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Best places to visit in Athens, Greece

by Sam
View of the Acropolis from Philopappos Hill, Athens, Greece

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As one of the oldest cities in the world, there are plenty of incredible places to visit in Athens, Greece. It’s a travel destination not to be missed for history lovers, with a vast array of majestic ruins to visit, including the world-famous Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora. On top of that the city is home to quaint neighbourhoods, stunning viewpoints and museums, as well as being perfectly located for some fabulous day trips around Greece. We spent two weeks exploring Athens, whilst also taking the opportunity to  gorge on the delicious local cuisine. Read on to discover our verdict on the best places to visit in Athens, Greece.

Looking for some advice on where to stay? Check out our guide to the best places to stay in Athens!

Best places to visit in Athens

Acropolis

The Acropolis is undoubtedly the most famous site in all of Athens. Perched on top of a hill in the city centre, this ancient citadel is home to some of the oldest ruins in the city. The ruins of the Acropolis date back to the 5th century BC, and are a must see when visiting Athens.

Of all the structures found at the Acropolis, the Parthenon is the most well-known. The Parthenon is a former temple, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the city of Athens was named after. Construction of the temple began in 447 BC and continued until 432 BC. As with many of the structures at the Acropolis, the Parthenon has suffered substantial damage over the years.

Although the Parthenon is the most famous site at the Acropolis, there are a number of other ruins to visit, including the Theatre of Dionysus, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. Another spot to visit is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a theatre dating back to the 2nd Century. The theatre is still used today, although it is cordoned off so that you can only access it if you have tickets to a performance. Fortunately you can still get a good vantage point of it from the southwest slope of the Acropolis.

Tickets to the Acropolis of Athens cost €20 per person during the summer season (1st April-31st October), but are available at a reduced rate of €10 per person during the winter season (1st November-31st March). Reduced rate tickets are available for €10 during summer and €5 during winter if you are a university student or are over 65 years old and from an EU member state. Better yet, free tickets are available for under 18s, although free tickets cannot be booked in advance. During the summer queues can get up to two hours long, especially at the weekends, so it’s best to buy your ticket online in advance if you can. Click here to head to the Acropolis ticketing website, which also has further information on eligibility for the reduced rate and free tickets.

The world-famous Acropolis - one of the essential places to visit in Athens, Greece


If you plan to visit other ruins in Athens then you can buy a combined ticket costing €30. The combined ticket allows one admission per site to the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos and Aristotle’s School. These tickets are valid for 5 days, allowing you to spend your time exploring the different ruins. Reduced combined tickets are available for just €15 for students and seniors. Unfortunately there is no reduction in the price of a combined ticket during winter.

On certain days of the year there is free admission to the Acropolis and other ruins in Athens. The dates do vary from year to year, so it’s important to check them before your trip. It’s not possible to book online for these days, and the queues can be quite long. If you plan to visit on one of the free admission days then we recommend arriving early or late in the day to try and avoid the crowds. Click here to see on which days you can get free entrance to the Acropolis.

If you want to book your tickets in advance then another option is to book them via Get Your Guide. One of the best options is to book a ticket which allows you to skip the queue as well as have a digital audio tour on your phone to give you more information about the ruins. These tickets do cost more than standard entry, but are available from just €29.50 per person.

Click here to book skip-the-line Acropolis tickets with an audio guide!

Alternatively, you can book a guided tour of the Acropolis for around €14 more. Guided tours last 90 minutes and are a brilliant way to find out more about the incredible history of the ruins. They can be booked in advance through Get Your Guide for just €43, which includes skip-the-line entry to the Acropolis as well as an hour and a half guided tour. At the conclusion of the tour you will have the chance to explore the ruins without the guide too if you’d like to stay for longer!

Click here to book a 90 minute guided tour of the Acropolis!

There are two entrances to the Acropolis – the main entrance and the side entrance. Both entrances require some uphill walking to reach the ruins, but we recommend using the side entrance as it is less busy and also isn’t as far away from the main ruins. We recommend reading this article on the different entrances to the Acropolis before you visit.

Restoration works have been underway at the Acropolis since 1975, but as of 2017 they have slowed down significantly. Although the works have slowed, construction may still partially obstruct sections of the Parthenon and other ruins. During our visit in early 2019 one side of the Parthenon was blocked by construction, but the majority of it could still be enjoyed without obstruction. Despite the works the Acropolis is still one of the top tourist destinations and things to see in Athens!

Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis of Athens


Ancient Agora of Athens

The Ancient Agora of Athens was once the heart of the city, acting as a marketplace and meeting point for Athenians. In similar fashion to the Roman Forum in Rome, the Agora is a large archaeological site home to a range of ruins, with two of the most notable being the Hephaisteion and the Stoa of Attalos. Also known as the Temple of Hephaestus, the Hephaisteion is a beautiful temple that dates back to the 5th century BC. The Stoa of Attalos is a covered walkway that was once home to a number of shops, making it the ancient equivalent of a shopping mall. Built in the 2nd century BC, the Stoa was used for hundreds of years before being destroyed in 267 AD. Thankfully, it was reconstructed between 1952 and 1956, and is now home to the Museum of the Ancient Agora.

With so many different ruins and artefacts to see, you can easily spend a few hours exploring the Agora. Although it isn’t as iconic as the Acropolis, it’s still a fascinating place to visit thanks to its rich history.

Entrance tickets to the Ancient Agora of Athens cost €8 between 1st April to 31st October, but are available at a reduced rate of €4 outside of these dates. Students and seniors are able to get reduced rate tickets for €4 all year round. If you opt to buy the combined ticket for the Acropolis and other ruins, entry to the Ancient Agora is already included in the price. Like with the Acropolis, it’s possible to visit the Agora free on certain days of the year.

Click here to find out which days you can visit the Ancient Agora of Athens for free!

Hephaisteion temple in the Ancient Agora, one of the best places to visit in Athens, Greece


Panathenaic stadium

One of the top places to visit in Athens is the immense Panathenaic stadium – the main venue for the first modern day Olympic Games in 1896. The original stadium on the site opened in 330 BC before being abandoned during the 4th century. Following excavations in the 19th century the stadium was rebuilt in time for the 1896 Olympic Games. It held both the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, as well as being the venue for 4 of the 9 contested events. As of 2019, the Panathenaic stadium is still the only stadium in the world to be built entirely from marble.

Built in a horseshoe shape, the stadium has an external length of 268 metres and width of 34 metres. In the past the Panathenaic stadium had a maximum capacity of 80,000 spectators, but its current capacity is 45,000-50,000. In our opinion it’s a simply unmissable spot to visit on any trip to Athens, thanks to the stadium’s significance in the history of the Olympic Games.

The Panathenaic Stadium was again used as a venue during the 2004 Olympic Games, hosting the archery as well as being the finish point for the marathon. Before every Olympics, the stadium hosts the handover ceremony for the Olympic flame to be passed from the previous host nation to the next one.

On top of this, it is still sometimes used for other sporting events, and during our visit in early 2019 there was a school sports day taking place in the stadium. Concerts also take place at the stadium, with R.E.M. and Depeche Mode having played there previously.

Tickets to visit the Panathenaic stadium cost €5, although students and seniors are able to gain entrance for a reduced rate of €2.50. Unlike some of the other attractions in Athens, entrance to the stadium costs the same rate throughout the year, and so it isn’t possible to visit for less during the winter months. Entrance to the stadium includes a free audio guide as well as access to a museum with previous Olympic games posters, torches and more.

The Panathenaic Stadium, one of the most impressive places to visit in Athens, Greece


Philopappos Hill

Philopappos Hill is one of the best places to visit for sunset in Athens. Thanks to the hill’s central location, it’s the perfect spot to watch day turn to night as it provides wonderful views of both the Acropolis and the whole city. The walk up isn’t too strenuous, and only takes around 15-minutes from bottom to top. At the top of the hill you will find the Philopappos monument – an ancient Greek mausoleum dedicated to Philopappus, a prince from the Kingdom of Commagene.

Although sunset is the best time to visit, it’s still a lovely place to see at any time of day thanks to the incredible views. If possible, it’s well worth planning your day so that you can be here for sunset. With a bit of luck you’ll be treated to a vibrant sky alongside the most stunning views of Athens and the Acropolis. After nightfall the Acropolis illuminated, so make sure to wait until you see it lit up before descending the hill as it’s one of the things not to miss in Athens!

Philopappos Hill, one of the best places to visit for sunset in Athens


Lycabettus hill

At 277 metres above sea level, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in Athens. Sometimes referred to as Mount Lycabettus, it’s a brilliant place to visit for sunset as you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the whole city. Visiting the hill for sunset is definitely one of the best things to do in Athens at night. That being said, the stunning views mean it’s a brilliant spot to visit at any time of day.

