Greece was amazing and even though we only went to Athens and did the best things in Santorini, it was everything we wanted and more! If you only have 2-3 days in Athens, this guide will show you the best things to do in Athens and help you plan the perfect Greece itinerary for 3 days.
In addition to the best things to do in Athens, there are tips on the best day trips from Athens, the best places to stay in Athens, the best restaurants and the best bars in Athens too!
This city really surprised me because on all the blogs I read, they mentioned their disdain for Athens. They all made it seem like you shouldn’t waste time there and head straight for the islands.
Well, I strongly disagree. We really loved this beautiful city with its ancient ruins juxtaposed on modern streets, tons of things to see, do and eat in Athens – beyond just visiting the amazing Acropolis (which you definitely should!)
This is the ultimate guide for Athens, Greece and will give you all the information you need to create the perfect Greece itinerary without wasting your valuable time or money. I hope it helps 🙂
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How to get to Athens city from the Airport:
There are a few ways you can get to the Athens city center:
1. Use a Taxi or Uber. This is obviously the most expensive option but will be a little quicker and more convenient for you if you have a lot of luggage. It’ll take about 45 minutes and should cost roughly €40.
2. Use the train. From the airport, your metro ticket will cost €10 and you can take it directly to the metro station closest to where you’re staying and then either walk or grab a cab from there to your accommodation.
3. Use the bus. This is the cheapest option and only cost €6.50 to get from the airport to Syntagma Square in the city center. From here, you can walk or take a cab to your accommodation if you’re staying close by.
Lucky for us, we were staying right next to the Acropolis station, 15 min walk from Syntagma so the bus option was perfect! If you stay near Monastiraki Square, it’s a short walk from here as well.
PRO TIP: Download the google offline map for Athens so you can track where you’re going without needing a sim card.
Where to buy your bus/metro ticket at the athens airport
When you exit the baggage claim area, turn right and exit through the last sliding doors. Once outside, look to your left and walk towards a booth where you’ll find the people selling the bus/train tickets.
There are also automatic machines but you may end up getting the wrong ticket as we did.
We used the machine and accidentally got a 24 hr unlimited use card which you could only in Athens (so we couldn’t use it to get to the city from the airport) for € 4.50. Luckily since we were staying in the city center, it wasn’t a waste of money.
You need to buy a completely different ticket for transport from the airport and as mentioned above, the bus will cost € 6.50 and the train € 10.
The buses will come around there every 15 minutes so don’t worry if you miss one.
Where to get a SIM card in athens
I don’t recommend getting a sim card at the airport because they were really expensive – like double the price.
Vodaphone was the only place we saw and the cheapest option was €22.50 for 15 days and 14 GB. Since we were only going to be in Greece for 8 days, we didn’t really want to spend this much so we skipped it.
When you get to Monastiraki Square in the city, there will be several people selling sim cards for €10 with 12 GB of data which is more than enough!
How to get around in Athens
Depending on where you’re staying, Athens is a very walkable city. There are so many great things to do in Athens, and many things are located really close to each other.
If you’re not staying close to the city center, then using the bus and metro systems are a great way to quickly get around the city without spending too much!
During our 2 days in Athens, we used the metro a lot and loved it! The trains are pretty frequent and it was cool to feel like a part of the commuting city.
The Athens Metro
If you’re planning to spend more than 2 days in Athens, I recommend getting the 5-day unlimited pass for only €9!
Otherwise, you can get the one-day unlimited pass for €4.50. This is really great and comes in handy when you;r tired and don’t want to walk everywhere.
*This metro card is different than the airport metro card – you must buy those separately*
Where is the best place to Stay in Athens, Greece?
While planning your Athens itinerary it’s important to stay close to the action and many of the best things to do in Athens are located relatively close to each other.
I suggest staying somewhere near Monastiraki square, Psyri (Psirri) or Plaka. These areas are really great, full of energy and have many bars and restaurants.
When we first arrived in Greece, we stayed in Plaka near the Acropolis which was great because we could pop in for a mid-afternoon break from the summer heat after exploring the Acropolis.
Then on our last night in Athens before flying home we stayed near Monastiraki Square and it was awesome!
We actually preferred staying near Monastiraki Square/Psyri because the square was really lively, there are so many bars and restaurants nearby (mentioned below) and Syntagma Square is really close too!
If you can, I recommend staying in this area 🙂
Best Hotels in athens near Monastiraki:
We stayed at Monastiraki Apartments by Livin Urban which was in the perfect location just minutes from the square, it was very clean and modern. Highly recommend staying here! Monastiraki is truly one of the best areas to stay in Athens!
Best Hotels in athens near Plaka:
Plaka is another great area to stay in Athens located near the Acropolis. Some of the best places to stay in Plaka are:
These are all affordable options, click on of those links and use map view to see the area and then you can choose any hotel in the general area. This is really close to the action and Acropolis!
