Things to do in Athens – A perfect day itinerary

You only have one day in Athens / Greece and still don’t want to miss any things to do and highlights during your city trip? No problem at all with the travel tips and BIG5 checklists from JOURNICATION! This Athens travel guide shows you with maps the route to the best places within the Greek capital. In addition to my personal experience report, you will receive recommendations on the best hotels, restaurants and photo spots in Athens and an overview of the costs. You will see, in 24 hours in Athens, there are more sights to discover than just the Akropolis and touristy Plaka. Let’s go for a perfect day in Athens in 2021!

What do you learn in this article?

BIG5 Things to do in Athens

You don’t want to miss any sights? Find all the tips and your checklist for the city trip to Athens here:

BIG5 Athens – Speed Date

Outstanding:

In the historic center of Athens all sights – especially the BIG5 – are within walking distance

Sucks:

Always be on your guard: Be careful of pickpockets, especially in the dense crowds of the metro and the old town streets

DO:

Don’t spend too much time queuing in the Acropolis queue with the combi-ticket – buy the ticket at less frequented sights

DO NOT:

Book an evening of Greek folklore in one of the tourist restaurants in Plaka – with mostly mediocre food, even less real folklore is performed. No thanks.

Don’t tell your mother:

The situation in Athens is still tense in some quarters, especially at night; Drug dealer hotspots include Platía Vathís and Viktoria Park

BIG5 Athens – Rapid Fire Q&A

  • How many days should I plan to visit Athens? – One day is actually enough to see the highlights (-> link to the article), plan a extra day or two for more time in the museums and to explore more unknown neighborhoods (link to other articles)
  • When is the best time to travel to Athens? – Outside the high season! In summer it can be very hot and long stretches through full alleys can be tedious. Spring and autumn are therefore good travel times.
  • I have visited many historical cities, why Athens? – The city offers a great mix of impressive ancient history, proximity to the sea and port, and up-and-coming, hip neighborhoods
  • The Acropolis mountain seems expensive and overcrowded, should I still go up? – Yes, in any case. It’s a great feeling to move between the ancient buildings and the view in all directions is really great!
  • Is a Metro day or multi-day ticket worth it? – Not from my point of view, because everything is very easy to reach on foot.

BIG5 Athens – Orga

Best travel time for Athens

The best time to travel to Athens is spring and autumn (April, May & September, October), in summer it can get very hot and a discovery tour on foot can be sweaty – literally

Arrival & Departure in Athens

Visa: Check here whether you need a visa for Greece with your passport

  • Flight: The international airport of Athens “Eleftherios Venizelos” (IATA: ATH) is served directly by many airlines. Current very cheap flights include Ryanair from many European cities
  • Bus: From Thessaloniki (several times a day, ~ 6 hours, ~ 20 euros)
  • Train: Kalampaka / Meteora to Athens in a comfortable express train (several times a day, approx. 4 hours, 18 euros per person)

Next it goes to … Meteora or Thessaloniki in northern Greece, Saronic Gulf islands like Agistrior the famous islands like Santorini, Mykonos or Crete

Accommodation / Hotels in Athens

Recommended location: I recommend accommodations near the center (Syntagma Square) or at metro stations so that you can quickly walk or use public transport in the city. Avoid the areas north of Archaeological Museum and around Victoria Park

Athens offers all types of accommodation for all budgets:

  • Budget: Bedbox Hostel (11 Poliklitou, Athens, 10551; 14 € dorm, 55 € DR), very good location in the center of Athens, air-conditioned room
  • Budget: Athens Hub Hostel (7 Agias Eleousis, Athens, 10554; 26 € dorm, 90 € DR), close to the Monastiraki flea market, very practical and new facilities
  • Medium: Iliana’s Studio (68B Πειραιώς, Athens, 10436; ~ 45 €), fantastic apartment in a prime location. Equipped with everything you need
  • Medium: Boutique Central Apartments Acropolis View (Ktena 12, Athens, 10563; ~ 60 €), stylish aparthotel with a very well-equipped kitchen
  • Noble: Athens Utopia Ermou (Ermou 46 and Evaggelistrias, Athens, 10563; ~ 110 € DR), very good location and (breakfast) terrace with a fantastic view of the Acropolis
  • Noble: A for Athens (2-4, Miaouli street, Monastiraki, Athens, 10554; ~ 190 € DR), right on Monasteraki Square with the bar of the same name. Magnificent views of the Acopolis and the center of Athens

Price Level in Athens / Budget

Withdraw money: Goes anywhere in the city with the many ATMs; but beware of “Euronet” ATMs with overpriced fees!

