Greece was on our bucket list for a long time, and we really wanted to visit the capital city, Athens! Athens is famous for its historical and cultural heritage, as well as the great Greek food and kind people. The Greek capital is also one of the oldest cities and civilizations in the world.
Athens is the birthplace of philosophy, democracy and it’s definitely worth visiting if you like to immerse yourself in historical treasures. We’ve put together the perfect 3-day itinerary in Athens for history and culture lovers, backpackers, and we’ve included interesting sites, squares, free activities, and travel tips as well. If you wish to also include something extra or unique in your itinerary: scroll down for our tips for visiting beaches near Athens, eco and wildlife tours and half-day trips.
How to get around in Athens?
The easiest way to get around in the central area is by walking. Once you get to the center, you can walk around the area of the Acropolis and most archeological sites. However, if you want to get somewhere faster, or something is further, you can take public transport or a taxi.
If you’re traveling on a budget like us, you’ll probably choose public transport. The public transport in Athens is very cheap, but (at least for us) it is easy to get confused with all the signs and lines in the subway. Especially because Google Maps only shows the Greek names of the stations with Greek letters 😀 Anyways, after a day we figured out how to use the subway properly, and it isn’t that hard. You’ll need to buy a ticket on the blue machines in the subway station. It will give you a card for entering and leaving the subway station. The 24-hour ticket is also worth it if you’re about to use the subway more than 3 times a day.
Technically, Uber doesn’t exist in Greece, but you can request a normal taxi with the Uber app. There is also an app called Beats for requesting taxis, we used that to get to the top of Mount Lycabettus at sunset. We paid about 5 EUR for a 15 minutes taxi ride, so it’s pretty cheap.
How many days do you need in Athens?
3 days is the perfect time to spend in Athens. Of course, if you’re only planning to see the Acropolis then one day is perfectly enough as well. However, Athens has more to offer than just the Acropolis. There’re more archeological sites, museums, parks, interesting sites, and squares as well. If you want to immerse yourself properly in the Greek capital, we recommend you to spend at least 3 days exploring Athens.
Is Athens in Greece safe?
Yes, Athens is safe, even for solo travelers. We never felt in danger, although we have not been in the suburbs at night. But the crime rate in Athens is very low, and we have only met kind and nice people in the city. We walked around in the night in more neighborhoods and we’ve always felt safe.
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Here you can see the map with all the places that we visited. Use it for navigation 😉
1. day of the Athens itinerary
Combined ticket to the archeological sites in Athens
There are lots of archeological sites in Athens, and it’s possible to get a combined ticket to visit the most important 7. It includes the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Theatre of Dionysus, Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Dante got the combined ticket for 30 EUR at the Ancient Agora, and it was free for me. The combined ticket is actually free for European Union citizens under 25 years old, which was really convenient for me. We recommend you not to buy the combined ticket at the Acropolis, as the queue can be really long there! One other advantage of the combined ticket is that it’s valid for 5 days, so you don’t need to be in a rush and visit all 7 on the same day.
Ancient Agora and the museums
The Ancient Agora was the center of the social, political and commercial activity in Athens. We would definitely start exploring the archeological sites in Athens at the Ancient Agora because you can buy there the combined ticket for 7 archeological sites. The Acropolis is also included in the combined ticket, and if you already buy the combined ticket somewhere else, then you don’t have to queue at the Acropolis.
The Temple of Hephaestus is the most well-preserved temple in Greece, but you can also find some beautiful Byzantine churches in the area of the Ancient Agora. There is also a museum to explain the history of the Ancient Agora, which has only been excavated after the 1930s. We absolutely loved walking around the agora and embracing all that history! At least 1,5 hours are necessary here to properly discover the whole place.
The impressive building Stoa of Attalos is also part of the Ancient Agora, and you can visit it if you’re interested in Athenian artifacts. Either way, the building and the columns itself are very impressive!
Roman Agora in Athens
The Roman Agora is located right next to the Ancient Agora, and it’s also close to the Acropolis. One of the most impressive sites in the Roman Agora is the Gate of Athena Archegetis, it’s right at the entrance of the agora. This gate tells the visitors the story of how Caesar and Augustus provided the funds for building this market in the 1st century B.C. After its construction, it slowly took away the function from the Ancient Greek Agora.
It’s also part of the combined ticket we mentioned above.
