Athens is a city of ancient history, picturesque landscapes, and well-preserved traditions that annually receives millions of tourists from all over the world. This is a city of contrasts: famous historical monuments and old quarters peacefully coexist with trendy world-class restaurants mixed in with luxury shops. Athens is a perfect place for those fascinated with history. The list below of the best attractions in Athens, however, will appeal to all kinds of people.
#1 Explore Archeological Sites
1. Acropolis Archeological site is the most famous monument in Greece, and one of the UNESCO Sites in Greece, that has survived the test of time and weather. It offers a stunning view of the city of Athens and on a good day, you’re able to view as far out as the sea. Acropolis actually translates into “high city” and it will not disappoint the literal name given.
Opening hours: from 8.00 am to 17.00 pm and visitors are allowed in until 16.30 pm. Make sure to wear comfy shoes as the steps are rather slippery to climb. If you are disabled in any way, we’re happy to let you know as of recently an elevator has been installed to help those in need.
Admission fee is 20€ from 1 April to 31 October and 10€ from 1 November to 31 March. It’s also free admission every Sunday from 1 November to 31 March.
2. The Theater of Dionysus is rightly considered the birthplace of tragic poetry and the first theater of the Western world. Built at the foot of the Acropolis and named after the God of wine and fertility, the Theater of Dionysus held up to 5,000 spectators and was the venue for various city festivals. Famous works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes came to life there. The Theater of Dionysus is located on the same grounds as the Acropolis.
**Pro Tip – If you exit the Acropolis to the left hand side and follow the steps around to the bottom you can get a real picturesque view from behind the gates to see what it would have felt like to be on the stage before the people.
3. The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as Olympieion, is an ancient temple in the center of Athens. It is a historic landmark, protected by the Greek Interior Ministry.
Admission fee for adults is 6€.
There is a combined ticket that includes entrance to the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Dionysus Theatre, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Library. The ticket costs 30€. If you’ve multiple days to spend in the city exploring, then it’s highly recommended to buy this combo ticket as you’ll get to see everything.
#2 Travel Back in Time in Plaka Neighborhood
Athens is an ancient city so start your exploration with some of the oldest sights. The one area in Athens that contains plenty of such sights is Plaka. This oldest historic district of the city is located at the foot of another ancient place – the Acropolis hill.
The most important historical sights are:
Adrianou Street – the oldest street in the city offering many souvenirs and locally handmade crafts available for purchs.
The Benizelos Mansion (also known as the House of Agia Filothei) – the oldest house in the city Located at 96 Adrianou Street,
The Monument of Lysicrates (335-334 BC)
Famous Tower of the Winds
In fact, the tower with such a romantic name has a quite prosaic purpose – nowadays it houses a meteorological station. But still, it is worth a visit: the building is a surviving architectural monument (built in the 1st century BC) with hydraulic clocks that are placed in the tower and indicate the time by the sun. Tower friezes depicting the gods of the wind are particularly interesting. You can see the layout of the dial under their figures because the tower was used as a giant clock. It is a miracle in the area of Plaka, located near Agora Square. A ticket to visit the Tower of the Winds along with Agora costs 3€.
Numerous museums (the Acropolis Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Greek Folk Art and Musical Instruments) are located in Plaka along with a huge number of shops and traditional taverns. Therefore, the area is perfect for any pastime: whether it is sightseeing, souvenir selection or just a lunch.
#3 Shop for Unique Souvenirs in Monastiraki Neighborhood
Today it is one of the oldest areas of Athens with the name “Monastiraki” originating from the word “monastery”.
Among tourists this area is best known for its flea market, where you can buy souvenirs from Greece at low prices.
- We found that the best day to visit the flea market is Sunday when locals come to the area and sell all kind of things. On other days it’s an area with ordinary shops, where if you look closely enough, you can find something interesting too.
- Accordingly, the largest amount of people visit there on weekends, especially on Sunday. Be careful – always keep your bag and wallet with you.
- Another tip – be sure to bargain! After all, the Greeks often increase the price of goods several times.
The market is open from 7 am to 7 pm, which is absolutely not typical for most Greek markets and shops. On the market you can buy icons and souvenirs from the monasteries on the sacred Mount Athos, jewelry and ceramics, and indeed everything you could wish for. The market is especially popular among hunters for rare things, vintage books, discs, musical instruments, etc.