Beer indicator: In the restaurant for local beer: around 1.50 euros, imported beer around 2.00 euros

Taxi costs: basic price: 1.30 euros; Price per kilometer: 0.75 euros (day) and 1.30 euros (night)

Public transport: single ticket € 1.40 (90 min.); Day ticket € 4.50 (24h)

Tip from the locals: Getting a taxi in the middle of the street at peak times can be difficult. Head to central stops (e.g. Sygtagma Platz) or have one called in a hotel

Restaurants, Bars & Cafés in Athens

  • Breakfast and Greek yogurt: Stani (Marikas Kotopouli 10, Athina 104 32)
  • O Tzitzigkas kai O Mermigkas (Mitropoleos 12, Athina 105 63): The restaurant, whose name translates as “the cricket and the ant” (based on a Greek fairy tale), offers down-to-earth cuisine and is very easily accessible near Syntagma Square. We recommend!
  • Rooftop bars with a view of the Acropolis: A for Athens (Miaouli 2, Athina 105 54) and “360 Degrees” (Pl. Monastirakiou, Athina 105 52)
  • Coffee and cake: Nancy’s Sweet Home (Pl.Iroon 1, Athina 105 54) or the Little Kook / Mary Poppins (Karaiskaki 17, Athina 105 54)
  • In general there are many hip bars, cafes and restaurants on and around the Platia Iroon

BIG5 Athens – Activities

  • Walk historical paths between the ancient temples of the Acropolis
  • Discover the Plaka on your own with a detour into the streets of Anafiotika
  • Use Monasteraki Square as a starting point for targeted sightseeing in the center
  • Discover the hip Psyri district for a coffee with heavenly chocolate
  • Enjoy the sunset over the city from Lykavittos Hill

BIG5 Athens – Photo spots

  • Across Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis Mountain in the background – ideally from one of the surrounding roof terraces / bars
  • From the Lykavittos hill all of Athens from above, especially at sunset
  • From the Acropolis towards the sea across the Dionysos Theater
  • The many temples and buildings of the Acropolis themselves provide great photo opportunities, e.g. the Parthenon or Erechtheion
  • Take different perspectives in the picturesque Anafiotika district and feel like you are on a Cycladic island

 

BIG5 Athens – Things to do off the beaten track

  • Marvel at the special change of guard in front of the Presidential Palace, not in the crowds of Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament
  • Start a discovery tour of the hip Psyri district with many cafes and street art
  • Discover everyday life on and around the Central Market – especially early in the morning
  • In general, the quarters outside the tourist center are ideal for discovery tours – for example Exarchia
  • Take a day or multi-day trip to the islands in the Saronic Gulf, e.g. the less touristy Agistri

BIG5 Athens – Culinary Journey

  • Original Greek yogurt – according to locals, should be a little fluid and not too greasy
  • Souvlaki – sure, the classic – but still tasty and inexpensive
  • Stuffed grape leaves – There are different fillings and sauces
  • Fish / Seafood – As a city by the sea, Athens restaurants are predestined for this
  • Rakomelo – A mixture of raki and honey flavors, the “healing drink of Greek gods”

BIG5 Athens – Communication

  • thank you – efcharistó (ευχαριστώ)
  • yes – nai (ναι)
  • no – óchi (όχι, mit dem Kopf nicken)
  • hello – geia (γεια) / kalí méra (καλή μέρα)
  • goodbye – antío (αντίο)

BIG5 Athens – Helpful Websites / Links

BIG5 Athens – Overview Map for your city break

A perfect day in Athens 🇬🇷 – here is your overview

Best suited for screenshots 📷📝

Your morning in Athens

  • Breakfast at “Stani
  • Embark on historical paths
    • Start at Hadrian’s Gate
    • Olympieion (Temple of Olympian Zeus)
    • Past the Zappeion
    • Olympic stadium
    • Changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace
    • Walk in the National Garden
  • Dive into the Plaka
    • Syntagma square
    • Churches of Panagia Gorgoepikoos & Cathedral of the Annunciation
    • Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
    • Hadrian’s Library

Your afternoon in Athens

  • Monastiraki square
  • Areopag & Philopappos for great panoramic views
  • Take your time for the Acropolis
  • Discovery tour in Plaka
  • Picturesque alleys of Anafiotika
  • Trendy district of Psyri

Your evening in Athens

  • Sunset from Lykabettus hill
  • Dinner in a tavern

 

In addition to the BIG5, I have summarized the things to do in Athens and the circular route for you in an overview map:

Click on the icon at the top left to use the full range of map options!