During the reign of Hadrian, his library was built very close to the Roman Agora. Hadrian’s Library is right next to the Roman Agora. Unfortunately, this site is not very well preserved, as it was forgotten for nearly 1600 years. It was founded by Hadrian in 132 AD, and it was a huge library with lots of papyrus that were donated. The gallery was decorated with 100 columns, only some of them were preserved, but the 8-meter tall Corinthian columns still offer an impressive sight! It is also the living area of some turtles, they walk around and they are incredibly photogenic! 😀
If you only want to visit the library, the single entrance fee is 4 EUR, although the combined ticket includes it as well.
Lunch and shopping in the Monastiraki square
The Monastiraki area is not far from Hadrian’s library. The square is busy, crowded, because restaurants, shops, flea markets, Greek taverns invite people to immerse themselves in the Greek culture. It showcases all the multiculturality of colorful Greece, and it is definitely a unique experience strolling around the antique and souvenir stores. It is called “Monastiraki” after the small monastery that was on the place of the square during the Ottoman times.
This square is also probably one of the best places to get traditional Greek food. After lunch, you can continue to explore the historical and cultural sites.
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Central Market Athens
Central Market is located next to the Monastiraki square, so you can head there after lunch. The Central Market of Athens is also called Dimotiki Agora (Public Market) or Varvakios Agora. If you like to visit markets to get a taste of the local fresh food, you definitely need to visit this. There is a vegetable, fish, and meat section as well, although I would not recommend visiting the last two for vegans or vegetarians like myself. But the veggies and fruits are fresh and cheap. The market is open from Monday until Saturday, it’s closed on Sundays.
The Kerameikos is one of the most underrated archeological sites in Athens. Although it’s in the central area, not so many people visit it. The area is called Kerameikos because of the pottery workshops that used to be in the area, and because the potters were living here. After that, it became the biggest and oldest cemetery in Athens. The archeological site is full of grave markers, and its museum has a great collection of burial artifacts.
This off-the-beaten-path archeological site is also included in the combined ticket that we mentioned earlier.
Watch the sunset!
We love to watch sunsets in general, and we always look for the best sunset spots in the city that we visit. In Athens, there are plenty of rooftop bars, but it’s even more convenient to watch the sunset from the rooftop of your hotel or hostel.
You can also get a wonderful sunset view over the city from one of the hills: Areopagus Hill, Filopappou Hill, Lycabettus Hill (we write more about these below).
In Athens, we stayed in the eco-hotel Coco-Mat Athens BC, which has a rooftop bar and pool with an incredible view of the Acropolis.
2. day of our Athens itinerary
Wander around the oldest neighborhood, Plaka
This area is right under the Acropolis, and you could easily spend a whole day strolling around the beautiful old streets. Plaka neighborhood has been inhabited for 3 thousand years, it’s as old as the Ancient Agora. The old steps, walls, taverns give a nostalgic feeling. The neighborhood is actually very big, there are mosques and Orthodox churches as well, and basically the Roman Agora is also part of the Plaka. Nowadays it’s a mixture of old yellow buildings with cute cafés and Greek taverns, and modern graffitis. It’s definitely the most photogenic district in Athens!
Explore the Anafiotika neighborhood
Anafiotika is right next to the Plaka neighborhood, but it’s really different from the yellow and orange mood. All the houses in the small Anafiotika are colored in white!
The easiest way to find it is to go to the Acropolis metro station, then right before the entrance to the Acropolis from the side of the Theatre of Dionysos, just turn to the right. You need to walk upon a hill, the Acropolis will be on your left side, the Plaka on your right side. As you walk up, you will start to see white houses everywhere: you arrived in Anafiotika! But if you’re already in the Plaka, you just need to start to follow the way uphill, like if you were going to the Acropolis.
This neighborhood is also full of cute cats! The streets are very narrow but very beautiful and unique. If you find the street that leads up to the hill, basically above all the houses, you will have a great view of the city. We fell in love with this area, and you can’t miss it when you visit Athens neither!
When you walk down from the Anafiotika, you will find yourself at Areopagitou Street.
This is the biggest pedestrian street in Athens, where you can find street food, souvenirs, and restaurants too. It became famous because of the beautiful buildings on the street, and also because it offers an amazing view of the Acropolis. The street starts at the Temple of Olympian Zeus and leads towards the entrance to the Acropolis site, and the continues to the Filiopappou Hill.
We, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit this museum, but we would love to! It’s right next to the Areopagitou pedestrian street, so if you walk there, you can turn to the left and take a look at the museum. You can learn about the history of the Acropolis and watch the artifacts that were found at the excavations at the Acropolis. The building itself is very impressive and modern as well!
