Athens, the bustling capital of Greece, is a staggeringly beautiful city steeped in rich history that weaves its way through the monuments, architecture and culture. Although it would be easy to spend weeks lost in Athen's historic temples or wandering the beautiful flower drenched neighbourhoods, my own strict Greek itinerary meant I had only three days to explore the best that Athen's had to offer.
Read on for the most detailed guide to an action packed three days in Athens.
We had had a super early flight (click HERE to read about the struggles of trying to catch an 8am flight and seemingly non existent car parks...) which meant we were landing into Athens International Airport at around midday Greek time. We had accommodation booked in the city centre so we jumped on the metro (tap HERE for the best ways to travel from the airport to the city- last plug I promise) and headed straight to our Air B&B. We were staying in a neighbourhood called Kolonaki, which is known as an upscale area in Athens famous for its lively nightlife and shopping options. We found this a really ideal place to stay- we were in a beautiful place but also close to the city centre- it only took us around 15 minutes on the metro to get to key areas like the Acropolis!
We wandered around Kolokanki in the evening and had some dinner- we ate at The Stix Bar which was affordable and served loads of delicious typically Greek meat skewers.
However, I've heard that Kolonaki is also an amazing place to explore during the day! We were advised to head to Voukourestiou Street, which is the main shopping street, and to visit the various museums such as The Benaki Museum and the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, both of which are meant to hold some of the best private collections in the country!
- Theatre of Dionysus
- Odeon of Herodus Atticus
- Acropolis Museum
- Temple of Zeus
- Arch of Hadrian
The next day we were up super early to make the most of our time in Athens. We first caught the metro straight to the Acropolis which is super easy to reach! You've got a few options- you can either get off at Thiseio Station, and walk from there. Or you can get off at Syntagma Square, change to the red line in the direction Elliniko for one stop, then get off at the Acropolis Station. All tickets are €1.20 so also a super affordable way to get around Athens as well.
We went for the second option, and just had a short walk from the Acropolis station. The Acropolis opens at 8am and we were told to get there for opening as apparently it gets super crowded, especially in the summer months. Even by the time it opened there was already a big queue outside so my advice would definitely be to get there for 8am!
BEST TIME TO VISIT: The Acropolis is obviously one of the most famous attractions to visit in Athens, so if you want to avoid the crowd the advice is to visit either when it opens, at 8am, or just before it closes at 7pm (closing time may vary depending on season).
In terms of tickets, there are a few options. Something we didn't realise is that if you are from an EU country and under 25, your entry is free! And children under 5 from all countries are also free. Make sure you bring valid ID as they were checking thoroughly. If you don't fall into this category, you can either by entry just to The Acropolis for €20, or I think a much better deal is to buy a combined ticket for a few attractions for €30- this includes entry to The Acropolis and slopes, Ancient Agora, Hadrian's Library, Kerameikos, Aristotle's School, Olympieion and Roman Agora! Bargain.
The Acropolis itself, translating to 'upper city' is just stunning and was my favourite thing we saw in the whole of Athens. It is viewed as one of the most important monuments both in Greece and the entire world, and was lived in as early as 5000 B.C!
Theatre of Dionysus
This theatre was built in the 4th century B.C, making it one of the oldest temples in the Acropolis. At it's prime, it could hold 17,000 people and is considered the birthplace of famous Greek tragedy theatre performances, such as Sophocles and Euripides. It was also used for festivals to honour god's such as Dionysus
Odeon of Herodus Atticus
Odeon of Herodus Atticus was built by Herodus Atticus and after being open for over 2,000 years, amazingly you can still come here to see live performances of bands, local talent and theatre! Definitely an amazing experience to sit amongst all the ancient history and relive an experience shared over thousands of years.
The Parthenon is definitely the most photographed building on the Acropolis due to its stunning structure and the amazing details of craftsmanship. It was built during the height of the Athenian democracy, and was constructed in honour of Athena the virgin, who the city is also named after.
The Acropolis Museum
After finishing the Acropolis, we headed for a coffee nearby then straight to the Acropolis Museum. This was only about a 5 minute walk from The Acropolis, meaning you can actually get an amazing view of the Acropolis from the museum windows. Again, I would definitely recommend getting there early because by the time we were leaving at around 11am, there was a long queue out the door. It opens at 9am and closes at 4:30.
The Acropolis Museum has consistently been ranked as one of the top museums in the world and even the architecture is amazing, with its glass walkways and high ceilings. The museum is dedicated to the Parthenon but also explores all the monuments in the Acropolis!
Arch of Hadrian
We then had a short 5 minute walk to the next point, the Arch of Hadrian. This was built to honour the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and served as one of the seven gates of the defensive wall built by the Turks following several attacks. The Arch is now right beside quite a main road, reminding me of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris. This means it can be a little hard to get a good photo of the arch without cars in the background, or people walking through!
