Best Things to Do in Athens

What are the best things to do in Athens? What are the top must-see sites and attractions, which you shouldn’t miss? If you only have one or two days in the Greek capital, what places and museums should be top of your list?

The Parthenon Reflected in the Acropolis Museum

Well, here’s our list of what we think are the best things to do. The first two are essential, and then we list the rest of the museums and markets, the archaeological sites and places like the Plaka in rough order of importance. Everyone’s different though, so there can never be a definitive list.

We’ve limited ourselves to a Top Ten, as if we didn’t then we’d go on to list 20-30 things you must see and do. But here are our top recommendations.

The Two Must-See Sights in Athens

The Acropolis

The Greek word Acropolis is usually translated as ‘upper town’ or ‘high city’, and it was on this rock that Athens began its life. The Parthenon and several other buildings were constructed here in the 5th century BC, a Golden Age in the development of Athens. The sight of the ancient Parthenon still rising above the modern city is inspiring, and a visit here is definitely the top thing to do in Athens. This does mean the site gets very crowded, and if you can manage to get there as soon as it opens in the morning, you’ll appreciate it all the more. Either that or wait till the evenings, when it quietens - and cools - down again. See our full page on the Acropolis.

Statue of Poseidon in the National Archaeological Museum
Photo by Donna Dailey

The National Archaeological Museum 

Many national museums around the world are filled with wonderful riches, but usually they are items from all around the globe – including many from Ancient Greece. The museum in Athens is exceptional in that it only has Greek items, and despite the many that have been plundered and ended up in the world’s other great museums, here is still the largest collection of ancient Greek artifacts in the world.

And what treasures they are, from huge statues of Poseidon to the fine golden treasures found at Mycenae, from rampant satyrs to exquisite jewelry and the colourful frescoes found on Santorini. Allow at least 2-3 hours, more if you can, but if time is tight consider booking a tour of the highlights with one of the museum’s official guides. Read more on our separate page for the National Archaeological Museum.

The Rest of the Best Things to Do in Athens

There are many more things to do and see in Athens, including more fine museums. You could easily compile a list of the top ten museums, and every one would be a gem. However, if you have to prioritise how you spend your time, here are our suggestions for what should be top of your list. 

Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is one of the most exciting museums in the city. It’s below the Parthenon and shows finds from the Acropolis site, as well as fascinating explanations on how that remarkable building was constructed. Glass floors reveal what was found below, when the museum itself was being excavated, while on the upper floors the museum has been designed to give fabulous views of the Parthenon and other buildings of the Acropolis. It shows what the Parthenon would look like if the controversial Elgin Marbles, now held in London’s British Museum, were returned to their original home.

The Museum of Cycladic Art
Photo by Donna Dailey

Museum of Cycladic Art
This is one museum that we always try to visit when we’re in Athens, as the displays are timeless and never cease to delight us. They cover many centuries of ancient Greek art and include vases, glassware and other items, but the main attractions are the beautiful objects from the Cycladic civilisation of 3000–2000BC. Some of the small statues seem to float in their display cabinets, as subtle lighting brings out their shape and texture. Little wonder their graceful shapes inspired many modern artists, and it will be hard to resist taking home one of the beautiful copies from the museum shop.

The Ancient Agora
Photo by Donna Dailey

The Ancient Agora of Athens
The old market of Athens, below the Acropolis, is an atmospheric place that first became a market in the 6th century BC. It’s easy to imagine it populated by people buying and selling goods from shops and stalls, and talking politics, or about sport or the day’s gossip. There’s a small but interesting museum, housed in the Stoa of Attalos. The Stoa is a two-storey arcade that was built in the 2nd century BC, by which time the market had been going for 400 years. The Stoa has been beautifully restored by the American School of Archaeology in Athens, and provides a rare opportunity to see what Greek buildings of the period actually looked like in their prime.

In the Athens Central Market
Photo Courtesy of Culinary Backstreets

The Central Market
As well as seeing the Ancient Market, you should try and see the modern Central market, just south of Omonia Square. It’s a real slice of modern Greek life, with butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable stalls, people selling olives, nuts, and all kinds of other produce. If you feel hungry then a meal at one of the market restaurants will be an experience like no other meal in the city – and one of the cheapest eats you’ll have. Read about the Athens Food Tours from the Greek Fork or Athens Culinary Tours if you want to get an insider's look into the Central Market.

