Athens, the city where democracy and civilization were born, is considered to be the most ancient and historic capital of all Europe. There you can find lots of things to do, and it does not matter if you don’t like history, because, besides that, there are many different things you could do during your vacations there. Just keep reading and you will see!
Athens is the capital of Greece, a country that belongs to the European Union since 1981. It is characterized by all the monuments and archaeological sites that are located in the city, but also by its exceptional nightlife. Actually, some say that it is the most active city of all Europe by night. These are some of the reasons why it is a city that attracts so many tourists every year.
- Visit the Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square is surely the first thing you will visit when you get to Athens!
There you will find lots of people passing by, vendors selling the classic “kulurias” and a fountain in the center. There you can have a sit at some of the benches around, or you can just sit at the scales right in front of the Greek parliament and observe all the different people that pass over there. It is actually amazing!
It is considered to be the most central square in Athens, as just down the square there is the metro station Syntagma (Line 2 and 3). There are also many bus stops for buses that come from all the suburbs of Athens to the center, trolley stops and finally, there is the tram, which passes also over there.
You must know also that right in front of the Syntagma square you will find the Ermou street, where you will be able to find a wide range of shops, like for example, Zara, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti, Hondos Center, Tiger, and so on.
- Visit the Monument of the Unknown Soldier
When you go to the center of Athens you should take a look at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in front of the Greek parliament. For the Greeks, the monument represent the all the warriors that fought for Greece´s freedom.
The most impressive thing of this monument is the two soldiers, named “Evzoni” or “Tsoliades”, as they are called in Greek, which represent the Presidential Guard and protect the tomb 24/7. They are literally always there. Obviously, everyday there is the changing of the Guard, something that is worth seeing!
Focusing on the uniform, you will see that both “Tsoliades” wear a red hat, which represents the blood of the soldiers that supported the movement against the Turks. In addition, you will see that the hat also has some black strips, which mean the tears that Greek shed when they were under the dominance of the Ottoman regime. Then there is the skirt, which has 400 folds, representing the years Greece was under the Turks´ power and finally, there are the shoes, which have a big pompon in the front part.
- Visit the Zappeion Hall / Zappeio Mégaro
The Zappeion Hall is one of the most “green” places you will find in the center of Athens, as it is located next the National Garden, a place that is worth visiting too!
- Visit the National Garden / former Royal Garden
The National Garden is a place located in the center of Athens, but still makes you feel like you are in the countryside! As it was already mentioned, it is the most “green” place in the center of Athens.
Years ago, when the royal family wasn’t exiled yet, the garden was named the “Royal Garden” or the “Garden of Amalia”, in honor to the Queen Amalia.
Once you get inside, you will see many places where you can sit and have a snack. You will find trees, plants, lakes and even animals!
In addition, you will find a small library for children and a café also!
As it is located next to the Greek parliament you have to get off the station Syntagma (Line 3).
- Visit the Acropolis
The first thing that anyone should do when going to Athens should be to visit the Acropolis. It was built by the Athenians, who were following the lead of Perikles, just after beating the Persians in 490 BC at the battle of Marathon. The most known monument in the Acropolis is the Parthenon, the temple that was dedicated to the goddess Athena. The architects that were in charge of this monument were Kallikrates and Iktinos. In addition, there was the sculptor Pheidias, who was in charge of the decorations of the Parthenon.
Apart from the Parthenon, you will find many other monuments inside the Acropolis, like for example the Propylaia, which is the “gate” of the entire Acropolis and was built by Mnesikles, then there is the temple of Athena Nike, which was constructed by the architect Kallikrates, and finally the Erechtheion, mostly known by the 6 Karyatides, which are female statues that take the role of columns. Nonetheless, it must be mentioned that 5 of the real Karyatides are in the Acropolis Museum and 1 of them is in the British Museum. Those in the Acropolis are not the real ones.
- Visit the Mars hill (Areopagus)
The Mars hill is known because of its beautiful view. From there you can see the Acropolis from behind and most part of Athens. Actually, it is the perfect place to have a drink during the summer, as most people prefer to sit outside instead of closing themselves inside a bar. It is a public place and you don’t have to pay anything to go there! The one thing that everyone should be careful about is the rocks. There are so many rocks that the floor is irregular, thus, people have to be very careful when walking up there.
- Visit the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, known also as the “Herodeon”, is one of the most impressive amphitheaters of all Athens!
It is located on the Dionisiou Aeropagitou Street, exactly down the Parthenon. Festivals, concerts and theater presentations have been taking place there for the last decades. It has a capacity of 5.500 people.
By going there you will have the opportunity to experience how ancient Greeks used the place many of years ago!
To go there you just have to get off at the Acropolis station from line 2 and walk through the street were the Acropolis Museum is located!
The entrance fee always varies, depending on the type of presentation.
