Are there enough things to do in Athens for a few days trip? Oh yes! In fact, we found so many that we could barely squeeze everything in our four-night couple's vacation. We travelled at the end of September to avoid crowds and busy touristic sites. By the end of September, the weather is a lot better in Athens, meaning you can comfortably wear a summer dress during the day and add a cardigan in the evening. The air is fresher and the sun is less strong, making it easier to explore the city. As the crowds start thinning out just before October, you'll have more spaces where you can take pictures and have a relaxed atmosphere in the city.
We partnered up with Expedia and Visit Greece to explore Athens during the offseason. We were sent to explore Athens and create unbiased content based on our opinions. Since we visited Greece before, we had no doubt we'll fall in love with the capital city. We were right, the city was incredible and with so many things to do in Athens, we would not hesitate to return in the Spring. For more information, and to learn how to book your holiday please visit this microsite lovingly made by Expedia and Visit Greece to help you create itineraries for your upcoming trip.
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Stay at the Grecotel
Wondering where to stay in Athens? We spent a long weekend in the Grecotel, one of the best luxury hotels in the capital. It's strategically positioned to be closed to bars and restaurants but also very close to the central market and all the cool bars we'll talk about in this article.
The quirky side of the hotel is that all rooms are unique. The vision was to bring murals indoors and Grecotel did a wonderful job with it. They invited street artists to paint each room differently. so no matter how many time to return to Athens and book a room at the Grecotel, you'll never be bored with the same old room. Grecotel has the absolute best breakfast we've ever had, with all sort of local bakes and goodies.
We can't recommend Grecotel enough. Book it here.
Hike the Acropolis
Perhaps the most well-known tourist attraction in Athens is the Acropolis, which is an ancient citadel located on a rocky hill towering above the capital. It contains remains from ancient buildings including the Parthenon. Beyond the stunning vista points, we recommend getting a guide with you so you can learn some of its histories. A historian turned guide will be able to showcase the lesser-known parts of significant importance and explain why the Acropolis came to be so important for Athens.
The Acropolis gets very busy during summertime, so we recommend that you visit towards the end of September when the crowds thin out. The weather is milder during Autumn, making it easier to climb up and enjoy the viewing points. Bring water with you, or a refillable water bottle as there is drinkable water at the top of the Acropolis for anyone to use.
Entry to the Acropolis is 20 EUR per adult during summertime (1 April to 31 October). The price becomes 10 EUR for adults during the off-season (1 November - 31 March).
Admire The Pnyx
Did you know that what may look like a rugged hill in Athens, the Pnyx holds an incredible historical significance to the foundation of democracy in Athens?
Many hike the Pnyx to get incredible vista points over Athens. But the Pnyx used to be used for gatherings from as early as 507 BC. Here, Athenians hosted popular assemblies. The Pnyx is where Socrates was judged and convicted to death. Before Socrates's execution, friends offered to bribe the guards and rescue him so he could flee into exile. However, Socrates declined and said he will accept his fate.
Attend a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Acropolis is more than just a historical site, but also a place for celebration where locals come together to attend concerts and open-air events. The Herodes Atticus is a stone theatre structure still in use today. Major musicians come to perform here and there are various entertainment events taking place during summer and Autumn. Nana Mouskouri, Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra all came here to play in this incredible structure built between the 160AD – 174AD. When visiting the Acropolis, you will be able to see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from above.
Visit the Theatre of Dionysus
The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is considered to be the first-ever theatre. It is located at the foot of the Acropolis and included in the entry fee for the Acropolis. It is known for its incredible acoustics and it was built to seat as many as 17,000 people. It was the birthplace of Greek tragedy.
When you look closely, you'll notice special inscriptions on the front seats, reserved for the elite and high priests. Everyone was allowed to visit the theatre and come for spectacles here. The lower your rank, the further back you'd seat. The current remains are the restored and redesigned Roman version: the floor had been paved with marble, and new seats of honour mentioned above were constructed around the edge of the orchestra.
