by Katia Mavrikou
If you are travelling to Greece this summer and visiting Athens even for a stop-over, keep reading.
If you are planning a 'staycation' in the city, get out of the trap of 'been there done that'; this one is also for you!
You could spend a lifetime exploring the historical capital of Europe, but whether it’s just for a few hours or a few weeks (or seek the perfect Athens' itinerary for a 48-hour stopover!), this summer we’ve got you covered with this shortlist of 15 top things to do in Athens, the hometown of Goddess Athena, whatever the weather (windy or super hot!)
So here it goes, in random order for you to decide what should be on your 'what to do in Athens' schedule:
#1 Visit the Acropolis Museum | Acropolis
I bet you saw this one coming. It's probably in the top 3 pieces of travel advice you'll receive for things to do in Athens. But you'll be surprised how easy it is to get stuck with other tourist attractions and activities and leave this one out of your schedule so, trust me, just do it on your first day out of the hotel. You can spend from one to three hours in the museum, depending on your pace and level of interest. Should you need a guided tour (to make the most of it) have a look at one of our hand-picked guided city walks .
Tip: Take a coffee or lunch break on the top floor of the Acropolis museum. Alternatively, enjoy a light lunch at the cute Athinai Bistrot just across the street with a view of the Acropolis and exciting people watching!
Explore the Acropolis of Athens
with a local insider
#2 Sample (and buy) Greek produce | Monastiraki
Greece is a foodies' paradise so don't leave without sampling Greek food products such as honey, herbs and loads of goodies (olives, sweets, mastic, nuts... the list is endless!). If you get the chance to visit a local 'laiki,' open air produce market, in your neighbourhood don't hold back on stocking up on fruit and veggies for healthy snacking. If you're renting an AirBnB flat you can go a step further and buy fish and meat from the central market -Varvakeios Agora- so you can act like a local for a day!
Tip: Best herbs at 'Bahar' on Evripidou street - Best nuts and goodies at 'Carpo' and 'Era nuts' in Kolonaki. Don't leave without buying Greek thyme and pine honey, ideally directly from the producer. Here is a list of the best souvenirs to buy from Greece before you head back home!
Find your closest 'laiki' open air produce market (and more) in our guide to healthy eating in Athens.
#3 Eat Greek gyros and souvlaki | Monastiraki
#4 Stroll around Athens' attractions | Acropolis and Plaka
Assuming you are 'done' with the Acropolis Museum and have visited 'the holy rock' (aka the Acropolis' Erechtheion and the Parthenon) there is still plenty of interesting sightseeing and 'instagram-worthy' walking to do, around Plaka, Monastiraki and the Acropolis area, all in central Athens. A few ideas are the Roman Agora, the Temple of Hephaestus, Areopagus and Pnyx. For more off-the-beaten path walking and sightseeing (besides the Acropolis) read here.
Tip: Grab an ice cream to 'cool down' after the tzatziki from your rich souvlaki and take a stroll around Athens' off-the-beaten path attractions to digest it all. Don't forget to wear a hat!
Athens Orientation: Join an alternative tour for your first day in Athens
#5 Swim in the Athens Riviera | Varkiza, Vouliagmeni and Kavouri
One of the best things about Athens is that you can actually have a Greek vacation without leaving the country's capital. The city has a number of organised and non-organised beach heavens that will make you feel you have escaped to a Greek island (weather permitting). So, our suggestion is to take a morning or afternoon swim at one of Athens' organised beaches.
Tip: Yabanaki beach in Varkiza is the longest organised sandy beach in Athens and quite affordable. The beach features bars, restaurants, cafés, sports, even massage (!) to keep you there till late at night (have you ever considered a night swim?!)
Make the most of your day on the beach in Athens
#6 Escape to an island | Hydra, Spetses, Aigina and Poros
Living in Athens ruins you for life - one of the reasons being that you can escape to a Greek island paradise with just a short ferry ride; in fact there are a number of fun day trips from Athens (Greek mountains included!) . The islands of Hydra and Spetses are ideal for those who are looking for a picturesque Greek chic island trip and who don't mind walking (or donkey-riding), as the islands don't allow any wheel-vehicles!
Tip: Check here for ferry tickets to the nearby Greek islands.
