The cradle of democracy, Athens is one of those cities which should be visited at least once in your lifetime. Ancient sites, excellent cuisine, and friendly locals ensure a lovely stay and memories to last a lifetime.
Athens is a city for all seasons, except mid-summer. July and August, the high season, are not only the most expensive months to visit, but also the hottest. Locals escape to the islands, and so should you!
Late winter (March) is an excellent time to visit, with the nature returning to life, empty streets, and affordable prices.
No matter when you decide to visit the capital of Greece here are the best things to do in Athens.
1. Explore the Historical Sites
Acropolis is the most important archeological site to visit. It will keep you busy for some good hours. Make sure to wear good walking shoes, bring a water bottle, and if you come here during summer, start early and wear sunscreen.
Two other important and interesting sites are the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora of Athens. Both are within an easy walk of Monastiraki metro station. And if you still have time on your hands, then the Temple of Olympian Zeus is another interesting place to visit.
To experience the best of the Acropolis and surrounding sites, you should definitely book a tour with a licensed guide. If you go by yourself then yes, you’ll have a bunch of selfies with random columns, but you’ll miss the true significance you’ll only get from the stories of a licensed guide. We recommend booking your tour online in advance with Get Your Guide. Their prices are competitive and their tours are very informative. They’re sure to make the Acropolis come to life on your tour!
2. Walk in Anafiotika
At the foot of Acropolis, there’s an area which doesn’t seem to look “right”. Actually, you may think you’ve been teleported to the Cyclades. Relax, you are still in Athens but you found Anafiotika. The houses here were built by people who came from Anafi (a Cycladic island) and who wanted to keep the island’s feel. Mostly uninhabited nowadays, the area offers excellent photography opportunities.
Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and pay attention, because it may get very slippery when it rains.
3. Indulge in the Greek Cuisine
Foodie or not, it’s impossible to visit Greece without diving into the culinary masterpiece that is Greek food. From the infamous greek yogurt to the legendary moussaka, you are guaranteed to fall in love with Greek cuisine during your trip to Athens. And this is why it’s one of the best things to in Athens.
Find a taverna hidden on a smaller street and order mezedes (appetizers). Among my favorites are tzatziki (yogurt dip) and dolmades (stuffed grape wines). Of course, you must try moussaka (eggplant and beef casserole) or enjoy a simple Greek salad.
Have a sweet tooth? Baklava may hit the spot! If you are on the run and don’t want to sit down and eat, look for a gyro (grilled meat served on pita bread, along with tzatziki and some veggies).
But I must say, it’s not enough to just eat popular Greek dishes at some touristy restaurant! You need to go a little deeper and take it a step further if you truly want to have an authentic Greek culinary experience. As a foreigner in Greece, the best way to do this is to take a food tour with a local! We fell in love with our food tour, Culinary Secrets of Downtown Athens with Culinary Backstreets Athens and we highly recommend them!
With Culinary Backstreets you get to go beyond the international famous dishes and away from the touristy restaurants. You are taken to the backstreets of Athens where the best Greek meals are made and eaten by locals who spend hours there enjoying their meals and their company. These hidden gems aren’t found in guidebooks nor are they places you’ll stumble into either. From the old-school dairy bar (best yogurt and honey you’ll taste) to the unforgettable mezedes you’ll try in the Central Market, your taste buds will truly thank you for embarking on this amazing 6-hour tour through the backstreets of Athens.
4. Watch the Changing of the Guards
Every Sunday morning at 11 am there is a colorful changing of the guards in Syntagma Square. The official costumes are worn by the evzones (members of the Presidential Guard) and this attracts a lot of travelers. During winter, the uniform is blue, and during summer, it is brown.
During the rest of the week, you can still see a small changing of the guards in front of the President’s House (which is close by).
