Looking for things to do in Athens, Greece? The possibilities are endless! A thrilling blend of modern with ancient, Greece’s capital is filled with archaeological sites, local markets, city squares, and stunning architecture.
There are loads of places to visit in Athens, whether you’re looking to soak in history, culture or just enjoy local life.
Keep reading to discover all of the best things to do on a trip to Athens, Greece!
- Visit the Acropolis
- Marvel at the Parthenon
- Admire the Erechtheion
- Learn about History at the Acropolis Museum
- Dine and Shop in Plaka
- Visit Pantelis Melissinos for a Pair of Handmade Sandals
- Wander the Flea Market in Monastiraki Square
- Watch the Changing of the Guards at the Parliament Building
- Hit the Clubs in Psiri
- Take in the Sights and Smells at the Athens Central Market
- Feast on Local Delicacies
- Meander through the Ancient Agora
- Visit the Museum of Ancient Agora
- Hike up to the Temple of Hephaestus
- Take in Stunning Views of Athens from the Areopagus
- Tour the Byzantine Museum
- Explore the National Archaeological Museum
- Take in some Greek Culture at the Benaki Museum
- Step on Stage at the Theatre of Dionysus
- Ogle at the Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Run the Stairs at the Panathenaic Stadium
- Cool off at the National Garden
- Kick Back at Edem Beach
- Learn How to Scuba Dive
- Skydive Over Athens
- Ride the Funicular to Mount Lycabettus for Sunset
- Travel Down to the Temple of Poseidon
- Enjoy a Sailing Cruise
- Take a Day Trip
Visit the Acropolis
The number one must-see attraction in Athens is the famous Acropolis, an ancient city sitting high on a rocky hill.
The Acropolis is made up of multiple archaeological sites from which western civilization sprung, constructed of soaring columns and intricate carvings. It’s truly a remarkable sight and one of man’s greatest achievements of all time.
For a great point of view, you can look up at the Acropolis from many points in Athens, as it stands tall and stark white, looking over the rest of the city.
Marvel at the Parthenon
The Parthenon is the most famous site in the Acropolis and stands as an impressive symbol of Greece throughout the world.
Dating back to between 447 BC and 338 BC, the temple is one of the most important classical Greek buildings of all time as it is still standing erect in the 21st century.
It makes good sense that the Parthenon is dedicated to Athena, the goddess of war, as it was built during the peak of Athens’ domination of the Aegean region. It shows unparalleled craftsmanship and the sheer determination and will of man during that period.
Today, the Parthenon is still in remarkably great shape, albeit missing most of the original sculptures which were taken in the 18th century by the Earl of Elgin (they currently reside at the British Museum).
Admire the Erechtheion
A building of many uses, the Erechtheion is another remarkable construction in the Acropolis.
Built between 412 and 406 BC, the original purpose of this structure was as a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. But over time, it has been used as a Byzantine church, a Frankish palace, and a harem residence during Ottoman rule.
While it’s gone through many transitional periods, the Erechtheion still stands tall, proud, and unbelievably impressive. Be sure to check out the caryatids (sculpted female structures) which hold up the roof! While they’re casts today, rather than the original sculptures, you can see five of the real ones in the Acropolis Museum.
Learn about History at the Acropolis Museum
There’s no better place to learn about the history of the Acropolis than from the Acropolis Museum itself. Open since 2009, this gorgeous museum was designed by Bernard Tschumi and built atop ancient ruins, most of which can still be seen through glass paneling on the ground floor.
Housed in the museum are many of the discoveries made over time at the Acropolis. It also houses a whole lot of original artifacts like the caryatids from the Erechtheion.
The real highlight of the museum is the Parthenon Gallery. This giant display space is the size of the original structure and it shows off its original pediments and sculptures. You can also see which parts of the Parthenon are missing after being seized by Lord Elgin more than 200 years ago. It’s truly a captivating exhibition, unlike anything else in the world! It can’t be missed while in Athens.
Besides the show-stopping Parthenon display, the museum is organized chronologically and takes visitors on a journey through time. Thus it’s best visited with a guided tour.
This tour includes skip-the-line tickets for both the Acropolis and the Museum, where you’ll be shown around by a local guide who will walk you through the archaeology and mythology of the site.
Dine and Shop in Plaka
Athens isn’t all ancient ruins. In fact, these days, it’s a really lively, modern city that still retains its Old World charm.
One of the best places to visit in Athens is Plaka, a simply stunning residential district just below the Acropolis. Here, you’ll get a taste of what the city used to be like in olden times. Plaka features maze-like streets filled with 19th-century homes, locally-owned stores selling handicrafts, and plenty of places to grab a snack or delicious meal.