Visit the Parthenon
The Parthenon is an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the patron of the city of Athens. The building itself went through a lot of trouble throughout its history, being destroyed and rebuilt several times over.
The construction for the Parthenon began in 447 BC. The Parthenon was built to replace an older building dedicated to Athena and to symbolise the victory against the Persian invasion.
In the final decade of the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church and then turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. In 1687, a Venetian bombardment during a siege destroyed the Parthenon and its sculptures.
Since the 1975 several restoration projects have been undertaken.
Did you know that Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures known as the Elgin Marbles? They are now hosted in the British Museum where you can visit free of charge. However, there is a lot of controversy around these artefacts, as, since the early 1980s, the Greek governments have asked for them back where they belong.
As the Parthenon is part of the Acropolis, your visit is included in the entry fee for the Acropolis.
Photograph the Erechtheion
The Erechtheion was perhaps one of our favourite temples located in the Acropolis complex. The story behind its erection was quite unique. According to the myth, Athena and Poseidon fought to become patrons of the city. In order to pick the best, both needed to show the locals who will be the most suitable candidate. Is it believed that Poseidon used his trident in this very site (where the Erechtheion is now built) and a sea water well appeared. Athena, on the other hand, made an olive tree appear which was much prefered and more beneficial for the people of the city.
The temple is called Erechtheis that resulted from Poseidon's strike. It is dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon as they both led to the prosperity of the city.
Marvel at the Temple of Athena Nike
The Temple of Athena Nike is the smallest of the temples located on the Acropolis of Athens. It is dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike and was built around 420 BC
In Greek, Nike means victory and Athena was worshipped in this form as she led the city victorious in the war.
The Temple of Athena Nike is closed to visitors but it can be seen and photographed from afar during your visit to the Acropolis.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
To fully understand the history of the Acropolis and its temples, one must visit the Acropolis Museum. The museum was built to house every artefact found on the Acropolis and surrounding slopes. One of the most interesting aspects of the museum was seeing the Caryatids from the area around the Erechtheion. The museum is missing the most well preserved of the Caryatids, which was taken away by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, now housed in the British Museum.
The Caryatids have undergone some restoration to showcase their original colour. When visiting the Acropolis Museum, you'll be able to see the incredibly meticulous process needed to restore the statues.
Visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is dedicated to Zeus, the head of the Olympian Gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC but was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The temple didn't survive for long as during the 267 AD there was a barbarian invasion which pillaged the templed. You can now view 16 of the original gigantic columns.
The entry price is 12 EUR for adults.
See the Hadrian's Arch
Situated on the northeast corner of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, you'll see the gorgeous Hadrian’s Arch. This remarkable monument is an 18-metre marble arch that once acted as a separator between the old city of Theseus and the new city of Hadrian. It was built in 131 AC to commemorate Hadrian.
The Hadrian's Arch is free to visit.
Walk around the National Garden
Take a break from history and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Athen's National Garden. This is a public park of 15 hectares located in the centre of the capital. It is a sweet little oasis which provided shades from the trees during a hot summer day. You can take various paths and admire the local flora, or just sit down on one of the many benches for a quick picnic and a conversation. There are street vendors located around the garden, so you pick up a snack and some water.
See the Zappeio Hall
The Zappeion was the first building to be erected specifically for the revival of the Olympic Games in our modern times. This is now used for It is generally used for meetings and ceremonies. We saw the Zappeio Hall during a food festival held in front of it in Athens. There are various statues around the Hall.
Admire the Panathenaic Stadium
This is one of the main attractions in Athens as it is the only stadium in the world built entirely out of marble. Did you know that after being refurbished, it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896?
The Panathenaic Stadium was built in the 6th century BC to host the Panathenaic Games. The Panathenaic Games were a religious and athletic festival celebrated every 4 years (much like our modern Olympic Games) in the honour of Athena.
Walk around the Monastiraki Square
Spend just ten minutes in Monastiraki Square and you'll see an array of tourists and locals. It's a brilliant place for people-watching. It also has various restaurants and cafes all around.