The general admission is 5 EUR in the winter season, and 10 EUR in the summer season.
We’ve been dreaming about visiting the Acropolis for many years. The Acropolis is the symbol of Athens and ancient Greece, and it’s definitely a bucket list destination. Despite the fact that it can get crowded in the main season (as every main attraction in the world I guess), it can be an interesting historical journey. There’s no Athens itinerary that doesn’t include the Acropolis, and there can be no Athens trip without climbing up this hill!
Why is the Acropolis so important?
The Acropolis hill with its stunning buildings represents the achievements of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The monuments were built by Pericles in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the Athenians. The Acropolis hill with all the sacred buildings on the top was a safe place for refugees in case the towns around the Acropolis get invaded.
We recommend you to go early in the morning, to avoid the bigger groups. Of course, have your combined ticket ready (that you have bought at some other attraction), and you’re good to go, skip the line and start to climb up.
On your way up to the Acropolis, you will find the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysus as well.
The main entrance to the Acropolis is on the western side. However, there is a smaller ticket office on the southeastern side, this is where we entered. Actually, there was absolutely no queue when we got there, but it was also quite early (about 9 AM), and we already had the combined ticket so we could have skipped the line anyway.
From this entrance, it is a steady uphill walk past the Theater of Dionysus.
In the Theater of Dionysus musical shows and performances were presented since the ancient Greek times.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was actually built by the Romans, and it’s used for performances until today.
The Erechtheion is at the top of the hill, right next to the Parthenon. The actual sacred and holy place is the Erechtheion, the temple of Athena, the patron of Athens.
From 1 April to 31 October, a standard ticket costs €20.
From 1 November to 31 March, a standard ticket costs €10.
The 20 EUR entrance fee only includes the attractions in the Acropolis, meaning the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Theatre of Dionysus.
The combined ticket (read above on day 1) is only 10 EUR more and it includes all the important archeological sites. The combined ticket is also a skip-the-line-ticket at the Acropolis if you have already purchased the ticket at another, lesser-known site.
Travel tips for visiting the Acropolis
At the time we visited (2020 February), there was only one public bathroom, which was about 10 minutes walking from the actual road that leads up to the Parthenon. We advise you to go to the bathroom somewhere else before you start to make your way up to the top.
The hiking is not that difficult, it takes about 15 minutes to get to the top. We went in March and there was a lot of dust and sun, there are no shadows, so I can’t imagine in the summer how hot can it be… Bring water and a cap to avoid getting sunstroke.
This hill is also known as “Hill of Ares”. It’s basically a huge rock formation under the Acropolis. It was the site of the Council of Nobles and the Judicial Court in ancient Athens. This hill is just a short distance from the Acropolis itself, and you can climb it if you would like to have a stunning view over the city, mainly the Ancient Agora.
Be aware that the rocks are quite slippery, so wear proper shoes and take care! There is no entrance fee and it’s open all the time, however, it’s recommended to visit it during the daytime only. We read that the sunset is also stunning from here, we need to watch it for ourselves the next time we visit Athens.
Sunset at the Filopappou Hill
Athenians say that the best view of the Acropolis is from Filopappou Hill. Both sunrise and sunset are beautiful from this hill, although it takes up to 30 minutes to walk up. But the view is definitely worth it! On the top of the hill, there is a 12 meters high monument called the Filopappou Monument, that was built for a Roman consul.
Day 3 of Athens Itinerary
The Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are actually next to each other. The Arch of Hadrian resembles what it looks like an antique Roman triumphal arch. It was originally spanning a road that led from the arch to the city passing through the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Its origin remains in mystery, but it is proposed that it was built in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his victorious entrance to the city of Athens.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
One of the biggest constructions of its time, the construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus started during the 6th century BC by Peisistratos. Nevertheless, it was finished just 700 years later! The construction passed through the hands of the Greeks, Macedonians, and Romans. The style copycat from the Roman empire may have its origin in this temple as well. During the Roman rule of Athens, the general Sulla took two of the columns of the temple to Rome to build the temple of Jupiter, this influenced the Corinthian style in Rome! It is very funny how history goes!
They were originally 104 columns, making this temple look massive. Today they just remain 15 standing. It is believed that the temple was destroyed during an earthquake in the medieval period.
