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Athens in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Get to know the cradle of Western civilization in three days? While time may seem short, it is possible. Join me on this journey to find out how to...

Rocio Biagetti

Rocio Biagetti

12 min read

Athens in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Athens | ©Spencer Davis

Undoubtedly, Athens is one of the European capitals with more history and what more attractions it offers for those who want to visit it. Visit archaeological museums, take day trips to the Greek islands, taste delicious traditional food and much more!

If you want to start your three-day stay in Athens on the right foot, before arriving at the Athens airport I recommend that you check out the best ways to get from the airport to your hotel. This way, you will avoid the long lines that are usually generated to get a cab and choose the option that best suits your pocket.

Follow me and I will tell you the ideal itinerary so you can do the best activities in Athens and not waste a minute of your stay. Let's get started!

Day 1: Start your trip visiting the Acropolis and the historic center of Athens

Acropolis by Bike| ©Maria Eugenia
Acropolis by Bike| ©Maria Eugenia

Who hasn't dreamed of seeing the Parthenon of the Acropolis and having their picture taken there? On your first day in Athens, take those dreams away and visit it together with the historical center neighborhoods. The itinerary is designed so that you can do it completely on foot.

Acropolis of Athens

To start the itinerary of your first day in the Greek capital, there is no better way to do it than visiting the mythical Athenian Acropolis. This is located at the top of Athens and can be seen from any point of the city. In this monument you will be able to contemplate the famous Parthenon among other historical temples.

To enter it is necessary to buy your ticket to the Acropolis. You can buy it in advance online and avoid the long queues that are generated at the ticket offices. Although if you are passionate about history and Greek mythology, my advice is to hire a tour to the Acropolis that includes the entrance ticket and a professional guide in English language to not miss any detail of this journey.

Rocio's Traveller Tip

To enter the Acropolis I recommend the south entrance. You will avoid the crowds generated in the west access to the Monument.

During the summer the gates to visit the Acropolis are open from 08:00 to 18:00 hours and in winter from 07:00 to 17:00 hours. If you have decided to travel to Athens in summer, I recommend you to start your tour early in the morning since temperatures are usually higher than in Athens in winter and visiting this attraction usually takes 2 to 3 hours.

Ah! I forgot... adults over 65 years old, children from 0 to 5 years old and students from the European Union under 25 years old enter the Acropolis free of charge upon presentation of the corresponding certificates.

Acropolis Tour

Areopagus

Assuming you started your Acropolis tour at 8 a.m., by 11 a.m. you should have finished your tour. You still have one more stop before lunch and visiting the Areopagus becomes the perfect plan.

Located a few meters west of the Acropolis, walking down this hill you will be able to contemplate an incredible landscape among which the ancient agora stands out. If you are tired, you can rest for a moment in this place and take the ideal photos for your Instagram.

The Areopagus also has a great historical value. It was the center where the Council of Athens met, which ruled the rules that governed the city and judged those accused of the most serious crimes.

Plaka

Going down to the south of the Areopagus we come across the historic center of the city, the popular neighborhood of Plaka. It is considered the oldest district of Athens and is undoubtedly the one that most captivates tourists. When you walk through the narrow streets of Plaka, you will notice that the facades of its houses seem to be frozen in time. They are marked by the neoclassical style of the nineteenth century.

Among other things to do in Plaka you can sit down to eat a delicious Athenian dish and recharge your batteries to continue your itinerary. This neighborhood is one of the favorite places for those who want to go on a Greek gastronomy tour.

Although the options of restaurants to sit down for lunch are varied and some are more convenient for the pocket than others, on this occasion I am going to recommend one in particular: Daphne's Restaurant. Located at 4 Lisokratous Street, it is one of the most renowned in Athens and has the best culinary reviews.

The prices of the main courses have an average price of 7 euros. If you choose this option I suggest you make a reservation in advance as they usually work with maximum capacity. You can do it through their website, their official social networks or by phone.

Monastiraki

Monastiraki district| ©Barcex
Monastiraki district| ©Barcex

When you have finished your lunch at Daphne's Restaurant, or somewhere else, and you have a full belly and a happy heart, you can continue your first day in Athens by visiting the Monastiraki neighborhood.

This neighborhood, located next to Plaka, is an excellent place to buy a souvenir of your stay in Greece. Monastiraki is characterized for being one of the main commercial points of the city. In the main square that has the same name as the neighborhood, is located the Monastiraki Flea Market.

In the stalls that make up the flea market you can find all kinds of items and when I say everything is literal: from books of ancient Greece to soccer shirts of the main clubs of Athens. From my own experience, I recommend that before buying something, negotiate the price with the seller. It is a very common modality in this market and you can get good prices for real gems.

