Things to do in Athens
With a great historical legacy which dated back to about 2000 B.C. and its sophisticated architecture and philosophy, Athens definitely doesn’t run short on attractions and things to do. For a traveler every corner of the immense city holds something unique and special, offering a glimpse into the Athenian lifestyle and its progress over time. The beauty of Athens breaks through every street corner, every coffee shop, tavern, even in the bad or sketchy neighborhood, there is still something interesting happening. The world is huge when comes to traveling and we all have so little time and so much to see- making the most of your stay in a foreign place, exploring as much as possible of its culture will most definitely pay off. While in Athens, travelers have an array of thing to cast their eyes over ranging from land attractions, museums, parks, restaurants, day cruises, and islands.
Here are some honorable mentions:
1. Acropolis, Parthenon and Acropolis Museum
Not to be missed while in Athens, Acropolis and its impressive Parthenon will definitely impress even the ones less interested in history lessons. Housing remarkable relics that simply defy times through their astonishingly well-preserved condition, Acropolis Museum invites its visitors into a time-traveling experience back to 480 B.C.
2. Mount Lycabettus
Together with the Acropolis rocks, Mount Lycabettus offers a breath-taking view over the illuminated Athens at night. Being the highest point of the city, 277 meters more precise, the mount is easily accessible by the Lycabettus Hill Cable Car. In the evening, street artists perform live music on the steps leading to the summit of the mount promoting a relaxed romantic atmosphere while visitors can enjoy a drink and a lovely dinner with one of the best views in Athens at the Orizontes Restaurant.
3. Plaka and Monastiraki Neighborhoods
Wandering thru Plaka and Monastiraki's windy streets, buying souvenirs and antique artistic items, casting eyes over the vivid graffiti street art, sampling Athens’ most-loved dishes are definitely some of the most enjoyable experiences in Athens that one must try out.
4. The National Gardens and Zappeion Hall Garden
Knows as The Royal Gardens or the Garden of Amalia, The National Gardens has 7 entrances and together with Zappeion Park occupies an area of 24 hectares in the in the center of the Greek capital, Athens. With such a generous surface, the park is harmoniously decorated with vegetation collected from all corners of the globe, some rare plants and encloses some ancient ruins and superb mosaics. The park has six lakes that are home of a numerous duck population, a small zoo and some beautiful representative statues and busts of politicians, kings, and historians. Jogging and feeding the ducks in this urban oasis could be the best way to start your adventure in Athens.
5. Museums in Athens
With such a rich history, museums pop-up at every street corner in Athens and as there is never enough time to visit them all, here are some that should be on your bucket list: Acropolis Museum (I mentioned it before, but this is just to stress the importance of it) The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Cycladic Art, Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, National Archaeological Museum, War Museum, Museum of Greek Popular Instruments, The Hellenic Motor Museum, Greek Historical Costume Museum, The Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, Museum of the Ancient Greek Technology and nonetheless the Museum of Greek Folk Art.
6. Syntagma Square - witness the change of the guards
The epicenter of all the demonstrations, the vibrant Plateia Syntagmatos or Syntagma Square is the center of Athens and a preferred hang-out place for the young Athenians. Governed by the imposing Hellenic Parliament building, Syntagma Square holds the Monument of the Unknown Soldier which is guarded by a special unit of the Greek Army, by the name of The Evzones or Tsoliades. When the change of the Evzones take places is actually a spectacle and people often find themselves absorbed in their show.
7. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)
The SNFCC is world-class cultural, educational and recreational urban complex that includes new facilities for the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, located within the Stavros Niarchos Park. The complex was designed by the architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop and finished in 2016 for a 750 million Euro production cost.
8. Temple of Poseidon
Located about 65 km south of Athens and with a dramatic history, The Temple of Poseidon is one of the most remarkable sites of the Hellenic culture and should not be missed in your Greek adventure. The Temple offers a fascinating view of the blood moon rising over the Temple’s ruins. If in Athens, don’t miss this one out- the next total lunar eclipse falls on the night of 21st of January 2019, followed by another one on the 26th of May 2021.
