At the end of your itinerary around Continental Greece, visiting Athens would be the icing on the cake. The Greek capital pleasantly enraptured me, but at the same time I was left a bit baffled by the fact that people have different opinions on its beauty. Indeed, many tourists believe Athens to be dirty and dangerous.
Is Athens dangerous? Not at all. It is just like a busy metropolitan city with all the consequences this might have in its everyday life. Maybe I was lucky in not coming across any particular problems, I don’t know. What I know though, is that in any city in any country, tourists must always be careful and everything will be fine.
Is Athens dirty? I personally didn’t find Athens dirty at all. I arrived right on the day of the Athens Marathon, so I understand this might have contributed in making the city even cleaner. Athens is full of graffiti, yes, but this doesn’t make it either a dirty nor a neglected city. Some areas in Monastiraki and Plaka could seem a bit decadent, but this is something that has to be taken as one of the city’s many peculiarities and doesn’t have to affect the opinion tourists have about it.
Where to stay in Athens?
My comfortable accommodation was the Airhotel Alexandros. It is situated near by the Lycabettus Hill and its position is perfect as it’s only 5 minutes away from the M3 tube line stop, Megaro Moussikis. Just three stops away from Megaro Moussikis, you’ll find the fascinating Monastiraki. But that’s not all: the M3 line is the line that will take you back to the airport! So it is also an excellent solution from a logistical point of view.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to look other accomodations -> discover HERE all the hotels in the city centre
Guided tours and Athens Card
To visit a city, a capital such as Athens, you need to waste as little time as possible, with unlimited entrances and transport included. It is essential. Paying admission every time at each point of interest is inconvenient and not economically viable. So I absolutely recommend that you BUY the ATHENS TOURIST CARD to save money. It has no time limit, you can use it for the whole stay. It also includes the transfer from the airport to the centre and many other facilities.
Otherwise, you can choose for the Athens UNILIMITED Attractions Pass with over 25 Athen’s top place to see.
Best 10 things to do in Athens
When I visited Athens, I was really lucky as it was right on the day of the Marathon. As a consequence, the city was beautifully “dressed-up” for this iconic sport event. My only regret is having stayed there for just a day and a half. Athens is a gorgeous city which deserves more tourists attention and I think two or three days, at least, in order for it to be visited properly (add one more day if you want to go on a trip to Capo Sounion)
1 – Visit the Acropolis, Museum and the Archaeological sites
This is surely the first thing to do in Athens. The Acropolis with its renowned Parthenon, is the undisputed symbol of the city. From the top of it, you’ll be able to see the whole capital. You’ll be struck by its fantastic charm, especially at night.
The Acropolis is, as you might imagine, incredibly crowded. Every day, thousands of tourists travel to this Athen’s attractions, the most famous Greek Archaeological site. Walking around the Acropolis, people can marvel at the majestic Parthenon which is undergoing some restorations.
All around it there are scattered stones which, once, were part of the entire complex of Acropolis. The Acropolis fascinates for its history as well as for the opportunity it offers to have a 360° look on the entire city, this is one of the reasons is is the first thing to do in Athens. From the top, tourists can enjoy Athens and its buildings till the Pireo.
Beside the Parthenon, the Acropolis includes the Propylaeas, monumental gateways to the site itself. Near by the Parthenon, the Erechteheion stands out amongst all the other buildings with its Caryatids (see cover photo): in the past, this was the main place of worship in the entire Acropolis.
Suggestion: reach the opposite side of the Propylaeas. From here you’ll be able to see the fascinating Temple of Olympian Zeus as well as the historical Panathenaic Stadium.
Once outside the Propylaeas, turn left and you’ll reach the Temple of Athena Nike. Walking along the narrow path, you’ll get to the secondary entrance near by the Acropolis Museum.
While walking, your attention will be captured by the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and, just a few metres forward, the Theatre of Dionysus.
Personal Thoughts: when I was visiting the Theatre of Dionysus, I started asking myself why aren’t these archaeological sites better taken care of. The stands were full of noxious weed which is not the perfect decoration to some ancient Greek ruins, is it? I strongly believe that these historical marvels are worth a better preservation plan.
Once arrived to the secondary entrance, after a short walk, you’ll get to the Acropolis Museum in which you will see with your own eyes what remains of Athens’s history.
Another important site that should be visited is the Agora, a central public space in which Greek people mostly did business.
How much does the visit to the Acropolis cost?
One single entrance to the Acropolis is 10 euros.
There is the possibility of purchasing a different kind of ticket which enables you to visit the Acropolis as well as other archaeological sites such as the Agora and its Museum, the Roman Agora, the Temple of Zeus, Keramikos, Hadrian’s Library and the Lykeion. This type of ticket costs 30 euros and it’s valid up to 5 days for a maximum of one single entrance to each archaeological site per day. I personally think this is the ticket you should go for in case of a longer stay in Athens.
Opening hours and admission -> visit the official website
2 – Explore Plaka, Monastiraki and Psirri
Another important things to do in Athens: see the city centre.
When I visit a city, I like to do it by walking and a city such as Athens is perfect to be explored on foot.
The areas like Plaka, Monastiraki and Psirri are gorgeous and they are worth a slow-paced kind of visit. These city neighbourhoods are rich in narrow and busy roads as well as small and lively squares. The many shops, taverns, information points and all the city’s inhabitants contributed in making Athens look as a very coloured and welcoming capital.
