Interesting Places to Visit in Athens
So, what should you see in Athens? What do you advise us? What are the interesting places to visit in Athens?
The must-sees in Athens
What to visit in Athens?
Monuments, walks and museums worthy of interest are numerous in the Greek capital. Athens is a surprising city. It houses ancient treasures, monuments steeped in history and is also very modern, urban and lively. There is something for everyone: mythology enthusiasts will be delighted in the same way as street-art fans. Take the time to discover this city. It deserves much more than a quick passage before embarking on the Greek islands.
To help you, we have also concocted circuits for you: for those who only stay one day in Athens or for those who plan to stay there for two days or more.
A first time discovering Athens
Start by going to the bustling Monastiraki Square. It’s a perfect summary of the diversity of Athens: a place full of energy where you can see all the different periods of Greek history. Just look up to admire the Acropolis. On this square, a Byzantine Church, an old mosque converted into a museum, the archaeological site of Hadrian’s library, street vendors cohabit harmoniously. Drink a coffee on one of the high terraces allowing you to admire the city!
From top to bottom and from left to right: acropolis, former royal palace, Zappéion, Olympic stadium, Monastiraki, view of the city. SilentResident (compilation, sources to attribute see above; if any of the sources used in the Montage are removed from Wikimedia Commons, or better ones are found, please inform its creator so that they can update it. You can contact the creator by leaving a message here: ), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Not to be missed interesting places to visit Athens in 2 or 3 days
The Acropolis: The essential site to visit Athens
Towering over the city, the Acropolis of Athens is the geographical and historical heart of Athens. Witness over 3 300 years of history and be mesmerized by the Acropolis of Athens.
Site classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lovers of history, art and architecture will be delighted. The others will not remain insensitive to the particular atmosphere of this mythical place.
Take the time to stroll among the remains of temples, shrines and theatres. Their names are as legendary as the gods to whom they are dedicated!
And if you are looking for a small onion selection of the most famous monuments to visit in Athens, here is something to please you.
The nice thing if you want to understand the whole history of the place is to opt for a guided tour in French in a group or in private.
Good tips for visiting the Acropolis
Like all world-renowned archaeological sites, access to the Acropolis is complicated in high season due to the large number of tourists.
The good tips is to take an iVenture Card (on this site) because it has skip-the-line entrance to the Acropolis. You therefore avoid a long wait under the dodger and you gain at least an hour in your day of visit!
Athens, view from Philopappos – the Acropolis Hill. From left to right, at the top, we can see the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon, and at the bottom the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. A.Savin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Admire the Parthenon (Greek Temple)
The centerpiece of the Acropolis, this is a must-see place to visit in Athens. Built in the 5th century BC, at the time of the famous Pericles, the Parthenon is the masterpiece of classical ancient Greek architecture.
And for good reason, it is built in the purest Doric style. Its impressive columns support more than 10 meters high the metopes recounting the mythical episodes of the fall of Troy, the wars against the Giants, the Centaurs, the Lapiths or the Amazons. All sculpted by great artists of Antiquity.
In short, you have understood: you have to come and see it. If only to take a selfie in front. It’s a matter of principle !
The archaeological complex also includes:
- The Propylaea, the huge doors through which one enters the site
- The Erechtheion: temple dedicated to the worship of Athena and Poseidon. Its most remarkable element is the portico of the Caryatids, 6 statues of young girls serving as columns.
- The Temple of Athena Nike
- The Ancient Theater of Dionysus
- The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an amphitheater still hosting performances during the Athens Festival.
Discover the Erechtheion
The Erechtheion is located at the very place where, according to legend, Athena and Poseidon would have argued over which of the two gods would be the master of the city (we can easily guess who won…).
Built between 420 and 400 BC, it is the last building erected on the Acropolis. This time built in an Ionic style, the Erechteion is made up of several sanctuaries dedicated to Athena, Poseidon and Zeus.
If you go there, linger on what makes all the charm and originality of this building: the magnificent caryatids, these statues of women who act as columns.
The Temple of Athena Nike
Entirely dedicated to the goddess Athena Victorious (Nikè meaning “victory”), the temple of Athena was to ensure the domination of Athens over all the Greek cities.
This time you will discover a Corinthian style. It will therefore allow you to expand your range of knowledge on all the subtleties of Greek architecture from Antiquity.