- Visit the Acropolis museum
After leaving the Acropolis, have a walk at the Dionisiou Aeropagitou Street and there you will find the Acropolis Museum. It opened during the summer in 2009. There were two architects in charge of the design of the museum, and those were Michael Photiadis and Bernard Tschumi.
It has been divided in three different floors. On the ground floor you will find the “Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis”. There you will notice that the floor has been made of glass, so that visitors can see the slopes found during the archaeological excavations. Around of the room you will find a variety of daily objects that were used by ancient Greeks.
On the first floor, there is the “Archaic Acropolis Gallery”. In this gallery, visitors have the opportunity to live a three dimensional experience, as they are able to observe all the sculptures from different angles. Something that is also benefitted by the natural light that gets into the room, as some of the walls is made of glass.
Finally, there is the third floor, where you will find the “Parthenon Gallery”. There is the frieze of the Parthenon in the center of the room, and visitors are able to observe real details, like for example figures of horses, other animals and humans from that time. It must be mentioned that the length of this frieze is 160 meters, and only 50 meters are in the Acropolis Museum, while 80 meters are in the British Museum and many other fragments are located in different museums around the world.
- Visit Philopappos hill
Philopappos hill is a wonderful place where you will be able to see Athens from different angles!
The first thing you will see is a monument, which was built to honor Philopappou, an exiled roman consul.
The hill brought many benefits to the soldiers, when defending the country in war times, because of its height. From there you can even see Piraeus neighborhood and the sea.
To go there you don’t have to pay any entrance fee, but you do have to put on some comfortable shoes, as you will have to climb steep scales!
- Visit the Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora is located in the center of Athens and there was carried out many daily activities such as commercial, political, social and administrative. It became a public area in the 6th century. After that, there were many renovations that gave the building the rectangular shape it has now.
Since 1859 many excavations have been carried out by lots of organizations such as the Greek Archaeological Society, the German Archaeological Institute and the American School of Classical studies. All this organizations have helped to the restoration and preservation of the Ancient Agora till today.
- Visit the Plaka district
At Plaka you will see many restaurants and small shops with leather shoes and bags, jewelry and even paints!
Plaka is one of the most ancient neighborhoods of all Athens and it is located below the Acropolis, which is considered to be the “sacred rock of the gods”. Thus, it is also known as the neighborhood of the gods. It is characterized by its neoclassical houses, buildings, small roads and jasmines.
Famous films have been filmed there, and not only greek ones, but foreign too. The most known cafés are the ones called “Yiasemi”, which means jasmine and th other one is “Anafiotika”. Those too located at some scales that you surely have seen in movies! There are also good quality restaurants like the “Electra Palace Restaurant” and other more traditional like for example the restaurant “Daphne´s”.
You must know also that there are some museums worth visiting like the Museum of Greek Folk Art, the Museum of Musical Instruments and finally for the children, there is the Hellenic Childrens Museum where they can go and play educational games!
- See the Tower of the Winds
The Tower of the Winds is located at the Roman Agora. It was built for many uses; some of them were to forecast the weather and to estimate time. Inside, objects like a water clock and a wind vane were found.
However, when Greece was under the Turkish dominance, this place was used as a place of character formation and spiritual retreat.
- Visit Psiri neighborhood
Psiri is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. It has many restaurants and bars where you can drink wine, eat traditional Greek food and even smoke narguile while listening to Greek live music.
It is located just beside Monastiraki. You just have to get off the metro at the Monastiraki station from the back side.
- Visit Anafiotika neighborhood
Anafiotika is located above Plaka, the oldest neighborhood in Athens. It is a very graphic place!
History says that Anafiotika was built to represent the architecture of the Cyclades islands during the Ottoman period. However, in 1950 many of the houses and old constructions were destroyed because of archaeological excavations.
When you go to Anafiotika you will find two churches: the first is dedicated to Saint George of the Rock, in Greek that would be Agios Georgios tou Vrachou, and the second church is dedicated to Agios Symeon.
Nowadays there are 45 houses left and most of them are shuttered and inhabited.
- Visit Monastiraki square
The Monastiraki square is one of the most representative places of Athens. Monastiraki is characterized by its Byzantine and Ottoman buildings that remember us the impact those empires had in Athens. Through the streets you can find small shops that sell souvenirs like for example, replicas of all the monuments in Greece, small packages with olives and olive oil, clothes with Greek phrases, leather shoes and bags and beauty products, like handmade soaps and body creams made with olives. You will also find shops with jewelry made of gold and silver. Some of the pieces are inspired by the ancient Greek culture and others are just handmade jewelry with precious stones. Finally, there are shops which sell vintage objects! You will find from old furniture to old books there.
Above the square you will find the church of Pantanassa. It was built when Greece was under the power of the Turks in 1678. Actually it was a Monastery where weaving activities took place, and it was in 1868 that the Monastery became “Monastiraki”.