Monastiraki is a flea market location which is known to be the main shopping area in Athens. The main area is the Monastiraki Square. Here you can admire Hadrian's Library, the Tsisdarakis Mosque and the Pantanassa church. The name of the square takes after the Church of the Pantanassa.
Just a quick note here: Athens felt safe for both my husband and me, however, Athens is a large city which welcomes over 4.5 million tourists a year. As such, pickpocketing is practised in busy areas and we highly recommend that in busy squares such as the Monastiraki Square you are extra vigilant with your belongings.
See the antique's market
A real market in Athens or a picture of a hidden object game? We will let you decide! The antique's market area is an incredible place full of things and items which we didn't even imagine still exist. But with a bit of patience, you can most certainly find a lot of useful stuff. And if not useful, perhaps highly decorative, enough to create quirky interiors and funky bars.
If antique hunting is not your thing, no worries, you should still visit for the colourful photographs you can take here. We promise it's truly unique.
The antique's market runs pretty much in parallel streets to the Monastiraki Square and is located in the Monastiraki neighbourhood.
Visit the Ancient Agora
Ah the Ancient Agora, what a gorgeous location in Athens. Visit during mornings and take your time to explore the Greek Agora which means gathering place. You'll find many artefacts and archaeological remains here, but perhaps the most important is the Temple of Hephaestus which is the most well-preserved temple in the city. You can get close to the temple to admire its architecture and from the hill, you can see stunning views of the Acropolis.
Overall the Ancient Agora was our favourite site in Athens, partly because of the incredibly well-preserved temple and partly because of the relaxed atmosphere around. The entrance fee is 10 EUR per adult.
Visit the Temple of Hephaestus
The Temple of Hephaestus is located in the Ancient Agora as already mentioned. Hephaestus was the patron god of metalworking, craftsmanship, and fire. The construction for the temple started in 449 BC and was officially inaugurated in 416 BC.
It is believed that from around 700 AD, the temple was converted into a church in honour of St. George. In 1934, its status was reverted to that of an ancient monument.
Walk around the Plaka neighbourhood
Souvenirs, shops and restaurants, this is what to expect in the lively Plaka neighbourhood. Located at the foot of the Acropolis Hill, Plaka makes you feel like you entered a relaxed Athens, with a village kind of feel to it. Imagine boutiques, colourful streets, romantic flowers and all sort of traditional tavernas which invite you to enjoy a well-deserved lunch.
The Plaka neighbourhood is so stunning and relaxed, it will make you forget you are in a capital city. The vista points and gorgeous cosy streets will transport your senses on a serene Greek island.
Walk around Psyrri
Psyrri is a vibrant neighbourhood with bars, traditional Greek restaurants and small artisan shops. It's where we spent most of our evenings in search of dinner and successful discovered restaurants which we loved.
The atmosphere is exceptional during the evening, where locals and tourists alike gather at the terraces and there is live music from a few of the tavernas nearby. It becomes a time of celebration, where Athens is not just a city, but a place with a soul, romance and passion.
Watch the changing of the guard
Not talking about London here, but about Athens indeed. Every Sunday morning at 11 am, people gather in Syntagma Square to see the official parade of the changing of the guard. The guard changes every hour, however, so if you happen to visit during the week, you can still absolutely enjoy this.
Eat corn on the cob
When we visited Athens we saw an old man with an antique cart grilling and selling corn on the cob. To be fair, just to help the man we wanted to buy some to give him custom and attract others there as well.
Turns out, this was the best corn on the cob we've ever eaten from a street vendor. This 80-year-old man clearly knows his trade. It was such a treat, we needed to include it in our top things to do in Athens.
To find the corn on the cob head over to the National Garden to the entrance in front of the Hotel Amalia Athens. He was located just by the palm trees.
Visit the National Archaeology Museum
History buff or not, we recommend a visit to the National Archaeology Museum. Allocate an hour to walk around and learn about some of the most important artefacts in Greece. We loved the statues, the pots and some of the interesting stories of how perfume used to be made in ancient Greece.
