Athens is a magical mixture of ancient and modern history, an “oleo-graph” of European -at least- civilization, with an artificial flavor and a spice of colorful light. But what can you see in a day? Athens, the capital of Greece, with almost 5 million citizens, is a Metropolis of the western and eastern civilization, and there are plenty of options for what to do while visiting. The only sure thing is that no matter how many days you will stay, you have to come again and again to understand this beauty of the Mediterranean sea better.
Below we present some essential visits you can include while you are in Athens.
Well, Acropolis remains the most popular area in Athens owing to the majestic ancient monument, completed by the Parthenon and the presence of the Acropolis Museum.
Under the sacred rock of the Acropolis, visit the ancient Theater of Dionysos and the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, where every summer concerts take place (now with the measures against covid 19, double-check the dates of the shows). Υou’ ll be inspired by the way ancient Greeks perceived art.
The Acropolis Museum is a must-see when visiting Athens and genuinely evocative experience. It is rated as one of the world’s primary museums and contains more than 4000 finds from the Acropolis monuments. (Visiting Hours: 8 am – 4 pm).
National Archeological Museum, located on October 28th str., near Alexandras avenue, is another museum you should visit. From the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity, more than 20,000 exhibits present a Greek civilization’s spectacle.
Some of the exhibits you have to see are The Kore and Kouros, The Antikythera Mechanism, The Mask of Agamemnon, Tombs of the Kerameikos, The Horse and the Jockey. (Visiting hours Monday: 1 pm – 8 pm Tuesday – Sunday: 8 am – 8 pm).
At the eastern side of Acropolis, at the heart of the historical center, stands Plaka.
A stroll through the narrow but elegant streets takes you back in the eras and the combinations of conflicting civilizations. The scenery includes old, aristocratic houses, flowers, gardens, beautiful churches and bohemian, romantic places, creating the ideal settings.
Mnisikleous street is the most popular area in Plaka. There are cafes and taverns all along the white stairs that climb uphill to the charming spot of Anafiotika. You can drink coffee and taste some homemade pastries; try selecting small dishes served as appetizers -in Greece, they call the meze-, and of course, drink ouzo or wine.
As you walking down to Monastiraki (at the northern end of Plaka), you can find the Roman Market (Agora). It is connected to the Ancient Market in Thissio, through a paved path.
Although the Ancient Market was the place of political gatherings for the Athenians, the Roman Market was a marketplace, an open market, a large, open-air courtyard surrounded by arcades on all four sides.
The most famous building in the Roman Market is the Tower of the Winds. This eight-sided Pentelic marble tower was built between the Second and First Century BC by Andronicus of Cyrrhus. It’s a combination of the water clock, sundial, and a weathervane. (Open hours from 8 am to 3 pm).
Monastiraki district is full of narrow streets and small old buildings.
You will find the main entrance to the famous flea market at the square, which in the early days was called Yousourum.
The primary market is at Avyssinias square at the end of Hephaestou street. You can arrive at Monastiraki by train (line 1) or by metro (line 3).
Strolling down from Monastiraki, you’ll find Thissio, one of the city’s oldest and popular neighborhoods. You can find open-air cafes, restaurants, and bars along the pedestrian streets of Apostolou Pavlou and Irakleidon.
You can explore the Ancient Market, a flat area bordered by the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis and the hill of Areopagus in the south and the hill of Kolonos Agoraios in the west. The Ancient Market is open every day from 8 am to 8 pm.
In the heart of Athens
very close to Syntagma square and just across Dionissiou Areopagitou str., you’ll notice the Olympion Archeological Park. There stands a vast ruined temple dedicated to Zeus and the 18th m high Arch of Hadrian. A triumphal arch made of beautiful Pentelic marble.
The temple of Zeus began in the 6th century BC, not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.
Don’t miss the spectacular Panathenaic Stadium. Well known as Kalimarmaro Stadium, it was home to the first modern Olympic games back in 1896 and is built totally of marble.
The former royal garden, now the National Garden of Athens, is a tropical paradise in the middle of the city’s historic center. You can spend hours wandering around the shaded pathways.
The most panoramic view of Athens is from this magnificent post of Lycabettus Hill. On the top of the hill, where you can experience a perfect Athenian sunset, stands the small charming church of Saint George. You can reach Lycabettus via the Funicular Railway, which starts from Ploutarchou Street’s top in Kolonaki. The ticket costs 7 €. Visiting Hours: 9:00 am – 2:30 pm).
Athens has a vast range of eateries, from traditional Greek tavernas to a global cuisines mixture. Try traditional restaurants around Mitropoleos str. (near Syntagma), Gazi if you like traditional dishes with a twist, and at Psyri, search for modern tavernas. There is always Plaka with many restaurants, but busted with tourists; it’s almost impossible to feel like a local. Try staffed tomatoes during summer is a delightful meal.
Coffee time – Large city squares like Syntagma, Monastiraki, or Gazi will lure you in for an extended coffee break. Greeks love coffee, and it is not surprising to find a coffee shop around every corner of the city.
– Depends on the season you’re touring Athens, but mostly the rush hours for museums and archeological sites are around 11 am – 1.30 pm. So if you’re visiting Athens during summer, where the heat is high, try to see the sites early in the morning or after 5 pm (check the visiting hours).
– A regular 90-minute single ticket for all public transport means 1,40€ (apart Airport Metro, EXPRESS & X80 Bus Lines), but you must keep in mind the pickpockets and be very careful. If you prefer to take a taxi, the fee around the city center is approximately 5-10 euros.