To see an ultra-local side of Plaka, enjoy a night of Greek dancing and dining where you’ll get to watch an acrobatic folk dance while indulging in a three-course meal. Now that’s what I call dinner and a show!
Visit Pantelis Melissinos for a Pair of Handmade Sandals
A small family business dating back to the 1920s, Pantelis Melissinos specializes in authentic leather sandals. One of the best things to do in Athens is to visit this historic workshop to see how he crafts his footwear that has risen to great fame all over the world.
The workshop has seen over three generations of this family of artists and has served famous people like The Beatles, Jackie O, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Jessica Parker and more. It’s no wonder as the sandals are certainly something the likes of Carrie Bradshaw would own.
Stop by to see how the sandals are made and pick up your own pair! There’s no better souvenir from Athens.
Wander the Flea Market in Monastiraki Square
Like most of the best cities in Greece, Athens is home to quite a few town squares, the most famous of which is Monastiraki. This bustling open-air center is surrounded by a combination of modern and old buildings, delicious places to eat, and plenty of shops for picking up souvenirs and beyond.
It’s the best place to people-watch in the city, with locals and tourists alike constantly passing through or stopping for a drink and a snack.
Monastiraki Square is also the location of the Athens Flea Market, lined with shops and stalls selling everything from jewelry to trinkets to local handicrafts. Enjoy picking out unique mementos here with a gorgeous view of the Acropolis sitting high in the background!
Watch the Changing of the Guards at the Parliament Building
Just outside of Monastiraki Square, you’ll find the Old Parliament Building in Syntagma Square.
It’s carefully guarded by the Soldiers of the Presidential Guard, who stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They’re outfitted in traditional garb, which includes short skirts, tassels around the legs, and shoes adorned with pompoms.
Each day, the guards change at 11.00am and it’s quite the spectacle as some leave the position as others take theirs. While this happens daily, the best time to watch the changing of the guards is on Sunday mornings, when there are more guards and the spectacle is even bigger.
Hit the Clubs in Psiri
An area that was once rather rough around the edges, Psiri has become a local hotspot and the epicenter of nightlife in Athens.
Up until the 1990s, Psiri was the hangout place for the Koutsavakides, a strongarm group often with long mustaches and trench coats reaching their toes to hide weapons. However, in the last 20 years, the place has been cleaned up and today you don’t have to worry about these Greek gangsters around Psiri.
Instead, you’ll find it’s a vibrant part of the city full of restaurants, taverns, bars, and nightclubs with music bumping into the wee hours of the morning.
Take in the Sights and Smells at the Athens Central Market
For a real look into local Greek life today, make a beeline for the Athens Central Market where you can find the people of the city and beyond selling their fresh fare.
The Athens Central Market has just about everything you could be looking for foodwise. Check out the huge halls lined with meat and fish vendors, farmers selling fresh fruits and veggies, large stands of Greek spices and herbs, and of course plenty of cheese, sweets and small snacks.
To see the market from a local point of view, take a food tour that will guide you through the Athens Central Market and beyond! You’ll get to sample yummy foods like souvlaki pita, meats, cheeses, olives, and much more.
Feast on Local Delicacies
You’ll quickly find that one of the best things to do in Athens is to feast on local delicacies. From crunchy and gooey saganaki to horiatiki salata filled with fresh veggies and crumbly feta, you’ll have your socks knocked off by how good the food is in Athens.
One of the best ways to experience the best food in Athens is to take a food tour. This classic tour brings you to local bakeries, eateries, cookeries, and taverns where you’ll get to try everything from pastries to cheese, meats, olives, and more!
Another great way to pay tribute to the Athens food scene is by taking a cooking class (this one even has a wine pairing!). Learn some skills and you’ll be cheffing up Greek cuisine even after you return to your home country!
Meander through the Ancient Agora
Once a bustling marketplace and the heart of life in Athens, the ancient Agora still stands tall and proud, even thousands of years later.
Made up of more than 30 public buildings and monuments, the ancient Agora actually had many purposes in Athens. It was a gathering place for public speeches, the center for administrative work and trading, and a central meeting place for important bodies. It was also used for sports events and performances, showing how diverse the compound really was.
As one of the most well-preserved sites from ancient Greece, visiting the Agora is one of the best things to do in Athens. Be sure to check out the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaistos on a trip here!
For all you history lovers, check out this combined ticket which grants you entry to the Acropolis, Agora, and the Temple of Zeus, complete with an audio tour.
Visit the Museum of Ancient Agora
Housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, you’ll find the Museum of Ancient Agora, an astounding collection full of relics throughout time.
There are artifacts, weapons, and ceramics dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages, as well as a variety of treasures relating to Athenian democracy.
