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Top Things to do in Athens: Journey from Ancient History to Modernity

06/09/2020 by tech support

Top Things to do in Athens Athens - My Greek Holidays
Map of Athens center with the main attractions

Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world with more than 3000 years of history. It is a city where myth, history, and modernity flow into one another. Philosophy and literature, architecture, and theatre were born here. It is also the birthplace of democracy and remains the form of Greek state government until today.

 Athens, the multi-faceted capital of Greece, is unlike any other city in the world. We have compiled for you our Top 10 places in Athens, that you should visit. The historic center of Athens is very compact. All the major sights are located within walking distance of each other and are easy to explore on foot.

(1) The Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens - My Greek Holidays
The Acropolis of Athens, Greece

The Acropolis, which means “upper city” in Greek, is a symbol not only of Athens but all of Greece. The impressive complex of ancient Acropolis temples has stood on a sacred rock for 2500 thousand years. Millions of tourists from all over the world visit the great architectural monument to experience its beauty and majesty.

 The entrance to the Acropolis leads through the famous Propylaea, to the right of which is a small Temple of Athena Nike. In the center rises the majestic Parthenon – the Temple of Athena. On the left is the Erechtheion with The Porch of the Caryatides (or, The Porch of the Maidens). Under the Acropolis is a beautifully preserved ancient theatre – the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.  On the southern slope, you can see the ruins of an ancient open theatre built in honor of the god Dionysus.

You can get here by the red metro line, Acropolis Station.

The Acropolis opening hours

  • 08:00 – 20:00 (summer season)
  • 08:00 – 15:00 (winter season)
  • We recommend checking in advance, in low season or on hot days the schedule can slightly change

The Acropolis is closed

January 1, March 25, May 1, Sunday Easter, December 25 and 26.

The Acropolis free admission days

On several days throughout the year, all archaeological sites in Greece can be visited for free:

  • 06.03 – Melina Mercouri Memorial Day
  • 18.04 – International Monuments Day
  • 18.05 – International Museums Day
  • The last weekend of September – European Heritage days
  • 28 October – National Holiday Ohi Day
  • Every first Sunday of the month from the 1st of November to the 31st of March

The Acropolis Ticket Price

Tickets to the Acropolis are available at the main entrance ticket office. However, especially during the summer, we highly recommend purchasing them online in advance for a specific time to avoid the long lines. The price is:

  • From 01.04 till 31.10 – € 20 (children under 5 years are free, from 6 to 25 years – € 10)
  • From 01.11 till 31.03 – € 10 (children under 5 years are free)

The Athens Special Ticket Package

If you plan to visit several archaeological sites in Athens, then it is profitable to buy the Athens Special Ticket Package.  The price is 30 € (no winter discount) and is valid for 5 days.

Special Ticket Package includes:

  • Acropolis of Athens
  • North and South slopes of the Acropolis
  • Ancient Agora of Athens and its archaeological museum
  • Kerameikos and its archaeological museum
  • Hadrian’s Library
  • Roman Agora of Athens
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus
  • Lykeion Archaeological Site 

The Acropolis Tours & Skip-the-line tickets

You can buy in advance an e-ticket for the Acropolis, receive it by email and skip the line for entrance to Acropolis. You can also book group or private Athens Sightseeing and the Acropolis and Athens Walking Tour and the Acropolis in English, German, French, Russian, or any other language at your request.

(2) Ancient Agora of Athens

Ancient Agora Athens - My Greek Holidays
Ancient Agora, Athens

The Ancient Agora (or Market) is located at the foot of the Acropolis. In ancient times the Agora was not only a commercial but also a political, cultural, and religious center of the city. Temples, administrative buildings, public institutions, and courts were located here. Athenians used to gather here to buy or sell food, stay updated with news, certainly to criticize the government, exchange ideas and simply talk.

The most famous sights of the Ancient Agora:

The Temple of Hephaestus or Hephaisteion (460-415 BC). It is located in the western part of the Agora and is the best-preserved temple of antiquity.

