20 Things to Do in Athens, Greece: Athens Travel Guide for Visitors

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:

History Of Athens, Greece

Athens, one of the world’s oldest cities, boasts a history that spans several millennia. As a traveler, you can delve into the city’s past and unravel the captivating story that is Athens.

In its infancy, Athens was established in the 5th century BCE and rapidly rose to prominence as one of ancient Greece’s most critical cities. Renowned philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, called Athens home, and the city became a hub of intellectual and cultural advancement. Additionally, Athens is credited with inventing democracy as we know it today, cementing its position as a center of democratic thought.

The Golden Age of Athens, during the 5th century BCE, was characterized by unparalleled prosperity and cultural growth. Iconic landmarks, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis, were constructed, and the city emerged as a major hub of commerce and trade. Its navy was also one of the most powerful in the world.

However, Athens’ fortunes would soon change. In 146 BCE, the city fell under the Roman Empire’s control, leading to a loss of political and economic influence. The ensuing Roman occupation spanned several centuries, during which many of Athens’ ancient monuments were either destroyed or damaged.

In the 4th century CE, Athens became part of the Byzantine Empire, and its Christian culture and education flourished. Churches and monasteries were constructed, contributing to the city’s religious significance.

Subsequently, in 1458, Athens fell under Ottoman occupation. This period marked a significant transformation, with several ancient monuments being converted into mosques and other Islamic buildings. The Ottomans also constructed the famous Monastiraki flea market, amongst other notable structures.

Athens regained its independence in 1833 and became the capital of the newly independent Greek state. The city underwent a period of tremendous modernization and growth, resulting in new buildings and infrastructure projects.

Today, Athens is a bustling and modern metropolis that remains deeply rooted in its ancient history and culture. As a traveler, there are numerous opportunities to explore the city’s rich heritage, from visiting ancient landmarks like the Parthenon and the Acropolis to engaging in guided tours that offer a deeper understanding of Athens’ fascinating history and culture.

20 Things to Do in Athens, Greece

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

List Of Foods To Try In Athens

Here is a list of 50 must-try foods in Athens, along with a brief description of each:

  1. Moussaka: A layered dish made with ground beef, eggplant, potatoes, and a creamy béchamel sauce.
  2. Souvlaki: Skewered and grilled meat, typically served in a pita with vegetables and tzatziki sauce.
  3. Gyro: Similar to souvlaki, but the meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and shaved off in thin strips.
  4. Greek salad: A simple salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese, and olives.
  5. Spanakopita: A savory pie made with spinach and feta cheese wrapped in crispy phyllo pastry.
  6. Tyropita: A cheese pie made with feta cheese and phyllo pastry.
  7. Tzatziki: A refreshing yogurt and cucumber dip flavored with garlic and dill.
  8. Feta cheese: A crumbly, tangy cheese made from sheep’s milk.
  9. Kalamata olives: A type of Greek olive with a deep, rich flavor.
  10. Greek yogurt: A thick, creamy yogurt that is often served with honey and nuts.
  11. Loukoumades: Small, fried doughnuts that are drizzled with honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.
  12. Baklava: A sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, and honey syrup.
  13. Galaktoboureko: A dessert made with semolina custard and phyllo pastry.
  14. Koulouri: A sesame bread ring that is often sold by street vendors.
  15. Stifado: A hearty beef stew that is flavored with cinnamon and red wine.
  16. Kokoretsi: A grilled dish made from organ meat that is wrapped in intestines.
  17. Fasolada: A simple bean soup that is often served with bread.
  18. Pastitsio: A baked pasta dish that is similar to lasagna, but with a creamy béchamel sauce instead of ricotta cheese.
  19. Taramasalata: A dip made from fish roe, olive oil, lemon juice, and bread crumbs.
  20. Melitzanosalata: A dip made from roasted eggplant, garlic, and lemon juice.
  21. Saganaki: Fried cheese that is often served as an appetizer.
  22. Dolmades: Stuffed grape leaves that are typically filled with rice and herbs.
  23. Soutzoukakia: Meatballs that are cooked in a tomato-based sauce with spices.
  24. Gigantes Plaki: Baked giant beans that are flavored with tomato sauce and herbs.
  25. Briam: A baked vegetable casserole that is typically made with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and potatoes.
  26. Revithada: A chickpea stew that is often flavored with garlic and lemon juice.
  27. Psari Plaki: A baked fish dish that is typically made with cod or sea bass.
  28. Octopus: Grilled or fried octopus that is often served with lemon and olive oil.
  29. Calamari: Fried or grilled squid that is often served with tzatziki sauce.
  30. Grilled sardines: Small, oily fish that are typically grilled and served with lemon and olive oil.
  31. Red mullet: A small, flavorful fish that is often grilled or fried.
  32. Lobster with spaghetti: A dish that is typically served in upscale seafood restaurants, with lobster and spaghetti in a tomato-based sauce.
  33. Greek coffee: A strong coffee that is brewed in a small pot and served in demitasse