You can also use Airbnb to find amazing accomodation in Athens, sometimes even cheaper than Booking.com (although we love booking.com, I’m always down for saving money!)
what are the Best things to do in Athens Greece?
1. visit The ancient Acropolis in Athens
Your Athens itinerary would be incomplete if you didn’t visit this ancient historical site, the Acropolis that’s why it’s at the top of my list of the best things to do in Athens, Greece.
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on top of a hill overlooking the city. There are several remains of ancient buildings dating back thousands of years! When you really let that sink in, when you’re there you will truly stand in awe of this amazing place.
The most famous building is the Parthenon but I really liked the temple of Athena and the view from the flag pole was awesome too! This is the perfect way to start your trip to Athens, Greece!
The best way to really understand and truly appreciate this experience is by doing a guided tour. Your ticket and line bypass will be included, and you’ll learn about the amazing historical events that took place here hundreds of years ago.
You can definitely do it without a tour, but then it may just feel like looking at a bunch of old architecture instead of understanding the ancient, amazing place it really is.
Tips for visiting the Acropolis in athens:
We visited the Acropolis in August which is peak season, but I imagine it’s always super busy at the Acropolis since it’s at the top of everyone’s list of the top things to do in Athens.
Here are my tips to help you make the most of your experience at the Acropolis. Trust me – you want to follow these tips because it. was. insane.
1. When planning your trip to the Acropolis you need to get your tickets ahead of time. You can get them online here or in-person once you’re in Athens. If you decide to buy them when you arrive, I recommend buying your tickets for the Acropolis at a different site like Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora or Roman Agora because even the line for tickets at the Acropolis was crazy.
2. If you only want to go to the Acropolis, then book your ticket ahead of time here.
However, If you want to see some of the other ancient ruins, I recommend getting the combined ticket which gives you access to 7 ancient ruins sites.
The other sites included in the combined ticket are:
- The Acropolis and Slopes
- Ancient Agora
- Hadrian’s Library
- Roman Agora
- Aristotle’s School (Lykeion)
Some of them are close to each other, but a few were out of the way so we didn’t end up visiting them all. To be honest, you can see most of them from the outside, so if you want to save some money, just visiting the Acropolis is definitely your best value!
3. Since you have your tickets purchased in advance, go to the Acropolis right at the opening time: 8 am. If you go any later, the crowds will be INSANE.
The cruise ships and massive tour groups all arrive around 9-10am. We left around 9:30 am and the crowds were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
After visiting the Acropolis make your way to Mars Hill for a quick break and enjoy the epic views over Athens city and the Ancient Agora.
2. Visit the Acropolis Museum
If you’re into museums and learning more about the history of Athens then you must check out the Acropolis museum. This ticket includes line bypass, the ticket entry for the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum.
3. Visit Hydra, Poros, and Aegina on a Full-Day Cruise including Lunch
A full-day cruise is one of the best ways to spend a day in Athens. With this full-day luxury cruise, you’ll enjoy a visit to 3 different destinations, on a beautiful ship with lunch included!
If it’s a hot day, don’t worry because there is A/C inside and fully stocked bars to help you keep cool!
On this cruise, you’ll first visit Hydra for approximately 90 minutes where you’ll learn about its steep history and also get to swim in beautiful clear blue waters.
Next, you’ll visit Posos and finally, you’ll spend 3 hours exploring Aegina visiting ancient temples and enjoying beautiful guided hikes.
It’s really an amazing value and allows you to see more of Athens if you’re short on time.
4. Athens: 4-Hour Cooking Class with Market Visit
Cooking classes are one of my favorite things to do in new countries because you get to learn how to make a local dish and eat it too!
If it’s a rainy day, or you just feel like learning how to cook a new dish then this cooking class in Athens is a perfect addition to your Athens, Greece Itinerary.
This 4-hour cooking class, will show you how to make classic Greek dishes and you’ll also get to experience local life during a tour of a local market.
5. People Watch in Syntagma Square
Evenings are the best time to do this while visiting Athens. You can bring some drinks, and sit on the Syntagma Square steps.
There are always lots of local people hanging out on the steps and at night there’s a really fun vibe.
6. Go for a ride on the Athens Happy Train
Directly across the street from Syntagma Square there is a cute little train called Athens Happy Train (looks like a kids train but it’s not lol) which around cost €5 and will take you around the city!
The ride is about 40 minutes long and is available from 9am to 11pm.
The train goes to: Parliament, Evzones, National garden, Banaki Museum, Cycladic Museum, Byzantine Museum, War Museum, Panathenaic Stadium (Killimarmaro), Zappion Hill, Temple of Zeus and the Hadrian Arch, Lantern of Diogenes in Plaka, Plaka and the Acropolis Museum then drops you off at Parliament again.