Escape Athens for a day! Day trip suggestions you will love
#7 Enjoy Athens' nightlife | Central Athens and Athens' Riviera
Athens nightlife is legendary so do not leave the city without sipping at least a cocktail on a rooftop bar with an Acropolis' view, a sunset drink in one of the city's beach bars or a late night drink at one of Athens party spots (like Island in Varkiza by the Athens' Riviera).
#8 Catch a movie at an outdoor cinema | Syntagma and Thissio
It's hard to watch a movie while the Acropolis stands right there in front of you all beautifully lit, we know... (!) This is pretty much what you should expect from the all-time-classic open-air Thision Cinema. Equally beautiful are the jasmine-scented gardens of the cinema in Dexameni in Kolonaki, Aegli in Zappeion, Ciné Paris (a gorgeous rooftop in Plaka) and Ria by the seaside in Varkiza. Either way, don't leave the city without watching a movie under the stars; it is really a unique experience.
Tip: Movie (check) -- stars (check) - beer (check) - popcorn (check) - smoke (possibly check). Tickets: EUR 8. Value for money.... Pick your closest open-air cinema in Athens from our list here.
#9 Eat Greek fish | Piraeus
The choices of Greek fish restaurants around the majestic Greek port are top notch. Starting from affordable options like vintage Margaro next to the Naval Academy (walking distance from the cruise ship port) for fried shrimp, crawfish, red mullet, horiatiki Greek salad and wine from the barrel (just that), Vassilenas on Aitolikou street for an elegant and affordable Greek menu and remarkable wine list (just opposite the cruise ship port), or jaw dropping celebrity Michelin starred Varoulko Seaside in Mikrolimano. The fish-master Yiannis is my father's favourite for decades and Papaioannou in Mikrolimano is usually my hubby's choice. That's a (really) tough call....
Tip: If you're visiting Piraeus on a cruise ship I suggest you try an alternative grilled sardine lunch in Yperokeanio, only a short walk from the cruise ship terminal in Piraeus. The Greek mezze choices are delicious...
#10 Watch a performance | Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Epidaurus ancient theatre
The Greek Festival is the country's premier cultural event and has been organised for more than half a century, featuring top notch names from the local and international music and theatre scene. Performances in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the ancient theatre of Epidaurus are a unique, once in a lifetime experience not to be missed.
Tip: Check the Greek Festival's performances here.
#11 Watch the sunset at the Temple of Poseidon | Sounion
Drive to Sounion all the way along the Athens' Riviera up to the temple of Poseidon for striking scenery and a breath-taking sunset.
Tip: Try to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.
A few of the best things to do in Athens are actually out of Athens historical centre
#12 Eat in -at least- one of Athens’ gourmet restaurants | Athens and Piraeus
Athens has a variety of noteworthy gastronomic establishments worth a visit. Discover restaurants such as Funky Gourmet, CTC, Spondi, Cookoovaya, Hytra, Vezene, Varoulko Seaside and Ithaki by the sea, offering Greek food in creative, delicious forms and variations.
Tip: These high-end restaurants are very popular, so don't forget to make a reservation!
#13 Drink Greek wine | Athens
Whatever you do, don't leave this country without a sip of the Santorini Asyrtiko wine. This variety is the best this country has to offer (in terms of wine), grown in the volcanic soils of Santorini.
Tip: White wine in the summer is a 'must,' so try any label from the Hatzidakis winery. Pair with fish and seafood in every form.
The best things to do for wine lovers traveling from Athens to Santorini
#14 Visit a museum off-the-beaten path | Athens
Whether it’s Benaki, Cycladic Art, Byzantine, National Archeological Museum, Numismatic or Lalaounis Jewellery museum Athens offers a variety of world class museums that are often overlooked by visitors, guides and critics, and even locals.
#15 Learn something new | Varkiza Beach
Make the most of your vacation and learn something new like windsurfing or stand-up paddling! Sharpen your photography skills with one of our hand-picked activities that combine superb sightseeing and learning. Take a Greek dance lesson with your friends or learn how to belly dance and return from your holiday with memories for a lifetime.
Tip: It's easy to organise, cheaper than you think and it will be very rewarding, I promise... Just go for it!
So, that's it dear travelportees...! Hope we have injected you with plenty of inspiration!
As always, opinions expressed here are our own, from the heart, and not at all promotional!
Cover Picture by Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni via Facebook
This map of Athens sums up all of the above...