous training to learn to keep their minds and bodies still, with their faces completely motionless. They guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument sculpted in the 1930s that blends ancient architecture with French Empire design. On the steps and the wall flanking it, are inscriptions recording battles in the First and Second Balkan wars, the Greco-Turkish War, World War I and World War II. It sits in front of the Parliament Building where the guards stand perfectly still for an hour until changing positions in pairs, synchronizing their movements. On Sunday mornings at 11, the ceremony is a bit more elaborate and includes fancier dress.

Stroll Through the National Garden of Athens

Taking a stroll through the National Garden of Athens can be a wonderful way to enjoy tranquility away from the crowds. Located right behind the Parliament building, the Royal Palace once owned this picturesque park, but today the city owns it and offers it to the public to enjoy a tropical oasis in the heart of a concrete jungle. Wander around enjoying the songs of the nightingales, viewing all sorts of colorful flowers and trees along the meandering pathways. The garden also features several ancient ruins and a little zoo home to a lion, peacocks, wolves, monkeys, goats and a variety of birds.

Browse the Impressive Collections at the Cycladic Museum of Art and Benaki Museum

One of the best things to do during the hottest part of the day in the summer is to head inside to check out some incredible collections of Greek art. The Cycladic Museum of Art boasts the world’s largest collection of prehistoric art from the Cyclades Islands. It contains over 3,000 pieces of Cycladic, ancient Greek and Cypriot art that dates from 3000 BC to the 4th-century BC, with its marble figurines one of the most popular features. The building itself is worth viewing as one of the city’s best examples of neoclassical architecture.

At the Benaki Museum, you can follow the course of Greek art from the prehistoric era through today, spread across three floors. The ground floor exhibits remarkably sophisticated classical sculptures, archaic ceramics and sophisticated Neolithic vases, while the first floor showcase pieces from the late Byzantine period and under Ottoman rule with examples of folk costume and religious icons, while the top floor contains documents, weapons and paintings from the Greek War of Independence dating to the early 19th-century. In between, on the second floor is a cafeteria.

Temple of Poseidon, Athens
Acropolis, Athens

Watch a Sunset from Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon

Located along the Athenian Riviera an hour from downtown Athens, Cape Sounion is a popular half-day trip from the city and one of the best places to watch a sunset. It’s home to the nearly 200-foot-high Temple of Poseidon, the God of the Sea, and appropriately towers over the Aegean at the end of the Attica Peninsula. It was built at the same time as Athens’ Parthenon, in the mid-5th-century BC, made from local marble. Just below is a little beach framed by stunning turquoise waters that might make you think you’re on one of the Greek islands. If you visit later in the day, you can enjoy a refreshing dip and then watching the sun go down from one of the best vantage points outside of Santorini.

Pamper Yourself at a Hammam

Most visitors to Athens spend a lot of time on their feet exploring the city, and without a break it’s easy to end up exhausted at the end of it all. One of the best ways to refresh is to head to a hammam, and Athens has many of them. Hammams offer a wide range of options for relaxation, including soaking in an authentic hammam, or steam bath, with soothing properties of eucalyptus. Afterward you might indulge in a massage and/or any one of many beauty treatments like facials or a mani/pedi. In the true tradition of hammams, end your visit with a cup of tea.

Take a Mythology Tour

For anyone fascinated by Greek history, myth and legend, joining a mythology tour should really be on the must-experience list. It offers one of the most entertaining and unique ways to delve into ancient history and Greek myths while visiting popular sites like the Acropolis, Agora and Temple of Zeus, experiencing daily life as it was centuries ago. You’ll learn how the stories of the past helped to shape Athens into what it is today while enjoying some spectacular views as well. For families with children, there are even special kid-friendly tours that provide a fascinating excursion for all ages.

Delve into the history, culture and heritage of Greece with our Island Hopping & Ancient History 12-day tour.

Wine Tasting in Athens
Street Food in Athens

Sample the Street Foods

Greece is renowned for its delicious cuisine and you’ll find some of the best among the street food. An inexpensive and fun way to sample a wide variety of authentic eats. Just one option is koulouri, the Greek version of a bagel. Consumed since the Byzantine period, they can be found throughout the city. You’ll have to taste the souvlaki too, the most popular street food in Athens. It traditionally consists of souvlaki meat, garnished with tzatziki, onion and tomato then wrapped up in a grilled pita.

Join a guided walking tour of Athens and taste delicious Greek cuisine along the way on a 10-day Private Tour.

Greek Wine Tasting

The capital is home to some fabulous wine bars that provide a great way to unwind while sampling tasty wine produced from areas throughout Greece – an ideal way for wine enthusiasts to spend an afternoon or evening while meeting some of the locals too.

Delve into the Nightlife in Psiri

For authentic Athens’ nightlife there is arguably no better place to go than Psiri. The “Soho of Greece” as it’s sometimes referred to, after dark it’s especially vibrant with a bohemian atmosphere and a wealth of clubs and bars, many that host live music. The scene draws hipsters, counter-culture crowds and more to enjoy sipping creative cocktails and Greek specialty drinks like rakomelo, made with honey and raki.

Catch a Performance at Dora’s Stratou Theater

If you want to experience Greek culture, be sure to catch a performance at this local theater. There will be singers and musicians along with 75 dancers who don traditional Greek costumes from across various parts of the country, performing dances and songs from every period in Greek history.

Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
Anafiotika, Athens

Visit the Site of the First Modern Olympic Games: Panathenaic Stadium

This stadium holds significant importance having the distinction of holding the very first Modern Olympic Games back in 1896. It’s also the place from which the Olympic Flame is delivered to all the Games: Summer, Winter and Youth, as well as being the world’s only stadium made from white marble. Audio tours are available for those who would like to learn more about it.

Shop the Monastiraki Flea Market

Within walking distance of many major attractions at the center of what was once ancient Athens, the Monastiraki Flea Market is an ideal place to buy souvenirs, one-of-a-kind items and collectibles as an eclectic group of outdoor vendors, antique shops and tavernas. It’s a mix of gems and junk, fun to pick through secondhand clothing, old books, jewelry, leather crafts and a variety of trinkets. It’s also a great stop for just relaxing and watching the procession of shoppers and street musicians from anyone of the cafes as one of the liveliest squares in the city.

Wander Through Anafiotika

Anafiotika is a very small but remarkably scenic neighborhood set along the northern slopes of Acropolis hill next to the Agora entrance. What makes it a must-visit is that it appears as if it should be on one of the Cyclades islands with its typical Cycladic features like narrow alleyways that lead to whitewashed homes with blue doors and window frames, many of which are decorated with gorgeous bougainvillea.

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