With a fragile touch of history and restlessness, the culture in Athens, Greece is layered with an unexpected mix of cues that remind locals every day of their unique heritage. Between the stunning ancient landmarks which are some of the top things to see in Athens and the eccentric nightlife falls one of Europe’s most enthusiastic destinations. Standing atop the famed Acropolis Hill, you will be reminded of a nation’s history, its redefined present, and its ungodly tourism. There are numerous fun things to do in Athens Greece if you ever find yourself wondering what to do in Athens Greece whether you’re a history buff or a socialite searching for Europe’s most friendly places; there’s an Athens itinerary that’s right for everyone.
There’s even more of what to do in Athens Greece than the ancient Agoras and the rest of Greece’s historical past. Shopping enthusiasts will be delighted to grace the streets of the outdoor shopping haven of Plaka. Take a walk down the narrow, crowded streets to find a plethora of Greek souvenirs or specialties. Anything from its rapidly growing creative scene to its delicious cuisine known worldwide, to its plentiful peaceful inner-city parks; you will notice that your Athens itinerary is full of things to do in Athens that will keep you wanting more!
I’ve backpacked around over half of Europe in the span of three years, and I still believe the architecture, the laid-back culture, and its long history makes Athens one of the top European backpacking destination. The best advice I can give is to relax and do as the Greeks do — take a slow approach to your time in Athens.
Greece is a country geographically placed in the southeastern part of Europe. It borders its Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Albanian neighbors to the north and falls just below the Balkan region of Europe. To the west is the great Ionian Sea and to the east is the Aegean Sea. It is, truly, very well-located for any American tourist backpacking through Europe routes. Its islands are one of the hottest tourist destinations on the planet and are only a matter of hours from the capital city of Athens. Athens can be easily reached by using the European Interrail system or many affordable flights and buses from anywhere in the country. Now, all you need to do is prepare for your trip!
Fun things to do in Athens Greece
There are plenty of things to do in Athens that can keep you busy for as long as you want to stay. You can see Athens in a day or stay for a whole week – that’s part of the reason Athens makes an excellent stop on anyone’s ‘Euro Trip’.
Here are a few must-see places that should be on everyone’s Athens itinerary:
Acropoplis – By far and away the most popular attraction and one of the top things to do in Athens. The ancient Acropolis of Athens is an ancient empire at the top of a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance; the most famous being the Parthenon.
Shopping at Plaka – If you love shopping, this will be one of your favorite things to do in Athens. This shopping strip can keep you busy for, at least, the afternoon. Don’t be afraid to bargain prices and people watch! This place is great for both of those.
Herod Atticus Odeon Theater – Although I never got to see a performance, if you’re fortunate enough to get the opportunity, know that it is one of the most exciting things to do in Athens. What’s better than saying you saw a Greek tragedy play out in front of you in Greece?
Anafiotika Neighborhood – Gracing the streets of Anafiotika is one of the less popular things to do in Athens that you won’t regret! This scenic neighborhood is a part of the Plaka area so why not see two-for-one?
National Archaeological Museum – History buffs will love this place because it’s one of the best historical things to do in Athens. There’s no better place to visit an archaeological museum than in the city of Athens — you can almost be sure of that!
Philoppapos Hill – Sort of off the beaten path of things to do in Athens, climbing this hill was one of my favorite things to do in Athens! It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city below and it provides great views and is one of the nicest things to see in Athens.
Ancient Agora of Athens – You’ll realize once there why other travelers consider this to be one of the top things to see in Athens. You’ll be amazed at how well these ancient ruins have been preserved in some areas.
Church of Kapnikarea – It’s not just another church. This centuries-old tiny church should be considered one of the top things to see in Athens. In addition, the church is conveniently located at the end of Plaka.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – World renown and one of the most interesting things to see in Athens, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the top Athens landmarks. This is dedication to all soldiers killed at war and is very popular.
Kaisariani Monestary (Kessariani) – The Kaisariani Monestary is one of the top things to see in Athens. This stop is a bit out of the way (several miles from Acropolis), so, if you want a break from the busy streets of Athens, this is where you should go.
Climbing Philopappos Hill in the Middle of the Night
I had just exited the airport in Athens coming from the Mediterranean island of Malta. It was a late flight and the Athens airport isn’t exactly near the city center. It would have been four o’clock in the morning by the time I checked into a hotel and I wasn’t interested in paying for a few hours of sleep, anyway. I was looking for an adventure.
I arrived in the center of the city to calmness. If you’ve never explored a city in the middle of the night with no aim but to take in the peacefulness of a place that would be buzzing with tourists hours after, I highly recommend it. I walked by landmarks such as the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Church of Kapnikarea,and many more places without a soul in sight. I felt like I had the entire ancient city of Athens to myself.
Soon after, I found myself on a free walking tour Athens along the world-famous Acropolis Hill. Its majesticness glowing in the Greek night sky as it towered above me was something I will never forget. I needed a better view.
