Athens, the capital of Greece, is brimming with the ancient Greek Spirit, reflecting the Greek culture of many centuries. From ancient Greece and the Byzantine times to the Ottoman rule and modern history, the city exhibits invaluable archaeological remnants, picturesque pathways, neoclassical buildings and traditional mouth-watering flavors, all enhanced by the perks of the mild -and mostly sunny- Greek weather. If you are visiting Athens just for three days, we are here to share some useful tips regarding your trip to the Greek capital, give you an insight into the best things to do in Athens and, of course, ensure you make the most out of your time in the city of the violet crown!
Table of Contents
Where to stay
Monastiraki square - credits: anshar/Depositphotos.com
After you have arranged how to get to Athens, the first thing to take care of is choosing where to rest your weary body at night. When it comes to deciding where to stay in Athens, the area we'd highly suggest you pick is the city center.
Most of the archaeological sites, main shopping areas, and traditional restaurants come together around the famous hill of the Acropolis, where the heart of Athens beats. Plaka, Thiseion, and Monastiraki Square are areas strongly recommended by us, being in close proximity to one another, which is of great importance, considering how short your stay in Athens will be.
Getting around Athens
Inside Athens metro station - credits: PNIK/Shutterstock.com
If you fly to Athens, what you will certainly need as soon as you land, is to buy a 3-day tourist ticket for 22€. This ticket provides you with unlimited travel by all transportation means in Athens (all lines of Metro and train, suburban railway, tram, trolley, and public buses) including a one return trip from/to the airport by metro or by bus, -using the designated airport bus, 'express X'- which will remain valid for three days.
Catch the metro's blue line, and get off either at Syntagma Square or Monastiraki, depending on where your accommodation is located. Please bear in mind that you need about 45 minutes to get from the airport to the city center and vice versa.
- If you choose to come to Athens by boat, you can buy a 24-hour ticket for 4.50€, which includes unlimited city travel by all transportation means (excluding Airport lines). When you get off the boat, hop on the port bus that takes you outside the port area, just opposite the train station. You can take the train and stop at Monastiraki Station. The journey from the port to the city center takes about 40 minutes by train. Alternatively, you can take a cab, but make sure they don't charge you more than 20 euros.
Tip: To avoid shady cab-drivers, download the Beat taxi app and book your taxi online safely and hassle-free!
- Depending on your needs and preferences, you might also consider renting a car, a wise choice, especially if you have planned getaways out of Athens or have chosen to stay outside the city center. Before you rent a car, you need to take into consideration that in Athens, heavy traffic is a common occurrence. We're not as bad as LA, but still, it can get old really fast.
For more details and updates about public transport in Athens, please visit the official Athens Transport website or check out our Athens transfers.
Extra tips for your Athens trip
Girl packing a suitcase - credits: sebra/Shutterstock.com
- Pack wisely! Check the weather forecast before you visit Athens. Depending on the time of the year, you might need a jacket and an umbrella or just the lightest of your clothes.
- A pair of comfy shoes will be your best friend, as you are probably going to walk around a lot, in order to explore the beauties of Athens.
- If you visit Athens during the summer months, invest in some good sunscreen and a hat. In addition, avoid staying under direct sunlight for too long, especially if you are not used to sun exposure.
- Bear in mind, that Athens offers a non-exhaustive list of fashion choices for every taste and budget. Hence, while shopping in Athens, you can find high-quality clothes and shoes at very good prices. Our suggestion is to bring an empty suitcase with you, so you can go back home full of Greek goodies, from Greek souvenirs to Greek food and organic products!
- When you organize your itinerary for your visit to Athens, make sure you have enough free time for any possible variations or spontaneous wanderings around the city.
- Don’t forget to visit the wonderful beaches near Athens, where you can spend a whole day swimming, sunbathing and enjoying the stunning Athenian weather!
Anafiotika neighborhood in Plaka, Athens - credits: KOSTAS TSEK/Shutterstock.com
Morning: Explore the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
The early bird catches the worm! Get off your bedsheets early, have a luscious Greek breakfast and make your way to the Acropolis. You can even combine the two with a Greek breakfast experience with an Acropolis and Acropolis museum tour. The site opens at 8.00 am, but when the clock strikes 10.30, it gets really busy and you might not be able to enjoy your tour to the cradle of the ancient Greek civilization. Get a 5-day pass for 30€ (or 15€ if you are eligible for a reduced ticket) and visit a number of archaeological sites, including the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. Visiting Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum is an undeniable must, so figuring out a smart way and time to visit them will enhance your experience in Athens more than you think!