Is the combined ticket for the Athens sights worth it?

Short answer: YES

My long answer and reason:

You save money! The single ticket to the Acropolis alone costs 20 euros, the combined ticket with 7 sights 30 euros.

The combi ticket includes …

  • the Acropolis of Athens
  • the ancient Agora of Athens (Greek Agora) and the associated museum
  • Kerameikos and the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
  • the Temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieion)
  • Roman Agora of Athens and the Tower of the Winds
  • the Hadrian’s library
  • Aristotle Lyceum (Lykeion Archaeological Site)

So if you plan to visit several of these sights anyway, the decision will be easier.

Even more important than money on a tight time budget in Athens:

You save time! You don’t want to wait in line in front of the Acropolis ticket center and lose valuable time in Athens? Absolutely understandable! My recommendation: buy the combi ticket at a less frequented place like the Olympieion with little or no waiting time and skip the line in front of the Acropolis – you already have a ticket!

If you want to experience the sights of Athens in a relaxed guided tour, there are many great offers:

 

Things to do in Athens for one perfect day

Athens: That means through centuries, through the cradle of democracy and philosophy. The eventful history was reflected in the same from antiquity and modern times. Explore the many things to do on a voyage of discovery in Athens. Marvel at the exciting view in ancient and modern parts of Greece’s capital. Athens – An important center of world affairs for many centuries. Come on a discovery tour through … Many sights are in the center of the city, exploring on foot is highly recommended.

You haven’t brought much time and you still don’t want to miss the highlights of this great city? Here you learn how!

Things to do in Athens in the morning

It will be a long day with a few kilometers of sightseeing in warm temperatures. A hearty Greek breakfast is the order of the day here.
If your hotel is a little sparse or you just feel like something really good and local: Stani is your shop! (Marikas Kotopouli 10, Athina 104 32)

Near Omonia Square, the restaurant offers homemade Greek specialties. A good yogurt with honey and nuts, a coffee or the typical Frappé from Greece – what else can go wrong during the day?

To get a first overview and learn a lot of interesting facts about the country and culture, I recommend a free walking tour. Since there are a lot of tourists in the city, especially during the main season, and despite many guides in various languages, you should book a tour in advance. I can personally recommend the “Athens Free Tour“.

If you prefer to discover everything on your own, here is my detailed route suggestion:

Start at Hadrian’s Gate

It starts at the imposing archway not far from the central Syntagma square. Wait, wasn’t Hadrian a Roman emperor ?! Well combined, Sherlock!

Exactly right, and already here it becomes clear what rich history awaits you in Athens. The Romans conquered Athens in the 1st century BC. BC and erected many important buildings.

Olympieion – the temple of Olympian Zeus

Directly from Hadrian’s Gate you look at the ruins of the Olympieion – also known as the Temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the largest temples in the ancient world. Today, only the huge pillars are evidence of its former size. The Olympieion is included in the combination ticket.

Things to do in Athens: The Zappeion

Pass the statue of the British poet Lord Byron, who was important to the Greeks – he took part in the fight for freedom – to the Zappeion, which today mainly serves as the venue for events and ceremonies.

 

 

The Olympic Stadium – the start of the modern Olympic Games

Next stop: The Panathinaiko Stadium. As the venue for the first modern Olympic Games, it was built on the ruins of the ancient stadium and is also known under the name Kallimarmaro (= “beautiful marble”).

A look through the fence is enough, paying admission is only partially worthwhile.

Experience the change of guard at the Presidential Palace

Attention insider tip: The elaborately staged changing of the guard every hour on the hour offers a nice spectacle. While there is a large number of tourists in front of the parliament building on Syntagma Square, you can watch everything in front of the Presidential Palace in a relaxed manner without having to queue or wait in close proximity.

