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December 10, 2019 | By: Jacob Randolph
It is not difficult to find things to do in Athens, but it is difficult to fit them all into your trip! The city’s rich history and culture have made Athens a tourist magnet for centuries, with people travelling from all over the world to visit the ‘birthplace of democracy’. You can still see many stunning remnants of the city’s ancient past, but Athens also has a vibrant modern character. It is one of the best places in Europe for street art and while wandering around you will easily come across musicians, dancers and other artists. Below we have chosen our 5 favourite things to do in Athens and provided you with some tips on when to visit them and where you can eat nearby. Read on and ensure you have an unforgettable trip to the Greek capital!
Dominating the city from its high crag, the Acropolis is one of the most important monuments in Western Europe. The site has been occupied since Neolithic times and has had a turbulent past with periods of remarkable building and destructive war. The ruins that you see today are what is left of the magnificent building program began by Pericles in the mid-fifth century BC. Only the best artisans, architects, and materials were used to create breath-taking monuments to the gods and in particular to Athena, the city’s patron goddess. The resulting monuments are the pinnacle of Classical art and have been an inspiration for artists, architects, and writers ever since.
Today you can see the restored Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheion, and Temple of Athena Nike amongst many other striking remains. While there it is also a good idea to visit the Acropolis Museum where most of the original statues and carvings have been moved to protect them from the elements. You can also learn more about the history of this special site. The Acropolis is open between 8 am and 8 pm between May and September and costs €20 for adults, €10 concessions and is free for children. There is also the option of exploring the site with a tour company, such as Acropolis Insiders, who will bring the site to life and give you a fascinating insight into its long history. Make sure you don’t miss out on the number one thing to do in Athens!
Best time to go - Early morning or near closing time to avoid the height of the crowds
Restaurant recommendation - Just down the road from the Acropolis on Rovertou Galli you will find Ellevoro. This lovely family restaurant serves traditional Greek food in a quaint interior and friendly service. Mains start at €17.
The Museum of Cycladic Art holds one of the most important collections of Ancient Greek art in the world and is a wonderfully engaging space. Set in a beautiful mansion, visitors can experience the striking simplicity of the marble human figures that have been an inspiration to artists, such as Picasso, Henry Moore, and Modigliani. The sculptures are masterpieces of the ancient world and it is worth visiting the museum for them alone just to see them up close! The museum also exhibits vases, weapons, and sculptures from across Greece and Cyprus grouped into the themes of Gods and Heroes, Eros, the World of Women, the World of Men, and the Underworld. Linked via a tunnel to a neighboring mansion, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
General admission costs €7 and is half price on Mondays. It is open every day except for Tuesday.
Best time to go - Monday and Wednesday are the quietest days but the museum is usually quiet in the mornings.
Restaurant recommendation - Around the corner from the museum you will find Oikeio. It is a modern taverna with a comfortable bistro vibe, serving international food with a local twist.
Plaka is the oldest continuously inhabited and most beautiful area of the city. The area is centrally located, stretching out below the Acropolis. It has winding cobbled streets, neo-classical architecture, ancient ruins, colourful flowers, cafes, bars, and more! There is a lot to explore in Plaka and it is well worth spending at least a whole day here to make the most of it. Spend some time just wandering around and appreciating the quaint streets with the street musicians, bubbly cafes with their outdoor terraces, and a variety of shops selling knick-knacks to artisan jewelry. As you discover the area you will come across some of its renowned ruins, such as the Tower of the Wind, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arc.
Make sure that you also check out Anafiotika. This startling array of houses could be straight from a Greek island and in a way they are! The houses were built by the builders of the king’s palace in the 1800s and they brought their style of architecture with them for their own homes in the capital. A great way to finish off your day is this gorgeous part of Athens is to catch a film at Cine Paris. This is no ordinary cinema however, you will find yourself on the roof with a view of the Acropolis as you enjoy an English film with Greek subtitles.
Best time to go - Start your day here early with breakfast and have the neighborhood to yourself before the crowds arrive!
Restaurant recommendation - Saita Taverna is a basement taverna serving up some delicious local fare, such as bakalairo (fried cod) with a welcoming family atmosphere.
If you are a foodie, then make sure not to miss the Dimotiki Agora! This is the central market of the city and here you will find all types of fresh produce from around Greece. It is a busy and lively place from Monday to Saturday with vendors selling meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, cheese, olives, spices, and any typical Greek food you can think of. You can sample some of the best quality food in the city at the agora and stock up on your culinary essentials (if you have room in your suitcase of course!). The Varvakios Agora is possibly the most interesting section of the area with its wrought-iron market hall sheltering the meat and fish sellers. This is section is not for the faint of heart however as you will see meat carcasses hanging from the stalls and all manner of cuts available behind the glass cases. Here you will also find some of Athen’s favorite tavernas, which sell cheap but high-quality dishes. This includes the hangover cure staple, pastas, a local tripe stew, and a host of other sumptuous treats! It is a great place to try something new and unique.
Best time to go - Early in the morning you will see the market at its busiest and most authentic.
Restaurant recommendation - Eiprus is a restaurant that has been in the area for decades and serves all the local favorites. Simply point at what you want at the counter and it will be brought to your table.
While not in Athens...the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion at sunset is considered one of the best things to see in Greece, so we had to include it as a day trip from the city! This magnificent temple to the sea god Poseidon presides over the Aegean on a high promontory 60 meters high. Its ancient Doric columns still stand and if you get close to the fence surrounding the temple, you can even see graffiti that is hundreds of years old. See if you can spot Lord Byron’s! It is a gorgeous spot to watch the sunset with the oranges, reds, and pinks transforming the sky as the sun sinks into the bay. It is a romantic spot and well worth putting up with the crowds that flock to the unforgettable sight.
You can book a tour of the temple from Athens, take a taxi or drive yourself. It is 70km from the city and can be a great day trip! You can include a visit to the beach and sample some of the best seafood in one of the seaside tavernas.
Best time to go - If you want to see the sunset and make a day of it, make your way to the area for lunch.
Restaurant recommendation - Try out the Elias taverna for some fantastic seafood with views over the sea.
There is so much more to do in the city, but with this list of our favorite things to do in Athens, you will be off to a great start! If you plan to visit the Greek islands on your vacation, be sure to check out our recommendations on Where to Stay in Crete.Back to overview
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.