Reflection of Mount Lycabettus
Photo by Donna Dailey

Mount Lycabettus
Mount Lycabettus is the other large hill you can see in the centre of Athens, after the Acropolis. There is one main reason for either walking or taking the funicular up to the top, and that is the view you get over the city – and especially across to the Acropolis. On a clear day you will even be able to see down to the port of Piraeus, and the Aegean Sea beyond.

Shopping in the Plaka
Photo by Donna Dailey

The Plaka
Many people deride the Plaka district, on the north side of the Acropolis, because it is undeniably touristy. But if you are on a short visit you should still see it, especially in the evening when the restaurants are in full swing. Be careful where you eat as there are plenty of tourist traps, but there are also plenty of good eating places too. The streets are also filled with souvenir shops, some good arts and crafts alongside the trinkets, and some interesting food and drink shops too.

In the Monastiraki FleaMarket

Monastiraki Flea Market
Like a visit to the Central Market, a visit to the flea market near Monastiraki Square on a Sunday morning is an authentic Athenian experience. You can explore the streets around here any day of the week and find a fascinating mix of souvenir and junk shops, but on Sunday morning the place is really packed as people go looking for bargains before enjoying a Sunday lunch in their favourite taverna. This is one place you should keep an eye on your purse and wallet. Athens is generally safe but you need to take care in any city where large crowds congregate. Read our separate page on the Monastiraki Flea Market.

Greek Parliament Building on Syntagma Square
Photo by Donna Dailey

Syntagma Square
Athens’ main square has always been a meeting and rallying point, as well as a hub for the city. It stands in front of the Parliament Building, where the Sunday morning Changing of the Guard is a big attraction, and here too is one of the main Metro stations, cafes and bars, and some of the city’s best hotels like the King George Athens and the Grande Bretagne.

So that's our personal choice of the Best Things to Do in Athens, though the city has a wealth of other things to offer too. 

You might like these other Athens pages...

  • A Drive around Attica

    This drive around Attica offers visitors high hills, beach resorts, small villages and classical sites like Marathon and the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.

  • Athens to Santorini

    There are lots of flights from Athens to Santorini as well as a ferry service from Piraeus, with flights to Santorini leaving from Athens International Airport.

  • Pictures of Athens

    Pictures of Athens from the Greece Travel Secrets website

  • Where to Eat in Athens and Piraeus

    If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

  • Ten Fun Things to Do in Athens

    Ten Fun Things to Do in Athens include eating in the Central Market, watching the sun set over the Acropolis and seeing one of the world's oldest theatres.

  • Piraeus

    Piraeus is the port of Athens from where many ferries to the Greek islands depart, and it also has an Archaeological Museum and the Hellenic Maritime Museum.

  • National Archaeological Museum

    The National Archaeological Museum is one of the best things to see in Athens, and the best museum in the world for seeing Greece's archaeological treasures.

  • My Athens: a Portrait by Travel Writer Mike Gerrard

    In My Athens on Greece Travel Secrets travel writer Mike Gerrard describes what he loves about Athens including the Acropolis and eating!

  • Monastiraki Flea Market

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Monastiraki Flea Market, followed by Sunday lunch at Sigalas on Monastiraki Square

  • Monastiraki and Around

    Around Monastiraki is the flea market, Athens cathedral, Kerameikos Cemetery, the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art and the Psirri and Gazi nightlife districts.

  • Marathon

    The ancient site of Marathon and the site of the Battle of Marathon are in Attica and naturally about 26 miles or 42 kilometres from the centre of Athens.

  • A History of Athens

    A History of Athens from the first people to live on the Acropolis through the Golden Age of Pericles and Alexander the Great to the military junta.

  • Greek Architecture

    This beginner's guide to Greek architecture explains how to tell your Ionic from your Doric columns, and what to look for in temples and Byzantine churches.

  • Entertainment in Athens

    There's all kinds of entertainment in Athens whether you're interested in theatre, dance, classical music, jazz, Greek music, rock music, disco, opera or movies.