It’s a great place to learn about not only the ancient Agora but also about Athens as a whole.
Hike up to the Temple of Hephaestus
Sitting to the northwest of the Agora atop the giant Agoraios Kolonos hill, you’ll find the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved temples from the ancient world.
Construction of this temple originally began in the 5th century BC but building was halted for about 30 years as the manpower and money were diverted to building the Parthenon instead.
Luckily, construction of the temple picked back up and it was finally completed and dedicated to Athena and Hephaestus. Standing tall and classic in style, the Temple of Hephaestus has six rows of 13 columns, stunning Ionic friezes, and an open plan.
While many of the temples in ancient Greece were destroyed, the Temple of Hephaestus did not meet this fate; it was spared as it was converted into a Christian church.
Take in Stunning Views of Athens from the Areopagus
Another place in Athens worth visiting is the Areopagus, located next to the Acropolis and behind the Agora. Once you reach the top of the steep marble steps, you’ll be met with unparalleled views of the Acropolis, Athens city, and the Port of Piraeus.
The bare rock outcropping was initially used for practical reasons; the Areopagus was the site where the city council met prior to the 5th century BC and in classical times, it functioned as the homicide court.
However, it has plenty of mythology associated with it as well. It’s thought that Ares was tried here for murdering Poseidon’s son, which is the first instance of a judicial trial ever and where the name comes from.
For visitors to Athens, this is one of the best places to get a bird’s eye view of the city. It’s also the perfect selfie spot; don’t miss the chance to snap a pic of yourself with the Acropolis looming behind you!
Tour the Byzantine Museum
Athens is full of thrilling museums that give visitors a look beyond the surface of the city.
The Byzantine Museum features a mindblowing collection of art from the 3rd century to the 15th century, when the Byzantine Empire ruled this area.
There are more than 25,000 pieces on display, mostly religious relics from the Byzantine period such as paintings, textiles, sculptures, and mosaics. Interestingly, there are also architectural bits from collapsed churches over time.
The museum has found its home in a neo-Renaissance residence from the mid-1800s, surrounded by stunning gardens and courtyards. It’s certainly worth a visit to learn more about Greece’s turbulent past!
Explore the National Archaeological Museum
Another true treasure of Athens is the National Archaeological Museum, the ideal place to learn about all things related to Greek archaeology.
Housed in a Neoclassical building, you’ll find five permanent collections with a whopping 11,000 exhibitions covering Greek civilizations spanning from prehistoric times all the way through to recent years.
From sculptures to decorative objects to metals, figurines, and rare masterpieces, you can find it all here. If you’re going to visit one museum while in Greece, this should be the one!
Take in some Greek Culture at the Benaki Museum
To learn more about the cultural side of Greek life, head to the Benaki Museum which is lavishly outfitted with three floors of Greek art, spanning from prehistory to present day.
Starting on the ground floor, you’ll find ceramics and sculptures from Neolithic, Archaic and Classical periods. Then on the first floor, you’ll find a section devoted to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods of rule, full of religious iconography and traditional garb.
Finally, on the third floor, you’ll find paintings, weapons, and important documents related to the Greek War of Independence which spanned from 1821 to 1829.
The museum offers a great overview of the key points in Greece’s history, as well as an outstanding and diverse collection to spend an afternoon exploring.
Step on Stage at the Theatre of Dionysus
Holding performances dating way back to the 6th century BC, the Theatre of Dionysus was the original stage for European drama. This is literally the first theater the world had ever seen, so it’s to the one to thank if you’ve ever waltzed across a stage during a ballet performance or played a musical instrument in front of a crowd.
The theater is carved into a sloping hill, with tiered seating and a large stage area. All sorts of characters have graced this stage, such as the likes of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. It’s truly where drama was born and the playground for some of the best writers and actors the world has ever seen.
Ogle at the Temple of Olympian Zeus
Once the largest temple in all of ancient Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, or simply Olympieion, is a massive structure dedicated to the King of the Gods.
On a visit here, it’s easy to imagine how impressive this temple once was. At the time of its construction, Olympieion stood proudly with more than 100 soaring columns surrounding a giant sanctuary. Today, there are only 15 columns that remain upright, with one on the ground as well.
Although it’s not in the best shape, it’s still impressive to get a glimpse of what a massive structure the Temple of Olympian Zeus once was.
Run the Stairs at the Panathenaic Stadium
An impressive tribute to the athletic nature of Athens, the Panathenaic Stadium was constructed in the late 1800s for the 1896 Olympics. It’s modeled after an ancient stadium that was originally used for the Panathenaic Games back in 330 BC, but today it’s less crumbly and probably a bit more functional as well.