Located at the foot of the Acropolis, the Olympiaion was started around -515 BC and was not completed until almost 5 centuries later. It is dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods of Olympus,
Originally composed of 104 columns, 17 meters high, unfortunately only a few remains of the monument remain. The vagaries of history are responsible for destroying the missing columns.
Nevertheless, walking among these ruins gives an idea of the magnificence and monumentality of this temple. That’s why it must be on your “To do” list to visit Athens!
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is a must visit in Athens.
If you can, I also advise you to visit it before the Acropolis, in order to put the context and history of the place into perspective. The museum brings together all the remains discovered on the Acropolis site, i.e. nearly 4,000 pieces.
It is extremely well designed. Throughout your visit, you will have a magnificent view of the Acropolis. And to conclude on a high note, do not hesitate to have a drink on the terrace of the café on the top floor to enjoy the panorama.
Panathenaic Stadium or Marble Stadium
Between the Pangrati district and that of Mets is the famous Panathenaic stadium! . Its original construction dates from the 4th century BC! For centuries, it was the theater where gladiator fights, poetry competitions, chariot races and also the Olympic Games took place!
It is a place steeped in history with more than 2500 years of existence. Perfectly preserved, it is also known as the “marble stadium” because during the Roman period it was covered with white marble.
The elongated track is typical of the ancient stadium (about 200 meters long, where the bend was very tight). And the stadium itself could accommodate more than 70,000 people!
In 1896, the stadium experienced 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 sporting and cultural events in the capital.
Another archaeological site located at the foot of the Acropolis: the Agora! In antiquity, it was the public square of Athens. Do not hesitate to visit the ruins of the heart of the life of the city, provided with a map.
This will allow you to better visualize the various vestiges of the shops, craftsmen’s stalls, public monuments that were there. This in order to relive the effervescence that must have reigned in this place a few tens of centuries ago!
You will have understood, during Antiquity as today, the Agora a “place to be” in the places to visit Athens.
And it is obviously possible to visit it, several guided tours (including this one for young and old) are offered for history enthusiasts.
The Temple of Hephaestus
Northwest of the Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus.
In Doric style, this temple built in the 5th century BC had the particularity of serving as an Orthodox Church from the 7th century until the middle of the 19th century.
The Temple of Hephaestus, otherwise known as Hephaestus, is an emblematic monument of ancient Greece located in the northwestern part of the agora in Athens. Doric temple built on top of a hill under the aegis of Pericles, Hephaestus was, at one point in its history, transformed into a Greek Orthodox church and then into a museum to preserve the heritage assets of these ancient times which reflect the works attributed to Hephaestus, the god of metallurgy.
Hephaisteion is a majestic temple built in marble whose roof and columns still remain intact until today. Built between -450 and -415, it is structured in three different areas, including the pronaos, a naos which is the main place where rites and worship are held thanks to the deities and an opisthodomos.
The decorative carvings located on the temple argue the breadth or rigor of Ionic and Doric designs in its construction. The Ionic friezes made in the part of the pronaos exclusively highlight the titanic works of Heracles, while those that decorate the opisthodomos fully reflect the fight of the centaurs and the lapiths.
The Temple of Hephaestus remains among one of the few most preserved monuments in Greece. Its visit allows you to discover the history maintained through the centuries of its existence.
Hephaisteion prices: € 12 euros per person or € 6 reduced price.
The ticket to visit Hephaestus also gives access to other monuments such as the Acropolis and Angora.
Some neighborhoods that are worth visiting to visit Athens
Athens has many different neighborhoods that form small villages with multiple personalities. During your visit to Athens, between two mythical monuments, take the time to stroll through the streets.
It is ideal for tasting all the flavors and colors of Greek culture!
The Monastiraki district
The Monastiraki district is best known for its flea market. People come here to look mainly for coins, reproductions of antique works and more contemporary works.
And it’s a great place to enjoy the constant entertainment and performances of street performers.
In any case, you will always find a nice atmosphere!
Located in the center of Athens, opposite the Greek Parliament, Syntagma Square is a classic of Athens. Any self-respecting visitor goes there. You can admire the architecture of the Parliament and the surrounding buildings.
It is also the ideal place to sip a drink in one of the cafes that line the square. I also advise you to browse and why not chill in the National Garden of Athens which is attached to it. And do not fail to observe the changing of the Presidential guard!