5. See Athens from Above
And no, we are not talking about the bars with a view of Acropolis. We are talking about Lycabettus Hill. At 300 meters above sea level, it offers an excellent panoramic view of the city. Take the funicular to the top and stop for a coffee (or a meal) at the restaurant located at the top. You can also visit the chapel or even go to a concert held in the open-air amphitheater.
6. Go Shopping
The Monastiraki flea market is a great place to take a look at what trinkets are available for sale. Old stuff, new stuff, crazy stuff, you name it, they have it. And you may even get some great snacks from the vendors, too.
If the flea markets aren’t your thing, then Ermou Street may be. There are a lot of clothes and shoe shops to check out. You may want to leave some room in your luggage if you come here during the sales!
7. See the Sunset at Cape Sounion
Just 69 km southeast of Athens, at the tip of the peninsula, stands Cape Sounion. Known for being home to the ruins of the Ancient Temple of Poseidon, it tops the list of best things to do in Athens because it is one of the best places in Greece to watch the sunset!
Sounion is also an upscale summer home location for the Athenians. And this also means there are a lot of upscale hotels to choose from if you fancy spending more time in this beautiful area.
8. Take a Day Trip
One of the best things to do in Athens for you may be to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take a relaxing day trip. There are so many awesome places with limitless things to do just a few hours from Athens. No matter whether you want to chill on the beach, learn some unique history, or go river rafting, there’s a perfect day trip from Athens for you!
Just two hours from Athens you’ll find this gorgeous seaport town. The first capital after the Greek War of Independence, Nafplio offers you everything from stunning beaches to neoclassical mansions. The culture and architecture are unmatched, and one of its must-sees is the breathtaking Palamidi Fortress. Named one of the most romantic towns, Nafplio offers a great day trip full of sightseeing, shopping, and eating.
With huge political and religious significance, Delphi was the center of the universe for ancient Greeks. While it may not be the actual center of the universe, it is a phenomenal UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cliffside town not only boasts the ruins, but also spectacular views and a top of the line museum. This two-hour road trip is more than worth it for any true history buff.
We highly recommend visiting Delphi with a license tour guide to get the most out of this amazing site. We visited Delphi with Key Tours and really enjoyed our time with them. Their prices are competitive, and the guides are knowledgeable and can answer any questions you might have.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an adventure lover’s dream. Known for its impressive monasteries built on rock summits, it has also become a popular destination for hiking, rock climbing, and rafting. Whatever way you choose to explore Meteora, the monasteries will leave you in awe and the views are sure to leave you speechless.
Although you can visit Meteora on a day trip we highly recommend staying for one night. Take the early train from Athens, to get there by midday, giving you enough time to do the “Meteora Sunset Tour” (a must do) with Meteora Thrones. The following morning, delve into Meteora a bit more with the “Panoramic Tour” where you’ll see and learn about all 6 of the monasteries. After the tour, round 2pm, catch the train back to Athens. By doing it this way you are not rushed and you get to spend more time exploring and learning about this majestic place.
Unless you visit Athens during winter, a day trip to Hydra can be an excellent choice, especially if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The ferry from Piraeus (Athens’ port) takes a little over an hour. The island is known for its many churches and donkeys, which are used for transport, as cars are not allowed here. Spend the day strolling the streets, enjoying the food, and just relaxing.
Insider Tip: If you want to see as much of Greece as possible in only a short amount of time check out this amazing full-day island voyage that takes you to the 3 main islands in the Saronic Gulf. This tour lets you see Hydra, Poros, and Aegina all in just one day. Highly recommended!
Where to Stay in Athens
Here are our top recommendations of hotels and hostels in Athens. All are centrally located, highly rated and have excellent facilities.
- Best Hostel: Athens Backpackers
- Best Budget Hotel: Athens Choice
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Athens Center Square
- Best Luxury Hotel: Amalia Hotel
- Best Airport Hotel: Sofitel Athens Airport
Don’t forget to also take a look at Airbnb. They have many accommodation options available in Athens, many of them cheaper than your average hotel. For recommendations, check out our list of the best Airbnbs in Athens.