9. Pireaus and its harbors
Although many people only pass through it to catch their ferry, Piraeus is a dazzling place for a romantic walk and late dinner with a view over the sea or the luxury yachts docked in its precious harbors, especially the Mikrolimano and Pasalimani with its gem Marina Zeas. The waterfront of Piraeus is sprinkled with many restaurants, cocktail bar, each of them competing for the best view of Piraeus. Apart from the big cruise ships and ferries, tourists can book day cruises around the Saronic Gulf or rent a boat for the day and sail into the sunset.
10. The Temple of Zeus, The Arch of Hadrian and the Library of Hadrian
The Arch was constructed only with marble from Mount Pentelicus in the honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a sign of gratitude for his love for Athens. The Roman Emperor Hadrian is known for his exquisite taste in architecture, literature, and philosophy and some of his most admired creations are Hadrian’s Wall in the United Kingdom and the Temple of Venus in Rome, Italy. During his 21 years of reign, Hadrian designed, build and reconditioned hundreds for structures and a visit to the Library of Hadrian is an interesting experience.
11. Philopappos Hill
On top of the Mouseion Hill in Athens, what they call the Philopappos Hill lays an ancient Greek mausoleum and monument dedicated to Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a Prince of the Kingdom of Commagene and close friend of Roman Emperor Trajan and his heirs. Philopappou Hill en the Hill of the Muses, the Hill of the Nymphs, and the Pnyx. People often come here for the scenic sunset and the great view over the city of and yes for the perfect selfie location.
12. Socrates' Prison
Carved into the rocky slopes of the Hill of the Muses, the controversial bedrocks are believed to be the place where Socrates was imprisoned before his trial in 399 BC and some even believe it is the place where Socrates committed his forced suicide by drinking Hemlock. Other tend to believe they are actually ancient Greek baths. It is sure that during the Second World War the building was used to hide the Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum treasures.
13. Potter round the Ancient Agora
At the slopes of the Acropolis, Ancient Agora was the gathering place of the Ancients Greek for different aspects of life from governmental functions and important decisions making to spiritual events and, open markets and even as a social gathering spot for people just to hang out together.
14. Admire the Temple of Hephaestus/Theseion
Located in Ancient Agora and tribute to the Greek God of Volcanoes, the Hephaestus Temple, also known as Theseion Temple has over 2400 years and is one of the best-preserved temples out there. Throughout its time, the building served as a temple, Greek church, and museum. Hephaestus was a god of many talents and he was known as the patron god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metallurgy, fire, and volcanoes.
15. Herod Atticus Odeon
Sitting beneath the slopes of Acropolis, Herod Atticus Odeon is Athens’s most majestic stages and probably the most dramatic in the whole world. The open-air theatre is the main venue for the yearly Athens and Epidaurus Festival and hosts a range of unforgettable performances from Greek tragedies, to ballets and arias. With such an impressive structure and a capacity of 5000 people, the theatre is a beloved concert location for many artists and had on stage in its past performers like Maria Callas, Edith Hamilton, Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Sylvie Guillem and Tokyo Ballet.
16. Temple of Olympian Zeus
As we can easily deduct from its name, the Temple is dedicated to Zeus and it is also known as Olympieion or Columns of the Olympian Zeus and its building was initiated by Athenian tyrants in the year 6th century BC, only to be finished by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.
Recently discovered in 1861, the settlement was home of some potters who lived there at about 3000BC and through the 6th century AD was used as a cemetery. Today is open for the public to stroll around it, observe its ruins and grave marks and there is also a small interesting museum.
18. Panathenaic Stadium
Initially built in 330BC for a racecourse, the stadium was rebuilt completely out of marble in 144AD and had a capacity of 50.000 seats. The Stadium lives some important modern events by hosting the Zappas Olympics in 1870 and 1875, the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896, Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004, the opening ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games and occasionally it served as a venue for artistic performances.