Mount Lycabettus, nicknamed the Hill of Wolves, is located in the Kolonáki district. From its height of 278 meters (912 ft), it is the highest point in Athens.
You can admire a panoramic view of the Acropolis and the rest of the capital. A word of advice, go there at sunset instead: the spectacle of the city all lit up with the colorful sky in the background is just incredible!
As for visits, there is an adorable chapel with whitewashed walls, the Orthodox Church of Saint-George, as well as an open-air amphitheater where concerts are programmed. There are also a few cafes and restaurants if you want to settle down.
You can get there in several ways: on foot via a path (it takes 20 minutes to climb), by taking the funicular (€7 round trip), or by car or taxi.
The hill of Philopappos
Another great spot if you want to get away from the urban bustle for a moment and gain height is the hill of Philopappos, also called “the hill of the Muses”. 147 meters high, it also offers a very beautiful view of the Acropolis, which is just a stone’s throw away.
The other main point of interest of this hill is the monument of Philopappos which is perched on its top. This was built in memory of a former Roman senator, grandson of the last king of Commagene, Caius Iulius Philopappus.
You can also see the pretty little Byzantine church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris, as well as the ruins of the sanctuary of the Muses, which gave the hill its nickname. Dating back to the 5th century BC, this sanctuary was erected in honor of the poet and prophet Musaeus.
Several shady paths allow you to reach the top of the hill of Philopappos: one of them starts in Robertou Galli Street, near the park of the same name.
Below the Acropolis, the charming district of Pláka offers a nice walk. Through a maze of winding, colorful and shaded streets, with typical architecture, where you can stop for a good meal or a drink on the terrace.
You can take advantage of the many souvenir shops to bring back a little something for grandma.
Go out in the Gazi district
If you want to party in Athens, the Gazi district is the place to go! Located in the northwest of the capital, this former industrial area has become over the years the flagship district for night owls and art lovers.
There are plenty of trendy bars where you can have a drink, international restaurants and nightclubs where you can dance to the sound of techno music. During the day, take the time to browse the art galleries and small independent shops that abound in the neighborhood.
Finally, between two drinks, take the opportunity to take a tour of the Technopolis, an old gas factory now converted into a cultural complex. This space houses the Industrial Gas Museum and regularly hosts artistic events.
Visit the Exarchia district
Do you want to get off the beaten track and visit the REAL Athens, far from the tourist spots? Then you will surely like the district of Exarchia (also written Exárcheia), in the north of the city.
High place of the counter-culture and the Greek anarchist movement, Exarchia is known as THE alternative district of the capital. In question: its central role in the student revolt of the Polytechnic University in 1973, as well as during the riots of the economic crisis of 2008.
We cannot talk about Athens, and more generally about Greece, without addressing the question of gastronomy. Olives, cheeses, wines, meats, seafood, vegetables and colorful fruits are the hallmark of the Greek diet, considered one of the most beneficial to health in the world.
And there’s nothing better than taking a stroll around Central Market to taste and buy all the treasures of Mediterranean gastronomy.
Some museums not to be missed in Athens
Because it sometimes rains in Athens too (yes, it seems), and because Greece has one of the richest archaeological heritages in the world, you shouldn’t hesitate to visit one or more of the many museums in the town.
Once again, the entrance to all these museums is included in the iVenture Card (see here), the real good plan to save on your visits to Athens.
The Acropolis Museum
To complete the visit to the Acropolis, do not hesitate to go for a walk to the associated museum. There are preserved the various archaeological discoveries made on the Acropolis, covering the entire period from prehistory to Late Antiquity.
Remember to take your skip-the-line ticket before going there to avoid the crowds.
Museum of Cycladic Art and Ancient Greek Art
Dedicated to the art of the Cyclades and the Aegean Islands, a way to learn a little more about the beginnings of Greek culture.
If you want to get out of Greek antiquity, you can visit this museum. Works from the huge collection of Antoine Xenakis are exhibited there.
At Benaki, you can contemplate more contemporary works, but also collections of Chinese, Coptic, pre-Columbian and Islamic art.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens
This is the most famous museum in Athens.
And probably the one with the richest collection of ancient Greek works in the world, but also Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern works.
If you have to see only one when you come to visit Athens, this is the one!