Tip! Don't forget that Athens is the perfect destination for families! In order to keep your little ones entertained, you can opt for a mythology tour of Acropolis, Acropolis museum and Temple of Zeus, with the story-telling of your expert guide keeping you on your feet!
Afternoon: Meet the locals in Koukaki
Following your historical and cultural enrichment, it is time for you to visit one of the hippest neighborhoods in Athens and the 6th most interesting neighborhood in the world to stay, according to Airbnb, Koukaki. There, you can get a glimpse into the everyday life of Athenians, exploring the region where locals choose to spend their free time, eating, drinking and chatting the problems away. A walk through Koukaki will swiftly reveal its allure; its two pedestrianized squares are filled with cozy coffee shops, trendy bars, and local taverns, bringing the neighborhood to life and giving it a vibrant, lively vibe. If all the walking has made you work up an appetite and you're up for tasting local delicacies, you can try 'Syggrouomeno', a hangout spot operated by a group of friends, with products from small producers from all over Greece: tsipouro, sweets and sausages from Pelion, organic wines from Volos and mount Korinthia, cheeses from Lesvos and raki from Crete. Additionally, ‘7 Cactus’ serves traditional flavors incorporated in gourmet dishes, while in ‘Mani Mani’ you can find -after 2 pm- traditional homemade recipes that are the star of the table in every Greek’s home.
Tip! If you'd like to see what Koukaki is like at night, you can join us on our Athens nightlife tour in Koukaki neighborhood
Evening: Catch the sunset in Anafiotika
After you’ve got some much-deserved rest, you’ll be ready to tackle the exploration of Athens like a pro, or -even better- like a local! Reveal the most beautiful part of Athens’ city center with a stroll through Plaka, the village-like neighborhood located under the shadow of the Acropolis hill. By walking along the oldest commercial street in Athens, Andrianou Str., you’ll have the opportunity to discover unique souvenirs, natural cosmetics and quaint baubles in the picturesque streets of Athens. In Plaka, you can also admire the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, a monument erected by Lysicrates, a wealthy patron of musical performances in the Theater of Dionysus, to commemorate the award of the first prize in 335/334 BCE to one of the performances he had sponsored. As the day gives way to the night, make your way to Anafiotika, to catch the magical Athenian sunset. The scenic, picture-perfect neighborhood, was first built in the era of Otto of Greece, by construction workers from the island of Anafi, which explains both Anafiotika’s name and its distinct island aesthetic.
Night: Let Plaka enchant you
There's no better way to familiarize yourself with the city than with a long walk through its narrow streets, revealing its nooks and crevices. Since Anafiotika is arguably one of the best parts of Athens, we suggest you also explore the neighboring area by night, watching it awaken under the sparkling lights. Wind down from your exciting and stimulating day in Athens with food and drinks at a famous local bistro, ‘Yiasemi’. 'Yiasemi' became the talk of the town in 2012 when it was featured in a well-known Greek movie. Since then, it has been loved by the locals, who enjoy coffee, drinks, homemade pies and desserts in the snug traditional bar that sports a fireplace, as well as outside seats for the summer months.
Tip! Join our Athens highlight tour with meze dinner and discover the beauty -and culinary excellence- of Athens after dusk!
Monastiraki square - credits: igabriela/Shutterstock.com
Morning: Meet the ancients in the National Archaeological Museum
National Archaeological Museum - credits: Lefteris Papaulakis/Shutterstock.com
Your second day in Athens will start with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. The National Archaeological Museum plays host to some of the most valuable artifacts of ancient Greece from across the country, dating back to prehistoric times up until late antiquity. From there, you can walk to Omonoia, a focal point for commercial and social life in Athens, despite the urban decay it has suffered in recent years. Walking along Athinas Str., you will be led to the Central Market of Athens, the place where you can find the freshest -and cheapest- meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits in the city. A stroll around the market is definitely worth your time, however, beware of the slippery floor and make sure you don’t wear open-toe shoes. While exploring the market, you’ll come across another hidden treasure of Athens, ‘Epirus’ tavern. Hidden away from the curious eyes of tourists and sandwiched between various butcher shops, ‘Epirus’ serves exquisite traditional dishes that represent Greek gastronomy in the best way possible. The tavern has a selection of different dishes every day -always including a couple of vegetarian options-, depending on the best ingredients that can be found in the market. If you want to taste authentic Greek flavors, lunch in ‘Epirus’ tavern is obligatory!
