Athens, the cradle of Western civilization, is a city steeped in history and mythology. For those pondering things to do in Athens, exploring the iconic Acropolis and wandering through the ancient Agora are just the beginning.
This Greek capital is not only about ancient ruins; it’s a vibrant metropolis with a dynamic nightlife and bustling markets. The Plaka neighborhood, with its narrow streets and traditional tavernas, offers a taste of authentic Greek culture amidst the shadows of the city’s storied past.
Beyond its historical treasures, Athens serves as a gateway to the beautiful islands of the Aegean Sea. For those wondering about the best places to visit in Greece, Athens stands as a testament to the country’s rich heritage and is a must-visit for those seeking a blend of history and modernity in one of Europe’s oldest cities.
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Attractions and Things to do in Athens
The Acropolis, rising spectacularly in the center of Athens, is the most significant symbol of Ancient Greece’s glory. In the 5th century BC, the hilltop was deemed a religious sanctuary, and the magnificent Parthenon is a testament to this era. Visitors can ascend the marble steps to find themselves dwarfed by towering columns.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds, and wear comfortable shoes for the climb.
2. Acropolis Museum
Natural light illuminates the spacious galleries of the modern Acropolis Museum, showcasing priceless treasures removed from the Acropolis hill. The pinnacle of the museum is the top-floor glass atrium, displaying the 161m-long frieze from the Parthenon.
Travel Tip: Allocate at least a couple of hours to explore the museum, and consider taking a guided tour for a deeper understanding of the exhibits.
3. Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora was the heart of civic life in ancient Athens and the birthplace of democracy. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Socrates and explore the stately Stoa of Attalos and the exquisite Temple of Hephaistos.
Travel Tip: Combine your visit to the Ancient Agora with the Acropolis, as they are close, and many tickets offer joint access.
4. National Archaeological Museum
Housing the world’s most extensive collection of Greek antiquities, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens showcases priceless items from the Neolithic to Classical periods. Iconic sculptures and artifacts like the gold death mask of Agamemnon can be found here.
Travel Tip: Plan your visit with a map or guidebook, as the museum is extensive, and focusing on specific sections or periods can enhance your experience.
5. Temple of Olympian Zeus
Once Greece’s largest temple, the Temple of Olympian Zeus took seven centuries to build. Only a handful of its colossal columns remain, dedicated to Zeus and Emperor Hadrian.
Travel Tip: Visit the nearby Hadrian’s Arch and explore the sanctuary to Pan on the far side of the site for a complete experience.
6. Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
The Benaki Museum offers an impeccable private collection that spans the spectrum of Greece from ancient times to the mid-20th century. Housed in a stunning neoclassical mansion, it displays fine art and beautiful folk objects.
Travel Tip: Check the museum’s schedule for temporary exhibitions and events, as they often host unique cultural showcases.
Kerameikos is Athens’ ancient cemetery, home to the Street of Tombs, where classical VIPs were interred. The area also served as the ceremonial entrance into ancient Athens, and the small on-site museum offers absorbing insights.
Travel Tip: Visit in the cooler parts of the day, as the site is mostly outdoors, and bring a guidebook or take a guided tour to understand the historical significance.
8. Filopappou Hill
Known as the mythical battleground of Theseus and the Amazons, Filopappou Hill is one of Athens’ best parks. Studded with tiny ruins and beautiful stone paths, it offers stunning views of the Acropolis, especially at sundown.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a camera for the breathtaking views. Consider visiting during sunset for a magical experience.
Unique Activities in Athens
1. Dinner in the Sky Experience
Indulge in a unique dining experience by having dinner in the sky. Suspended at a height, you’ll enjoy a meal with a breathtaking view of Athens. This 1.5-hour experience offers a small group setting, allowing for a more intimate and unforgettable time.
2. Olympic Games Workout
Embrace the spirit of the ancient Olympic Games with a 2-hour workout session. This experience allows you to train like an Olympian in the very place where the games originated. Skip the line and dive into a unique physical fitness experience that connects you with history.