- Visit the Roman Agora
The Roman Agora took that name, because it was built with a donation that Augustus and Julio Caesar gave to Greece. It was after the Herulae invasion during A.D. 267 that the commercial and administrative center of the city was moved from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora.
At the Ottoman period, churches, workshops and houses were constructed at the Roman Agora. However, many years later those properties were bought and destroyed by the Greek Archaeological Society, in order to do excavations.
to go there you just have to get off the metro at the station Monatiraki, as it is very close to the center of Athens.
- Visit the Varvakio fresh fruits, fish and meat market
Varvakio market is the central market of Athens. There you will find fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. It is characterized by its quality products at more affordable prices than the common markets offer in the rest of Athens.
It is located at the Athinas street, meaning that you can get off the metro station Monastiraki (Line 3) or Omonoia (Line 1 and 2).
- Visit Lycabettus hill
Lycabettus is the highest hill in all Athens! From there you will have the most beautiful and complete view of Athens.
At the top of the hill, you will find a church, dedicated to St. George and then, in front of it, you will be able to observe the city. There is also a restaurant – café named Orizontes, where you can sit for a snack or dine propperly.
To go up there you just have to get off the metro station Evaggelismos (Line 3). Then, you will go to the bottom of the hill and decide whether you want to climb the hill or take the cableway, which goes up and down every 30 minutes.
- Visit the Panathenaic Stadium / Kalimármaro stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium, known also as the “Kallimarmaro”, is located in front of the Zappeion Hall and is the only marble stadium in the entire world!
Focusing a bit on history, the Stadium was built in the 4th century B.C., as there were going to take place the “Panathenaic Games”, which were dedicated to the Goddess Athena.
It is strongly related to the Olympic Games, because there is where the Olympic Flame lights up and starts its journey to the host country.
- Visit the temple of Zeus Olympios
The temple of Zeus Olympios is known as one of the most impressive marble buildings of Greece!
The temple was constructed by Pisistratus, a tyrant of Athens that helped the city come to live and become important. However, he couldn’t finished the temple, and it was the Roman Hadrian that finished the construction, as he assured back then, that he had a connection with Zeus.
Apart from Zeus´sanctuary, you will also find the temple of Apollo Delphinios, located at the south of the Olympion.
- Make a bus open tour by the Athens city.
This is the most fun and easy way to see the most important sights of all Athens!
Many bus companies offer this sightseeing service by bus. There are three types of routes; the first one is the route that shows you all the monuments and important places at the center of Athens only. The next option is to take the bus that again shows you the center of Athens, but it also takes you to the port of Piraeus. Finally, there is the third route, which takes you to Athens, Piraeus and Glyfada too! Meaning that, you will be able to swim on one of the beaches at Attica.
The tours include booklets and an audio guide with information so that you can understand what you are seeing. Wi-Fi is also a service included.
- Have a walk at Flisvos Marina
First of all, you have to select a sunny but fresh day to have a walk at Flisvos Marina, because of the fact that it is located at a humid area, and if it is hot, the visit will not be pleasant.
The first thing you will find there is a port, where lot of yachts and boats will be docked at the dock and then, you will see many restaurants, cafeterias and shops located around the port. Some of the restaurants are TGI Fridays, Breeze Pasta and Pizza, Origami Sushi Bar and Mare Marina Restaurant. There are also café – bars, where you can go for a coffee, a drink or even for sweets, such as Haagen Dazs, Cruiser Café – bar and Due Cavalieri Seaside Bar.
- Visit the Floating Naval Museum – Averof battle ship.
After having a walk at Flisvos Marina you should visit the Floating Naval Museum “Georgios Averof battleship”, as it is located just beside Flisvos Marina.
Focusing a bit on history, the ship was acquired after the Greco-Turkish War in 1897, because the combat fleet needed reinforcement. Georgios Averof deposited one third of the total cost so that the Greek Government would be able to acquire the ship. The National Fleet Fund paid the rest of the money. After the acquisition, the battleship G. Averof was the protagonist of many battles, like for example the battles of “Elli” and “Limnos”. That is how the battleship became a symbol to the Greek people.
As years went by, the ship was renovated and nowadays it is the floating naval museum that we know!
- Visit the natural Vuliagmeni Lake.
At the Vuliagmeni Lake you will live a thermal experience without having to leave Attica!
The water there have many properties and minerals like sodium, iron and chlorine, which are considered to be good for the skin and because of its high water temperature it is aalsogood for the musculoskeletal system. While taking a bath in the lake you will be able to have a personal peeling session made by small fishes named Garra Rufa, which live permanently in the lake.
There you can have lunch, drink coffee or have a drink at the restaurant. There are also programs for outdoor training and activities like yoga, swimming, water aerobics, and snorkeling.