There are so many exciting things to do in Athens, it can be hard to decide what to do. Athens is an iconic destination, steeped in ancient history and filled with delicious food options. Yet, despite all this, many people only spend a day or two in Athens before heading to one of the Greek Islands.
This list will help you decide what to do in Athens during your time there — no matter how long your visit is. I’ve been to Athens twice and love the city, this is definitely one of the best places to visit in Greece.
Read on to learn about the best 25 things to do in Athens!
Note: this list of things to see in Athens has been updated 2021 to reflect the current top things to do, the latest prices, best tours, and more. Enjoy your trip to Greece!
1. Climb to the Acropolis
Seeing the 5th century Acropolis is the most popular thing to do in Athens.
Of course, this means that everyone wants to go there, including visitors from the cruise ships. My advice is to get there early. The site opens at 8 am and the cruise ship passengers arrive around 10 am.
Most people visit the Acropolis to see the Parthenon but there are several other things to see on the hill, including the Erechtheion, the Arrhephorion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
From the Acropolis, you can see much of Athens and can see all the way to the sea. The entrance fee is €20 ($23.25).
To learn about all of the incredible history here, join a private walking tour. The tour will also take you to the museum (below). There are a few different types of tours you can take, click here to learn more about a highly-rated, skip-the-line tour.
2. Visit the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is one of most beautiful museums I have ever been in. It’s filled with natural light, which highlights the artifacts well.
Here you can get a close look at the Parthenon frieze replicas on display. The cafe balcony also offers great views of Athens. You can learn more about the Acropolis on my blog.
Either before or after you visit the Acropolis, you must visit the Acropolis Museum. It’s not far from the entrance of the Acropolis and the entrance fee is only €5 ($5.80).
3. See Hadrian’s Library
This library is not a library in the sense we know today, it was a place of study, not a place where books were lent.
Hadrian’s Library was constructed around 132 AD for housing documents and reading rooms. There’s not much left but you can clearly see the layout of the library and there is excellent signage.
The entrance fee is €4 ($4.70). Hadrian’s Library is located in the Monastiraki neighborhood not far from the Acropolis.
4. Go To Edem Beach
Going to the beach is one of the lesser-known things to do in Athens as most people think you have to go to the islands to enjoy some beach time. Although it’s not one of the best beaches in Greece, it’s still a great place to relax and enjoy the sea.
Take your own towel and umbrella if you want one, as there are none available there. You can get a great meal at the Edem Taverna located on the beach.
To get to Edem Beach, take the Green Line tram at Syntagma Square and take it in the direction of Askllipiio Voulas, and get off at the Edem stop. The 24-hour tram ticket is €4.50 and there is no fee for the beach.
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5. See The Decorations at Little KooK
I discovered Little KooK on my most recent trip to Athens. Each holiday season it’s decorated inside and outside the restaurant. When I was there it was decorated for Halloween.
Little KooK is mainly a dessert cafe, but the top attraction is the decorations. This is probably the most Instagrammable place in Athens besides the Acropolis!
6. Take a Street Art Tour
Street art is easy to find in Athens and ranges from classic graffiti art to modern street art.
While you can find much of it on your own in the Plaka area, this tour is offered by an actual street artist. The artist will take you to the established art as well as new pieces that have recently appeared.
The highly rated tour lasts 3 hours. Have your camera or phone ready to take photos. Click here to learn more about this tour and to book.
7. Grab a Drink at A is For Athens
For the best view of the Acropolis at night, you must have a specialty cocktail at A is For Athens cocktail bar — it’s one of the closest viewing points of the Acropolis.
It’s actually a hotel, so you could stay here and see the Acropolis in the morning for breakfast as well!
The cocktails range from €12 to €20. They did not have any soda (pop) so don’t come here to order rum and Coke. All of the cocktails have great names referencing Greek history and culture.
8. Eat The Best Yogurtlu and Souvlaki
O Thanasis is one of the most popular places to eat in the Plaka. It’s so popular that even Greeks eat here. The best thing to eat is the Yogurtlu, which is a beef kebab covered in yogurt on a bed of pita bread.
The Yogurtlu is large enough to split with someone and it will only set you back €9.90. The people at O Thanasis are friendly and not pushy. The souvlaki is also one of the best in town.
(Update 2021: a Greek reader has advised us that Agrafa restaurant has the best souvlaki in Athens. Maybe try them both?!…)
9. Visit the Benaki Museum
Visiting the Benaki Museum is one of the best cultural things to do in Athens.