The Stoa of Attalos (159-138 BC). This two-story building was the gift to Athens of the King Attalos II of Pergamon. It was an ancient shopping mall with 21 stores on each floor. Now it houses the Museum of Ancient Agora. The museum’s collection includes objects of everyday life, which were discovered here. The most important and interesting exhibits are items related to the life of the Athenian democracy of the classical period. Among them are official clay measures, bronze weights, clay water clocks, bronze bulletins, and pottery shards (ostracons) with the names of leading politicians of the 5th century BC. The ostracons were used as ballots to determine the most dangerous politician to the state system. After that, he was expelled from the city for 10 years. This is where the word ostracism comes from.

Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles. It is one of the oldest churches in Athens (1000-1025 AD). It was built on the ruins of a 2nd-century temple. In the 50s of the 20th century, it was restored to its original appearance. It houses many Byzantine frescoes found in other ruined churches.

Ancient Agora opening hours

  • 08:00 – 20:00 (summer season)
  • 08:00 – 15:00 (winter season)

Ancient Agora is closed

January 1, March 25, May 1, Sunday Easter, December 25 and 26.

Ancient Agora free admission days

On several days throughout the year, all archaeological sites in Greece can be visited for free:

  • 06.03 – Melina Mercouri Memorial Day
  • 18.04 – International Monuments Day
  • 18.05 – International Museums Day
  • The last weekend of September – European Heritage days
  • 28 October – National Holiday Ohi Day
  • Every first Sunday of the month from the 1st of November to the 31st of March

Ancient Agora Ticket Price

  • From 01.04 – 31.10 – € 10 (children under 5 years are free, from 6 to 25 years – € 5)
  • From 01.11 – 31.03 – € 5 (children under 5 years are free)
  • Included in the Athens Special Ticket Package.

(3) Plaka District, Athens

Rover of Winds, Roman Agora - My Greek Holidays
The Tower of Winds, Roman Agora, Athens

At the foot of the Acropolis lies the picturesque Plaka, the oldest and most picturesque district of ​​Athens. A walk around the Plaka district is like traveling in the past.

Plaka bends around Acropolis Hill and extends from the north to Monastiraki Square and from the east to Syntagma Square.

Important Archaeological Sites in Plaka

  • Roman Agora. On the east side of the Roman Agora, you will see an octagonal building built by the astronomer Andronicus in the 1st century BC. It had a sundial on its outer walls and a hydraulic clock inside. On each of its eight sides, there is a relief from the eight winds. For this reason, the tower was named Aerides – Tower of the Winds. Full ticket price – € 8, reduced – € 4, included in the Athens Special Ticket Package.
  • Hadrian’s Library. The remains of the walls and several churches in the area. Full ticket price – € 6, reduced – € 3, included in the Athens Special Ticket Package.

Important Byzantine Churches in Plaka

Plaka is famous for the Byzantine churches of the XI-XII century. This period is considered the golden age of Athenian Byzantine art. The most famous of them:

  • Palea Mitropoli (Old Metropolis), in honor of Panagia Gogropiko and Saint Eleftherios.
  • Kapnikarea at Ermou Street is dedicated to the entry into the temple of the Most Holy Theotokos.
  • Church of St. Catherine next to the monument of Lysicrates.
  • Church of St. John the Evangelist at the intersection of the streets Erotokritos and Erechteia.
  • Church of the Savior of Kotaka at the Kidathineon Street

Shopping and Eating in Plaka

Plaka Athens - My Greek Holidays
Narrow streets of Plaka, Athens

Numerous souvenir shops are located mainly on Adrianou and Pandrosou streets.

If you feel hungry, stop by Platia Filomousou Eterias. The square with taverns, bars, and cafes is a magnet for tourists and young people. The most famous summer outdoor cinema CineParis is also located here.

Lifehack: Would you like to try the famous souvlaki or kebab? Go to Monastiraki Square, where you can find the best Greek street food.