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Just a few minutes walk from the Arch of Hadrian (literally visible from the Arch) is an amazing ruined temple know as the Temple of Zeus. It took over 700 years to built and was supported by 105 columns, each standing 17 metres tall. However, only 15 remain standing today.
Entry to this monument is covered by the combo €30 Acropolis ticket and although you can't get up as close as at the Acropolis, it is still an amazing experience and is handily located right in the centre of Athens!
By now, we were completely exhausted by Ancient Greece and instead decided to take a short walk (6 minutes) to the beautiful neighbourhood of Plaka, one of the oldest districts in Athens. This ended up being one of my favourite areas of Athens, and is a perfect place to end your day with a typical Greek meal, or to wander the flower lined streets and explore the local shops.
- Monastiraki Square
- Ancient Agora
- Syntagma Square
- Panathenaic Stadium
- Psiri Neighbourhood
- Asteria Beach
We were up again super early for our final day in Athens, to attempt to cram in as much sightseeing as we could! We started by heading to the metro, and catching the train to Monastiraki Square which is a lively area with a flea market and a full range of colourful graffiti.
We then had a short walk (approximately 9 minutes) to the Ancient Agora. Entry to this is covered by the Acropolis €30 combo ticket!
Ancient Agora used to be the heart of Athens- the marketplace and centre of all social and political activities. It used to house schools, shops and markets and was the place where Socrates used to lecture students. Now, it is quieter than the Acropolis and is an amazing journey through time and history as you stroll through the ancient ruins and greenery.
Also, keep an eye out for the resident turtle! We found him taking shade under a bush.
We then had a thirteen minute walk to the Panathenaic Stadium. The walk is really beautiful as it takes you through more modern Athens, and we were early enough to watch Athens slowly come to life as the shops began to open and the streets began to fill.
On the way, make sure you stop off at Syntagma Square- this is the centre of the city, and the main transport hub. Nowadays, this is where people will often meet for drinks, to relax after work, or to do some shopping. Take a break on your walk at The Parliament Building to watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, which happens every hour, on the hour exactly. The ceremony sees guards dressed in traditional clothing and pays tribute to war victims.
The Panathenaic Stadium is a focal point of Athens, as it is the birthplace of the modern Olympic games, back in 1894! The stadium was constructed in 4th Century B.C, and to this day is still one of the most important stadiums in the entire world, and can seat up to 60,000 spectators!
Entry is affordable at €5, or €2.50 for students or visitors over 65 years old.
Next, we were keen to see some more of the beautiful little neighbourhoods that Athens is famous for so we headed to Psiri. There are a few options to get there- it was either a 25 minute walk, or there was the option to jump back on the metro at Syntagma Square and get off at Monastiraki Square.
This route means you have basically come in a full circle today, so you may prefer to visit Psiri in the morning when you are already right by it. The reason we did it this way round was because we wanted to do some exploring of the more busy tourist attractions in the morning before the crowds, then head to Psiri for some lunch and a coffee about midday!
We opted for the metro and it took us around 20 minutes to get back to Psiri. Psiri has been successfully changed from being notorious as one of the most dangerous areas in Athens, to one of the trendiest and more fashionable neighbourhoods! Watch out for the famous street art and especially Alexandros Vasmoulakis and Vangelis Hoursoglou, who bought public art into the streets for the first time!
Whilst there, make sure that you head down to the Little Kook cafe- a quirky, seasonally themed cafe that brings fairytales to life with its life size decorations! Whilst it only opened in 2015, it has already become one of the most photographed cafes in Athens.
By this time, we had been out in the Greek heat for most of the day so decided to spend the afternoon exploring the beaches that Athens had to offer. We decided to head to Asteria Beach so we ordered a taxi, which cost around €20 and took about 25 minutes in the car.
When ordering taxis in Athens, make sure you download the TaxiBeat App! This is Greece's answer to Uber and works in pretty much the same way. We found it so useful being able to order a taxi easily on the app, and also to be able to check prices beforehand.
The beach was a welcome break from the relentless heat of the city! There are some free beaches to choose from, or an option to pay for just a beach bed, or you can go fancy and pay to go into one of the beach clubs which have their own private section of the beach.
The next morning, we were up at 5am in time to watch the sun rise over Athens as we headed to the port to catch our ferry to Mykonos.
Although you would ideally need weeks to explore everything that beautiful Athens has to offer, I think this guide gives a pretty good taster of the historic monuments, stunning neighbourhoods and various sights of Athens!
Let me know if you use this guide, and if theres anything else you think I should add in!