20 Things to do in Athens

Though our trip was brief, Audrey and I still made it our mission to see as many sights and attractions as possible around Athens. First, we set out to visit temples and ruins steeped in history, but along the way we also discovered that the Greek capital is a city with a pretty cool vibe, lots of art, and great food.

20 Things to do in Athens, Greece Travel Guide
20 Things to do in Athens, Greece Travel Guide

This city guide showcases 20 things to do in Athens, Greece in the form of a travel guide, video & photo essay:

20 Things to do in Athens

1) Parthenon

(Greek: Παρθενών – Παρθενώνας)

Our first stop was one of the most recognized sights in Athens – the Parthenon, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena who was seen as the patron of Athens.

Completed in 436 BC it is generally considered to be the most important remaining building of Classical Greece and a symbol of western civilization.

Erechtheion Ancient Greek Temple atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
Erechtheion Ancient Greek Temple atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

2) Erechtheion

(Greek: Ἐρέχθειον – Ερέχθειο)

From there we visited the Erechtheion, which is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis that was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.

Situated on a slope this impressive temple is entirely made of marble with elaborately carved windows and doorways.

3) Philopappos Monument

(Greek: Μνημείο Φιλοπάππου)

A nice quiet alternative after or before visiting the Acropolis is to visit the Philopappos Monument. Where you’ll get some incredible views of the Acropolis from a distance.

Moussaka Greek dish in Athens, Greece
Moussaka Greek dish in Athens, Greece

4) Traditional Greek Food

After spending time in Meteora and Athens it didn’t take us long to identify our favorite Greek dishes. For one of our last meals we found a little restaurant with live music ordering Greek salad, saganaki, Moussaka, bread and olives.

Saganaki, our personal favorite, is basically cheese (Gruyère, Halloumi or Sheep’s milk feta) fried on a pan with lemon drizzled on top.

Moussaka, common throughout the Mediterranean region, is a layered dish consisting of béchamel sauce, minced meat, potatoes and eggplant.

5) Mount Lycabettus

(Greek: Λυκαβηττός )

For one of the best views in all of Athens don’t miss out on climbing Mount Lycabettus. We took a taxi to the base of the hill and then hiked up from there.

Hence, by the time we reached the top, golden hour had set in casting a beautiful light over the city below. Since, it was kind of a windy day, we found shelter at a little cafe at the top where we enjoyed a nice meal during sunset.

6) Athens Night Views

After sunset we lingered atop Mount Lycabettus for some night views of the city before taking the funicular down to the bottom.

Consequently, seeing the Acropolis all lit up at night was a pretty cool sight!

Tourists taking photos of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia in Athens, Greece
Tourists taking photos of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia in Athens, Greece

7) Temple of Zeus at Olympia

The Temple of Zeus, which once housed the statue of Zeus, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Once, long forgotten due to flood siltation and landslips, the Temple of Zeus was excavated by a French team in 1829 with fragments taken to the Musée du Louvre.

Arch of Hadrian with a view of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece
Arch of Hadrian with a view of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece

8) Arch of Hadrian

Just a stone throw away from the Temple of Zeus is the Arch of Hadrian. It is believed this monumental gateway was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the city.

Moreover, through the arch you get a great vantage point of the Acropolis.

Monastiraki Flea Market vintage shops with souvenirs and trinkets in Athens, Greece
Monastiraki Flea Market vintage shops with souvenirs and trinkets in Athens, Greece

9) Monastiraki Flea Market

When it comes to shopping, there are a few different options. We made our way to Monastiraki, which is one of the principal shopping districts in Athens.

Thus, we visited both the Flea Market and the antique shops in the area.

Greek Street Food - gyro and souvlaki - wraps in Athens, Greece
Greek Street Food – gyro and souvlaki – wraps in Athens, Greece

10) Greek Street Food

(Greek: σουβλάκι – γύρος)

If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat don’t leave Athens without trying some staple Greek street food. We found a little joint serving up Pita souvlaki and Pita Gyro ordering one of each.

Gyro, meaning to turn, is basically rotisserie-style meat that is cooked on a skewer and then shaved often featuring chicken, pork or lamb stuffed inside a pita.

Moreover, with tzatziki sauce (made with yogurt, garlic and cucumber), loads of onions and tomatoes it makes for filling snack. Only costing 1-2 Euros each, it makes for an affordable alternative to dining for those on a tighter budget.

