Athens, Greece is one of those cities that blew away our expectations. We were most looking forward to learning and experiencing the city’s rich history, but what we found was delicious food and drink, friendly people, breathtaking views, and fun nightlife. So far, it’s one of our favorite cities in the world!
We only had 48 hours to explore the city before we headed to Mykonos, but we found there are 10 things you must do in Athens.
10 Things You Must Do in Athens:
1.) Explore the Acropolis
This is a given for any visit to Athens and if you do it right, it will be the highlight of your visit!
The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage site made up several large monuments and buildings that date back to the 5th century BC. The Parthenon (above) is the most famous of the Acropolis sites, but we really loved the Erectheion (below), which still has amazing detail in the columns.
Another of the ruins at the Acropolis is the Temple of Athena Nike. It sits a little higher than some of the other buildings and tourists can get quite as close.
When purchasing your ticket for the Acropolis, you should consider the multi-site ticket that provides entrance into many of the other ruins in Athens. This will get you the most bang for your buck!
2.) See the Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard takes place at the top of every hour in front of the Parliament building near Syntagma square.
The soldiers guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing ceremony really is a sight to see.
The ceremony lasts for about 20 minutes. Make sure you arrive early so that you can get a good spot for photographs. We’ve also read that on Sundays at 11:00 am there is a more official ceremony that draws in even larger crowds.
3.) Eat a Traditional Greek Meal
Eating and drinking are some of the best things we did in Athens (and throughout Greece)! Greek salads, cheeses prepared in a variety of ways (especially the spicy cheese), fresh seafood, and Greek wine galore.
The best part about the amazing Greek meals? Everything is super fresh and the prices are amazing!
4.) Check out the Street Art
We loved checking out the street art around Athens and there is such a variety. The fighting gorilla street art was one of our favorites and is located in a corner by some small shops along Athinas Street.
Our group of friends couldn’t stop laughing about the next street art. It’s also located along Athinas Street and we passed it every time we walked from our hotel to the main square in Athens.
5.) Try Ouzo at the Oldest Bar in Athens
You’ll definitely want to stop by Bretto’s Bar, located along Kidathineon Street in the Plaka area. It’s the oldest distillery in Athens and definitely the most colorful!
You may not end up liking ouzo, but at least you need to give it a try! Ouzo is a traditional drink that is popular in Greece and other nearby countries. It has a flavor similar to licorice. If it’s not your thing (WC loved it, I did not), they have a full menu posted on their Facebook page with plenty of other options!
6.) Pose at the Olympic Stadium
Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece is home to the first modern Olympic games and it is definitely a must do in Athens!
The stadium was used for the 1896 Olympic games, as well as the 2004 Olympic games. However, its history is much richer than that as Panathenaic stadium is actually located on the site of an ancient stadium that dates back to 330/329 BC!
The entrance fee is 5 € and is separate from the combined ticket for other Athens archaeological sites. It is definitely worth the small fee, even if just for the fun photos!
We’ve also read that the stadium is open in the morning from 7:30 to 9:00 for jogging. We’d love to do that on our next trip so we can say we jogged where Olympians have competed! 🙂
7.) View the Acropolis from a Rooftop Bar
There are so many restaurants and bars in Athens with a gorgeous view of the Acropolis. We literally never got tired of the view!
We snapped the above picture while sitting outside at the MS Roof Garden. Another popular bar for its Acropolis view is the A for Athens hotel. That spot also had a fun DJ when we were there in the evening!
8.) Visit the Other Ruins
There are so many other amazing ruins in Athens besides the Acropolis. You’ll definitely want to purchase the multi-site ticket when heading to the Acropolis so that you can see all of them.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus (above and below) is one of those ruins you won’t want to miss. There were hardly any tourists at the site while we were there and you’re so close that you get a great perspective on the size of the columns.
If you can only find time for one other ruin after the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus, try to get to the Ancient Agora. This site includes the Temple of Hephaestus and the Stoa of Attalos (below), among other ruins.
The Roman Agora (different from the Ancient Agora, pictured below) is another great spot to get up close and personal with the ancient ruins. This is located in the heart of Athens and an easy walk from pretty much everywhere.
There are many other archaeological sites than just these that we mentioned, so make sure to dedicate enough time to check out as many as possible!
9.) Browse the Local Markets
Just outside our Athens hotel (Athens Center Square Hotel) was a super local market with all kinds of breads, fresh fruits and vegetables, and olives galore!
Prefer souvenir shopping instead? Head over to the Plaka area and you’ll find dozens of shops and restaurants.
10.) Enjoy the Nightlife
And when we say “enjoy the nightlife,” we also mean during the day! Many bars in Athens are open all day long and late into the night (the latest we stayed out was 4:00 am).
One of our favorite spots for a unique cocktail was Couleur Locale in Monastiraki and “locale” is the right word because this bar is definitely popular with the locals. Along with delicious cocktails, they also have a great coffee selection. Note: It is a little hard to find, but once you find the entrance, you’ll take an elevator up to the top floor.
Bretto’s (mentioned earlier) is a fun stop in the evening but expect a crowd! We squeezed in near the bar for one drink each. I tried the Pikromantola, a liqueur with bitter almond flavor (tasted very strong to me, haha). WC tried the Ouzo Gold with is 42% alcohol!
Our favorite evening spots were Baba au rum and six d.o.g.s. The cocktails were great at Baba au rum and we ended up staying for several hours. Six d.o.g.s. stays open really late so it’s great last stop, especially if its near your hotel. They also have the cutest swings that you can hang out on while drinking.
Your Athens Bucket List
Have more time in Athens? You may want to ride the funicular or hike to the top of Mount Lycabettus. We also wish we could have visited the National Observatory. The presentations are in Greek, but you can contact the reservation center in advance to request an English tour!
Enjoy Athens- you will love it!
Enjoy our blog post? Pin it to share with others!