There are two options to get to the top of Lycabettus Hill – take the funicular or walk. We personally opted to hike to the top during our visit, but as we visited early in the year it wasn’t too hot. During the summer months walking can be particularly tough due to the heat, so make sure to stay well hydrated if you plan to walk up on a hot day! If it’s a really hot day then we suggest taking the funicular railway to the top.

A funicular is a kind of train used for going up and down steep inclines, making it an ideal way to get to the top of the hill. The Lycabettus Hill funicular costs €5 for a one-way journey or €7 for a return trip. It runs at least once every 30 minutes between 9am and 2.30am, and during peak times it sometimes runs as often as every 10 minutes. Unfortunately the funicular runs inside a closed tunnel so you don’t get any views on the way up, but it isn’t long before you get to enjoy the views from the top!

If you’d prefer to walk to the top it isn’t too tough a walk. In total it took us around 30 minutes to reach the top from the nearby Evangelismos metro station. Although it can be fairly steep at times, if you have a moderate level of fitness the walk to the top should take no longer than an hour at most.

Whichever way you choose to get to the top, there are a number of incredible viewpoints to enjoy. If you’re visiting at sunset we recommend being at the top at least half an hour before so that you can walk around and appreciate the different vantage points. As sunset approaches the very top viewing platform of Lycabettus Hill can get extremely crowded, so it can be worth walking back down the hill slightly to find a quieter spot away from the crowds.

At the top of the hill you will find the lovely small church of Agios Georgios (St. George). It’s free to enter, so if you want you can also take a quick look inside whilst there. There is also a restaurant and bar at the top of the hill if you’re looking to have dinner or drinks with a view. On top of that, some locals sell cold beers and soft drinks at the top if you’d prefer to buy from them.

Sunset view from Lycabettus Hill - one of the best places to visit in Athens, Greece


Plaka

Located in the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka is one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Athens. It’s the oldest neighbourhood in the city and is made up of narrow cobblestone streets lined with traditional tavernas and souvenir stores. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Neighbourhood of the Gods’, Plaka is a lovely area to wander around to soak up the atmosphere, both during the day and night.

One of the best spots to visit is the tiny Anafiotika neighbourhood, located at the top of the hill in Plaka. Despite being in the centre of Athens, the neighbourhood feels more like it belongs on one of the Greek islands. It’s a very scenic and charming spot to visit, and is definitely one of the city’s hidden gems. Although Plaka itself can be over-commercialised at times, Anafiotika is a quiet and peaceful escape that’s well worth visiting.

Anafiotika in Plaka - one of the best places to visit in Athens


Syntagma

Syntagma Square is the central square of modern day Athens. The square is easy to reach by public transport, with 2 of the city’s 3 metro lines stopping at Syntagma station. Due to the square’s central location, it’s common for it to get busy with a mix of both tourists and locals.

Directly adjacent to the square is the Greek Parliament Building, known as the Hellenic Parliament. One of the main things to do in Syntagma Square is to watch the changing of the guards at the parliament building. The main changing of the guard ceremony in Athens, known as the Grand Change, takes place on Sundays at the parliament building. Many websites report that this takes place at 11am, but on our visit we arrived at around 10.30am to find it was already underway. We recommend arriving prior to 10.30am to ensure you’re there before the ceremony starts.

Thanks to the central location of Syntagma Square, many of the city’s main attractions are within walking distance. On top of that, there are a number of restaurants, bars and hotels nearby, making it a great area of the city to stay.

Changing of the guard in Syntagma, Athens


Monastiraki

Monastiraki is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Athens and is best-known for being one of the city’s main shopping districts. The best place to start your visit to the neighbourhood is Monastiraki square, which is home to the Tzistarakis Mosque and the Church of the Pantanassa. Like many squares in the city centre, it is a hub of activity and so can be quite busy.

In terms of shopping, the area is home to a mix of boutiques, souvenir shops and specialty stores. One of the best times to visit Monastiraki is during the Sunday flea market. As with most flea markets there is a mix of antiques and unique souvenirs as well as some junk you probably won’t be interested in at all!

If shopping isn’t really your thing then you may prefer to visit one of the rooftop bars near to Monastiraki Square. You can choose between A for Athens or 360 Cocktail Bar, both of which have wonderful views overlooking the Acropolis and the square. They’re great spots to enjoy a drink with some of the most memorable views in Athens.

