I love Greece. Especially Athens. I think that everyone simply MUST go.
Because I love Athens I came up with 10 things you MUST do in Athens when you go.
First things first…
You must fly. If you hate flying and depending on where in the world you are, this can be the worse part of the trip. But I promise that it will be worth it!
Usually most flights come into Athens International Airport or Eleftherios Venizelos. We got a great deal on Virgin Atlantic heading out of NYC with a stop over in London. We had many flights before this one coming from Seattle but I won’t bore you with those details.
Now…I recommend staying in Athens for 4 or more days, I think that is enough time to hit most of the highlights. We stayed for 5 and enjoyed every minute of it!
Some of the hotels recommend hopping into a taxi which will cost you about 60-75 euro one way depending on the time of day. However, since we were staying at in the city center we decided to take the metro. I think that you don’t really get to know a city until you get on public transportation but I digress.
Just across the street from the airport terminal is the Airport metro stop. You can purchase your ticket from the machine and it will only cost 5 euro to head into the city center. The metro is much less confusing than the NYC or London systems as there are only 3 lines.
If you are headed downtown just stay on the blue line and get off at the Syntagma stop and voila! City center!
Not only are they conveniently located but they are amazing hotels. I can only speak for the King George but the service was outstanding! (And they didn’t pay me to say this!) You will find my impression here of the hotel.
Alright, now on to the 10 things you MUST do in Athens.
1. The Acropolis & Museum
This is an absolute!!! You can’t come to Athens and not go here.
Most sites recommend not heading there until later in the afternoon due to the heat and I cannot stress this enough especially in the summer. Remember that the Acropolis is high up on a hill and you will have to climb it to get there. So if you are not physically fit – start training up before you head there as there are no alternatives!
You can either hop on the metro or walk just a few blocks from the Syntagma metro to get you are there.
The museum cost 7 euro for full admission and 5 euro for students – so bring that ID!
For hours check the Acropolis museum website.
2. Arch of Hadrian & Temple of Zeus
You should start out at the Arch of Hadrian as it’s just off Amalias Avenue.
The Arch of Hadrian with the Acropolis in the background
The Arch of Hadrian is a gateway which spanned an ancient road from the center of Athens, Greece, to the complex of structures on the eastern side of the city that included the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It has been proposed that the arch was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. There were two inscriptions on the arch, facing in opposite directions, naming both Theseus and Hadrian as founders of Athens.
Hadrian’s Arch is just a short walk down from Syntagma Square and entrance is free as it is right on the road.
Temple of Olympian Zeus also known as the Olympieion
This was once the largest temple in Athens, even larger than the Parthenon but it has not suffered well over the years. It was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods and fell into disuse after being pillaged in a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD. One of the pillars fell 1852 and never got up! (You know you like that, LOL!)
The Olympian is a few blocks within walking distance from the Arch of Hadrian. We did not actually go into the site so you will have to check and see the entrance fees. I recommend getting photos from the Acropolis.
3. Learn a little history
The best way to learn more about the culture and history of Greece is by heading to the museums.
The most interesting ones can be found here – National Archeological and Benaki Museums.
Make sure you check the museums websites for the cost and hours. And bring that student ID as there are some heavy discounts!
4. Check out the games
The Panathenaic Stadium was the home to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and is the world’s only completely white marble stadium. It is just a few blocks from the Parliament building. Just a short walk and you can be in the footsteps of the Ancient Greek athletes. It is such a sight to behold.
Tickets cost 3 Euro for full admission and 1,50 Euro for students.
For hours check the stadium website.
5. Mount Lybacattus
The view from here simply breath-taking day or night. It’s also the best place in the entire city to watch the sunset if you can get there early enough.
We headed up there at night.
I highly recommend that you take the funicular up for 6 Euros which runs from 9 am to 3 am and experience it.
You can walk up but it’s pretty steep and depending the time of day and your fitness level it may be a bit of a challenge.
Either way you choose you simply MUST get there!
6. Visit the Pláka
This is one of the oldest historical neighborhood in Athens. With its location at the foot of the Acropolis you will surely find the restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants to die for! Make sure you look up as you never know what you will see here.
7. Monastiraki Square
There are dozens of shops in the flea market where damage to the spending budget can be done but make sure you do some haggling to get the best price!
And if shopping doesn’t fit your fancy try the Greek food and you will never be the same.
The souvlaki, gyro, greek salad, fried eggplant, fresh juices and of course loukamades with Nutella!!!
Make sure you try my favorite – greek yogurt with honey (it’s not Chobani). 😉 Trust me you won’t regret it!
Monastiraki Square also contains Pantanassa Church which was built in the seventeenth century at the site of an older church that probably dated back to the tenth century. It has a richly decorated interior with a beautifully painted vault and was restored in 2007.
8. Eat a meal overlooking the city
Every day that you are in this great city and look up you can get a pretty good view of the Acropolis but there is something about enjoying a delicious meal with an even more delicious bottle of wine (if that fits your fancy) and seeing it again!
This view never get’s old especially at night when you are sitting in an open air restaurant and there’s a full moon!
9. Watch changing of guard
This is just darn fun! To see how serious they are while they are changing and trying to make funny faces to distract them is just wrong. I don’t know who would do that!
(I tried to upload a gif of the changing but it didn’t work…maybe I will update this post when I get it to work.)
There uniforms are pretty impressive too.
Heading out to the port requires some mode of transportation but I definitely recommending heading out there to get a different perspective of Athens. It is one of the busiest ports with the cruise ships coming in and out.
I would say also if you are interested in the freshest seafood it might be the best place to go.
All in all I would say that Athens should be on your MUST visit list and these are just my 10 ten MUST do’s but what are yours?
Do you agree with me?
Are there any other places I left off the list?