The Best things to do in Athens in 2024


Best things to do in Athens include immersing yourself in its rich historical tapestry, starting with the iconic Acropolis and Ancient Agora, home to landmarks like the Parthenon and the Temple of Hephaestus. Don’t miss the breathtaking views from Mount Lycabettus or the vast collections in the National Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum. Wandering through the quaint alleys of Plaka offers a quaint charm. One can enjoy comprehensive city tours, including convenient hop-on, hop-off bus options, ideal for those eager to see Athens’s highlights efficiently. Arts enthusiasts will relish the chance to experience a performance at the Herod Atticus Odeon, particularly during its bustling season. Athens masterfully blends the ancient with the modern, promising a diverse array of activities and sights for every visitor, whether on an extended journey or a quick trip.

Best things to do in Athens in 2024

best things to do in athens greece

Athens, one of the oldest cities globally, is rich in archaeological sites. Key attractions for newcomers include the Acropolis and Parthenon, alongside numerous Greek and Roman ruins scattered throughout the city. A visit to Athens offers a captivating journey into the past, providing an educational experience suitable for all ages. Regardless of how long you plan to stay, there are plenty of outstanding activities to engage in.

Exploring Athens’ Acropolis

The Acropolis, in the center of Athens, features the Parthenon among other key historical sites. It’s a place deeply connected to the early ideas of philosophy, democracy, and free speech, surrounded by temples. The term “Acropolis” refers to a high city, and it hosts significant landmarks such as the Parthenon and the Theater of Dionysus, highlighting Athens’ cultural and historical importance.

It’s a popular site, especially during midday, attracting many visitors. To dodge the crowds, it’s best to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Buying tickets online in advance or opting for a combination ticket at a quieter location can make your visit more enjoyable, allowing easier access to the Acropolis.

Exploring the Temple of Poseidon

Athens is a treasure trove for anyone interested in Greek mythology, with the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion standing out as a key attraction. This site, dedicated to the god of the sea, sits high above the sea on Cape Sounion. It was originally built by ancient Athenians to honor Poseidon, seeking his protection for sailors on their journeys. Today, visitors can see the surviving columns, which are particularly impressive at sunset. Though it’s a bit far from the center of Athens and might require a bus ride for those without a car, the trip offers remarkable views and a deep dive into history that many find well worth the journey.

Make a visit at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theater

Right at the foot of the Acropolis hill, you’ll find the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a stone theater dating back to the Roman era, built in the 2nd century AD. It faced destruction once but was rebuilt in the 1950s, now serving as a well-kept historical site that doubles as a lively spot for concerts and performances.

Since its revival in 1957, it has become a central venue for the Athens Epidaurus Festival, hosting a wide range of cultural and artistic events. For visitors to Athens, experiencing a performance here, especially during the summer’s pleasant weather, is highly recommended. With room for 5,000 people, it’s an exceptional place to watch ancient Greek drama unfold in a city rich with historical layers.

Experience the Varvakios Market

The Monastiraki area comes alive with its bustling food market, where Greek vendors start early, passionately showcasing their fresh produce ranging from meat and fish to fruit, spices, and local specialties. The market buzzes with an atmosphere unique to itself, drawing both travelers and locals into its narrow aisles lined with stalls. Here, you’ll find meats hanging, delicacies from Greek cuisine, and seafood chilling on ice. This vibrant scene offers a window into Athens’ everyday life and its rich culinary traditions.

Walk across Monastiraki Neighborhood

Monastiraki stands as one of Athens’ most historic and vibrant neighborhoods, known for its rooftop bars, historical landmarks, and extensive markets. Conveniently located near the Monastiraki metro station, the area unfolds from a charming main square offering stunning views of the Acropolis. Visitors can explore the Monastiraki flea market, navigate through bustling pedestrian streets, and discover shops offering antiques, handmade jewelry, and traditional Greek crafts.

Visit Psyrri Neighborhood

Psyrri, a lively and fashionable district close to Monastiraki, boasts excellent restaurants, unique bars, an energetic nightlife, and small boutique shops, making it a perfect place for an evening out.

Consider starting with a coffee or traditional spoon sweets at Kalimeres, followed by a wine tasting session at Cinque Wine & Deli Bar. For dinner, Lithos Tavern offers a cozy atmosphere with a menu of traditional Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Psyrri stands out as a refreshing change from the usual itinerary of temples, ruins, and museums in Athens.