You can even find sandals that will be tailored to the characteristics of your foot right in the store! People say, if you did not find anything on Monastiraki, then most likely you will not find it anywhere in Athens, and perhaps this thing does not exist at all.
#4 Climb Mount Lycabettus
Climb Mount Lycabettus to see a 360° panorama of Athens, the Acropolis, and the Aegean Sea. Also known as Lycabettus Hill, the mountain can be seen from almost every corner of Athens and is 277m high (which is even higher than Acropolis).
We believe that climbing Lycabettus Hill is a must for Athens itinerary!
On the top of the hill there is a modest white Byzantine chapel of St. George, built in the XIX century and a cozy cafe where you can have a cup of coffee, a snack and admire the views of numerous white houses and the Acropolis.
Lycabettus is popular with lovers and honeymooners, but often locals, who are tired of city’s bustle, noise, and traffic, come here too.
You can get on top of Lycabettus in several ways: by cable car or on foot. The cable car costs 5€ one way or 7.50€ for both ways. We recommend going up by cable car and going down on foot. Especially because at the top you’ll find “Orizontes Lycabettus” a wonderful upscale seafood restaurant offering probably the best dinner view in the city, you’ll want to walk off the seafood and wine afterwards.
#5 Feel the Contrast in Kolonaki Area
Numerous graffitis turned the historical heart of Athens into a place that left rather contradictory feelings. The only exception to this rule is the bohemian district Kolonaki, where rulers and wealthy people settled since ancient times. And even now it looks like a small pearl in the center of the urbanized city.
Kolonaki area is located between Mount Lycabettus and Syntagma square and is in stark contrast to other central areas. There are many luxury shops, restaurants, and boutiques, so we warn you right away – even for a glass of mineral water you pay two to three times more expensive than in the rest of the city. Prices for real estate are considered to be one of the most expensive in the city as well.
There are no particular sights in Kolonaki, but you should definitely check it out to see how much the atmosphere of the area differs from the districts located just a few hundred meters away.
#6 Hang Out in Gazi – The Most Trendy Area of Athens
Gazi is a district located in the south-west of the capital, at the intersection of Jera Odos and Odos Pireos streets.
Gazi is without exaggeration the most “cool” place in Athens, full of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and art centers led by Technopolis – a huge gas power station, converted into a museum and exhibition center with a stage. It may well be that Technopolis and Gazi are places unique to Europe.
During the day, the area is practically no different from other parts of Athens – traditional taverns, the aroma of coffee from open coffee shops, lazily walking around tourists and locals, vividly discussing the pressing problems on the cafe terraces. But lovers of architecture and photographs will certainly mark Gazi as a very colorful place, besides there are a lot of graffiti painted walls. Seriously, in Athens, even special “street art” tours are organized for tourists, who are shown the most interestingly beaten walls of the city. So even couch potatoes who do not like night parties will spend time in Gazi with interest.
All the fun, however, begins in the evening or better to say at night as all the parties begin around 1 am! On the streets of Gazi, you will find as many cafes, bars, and clubs as you won’t be able to visit, probably in a few weeks in Athens! Do you like rock music? Head over to the Domahar rock bar. Latin music? Easy! Spend the night dancing your hearts out at Fuego Latin Club. Athens has numerous amounts of lounges and bars, all with special decor and unique style, traditional taverns with live music and national cuisine, people of all ages and styles can be found in Gazi.
#7 Admire at Technopolis – The Center of Modern Art
Once there was a gas power station in Athens located in the very center of the city, which didn’t let locals sleep at night. The station then was shut down, and inventive Greeks soon converted it into a huge art center. Moreover, the walls of the plant, its copper fencing and even huge pits and gas cylinders were all left in their places. Now there are regular concerts, festivals (for example, the Annual Jazz Music Festival or the Street Art Festival), exhibitions and even sporting events. When no special concert is planned, admission to Technopolis is free; on the remaining days, you will need to buy a ticket.
When to come? Yes, on any day of the week, in the summer in Gazi it is always full of people – both on Tuesday and Saturday. Keep in mind: the Athens metro is open until 12 am, and starts running again at 5 am.
#8 Go for a Walk in the National Garden
There is nothing more desirable for a tired tourist than some rest in peace and quiet. In Athens, the best place for this is the National Garden. The National Garden is easy to find: it is located not far from Syntagma Square, right behind the Parliament building.