Overall it's one of the most comprehensive Archeological Museums and you'll learn heaps of information.
The entrance fee is 10 EUR per adult.
Buy a Greek souvenir
We love a good souvenir and Athens has plenty of souvenir shops scattered around the city. You can buy magnets, olive oil soaps, milky cosmetics or delicious food. We purchase several bags of herbs and lots and lots of olive oil. After visiting Crete not long ago, we couldn't stop thinking about Greek olive oil which is so delicious.
Get custom made sandals
I fell in love with the Greek sandals which came in all shapes and colours. Mainly made of leather and with a sturdy sole, these sandals are made to last. We found several options for the occasion and casual wear and I found it to be the perfect present for all fashion lovers out there.
Visit the central market
The central market is where locals come to purchase fresh ingredients and all sort of household items. Our hotel was located just minutes away from the market so we could go have a look during the morning. You'll find all sort of olives for very good prices. If you stay in an apartment for a longer period of time, you can come here for fruits and vegetables and make your own delicious Greek salads for lunch.
Alternatively, you can just walk around and perhaps find a unique souvenir away from the tourist areas.
Feel at the island vibe at Anafiotika
Anafiotika represents the Greek island fantasy everyone has. Located in the heart of Athens, Anafiotika was by far our favourite area in the city. Narrow lanes with traditional houses, beautiful plants and gorgeous vista points, this area is quintessentially Greek.
Allow yourself to get lost in the maze of small streets, but please remember that you are walking around inhabited houses so make sure you respect the locals who live there. It is a gorgeous location which begs to be photographed. In addition to this in the main areas, we found so many cute kittens. At the top of the hill, you'll find a fantastic vista point over Athens.
Photograph the cutest cats
Cats, cats and more cats! This is Greece. We found so many kittens all around Athens but especially in the Anafiotika area. Much like the city of Kotor, cats are welcome in a large and hot city such as Athens as they can keep the streets clean from pest.
It is not unusual to see people giving food to stray cats, although a new trend is to rescue cats in Athens. There are charities which rely solely on donations which rescue cats and try and find new homes for them.
Take a street art tour
Love street art? Athens has tons of it and it's one of the main reasons some locations look so hipster and alive. Abandon buildings or otherwise crumbling walls now look interesting and colourful thanks to street artists looking to showcase their talent via murals.
Take a street art tour with a local keen to tell you the story behind these creations or set aside a whole day to explore on your own and see how many murals you can discover.
Attend Taste of Athens
Are you visiting Athens in the Autumn? Then you should check out the food festival called Taste of Athens. Taste of Athens is an international foodie festival which takes place all around the world. In Athens, you can get a normal or a VIP ticket which offers you a few perks (like free oysters, bubbly and a special quiet area).
You'll find restaurants from all over Athens, keen to showcase their most modern and gourmet dishes you can possibly imagine. Ranging from beetroot sushi, through squid ink burgers to mouth-watering cocktails, this is your place if you travel for food.
Bookmark their site so you can check it for next year!
Have Lunch at Black Sheep
We're going to start by telling you a reservation is a must if you decide to enjoy the food at Black Sheep. Not the cheapest in Athens, but every single bite we tried here was worth every penny. It's a meze kind of restaurant, where it's best to order a variety of dishes for the table and share. Their drinks are extremely potent too, so you'll definitely have a good time here.
To book a reservation call +30 21 0722 3466
Address: Arrianou 31, Athina 116 35, Greece
Have Lunch at Sphika
Since are talking about food, head over to Sphika, a lovely little restaurant located not far from the Acropolis hill in Athens. Sphika is like a tapas bar where you order several dishes for the whole table. You'll find a lot of cheese-based dishes which we strongly recommend. Our favourite dish is the fava spread, which we ordered in every single Greek restaurant we visited.
You do not need a reservation to visit this restaurant.
Address: Str. Kontouli 15, Athina 117 42, Greece
Eat fava everywhere you go
"What would you like to drink" is the first question you'll get the moment you sit down in a Greek restaurant. Our answer was always "we need a moment to think about it, but could we order some fava and bread, please". This is how much we loved it and ordered it everywhere!