19. Athens Olympic Complex
The Olympic Athletic Center of Athens was built in 1982 and has hosted the Mediterranean Games in 1991, the World Championship in Athletics in 1997 as well as other athletic and social events. After it was redesigned for the Olympic Games in 2004 for about 9 billion Euro, the stadium was left rotting since then.
20. Onassis Cultural Centre
Opened in 2010, OCC, also known as the Stegi of Literature and the Arts, earned its reputation as one of the most reputable cultural centers of Athens. The center houses exciting artistic performances and pioneering productions, art galleries, educational curriculums, as well as open discussions over all aspects of life, art and education, somehow as a small resemblance of the Ancient Agora in the ancient times.
21. Athens & Epidaurus Festival
Split into two phases, the festival begins in Athens from 1st of June until 31st of July followed by Epidaurus as of 29th of June until 18th of August and brings together some of the most appreciated artists from all over the world. The festival became a yearly highly anticipated tradition that has been delighting the Greeks and even other worldwide travelers for more than 60 years.
22. Theatre of Dionysos
Erected as a tribute to the Greek God Wine of Drama, the theatre hosted the first plays in Athens, hence its reputation to be the world's first theatre. With a generous capacity of 17.000 spaces and brilliant acoustics, the theatre was the preferred venue of the Ancient Greeks for celebrating the Dionysia, which was a festival dedicated to Dionysos having as a centerpiece the theatrical performances of dramatic tragedies and comedies.
23. Greek Churches and Greek Monasteries
The rich history of Athens can be best surprised thru its unique blend of architecture and where better than in the various styles the Greek Churches took shape that stands as testimony to the many changes the large cosmopolitan metropolis has undergone. From Byzantine, Medieval, Ottoman to Neoclassical architectural styles, there are thousands of churches and monasteries all over Greece and all of them are defined by lush interiors decorated with exquisite wall painting, frescoes, murals, mosaics, and gorgeous holy icons all aromatized with frankincense and myrrh notes. Some of the most appreciated churches and monasteries in Greece are: Mount Athos, Monasteries of Meteora, Church of Ekatontapiliani (Paros), Monastery of Hozoviotissa (Amorgos), Church of Megalochari (Tinos), Monastery of Saint John (Patmos), Santorini Cathedral and the list can go on. While you wander on Athens historical streets you have the chance to say a prayer in one of these churches: Kaisariani Monastery, Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, Catholic Cathedral of Athens, Agios Georgios and Agios Dionysios, Agios Dimitrios, Agia Marina and the church of the Holy Apostles (Thyssio); and this only to name a few.
24. Weekly Markets
One of the best experiences while in Athens is strolling through the rich markets where farmers display and verbally advertise their fresh natural crops. In these markets, you can find everything you need, from fresh vegetable, fruits, meat, fish, even electric appliances, clothes, pieces of jewellery, antiques and art pieces, literally everything…is like shopping on eBay or Amazon, but much better as you get to sample as well. There are weekly markets in every region of Athens but some of the best ones are: Monastiraki Flea Market, Platia Avissinias – Square Market, Evripidou Street Market, Central Market Varvakeios Agora, Exarhia Weekly Market, Piraeus Flea Market, Piraeus Central Market, Antique Market in Avissynias Square, Ermou Street Clothes Shopping, Aeolou, and Agios Markos Streets and the list can go on…
25. Open air cinemas
Greek people love cinemas, after all, they have invented the Theatre. Here are some of the most visited open-air cinemas: Cine Paris, Thision Open Air Cinema, Cine Psiri, Dexameni Outdoor Cinema.
26. Tours and activities
There are hundreds of tours and activities available for the public to suit everyone, from Full Day trips, Half Day Trips, Multiple Day Trips, City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Tours, Walking and Biking Tours, culinary experiences and drinks to day cruises, sailing and all sorts of water Tours around the azure waters of the Saronic Gulf. One of the most interesting things one can do in Athens is trying an alternative way to travel and explore like the island-hopping day cruises available from the city’s most beautiful harbors and get acquainted with the Greek islands.