Shady alleys and numerous ponds will save you from the heat. In addition, the garden contains ancient ruins, remains of columns and ancient mosaics. There is a mini-zoo, a botanical museum, and a lot of animals all around the park: green parrots, swans, ducks, geese, and turtles.
#9 Make a Trip to Cape Sounion
Cape Sounion is located 65 km from Athens is the southernmost point of Attica, and of Europe.
Lovers of myths and mysteries, as well as romantics, who dream of seeing stunning sunsets, strive to get to Cape Sounion also referred to as “end of the world”.
Besides incredible sunsets, Cape Sounion is famous for two places of interest:
- The temple of Poseidon that stands on Cape Sounion’s summit and has served as a sign of the correct course for mariners, and shelter for locals during the attacks on Athens. The ruins of the temple, which have survived to our day, were erected on the site of the old sanctuary in 444 BC. Today, everything left from the majestic temple is 16 marble pillars and the remains of a frieze depicting the legendary battle of Theseus with the Minotaur. And, according to legend, if you make a wish at sunset at the temple of Poseidon, it will certainly come true!
- Another archaeological site of Cape Sounion is the ruins of the temple of Athena, dating back to the 470 BC and located at an altitude of 400 m above sea level. Unfortunately, only the foundation, part of the roof and column capital survived till our days.
#10 Witness the Changing of Guards
Their unusual procedure of changing guards is known to travelers from around the world.
- Watching the Evzones in front of the Hellenic Parliament is one of the popular activities that takes place in the center of Athens and attracts numerous tourists every hour.
- The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army that guards the Monument of the Unknown Soldier regardless of the weather, time of year and day.
- The guard is changed every hour. The Evzones’ marching is more like a solemn dance, each movement being deeply symbolic.
The costumes of the Evzones make most tourists smile, but few of them know that every detail of their outfit is deeply thought out and symbolic. For example, the Greek kilt is made of 30 meters of white cloth that is sewed into 400 folds in memory of the four centuries of Ottoman rule in Greece.
#11 Intake History in One of the Numerous Museums
Athens is home to a huge amount of museums and some of them might be to your liking.
- The National Archaeological Museum stores unique finds from all over the country.
- The Byzantine Museum is the best collection of icons and mosaics in Europe.
- The Benaki Museum is known for its rich collection of ancient Greek and Byzantine art, as well as exhibits of Chinese porcelain, oriental jewelry, and weapons.
- The National Art Gallery presents the works of Greek artists dating back to the 14th century.
- The Archaeological Museum of the Athenian Agora, located in the northeastern part of the city, hosts exhibits associated with the oldest Athenian democracy in the world. In particular, ostraca (pieces of pottery) which the Athenians used to vote are kept there.
- In Goulandris Natural History Museum you can get acquainted with the Greek flora and fauna. The exhibition presents rare endangered species of plants.
- The Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments will let you get to know the country and its inhabitants from the other, musical, point of view. The collection contains more than 1,200 exhibits, the oldest of which is dated back to the 18th century. Only one half of them is exhibited in the halls but there is an opportunity to hear the sound of each instrument.
Any vacation will not be enough to explore all the exhibitions of Athenian museums. We advise you to study the information in advance and choose the most interesting museums for yourself.
#12 Feel the Breeze in the Port of Piraeus
The sea harbor of enormous size in the city of Piraeus is considered to be part of Athens rather than an independent municipality.
Piraeus is the largest port not only in Greece but also in the entire Mediterranean. The port is a transportation hub for international ships and ferries that go to numerous Greek islands including one of the most famous island – Santorini.
- Naturally, the port itself is the most interesting landmark. You can climb the hill of Kastela to observe the panoramic view of the port. The port lies in the Saronic Gulf, which has a unique shape of an almost perfect circle.
- In addition to the port, Piraeus hosts major churches and a couple of museums.
- There are also equipped beaches, located at a safe distance from the port and passing ships. One of the best areas is Votsalakia beach just next to the Gulf of Mikrolimano. In addition to sunbeds and umbrellas, there is a tennis court, a volleyball court and a swimming pool available.
The distance from the center of Athens to Piraeus is no more than 14 km. The journey from Athens to Piraeus will take from 10 to 60 minutes depending on departure point. There are several ways to get to Piraeus:
- By metro (green line, line number 1);
- By bus (from the city №40, №49, from Athens airport bus X96);
- Taxi (from the city 20-30€, from the airport 50-60€);
- By a rented car.
Have you already been to Athens? Write about your favorite places in the comments!