Anafiotika District, Plaka

Anafiotika Plaka Athens - My Greek Holidays
Anafiotika, Plaka, Athens

If you want to feel like you are on a Greek island in the heart of the city, visit the Anafiotika. The district is on the slopes of the Acropolis, on Plaka. It is a small but very colorful area with narrow streets and traditional white houses with blue doors and windows. It’s called Anafiotika because the original residents were builders who came from the island of Anafi in the mid-19th century to help build Athens. The area is still residential, although unfortunately, some houses are empty.

Here is the church of Agii Anargiri and a small monastery belonging to the temple of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This is the first place the Holy Fire is delivered from Jerusalem every year.

Lifehack: for stunning photos, visit Anafiotika early in the morning.

(4) The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens 

Temple of Olympian Zeus - My Greek Holidays
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

The Temple of Olympian Zeus was a monumental and truly impressive structure in honor of the god Zeus. It was built of marble from Mount Pendeli. Originally, the temple had 104 Corinthian columns with a height of 17 meters, but only fifteen of them have survived to the present day. The 16th column fell during a violent storm in 1852 and still lies on the ground in that place.

The temple is located in the center of Athens, only 500 meters from the Acropolis and 700 meters from Syntagma Square.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus opening hours

  • 08:00 – 20:00 (summer season)
  • 08:00 – 15:00 (winter season)

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is closed

January 1, March 25, May 1, Sunday Easter, December 25 and 26.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus free admission days

On several days throughout the year, all archaeological sites in Greece can be visited for free:

  • 06.03 – Melina Mercouri Memorial Day
  • 18.04 – International Monuments Day
  • 18.05 – International Museums Day
  • The last weekend of September – European Heritage days
  • 28 October – National Holiday Ohi Day
  • Every first Sunday of the month from the 1st of November to the 31st of March

The Temple of Olympian Zeus Ticket Price

  • From 01.04 – 31.10 – € 8 (children under 5 years are free, from 6 to 25 years – € 4)
  • From 01.11 – 31.03 – € 4 (children under 5 are free)
  • Included in Athens Special Ticket Package

Hadrian’s Arch

Hadrian Arch - My Greek Holidays
Hadrian’s Arch, Athens

Near the temple of Olympian Zeus is the Hadrian’s Arch (or Arch of Hadrian). The triumphal arch was erected in the 2nd century AD, in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian, in gratitude for his gifts to the city.

The location of the arch marked the symbolic boundary between the ancient part of Athens and the new city. The inscription engraved from the side of the Acropolis read, “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus,” and the inscription from the side of the temple of Olympian Zeus: “This is the city of Hadrian, not the city of Theseus.”

Anyone can admire the arch for free. It looks especially impressive when backlit in the evening.

(5) Greek Parliament and Presidential Guard

Greek Parliament

Parlament Athens - My Greek Holidays
The Greek Parliament, Athens

The Greek Parliament is located in the center of Athens, at Syntagma Square.

The formal three-story beige building was built in 1836 as Royal Palace. With respect to the heritage of ancient Athens and with principles of the revival of urban classicism, the Bavarian architect Geirtner designed a simple, functional, and compact building.  It was built of marble from Mount Pendeli.

The first kings, Otto I and Amalia, moved into their new residence in 1843. Then they were succeeded by King George I and his wife Olga. The Greek Parliament has housed the building since 1935 until today and has two entrances: one on the west side, through which the deputies pass, and one on the front to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Evzones – Greek Presidential Guard

Greek Presidential Guard at the tomb of Unknown Soldier is carried 24 hours by Evzones, the elite soldiers of the Greek army. To be accepted into the Evzones, one must meet strict criteria. To be at least 187 cm tall, have stamina, endurance, and an ideal physical condition. The Evzones are guarded by 2 people. Look closely and you will see that two similar soldiers are assigned in pairs.

