The best things to do in Athens include exploring ancient architecture, historical sites and vibrant neighbourhoods. A historical city steeped in culture and charm, it has all the ingredients you need for an unforgettable European city break. 

    Whether you want to delve deep into the city’s past, indulge in the local cuisine or soak up the atmosphere with the locals, there’s no time to lose when exploring Athens. In order to help you make the most of your visit, we’ve pulled together a list of the top 10 things you should fit into your first day (or 2) in the Greek capital. 

    What are the best things to do in Athens?


    Acropolis of Athens

    The greatest example of Ancient Greece

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    Boasting UNESCO World Heritage status and dating back to 448 BC, Athens’ remarkable Acropolis is the most significant and influential ancient site in the western world. Your trip to the Greek capital wouldn’t be complete without delving into the past and taking a tour around this vast and architecturally stunning citadel, with the Parthenon being the pinnacle of the experience.

    The Acropolis is a 20-minute walk from Syntagma Square, although you may want to catch a taxi to save your feet for the walking around once you’re there. It’s a fairly steep climb to the top and you’ll need to remember your hat, sun cream and water, as it can get incredibly hot in the summer.

    Location: Acropolis of Athens, Athens 105 58, Greece

    Open: April–October: daily from 8 am to 8 pm. November–March: daily from 8 am to 3 pm


    Syntagma Square

    The most important square in the city

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    A great starting place for your explorations around Athens, Syntagma Square is one of the most recognisable and bustling sites in the city. Being the central hub for transport links around the city and being surrounded by 5-star hotels, it’s easy to see why the square is the most popular meeting place for visitors and locals alike.

    The key points of interest on the square are the Syntagma Fountain, the famous Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the imposing Hellenic Parliament building, which takes up one whole side of the square. The nearby streets are home to plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants.

    Location: Syntagma Square, Athens 105 63, Greece


    photo by Άργος (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

    See the Evzones march in their traditional attire

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    Just across from Syntagma Square is the poignant Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a tribute to fallen Greek soldiers. Greece’s Presidential Guard – the Evzones – keep watch over the monument around the clock and the Changing of the Guards occurs on the hour, every hour.

    The best time to watch is on a Sunday at 11 am, when the Grand Change takes place. The Evzones, who are an elite unit of the Greek army, are all dressed in their traditional foustanella (a pleated, white kilt) and the ceremony features the whole Guard and a military band. Get there early to bag a good spot.

    Location: Leoforos Vasilisis Amalias 133, Athens 105 57, Greece


    Acropolis Museum

    Learn about Athens’ ancient Acropolis

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    Exploring Athens’ ancient Acropolis is one thing, but to truly appreciate the sheer magnificence and wonder of this historical site, you should allow time to visit the dedicated Acropolis Museum, at the foot of the citadel’s southern slope.

    Step inside and you’ll find a treasure trove of over 4,250 objects and artefacts that have stood the test of time and were found on the rock of the Acropolis archaeological site. Don’t miss the fascinating Parthenon sculptures gallery on the top floor; a particular highlight of the museum.

    Location: Acropolis Museum, Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, Athens 117 42, Greece

    Open: April–October: Monday from 8 am to 4 pm, Tuesday–Sunday from 8 am to 8 pm, Friday from 8 am to 10 pm. November–March: Monday–Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm, Friday from 9 am to 10 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9 am to 8 pm



    Explore this lively flea market neighbourhood

    Located in the Old Town area of Athens, Monastiráki is a bustling flea market neighbourhood with plenty of shops, bakeries and traditional tavernas to try out. A lively part of Athens, it’s a great place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of the city.

    The area is centred around Monastiráki Square, so while you’re there, take the opportunity to visit the impressive Hadrian’s Library, which dates back AD 132. There are a number of rooftop gardens and bars in Monastiráki, too, providing excellent views of the Acropolis.


    Athens Central Market

    A bustling market selling local produce

    Experience the sights, sounds and smells of the famous Athens Central Market; selling meat, fish and other fresh local produce. Open every day except Sunday, it’s vibrant, colourful, lively and unequivocally Greek.

    It may not be your typical tourist market (there are no tacky souvenirs here), but it’s an attraction in itself; giving you a taste of the local culture in more ways than one. Explore the aisles and stop for a snack, putting your bartering skills to the test with the local stallholders.

    Location: Athens Central Market, Athinas, Athens 105 51, Greece

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 7 am to 6 pm (closed on Sundays)


    photo by Herbert Ortner (CC BY 4.0) modified


    Mount Lycabettus

    The best vantage point for viewing Athens

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    Standing tall and, dare we say, looking a little out of place in the heart of the city is the wooded Cretaceous hill, Mount Lycabettus. Rising to 277 metres, it’s the tallest of Athens’ 7 hills and is well worth the journey to the top to take in the panoramic views of the city.

    If you’re feeling fit, it’s possible to climb to the top of the hill on foot. But if you want to save your legs, there’s the option of a funicular. Perched right at the top, you’ll find the 19th-century Chapel of St. George, an open-air theatre and even a seafood restaurant. The view is, without a doubt, the highlight and we suggest going later in the day to catch the sunset. It’s cooler then, too.


    photo by George E. Koronaios (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified



    Enjoy traditional dinner and plate smashing

    Plaka is a picturesque hillside neighbourhood of Athens. You might think that smashing plates in Greece is just a ritual seen in the movies, but you’ll find it still goes on today in this part of the city. Who can resist the idea of some good old-fashioned plate smashing when in Greece? 

    Restaurants such as Tavern Kalokerinos host authentic Greek nights, where you can dine on traditional cuisine while local dancers perform in their native dress. The night then comes to a crescendo with plates being smashed on stage.



    End the day at a rebetiko venue

    Head to the trendy neighbourhood of Gazi and enjoy a Mythos beer while listening to the sounds of rebetiko music. The streets here are lined with restaurants, bars and cafés and you’ll hear the sound of live music in whichever direction you turn.

    Rebetiko is a type of urban folk music. It’s the most popular genre of traditional Greek music and came about during the 20th century. Featuring a number of stringed instruments, the focal point tends to be a bouzouki, which is a cross between a mandolin and a guitar.


    photo by Badseed (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Sadie Geoghegan-Dann | Contributing Writer

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