Athens is one of my favorite cities, I love the food, the weather, exploring the old streets, and visiting the many tourist attractions.
About Athens, the Capital of Greece
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest capital in Europe, even older than Rome. In its more than 3400 years of recorded history, Athens played a most important role in cultural development, education, and even politics. This is the place where the concept of democracy was born, as well as philosophy and modern theatre.
When to visit Athens?
With all that history and a lot of tourist attractions, Athens is a very popular year-round destination. It is also the warmest major city in Europe, so keep that in mind when planning your trip there. July and August, even June lately, are too hot for a comfortable trip where you spend a lot of time outside. Weather from November to February isn’t very cold but they can be rainy. Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit the attractions of Athens, Greece.
Tourist Attractions in Athens
These are my top 10 tourist attractions in Athens, Greece, including a couple of less touristy places to discover in the city.
The Acropolis of Athens
The Parthenon on the Acropolis is definitely the most famous place in Athens and the first landmark you will want to visit when you first visit the city. I’ve dedicated a full post to the Acropolis of Athens, a quick guide to help you plan your visit there.
The Acropolis Museum
I covered the Acropolis Museum in the same post about the Acropolis of Athens. It is a great museum hosting many finds from the Acropolis Hill including the original Caryatids of the Erechtheion. You should include the museum on your itinerary, to learn a bit more about the golden age of Ancient Athens.
The Panathenaic Stadium
This amazing ancient stadium could seat 50000 people and it is entirely covered in marble. The stadium was abandoned for about 15 centuries before being excavated, rebuilt, and used again as an Olympic venue, as well as for the Olympic flame handover ceremony. It is also the finish point of the Athens Authentic Marathon every year.
You can visit the Stadium every day starting at 8 a.m. and even run on the track around the stadium. The general entrance fee is 5€. Find out more about the opening hours and events on the official website.
Plaka is the best part of Athens in my opinion. It is an old part of the city, just below the Acropolis, full of restaurants, cafes, and small souvenir and jewelry shops. It is also close to everything you will want to visit so staying in this area is probably your best option.
I plan to explore more of the Plaka neighborhood in a separate post focusing on food in Athens.
There are two agoras in Athens: the ancient Greek Agora and the Roman Agora, the Roman next to the Greek one, but built a few centuries later. The Agora was a marketplace, as well as a place of gathering where people used to meet and discuss. It is exactly what a Forum was in Roman cities some years later.
A must-see in the Ancient Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus, a very well preserved Doric temple, dating from the 5th century BC.
A ticket to enter the Ancient Agora is 10€, but there is also a combined 30€ ticket that includes a few more sites, including the Acropolis and Olympieion.
Monastiraki and the Flea Market
Just at the end of the Plaka neighborhood, you come across Monastiraki (the small Monastery), named after the small 10th-century basilica in the square. Starting here, the flee market occupies the whole Adrianou street and a few adjacent smaller streets.
You will come across antique shops, as well as hand-made souvenirs, leather sandals, bars and places to eat. It is a very colorful and lively area of the city.
Olympieion: The Temple of Olympian Zeus
Zeus was the main Greek God, the king of the Gods living on Mount Olympus. Its temple was, of course, the largest in Ancient Greece. A walk around the standing columns of the temple will give you an idea of its original grandeur. You will also get a good view of the Acropolis Hill.
Just in front of the entrance to the Olympieion site, stands Hadrian’s Arch. The triumphal arch was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It also divides symbolically the old Athens to the new city expanded by the emperor.
The Guard Change at Syntagma Square
Syntagma is the main square in Athens, just in front of the Greek Parliament Palace. It’s a large square with a few luxury hotels on each side. Each Sunday at 11 a.m. there is a ceremonial guard change in front of the Parliament Building. Crowds gather every Sunday for this ceremony so if you want some good photos, you should get there early and find a good place to watch the change.
A Trip to Piraeus
Piraeus is the largest port in Greece and it’s less than 10km from Athens. From Piraeus, you can travel by boat to almost all Greek islands. For instance, you can get to Santorini by ferry in about 5 hours.
The easiest way to get to Piraeus from central Athens is by subway. The ride from Monastiraki station takes about 15 minutes and a ticket is 2€.
Piraeus, however, is a huge port. The subway station is close to the ferry hub, where there’s not really much to see. You can take a bus and go for a walk in the impressive yacht marina or to one of the beaches.
Non Touristy Things to do in Athens
Those above are the main tourist attractions in Athens, however, I have a couple of less touristy things to recommend.
The Numismatic Museum of Heinrich Schliemann
I’ve been wanting to visit this museum since reading Irving Stone’s – The Greek Treasure. It’s the story of Heinrich Schliemann, the man who excavated the site believed to be legendary Troy as well as other Greek sites. The museum is hosted in the house Schliemann built for himself and his Greek wife, Sophia. The building itself is as interesting as the coins collections within. The interior of the mansion was inspired by the mosaics and colors found in Pompeii.
I probably wouldn’t have visited this particular museum if it weren’t for the story but I am glad I did, it was actually very interesting.
The museum is a short walk from Syntagma Square and it is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The entrance ticket is 3€ and you will probably spend about an hour and a half there. In the courtyard, there is also a nice coffee shop. Find out more about the collections and events on the museum website.
The National Gardens of Athens
This was an accidental discovery for me. The National Garden is a public park, situated right in the center of Athens. It has the Parliament building on one side, one exit at the Olympieion site, and one other corner exit in front of the Panathenaic Stadium.
I went there for a run in the morning but you can very well walk between these sites through the luxuriant gardens, avoiding the sun.
These were my top 10 attractions in Athens, Greece. Of course, there are many more sites and museums to explore. Have you been to Athens? What was your favorite place to explore?
As long as we are talking about Greece, check out my 3 days itinerary for Thessaloniki too.
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