Tzistarakis Mosque

But not everything is buying and selling in Monastiraki. If you were not thrilled with the offers of the stalls in the square or if you bought something but want to continue learning more about the history of Athens, you can do it by visiting the Tzistarakis Mosque.

You can get there walking as it is located next to Monastiraki Square. Built in 1759 by the then governor of Athens, Mustapha Agha Tzistarakis, it is a clear example of the influence of the Turks in the culture of the city.

Its construction is based on old buildings of the city and on a column that the governor Tzistarakis ordered to break the Temple of Zeus to use it in the mosque. This fact coincided with an outbreak of plague in Athens and that is why in the popular imagination it is said that the Temple of Tzistarakis is under a curse. Today it houses the Museum of Greek Folk Art.

Library of Hadrian

This library is located under the Tzistarakis Mosque, and is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic places to visit in Athens. It was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 AD. Documents state that it was surrounded by 100 columns and had an approximate extension of 120 meters long by 80 meters wide.

In ancient times, in addition to storing **Hadrian'**s gigantic collection of books, this site was used by philosophers to gather to read, lecture and meditate on intellectual matters.

With the passing of the years and the different governments, the original construction of the library has mutated and nowadays it has little to do with the original one. Nevertheless, it is a good place to visit because its ruins continue to hold much of Athenian history and Western culture.

Museum of Greek folk instruments

About 130 meters from Hadrian's Library, on Diogenous Street, is the Museum of Greek Popular Instruments. Your last stop on this day.

If you are passionate about music, a visit to this museum will fascinate you. It houses a collection of 1200 Greek stringed, wind and percussion musical instruments. Some of them are up to 5000 years old.

In addition, so that you can hear how they sound, headphones are available that reproduce the sounds of the different types of instruments. Excellent!

Admission is free and the visit won't take you long. It is a good plan to close your first day in Athens.

Day 2: Visit Syntagma Square, the National Archaeological Museum, the Panathinaiko Stadium, and much more!

Syntagmatos Square| ©Άργος
Syntagmatos Square| ©Άργος

Since one day is not enough to know in depth the history of Greece and its many attractions, this second day aims to deepen the tour of the first day and show you other important sites that you can not miss.

Panathinaiko Stadium

The itinerary of the second day in Athens begins at the mythical Panathinaiko stadium. It is located on Vasileos Konstantinous Street, in the Pangrati neighborhood.

The Panathinaiko is the only sports stadium in the world made entirely of white marble and shaped like a letter U. Its construction dates back to 329 BC by order of Lycurgus of Sparta but then had several reforms.

It is also known worldwide for being the official venue of the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896. I recommend you to bring your camera and take a picture on the podium with the flag of the Olympic Games emulating the ancient medalists.

To see the inside of the Panathinaiko you must buy a ticket. Adults pay approximately 10 euros, students from the European Union 5 euros and children under 6 years old are free. With your ticket, an English-speaking guide will lead you through the stadium and briefly tell you about its history.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Continuing your second day's walk, crossing Vasileos Konstantinous and Ardittou streets, you will come across the ancient Temple of Zeus. If you were shocked by the height of the Acropolis buildings, wait until you see this monument.

Its construction was completed in 131 AD by Emperor Hadrian. It had 104 Corinthian columns and was approximately 97 meters long and 39 meters wide. It was for many years the largest temple in the world.

Today there are only 15 columns of the original 104, but what happened to the rest? It is not known for sure. It is believed that an earthquake in the Middle Ages devastated the monument leaving only those columns standing. Anyway, I recommend you to take a walk around this iconic place of Athens and take some pictures that you will keep forever. Ah! In addition, from the temple you will have the view of the Acropolis that you will have already known on your first day.

The monument is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm. Adults must pay approximately 12 euros and students with supporting documentation, 6 euros. Children under 6 years old can enter for free.

National Garden and Zappeion Park

Zappeion Park| ©A.Savin
Zappeion Park| ©A.Savin

Are you tired of seeing cement, marble and asphalt? A walk through the National Garden and Zappeion Park is the solution. To get to this park, if you come from the Temple of Zeus, just cross the street Leof. Vassilis Olgas Street.

The National Garden was created by Queen Amalia, wife of King Otto in 1838. Initially, Amalia had created this site for herself and her husband, the general public was not allowed to enter. Already in 1920 this changed and it became the property of the entire Athenian society. Zappeion Park, meanwhile, was built in 1888 and was intended as the Olympic Village for the first modern Olympic Games. At present, it hosts various events and conferences of the sporting, political, economic, etc. world.

The National Garden and the Zappeion Park have between them approximately 24 hectares. In them you will be able to contemplate about 7000 trees, thousands of native plants of Greece, six lakes and as if this were not enough, a zoo! Believe me you will not regret this visit.