The neighbourhood is easily accessible by Metro as the Monastiraki Metro station serves both lines 1 and 3. Close-by to the metro station you will find the ruins of Hadrian’s Library, which you are able to visit using the combined Acropolis ticket if you wish.

Monastiraki square, Athens


Acropolis Museum

Ranked 6th in TripAdvisor’s list of the top 25 museums in the world in 2018, the Acropolis Museum is one of the top tourist attractions for history lovers. It showcases a collection of artefacts found at the Acropolis and its surrounding slopes, dating from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. The museum is built on top of an archaeological site, and so the floor is often transparent to allow visitors to see the ruins below.

Between 1st April and 31st October tickets to the Acropolis Museum cost €10 at full price or €5 at the reduced rate, and between 1st November and 31st March tickets are €5 or €3 at the reduced rate. Free entrance to the museum is also available if you meet certain requirements. Click here to find out whether you are eligible for free or reduced rate entrance to the museum.

Tickets for the Acropolis Museum can be bought online in advance through the official website. Alternatively, Get Your Guide have a few different options available for visiting the museum. One option is to purchase a skip-the-line ticket, and another is to book a guided tour of the museum to learn even more about the fascinating history!

Acropolis lit up at night, one of the best sights to see in Athens


Roman Agora

Just north of the Acropolis you will find the Roman Agora, which was the city’s market area whilst under Roman rule. Believed to be built during the 2nd or 1st Century BC, the Roman Agora is substantially smaller than the Ancient Agora, which means you don’t need to plan as long for your visit. Much of the Roman Agora can be seen through fences without paying the entrance fee, but if you have the combined Acropolis ticket then entry is included and so it’s worth going in for a closer look. Points of interest in the Roman Agora include the Tower of the Winds, the Fethiye Mosque and the Gate of Athena Archegetis, which served as the entrance to the market.

If you want to visit but do not have a combined ticket then the entrance fee to the Roman Agora is €6 between 1st April and 31st October, and €3 outside of these months. Click here to see the entrance times, opening dates and free admission dates for the Roman Agora!

Roman Agora, Athens, Greece


Athens Olympic Sports Complex

If you’re looking for places to go outside central Athens then we recommend visiting the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, also referred to as OAKA. The complex was used for the 2004 Olympic Games, and is home to the Main Olympic Stadium in Athens – not to be confused with the Panathenaic stadium. Today the complex is largely unused and abandoned, although some locals do still use the area for jogging, rollerblading and more.

One of the main reasons to visit is the beautifully designed arches, which are perfect for wandering underneath and getting some brilliant photos too. It’s a nice spot to relax and it also gives you the chance to see the Main Olympic Stadium from the 2004 games. The stadium is home to AEK Athens Football Club, and has previously hosted the Champions League Final in 2007, as well as concerts from the likes of U2, Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi.

The Olympic Sports Complex is easy to reach as you can take line 1 to the Irini metro station, which is located directly adjacent to the complex. In our opinion visiting the complex is one of the more interesting non touristy things to do in Athens.

Unique archway at the Athens Olympic Sports Complex


Free Walking Tour

If you’re looking for a different way to discover the city then we recommend taking a free walking tour. These tours are a great chance to learn about the history of both Athens and Greece whilst you get a feel for the city. Tours run every day at 9.30am, and can be booked by visiting the Athens free walking tour website. The length of tours can vary slightly depending on how many questions your group has, but normally they last around 2 to 2 and half hours.

Unfortunately we didn’t get chance to do the free walking tour in Athens, but we did do a similar one in Bucharest and we found it absolutely fascinating. The reviews of the Athens walking tour on TripAdvisor are great, so we’re sure this tour is one of the top things to do in Athens.

Although the tours are free, if you enjoy the tour and have enough money to give a tip then we recommend doing so. The guides are so passionate and knowledgeable about the city, so contributing even a small amount goes a long way to showing your appreciation for their hard work.

Litlle Metropolis church in Mitropolis Square, Central Athens


Day Trips

While there are some absolutely incredible places to visit and things to do in Athens itself, there are also a number of great day trips to take from the city. Greece has some wonderful islands and historical sites to visit, so if you have enough time during your trip we fully recommend seeing more than just Athens!