Afternoon: Feel the history in Monastiraki
Being already close to the area, spending your afternoon exploring the emblematic Monastiraki square, along with the monuments nearby is the most time efficient choice you can make. Located right at the heart of Athens’ city center, Monastiraki is a unique fuse of different time periods and cultures. From the center of the square, you can witness the Athenian past unfold around you. Across the Monastiraki metro station, the Tzistarakis mosque stands tall as a remnant of Athens’ Ottoman rule. Following the establishment of the modern Greek State, the Mosque was converted into an armory, a prison, and a storage room. Today, the Mosque houses part of the Greek Museum of Folk Arts. Right next to the mosque of Tzistarakis, you can find the Library of Hadrian, built in 132 CE under the command of Emperor Hadrian, becoming one of the most richly decorated buildings of ancient Athens and the largest library of Athens. A little further down the road from Monastiraki square, stands the Roman Agora. Consisting of a spacious courtyard surrounded by columns on each of its sides, the Roman Agora used to be the marketplace of the city during the Roman times where. Visitors can find the Tower of the Winds; a tall, octagonal building designed by the famous ancient Greek astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus to function as a water clock, a sundial, and a weather vane. By strolling through Monastiraki, you will find the essence of Greek history packed in just a few square meters!
Evening: Play in Psirri
No Athens guide would be complete without including the intriguing and alternative neighborhood of Psirri. After resting for a couple of hours, letting all the knowledge and experiences you have gathered sink in, we couldn’t think of a better way to spend your evening in Athens than roaming through Psirri, while taking in its rustic beauty and its wide selection of eateries, coffee shops, and bars. Don’t miss the opportunity to eat in a traditional ‘mezedopolio’ -which translate to ‘taverns that serve meze’- in Psiri, as the neighborhood is known for having some of the best in Athens. ‘Nikitas’ is one of our absolute favorites, due to its scrumptious food, friendly staff, and affordable prices. Its specialty dish is the meatballs, but everything they have is mind-blowingly tasty. If you’d like to eat fish and other seafood, opt for ‘Atlantikos’, where you can enjoy fish that is fried at the time of your order, fresh fries, and a home-made light sauce, all enclosed in soft bread roll; ‘Alantikos’ takes fish and chips on a whole different level! Being on vacation presents the perfect excuse to eat naughty food. For that reason, don’t hesitate to indulge in a dessert in ‘Ta Serbetia tou Psiri’, one of the most legendary pastry shops in Athens, established in 1997, where you can find traditional Greek desserts along with modern creations made with fresh, local ingredients and love. We can’t think of a sweeter way to end your day. Can you?
Night: Indulge in Greek wines
For your night wanderings, we recommend spoiling yourself with a Greek wine-tasting experience, where you’ll get to taste some of Greece’s best wines in ‘Caravin’, an outstanding wine bar in Thissio. Enjoy the friendly customer service and drink selected wine from a non-exhaustive wine list that changes every month for your palate only! Alternatively, to further enhance your experience in Athens and discover the city's hidden gems, indulge in our Athens night food tour and wine-tasting, which will give you the opportunity to eat and drink like a local in places you'd never find yourself!
Syntagma square - credits: lornet/Shutterstock.com
Morning: See the city highlights
Your last day in Athens can’t be anything short of spectacular, and you can achieve that by getting to see all of Athens’ highlights! Start your day experiencing the spectacular Athenian Trilogy on Panepistimiou Str., consisting of the National Library of Greece, the University of Athens and the Academy of Athens. Go to Syntagma Square, the central square of Athens, and watch the changing of the guards that takes place once every hour. The military unit partaking in the ceremony are referred to as the Evzones -also known as Tsoliades-, which is a special unit of the Hellenic Army constituted in 1868, guarding the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament. Right next to the Greek parliament is one of the seven entrances of the National Gardens, the public park that covers 38 in the center of Athens, which remains open from sunrise to sunset. Enjoy the escape to nature, marvel at the impressive vegetation of the park that includes rare plants from all over the world, and go to Zappeion, the imposing building in the middle of the gardens that houses important cultural events. From there, walk to the Panathenaic Stadium - or Kalimarmaro-, which has played host to Athens’ most significant athletic and cultural events throughout the centuries; it is one of the principal historic attractions of Athens and the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. After your visit to the Panathenaic Stadium, explore the Temple of Zeus -or what’s left of it- approximately 500 m south-east of the Acropolis, and about 700 m south of Syntagma Square. During the Roman period, the temple consisted of 104 colossal columns and held the title of the largest temple in Greece. Today, it is still a very important archaeological site of Greece, while sixteen of the original gigantic columns continue to stand proud in the heart of modern Athens.