3. Dessert Wine Tasting at Brettos, the Oldest Bar in Athens
Savor the flavors of Greece with an 80-minute dessert wine tasting at Brettos, the oldest bar in Athens. This small group experience offers a chance to taste local wines, providing a delightful and educational insight into Greek winemaking traditions.
4. Greek Folk Dancing Show
Immerse yourself in Greek culture with a 4-hour folk dancing show. This experience includes hotel transfers, making it convenient for travelers. Enjoy traditional Greek dances performed by skilled dancers, and feel the vibrant energy of Greek folklore.
5. Viewpoints Treasure Hunt “Theseus Missing”
Embark on a 3-hour treasure hunt adventure called “Theseus Missing.” Explore Athens’ viewpoints and uncover hidden gems as you solve puzzles and challenges. This engaging experience offers a fun and interactive way to see the city.
6. 6-Course Rooftop Meal of Greek Cuisine with Wine
Indulge in a 3-hour rooftop dining experience, enjoying a 6-course authentic Greek cuisine paired with wine. The rooftop setting provides stunning views of Athens, making this a perfect option for a romantic evening or special occasion.
7. Mediterranean Gin Tasting Experience
Experience the flavors of the Mediterranean with a 1.5-hour gin-tasting session in Athens. Skip the line and enjoy a guided tasting of various gins, learning about their unique characteristics and production methods. This is an excellent opportunity for gin enthusiasts to explore new tastes and aromas.
Day Trips from Athens
Discover the ancient sanctuary of Apollo and the impressive Temple of Apollo in this historic town. Wander through the archaeological site and get a glimpse of ancient Greece.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, as there’s a lot of walking on uneven terrain.
2. Hydra Island
Experience the charm of this car-free island with its stone mansions, narrow alleys, and crystal-clear waters. Enjoy a stroll or relax at one of the many waterfront cafes.
Travel Tip: Bring cash, as not all places on the island accept credit cards.
Explore the first capital of modern Greece with its Venetian fortresses, picturesque old town, and beautiful beaches. Climb the 999 steps to Palamidi Castle for a breathtaking view.
Travel Tip: Stay hydrated and take breaks if climbing to Palamidi during the summer heat.
Where to stay in Athens
Athens, the capital city of Greece, is a dynamic city with over 3400 years of history. It offers various accommodation options, from luxurious 5-star hotels to budget-friendly hostels. With the Acropolis as a stunning backdrop, Athens blends historical charm and modern amenities. Whether you’re looking for a hotel with views of ancient ruins or a trendy boutique hotel in the city center, Athens has something to suit every traveler’s needs. The city’s hotels often feature rooftop terraces, pools, and exquisite dining options, all designed to make your stay unforgettable.
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Sofitel Athens Airport (★★★★★)
- Description: Conveniently located 50 meters from Athens International Airport, this 5-star hotel offers a spa and an indoor heated pool with views over the airport.
- Price: €300 per night
- Rating: 8.6 (Fabulous)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Grand Hyatt Athens (★★★★★)
- Description: Opened in August 2018, Grand Hyatt Athens boasts a new spa, atrium pool & bar, and a rooftop with stunning views over the Acropolis.
- Price: €152 per night
- Rating: 8.2 (Very Good)
3. Budget Hotel
Pella Inn Hostel (★)
- Description: Pella Inn is just a 2-minute walk from Monastiraki Square and offers budget-friendly accommodation. It’s close to the famous Athens flea market, restaurants, and bars.
- Price: €88 per night
- Rating: 8.1 (Very Good)
4. Hotel for Family
President Hotel (★★★★)
- Description: Located in the heart of Athens, the President Hotel offers comfortable accommodation and a beautiful rooftop terrace with a seasonal swimming pool. It’s family-friendly and close to Panormou Metro Station.
