by Katherine Poseidon and Katia Mavrikou
So you’ve just landed in Athens, and only have 48 hours to get to know the lively Greek capital. Though Athens is a bustling metropolis with extraordinary things to do that could keep you busy for weeks, give us two days and we can guide you through Athens’ must-sees.
If you’re lucky enough to be returning to Athens, or think you’ve already seen some of the main classics, check out the guide (further) below for suggestions for what to do in Athens for a second- (or third!) time visitor.
What to do if you visit Athens for the first time
Friday: Welcome to Athens!
6pm | Hit the Pavement: Walk or run in the city centre
Once you land at Athens airport and check into your hotel or AirBnB, relax a bit, and then head out for a little exercise to stretch out the kinks from the trip and get acquainted with the city. A run in the centre of Athens is totally doable and it’s one of the best ways to get the lay of the land. Plus it will help you beat the jet lag! We suggest you run or walk on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street around the Acropolis or inside the National Gardens (which is one of the best parks in Athens) for a start. For more suggested routes and some tips for runners read here; but you can always join a fun running tour with an insider!
8:30pm | Drink in the City: Enjoy the views from a rooftop bar
Once you’ve had a chance to get oriented, wind down with a drink at one of our favourite rooftop bars and enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Acropolis. (That view is an Athens attraction all on its own!) This way you'll relax and save your energy for a busy day tomorrow! If you’re feeling more energised and don't want to waste a second in the city, letting a pro guide you through the best of the Athens bar scene might be an ideal choice. You may want to check out some alternative tours here.
Saturday: Take in the Top Things to do in Athens
10am | Two-Wheeled Touring: An eBike tour in the historic Athens centre
For your first time in Athens, start off your day with an electric Bike Tour, one of the best ways to get a taste of the city and one of the most fun things to do, especially in the summer when it’s too hot to think about walking around all day! See all the sights of the city’s historic centre, familiarise yourself with the Athenian landscape, and take note of Athens’ sights you’d like to check out on your own later.
1pm | Souvlaki Sampling: Try the best of Greek street food
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, sample Athens’ most popular street food, souvlaki/gyros, wherever you feel inspired. We’ve collected our best tips to help you find your souvlaki soulmate - based on where you are and exactly what your taste buds are craving. Grab one to go and find a quiet place for some people watching, or sit and enjoy for an authentic Greek experience.
2.30pm | Cultural Pit Stop: Visit an Athens museum
Take a break from the heat of the day by checking out any one of Athens’ fabulous museums. We recommend the Acropolis Museum for the Athens newcomers, where it is easy to lose track of the time!
Athens has a museum for everyone! There's even one just for food! Read more here.
4.30pm | Recharge and Refresh: Coffee break at a museum cafe
Combine your museum trip with a visit to one of Athens’ best museum cafés, such as the café inside the Museum of Cycladic Art. These underrated Athens’ attractions are worth a stop all on their own. Have a look at our guide to find the one that best fits your mood. (The Acropolis Museum Restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, both with panoramic views of the real Acropolis, accompanied by a menu that features the best of Greek cuisine).
6pm | Excursion to the Countryside: A farm near the Athens Riviera
If you’ve had enough of the city for now, continue your day with an escape to an organic farm close to the Athens Riviera, one of the most unique things to do around Athens. Visit the farm to get up close and personal with Greek gastronomy, literally from farm to table. Pick your vegetables from the organic farm, feed the animals, and enjoy a seasonal meal made with the same fresh ingredients, all accompanied by live bouzouki music for an unforgettable evening. Read more about the 'Farm to Fork' Experience here.
11pm | Paint the Town Red: Nightlife in Athens
If you’re still going strong and want to experience the best of Athens bars and clubs, escape to the ‘Island’, an Athens nightlife landmark where the local and international rich and famous parade every summer on their way to the Greek islands (say Mykonos!). For more on the Athens' party scene read our dedicated post here.
Sunday: Escape the City centre!
9am | Sun, Sea & Sand: Hit the beaches of Varkiza and Vouliagmeni
Weather in Athens can get as hot as 40°C! The best way to survive in a heatwave is to head out of the busy Athens’ city centre and discover just how close the sea really is. Spend your morning relaxing on the beach, riding the waves, or trying a windsurf or SUP lesson at Yabanaki beach in Varkiza. If you're looking for a more intimate and luxurious beach experience we recommend Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni; whereas on a colder day, you HAVE to swim in the unique Vouliagmeni Lake. Discover the closest sandy beach near you here.
Sunday is a great day for brunch, don't you think? These are Athens top 5 breakfast restaurants!
9pm | Sweet Treats & Evening Strolls: Walk through Ancient Athens
Once you’re back in the city, enjoy your final night with a refreshing ice cream in hand, and take in the ancient sights you may have missed. A leisurely walk through the historic centre, Plaka and Monastiraki, brings you up close and personal with some of Athens' best ancient attractions, along with some great (modern!) people watching.
What to do if you are returning to Athens
For the visitors who are already acquainted with some of Athens’ must-sees, we’ve gathered some of the more unique things to do in Athens to convince you that it is always worth coming back!