There are a number of islands that can be easily visited on day trips from Athens, including Hydra, Poros and Aegina. It’s possible to book ferries online in advance, or alternatively you can arrange them at the port in Piraeus. Arranging it this way normally works out cheaper, but if you would like to visit multiple islands in one day then you can book a day tour with Get Your Guide. These tours visit Hydra, Poros and Aegina, allowing you to see a number of the beautiful islands in just one day!

Click here to check out the wonderful day tour to the islands on Get Your Guide! If a day trip is too rushed for you then you can arrange transport yourself and also choose to stay on one of the islands for a few days too.

Other brilliant day trip spots from Athens include Meteora, Delphi and the Temple of Poseidon. Meteora is a stunning rock formation home to a number of Eastern Orthodox Monasteries, which help to make it a truly magical place. Delphi is home to some stunning ruins, including the Temple of Apollo and the Delphi amphitheatre. Finally, the Temple of Poseidon is a famous temple built between 444 BC and 440 BC, and is a truly beautiful place to visit at sunset. Day trips to all these wonderful places and more can be arranged in advance through Get Your Guide. We recommend booking early for your trip so that the dates you want to visit don’t sell out!

Click here to see the amazing day trips available from Athens on Get Your Guide!

How to get to Athens city centre from the airport

There are good public transport links between Athens airport and the city centre, so you can either use the metro or take a bus. The cheaper option is to take the bus, which costs €6 one-way and takes around an hour to reach the city centre. Buses from the airport will drop you off in Syntagma Square, which is ideal if you have a hotel around this area.

If you’d prefer to take the metro then a one-way ticket to the city centre costs €10. Alternatively, if you’re only staying for a few days you can buy a 3-day tourist ticket for €22. This ticket is valid for 72 hours from when you first validate it and allows unlimited metro use within the city centre, as well as a return journey from the airport. If you plan to use the metro to get around during your stay then the 3-day Athens tourist ticket is very good value. The advantage of taking the metro to the city centre is that you can get off at the stop closest to your accommodation. Athens has three metro lines, and the one running to the airport is metro line 3. If the stop you need is on another line then you can change at Monastiraki station for line 1 or Syntagma station for line 2.

The final option is to take a taxi from Athens airport to the city centre. Unsurprisingly this is the most expensive option, but if you’re in a group then it can still work out as relatively good value if you split the cost. Taxis from the airport to the city centre have a fixed rate fee and cost €38 from 5am to 12am or €54 from 12am to 5am. Taking a taxi from the airport is the quickest way to reach Athens city centre, so if you would prefer to get there quickly then it’s a good option.

Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora of Athens


Getting around Athens

Most of the main attractions in Athens are relatively close together, which makes walking one of the best ways to get around the city. If you’re staying in the city centre then you should be able to easily walk to places like the Acropolis, Ancient Agora and Philopappos Hill. During summer the city can get very hot, so you should make sure to drink plenty of water if you’re going to be walking around the city. It’s also worth considering other means of transport if you feel the weather is too hot to walk in.

Fortunately, Athens has a cheap and easy to use metro system, with 3 different lines running across the city. A 90-minute ticket for the metro costs €1.40, whereas a 24-hour ticket costs €4.50. Both options are great value if you want to get around the city quickly. The metro system is extremely convenient if you’re staying outside of the city, as it means you can quickly reach the centre of Athens for less than €2.

The other alternative is to use taxis to get around the city, but if you’re travelling long distances then the cheapest and best way to see Athens is to use the metro.

The Theatre of Dionysus at the Acropolis of Athens


Best time to visit Athens

The best time to visit Athens in terms of weather is during spring or autumn as it can get uncomfortably warm during the summer months. Temperatures in the city can exceed 35 degrees Celsius during summer, with average highs of 32 degrees Celsius in both July and August. Visiting during spring or autumn also means the city should be less busy than during summer, so not only will it be a more bearable temperature, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the attractions without as many tourists! If possible, try to avoid weekends if you’re only visiting for a few days, even during winter. The city will inevitably be more busy during weekends, especially if you visit during a holiday such as Easter.

When we visited Athens in winter 2019 we were pleasantly surprised with the weather. Although the nights were reasonably cold, some of the days were so warm it was comfortable enough to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. Of course the weather can vary, especially in winter, so visiting at this time is a bit of a gamble as it’s possible to get periods of rainy weather. Just a month before we visited Athens even saw some snowfall, which, although rare, is still possible in the city.

If the warm weather and crowds don’t bother you then summer is still a nice time to visit the city, but it’s important to make sure you have air conditioning in your accommodation if you visit at this time.

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