Following your long walk across Athens’ highlights, you can catch your breath and grab some delicious lunch at ‘Ella Greek cooking’. The simplicity and purity of ‘Ella’s’ tastes give a glimpse into the Greek cuisine, while the shops also carry an array of traditional Greek products, such as different varieties of cheese and sausages from across the country. In our opinion, ‘Ella’s’ star dishes are the traditional cheese pie, made with homemade crispy phyllo dough, with a rich filling of local cheeses, and the traditional mash of fava, served with smoked pancetta and caramelized onions, while the addition of truffle oil gives it a sophisticated, contemporary twist. Having been fueled with energy, it is time for you to visit the most commercial street of Athens and indulge in retail therapy; your trip to Athens wouldn't be complete without some essential shopping. Stroll through Ermou Str. and discover local shops hidden between world-famous chain stores. Don’t miss the opportunity to buy natural Greek cosmetics from ‘Fresh Line’, an amazing Greek brand inspired by ancient Greece that offers a selection of homemade, organic products for your hair, face, and body. The quality of Fresh Line’s products along with their sublime scents make for amazing gifts for your loved ones, while the pre-made care packages offered both in stores and online are a lifesaver for last-minute buys
Head at your hotel and catch some Z’s before you take on your last evening adventure in Athens. Evening. Appreciate the ravishing beauty of Athens under the evening lights with a walk along Dionysiou Areopagitou Str., the longest pedestrianized pathway in Athens that offers a magical view of some of the most focal archaeological sites of Athens. The regal street was pedestrianized under the instructions of Melina Merkouri, a Greek actress, singer, and politician that served in the Minister of Culture in the 1980s. While walking on Dionysiou Areopagitou you will be able to witness the past f Athens blending into the present, with passing through an with the majestic monuments of the Acropolis and the Parthenon on your right, and the luxurious neoclassical buildings of the 19th and the 20th centuries on your left. Reward yourself for the walk by having dinner at ‘Hoocut’, where you can taste an “upgraded” version of souvlaki. ‘Hoocut’ is not like any other souvlaki shop in the city; The restaurant is large, consisting of four different "shops", a bakery, a grocery store, a grocery store, and a chophouse. In ‘Hoocut’, you can have souvlaki with 4 different kinds of meat: chicken, pork, beef and ewe, all cooked at the time of your order and then chopped in very small pieces. The pitas are kneaded and baked on the spot, while a series of dips are served to accompany them.
Since this is your ultimate night in Athens and your three-day trip was packed with things to do, see and experience, you can now relax and absorb the barrage of information you have accumulated throughout your stay in Greece. Opt for a rooftop bar to wind down with a tasty drink and a magnificent view of the city and the Acropolis hill. Thankfully, there is a wide selection of rooftop bars to choose from, with 'Couleur Locale', 'A for Athens, '360 Cocktail bar' being our top picks. Alternatively, you can enjoy fresh, homemade dishes, Cretan raki and live accordion music in a place that integrates old and new, 'Cafe Avvisinia' in the center of Avissinia Square, within the flea market of Monastiraki. With its old-time aesthetic being apparent through the antique furnishing and vintage decoration, ‘Cafe Avissinia’ creates a cozy atmosphere that makes it beloved to both visitors and locals.
Tip! Whichever night spot you may choose, don’t forget to make reservations. The city center gets particularly busy at night and the best spots get quickly occupied; you don’t want the last memory of your trip to Athens to be waiting in line!
Athens street overlooking the Hadrian Arch - credits: Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock
Athens: where the western civilization set its roots and evolution; the city that actively shaped the world and beams as a beacon for all humankind. Three days are not enough to explore the city of the goddess Athena, but it is enough time to relish a moment in this historical and vibrating place. Enjoy your time in Athens and keep in mind that our expert team of locals is here to offer unique experiences just for you!