Psirri Street Art in Athens, Greece
Psirri Street Art in Athens, Greece

11) Psirri Street Art

(Greek: Ψυρρή ή Ψυρή)

Psirri is known for its lively nightlife, but what caught our attention when visiting by day was the street art!

Hence, some of the pieces were quite elaborate, while others were bordering vandalism.

But regardless it was a really interesting neighborhood to wander around.

12) Kerameikos Cemetery

(Greek: Νεκροταφείο Κεραμικού)

Kerameikos Cemetery, the largest and most ancient cemetery in the city, used to be the potter’s quarter which is where the word ceramics comes from.

Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece
Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece

13) Changing of the Guard

We also made time to go watch the changing of the guard in front of the Parliament building on Syntagma Square.

Here, the guards were dressed in their white kilts, red caps, and clogs with pompoms. It was fascinating watching the ceremonial steps be carried out in slow motion.

14) National Garden

(Greek: Εθνικός Κήπος)

The National Garden is located in the heart of Athens directly behind the Greek Parliament building.

It is open to the public from sunrise to sunset and it’s a nice spot to decompress if the crowds are starting to get to you.

Athens Central Market vendor selling spices in Athens, Greece
Athens Central Market vendor selling spices in Athens, Greece

15) Athens Central Market

Athens Central Market features an overwhelming display of fish and meat and is busiest between 7am and 1pm.

It takes a strong stomach to set foot inside. But as you’ll also find plenty of other items for sale.

16) Agora

(Greek: Ἀγορά Agorá)

The Agora was the central spot in ancient Greek city-states, and it is where people gathered.

Furthermore, it was the heart of political, commercial, administrative, religious and cultural activity in the city.

17) Acropolis Museum

(Greek: Μουσείο Ακρόπολης)

Like the name suggests, the Acropolis Museum is located at the foot of the Acropolis.

And it’s mainly focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis.

It’s a cool spot to visit if you want to delve deeper into history.

18) Pláka

(Greek: Πλάκα)

Plaka is an old historical neighborhood located on the eastern slopes of the Acropolis.

The place is a bit of a maze with zigzagging streets and a network of staircases that lead up down and around.

Here, the neighbourhood has plenty of charms. And there are also lots of restaurants and cafes if you do start feeling a little peckish.

19) Hadrian’s Library

(Italian: Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano)

Hadrian’s Library was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and it used to be his library.

Back in its heyday they used to store Papyrus scrolls here. And they also had reading rooms and lecture halls.

Greek Cooking Class fresh produce and cooking ingredients in Athens, Greece
Greek Cooking Class fresh produce and cooking ingredients in Athens, Greece

20) Greek Cooking Class

Lastly, if you want to take some Greek recipes back home to your kitchen.

Consider taking a cooking class where you’ll learn how to make all of your favorite Greek dishes.

Athens Travel Video

Athens Photo Essay

Greek soldiers standing at attention in Athens, Greece
Greek soldiers standing at attention in Athens, Greece
Temple of Zeus at Olympia in Athens, Greece
Temple of Zeus at Olympia in Athens, Greece
Views of Athens from the Acropolis in Greece
Views of Athens from the Acropolis in Greece
People gathered by the massive Greek flat atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
People gathered by the massive Greek flat atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
View of Athens and Mount Lycabettus from the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
View of Athens and Mount Lycabettus from the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
Nuts and spices for sale at Athens Central Market in Greece
Nuts and spices for sale at Athens Central Market in Greece
Soldiers participating in the changing of the guard in Athens, Greece
Soldiers participating in the changing of the guard in Athens, Greece
Elderly Greek men walking by street art in Athens, Greece
Elderly Greek men walking by street art in Athens, Greece
Colorful flowers in Athens, Greece
Colorful flowers in Athens, Greece
Olives and bread for lunch
Olives and bread for lunch
Greek salad for lunch at a restaurant
Greek salad for lunch at a restaurant
Saganaki, fried Greek cheese, with lemon for lunch
Saganaki, fried Greek cheese, with lemon for lunch
Scenic views in the Greek city
Scenic views in the Greek city

Did Athens Remind Us Of Other Cities in Europe?

To wrap things up Athens reminded us of some other cities we’ve visited in Europe and around the Mediterranean.