The Benaki Museum is a museum of Greek culture ranging from prehistory to the 20th century. The collection offers rooms from houses, large sculptures, and smaller items like swords and historic documents.
The museum is a short walk from Syntagma Square. It’s located in a beautiful Neo-classic building and you can enjoy a coffee and the view from the cafe. Skip-the-line tickets to the museum can be purchased ahead of time, here.
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10. Smash Things at Limba Rage Room
Feeling a little stressed out? Need to get some rage out? Limba Rage Room is the place to do just that!
You purchase a package (which can include plates, bottles, a tube TV and glasses), and you smash them! It’s a great stress reliever and one of the most unique things to do in Athens.
There are a variety of packages for every budget. They range from €10 to €100. Don’t worry, they give you protective gear to wear. It’s located just down the street from Little KooK.
11. Drink a Greek Coffee
Sampling a freddo cappuccino is one of the must-do things in Athens. This is just one of three classic Greek coffees, there is also a frappe and a freddo espresso.
The frappe is not like a Starbucks frappe but instead is made with instant coffee, water and sugar (if you choose).
The freddo cappuccino is espresso topped with frothy milk.
The freddo espresso is just swirled espresso over ice. All of these coffees pack a serious caffeine punch but since they are all served cold, it is great on a hot day in Athens.
Coffee culture in Greece is a very big deal. Not only do locals drink coffee (hot or cold) numerous times throughout the day, but as legend would have it, your fortune can be told by reading the dregs of coffee left at the bottom of your cup.
The next time you’re finished drinking your coffee in Athens, make sure to ask someone to show you how to read your fortune!
12. Visit the Museum of Cycladic Art
The Museum of Cycladic Art is home to one of the most complete private collections of Cycladic Art. This is especially great to see if you won’t be visiting one of the Cycladic islands on your trip to Greece.
Most of the artifacts on display are marble pieces including bottles, plates, and standards. There are some metal objects as well. The pieces of marble are mostly white making them stunning in their simplicity.
This museum in Athens is open Μonday – Wednesday – Friday – Saturday from 10:00 to 17:00, Thursday from 10:00 to 20:00, Sunday from 11:00 to 17:00. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. The entrance fee is €7.
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13. Shop in The Plaka
The Plaka is a neighborhood located below the Acropolis. Much of this area has been closed off to traffic, although delivery trucks still are allowed through and some streets are open.
The chain stores and more upscale shops are on Ermou Street — where you can find shops like Sephora and H&M.
Then there are tourist shops and lower-end shops, which are further down past Monastiraki Square. Here you can find souvenirs you might want to bring home for your friends and family. Plus, this is a great area for people watching.
14. Watch the Changing of The Guard
This is one of the best things to do in Athens. To catch this weekly event, you must be in Athens on a Sunday. The Changing of the Guard takes place at the Parliament Building at Syntagma. It takes place at 11:00am and is free to watch.
While the guards do change hourly, on Sundays at 11:00 there are more guards than usual, they’re dressed in the traditional Greek uniform and the ceremony is more complex.
Sundays are the best day to see the changing of the guards in Athens. And while they may look a little unusual, they are highly trained soldiers called the Evezone.
15. Visit Monastiraki Square
If you sit in Monastiraki Square long enough, I swear you will see everyone in Athens walk by. This is the place to watch tourists and locals interact.
It is also a historic site with a 9th-century church, a 19th-century mosque and in the subway station are antiques found during the building of the metro.
This is one of the most bustling places in Athens and chilling out here is one of the best things to do in Athens.
16. Get Custom Made Greek Sandals
While you are shopping in the Plaka, be sure to stop at Pantelis Melissions The Poet Sandalmaker for a pair of custom-made Greek sandals. This shop has been around since 1920 and has been passed down from generation to generation.
You can get a classic pair in basic leather or get a fancy pair with decorations or metallics. The prices range from €40 to €50.
17. Eat Loukoumades
Loukoumades is a Greek donut. It’s a small puff pastry that is soaked in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. I had one with sesame seeds once too. They are delicious!
The best place in Athens to get loukoumades is at the aptly named Lukumades. It is not far from O Thanasis so after eating your kebab you can have a donut for dessert!
18. Watch the Sunset at Lycabettus Hill
Watching the sunset from Lycabettus Hill is one of the best things to do in Athens. Not only is the sunset stunning, but you get amazing views of Athens from here. You can also see the Acropolis all lit up for the evening.
There is a funicular to take you up and down if you don’t want to climb the hill. The cost for the funicular is €7.50 return or €5 for a one-way ticket.