The Changing of the Guard

Evzons Guard Athens My Greek Holidays
The changing of the Guard every hour, Athens

The regular changing of the guard takes place every hour (from 55 to 05 minutes) and is very spectacular. You are sure to take many interesting photos. Between shifts, the Evzones stand motionless and anyone can take photos with them. Stand near them, but do not touch the Evzones or make any inappropriate gestures. This is strictly followed by a military man in a classic green uniform.

Lifehack: on the Presidential Palace in Irodou Attikou Street (that is at the back of Parliament), is another pair of Evzones on guard. So, if there are a lot of people in Syntagma Square, go there to take photos.

Grand Sunday Changing of the Guard

Evzons Guard Athens My Greek Holidays
Grand Changing of the Guard on Sunday, Athens

Every Sunday, at 11 o’clock in the morning, at the central Syntagma Square in Athens, don’t miss an unforgettable performance – the parade grand changing of the guard. The streets around the Parliament are blocked off and 120 evzones are solemnly marching along with them, accompanied by a military live orchestra.

The Evzones are dressed in a parade full dress uniform that looks quite unusual: a red hat with a tassel, a skirt with 400 folds (in Greek it is called fustanella), white woolen stockings and leather shoes – tsaroukhia with big black pompon. The boots weigh more than 3 kg and are lined with dozens of nails for a resounding step.

You can watch this performance absolutely free. Come earlier, so to get the best front spots.

(6) The National Garden in Athens

National Garden My Greek Holidays
The National Garden, Athens

An oasis in the center of Athens, right next to the Parliament. A nice place to hide from the heat in the summer months, relax and gather strength for the sights to follow.

The garden was founded in 1830-1840 by Queen Amalia, so it used to be called Royal. The garden area is 15 hectares. 7,000 trees, 40,000 shrubs, and other plants grow here.

At the main entrance, attention is drawn to the iconic Washingtonia palms planted by Queen Amalia, which have already reached the height of a ten-story building. Nearby is a sundial where visitors try to guess the time.

Walking through the labyrinths of green alleys, you come across romantic shady corners, flower pavilions, Roman mosaics and ancient columns, a Spanish fountain, and bubbling streams. The central pond with a bridge is very popular. Here you can find ducks, fish, and water turtles. Nearby is a mini-zoo with peacocks, geese, wild goats, and rabbits. Do not forget to bring bread to feed the animals.

The National Garden in Athens opening hours

  • Every day from sunrise to sunset.
  • The entrance is free.

(7) Zappeion Exhibition Hall, Athens

Zappeion Athens - My Greek Holidays
Open atrium of Zappeion, Athens

The Zappeion Exhibition Hall, or simply Zappeion as the Athenians call it, is located directly behind the National Garden. This magnificent complex was built between 1874-1888 and is named after the Greek patriot, philanthropist, and patron of the arts Evangelos Zappas. He dedicated his life to the revival of the Olympic Games and the promotion of the arts.

The classical architecture of this building is amazing. A round open atrium surrounded by a two-story colonnade painted in the traditional colors of ancient Greek buildings. Nowadays Zappeion hosts exhibitions, conferences, and congresses. You can also watch a movie in the summer open-air cinema CineAegli or have a cup of coffee in the cozy Aegli Café.

(8) The Panathenaic Stadium, or Kallimarmaro, Athens

Kallimarmaro Stadium Athens - My Greek Holidays
Kallimarmaro Stadium, Athens

The Panathenaic Stadium, known as Kallimarmaro, is the largest stadium in the world built entirely of white marble. In ancient times, the Panathenaic Games were held here in honor of the goddess Athena.

The stadium was completely rebuilt to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The restoration was carried out with the financial support of the philanthropist Georg Averof. His marble statue is placed at the entrance. Besides sports competitions, the stadium’s arena also hosts concerts by the favorite world and Greek pop singers.

If you want to feel like an ancient runner then take part in the Athens Classic Marathon. It is an annual marathon, held in Athens on the second Sunday of November. It starts in the historic town of Marathon, 42 km from Athens, and the finish line is here – in the Kallimarmaro Stadium.