You can also opt for the Hop on Hop Off bus which will give you easy transport around the city as well.
7. Use a Hop-on Hop-off Bus to the city and seaside
This Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a little different because it will take you beyond the city of Athens to the seaside where you can also visit Piraeus and the Riviera beaches.
There are a few different routes you can choose from and there is an interchange bus stop at the Acropolis that connects all of the lines.
It’s definitely a great way to safely explore more of Athens and is one of the best things to do with 1-2 days in Athens.
8. Bike Tour & Food Tasting In Athen’s Old Town
There are some places that you would never discover on your own, and with this amazing bike tour with a delicious food tasting, you’ll learn about some of the real authentic classic Greek foods.
Don’t worry about fitness levels for this tour because the bikes are electronic! You’ll explore ancient sites and visit the Plaka and Psyri areas.
Biking around Athens is one of the best ways to discover the city and truly getting a real feel for it.
9. Watch the Changing of the Guards
At first I was confused as to why people were wearing these funny costumes, until I realized that it was actually the changing of the guards!
This is a must-see during your visit to Athens. The changing of the guards in Athens happens every hour on the hour at the parliament building located just in from of the Syntagma Square.
Don’t miss this unique experience when planning your trip to Athens. It only lasts a few minutes but is definitely worth seeing!
10. Visit Monastiraki Square, Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient/Roman Agoras
Go to Monastiraki Square, people watch, grab some food or a coffee before heading to Hadrian’s library, the ancient agora and the Roman Agora. They are all really close to each other.
Pro Tip: There are some guys in Monastiraki Square who will try and put a bracelet on your wrist claiming that it’s free and fast talk you and then ask for a “donation.” Just avoid eye-contact and say, “No thank you.” They will stop once you say no, but don’t give them a chance to put that bracelet on you!
The Ancient Agora is a really big site and the Roman Agora is much smaller and not as impressive but still cool to see and is included in your combined ticket so may as well check it out!
From the middle of the square, you can see a really great view of the Acropolis towering on the top of the hill.
11. Take a stroll through Athens Market
Once you’re in Monastiraki square, you’ll see a sign that says Athens market. Take a walk through it and explore the little shops downstairs too!
12. Visit the National Park and Zappion Building
One of the best things to do in Athens if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city is to check out the National Park.
It’s a huge park with lots of trees and benches to relax on. Just bring some snacks and drinks because it’s the perfect place to have a picnic.
While there you can also see the Zappion building. It’s is used as an exhibition hall and for official events so take a look inside and see if there is anything going on. If there’s nothing happening (like when I was there) it’s still an impressive building and the architecture is so beautifully Greek.
Check out Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus
If you continue South you’ll see Hadrian’s Arch which is right on the main road. One of my favorite things to do in Athens is seeing how the ancient ruins are juxtaposed on modern streets.
Also, just nearby the arch, you’ll find the Temple of Olympian Zeus. (Your combined ticket includes entrance here as well). We were really hot and tired by this point so we skipped it and just looked at it from outside the fence.
Climb up Mount Lycabettus
Another popular thing to do in Athens is to climb up Mount Lycabettus for epic views of the city from the highest point in the center of Athens. If you’re feeling up for it, you can either climb up the 277m high mountain or take a cable car to the top of it.
At the top, there is a restaurant and the church of Agios Georgios (St. George).
If you walk North from Monastiraki Square you’ll find the Central Market where you can find some epic bazaars selling all kinds of unique antiques. I was entranced by the sheer volume and randomness of the stuff!
Check out the National Library of Greece
Ever since I found this amazing library in Rio, I’ve been low key obsessed with old libraries. The outside of this library was very impressive and had some beautiful architecture. Unfortunately for us, it was closed for the month due to restoration so we couldn’t see the inside 🙁
What are the Best Day Trips From Athens?
There are so many amazing day trips from Athens, you’ll find yourself struggling to fit them all in your ultimate itinerary for Athens.
I’ve highlighted the best day trips from Athens below:
Day Tour From Athens to Delphi
One of the best day trips from Athens is visiting the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. You’ll get an amazing guided tour, enjoy stunning views of the beautiful Greek Landscapes and explore the ancient ruins.
It’s a fun thing to add to your perfect 3-day Greece Itinerary.
Full-Day Meteora Trip by Train
Honestly, Meteora is one of the main reasons I wanted to travel to Athens and spend a few solid days exploring the city and surrounding areas.
On this epic day trip, you’ll get to see all 6 monasteries of the Meteora rock formations and have an informative guided tour to teach you about the mind-blowing histroy behind this incredible place.
