You cannot go to Athens without visiting the Acropolis. Sorry, we don’t make the rules. This ancient hilltop citadel, crowned by the famous Parthenon, is one of the most famous landmarks on the planet. It’s a testament to the legacy of the Ancient Greek civilization. But there is far more to Greece’s capital than this iconic site. If you’re planning a trip to the city, we’re here to help. On day one, you simply must go to the Acropolis. But for the rest of your trip, here are six of our suggestions for places to visit in Athens.
It’s a well-known fact that the Ancient Greeks founded the Olympic Games. And the Panathenaic Stadium is a throwback to the days of 330 BC. It is a replica of an ancient stadium, with a U-shaped layout and seating for 50,000 spectators. The original was encased in marble by Roman Senator Herodes Atticus in around 130 BC, and the replica boasts the same beautiful marble; it’s the only stadium in the world to be built entirely from this material. Originally built for the 1896 Athens Olympics, it was used for the archery events and as the finish line for the marathon events in the 2004 Olympics. As you walk around the stadium, you can enjoy views of the Acropolis and the National Garden from the highest tiers. You can even go for a jog around the stadium in the morning, as long as you fill in a declaration form beforehand.
Archaeological sites aside for a minute, Athens is actually just a beautiful city to lose yourself in. And nowhere is this truer than in the Plaka district, one of the best places to visit in Athens. It’s an area close to the Acropolis and is known for tight, twisting alleys and flower-adorned streets. It’s home to all manner of local stores, from jewellers to ceramics shops. And the food scene is great too, with a variety of specialty food shops selling gyros, olives, and other Greek delicacies. Plaka is built on the original residential area of ancient Athens. As a result, there are also plenty of archaeological sites to spot on a wander through the area. If you’re staying in the centre of the city, it’s a great place to visit for contemporary dining and nightlife, too.
When it comes to hills in Athens, Mount Lycabettus loses out to the Acropolis every single time. But that does not mean it isn’t worth visiting. This 300-metre high limestone peak is covered in pine trees. These thin out near the summit to reveal incredible views of the surrounding city. The hill is free to climb on foot (it’s a fairly steep 60-minute hike), or there’s a funicular railway for those who prefer. Taking the journey at sunset is even better. Not only do you get the best view in the house, but if visiting in summer then the stifling Athens temperature will have dropped a bit, making the walk much more enjoyable. Keep your eyes peeled for the Greek tortoises that inhabit the hill, and tuck into a meal at the restaurant located at the summit.
National Archaeological Museum
If you tried to visit every museum in Athens, you’d be in the city for months! That might be a slight exaggeration, but there are more than 70 public museums to choose from. The Acropolis Museum is of course a must. But if you only have time to pop into one more, then we recommend the National Archaeological Museum. It’s one of the city’s larger ones and is home to an enormous collection of exhibits from across Greece’s rich history. Notable exhibits include the golden 16th century Mask of Agamemnon, the finds from the wreck of Antikythera (including the world’s oldest known analog computer), and one of the best collections of Egyptian art in the world. In a country of incredible archaeological heritage, there’s nowhere quite like it.
Ancient Agora of Athens
An agora was a central public square in Ancient Greek city-states. These spaces were the hub of the city, important for commercial, social, political, and spiritual activities. The Athens Agora is the best-preserved Greek agora and is well worth a visit. Located to the northwest of the Acropolis, it dates back to around the 6th century BC. The agora is home to the ruins of more than 30 buildings, including the incredible Temple of Hephaestus, which is one of the most complete ancient temples in the whole of Greece. You’ll also want to see the Stoa of Attalos. This is a 1952 reconstruction of the original covered walkway, which now houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. Our advice is to spend half a day here – download a map, and get exploring!
Changing of the Guard at the Parliament Building
At 11 am on Sunday morning every week, crowds gather outside the Greek Parliament in Athens’ Syntagma Square to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This does actually take place every hour during the week. But 11 am on Sunday is the official ceremony, with more guards and proper customs in place. Wearing iconic uniforms and marching in perfect unison, the Changing of the Guards ceremony is a must-see for visitors to the city at the weekend. The Parliament itself was built in the 1830s and is beautifully lit up every night.
All of our Greece tours and island-hopping cruises either start or end in the Greek capital, so you can take in the best places to visit in Athens for yourself. If you prefer a short city break, then our 4-day Athens City Stay is the perfect way to take in all the sights! Get in touch with our Reservations team if you’d like to speak to us about your own Greek Odyssey!