  • Easter in Athens

    Easter in Athens is, like everywhere in Greece, the biggest religious celebration of the year and this page tells you what to expect over the Easter weekend.

  • Cape Sounion and the East Coast

    The beach resorts of Athens are easily reached from the city and also close are Cape Sounion with the Temple of Poseidon, ancient Marathon and Rafina's port.

  • Best Cocktail Bars in Athens

    Two of the best cocktail bars in Athens, MoMix Kerameikos and The Clumsies, are making creative cocktails using that most Greek of Greek spirits, Metaxa.

  • Athens: Travel Information and Advice about Athens, Greece

    Athens is a top vacation destination. The Greece Travel Secrets Athensguide has information on hotels, museums, Athens airport and all the best things to do.

  • Athens Weather and the Best Time to Visit

    The Greece Travel Secrets website looks at the Athens weather, the chance of rain, the climate in summer and winter and the best time to visit Athens.

  • Athens Walking Tours and Other Experiences

    Athens walking tours and other experiences like cookery lessons, ceramics workshops, dining with a family, and street art are available from Alternative Athens

  • Athens International Airport

    Athens International Airport is east of Athens city centre with its own Metro train station, buses to Athens and Piraeus, taxis and car rental offices.

  • Athens in the Rain

    Athens in the rain isn’t something you’re likely to experience but here are suggestions for things to do in the rain in Athens including museums and shopping

  • Athens Food Tours

    Athens Food Tours are being introduced by new company The Greek Fork, and will include tours of the Central Market, and the best street food.

  • Athens Events and Public Holidays

    If visiting Athens it helps to know when major events and public holidays take place, as some shops and attractions may be closed, but to be there at times like Easter can make for a magical trip.

  • Athens Eaters Guide

    Athens, an Eater's Guide to the City, is published by Culinary Backstreets, who do walking food tours in Athens and the book recommends the best places to eat.

Latest Posts

  1. Greece Looking to Open to Travelers from the United States

    The United States is one of the markets that Greece is eyeing to form a travel arrangement that will open up tourism between the two countries this year.

    Read More

  2. Restaurants in Greece Expected to Re-open for Outdoor Service After Easter

    Restaurants and other food and beverage (F&B) establishments in Greece will most likely be allowed to re-open and serve customers initially outdoors after the Easter holiday, Greek Deputy Development…

    Read More

  3. Norwegian Cruise Line to Sail the Greek Islands in July

    Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. is planning to restart operations this summer with sailings to the Caribbean and the Greek islands.

    Read More

  4. Greeks and Tourists will Abide by Same Covid-19 Rules, Says Tourism Minister

    Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Monday clarified that any safety and health rules that apply to Greek citizens – such as mandatory mask wearing and social distancing – will also apply to tourists…

    Read More

  5. Celestyal Getting Ready to Offer Safe Cruise Experiences from May

    Celestyal Cruises is speeding up procedures for the restart of sailings on May 29, aiming to provide its guests with carefree holidays to the Greek islands and the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Read More

  6. Greece will Open for Tourism with ‘Five Lines of Defence’ Against Covid-19

    Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said Greece has set up five lines of defence against the coronavirus (Covid-19) in order to open for tourism safely this year.

    Read More

  7. Greece Unsure About Easing Lockdown Measures for Easter

    Greek Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Akis Skertsos on Monday told SKAI radio that it is “too soon” to discuss if lockdown restrictions would be eased in Greece in time for the Easter holiday. T…

    Read More

  8. Piraeus Port Authority to Create New Park, Bike Lane

    The Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) has announced plans to undertake the construction of a new playground and a bicycle lane at the port of Piraeus.

    Read More

  9. Culture Ministry: Summer Operating Hours for Archaeological Sites, Museums

    The Ministry of Culture has announced the summer operating hours of archaeological sites and museums across Greece. According to a ministry announcement, the opening hours of archaeological sites, mon…

    Read More

  10. The Guardian Selects 10 Crowd-free Greek Islands and Coastlines

    The Guardian recently announced its selection of 10 crowd-free Greek islands and coastlines that can offer travelers “a taste of true Greek culture”. According to the British newspaper, with the end o…

    Read More