  • Walk through the “diodos”, the underground tunnel, used in ancient times by athletes to enter the racetrack of the stadium.
  • Take a memorable photo on the podium. This is a popular place not only for athletes but also for tourists.

The Panathenaic Stadium opening hours

  • 08:00 – 19:00 (summer season)
  • 08:00 – 17:00 (winter season)

The Panathenaic Stadium is closed

January 1, March 25, May 1, Sunday Easter, December 25 and 26.

The Panathenaic Stadium free admission days

On several days throughout the year, all archaeological sites in Greece can be visited for free:

  • 06.03 – Melina Mercouri Memorial Day
  • 18.04 – International Monuments Day
  • 18.05 – International Museums Day
  • The last weekend of September – European Heritage days
  • 28 October – National Holiday Ohi Day
  • Every first Sunday of the month from the 1st of November to the 31st of March

The Panathenaic Stadium Ticket Price

  • Adults – € 10
  • Students and visitors over 65 years old – € 5
  • Children under 6 years are free

When buying a ticket, each visitor receives an audio guide tour of the site in several languages.  It tells you the most important information about the history of the stadium.

(9) Athens Neoclassical Trilogy 

The  Athenian Trilogy, at Panepistimou Street, is the heart of the city’s intellectual life. These three impressive neoclassical buildings were built in the 19th century by the Danish architect Hansen.

The Academy of Athens

Athens Academy - My Greek Holidays
The Athens Academy

The Academy of Athens (on the right) was built with donations from the Greek diasporas. Many experts describe the Academy as one of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings in the world. Statues of Athena and Apollo stand on tall Ionic columns in front of the building. Here you can also see the entrance with the statues of the famous philosophers Socrates and Plato.

The University of Athens

Univercity of AThens - My Greek Holidays
The University of Athens

The University of Athens (in the middle) is the first of three buildings Hansen constructed. He combined Greek motives and modern trends, based on principles of classicism. Nowadays, it houses only the administration of the Kapodistrias National University of Athens.

The National Library, Athens

National Library Athens - My Greek Holidays
National Library, Athens

The National Library (on the left) was built with the financial assistance of Panagis Vallianos, whose monument is in front of the building. The impressive Renaissance semicircular staircases were created for practical reasons. Too many straight steps would make the building taller than neighboring buildings. In 2018, all of the National Library’s collections were moved to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center at Siggrou Avenue.

You can get to the Athens Trilogy on foot from Syntagma Square via Panepistimio Street. Or by the red metro line, Panepistimio Station. By the way, Panepistimio means ” university” in Greek.

(10) The Mount of Lycabettus

Stoa Attala and Lycabettus Hill - My Greek Holidays
View to the Stoa of Attalus (Ancient Agora) and Lycabettus Hill from Areopagus Hill, Athens

Lycabettus is the highest hill in Athens, its height is 277 meters above sea level. Lycabettus, which means “Wolf Mountain” in Greek, has watched over life in the capital since ancient times. According to the myth, the mountain was formed from a rock that the goddess Athena took to build the Acropolis. The crow brought Athena bad news and the goddess in anger threw this rock on the ground. The rock remained in that place.

 Nowadays, romantics climb to the top to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of Athens and its surroundings, from the majestic Acropolis to the nearby Aegean islands. This place is especially popular at sunset time, so come earlier to get the best spot to enjoy the view.

At the top of Lycabettus, you will find the snow-white church of St. George, a restaurant-café, and a viewing point where you will enjoy the panorama of Athens at the sunset.

Three ways to get to the Lycabettus

Lycabettus Hill Sunset Athens - My Greek Holidays
View from Lycabettus Hill, Athens

1. On foot. If you are in good physical shape, take a walk along the comfortable paths that lead through pines and cypresses to the top of the hill.

2. By cable car (Teleferik). The terminus is in Kolonaki, at the corner of Aristipou and Ploutarchou streets. The ride takes 3 minutes, the funicular runs every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 20-30 minutes the rest of the time. The ticket costs € 5 one way and € 7.5 round trip. Someone prefers to get to the mountain on the cable car and walk down on foot.