A Must-See at SNFCC

This spot is a haven of Mediterranean greenery, featuring opera, books, and a main building noted for its architectural excellence. Spanning 170,000 square meters, the area includes playgrounds, gardens, cafés, and an eco-friendly glass structure that houses the Greek National Opera. Additionally, visitors can find a manmade river and the National Library of Greece here. The location also offers a fantastic view of the Acropolis.

Go to Onassis Stegi

Onassis Stegi is more than just a cultural center in Athens; it’s a place where the modern meets the traditional in art, aesthetics, and science. ‘Stegi’ means ‘roof’ in Greek, fitting for a venue that hosts a mix of cultural events including theater and dance performances, concerts, film showings, and art and digital media exhibitions. It’s a launchpad for up-and-coming Greek artists and has welcomed international icons like Marina Abramovic and John Malkovich. With a restaurant on the top floor that provides breathtaking views of the Acropolis, Philopappos Monument, Lycabettus Hill, and the Saronic Gulf, it’s a perfect blend of cultural immersion and scenic dining.

Discover the Ellinikon Experience Park

The site of the once-abandoned Ellinikon International Airport, located in the southern suburbs of Athens, is currently being redeveloped into what will be one of the largest coastal parks in Europe. This transformation offers a serene escape by the sea, away from the city’s hustle, populated with over 600 trees and 80,000 Mediterranean plant varieties. Now in its initial phase accessible to the public, the park provides various activities, including a water maze, a forest playground for children, a Zen garden for relaxation, and outdoor exercise areas. Additionally, it serves as a venue for festivals and diverse events throughout the year, offering a stunning sight when illuminated at night.

Exploring the Historic Panathenaic Stadium 

This stadium holds a significant place in history, having been the venue for numerous major events. Originating from 330 BC, it was rebuilt in marble by Herodes Atticus in 144 AD. Notably, it played a pivotal role in the 1896 Olympics, hosting both the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern games. It was again utilized as an Olympic venue in 2004. Additionally, it serves as the finish line for the Athens Classic Marathon, adding to its historic and athletic significance.

See the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Situated in Syntagma Square close to the Hellenic Parliament Building, this war memorial honors Greek soldiers who have fallen in battle. An Evzone soldier, wearing a traditional uniform, stands guard over the tomb. The guard changes every hour, with the most ceremonial change happening at 11 am on Sundays, featuring a march of soldiers to the tomb.

Hike to Philopappos Hill

Philopappos Hill, situated southwest of the Acropolis, offers a scenic park filled with walking paths. The most favored spot for views is at the Monument of Philopappos. Exploring other trails provides varied angles of the Acropolis.

Visit the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea

On Ermou Street in Plaka, you’ll find one of Athens’ oldest Greek Orthodox churches, dating back to the 11th century. Surrounded by modern buildings and popular chain stores, it stands as a historic landmark amid the city’s evolution.

Explore the Imposing Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, initiated in the 6th century BC, was designed to be a tribute to Zeus and aimed to be the most magnificent temple of the ancient world. Upon completion, it stood as one of the largest temples of its time, boasting 104 towering columns, each 17.25 meters in height. However, shortly after its completion in the 2nd century AD, it suffered damage from a barbarian invasion. Today, with just fifteen of the original columns remaining, the temple’s majestic scale is still evident.

Go to Hadrian’s Library

Hadrian’s Library was established in 132 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, serving as a repository for papyrus scrolls.

Visit Athens’ Roman Agora

Close to the Ancient Agora, you’ll find the Roman Agora, established in the first century BC under Julius and Augustus Caesar. Access is primarily through the Gate of Athena. Notably, it includes the Tower of the Winds, recognized as the first meteorological station, equipped with a sundial, water clock, and wind vane.

Athens Museums to visit 

Athens museum

Athens is home to an abundance of museums, thanks to its deep historical roots. When visiting Athens, it’s impossible to see all the museums, so choices must be made. The Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are among the most visited.

The Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum, dedicated to archaeological findings from the Acropolis and its nearby slopes, is situated close to the Acropolis itself. To avoid long lines, it’s advisable to buy tickets online beforehand. Note that tickets for the Acropolis Museum are separate from those for the Acropolis.