- Price: €100 per night
- Rating: 8.1 (Very Good)
5. Hotel for Couples
Electra Palace Athens (★★★★★)
- Description: Situated in the center of Plaka, facing the Acropolis, this 5-star hotel offers personalized service and a beautiful rooftop pool. It’s an ideal choice for couples seeking a romantic getaway.
- Price: €207 per night
- Rating: 8.9 (Fabulous)
6. Hotel for Solo Travelers
Selina Athens Theatrou (★★★)
- Description: Boasting a bar and a rooftop terrace, Selina Athens Theatrou is situated in Athens, near the National Theatre of Greece. It’s an excellent option for solo travelers, with a vibrant atmosphere and convenient location.
- Price: €78 per night
- Rating: 8.4 (Very Good)
Did you know? Facts about Athens
- Athens is both the capital and the largest city of Greece, with a history spanning over 3,400 years, making it one of the world’s oldest cities.
- The city was named after Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, and was once a powerful city-state and a center for arts, learning, and philosophy.
- Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery, showcasing its rich cultural heritage.
- The city’s modern-era landmarks include the Hellenic Parliament and the Architectural Trilogy of Athens, consisting of the National Library of Greece, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and the Academy of Athens.
- Athens hosted the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896 and again hosted the Summer Olympics in 2004.
- The heritage of the Classical Era is still evident in the city, with ancient monuments like the Parthenon considered critical landmarks of early Western culture.
- Athens is a central coastal urban area in the Mediterranean and is one of the biggest economic centers in Southeastern Europe, with a significant financial sector.
- The city’s port, Piraeus, is Europe’s 3rd busiest passenger port and the 26th largest container port in the world.
- Athens joined the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities in 2016, reflecting its commitment to education and learning.
- The city’s rich history includes periods under Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Latin rule, each leaving its mark on the city’s architecture, culture, and traditions.
FAQ about Athens
What Are the Must-See Historical Sites in Athens, the Cradle of Western Civilization?
Athens, known as the cradle of Western civilization, is home to many historical sites. The Acropolis, Parthenon, Ancient Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Roman Agora are must-see landmarks that reflect the city’s rich history.
How Can I Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Athens, the City of Wisdom?
Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. You can explore these sites through guided tours, which often include historical insights, or visit them independently by purchasing tickets at the entrance.
What Are the Top Museums to Visit in Athens, the Birthplace of Democracy?
Athens offers a variety of museums that showcase its cultural heritage. The National Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, and the Benaki Museum are some of the top museums travelers should not miss.
How Can I Experience the Modern and Ancient Architecture in Athens, the City of Reason?
Athens is a blend of ancient and modern architecture. Visitors can explore the Architectural Trilogy of Athens, including the National Library of Greece, the University of Athens, and the Academy of Athens. Ancient monuments like the Parthenon and Erechtheion are also must-see architectural wonders.
What Transportation Options Are Available in Athens, the Largest City of Greece?
Athens offers various transportation options, including buses, trams, metro, taxis, and rental cars. The Athens International Airport serves as the primary gateway for international travelers.
Where Can I Experience Traditional Greek Cuisine in Athens, the Capital City of Greece?
Athens offers a wide range of dining options to enjoy traditional Greek cuisine. Areas like Plaka, Monastiraki, and Psiri are famous for their tavernas and restaurants serving authentic Greek dishes.
How Can I Enjoy the Maritime Culture in Athens, Home to Europe’s 3rd Busiest Passenger Port?
Athens’ port, Piraeus, is Europe’s 3rd busiest passenger port. Visitors can take ferry rides to nearby islands, enjoy waterfront dining, or explore maritime museums to immerse themselves in the city’s maritime culture.
What Are the Best Shopping Destinations in Athens, the Major Economic Center in Southeastern Europe?
Athens offers diverse shopping experiences, from luxury boutiques to traditional markets. Ermou Street, Kolonaki, and Monastiraki Flea Market are popular shopping destinations for tourists and locals.