Monastiraki might be a bit more “decadent” compared to the quarter of Plaka, but this doesn’t mean less fascinating!
If you’re visiting Athens during the weekend, remember to pay a visit to the Monastiraki Market where you’ll be able to have a look around and find some interesting antiques.
Psirri, situated north of Monastiraki, is an area populated with artisans and their small shops, but during the night it comes alive with roaring taverns and pubs.
Plaka is the most elegant area amongst the others. It is situated to the east of the Acropolis and can be travelled in all its length by walking from Monastiraki to the Acropolis Museum. Plaka is full of small taverns and beautiful narrow alleys decorated with flowers
3 – Walk from Monastiraki to Gazi with a view on the Acropolis
I think you might have guessed it correctly: visiting Athens implies a lot of walking. The perfect evening stroll which will make you love Athens even more, takes you from Monastiraki to the district of Gazi, the heart of the city nightlife, this is a thing to do in the evening.
Once you get off the underground in Monastiraki, turn right and after about 50 metres, turn right again in Adrianou Street. You’ll now be right in the centre of the district Plaka surrounded by Greek taverns, pubs and well-lighted ancient ruins. When you get to the underground stop called Thissio, keep your left and start walking towards the Apostolou Pavlou. Here you can take the street that takes you directly to the district of Gazi (Careful! This small last section is not a pedestrian area).
4 – Have an evening drink in Gazi
One of the best things to do in Athen is try the nightlife and Gazi is the right choice! Gazi has become the centre of Athens’s nightlife. Here there are less Greek taverns compared to the other districts. The lack taverns has been replaced by hundreds of pubs and cafes. Here you can have a drink with some friends in a friendly, lively and young environment.
Gazi was once a neglected neighbourhood strictly dependent on a gas factory which is still visible. Today, though, this district has been transformed into the heart of Athens’s movida with numerous gay and lesbian bars.
To get there you can take the underground and get off at Keramikos.
5 – Discover the history of the Panathenaic stadium
This is absolutely one of the best things to do in Athens, very nice!
This Stadium has so much to tell. Thanks to the audioguides that were included in the ticket price (5 euros), I enjoyed learning about the Stadium’s history and the great importance it had in the past.
Here the most important sport events take place. This is where the Athens Marathon ends, this is where the Olympic games where held and this is where the Olympic torches return after the games have finished.
The Panathenaic Stadium is the only stadium entirely built with Pentelic Marble: a truly spectacular sight! Have a sit on the grand stands and take time to think about what unique emotions the athletes must have felt when competing in the past.
From the Panathenaic Stadium, the tourists can also enjoy a beautiful view of the Acropolis and the Lycabettus Hill.
6 – Climb on Mount Lycabettus
Mount Lycabettus is a bit distant from the city centre, but it is definitely worth a visit. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see it with my own eyes beacuse I hadn’t many time to spend to visit it. As soon as I go back to Athens, I’ll do my best not to miss the spectacular view of the sunset that Mount Lycabettus offers, I promise!
With its 277 meters above sea level, Mount Lycabettus is the highest site in the North-East of Athens. At its two peaks there is the 19th-century orthodox chapel of Agios Georgios, a restaurant as well as a theatre.
The top of the Mount can be reached with the expensive funicular railways or by walking up the staircase on the corner of Aristippou and Loukianou.
7 – Syntagma Square and the changing of the guards
It’s the central square of Athens which hosts the Hellenic Parliament. This square, unfortunately, was also the scenery to many revolts and rebellions. Every Sunday morning at 11.00, people gather here to watch the changing of the guards, the so called Evzones, a special unit of the Hellenic army, who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier.
Syntagma Square might not be the most famous touristic site in Athens, but it’s definitely worth a visit as the social and political life revolves around here.
8 – Eat in a Greek Tavern with a view on the archaeological sites
I just realised I haven’t actually mentioned anything on Greek food. I absolutely love it and it’s absolutely one thing to do in Athens and in all Greece. From the Gyros pita to the Moussaka and the Greek salad, delicious!
The Greek Salad is surely a must-eat: it might be a “plain dish” that doesn’t require much preparation, but its taste is absolutely unforgettable. You’ll never try anything similar once back in your country.
Athens is the perfect city if you wish to eat while marvelling at the archaeological sites in front of you. On the Adrianou Street as well as in Plaka and Monastiraki, you’ll be able to find hundreds of typical taverns and restaurants that will meet your expectations and offer you mouth-watering Greek food.
9 – Visit the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the National Gardens
This Museum is the biggest and the most important in the whole nation, if not in the whole world. Here visitors can see with their own eyes some of the most significant ruins and remains of Ancient Greek such as the Mask of Agamemnon and the head of Zeus.
The National Gardens are the green lungs of Athens. Why not taking a break and relaxing in this beautiful park? It is very easy to reach as it’s situated exactly in between the Panathenaic Stadium and Syntagma Square. Inside the National Gardens you can also visit the Zappeion, It’s a building generally used for official or private meetings and ceremonies.
10 – Eat tons of Koulouria
The Kolouria is a traditional Greek sesame and honey bread which is very popular as a street food around Athens. It is unbelievably delicious, trust me! I could have eaten tons of it without stopping. I couldn’t quite figure out whether it was a sweet or savoury bread, though. If you have already tried it or if you ever will, please come back on my blog and leave a comment! Savoury or sweet? I want to know what you think, guys!