Athens is full of things to do and place to visit that will enrich and enlighten your knowledge of Western civilization. Athens is filled with historically significant sites, landmarks, and museums. There is no shortage of architectural wonders and monuments to amaze you. The following is a list of suggestions that seeks to strike a balance between historical explorations and other fun things to do in the city.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Acropolis is high on every visitor’s list of things to see in Athens, Greece. The iconic hilltop is one of the World’s most significant architectural and historical complexes. I would recommend a guided tour if you want to understand the significance and history of the entire site.
Many people are familiar with the Parthenon and have seen its pictures posted everywhere. However, the Parthenon is actually not the Acropolis, but one of the many structures on the site. In fact, there are a total of 22 structures on the Acropolis.
While you are on the top of the hill, remember to enjoy the gorgeous views of the city and its surrounding areas. There are a few spots up there where you can take some of the most stunning and Instagram worthy pictures.
Once you are inside the ticketed area, there are no shades and no vending (that is, no food and no water). If you are visiting on a hot summer day, be sure to have hats, sunscreen and a good supply of snacks and water.
The Acropolis Museum
This is actually the new Acropolis Museum which opened its doors in June 2009. It houses all the treasure from the original Acropolis Museum (1865 – 2007). The museum displays archaeological remains, artifacts, and sculptures from the Archaic, Classical, and Roman periods. All were found in the Parthenon, on the slopes of the Acropolis. It also houses the “Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments” project.
The floor to ceiling windows give a stunning view of the hill of the Acropolis. There are many good photo opportunities. The restaurant on the second floor also offers spectacular views.
One interesting note is that the architects designed the museum to mirror the four sides of the Parthenon. Artifacts that were found on the slopes of the Parthenon were placed in the corresponding side of the museum.
This is definitely one of the major and most popular attractions in Athens, Greece. It is also the perfect follow-up after visiting the site itself. Guided tours are available.
The Plaka District is one of the best shopping and dining hotspots. A visit to Plaka should be on everyone’s bucket list. The two main pedestrian streets are Kydathineon and Adrianou. Most of the streets in the area are supposed to be pedestrians only, however, I still see motorcycles speeding by occasionally. I suggest that you should be alert and careful.
Most tourists consider Plaka one of the safest areas in the city. The shops and restaurants are mostly very nice and popular. You will find a wide spectrum of eateries, from the budget-conscious cafes to fine dining restaurants.
There are many nice hotels in the Plaka District. If you like everything that you need within a short walking distance, then this is a great area to stay. It is also within walking distance to the Acropolis and other attractions.
Monastiraki Square is a lively area packed with a wide variety of stores and eateries. Near the metro station, you will reach a fork of two “shopping streets”. One is the well-known “flea market” where prices are cheap, but the quality of the merchandise is questionable.
I prefer to take the other path, where the shops sell higher quality products. There are a couple of very good leather shops and some jewelry stores as well. I just bought two genuine leather wallets at great prices earlier today.
Down the same path you will also find an open-air dining complex of several authentic Greek restaurants. Bairaktaris is one of the restaurants there that I highly recommend. You can read about this amazing restaurant in my Places to Eat page.
Around the same areas are also some familiar names such as the Hard Rock Café should you decide to dine closer to home.
You can easily get to Monastiraki Square from most parts of Athens. Take the metro line M1 or M3 to Monastiraki station for easy access.
The easiest way to reach the Psirri Neighborhood is by taking the Metro (M1 or M3) to the Monastiraki Station. The Psirri neighborhood is on the other side of Monastiraki Square. That is, from the metro station, you should go north or northwest – away from the Flea Market and the Acropolis.
Psirri is a chic, trendy and vibrant area mostly frequented by the younger 20’s to 30’s crowd. But it is also a fun place to explore for all ages. It is made up of a maze of narrow and sometimes winding streets. The neighborhood has a wide range of cafes, bars, and restaurants. They are mostly moderately priced, and the atmosphere is more casual than in Plaka.
One of the major highlights are the paintings all over the place. They are on the walls of buildings, houses, shop shutters… everywhere! Whether they are street arts or graffiti, I will leave it up to you to decide. Whatever your view, Psirri is a great place to visit in Athens.
Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
The Benaki Museum of Greek Culture maintains a huge collection of arts and photography archive which showcase the development of Greek culture. The galleries and exhibits take you through a journey to explore Greek history from the prehistoric era up to this day.
It is located in the heart of the city and is easily accessible by metro lines 2 or 3 (Syntagma station).
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum (NAM) was founded in 1829. It is the largest archaeological museum in Greece. It is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Athens, Greece.
The NAM is devoted to ancient Greek art. It also hosts probably one of the largest collections of Greek antiquities in the World. Numerous exhibits are being housed in this enormous location which at times feels and looks like a maze.
Any fan of archaeology, history, or arts can easily spend an entire day here.
The NAM is just a short walk from the fountain at Omonoia Square in the heart of the city.
Visit A Rooftop Bar or Restaurant
Rooftop Bars and Restaurants are some of best places to visit while in Athens, Greece. The Acropolis and its surrounding monuments are so beautiful at night. It is almost an enchanting experience to enjoy a drink or dinner over the stunning views. For couples, it could be romantic!
The good news is that there are many rooftop bars and restaurants in this charming city. There will most likely be one near where you are staying. In fact, many hotels have a rooftop bar or restaurant. I stayed at the Hilton once, and the Galaxy on the top floor is trendy and stylish. Food and drinks are high quality and are moderately expensive.
Claire de Lune atop the Novotel Hotel is another magnificent and romantic rooftop option with moderately high-end prices.
The Hotel Grande Bretagne has a luxurious, refined, and elegant rooftop that is probably the best among its peers. However, prices are ultra-expensive.
Many local and moderately priced boutique hotels also have very nice rooftop operations. They offer stunning views that rival those from high-end hotels. Some examples are A for Athens, 360 Degrees Hotel, and Plaka Hotel.
Enough of museums, historical monuments, and architectural wonders in the city? Then a daytrip or a tour to the beaches is a great idea and a cool escape.
Most beaches near the Athens area (and in Greece, in general) are free to enter. Some charge a fee for their amenities, such as umbrellas, sunbeds, or towels. If you are self-sufficient you can go to many public beaches and not have to purchase anything.
The higher-end ones are like “beach clubs” which offer extensive amenities. They usually offer lively beach bars, restaurants, spas, and activities.
While there are many beaches and clubs to choose from, if you want the absolute best and the opportunities to run into some A-class celebrities, then Astir Beach is the place to see and be seen!
This is definitely one of the most exclusive beaches that you can go to and be completely pampered and spoiled. Just don’t forget to make your reservation online as it is absolutely necessary if you want to be there.
Museum of Illusions
This attraction is a studio which creates special effects by using optical and visual illusions. Similar types have been popping up in all major cities around the World recently. I have been to many of these places which I like to call studios. I’ve had an amazing time in every visit!
The Museum of Illusions Athens also makes use of mirrors to create the “infinity” effects in their Infinity Tunnel and Infinity Well. And believe me, you don’t have to be a kid to have a great time. In fact, a lot of times the adults have more fun than the kids.
If you are looking for an escape from architectural monuments and archeological wonders, this optical illusion experience will be a great place to spend a few hours and transport yourself to another dimension.