Things to do in Athens
Life in Athens begins at street level. For an understanding of this ancient and modern metropolis, head out on foot around the city’s highly walkable historic areas. Start at Syntagma Square to see the parliament building and watch the changing of the guard ceremony that occurs every hour on the hour. Photos with the guards are allowed, but it’s best not to snigger at their pompom socks and theatrical walking style!
From here, head to the historic neighbourhoods of Monastiraki, Plaka, Anafiotika and Thissio at the base of the iconic Acropolis Hill. These atmospheric areas are popular with tourists and where you’ll find some of Athens’ most well-known sights such as Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis sites such as the must-see Parthenon. There’s also more museums than you could ever hope to see on one trip, however be sure to fit the Benaki Museum, New Acropolis Museum and Agora Museum into your itinerary. Even just walking the streets you’ll come across Neoclassical buildings and tiny Orthodox churches to admire and explore. Don’t miss the Monastiraki Flea Markets on Sundays for souvlaki and souvenirs.
Other Athens areas to explore include Kolonaki, an upmarket neighbourhood and popular shopping district at the base of Mount Lycabettus. This is the place to come for Greek designers and emerging labels, high-end boutiques and daytime cafe culture. At night, Kolonaki is also a popular spot for an after-work cocktail in a taverna or ouzeri. For hipster cred, head to the neighbourhood of Exarchia –a mainstay of students, artists and anarchists – for cool cafes, edgy streetwear and buzzing bars. Make sure you also make time to visit the Olympic Stadium and National Archaeological Museum and take in a flick at an outdoor cinema during summer.
Want more? Here’s our fave things to do in Athens.
Head to Athens’ ancient high city, a flattop hill dotted with a plethora of Classical architecture and swirling with historic legends of the Greek gods. Towering over the city, the Parthenon and its treasures in the New Acropolis Museum are a must-see.
The beating heart of everyday ancient Greece life, the Ancient Agora marketplace was where the local community came to hear philosophers, take care of paperwork, shop, gossip and enjoy the shade and shelter of the impressive colonnades arcades.
One of Athens’ historic neighbourhoods ideally located at the base of the Acropolis, Plaka is infused with charm from its cobblestoned pedestrian-only walkways to the overflowing tavernas and traditional ambience as well as hidden gems.
Greece’s oldest private museum has no less than 7 different sites in Athens to peruse the exhaustive collection of artworks. Head to the main building for a must-see overview of Greek history and culture from prehistoric times to now.
For the best view over Athens, head for the hills. Mount Lycabettus is the Greek capital’s tallest hill where on a clear day you can see the sprawling expanse of the city bowl, the Acropolis, Aegean Sea and even some of the Greek Islands from the top.
You really can’t come to the land of the Olympics without visiting the remains of this 6th century BC building dedicated to the king of the Olympic gods, Zeus, in the heart of Athens.