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Things to do in Athens

Things to do in  Athens

The gateway to Greece

Athens is a historic wonderland that welcomes millions of visitors each year. The Acropolis, with its hilltop ruins and the Parthenon, is indisputably Athens’ top draw. The city's also the gateway to the island of Hydra and ancient Delphi. But don't be deceived by the Greek capital's antique status as the cradle of Western Civilization—it also boasts some of Europe’s best cuisine and nightlife.

Top 15 attractions in Athens

Acropolis

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An archaeological wonder, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the world's most instantly recognizable landmarks, the Acropolis is the star attraction of ancient Athens. Dramatically perched on a jagged clifftop—the so-called sacred rock of Athens—the ruins overlook the modern city and date back to as early as 510 BC.More

Temple of Olympian Zeus (Naós tou Olympíou Diós)

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Athenian rulers began construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus (Naós tou Olympíou Diós) in the sixth century BC. By the time Roman Emperor Hadrian completed it 600 years later, it was the largest temple in Greece, and its statue of Zeus—king of the gods of Mt. Olympus—was one of the largest in the world. The temple began to fall into ruin shortly after it was finished; today only 15 of its original 104 columns still stand and much of its marble has been recycled or stolen for other temples. Nonetheless, what remains is a truly impressive sight to see.More

Acropolis Museum (Museo Akropoleos)

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An Athenian landmark and feat of contemporary architecture, the Acropolis Museum sits at the base of the Acropolis, with the ruins of an ancient settlement visible through its floor. The collection runs from pre-classical times to the Roman era, but fifth-century BC treasures are the focus, especially the Parthenon Frieze sculptures.More

Parthenon

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The star of Athens postcards and arguably the most impressive of all the city’s ancient ruins, the Parthenon stands proud atop the sacred rock of Acropolis, high above the modern city.Built between 447 and 432 BC, the temple was dedicated to Greek goddess Athena and originally housed her cult image, a giant ivory and gold-plated statue by Fidias. The restored temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a striking reminder of the glory of Ancient Greece with its grand marble façade, classic Doric columns, and elaborate sculptural friezes. The site also serves as a fascinating chronicle of Athens’ history.More

Olympic Stadium (OAKA)

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Originally built in the 1980s for the European Athletics Championships, the Olympic Stadium (officially the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens “Spiros Louis” or OAKA) was remodeled by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Olympics. The largest stadium in Greece, with 70,000 seats, the Olympic Stadium hosts events and concerts by major international acts such as U2 and Lady Gaga.More

Meteora

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The towering vertical cliffs of Meteora have provided a protected place to pursue spiritual contemplation for centuries. The first hermit monks lived up in caves, but eventually 24 Byzantine monasteries were built (six function today) atop the imposing rock. Part natural wonder, part manmade marvel, the dramatic site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular attraction in Greece.More

Plaka

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Built around the ruins of the ancient agora, Plaka is among the oldest residential areas in Athens and was considered the Turkish quarter during Ottoman rule. Much of it burned down during a fire in 1884, exposing many ancient sites below the neighborhood, and archaeological research has been carried out in the area ever since.More

Delphi

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Delphi, with its remarkably preserved ruins dotted along the southern slopes of Mount Parnassus, is one of Greece’s most famous archaeological site. Dating back to the seventh century BC, the ancient city of Delphi is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to sites such as the Sacred Way, Stoa of the Athenians, polygonal wall, monument of Platea, and Temple of Apollo.More

Agora of Athens

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The Agora was the political and social heart of the ancient city of Athens, and the ruins of this civic center and marketplace are among the most important archaeological sites in today’s capital. Explore this cradle of Greek democracy, including the Temple of Hephaestus and Stoa of Attalos.More

Academy of Athens (Akadimía Athinón)

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One of a trio of Neoclassical buildings known as the Athenian Trilogy, the 19th-century Academy of Athens (Akadimía Athinón was founded during the post-independence re-flowering of Greek culture and is home to the national institutes for sciences, philosophy, fine arts, and humanities—following a tradition first established by Plato.More

Erechtheion

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One of the most remarkable ancient ruins in the UNESCO-listed Acropolis, the Erechtheion is best known for its ornate Porch of the Caryatids, supported by marble statues of six virgins. Dating from the 5th century BC, the temple marks the spot where it was said that Poseidon and Athena fought for control of the fledgling city of Athens. More

Panathenaic Stadium (Panathinaiko Stadio)

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Originally built in the fourth century BC for the Panathenaic Games, Athens’ gleaming all-marble Panathenaic Stadium (Panathinaiko Stadio) was reconstructed for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Returning to its roots for the 2004 Olympics, the stadium was the site of the archery competition and the marathon finish line.More

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Mnemeíon Agnostou Stratiotou)

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Athens' Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Mnēmeíon Agnōstou Stratiōtou)commemorates all Greek soldiers who died in service of their country over its long history. The biggest draw is the weekly Changing of the Guard ceremony, which involves much pomp and live music. During major holidays, politicians and officials lay wreaths at the tomb.More

Cape Sounion

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The sheer cliffs, sweeping views, epic sunsets, and photogenic ruins of Cape Sounion (also written Cape Sounio) form one of the most popular Athens day trips. Built in 444 BC, the Temple of Poseidon with its elegant white-marble columns is the star of the show, but there’s a small beach on-site and a wealth of dining options nearby.More

Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos)

