Athens is an urban colossus with its 3 million population, which means that 1 in 3 Greeks live in Athens! The city is, however dominated by monuments from ancient times when Greece was an empire and the most important in Western civilization. The city today is buzzing with tourism despite the economic crunch that Greece experienced a few years back. Read on for top things to do in Athens
13 Amazing Things to do in Athens, Greece
This is probably one of the top places to visit while you are in Athens without any excuses! The Acropolis Hill is home to ruins of Ancient Greece one of the first and most important ancient European civilizations. The most prominent monument of the Acropolis is the Parthenon. It’s the largest Doric temple ever constructed to worship Athena, the goddess patron of the city. Don’t miss Caryatids of the Erechtheion! These iconic columns shaped like women that support the roof are very beautifully preserved! Come back at night to of one the Acropolis neighborhoods to admire the hill all lit up!
The ticket to the archaeological sites of Acropolis and its slopes cost 20 EUR but at a few times of the year there is free entry for everyone, for more information on tickets click here. (http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh355.jsp?obj_id=2384)
This museum houses all the most important treasures of the Acropolis. A multitude of sculptures and statues, bronze figurines and the most famous giant columns that back in the day supported the roof of Erechteion. There is an awesome cafe on the second floor. Stop there for a break; order a drink or lunch and enjoy it on an expansive terrace overlooking the ruins of the Acropolis! The view is just spectacular.
Adjacent to the Acropolis, at the northeast side, there is Anafiotika. Don’t miss this little neighborhood that will give you a feel of being on one of the Greek islands. It’s a quiet neighborhood, so be respectful while you are taking some great shots in narrow alleys between white and blue houses and a few local cats lazing under the Greek sun.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
This is the largest temple in Athens dedicated to the most important god- Zeus. It took over 700 years to build. It had a giant gold and ivory statue of Zeus inside it, but it was subsequently plundered by Barbarians. To get here, get off at Syntagma or Acropoli Metro Station. Just across the street from the temple you will find Panathenaic Stadium from the 4th BC. It’s all build in marble and today the annual Athens marathon finishes in here.
Why would you want to climb a hill? For the best eye level view of the Acropolis of course! This neighborhood is very quiet and not so touristy. There is a pedestrian walking area and many cafes.
Use Thisio Metro station and walk up Dionysiou Areopagitou Street.
If you are more ambitious, head to Mount Lycabettus. The good news is that you do not need to walk all the way up. There is a funicular that can take you there. However, if you decide to climb, it will take around 20 min to get to the top. The view is stunning! The best time to arrive is at sunset.
The hill is located in Kolonaki neighborhood, Aristippou Street. After enjoying the view, stop at Kolonaki’s many bars for a refreshment.
Monastiraki is the most lively neighborhood of Athens. When you come off the metro station (called Monastiraki) on the main square you will find yourself in the middle of a small Greek chaos. Explore this place by walking round its streets filled with souvenir shops selling everything you can possibly imagine, artisan workshops, street vendors, cafes and restaurants. Alternatively, just sit down in one of the cafes overlooking the Acropolis and watch it all with a cold drink in your hand.
Our favorite place to enjoy dinner in this area is Savvas Rooftop Cafe on Ermou Street. The food and views are steller.
Plaka is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Athens, but also the oldest. It stretches between Acropolis and Stygmaki. A lot of streets have been pedestrianized and it’s really nice to just stroll along them. Plaka is home to many interesting souvenir shops. There is a lot of shops with Greek delicacies like tzatziki ready mixes, various spices. There is plenty of jewelry shops with very interesting designs inspired by the ancient times. There is a lot of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Go ahead and try some Greek specialties such as Souvlaki, tzatziki, stuffed wine leaves or some meatballs! Or just sit down in one of the street cafes and have a cold Mythos.
Ancient Agora was the center of all political, administrative and commercial activities in the Ancient Greece. This is the place where modern democracy was born and were philosophers such as Socrates were working on their thesis. To the most prominent monuments that have been preserved until today belong the Temple of Hephaestus and Stoa of Attalos. Don’t forget to check out the Agora Museum to see some of the treasures of the site like ancient voting ballots used in the first world democracy! You can get here by getting off at the Monastiraki metro station.
Greek Parliament and changing of the Guard
Head to Syntagma to see the Greek Parliament. In front of the parliament, every day, on the hour, in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier there is the changing of the guard. The presidential guards dressed in traditional uniforms with iconic shoes with pom-poms, parade every day raising their legs really high. If you’re in Athens on Sunday, head there for 11am to see a special weekly parade accompanied by a band.
Thision Open Air Cinema
Athens has many open air cinemas, but Thision is special because it offers stunning views of the Acropolis. This cinema was built in 1935 and it features Greek and international movies in their original languages but with Greek subtitles. And what’s special about this place is their gourmet Greek delicacy snacks! The cinema is located Apostolou Pavlou Street and it operates between late April/ early May to late October. Tickets cost 8 EUR.
Not the most obvious thing to do in Athens, but if you are visiting in the middle of the summer, it’s the perfect escape from the heat of the city. Edem is the closest beach to the city center of Athens. It’s not the prettiest beach and not comparable to any of the Greek island beaches, but it may just be perfect for an afternoon or a day break. Edem is easily reachable from the downtown of Athens. Take a tram (green line) at Syntagma Square towards Askllipiio Voulas and get off at the Edem stop. The beach is wide and sandy and it’s got a promenade running along it and if you follow it, it will take you to another smaller beach. The place has a few places to eat.
Diomedes Botanical Gardens
Located just 14 km west of downtown Athens, these lush gardens are a perfect day out if you are seeking some nature time. They stretch over 186 hectares and you can find many species of plants there, some from all over the world and some very ancient ones. Take a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy some shade and tranquillity of nature in the middle of the capital!
The Temple of Poseidon
If you have a spare day in Athens and you feel like going on a bit further to explore a bit more, then go ahead and visit The Temple of Poseidon. It’s only an hour away from Athens in a place called Sounion. The temple offers the most spectacular views of the sea, which are particularly special at sunset. You can stay here for a day, the temple is located right by a small beach. Take a dip in the sea to cool down after the sightseeing and come back up for a spectacular sunset!
Guest Author: Mal is a vegan travel blogger. She visited 36 countries and 4 out of 7 Wanders of the World. She advocates for sustainable travel and a healthy lifestyle on her blog at Rawmal Roams. Check out her article on Crete: Top 10 Chania Beaches.