National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)

The EMST in Athens compares to iconic institutions like the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, or the Museum of Modern Art. It showcases art that sparks conversation, featuring works by Greek and international artists in various formats, including painting, video, and experimental architecture. Interestingly, the museum is located in a building with its own history, having once served as a brewery for the Greek beer, Fix.

Museum of Cycladic Art

This museum boasts over 3,000 artifacts from Cycladic, Ancient Greek, and Cypriot cultures. Visitors can admire the unique, slender marble figurines and statues from the Bronze Age. For those interested in other periods, the museum also houses around 150 objects from ancient Greek art, such as vases, figurines, and weapons, organized into themes like Gods and Heroes, Eros, The World of Women, and The Underworld.

Benaki Museum

The Benaki Museum displays Greek art spanning from prehistory to contemporary periods, alongside a significant collection of Asian art. The museum originated from the Benaki family, who generously donated their home and vast art and artifacts collection to Greece.

National Archaeological Museum

This museum stands as Greece’s largest archaeological museum, showcasing an impressive collection of Greek antiquity artifacts. To visit, the nearest metro stations are Omonia and Victoria.

Fun things to do in Athens 

Athens has a way of drawing you in with its welcoming charm, much like a good friend urging you to hang out. If you’re curious about what to see and do and how to maximize your visit, you’re in luck. Friendly locals are always around to help you feel right at home. So, ready to explore? Here are some fun things to do in Athens during your holiday.

Grab this Athens travel guide and start exploring!

Shopping spree in Athens

Exploring the vibrant heart of Athens, you’ll discover a city reborn from its recent past, fueled by the creativity of artists and entrepreneurs who rose during the economic challenges. Strolling through the streets, the allure of charming boutiques and souvenir stores selling unique, locally crafted items is undeniable. Look out for fashionable summer and beachwear by emerging Greek designers—don’t hesitate to ask shop owners for recommendations—and jewelry that blends ancient motifs with contemporary flair.

Consider picking up a handmade gift that tells a story, possibly accompanied by a note from the designer, adding a personal touch to your Athens experience with tasteful packaging to match. And if your schedule is tight, the Athens airport offers a range of shopping options to grab that last-minute souvenir before you depart.

Athens’ Theater Scene 

Athens has a vibrant cinema culture, far removed from the mainstream cinema experience. The city is home to around 60 outdoor cinemas, offering a unique way to enjoy films under the stars. These cinemas are dotted throughout Athens, from parks to rooftops and in-between buildings. Some standout spots include Cine Dexameni, known for its historic location above a Roman aqueduct and next to a traditional ouzeri; Zefyros in Petralona, popular among a bohemian crowd for its vintage film selection; and Cine Oasis in Pangrati, set in a beautiful garden and favored by the local arts community. Not to be missed, Cine Thisio offers an unparalleled viewing experience with the Acropolis as its backdrop, where movie-goers can enjoy specialty snacks while taking in a piece of history.

Athens Nightlife

Athenians thrive on being outdoors, especially during the warm evenings from April to November, where social life blooms in the city’s bars and restaurants. Each area brings its own flavor to Athens’ nightlife. Explore Keramikos and Gazi for lively clubbing and a youthful vibe. Monastiraki and Thissio offer rooftop bars perfect for dining under the stars, suitable for couples. Koukaki is known for its intimate cocktail bars, sidewalk cafes, and excellent brunch spots. For a vibrant nightlife, especially in winter, head to Kolonaki. Pangrati offers an artsy atmosphere with cool cafes, while Petralona is the go-to for authentic food and live folk music in cozy venues known as koutoukia and rebetadika. If you’re seeking more privacy, consider the secluded luxury of a 5-star hotel bar or terrace with views of the Acropolis.

Parks and Gardens in the Heart of Athens

Surprisingly, Athens is home to several lush areas, contrary to what some might expect. Early in your visit, you might have wandered through Philopappou Hill, with its Acropolis views, or climbed Lycabettus Hill for an even broader panorama of the city. For those who enjoy jogging, the pine-covered path behind the Panathenaic Stadium offers a refreshing route. Picnic lovers will appreciate the spacious lawns of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Faliro. However, the National Garden, located next to Syntagma Square and the Hellenic Parliament, truly stands out as a green oasis in the heart of Athens.