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Also known as Constitution Square, Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos) is a huge public plaza stretching out in front of Athens’ parliament building. Gleaming with white marble and beautiful statues, it’s a great place for people watching. Many of the city's most important streets begin here, including Ermou Street and Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.More

Trip ideas

Top Athens Neighborhoods

Top Athens Neighborhoods

How to Spend 3 Days in Athens

How to Spend 3 Days in Athens

Top activities in Athens

Athens Full Day Private Tour
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Athens Full Day Private Tour

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Athens Day Cruise - 3 Islands - Saronic Gulf - With Lunch
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Skip the Line: Acropolis of Athens Afternoon Walking Tour
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Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon Half-Day Small-Group Tour from Athens
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All about Athens

When to visit

Athens sizzles with sunshine and crowds in the summer, especially in July, when the average temperature is 86°F (30°C). Paradoxically, August is relatively quiet because many Athenians are away on vacation. April through June and September through November are more comfortable, with warm weather ideal for exploring the city’s ancient sites. Athens also offers a number of fun events throughout the year, including the Athens Epidaurus Festival, which includes outdoor theater, arts, and music—and runs all summer—and the Beer Festival, in September.

Getting around

Most of Athens’ must-see sites are within walking distance of each other; it takes about 15 minutes to stroll from the Acropolis to attractions like Hadrian’s Arch or Plaka. The city’s bus and metro lines are also good for traveling between downtown sites. Buy Ath.ena tickets at stations, which will let you use the bus, metro, tram, and light rail networks that crisscross the city and the surrounding areas. Other options include taxis ad apps like Uber and Beat.

Traveler tips

If you’re watching your spending, visit as many attractions as possible on the first Sunday of the month (from April to November), when entry is free to top attractions, including the Acropolis, museums, and key archaeological sites. After sightseeing, stay on the budget-friendly track and explore the Sunday flea market in Athens’ Monastiraki neighborhood. This whirl of bric-a-brac and clothing stalls is a local favorite and is great for picking up quirky trinkets, jewelry, and souvenirs.

Currency
Euro (€)
Time Zone
EEST (UTC +2)
Country Code
+30
Language(s)
Greek

A local’s pocket guide to Athens

Maria-Venetia Kyritsi

Maria-Venetia divides her time between the UK and Greece. Her ultimate dream is to own an eco- and pet-friendly small boutique hotel in Milos, the island she comes from.

The first thing you should do in Athens is...

download the Beat taxi app. Taxis are pretty cheap and a great way to discover less touristy areas such as Chalandri, Kifissia, Mikrolimano, and Glyfada.

A perfect Saturday in Athens...

starts with brunch at the Underdog café and a stroll along Dionysiou Areopagitou to Monastiraki’s flea market. Grab lunch at Nolan and a real Greek coffee at Kapnikarea before heading to Psyrri for Athens' best nightlife.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

the Acropolis. That and the nearby museum are definitely unmissable.

To discover the "real" Athens...

visit Anafiotika, a place that time forgot. Not only does it look and feel like you’re on a Greek island, you’ll get amazing views of the Acropolis.

For the best view of the city...

take the cable car to the top of Lycabettus Hill before sunset for a fab view of all the ancient monuments lighting up.

One thing people get wrong...

is thinking Athens is an ugly city, worth skipping over in favor of the islands. In fact, the capital has endless museums and archaeological sites, some of the best food in Greece, and unparalleled nightlife.

People Also Ask

What Athens is famous for?

Known as the birthplace of Western civilization, Athens is replete with antiquities, many dating from its 5th-century BC “Golden Age.” Must-visits include the UNESCO-protected Acropolis, home of the Parthenon and other temples; and numerous other archaeological relics and museums, all clustered near its central Syntagma Square and old Plaka district.

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How many days in Athens do you need?

Three days is recommended. Spend the first covering crowd-pullers like the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, and the Changing of the Guard at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb. Then, over the next two days, explore the New Acropolis Museum, shop and eat in old Plaka, and visit Cape Sounion’s clifftop Temple of Poseidon.

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Why is Athens a tourist attraction?

Athens draws tourists largely for its ancient treasures. The city is crowned by the Acropolis—a hilltop of temples from the 5th century BC. After that, there’s still a long list to check through, from the ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Arch to the charismatic Plaka quarter and lovely Syntagma Square.

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What should I not miss in Athens?

Head first for the Acropolis, once the fulcrum of the ancient Greek empire. Must-sees here include the spectacular Parthenon, Temple of the Athena Nike, and Erechtheion; each a vision of gleaming marble. Also not-to-be-missed is the statue-stuffed New Acropolis Musem, and Athens’ Changing of the Guard ceremony, performed by pom-pom-shoed soldiers.

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What do people do for fun in Athens?

Athenians love fun, so it’s easy to find. Enjoy the relaxed vibe in Plaka’s cafés and squares, join locals over Greek coffee, and dance to bouzoukis (lutes) at open-till-late tavernas. Don’t miss Athens’ nightlife, either: hit Monastiraki’s clubs, catch an outdoor movie, or visit one of the city’s glam rooftop bars.

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Is Athens touristy?

Yes, especially around signature sites like the Acropolis and Syntagma Square, which draw sightseers year-round. Yet, it’s easy to find a quieter Athens. Escape the tourist buzz in Anafiotika’s whitewashed houses and geranium-potted lanes; in the galleries and cafés of hip Kypseli, and at lower-profile establishments like the airy Cycladic Art Museum.

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Athens information

Number of Attractions

64

Number of Tours

3,122

Number of Reviews

51,493

Currency

EUR
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