Fava bean spread is like a cream which can be enjoyed on its own, with anchovies (as some restaurants served it) or with a bit of bread. Fava is not made from beans as the name suggests, but from yellow split peas which makes it a lot more interesting. Either way, it's a Greek classic and something you must absolutely try!
Indulge in a real Greek salad
Tell me honestly, can you imagine anyone in this world who doesn't love a Greek salad? If such a person exists, is because they haven't been to Greece to try the real deal. Our favourite was a salad with a Cretan twist. It has a bed of rusk, with lots of delicious tomatoes on top, feta cheese, olives and herbs, with a topping of olive oil on top. Leave this be for 5 minutes, so the rusk at the bottom absorbs all the juices from the oil and tomato and you have the best lunch in the world, guaranteed.
Nothing, we say, nothing, can beat this simple, authentic deliciousness.
I'm yet to find a traditional Greek restaurant which doesn't welcome you with a shot of ouzo. Ouzo is a dry anise-flavoured aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece. It is fairly strong so pace yourself when you drink one too many before your food arrives.
However, it is a quaintessential Greek drink and something you must try when in Athens.
If fava is not your thing, then trying tapenade is a must. Tapenade is made from ground olives with oil and herbs. Sometimes, some recipes call for anchovies as well, but we try to keep it olive-based when we make it at home.
You can enjoy it with freshly baked bread.
Taste original dolmades
Dolmades remind me of my childhood as my mother used to make this dish for me all the time. I still love it and order it every time I visit a traditional restaurant. When my husband tried it for the first time (at my mum's) he too fell in love with it.
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There are two types of dolmades dishes: the original which is vine leaves with herby rice inside or the modern twist which now contains mince. As we don't eat meat, we wanted the original so make sure you ask your waiter before you commit to your order.
The dolmades are usually drenched in olive oil which makes them taste even more excellent. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top and enjoy.
Order grilled octopus
Love seafood? Then you must try grilled octopus in Greece, served with onion, lemon juice and delicious olive oil on top. If it's done well, the octopus should taste tender and will slightly melt in your mouth. It's a very Greek dish you can find in Athens as well as many Greek islands.
Try authentic grilled peppers
These are a perfect appetiser for those who love a bit of vegetable in oil and vinegar. Traditional recipes call for the peppers to be grilled on an open flame, then marinated in olive and vinegar for the taste.
This, to me, is yet another taste from my childhood so I couldn't resist the temptation.
Visit the Museum of the Ancient Agora
The Museum of the Ancient Agora is housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos. The building was originally erected during the 2nd century BC as a gift of the king of Pergamon. Outside the building, you'll sometimes find drama student practising.
The entry to the museum is 8 EUR per adult.
Eat sugary treats
One of the best things to do in Athens? Eat, eat and eat more. Athens is a city which offers dishes to satisfy all tastes. From healthy appetisers to delicious sugary treats filled with creams and ice creams. Now, we are not saying you should skip lunch and eat your way around candy land but definitely allow your holiday vibe to take over and treat yourself with something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Go for a colourful chimney cake or filled waffled with all sort of yummy goodies.
Visit the National Library
Maybe not on the ordinary tourist trail is the National Library in Athens which looks stunning in photos. We passed it by complete coincidence and we couldn't believe how beautiful it looks like.
It was designed by the Danish architect Theophil Freiherr von Hansen and it opened in 1829.
Address: Panepistimiou 32, Athina 106 79, Greece
Visit the Academy of Athens
Next to the National Library is the Academy of Athens which looks imposing and majestic. It is an institution for sciences, humanities & fine arts in a neoclassical building. The main building is one of the main attractions in Athens.
It was established in 1926 and also designed by the Danish architect Theophil Freiherr von Hansen.