Athens Culinary Secrets

Exploring Athens reveals a vibrant culinary scene that’s evolved dramatically. For both avid food enthusiasts and casual diners, diving into the city’s flavors is a must-do. Athenians cherish the entire dining experience — from the taste and ambiance to the joy of sharing meals with others in the open air. It’s wise to set aside at least a day or a few hours for a dedicated food tour to fully appreciate what Athens has to offer.

Begin your day with a traditional Athenian breakfast, choosing either a sesame seed-covered koulouri or a delicious pie. Next, wander through the bustling markets and aromatic spice shops. For lunch, find a cozy dine-in deli where the owner can enlighten you about the finest olive oils and local delicacies. In the afternoon, blend in with the locals over a Greek coffee or an iced freddo. Cap off the day with a rooftop dinner, offering fine dining against the backdrop of the Acropolis illuminated at night. This journey offers a taste of Athens’ culinary harmony.

Island hop to a Greek Island near Athens

After spending so much time indoors, simply relaxing on a beach may not fulfill your longing for an island adventure. Fortunately, right near Athens, there are several islands accessible throughout the year that are just a short ferry or hydrofoil ride away from Piraeus. These destinations offer a change of pace with their quaint fishing harbors and traditional tavernas. Aegina, Hydra, and Poros, along with slightly more distant Spetses, are among these gems, comparable to the more famous Greek islands. For those short on time but eager for variety, consider a mini-island-hopping tour to experience two or three islands in one go.

Escape to the Athenian Riviera

The Athens Riviera, a scenic stretch from Paleo Faliro to Cape Sounion’s stunning Temple of Poseidon, is a beloved coastal area known as ‘Nou-Pou’ by the locals. This area features a mix of lively urban beaches, marinas, and peaceful seaside resorts. Places like Limanakia draw adventurous youth for cliff diving. Luxury seekers enjoy Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni, where ancient ruins meet modern luxury with sunbeds and shops. Surfers find their paradise near Kavouri and Vouliagmeni, with Kyma surf school welcoming beginners. Krabo attracts a trendy crowd, while Zen Beach is popular with families. For those preferring quieter spots, Legrena and KAPE near Sounion offer serene beach experiences. The region’s mild weather allows for nearly six months of comfortable swimming. For cooler days, Lake Vouliagmeni offers warm, therapeutic waters from underground springs.

Find your Zen in Athens

Choosing Athens is about the unique sensation it brings to life. It’s a city that pulses with energy, seamlessly blending the old with the new, sophistication with raw urban charm, and warmth with a welcoming spirit. Simply walking its streets, you’re enveloped by this dynamic atmosphere.

While the Acropolis might top your list of must-sees, consider pausing that plan. Use this iconic landmark as a guiding light to meander through the surrounding areas and soak in the local vibe. Enjoy the liberation and the sheer joy of exploration. It’s the perfect introduction to your Athens adventure.

Rooftop Bar Hopping

Many hotels in Athens boast rooftop amenities, including restaurants, bars, and pools, offering breathtaking views of the Acropolis.

A personal highlight was dining at A for Athens, where the vista includes bustling Monastiraki Square, the Ancient Agora, and the Acropolis. Another remarkable spot is the Athens Gate Hotel’s rooftop, where you’re treated to 360-degree views of the city, including the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Mount Lycabettus.

Additionally, the Hotel Grande Bretagne features a rooftop restaurant that overlooks Syntagma Square and the Acropolis, providing another splendid dining experience.

Unique things to see in Athens

anafiotika athens

The Antikythera Mechanism at the Athens National Archaeological Museum

Discovered in a Greek shipwreck, a 2,000-year-old mechanism highlights the remarkable engineering and astronomical insight of ancient times. The wreckage, found near the island of Antikythera in 1900 by sponge divers, contained many treasures, but none as perplexing as this device. It took years for scholars to understand its importance fully. The Antikythera mechanism, crafted from bronze, is considered an early form of a “clockwork computer,” demonstrating a level of complexity centuries ahead of its time.