The Evzones (presidential guard) wear striking fustanellas (skirts with extremely many folds) and tsarouchias (beak shoes with tassels). The shoes are studded and sound like horse hooves due to the powerful appearance of the soldiers. It is said that the Bavarian-born first Greek King Otto sent the soldiers around his residence (today’s Presidential Palace) to watch over the sounds of the horses at home.

Things to to in Athens: Stroll through the National Garden

The national garden is a welcome antithesis to the old town – quiet, not too crowded and very green. Enjoy the silence and the small botanical exhibition before heading into the tourist bustle of the Plaka.

If you need a break, there are also good opportunities for a quiet coffee or frappé.

 

 

In the tourist bustle of the center – The Plaka

Cross the main street and continue to Syntagma Square, the major traffic hub in central Athens with a view of the parliament building. You have already seen the change of guard and do not have to stand behind the deep rows of hobby directors with their smartphones.

Mitropoleus Street leads to the impressive religious buildings of Panagia Gorgoepikoos and the Cathedral of the Annunciation. The former is a Byzantine-style church, whose 90 reliefs from different eras make it a kind of open-air museum.

Are you hungry yet? The Ariston Bakery (Voulis 10, Athina 105 62) is on Voulis Street, which branches off from Mitropoleus! A dream for lovers of baked goods and local products.

 

 

Now you are moving in the historical center of the city, full of sights and testimonies of the Greek and Roman civilizations.

The Roman Agora or Roman Forum was an important place in ancient Athens. Agora means something like market place or meeting place. Today, only ruins from the former scenery testify to the octagonal tower of the winds, an ancient weather station and clock. The Roman Agora is included in the combi ticket, but you can also see a lot through the fence.

Last stop before a well-deserved lunch break: The Hadrian’s Library. Here too you walk on ancient paths through the ruins of columns and once magnificent buildings. If you have already bought the combination ticket, take a leisurely stroll through the ruins and read the informative descriptions.

 

Things to do in Athens in the afternoon

The linchpin of Plaka: Monastiraki

This square is really impressive, surrounded by historical buildings such as the small Byzantine church Kimisi Theotokou Mitropoleos of the Tzistarakis Mosque and close to many sights such as the Hadrian’s Library, the square is an ideal starting point for further discovery tours in the center of Athens.

And the Acropolis towers above everything – literally outstanding!
You can particularly enjoy the bustle on the square and the historical panorama from one of the rooftop bars. We recommend the “A for Athens” and “360 Degrees”. Of course, the cool cocktail has its price here, but how was it, “You won’t remember the money” – but the view will surely be remembered.

The place is also great for a cheap lunch. Most of the restaurants also offer souvlaki and Co. to take away on side windows – at humane prices in the otherwise expensive center.

Sit on the wall in front of the church and enjoy the hustle and bustle on the square, the music groups in the restaurants and conversations with the locals. On many days in summer there are also fruit dealers in front of the entrance to the metro, where you can buy your cherries or strawberries for dessert.

 

 

A great afternoon on the hills of Athens: Acropolis and Co.

It starts towards the Acropolis. From Aeropag Hill, the meeting place of the city administration committee of the same name in antiquity, you have a great panorama over the city and the central attraction of Athens. Watch out, the stones kicked smoothly by millions of people can be dangerously slippery even without rain!

Alternatively, the Philopappos hill is ideal for an Acropolis panorama from a different perspective.

Things to do in Athens: Visit the Acropolis

The Acropolis is undoubtedly THE attraction of Athens and the central tourist contact point of the city. Outstanding from Athens, the Acropolis can always be seen in the background from many points.

Sooooo many tourists, depending on the time of day long queues. Is it still worth it? Yes absolutely! You cannot go to Athens or visit the Acropolis. It is really fascinating to walk the ancient ways, between the many important sites and ancient temples. In addition, the Acropolis is a great vantage point over the whole city and only makes you aware of the huge extent of Greece’s metropolis.

 

 

The imposing ruins of the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena and the Propylaea and many other ancient buildings are absolutely worth the climb.

You also have a magnificent view over the ruins of the old Dionysos Theater to the Athens port of Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf.