You’ll also get to go inside 3 of the monasteries, which you can ONLY do if you take this tour!
The tour included your transport to Meteora with the train, but no lunch, so remember to pack one!
Argolis: Full-Day Tour in Mycenae, Epidaurus & Nafplio
Another day-trip from Athens is a guided tour of Argolis. This place has a bunch of ancient archaeological sites.
You’ll visit Mycenae, Nafplio and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus and a bunch of other attractions nearby as well.
If you’re looking for something a little different and off the beaten path, this day trip may be the one for you.
2 Day Tour: Delphi and Meteora Guided Tour including hotels!
If you have a bit more time, then I would suggest doing this 2-day tour to see the Meteroa and Delphi.
Best Bars in Athens:
This guide for Athens Greece would be incomplete without giving you tips on the best bars in Athens! You’re on vacation, you need to enjoy some great cocktails and the bars in Athens do not disappoint!
If you’re looking for cheap drinks in Plaka look no further than Byzantine Taverna. They have happy hour drinks from 3:30 pm to 9:30 pm. The menu is awesome and you can get a big Mythos beer for only €1.70, wine for €1.50 and sangria for €3.50! There are other spirits you can get for around €5 as well 🙂
Brettos is expensive but a really cute bar. They make their own ouzo here. Ouzo tastes like black licorice and I don’t really like it. You can have a drink or a flight of wine here to try some amazing Greek wines!
The Clumsies is hands down one of the best bars we went to in Athens. It has unique amazinggggg cocktails that you’ve never heard of before. It’s a whole experience starting with the menu which is written in white ink and you need to use a blacklight flashlight which they provide. Some drinks come with aromatic cards to smell, some are smoking with dry ice and it has a great atmosphere.
I definitely recommend going here at night and sit at the bar to see them make the incredible cocktails all night.
Noel, Kukos and Drunk Sinatra are also great bars in Athens with unbelievably intricate decor and yummy cocktails.
Six Dogs is also a really beautiful cafe in Athens that really surprised us. We thought it looked a little sketchy because you couldn’t see it at all, just some stairs.
We almost didn’t go down but then we did and we were so glad we did! It opens up into a gorgeous outdoor cafe. You should definitely try the Freddo Cappuccino! They also serve drinks but later in the afternoon.
Best Rooftop bars in Athens for Sunset Views:
A for Athens or 360 bar are meters away from Monastiraki Square and have amazing sunset views of the Acropolis!
Drinks are a bit expensive around €10-€14 but the views are really incredible. I recommend making reservations ahead of time because they get packed!
Another rooftop bar to try would be Galaxy Bar at the Hilton hotel. I didn’t go there personally, but I heard it’s great as well!
Best restaurants in Athens:
There is no shortage of good food in Athens, you will eat well no matter where you choose to go. If you’re going in high season make sure to book a reservation if you really want to go somewhere because places will be booked up!
In Monastiraki square, you have to eat at O Thanisis – they’re gyro is really delicious and only €2.60! You can even get a glass of wine for less than €2! For yummy quick eats, I def recommend it! This is a huge restaurant and reservations aren’t needed here.
Greco Project is a chain restaurant that has good Greek food and a delicious greek salad.
If you like Shisha, Ydria has cheap shisha, dinner and drinks located close to the Roman Agora.
We never ate there but heard good things about Cinque Wine & Deli Bar and Los Gatos in Prissi.
For a really unique dessert experience, you have to go to Little Kook cafe. You’ll literally be transported to the set of Mary Poppins! The cutest cafe ever.
After Little Kook, keep walking around that area and you’ll stumble on great cafes and restaurants.
We ate at Symposio Sto Prissi just around the corner and got 2 souvlaki plates and wine for only €11!
Get off the main tourist path and head to Yiasemi where you can get some cheap eats. It’s located on a street with several other restaurants so you can choose when you arrive! You’ll get to see a different side of Athens on your way here, it’s really beautiful.
I tried a lot of gelato in Greece, but Da Vinci gelato has the best in Athens. It’s a chain, but it’s delicious. Highly recommend the Ferrero flavor!
If you’re into sweets or not, check out Hansel and Gretal located off the street in front of Hadrians Library. It has a giant gingerbread house and everything! Really cool experience to check out even if you don’t buy any candy!
Pro tip: Save money by buying water at A/B Super Market or Bazaar supermarket. You can 1.5L for less than 25 cents!
We loved Athens and will definitely go back again! The city is packed with fun things to do and it really reminded me of New York a bit – except that it didn’t really wake up until after 10 am lol.
This city is unique because most of the best things to do in Athens are really affordable, getting around is really easy and it’s packed with incredible bars and unique restaurants!
What’s not to love?
Are you planning a trip to Athens, Greece soon? Is there anything else you want to know that I should include in this post? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
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