Travel tips for visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus
You can visit this temple very quickly because there are no extra rooms or constructions, just the temple by itself. The entrance to this is also included in the combined ticket, it is more convenient like this because the entrance fee by itself is 12 euros.
This is the most important square in modern Athens. Syntagma means constitution in Greek, the name comes from the important event that happened here on the 3rd of September 1843.
During that time, Great Britain and France forced a foreign government to put Otto I of Bavaria on the throne of Greece.
However, the people and the army demanded a constitution. Otto was forced to grant it and that eventually destroyed the base of his kingdom. The 3rd of September is a national holiday in Greece, and the square is full of people that day – celebrating their independence.
The changing of the guards is at 11 AM each morning, make sure to be there at that time, it’s fun to watch!
The Hellenic Parliament keeps the essence and history of the national history of Athens. Located in front of the Syntagma Square, this landmark is the witness of all the political and official event since it’s construction in 1843. You can visit the parliament in June, July, and September with a free guided tour in English. If you want to visit it, you can register yourself clicking here at least 5 days in advance.
National Garden – Zappeion
The National Garden is a beautiful green area in the center of Athens. It’s right next to the Greek parliament. The National Garden is together with the Zappeion hall garden, and it covers rich vegetation, rare plants, birds and animals. With its 7000 trees and 40 000 plants and bushes, the National Garden is a green oasis in the middle of the busy metropolis. If you need some fresh air and you want to chill and relax a little bit, this is the perfect place to wander around.
This stadium was used for the Olympic ceremony in 2004 and the flame handover. The stadium was built over the original stadium here, and it’s built entirely out of marble, which makes it impressive! The size and the symmetry of the stadium are stunning, you definitely need to go up the top of it to get the best views.
There is an audio guide, but you can also take a guided tour to learn more about the history of the stadium.
Athens Olympic Sports Complex
The Olympic sports complex was built in 1980, this amazing Stadium is part of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex. The building has an incredible roof designed by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava that was added during the 2004 Summer Olympics giving it an incredible sight.
If you want to visit it and have a good sight of the roof arches, you can take the subway M1 to the station Irini and Neratziotissa. It is located a little further from the city center (about 45 minutes by the public transport), but it worth the visit if you have the time 🙂
Sunset at Mount Lycabettus
Athens has some mountains that are really worth hiking up and admire the view of the massive city. Mount Lycabettus is the tallest one in Athens and also one of the most epic ones that we visited. We recommend you to visit it before sunset, so you can admire it from the top. Be aware that the hiking is long, so if you prefer you can take a taxi or a Beats for just 5 euros to the top. Then you can walk the rest for another 15 minutes approx. There is a church at the very peak of the mountain that gets usually very crowded at sunset time, so we recommend you to arrive at least 1 hour and a half before to get a good place.
You can also take a funicular to the top for 7 euros. The ticket includes a round journey and a discount for the restaurant located at the top.
Extras activities if you have more time or you want to do something different!
1. Temple of Poseidon- Half day tour
The Temple of Poseidon is at Sounion, so not in Athens. This temple was constructed in 444-440 BC, and it’s one of the major monuments of the Golden Age of Athens. There is archeological evidence that this area was sacred ever since the Bronze Age.
Cape Sounion is a place about 70 km south from Athens, and you’ll definitely need a half-day to visit this gorgeous temple. We recommend you take an organized tour or rent a car if you want to visit the Temple of Poseidon.
2. Eco tour or activity
Greece is famous for its islands, history, and culture, however, most of the visitors forget about the incredible nature and wildlife! Greece is home to bears, birds, turtles and lots of unique animals. If you want to have a unique experience, far from the tourist crowds, then we recommend you to take an eco or wildlife tour with Natural Greece.
When we visited Athens, we took a half-day tour to the Archelon Turtle Rescue Center to visit the injured turtles that are being taken care of by volunteers of the rescue center. You can read about our experience here:
3. Beach day
Also, if you head to the south of Athens, you can explore some amazing beaches! We chose to visit the Glyfada beach, which is close to the Archelon rescue center.
The closest beaches are in the suburbs Glyfada and Voula, both are reachable by public transport as well (you need to take the tram to the south).
Another, the more luxurious beach is one of the classics on the Athenian Riviera called Astir Beach.
Where to stay in Athens?
We stayed in the eco-hotel Coco-Mat Athens BC, which has a rooftop bar and pool with an incredible view of the Acropolis. This hotel is perfect for those who look for a sustainable travel experience.
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We hope that you enjoyed our Athens travel guide!
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