The entrance to both parks is free. If you want to see the inside of Zappeion Park, I recommend that you first check the dates of its calendar of events and conferences to know when there is availability.

Syntagma Square

Leaving the National Garden, in front of it, is Syntagma Square. This is one of the most important squares in Athens, if not the most important, as it brings together the hectic social life of the Athenians and their tourists, and the political life due to the fact that a few meters away is the Greek Parliament.

The literal translation of Syntagma in English is "Constitution". That is, Syntagma Square is Constitution Square. It is recognized with this name because in this place, the citizens of Athens forced King Otto to dictate a Constitution.

Syntagma undoubtedly holds the heart of the Athenians. Here there have been multitudinous celebrations as well as demonstrations of the hardest kind.

In addition to the Greek Parliament, in this square you can see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tomb is guarded by two Athenian Evzones. And here comes the attraction why you should stay in Syntagma for a few more minutes: every 1 hour, you will be able to see the amazing changing of the guard of the Greek soldiers that brings together many of the tourists passing by. You can't miss it!

National Archaeological Museum

The itinerary of your second day in Athens ends at the National Archaeological Museum located at 44 Oktovriou Street.

This museum opened its doors in 1891 and is considered the most important and largest in Greece. Its facade has the neoclassical style predominant in the nineteenth century and inside has more than 20,000 objects from Ancient Greece divided into 32 rooms. Among the exhibits you can see jewelry, sculptures and ceramics that were found in excavations throughout the country.

In addition, the National Archaeological Museum is organized in five sections that will help you not to get lost among so many objects and to be able to organize them chronologically. These sections are: Prehistory, Sculpture, Ceramics, Bronze and Egyptian Antiquities.

You can visit the museum from Monday to Monday. The approximate cost of admission is as follows:

  • Adults: 10 euros.
  • Non-European Union students and seniors over 65: 5 euros.
  • Children under 18: free admission.

This plan is ideal to do at the end of your second day in Athens, since, by that time you will be immersed in the history of the country and you will better understand what you are seeing.

Day 3: Board a boat in Athens and cruise around the Greek islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina

Hydra, Greece| ©Teresa Grau Ros
Hydra, Greece| ©Teresa Grau Ros

For your third day in Athens, I recommend you to get on board a boat and visit the Greek islands. Since you have already seen the highlights of Athens, this is a great way to get out of the city and see these fabulous islands.

These day trips from Athens to the islands of the Saronic Gulf usually start very early in the morning from the pier of Piraeus which is a 35 minute metro ride from the center of Athens. Most of the packages that offer this trip include pick-up service from the hotel and return to the hotel.

Now, when you are on board the ship, listen carefully to the crew's instructions and get ready to visit these islands through the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean.

Hydra

This is the first island you will visit. When the ship docks, you will have approximately 2 hours of free time to explore the island. Hydrais one of the few places in the world where cars are strictly forbidden. The way to get around is by walking, using a bicycle or riding one of the hundreds of donkeys you will see on the island.

This island is characterized by its narrow cobblestone streets, its red-tiled houses and the summer mansions of celebrities. My recommendation is to take a short walk and then take a dip in its beaches of clear water.

Poros

On your way back to the ship you will set off for Poros, your second destination. This island is the smallest of the three you will visit. It has a large vegetation and gigantic pine and lemon trees that perfume the whole island with their scent. In the free time you have in Poros I suggest you visit:

Aegina

When you have finished visiting the island of Poros, you should get on the boat that will take you to your last destination: the island of Aegina. On the way to the island you will enjoy a buffet lunch that will allow you to recharge your batteries for your last stop.

The island of Aegina is the largest island in the Saronic Gulf and is renowned for the phenomenal beauty of its beaches. It is the ideal place for you to completely relax, sunbathe or if you prefer snorkeling, diving or water skiing.

On the boat that takes you to the island, you will also be offered a tour of the Temple of Apheatext which is a good option if you prefer to learn more about the history of the island.

Also, Aegina is home to one of the best pistachios in the world. When you walk through the little streets of the island, you can buy in the local stores products that have this fruit. Believe me, you will not regret trying them.

At the end of your stay on the island of Aegina, you should return to the boat that will take you to the pier of Piraeus. On board, you will enjoy a unique show of Greek musicians and dancers that will make your return much more enjoyable.

Once at the pier, you will be picked up by a shuttle and returned to your hotel in Athens.

Book your excursion to the islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina

And that's the end of your three-day stay in Athens. Most of this itinerary was designed so that you can walk short distances and not waste too much time.

If you fell in love with this European capital (like me) and decide to come back, I recommend you to take an excursion to the island of Mykonos or book a few days to visit Meteora and Delphi.