Exploring the Athens Agora’s Political Center

Beneath the northern edge of the Acropolis, the ancient Athenian Agora is being rediscovered under modern Athens. This historic site was the center of city life, functioning as Athens’ main gathering place and market. It connected Athens to the wider world, with goods like Black Sea wheat and Levantine dyes flowing through its heart, reflecting the city’s prosperity and influence. But the Agora was more than a market; it was a hub of intellectual exchange. Here, democracy took practical shape through debates, business transactions, social gatherings, and philosophical discussions, playing a crucial role in the development of ancient Athenian culture.

Lycabettus Hill Funicular

The Lycabettus Funicular railway offers a straight path to Athens’ highest peak, providing stunning city views. Starting in Kolonaki, the 680-foot ride through a tunnel takes people up to Mount Lycabettus, standing 908 feet high. It was built from 1960 to 1965, opening on April 18, 1965. After running smoothly for 38 years, it was extensively upgraded in 2002, improving the carriages and systems. Now able to carry 34 passengers at a time, it attracts around 300,000 users annually, becoming a favorite spot for both locals and tourists.

Discovering Anafiotika Neighborhood

Right under the Acropolis and just above Plaka, the Anafiotika neighborhood brings a touch of the Cyclades to Athens. Walking through its streets, with whitewashed houses reminiscent of Greek island architecture, feels like a quick getaway to the islands. The area came to be in 1840 when craftsmen from the island of Anafi, brought to Athens for building work, took advantage of a law that let people claim land by constructing on it overnight. They quickly made homes for themselves on the slope, giving Anafiotika its name and its peaceful character, free from the bustle of shops and cafes, with its narrow streets, colorful shutters, and bougainvillea-covered walls.

Hadrian’s Reservoir

In Roman-era Athens, an ancient engineering marvel now supports a modern outdoor cinema, offering screenings under the stars on top of a nearly 2000-year-old reservoir. Initiated by Emperor Hadrian in the second century CE to solve Athens’ water shortage, an aqueduct was built to channel water from Mount Parnitha to a reservoir at Mount Lycabettus’ base. Despite the destruction of its original entrance in the late 18th century, the reservoir, vital for water supply for over a thousand years, finds new life under the cinema’s open sky. This should be on your Greece bucket list.

The Helios Sphere

This marble sphere, featuring unique symbols, is linked to ancient Greek rituals. Found in 1866 close to the Theater of Dionysus, situated at the foot of the Acropolis, it originates from the second to third centuries CE.

The purpose of this sphere remains largely a mystery. Its location near the Theater of Dionysus, a site for contests and gatherings, suggests it could have been used in ceremonies to ensure success.

Athens Ancient Weather Clock

This octagonal structure focuses on meteorology, a rare purpose for its time in Athens. Constructed in the late 2nd century BCE, the Tower of the Winds is considered the first weather station, featuring sundials, a water clock, and a weather vane. Made from Pentelic marble, used in the Parthenon, its application here is noteworthy. The tower, also called a horologion or timepiece, aimed at marking time.

The tower’s eight sides correspond to cardinal directions, each decorated with a frieze depicting one of the eight wind gods from Greek mythology, reflecting its name. These gods are Boreas (north), Kaikias (northeast), Eurus (east), Apeliotes (southeast), Notus (south), Lips (southwest), Zephyrus (west), and Skiron (northwest).

Athens’ First Cemetery

The First Cemetery of Athens, named with a nod to classical heritage and featuring white sculptures, was founded in 1837, making it a newer feature of the city but the oldest cemetery in contemporary Athens.

It’s located close to significant sites such as the Panathinaiko Stadium and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, blending modernity with historical resonance. The cemetery is a testament to Athens’ architectural progress, with Neoclassical and Romantic styles, as well as impressive sculptures and tombs. Notable among its art is “I Koimomeni” (The Sleeping Girl) by Yannoulis Chalepas, a moving depiction of a young girl, who is also buried there.

In conclusion, Athens is not just a city rich in history and culture, but also a vibrant metropolis offering a variety of experiences for every visitor. From exploring ancient sites like the Acropolis and Kerameikos to enjoying modern outdoor cinemas built atop historical marvels, there’s no shortage of things to do in Athens. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a lover of the arts, or simply in search of warm, sunny weather, Athens promises a memorable journey into the past and present. Remember to stay cool during the hot summer months and immerse yourself in the city’s unique blend of ancient traditions and contemporary life.

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