Athens Tours

Athens is a city rich in history and culture, and there are many tours available to help you explore all that it has to offer. Here are a few types of tours you can take in Athens:

  1. Ancient Athens Walking Tour: Take a guided walking tour through the historic center of Athens and explore the ancient monuments and landmarks such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
  2. Food and Wine Tour: Athens is a food lover’s paradise with a rich and diverse culinary scene. Take a food and wine tour to sample some of the local delicacies, wines, and spirits at some of the city’s best restaurants, markets, and cafes.
  3. Athens by Night Tour: Explore Athens after dark on a guided tour that takes you to some of the city’s best nightlife spots, such as rooftop bars, trendy clubs, and live music venues.
  4. Athens Museums Tour: Athens is home to some of the world’s finest museums, including the National Archaeological Museum, the Benaki Museum, and the Acropolis Museum. Take a guided tour to explore these museums and learn about Greek art, history, and culture.
  5. Day Trips from Athens: There are many fascinating destinations within easy reach of Athens, such as Delphi, the ancient site of the Oracle of Apollo; the picturesque town of Nafplio; and the island of Hydra. Take a day trip from Athens to explore these places and more.
  6. Athens Segway Tour: If you want to see the sights of Athens in a fun and unique way, consider taking a Segway tour. Glide through the city’s streets and alleys, and explore its landmarks and hidden gems with a knowledgeable guide.
  7. Street Art Tour: Athens is known for its vibrant street art scene. Take a tour to explore the city’s colorful murals, graffiti, and installations, and learn about the artists and their work.

Whatever your interests may be, there is a tour available to help you discover the beauty and history of Athens.

Athens Day Trips

Athens, the capital of Greece, is surrounded by many fascinating destinations that are perfect for a day trip. Here are some of the best day trips you can take from Athens:

  1. Delphi: The ancient site of Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was considered the center of the world in ancient times. Explore the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, the Theater, and the Stadium, and visit the Archaeological Museum to see the famous Charioteer of Delphi.
  2. Cape Sounion: Located on the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, Cape Sounion offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea and the Temple of Poseidon, one of the most iconic landmarks of Greece.
  3. Hydra Island: A beautiful and picturesque island, Hydra is a popular day trip destination from Athens. Explore the island’s charming town, swim in crystal-clear waters, and enjoy some of the island’s delicious seafood.
  4. Nafplio: This charming town is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Greece. With its beautiful architecture, scenic views, and delicious cuisine, it’s no wonder why it’s a popular day trip destination from Athens.
  5. Corinth Canal: The Corinth Canal is a man-made canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf. It’s an engineering marvel and a popular destination for sightseeing and taking a boat tour.
  6. Ancient Mycenae: Mycenae was one of the most important cities in ancient Greece and is famous for its impressive fortifications, the Lion Gate, and the Tomb of Agamemnon.
  7. Meteora: While Meteora is not exactly a day trip from Athens, it’s worth the extra time and effort to visit this breathtaking site. Located in central Greece, Meteora is home to some of the most spectacular monasteries in the world, perched on top of towering rock formations.

These are just a few of the many day trips you can take from Athens. Each of these destinations offers a unique experience, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Athens Accommodations

Athens offers a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets and preferences. From luxurious hotels to budget-friendly hostels, you’ll find something that suits your needs. Here are some of the best accommodations in Athens:

  1. Hotel Grande Bretagne: This 5-star luxury hotel is located in the heart of Athens, just a stone’s throw away from the Parliament building and the famous Syntagma Square. It offers a rooftop restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis and a luxurious spa.
  2. King George Hotel: Another 5-star luxury hotel, the King George Hotel is located in a historic building in Syntagma Square. It offers elegant rooms, a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views, and a fitness center.
  3. AthensWas Hotel: This boutique hotel is located in the historic district of Athens, just a few minutes away from the Acropolis. It offers modern and stylish rooms, a rooftop bar, and a restaurant with a Mediterranean-inspired menu.
  4. Airbnb: There are plenty of Airbnb options in Athens, ranging from cozy studios to luxurious apartments with stunning views. This is a great option if you’re looking for more privacy and the chance to live like a local.
  5. Hostels: Athens has a great selection of hostels, many of which are located in the city center and offer budget-friendly options for travelers. Some of the most popular hostels include Athens Backpackers, City Circus Athens, and Bedbox Hostel.

No matter what your budget or preferences are, you’ll find plenty of great accommodations in Athens. From luxurious hotels to budget-friendly hostels and everything in between, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay during your visit.

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. 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!

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. says: Chad @RoadDogTravel

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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