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19. Visit the National Archaeology Museum
The National Archaeology Museum has many artifacts ranging from prehistory to late antiquity. The artifacts are from all over Greece and the world. It also has an Egyptian collection.
The museum is north of the Acropolis. You can take the metro to the Victoria station and walk from there. The entrance fee is €10.
20. Take a Walking Tour (one of the best things to do in Athens for foodies)
There is a multitude of walking tours to take in Athens. These are great if you want someone to give you the history and background of what you are seeing.
If you do one that includes the Acropolis, they usually have a skip the line option which can be great if you are there in the summer.
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21. Take a Day Trip to Hydra
You can still visit a Greek island while on your trip to Athens!
Hydra is a small island that allows no cars. Most of the things to do are located right in the port including restaurants and shopping. There is even a swimming spot a five-minute walk away.
Hydra is about an hour ferry ride away if you take the fast ferry. The cost is about €56 return. You catch the ferry at Piraeus port. Spend the day in Hydra and be back in Athens for dinner.
Another option is to join a full-day tour that takes you to Hydra, Poros and Aegina islands aboard a luxury cruise ship. Click here to learn more.
22. Visit Parliament Building
Even if you don’t see the Changing of the Guard, the Parliament building is worth a visit. It was built between 1836 and 1842 and was home to the first modern King of Greece.
It became the Parliament building in 1935 after the monarchy was abolished in 1929. I suggest seeing it at night when it’s beautifully lit.
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23. Eat Gyros
You cannot come to Athens and not have a classic gyro. They are available almost everywhere and you can have fun trying to find the best one. A search for your favourite gyro is one of the best things to do in Athens for foodies!
The gyro consists of chicken or lamb, french fries, onions, and tomatoes all wrapped up in soft pita bread. Sometimes you can order them open-faced on a plate. They are pretty big, so if you’ve done tons of walking this is the meal for you!
24. Take a Day Sailing Trip
One of my favorite things to do in Greece is to sail. You can join a sailing trip that lasts all day, or take a half-day tour. You can even sail to some of the islands.
Most of these sails are on catamarans making it easier for the non-sailor to adjust their sea legs. This is one of the best ways to relax in Greece. Click here for a top-rated sailing trip (on an actual sailboat) that takes you to Agistri, Moni & Aegina.
Or, if you’d prefer a catamaran trip in Athens, click here for details.
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25. Visit the Temple of Poseidon
This stunning ancient temple sits at the Aegean Sea and was built in the 5th-century. An inscription at the temple confirms that it was built for Poseidon.
You should try to be here early in the morning or for sunset. You can sometimes see several islands on a clear day from the temple.
Technically this is a day trip from Athens as it’s 70kms south of the city. There is a bus from Athens from the Mavromateon Terminal and you can also get it from Syntagma Square. Look for the bus going to Sounio. The bus fare one-way is €6.90.
There are more than 25 fun things to do in Athens, here are a couple more activities to add to your list:
26. Stroll Through the Roman Agora
The Roman Agora is located right down the hill from the Acropolis. It was built as a marketplace after Athens became part of the Roman Empire in the 1st-century.
When I was there, it was very empty making a nice change from the crowds of the Acropolis. It’s a nice place to explore. However, there is not much signage so you may have to look things up after you go. The entrance fee is €6.
27. Explore the Athens Central Market
This is the classic outdoor market with shouting vendors and all the smells that come along with it. I discovered it when I stayed in a hotel right in the market. The fruits in Greece look and smell amazing so even if you don’t buy anything it’s still a great place to visit.
The other thing to note is that most of the vendors don’t speak English, but you can point to items that you’re interested in and use sign language (or a translation app).
There’s also meat and fish if you are in self-catering accommodation. I loved this market because it felt like such an authentically Greek experience.
28. Donate Your Time: Volunteer in Athens
If you’re an animal person, there are a few volunteer options for you to help out with abandoned and stray animals. Have a look at ZEIL, SGS or SCARS where you can assist with walking and caring for dogs and cats.
This may not be one of the more touristy things to do in Athens, but if you have some extra time, or if you would like to help out, it’s definitely one of the more rewarding activities in the city.
Now You Know What To Do in Athens
As you can see there are so many things to do in Athens. You can even make a theme for each day you are there — exploring all the food options, seeing all the archaeology sites, and aimlessly exploring and seeing what you can discover!
Have you been to Athens? What was your favorite thing to do while you were there?
Note: Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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