Cradle of Western civilization and over 2500 years old, the Greek capital continues to fascinate and remains an Eldorado for history and archeology enthusiasts but also becomes a must for those who want to feel the beating heart of modern Greece. . However, the Greek city is too often a simple stopover between the airport and the Greek islands. Although it can be difficult to tame, Athens is a multi-faceted city that deserves more than a whirlwind trip up the mythical hill of the Acropolis . Take the time to discover it to appreciate its unique rhythm of life.
Athens is home to ancient treasures and many historical monuments, but not only! Visiting the Acropolis and its Parthenon will undoubtedly be the highlight of your stay, but don’t miss its museum, which is essential for understanding the history of the site. Once you’ve visited the archaeological sites, stroll the quaint streets of the Plaka district or browse the Monastiraki flea market .
Ancient and modern, carefree and dynamic, Athens the elusive capital has not finished surprising you! And to not miss anything of this destination, we give you all the essential information in this travel guide.
Main places of interest in Athens
To help you organize your stay in Athens, we have listed the visits and places of interest to do in Athens.
- 1. The Acropolis and the Parthenon
- 2. The Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds
- 3. Olympiaion: The Temple of Zeus
- 4. Athens Museums
- 5. The Hill of the Muses
- 6. Lycabettus
- 7. Plaka district
- 8. Le lac Vouliagmeni
- 9. The beaches of Athens
- 10. Monastiraki Flea Market
- 11. The National Garden
- 12. Syntagma Square
- 13. The Olympic Stadium or Panathenaic Stadium
- 14. Piraeus
- 15. Local cuisine
How to get around Athens?
Where to stay in Athens?
From the Temple of Zeus (Olympiaion) to the magnificent pine trees covering the slopes of the Hill of the Muses, Greece ‘s capital , Athens, offers some of the finest and most important cultural attractions known to man.
Essential destination if you plan to explore Greece, it remains to know what to visit in Athens during your stay. To help you organize this one, we have compiled a list of the best things to do in Athens.
1. The Acropolis and the Parthenon
It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The famous Acropolis and the Parthenon of Athens, perched on a hill visible from all four corners of the capital, reign as the emblem of the city. Sacred place housing the largest number of remains in Athens, the Acropolis plunges its visitors back into the history of ancient Greece. A dive in time in the heart of the citadel, between the statues of the caryatids and the Erechtheion, up to the no less famous Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena .
Essential to visit Athens starting with its basics, the Acropolis and its Parthenon welcome a large number of tourists every year. In high season, queues are legion! So to overcome this problem, consider the skip-the-line ticket. In addition to being accompanied by a host to the site, you will be exempt from the queue: the best alternative for a proper historical visit.
2. The Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds
In the first century of our era, the Romans moved from the ancient Agora (Agora of Athens) to the current Roman Agora. Smaller than the original, the marble-pillared courtyard was a grand place. A so-called “cradle of democracy” where politics, finance and commerce rubbed shoulders. High place of philosophy, the ancient Agora notably welcomed the great Socrates and Plato who taught their thoughts there!
An indelible imprint of history, the place is particularly proof of an incredible state of preservation… From the temple of Apollo Patroos, to the Church of the 12 Apostles, cross the centuries during a guided tour . During your walk, let yourself be carried to the Tower of the Winds, an ancient hydraulic clock built by the astronomer Andronikos of Kyrrhos: clad in Pentelic marble, it remains spectacular.
3. Olympiaion: The Temple of Zeus
Majestic, the Temple of Olympiaion reigns supreme as a place of worship in the ancient sanctuary of Olympia. Don’t be fooled by its small size… A true homage to Zeus , God of the sky and lightning, it is one of the country’s treasures with immutable DNA. To realize this, just go back to the 5th century BC If today, the 15 columns of the Temple sit enthroned as irreducible, they are enough to imagine the wealth they housed.
Inside the Temple, stood two colossal statues of gold and ivory: one bearing the likeness of Zeus, and the other representing the Roman Emperor Hadrian (more than 12 meters each according to legend! ). Although construction of the temple began in 515 BC, political unrest delayed its completion by almost 700 years. The place was therefore set up in the year 131 under the impetus of the Emperor Hadrian , a great admirer of Greek culture.
To discover alone or through a guided tour of Athens and its essentials, the Temple of Zeus is worth the detour so whatever your program to visit Athens, think about it!
4. Athens Museums
They will delight all lovers of Ancient History. True symbols of the city, the capital’s museums bear witness to a past rich in culture.
The National Archaeological Museum undoubtedly occupies the first place of this great heritage: much more than a museum, it is by far the most fascinating of all. Exhibiting the most beautiful works of antiquity (including one of the largest collections of sculptures in the world), it houses nearly 12,000 pieces! Crossing time, the latter date from the Bronze Age, through the Golden Age of Ancient Greece to the Cycladic and Classical periods. A breathtaking collection which, over the years, has continued to grow: in 1999, the temporary closure of part of the museum gave the opportunity to embellish the exhibition of an already priceless value.
Another popular place to visit Athens is the Acropolis Museum . Designed by architects Bernard Tschumi (French-Swiss) and Michel Photiadis (Greek), the latter was created in 2009. Nestled in a glass case, it is devoted to ancient treasures with a large part reserved for the Parthenon. During your visit , don’t miss the exceptional view from the top floor: a transparent panorama facing the Acropolis!
Finally, to complete this cultural adventure, do not miss:
– The Benaki Museum relating Greek History up to the 20th century
– The Museum of Cycladic Art hosting an impressive collection of statues, jewelry and pottery dating from the period born in the Cyclades Islands, 3000 BC.
