The capital of Greece is an ideal destination for cultural tourism without giving up rest, beautiful landscapes or paradisiacal islands. These are the top 10 experiences you can not miss on your trip to Athens.
1. Visit the Acropolis
The Acropolis of Athens is crowned by the Parthenon and its remains are located on top of a mountain that is visible from virtually anywhere in the city center. The entrance to the Acropolis gives you access to see all the remains of the city including monuments such as the Parthenon, the Propylaea building, the temple of Athena Nike or the Erechtheion temple.
You can tour the Acropolis on your own, but my recommendation is to hire a guided tour to fully enjoy all the culture and significance of the archaeological site. Also, it is advisable to buy your tickets online to avoid the long queues at the ticket office. Here is my practical guide to Athens Acropolis Tickets and Tours so you can organize your visit.
2. Take a guided tour of the city
Athenian culture does not end with a visit to the Acropolis. In the center of the city there are places of interest that are also a must and the best way to locate them and learn about their history is to take a guided tour through the center of Athens. It will depend on the tour, but you will be able to see the Temple of Zeus, the National Garden, the Panathinaikó Stadium, Hadrian's Arch, Syntagma Square, and other tourist sites.
The real value of this activity is in the explanations of the guide, so when choosing one option or another, always make sure that it is a local and expert guide who accompanies you during the tour.
3. Join an excursion in the surrounding area
Near Athens there are places of great cultural interest that you can go to with an organized excursion. The most popular excursions I have summarized here: Athens Tours. The basics: have a specialized guide during the tour and a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle to enjoy the experience.
It is a city located two hours from the Greek capital and its ruins are one of the most important archaeological centers of the country. There you can see the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury or the Sanctuary of Athena.
The name means "rock in the air" and honors the landscape that you will find there, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Greece. The monasteries of Meteora are one of the main attractions of this island located near Delphi for which two-day excursions from Athens are available.
Linked to Athens by the Corinth Canal, this peninsula is a must for lovers of ancient history. It is home to cultural sites such as Mycenae, Nafplio and Epidaurus that will not disappoint the traveler. It can be seen on a day trip from Athens.
4. Tour the city by sightseeing bus
The city of Athens has magnificent sites, although in the summer months the heat prevents you from enjoying them in comfort. The Athens sightseeing bus is a way to tour the city without getting tired while enjoying panoramic views and audio commentary that will help you connect with the city's monuments and its history.
You can purchase a ticket that is valid for 24 or 72 hours depending on how long you will be in Athens. It is ideal for travelers who have a short time in the city and don't want to miss out on an overview of the city. You can use my practical guide on Athens Hop on Hop off Bus Tours to organize your visit.
5. Take a cruise in the Greek Islands
Even if you will only be in Athens for a short time, you will have the opportunity to visit other islands in Greece on a full day excursion. Greek Islands day cruises from Athens mainly cover three islands: Hydra, Poros and Aegina. In each of these cities you will find authentic landscapes that will give you a more complete idea of the country.
You have different types and different prices, (I tell you all about them here: Cruises in Athens) but I recommend that you look at the services offered on board before booking as there are options that even include entertainment and food. It is also important to spend enough time on each island to have time to enjoy its landscapes, beaches and monuments without rushing.
6. Stroll through the neighborhood of Plaka
It is one of the most authentic neighborhoods of Athens and the favorite of many travelers who visit it. It is located at the foot of the Acropolis and its main attraction is that its streets and architecture retain the charm of traditional Greece. In many of the guided tours of Athens is an essential stop.
A tip: when you visit the neighborhood skip the most touristy streets and wander as much as you can. Once you finish touring Plaka, walk to the neighboring neighborhood of Anafiotica, where the earthen facades and labyrinthine streets give way to white and blue houses worthy of a postcard.
7. Taste the local food
Maybe after your trip you will or will not become a fan of Greek gastronomy, but what is certain is that you cannot leave Athens without having tried some of its specialties. Greece has more dishes besides the famous yogurt (which you can also order) and some of the most popular ones are:
- Moussaka: a type of vegetable lasagna
- Gyro: shredded meat served inside pita bread
- Feta Me Meli: baked feta cheese wrapped in filo pastry
- Souvlaki: a skewer with pork, chicken or lamb served with vegetables and pita bread.
- Tzatziki: an appetizer made with yogurt, garlic, olive oil and fresh dill.
- Greek salad: in case you don't know the ingredients, it includes tomatoes, olives, cucumber and feta cheese.
8. Enjoy the views of the city
It seems that if you do not contemplate a city from above you have not seen it at all and, perhaps unconsciously, many of us go during our travels looking for viewpoints on our way. In Athens there are several and they are ideal to see the sunset and the views of the illuminated Acropolis. I recommend two:
The most famous viewpoint in Athens is located two km from the center and you can go up on foot or by funicular. The views of the illuminated Pantheon are breathtaking.
It is located south of the city. Although the climb may require some effort, the trees surrounding the path will provide shade as you make your way to the top. Watching the sunset there is worth the fatigue of the climb.
9. Shopping in the neighborhood of Monastiraki
It is a Turkish influenced neighborhood full of mosques, traditional restaurants, stores and bustle. It is essential to take a walk there during your visit and stop to look at the details that you will find in their stores and food stalls. There are also two very interesting places to visit: the tower of the winds and Hadrian's library. Do not leave the neighborhood without eating in some of its restaurants.
10. Visit the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora
Agora means square or assembly, two concepts that in ancient Greece were closely linked because it was precisely in the squares of the cities where all the inhabitants of the city met to trade and discuss political issues. If you want to take a trip back in time, visiting these two squares during your stay in Athens is a must.
The Ancient Agora is home to one of the best preserved buildings in all of Greece: the Temple of Hephaestus (it will remind you a bit of the Parthenon), which is open to the public during the morning. Other points of interest near this square are the Odeon of Agrippa, the Panathenaic Way or the Stoa of Attalus.
The Roman Agora, meanwhile, is located near the neighborhood of Monastiraki and some of its corners will remind you of the Forum of Rome. It was built between 19 BC and 11 BC by Emperor Augustus. You can visit it every day from 8 am to 5 pm.