3. By car. The road ends at the parking. Then you have to go higher up the numerous amounts of stairs. On the parking level, there is also an open-air theatre, where concerts and performances are held in the summer.

 Entrance to the Lycabettus Hill is free.

Where to stay in Athens

Book a hotel in Athens

Looking for a hotel to stay in Athens? Check the best options in different locations in the Greek capital at great rates. Choose the best hotel for you here.


Rental villas, houses, and apartments in Athens

Don’t like hotels? You can also stay in one of our carefully selected villas or apartments across Athens. Book a villa or apartment for vacation in Athens in 2024 right now. Remember that booking in advance allows you to choose a property according to your specific requirements such as location or view. Also, you can find early booking deals and discounts which could bring the price of your holiday down.

How to get to Athens

Flight to Athens

We suggest you use JETRADAR which is one of the largest online search engines for flights all over the world. This service helps to compare airfares from hundreds of airlines and dozens of travel agencies and systems and book the cheapest tickets available.

Transfer from Athens Airport

Arriving in the country for the first time, or not, it is important to see a person, who is waiting especially for you upon arrival at the airport. It gives you confidence that you will reach your destination, avoiding all troubles, long waits in the taxi queue, and possible overcharges. Our prices include all fares, VAT, and any lawful charge; therefore you know that what you pay is the final price for your transfer. Comfort and safety will be provided, which is especially important if you are traveling with children. That’s why we offer transfer services with professional drivers and a modern car fleet. All cars and minivans are equipped with air conditioning and drinking water.

Rent-a-car in Athens

You can rent a car from the Athens airport office. To find the perfect car for your trip, we recommend checking DISCOVER CARS. It is a leader in online car rental reservations. It compares car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip. Many other websites hide fees and extra costs from you. Discover Cars includes all mandatory fees, taxes, and extras in the quoted price so there won’t be any surprises when you arrive at the rental desk.

Luggage storage in Athens

If you are in Athens just for one day and wish to spend the time visiting archaeological sites, museums or just at the beach, Radical Storage can help you make your trip hassle-free. It’s a luggage storage network located all over Athens and the world. The storage points are located in local businesses like hotels, shops, coffee shops, etc., near public transportation or attractions, making it easier for you to drop off and pick up your bags whenever you want. Plus, you can easily reach Athens International Airport.

Here you can find the most convenient location to leave your luggage in Athens.

Which Greek Islands you can get from Athens

Traveling from Athens (Piraeus port) to the Greek Islands & the Peloponesse

You can travel from the main port of Athens – Piraeus to many Greek Islands and even the Peloponesse.

  • Saronic Gulf Islands: Egina, Poros, Ydra, Spetses, Salamina
  • Peloponissos: Methana, Porto Heli, Gythion
  • Cyclades Islands
  • Dodecanissos Islands
  • Aegean Islands
  • Crete: Heraklion, Chania, Sitia, Kissamos

Check the schedule and buy your ferry tickets here:

Traveling from Athens (Rafina port) to the Greek Islands

Ferries depart from Rafina all year round to the Cyclades islands of Andros, Tinos, and Mykonos. Also, in the summer months, routes are added to other Cyclades  – Paros, Naxos, Ios, Santorini, Milos, and even Heraklion (Crete). Moreover, for the many Cyclades, the ferry from Rafina is faster than from Piraeus and about 20% cheaper.

Check the schedule and buy your ferry tickets here:

The ferry to the port of Marmari on the island of Evia departs only from Rafina. Tickets can be bought directly at the port.

Traveling from Athens (Lavrio port) to the Greek Islands

From the port of Lavrio, you can travel to the following islands

  • Cyclades Islands: Kea (Tzia), Kythnos, Syros, Tinos, Andros, Kimolos, Milos, Naxos
  • Aegean Islands: Ag.Efstathios, Limnos, Chios, and the port of Kavala in Northern Greece

Check the schedule and buy your ferry tickets here:

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Updated: November 2023

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