– The Byzantine and Christian Museum retracing the history of the Byzantine world, from its origins until its fall in 1453 with the capture of Constantinople. The beauty of the works is breathtaking!
5. The Hill of the Muses
What to do in Athens for walkers? Installed opposite the Acropolis, the Hill of the Muses and its monument of Philopappos await you on the heights at nearly 150 meters! It is she who has inspired many poets and for good reason… Her panoramic view of the Acropolis and her sunsets have something magical about them. On the first day of Lent, the hill is home to hundreds of Athenians who, according to tradition, gather there to fly kites.
To get there, just take the path near the Santa Agia Marina church: a superb walk through the maze of paths shaded by pine trees leading you straight to these places that have marked centuries of history. Known as the “Hill of the Muses” in antiquity, countless poets have drawn inspiration from it. On the first day of Lent, the hill is overrun by hundreds of Athenians who traditionally gather here to fly kites.
She sits there, right in the middle of Athens. A hill with many legends, the Lycabettus was inadvertently placed here by the Goddess Athena who was surprised by two crows: a sign of bad omen that would have led her to drop her rock, intended for the fortification of the Acropolis.
Now a hill, the famous rock stands in the middle of Athens, offering in addition to its incredible green setting, a breathtaking view of the city. Accessible on foot for the bravest (30 minutes walk) or by funicular, the islet notably hosts at its summit the pretty chapel of Saint-Georges which sits there, facing this urban ocean.
7. Plaka district
Pláka is the old quarter of Athens. Located below the Acropolis, it has a pleasant and fun atmosphere. Very popular with tourists, it is an ideal place to buy some souvenirs, eat or simply sit and rest in the sandstone of its small labyrinthine streets.
It is also here that travelers like to visit Athens differently, in its most deeply rooted traditions. Among them, the traditional dance show integrates the favorites: a folkloric evening with a frenzied rhythm which promises to train you until the end of the night.
8. Le lac Vouliagmeni
Tired of Ancient History? Direction Lake Vouliagmeni, south of Athens. Its lukewarm waters welcome you for a moment of relaxation… A veritable open-air spa, the lake is known for its therapeutic virtues, in particular its small fish, prized for their pedicure “sessions”!
The most athletic will appreciate practicing a nautical activity. Sailing, Kitesurfing or Kayaking are in order, all topped off with a yoga session or a good massage! An invigorating excursion, which you can experience in an all-inclusive day .
9. The beaches of Athens
Visiting Athens also means going to its beaches! If the latter do not illustrate the most beautiful postcards of Greece, they are an excellent alternative to the local heat and still offer a nice swimming environment. To discover them, head for Lake Vouliagmeni to the south of the city.
Because they are all worth the detour, we have listed them for you, from the closest to the furthest for a refreshing break: Votsalakia, Alimos, Glyfada, Voula, Kavouri, Vouliagmeni, Kokkino Limanaki, Varkiza.
10. Monastiraki Flea Market
On Sunday morning, go to the flea market on Place Avissynias to stroll and stroll among some treasures: from trinkets to books, paintings or clothes, bargain hunters will enjoy finding the rare pearl!
Then, cross Athinas Street to Psiri where many alleys secretly guard a multitude of galleries and vintage shops…
11. The National Garden
This is the must-do green space in Athens. A veritable Eden in the heart of the city, the National Garden or Amalia Garden is located behind the Greek Parliament. Locals and visitors like to stroll through its 15 hectares, for a lunch break or a simple stroll to discover the flora and fauna it hosts.
12. Syntagma Square
Right next to the National Garden is Syntagma Square . Central place of local life, it is one of the essential places. With its modern architecture, it is a very dynamic place of passage where locals and visitors meet in the sandstone of political, social and tourist life.
Among the monuments to visit in its surroundings, we find in particular the Hellenic Parliament and its famous tomb of the unknown soldier chaperoned by the changing of the guard: every hour, the “Evzones” begin an immutable ritual (choreography?) very ceremonial, to the image of the soldiers of Buckingham Palace. Very popular with tourists, this attraction despite itself is the favorite place for a souvenir photo shoot!
All in all, visiting Athens therefore unquestionably passes through its famous squares.
13. The Olympic Stadium or Panathenaic Stadium
If you are still wondering what to do in Athens during your stay, think of the Panathenaic stadium! Also known as the “Marble Stadium”, it is a place steeped in history with over 2500 years of existence. Perfectly preserved, it is first of all appreciated for its incredible conservation: if it has since been enlarged and covered with white marble during the Roman period, remember that its original construction dates from the 4th century BC! For centuries, it was the scene of many processions: gladiator fights, poetry competitions, chariot races or even pentathlon events raised crowds of up to 70,000 people.
Until 1986 when, once again, the Panathenaic stadium enjoyed a new hour of glory by hosting the first modern Olympic Games ! Nicknamed “Olympic stadium” since then, it was re-elected for the occasion during the 2004 games. Today the stadium hosts cultural and sporting events in the capital, continuing to write its history through time.
Visiting Athens without passing through its port is a bit like leaving the capital without having seen its emblems. Obligatory passage to access the Greek islands, Piraeus is a high place of tourism, counting welcoming no less than 19 million passengers per year! If you like to stroll along its quays, you also like to observe it from the top of the Profitis Ilias hill . Overlooking the port and the Saronic Gulf , the viewpoint invites you to immerse yourself in a superb panorama.
15. Local cuisine
To end your stay in Athens in style, why not opt for a tour of the markets? Rich in gastronomic culture, the Greek capital also invites the greediest to discover the specialties of the country. Olive oil, wine, mushrooms, pasta and cheese are on the program of a 4-hour culinary getaway that promises your taste buds to visit Athens in its most gourmet flavors. A traditional cuisine known for its virtues of longevity!