The stadium is built in a U-shape, all from marble, and is nearly an exact replica of the original. A truly remarkable sight, the Panathenaic Stadium was used during the 2004 Olympic Games, when they were held in Athens, as the archery stadium and the finish line for the marathon.
Cool off at the National Garden
A lovely green space in the heart of Athens, you’ll find the National Garden sitting just next to the Greek parliament building.
This is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic, finding a shady place to cool off, or to just spend a few hours relaxing on the grass.
The garden has loads of twisting and turning trails that weave between the trees, as well as a small zoo and botanical museum. It’s a welcome relief from the bustle of Athens and the ideal spot to chill out for a bit.
Kick Back at Edem Beach
If Athens is the focal point of your Greece trip but you’re still aching for some time on the sand, you’re in luck because Edem Beach is just a quick drive from the center of the city. Even if you don’t have a car, it is easily accessible by public transportation.
This beautiful beach is the ideal spot to spend the day taking in the sun. Behind the stretch of sand, there are taverns and restaurants serving up fresh Greek fare and beautiful views looking out over the water.
If you’re hoping for a little time by the sea while in Athens, Edem Beach is the place to be!
Learn How to Scuba Dive
The calm waters surrounding Athens make it the perfect place to learn how to scuba dive.
This beginner diving course will take you to Nea Makri, on the west coast near Athens, where you’ll find crystal clear waters just waiting to be explored. You’ll start by learning the basics of scuba and getting comfortable with the equipment, before setting off into the sea to discover dozens of varieties of fish, corals, and the exteriors of wrecks!
If you’re a more advanced diver with certifications, check out this amazing diving excursion in the south Evoikos Gulf where you’ll get to explore a variety of challenging dive sites with excellent visibility and thrilling marine life.
Who knew that diving was so great around the capital of Greece!
Skydive Over Athens
While there’s plenty to explore both on mainland Athens and in the waters surrounding the city, there’s also plenty to see from the skies above.
If you’re looking for a hefty dose of adrenaline on your trip to Greece, consider taking a tandem skydive over Athens!
Before taking off, you’ll have a full safety briefing and get the chance to meet the instructors before flying up to 3,800 meters and jumping from the plane.
Whether you’re a first-time jumper or an advanced skydiver, you’ll be blown away by the views over Athens and the water. This Athens activity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that shouldn’t be missed!
Ride the Funicular to Mount Lycabettus for Sunset
For remarkable views over Athens (without having to jump out of a plane for them), hike up Mount Lycabettus to watch the sunset.
From the top of Lycabettus, you’re able to look out over the city and see impressive sites like the Acropolis. This is especially remarkable at night when the entire area is lit up, casting a shining light over the surroundings.
If you don’t feel like hiking, there’s a funicular to take you to the top. It’s €5 one-way, and €7.50 for a return ticket.
Travel Down to the Temple of Poseidon
Right on the southern tip of mainland Greece below Athens is the Temple of Poseidon, perched high on Cape Sounion.
Built in 444 BC, the same year as the Parthenon, it sits grandly at nearly 60 meters above the sea. It’s a marvelous sight as the ancient columns overlook the water with mountains and coastline in the distance.
The Temple of Poseidon is about 70 kilometers south of Athens and makes for a great half-day trip, especially if you’ve rented a car. If not, no worries — there are tours like this one that includes round-trip transportation late in the afternoon so you can enjoy the gorgeous sunset from the Cape.
Enjoy a Sailing Cruise
While there’s plenty to see on mainland Greece around Athens, the waters surrounding the city are truly alluring and should absolutely be explored, if you have the chance during your trip.
Instead of worrying about finding a boat to take you around, consider booking this sailing cruise which spends a half-day gliding up and down the coast. You’ll get to swim in the clear waters, snorkel, fish, and sunbathe in between feasting on Greek snacks and indulging in local wine.
I mean, what could be better on your Greece vacation than a day spent out on the Mediterranean?
Take a Day Trip
One last thing to do in Athens, especially if you have a free day or two during your stay, is to take a day trip! Athens is in a prime location to reach tons of other mainland Greek cities, as well as stunning islands off the coast.
If you prefer to get away from mainland Greece, hop on a boat to spend the day on Aegina Island to marvel at the Neoclassical buildings. Another option is to take a cruise around the Saronic Gulf to visit islands like Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.
No matter what you choose, taking a day trip is the perfect way to round out your trip to Athens!
Planning a trip to Greece? Read these articles!
- Epic Guide to the Best of Greece’s Cycladic Islands
- Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Time to Visit Greece
- Best Places to Visit in Greece | What You Must See in Greece!
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