In Athens you’ll find plenty of friendly stray dogs and cats that are well taken care of similar to Istanbul.

In terms of vibe and artistic appeal Athens is a gritty up and coming city in a way that reminded us of Berlin and Warsaw.

With a Mediterranean feel similar to Tel Aviv it is a city where you’ll enjoy quality Greek and International cuisine at an affordable price.

Things to do in Athens Final Thoughts

With Greece receiving a lot of bad press in the media lately it has scared off a lot of visitors which is a total shame.

What we found is that locals went out of their way to be helpful and we had instances where we ate meals at a restaurant where many extras (appetizers, drinks and desserts) were brought to our table free of charge.

With a mix of antiquity and urban Athens is one of my favorite cities in all of Europe and I highly recommend you visit NOW.

If you have any more suggestions of activities that travelers shouldn’t miss, feel free to share those in the comments below.

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  1. Pingback: 20 Things to do in Athens Greece Travel Guide | Blog 3G
  2. says: Natalie

    I have hoped to visit Greece forever and this coming year is the one to make that dream come true! It is a big birthday for me (I’m not telling which one. LOL) and this is a dream trip.

    We are taking the kids and I’m already researching for the travel guide I’ll write for the kids at their level. Your post has some new things to me to add to the list of things I want to see, research, and write about. Fried cheese (How do you even do that without it melting??) and I can’t help but chuckle at the guards standing at attention. The one on the far left seems to be nodding off. LOL!

    Great post with really interesting things on a wonderful city for exploring!

  3. says: Sahil Bhardwaj

    Wonderful post, i have always been interested in visiting places with a great history. Great video, looking forward to visit this place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. says: Mark @ NWHotspots

    A trip to Greece has been something I’ve had my eye on for years. This is a great place and includes some options I didn’t know about.

  5. says: Alyson

    Hi! We just got back from a couple of weeks in Greece too, fabulous place for history, we went south, Sparta, Olympia, Corinth, Mycenae. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia is the 7 wonders one, not the Athens Zeus temple, you may wanna fix that! But the Athens one is stunning too. We really liked Athens, fabulous city.

  6. Hi, Samuel! Nice list of all *the* places of Athens. I was there for the first time a year ago and enjoyed it a lot. One of the most interesting independent “tours” that we took was exploring the incredible variety of street art in Athens. Absolutely amazing! How did you like it when you were there?

  7. says: Andy Gerard

    After my next week trip to meditterean, i’m going Athens. Really nice to see this post. Definitely one of my favorite for the list.

  8. says: Chad @RoadDogTravel

    Great photos. Athens is near the top of my bucket list. I love the ancient history. Interesting read. Thanks.

  9. says: Ray

    Plaka is a great little area to have drinks and relax in while admiring the Acropolis from below. My only advice is to be aware of your surroundings here as my friend had her purse stolen right in front of us when we were distracted for only a few seconds or so. It was an unfortunate experience, but a sober reminder that petty crime can still exist even in the safest of cities, like Athens.

  10. says: vira

    I loved and enjoyed the couple of days I spent in Athens last year. I got to experience almost all of the items you listed here. You missed the open-aired theatre though. It’s only open in the Summer, I think.

  11. says: Melanie

    I can’t wait to someday visit Athens. It’s my next trip idea but I didn’t know about all these attractions before. I was thinking just beach side and a few old ruins but now I got a better picture so thanks for this share!

  12. thanks for the blog. it was very informative and the pictures are captured beautifully. Greece is definitely on my bucket list now. the food looks attractive too. love the scenic view of Greece. keep up the good work.

  13. says: Noel Morata

    Fantastic list, I love Athens, there’s so many wonderful attractions and cool neighborhoods to wander and just explore. It’s a nice mix of old and new and yes the food is amazing too!

  14. says: Liam

    This is a great list of things to do. The history and food in Athens is well known but I didn’t know about the art scene, and that flea market sounds awesome.

  15. says: Bret

    We’re not usually big city people, but we loved our time in Athens. If I had to recommend something to people, it would be the bike tour of the city we did with EcoAthens. It was 90% downhill and we got to see sides of the city we’d never have explored otherwise.

  16. says: Goks

    Thanks. This was really informative. Greece is on my bucket list for quiet sometime, but getting delayed for some reasons. This will prove really handy when we plan our Europe trip mostly during next summer