 

 

Go on a discovery tour in the Plaka

Now explore the plaka at your own pace. Definitely the place to be for souvenirs and shopping.
Tip: Don’t just walk through the crowds of the lower streets (e.g. Tripodon), but also discover the parallel streets that run higher, often not overrun by tourists.

Tired of the tourist bustle on the streets of the Plaka? How about a short trip to a Greek island? For those who don’t want to travel that far, the somewhat hidden Anafiotika district offers a welcome alternative. The blue windows and doors are really reminiscent of the images that are more familiar from the Cyclades Islands such as Mykonos or Santorini. In fact, the neighborhood was built by Cycladic immigrants who were inspired by the architecture of their home.

 

 

Spend a relaxing afternoon in the trendy district of Psyri

Do you still have time and desire to relax with coffee and cake? You will find what you are looking for in the trendy Psyri district, directly opposite Monasteraki Square!
Take the Themidos and Miaouli streets to Iroon Square.

On the way you will pass street art and many young people and immediately feel the relaxed atmosphere.

Are you a big fan of chocolate? Then I recommend “Nancy’s Sweet Home” right on Iroon Platz! Enjoy!

On the way back to the city center, be sure to pass the “Mary Poppins CaféLittle Kook (Karaiskaki 17, Athina 105 54) – or enjoy your coffee there. Impressive decorations – inside and outside – await you!

 

 

Things to do in Athens in the evening

Enjoy the sunset from Lykabettus hill

Now it is high time to prepare for the sunset. You can enjoy this best from the Lykabettus hill, the highest of the Athens city mountains.

Depending on the time and travel budget, there are three means of transportation for the ascent: a cable car, a taxi up to the top or on cobblers’ feet – i.e. on foot. If you first want to take a taxi to the foot of the mountain, it is best to take one from Syntagma Square. Stopping taxis from the side of the road can be difficult in Athens.

Insider tip: come early enough for a seat on the wall and bring some snacks and maybe some beer or wine.

 

 

Things to do in Athens: Have a delicious Greek dinner

Very important: Remember that the Greeks, like all southern Europeans, eat a little later and the restaurants open a little later if necessary.
After your long day, I can recommend the restaurant “O Tzitzigkas kai O Mermigkas” (Mitropoleos 12, Athina 105 63).

The name means “the cricket and the ant” (after a Greek fairy tale). The tavern is easily accessible near Syntagma Square. Here you will find down-to-earth cuisine. We recommend!

Here you’ll find great alternatives for your sunset or how to spent the evening in Athens:

 

Now you would like to visit Athens? If you would like to know anything else, please write to me! 🇬🇷

Are you interested in other destinations in Greece? You want to explore the hidden gem Saronic island Agistrion your own? Or how about a day trip from Athens to the breathtaking “floating monasteries” of Meteora? Then read on here: Meteora monasteries – tips for your perfect day. 

Athens is also a perfect starting point for excursions to all of Greece – whether day trips to the islands or multi-day tours to world-famous sights.

12 Comments

  1. Ashlee

    This is fantastic! I want to visit Athens someday.

    Reply
    • Phil

      Yes, it’s a great city for a weekend getaway or as starting point to explore Greece!

      Reply
    • Sandra Joseph

      Safety wise, Athens doesn’t sound much worse than Miami…so I should be fine…LOL!

      Reply
  2. Zoe

    Love the format of this! So much bitesize info 🙂

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thank you very much 😊

      Reply
  3. Karen Chen

    I have always wanted to go – I’ve always been a fan of Greek and Roman mythology and exploring its roots! Thank you for such a detailed post, the pictures look amazing too!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thank you Karen 😊
      Fingers crossed you can travel to Athens soon!

      Reply
  4. Under flowery sky

    Wow fantastic, I would love to see the street art and folklor.
    Greek yoghurt is what I love, it’s great to know that 1 day is
    enough. Thanks for the tips..

    Reply
  5. Yasmin

    I hope to visit Athens one day!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Fingers crossed for you Yasmin!

      Reply
  6. Nina Bosken

    Wow I love how interactive this post is. It has such great and helpful information. I’ve been living abroad in Europe (Spain) for almost five years and still haven’t been to Greece. Hopefully I’ll be able to go soon!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thank you so much Nina, fingers crossed 🙂

      Reply

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