Athens Suggested excursions
Athens is not only the capital of Greece, but it also frequently serves as a mediation point for visitors who want to go to the Greek islands or to explore the mainland. The long history and rich culture of Athens have made this city an interesting destination in Greece, particularly for its fine archaeological sites.
One day in Athens: Tour around the Acropolis
The best way to explore Athens is walking. Driving in the city center will result uncomfortable due to the traffic and the limited parking areas. After all, the majority of the archaeological places are accessed by metro (the underground) and buses.
The most famous ancient site of Athens is certainly the sacred rock of the Acropolis. On this rock, you will see the temple of Parthenon, dedicated to goddess Athena, the Propylaea (Gates), the temple of Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike. Constructed in the 5th century BC, at the time of famous statesman Pericles, this monument stands as a reminder of the ancient Greek culture and remains a marvelous architectural structure through centuries.
To go to the Acropolis, you take the red metro line to Acropolis Station. This station is also 15 minutes walk from Syntagma square. On the foot of the Acropolis, you can see the theaters of Dionysus and of Herodes Atticus, where open performances and music concerts are held in summer. The ticket to the Acropolis is 12 euros, It is valid for a week and it also covers the entrance to the Roman Market, the Ancient Agora, the temple of Zeus, Kerameikos and the sanctuary of Dionysus. You can buy this ticket in any of these archaeological sites.
Just opposite the Acropolis, there is the New Acropolis Museum. This impressive museum was inaugurated in June 2009 and it hosts findings from excavations in the actual site of the Acropolis and the surrounding area. Made of glass and lighted by natural light, this museum has been built on top of ancient excavations, which visitors can see through the glass.
Taking the pedestrian road on the left of the museum, you pass through beautiful Neoclassical buildings and after about 10 minutes walk, you reach a cross-road. Take the small path on the left and you will see the burial monument of Philopappos, a Roman general. This is a nice, green hill to relax.
Go back to the crossroad and after another 10 minutes walk, you reach Thissio, the most elegant neighborhood in the center of Athens with Neoclassical buildings and lovely cafeterias. Make a stop and enjoy your coffee under the shadow of the Acropolis. This is the most frequent coffee spot of the locals.
From Thissio, there starts the Ancient Agora, the place where the Athenians used to gather and discuss political issues. There, you can see the impressive temple of Hephaestus. Right next, there is the Roman Agora, actually used as a marketplace. There, you can see the Stoa of Attalos with the interesting museum and the Library of Hadrian.
If you follow the internal path from Thissio through the Ancient Agora and the Roman Market, which will normally not take more than 15 minutes, you will arrive in Monastiraki. There, you take a look at the flea market with the souvenir and the antique shops.
For the evening, we suggest you a walk through Plaka, the most traditional neighborhood of Athens, right next to Monastiraki. Narrow paths, beautiful houses with gardens and small churches mark the architecture of Plaka. There, you can have dinner in one of the delicious Greek taverns. Plaka covers the area between Monastiraki and Syntagma.
View on map: First day in Athens
Two days in Athens: Athens City Centre and Cape Sounion
1st day as described above.
On the second day, you start with a visit to Omonoia. If your hotel is not nearby, you take the metro and stop at Omonoia Station (red and green lines). The square actually doesn't have much to see, as it is surrounded by shopping malls. Some street sellers and performers can be seen and this is considered as one of the most declined spots in Athens. The National Archaeological Museum is within 10 minutes walk from Omonoia square and its rooms cover the entire history of Greece, from the prehistoric till modern times. If you enjoy museums, then you must pay a visit there.
From Omonoia, you take Panepistimiou avenue, which actually leads to Syntagma square. On your way, which will last about 20-30 minutes, you will see the Academy and the National Library of Athens, two gorgeous Neoclassical buildings surrounded by statues of ancient gods. On both sides of Panepistimiou, you will see malls, coffee shops, large shops, and theaters.
Syntagma square is actually considered the center of Athens. The most dominant building is the Parliament, an austere structure that used to be the royal palace in the 19th century. The change of the guards is a very interesting site to see. It takes place right in front of the Parliament every hour, so you are very likely to see such an event.
On the south of Syntagma square, there is the pedestrian Ermou street, the most commercial street in Athens. Along Ermou street, which ends in Monastiraki, you can see the small Byzantine church of Panagia Kapnikarea.
Right next to the Parliament, there is a relaxing spot that isolates you from the noise of the streets, the National Garden. This garden was made by Queen Amalia, the first queen of Athens, in the 1830s and used to be the Royal Garden at first. Inside this garden, there are all kinds of trees, from regular to tropical plants, rivers with wooden bridges, a small botanical museum, a coffee shop, and a small zoo.
When the gardens finish, you will see Zappeion Megaron, an impressive Neoclassical building where frequently exhibitions take place. Right opposite the garden of Zappeion, there is the Kallimarmaro Stadium (Panathenaic), an impressive Roman structure all made of marble and well-preserved till today. Within a 10-minute walking distance from Kallimarmaro, you visit the temple of Olympian Zeus and the Roman Arch of Hadrian.
For the evening, we suggest you a tour of the temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounio. There are frequent tour buses that start from central parts of Athens and go all the way to Sounio, the most south cape of Attica. The bus passes from many coastal towns, like Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza and reaches the temple in about an hour. From there, you get gorgeous views of the Aegean Sea and it is considered as the most romantic spot in Athens.
View on map: Second day in Athens
Three days in Athens: Kerameikos and Piraeus
1st and 2nd days as described above.
The third day is more relaxing. The only archaeological site left in Athens is the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos. To go there, you take the metro to Thissio (or Monastiraki) and walk about 10 minutes to Kerameikos. After you have visited the site, walk to Technopolis Gazi, an old gas factory that has now turned into a cultural center.
The architecture in the yard of Technopolis is really interesting and reminds of a filming studio, a factory or even a concentration camp. Right next to the Technopolis, there is the square of Kerameikos, a nice place for a morning coffee or a drink at night.
From the metro station of Kerameikos, you go to Monastiraki and then follow the green line to Piraeus. This is the biggest port of Greece and most ferries to the Greek islands leave from there. Piraeus is a town with ample squares and lovely cafeterias by the sea. About 20 minutes walk from the metro station, there is Pasalimani, a small harbor with yachts and fishing boats. If you follow the pedestrian path by the sea, you reach Marina Zeas, another popular coffee spot by the sea. In Marina Zeas, you can also visit the Nautical Museum of Piraeus.
For an evening drink, we suggest you Mikrolimano, a popular spot with clubs and lounge cafeterias by the sea. There are also delicious taverns and fish restaurants to enjoy a meal. To go, you take the tram from Pasalimani or the green line to Neo Faliro station.
View on map: Third day in Athens