Friday: Welcome Back to Athens!
6pm | Taste Testing: Revisit Greek cuisine
If you're feeling fresh after travelling and looking for something more active, try a belly dance class or private Greek Dance lesson to start off this trip with something extraordinary! Then, head for a special dinner.
If you’ve been to Athens before, chances are you’re well-acquainted with the incredible food offerings and eager to enjoy some old favourites, so why not celebrate your arrival with a delicious dinner at a top restaurant you didn't have time for the last time you were here? Make sure you visit at least one of our favourite gourmet restaurants (in random order) such as Funky Gourmet, CTC, Varoulko Seaside, Spondi, Cookoovaya, Hytra and Vezene, all offering Greek food in creative, delicious forms and variations.
Saturday: Catch up on your Athens Bucket List
10am | Get Moving: EXPLORE the other side of ATHENS
Check out your new neighbourhood or get reacquainted with the rhythm of the city by getting outside and getting active. Athens has a renowned graffiti scene around the areas of Psyri and Gazi and a stroll around these awesome neighbourhoods of Athens is a cool alternative to more mainstream sightseeing from your first visit. If you would like to join an authentic walking tour click here.
Alternatively, you can take it easy and grab your morning coffee around Agias Irinis square and before it gets too hot you can check out the area surrounding the Varvakeios Market at Athinas Street for fresh produce, cheese, nuts and other snacks (also great souvenirs for home!) If you want to make the most of your time you can join a tour of the Athenian food scene by day or night, or join a guided tour of the Varvakeios market and a cooking class; in this way you will be able to experience the entire range of Athens' tastes and aromas in a few hours.
Don't head back home empty handed! You HAVE to take with you these Greek goodies
1pm | Lunching in Athens: Greek Cuisine 2.0
By now you’ve probably tried a souvlaki, and may even have a favourite (share with us in the comments!), so if you're looking for something else this time we suggest you experience 'the Greek food Hall of Fame' and the best of what Greek and Mediterranean cuisine have to offer with our guide to healthy eating in Athens.
If you are looking for things to do with kids we have a great selection of fun activities here.
3pm | Alternative Culture: Off the beaten path museums
Once your tummy is happy and full, continue with a cultural stop at one of Athens' more off the beaten path museums - the Numismatic Museum, Lalaounis Jewellery Museum, or the Museum of the City of Athens are among the most unique places to visit in Athens, and as a bonus they all have delightful cafés where you can chill out with a coffee or a snack afterwards.
7pm | Bejewelled: behind the scenes at the benaki museum
When you visit Athens for a second time, it’s time to go behind the scenes, and we can get you there! Visit the Benaki Museum for a hands-on tour of their incredible historic jewellery collection. With the guidance of a professional archaeologist, this once in a lifetime experience brings you straight into contact with the rich heritage of craftsmanship in Greece. Once you’ve been up close and personal with the collection, top off your night with dinner at the Museum’s rooftop restaurant, featuring views of the Acropolis and the National Gardens, along with top-notch Greek cuisine.
11pm | Athens Pulse: Hit the nightlife scene
If you’re still up for a little more Athens adventure, hit the nightlife scene. You may already have a favourite bar or club, but if not we suggest you get an early cocktail by the sea at Balux Cafe Seaside and then enjoy some live entertainment at Estate Seaside @ Akrotiri. If you'd rather stay in central Athens, you might want to explore these hidden bars!
Sunday: Discover Greek Nature
10am | Hit the Trails (or the Waves): Athens excursions
Though Athens may sometimes seem like an urban jungle, it is actually ideally placed for excursions into nature. Escape the city with a getaway to the mountain of Parnassos, to walk at historic Thaermopylae, to discover the divine Delphi or to explore historic gorges and caves off the beaten path, with a picnic in a sheepfold and a combination of Greek classical heritage with nature. If you prefer the islands, the picturesque islands of Spetses and Hydra are only a short ferry ride from Athens. Both islands can be explored on foot, unless you want to ride a donkey (in Hydra!)! If you have even one extra day available you can escape further to the majestic mount Olympus, the magnificent Meteora or the exotic Lihadonissia via sea kayak. For more inspiration, check out our 9 must-do day trips from Athens!
8pm | farewell athens: last stroll by the sea side
Wrap up your visit by the seaside. Visit either Mikrolimano in Piraeus for a fish dinner by Papaioannou restaurant or enjoy some ouzo and fish meze on the other side of Piraeus, closer to the cruise ships' terminal, at Yperokeanio taverna. If what you crave is the Athens riviera, head down to Vouliagmeni and stroll around Kavouri finishing off with a traditional Greek meal at Louizidis taverna.
No matter how many times you've visited the Greek capital, there are always incredible things to explore in Athens. Strike out on your own in a new direction, or browse our tours for both creative sightseeing and experiences and new twists on classic attractions. And don't forget to let us know your 'must-sees' in the comments!
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Discover unique activities and make the most of your stay in Athens
Cover pic by Amphithoe/Flickr