Address: Panepistimiou 28, Athina 106 79, Greece
Discover cute residential streets in Pangrati
Located between the Black Sheep restaurant and Panathenaic Stadium, we discovered beautiful residential streets filled with colour and flowers. We always make a point to try and walk around residential locations in a city we visit and Athens was no different. We wanted to see what the city vibe is like beyond the tourist attractions and central neighbourhoods.
Athens was a mixed bag: stunning lanes with island vibes, gritty tower blocks with graffiti walls or a combination of both on the very same street. But this is what made Athens be incredible. Not your ordinary happy go lucky city, but a real place which proudly showcases its many faces to everyone willing to see its true beauty.
Have an espresso and a Gin Tonic at Dry Caffe & Spuntino
Enjoying Athens? We loved it too, but it's a big city and we love to walk around way around a new destination. This sometimes means we need to take a 15-minute break for an espresso (or a cheeky cocktail). We stumbled across this place by coincidence and loved the relaxed atmosphere so we decided to sit down for a drink.
The cafe specialises in deliciously strong espressos and fantastic high balls which we strongly recommend. The gin and tonic were one of the best we had in Athens.
Eat street snacks
What you'll notice around main tourist areas in Athens are vendors with cars filled with nuts and dried fruits. This is a healthy option for a quick pick me up snack. You can mix and match what you fancy and indulge in a natural snack full of vitamins and proteins.
Try eggplant cream
We already told you one of the best things to do in Athens is to eat your way around the city, but nothing counts until you try the original eggplant (aubergine) cream. Oh, this delicious cream is simply the best... we say that about every dish we tried in Athens, don't we? Well, since they are all so good and we want you to try them all, it's hard to pick just one.
Eggplant cream is sensational. It's a great meze which can be found on almost all traditional Greek tavernas. Although I loved it in Athens, I must say that my grandmother still makes the best eggplant cream ever.
Have Dinner at Lithos Taverna
We ended up enjoying dinner at Lithos Taverna twice. Lithos Taverna takes reservations online so if you decide to visit on a busy weekend evening, we recommend booking a table in advance. We sat outside and enjoyed that relaxed Greek atmosphere.
It was perfect, to be honest. The service was fantastic, their food was delicious and the prices were decent. What more can you ask for? I know! You can ask for yet another portion of cheese balls...
Drink Cocktails at Gin Joint
Hello there from the biggest gin lovers on the planet. We bet all gin lovers identify themselves as the biggest gin fans, right? Anyway, back to the cocktails from the Gin Joint. This little bar sells a variety of special gins from all over the world. They can craft you a gin tonic or a special cocktail from one of their menus.
Here comes the fun part: their cocktail menu is recommended based on your star sign. How cool is that? Well, nothing stops you from drinking another one just to sip how a different star sign might taste like. Funky, modern and cool.
Address: Christou Lada 1, Athina 105 61, Greece
Fall in love with Cocktails at Rum au Baba
This was by far our favourite cocktail bars in Athens. We loved every single moment spent in Rum au Baba. In fact, we loved it so much that we came back twice.
Rum au Baba is one of the best 50 cocktail bars in the world. The menu is a beautiful hardcover book with crazy awesome Avantgarde cocktails. Now, we tried several creations and while they were all fantastic, nothing (and we mean it this time: NOTHING) was more delicious than the Love of Zero cocktail. It smells like bergamot, it tastes delicate and will make your holiday unforgettable.
Seriously, people ask us what we associate Athens with? We now say: Love of Zero cocktail from Rum au Baba. Yes, yes, yes, it was that good!
Enjoy Cocktails at Clumsies
We've got another recommendation for the cocktail lovers and that's Clumsies. Clumsies is also part of the best 50 cocktails bar in the world. Their menu has a superb twist: it's a black book with invisible ink. The staff will give you a UV light so you can read the menu.
A bit quirky and fun, with delicious cocktails which worth every penny. The Popeye and Olive cocktail was incredible and something we recommend you try.
We hope you found enough things to do in Athens to add it to your list of must-visit destinations. We absolutely loved the city and would run back in heartbeat for the food, drinks and the vibe. Did we forget something? Please let us know in the comments section below.