What to do around Athens?
Going to the beach
Visiting Athens does not necessarily exclude an afternoon of sunbathing! If the beaches around the capital are not worth those of the islands (Mykonos, Heraklion…), they have the merit of being there and to enjoy them, because they’re near the capital city. Here are some cool beaches within an hour or less drive from Athens:
- Astir Beach, on the coast of Apollo, the famous Greek “Riviera”. A pretty private beach with a chic and trendy atmosphere, although quite expensive.
- Legraina (or Kape) beach, about sixty kilometers from Athens, just before Cape Sounion. A beautiful wild place surrounded by rocks, without any installation spoiling the landscape.
- The beaches of Schinias, on the east coast. Long strips of fine sand bordered by a magnificent pine forest, free to access and ideal for families.
A popular destination for travelers coming to visit Athens, Cape Sounion is located 65 km from the city, at the eastern end of the Attica peninsula. This place, which is nicknamed the Cape of Columns, occupies a special place in Greek mythology.
According to legend, this is where King Aegean killed himself by throwing himself off a cliff, mistakenly believing that his son Theseus had been defeated by the minotaur. The latter had indeed promised to change the black sails of his boat to white if he won, but he forgot in the heat of the moment.
Overlooking the Aegean Sea, Cape Sounion offers a superb panorama of the Saronic Gulf. We also visit the temple of Poseidon, an archaeological site dating from -440!
If you don’t have a car, I recommend an excursion to Cape Sounion at sunset. It includes transport from Athens and entrance to the Temple of Poseidon.
The Saronic Islands
The archipelago of the Saronic Islands is only an hour by boat from Athens from the port of Piraeus. This archipelago includes the islands of Aegina, Salamis, Poros, Angistri, Hydra, Spetses and Dokos.
On the program for visiting the islands of the Saronic Gulf: small coves and beaches with translucent water, picturesque villages, remains of Greek temples and beautiful hikes among pines and hills.
If you only have one day ahead of you to explore the archipelago, your best option will be to take a boat cruise from Athens. This one, for example, makes several stops at the islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina and also includes a buffet lunch.
Discover the Peloponnese
The Peloponnese peninsula is a huge mountainous region connected to the mainland by the Corinth Canal. Between archaeological sites, ancient cities and bumpy landscapes against a backdrop of orange trees, there is plenty to see in this part of Greece!
To visit the Peloponnese, you can either rent a car and explore the peninsula on your own, or book a day trip. This excursion in the Peloponnese takes you to discover Argolis, a region renowned for its beauty.
You will make a first stop in Mycenae, an ancient city surrounded by fortifications and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then head to Nafplio, a charming seaside town nestled in the hollow of the cliffs and known for its Palamidi fortress.
Finally, you will end with a stop at Epidaurus, also listed by UNESCO and famous for its magnificent ancient theater still intact. History lovers, you will love it!
Conclusion on interesting places to visit in athens
As you will have understood, visiting Athens is the ideal destination for history lovers! You should not, however, deprive yourself of visiting the modern side of Athens.
The city is very famous for its multiculturalism, its artists and craftsmen, its unique gastronomy and its nightlife!
Discover Greek gastronomy
What to eat in Greece?
A brief overview of the culinary specialties to try during your trip:
- Tzatziki: mixture of goat’s or sheep’s milk yoghurt with cucumbers. And we, we had in addition to garlic, a lot of garlic in it!!
- The Greek salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta, peppers
- Moussaka: dish made with eggplant, minced meat and bechamel sauce
- Fasolada, a broad bean or bean soup
- Souvlakis and gyros: a pita served with chicken or pork, a yogurt sauce, salad and tomatoes and fries. We are not going to hide from you that this made up many of our lunches!
- Greek yogurt is not a legend, you will find it on the menu of all restaurants for dessert. Most often served with fruit and honey. And nothing to do with the one bought in France or elsewhere!
- The Portokalopita: my favorite dessert in Greece! This Greek Orange Cake made with phyllo dough is simply delicious. And for those who don’t like orange, the lemon version is just as good.
- Ouzo, traditional Greek alcohol with aniseed taste, served as a digestive at the end of each meal.
Photo description: caryatids (figure of a woman, isolated or leaning against a construction, and serving as a support) at Acropolis in Athens.