Quickly, I scoured up to the top of the nearby Philopappos Hill where I found a spot on a rock and sat and watched the sun rise beautifully over Acropolis and the entire city of Athens. I couldn’t imagine spending the morning sleeping after this. It was one of the most quiet and serene moments of my life as I felt I owned one of the most historic views in European history. I cannot recommend the view from Philopappos Hill more than that.
The Tale of the Tape on Athens, Greece
Athens is the largest city in the country of Greece with around 660,000 citizens within its city limits bordering the Balkans. Athens is known worldwide for one thing, mainly. Its renowned ancient Greek architecture is one of the best-preserved Roman empires in Europe. In addition, Athens is home to some of the world’s most notable philosophers and the birthplace of Democracy. Also, you’ll notice that Athens also has up-and-coming modern art and street art scene, too.
What to eat in Athens
If you want a taste of the local cuisine further than drinking a glass of famous Greek Ouzo, try these traditional foods:
Gyros are the Mecca of Greek cuisine. Vertically roasted meat sliced thin onto a pita wrap and covered in a bunch of different salad toppings. Don’t forget the excellent tzatziki sauce to compliment! You won’t have visited Greece until you try one of these.
Souvleki is another staple in Greek cuisine. Similar to the gyro, but ‘souvleki’ actually means ‘skewer’ in Greek tongue. So, this delicious traditional food is anything you can grill and fit onto a skewer.
Kebabs are very common in Greece and that is no different in Athens. A Greek kebab is an elongated slab of minced meat formed into a sausage shape. It is served with a few garden greens which will pack more flavor than you’ll probably anticipate.
Saganaki is deep fried cheese. . . need I say more? You’ll find this all over Athens city center for cheap!
Best time to travel to Athens
Athens is a wonderful place to travel year round. The warm climate keeps the temperature suitable for a Christmas in Athens and the summertime is even better. However, with the crowd and amount of tourism seen in the city during the busy summer, I’d much prefer the winter. Prices are cheaper and lines are shorter. It’s the perfect time to visit!
Where to stay in Athens?
Ideally, to maximize your time, try to stay near the world renown ancient city of Acropolis. However, as summer months can be very busy around the city (especially if you don’t book your accommodation in advance — hugely important in Athens!), I found another great neighborhood to stay in is the Psiri area. It is particularly good for those travelers who are looking for a solid nightlife. Many of Athens best pubs and clubs are in this neighborhood. Plus, it’s just a short ten ride to all of the action.
How to get there/get around:
If taxis aren’t your thing, the city has a top-tier public transportation system. For most visitor’s Athens itinerary, a Single Ride Ticket or a 24-Hour Ticket will suffice, but there are other options available like Athens Sightseeing Route Bus Line 400.
Personally, I saw it fit to walk most places during my stay in Athens. However, if you’re going to be around for a while and are tired of walking, Athens revolutionary sightseeing route on line 400 will take you around the city to all the popular stops and only costs around $6.
American Survival Guide
Traditional Greek Meal
A traditional dinner near the ancient city of Acropolis will cost you less than you were probably expecting; $8-$10 will usually cover a delicious traditional entrée. I recommend the Psarras which is one of the few traditional restaurants frequented by locals around the Acropolis area. It must be one of the best you can get!
A Night Out
A beer in the heart of Athens is fairly cheap, but Ouzo is what you’re after in Greece. You can drink a glass of Ouzo for around $3 per. Having a drink of this famous Greek liquor with friends is one of the most fun things to do in Athens.
A Gyro shop in the middle of the Acropolis rush will cost you about $3 for a nice budget lunch. The price is even a little lower as you get further out from the touristic city center. These inexpensive shops will be one of your favorite places to visit in Greece.
Bus or Train
Public transport is fairly inexpensive in Athens when compared to other cities just as frequented as Athens in Europe. It costs $0.75 for a regular ride aboard most buses and trams in Athens. Alternatively, you can pay $6 like mentioned and get a pass that will give you rides to all the touristic parts of the city. The 400 bus line is not a bad idea for those on a time crunch in Athens.
Taxis are generally the best idea for Athens day trips as renting a car can be rather expensive. There are plenty of day trips from Athens that can be very affordable in a taxi.
An all-inclusive Athens City Pass could be an ideal offer to see this city in its entirety. The card is available for as little as $35 and will take you to what to see in Athens.
Just like any other capital city in Europe, Athens has quite an AirBnB selection. Generally speaking, you can usually find an entire apartment in Athens city center for anywhere from $25-$40 on a nightly basis.
For an individual room, one person can normally find a bed for less than $20 per night.
However, if you journey outside of the heart of the city just a bit, prices drop dramatically and you can find a bed for as cheap as $13. A hostel bed can be even cheaper than that.
Athenians are Greek speakers. Check out this basic Greek language guide before you go! However, overall, everyone can speak pretty clear English in Greece. You’ll get an idea of what to do in Athens Greece if there is a communication breakdown.
If you want cell service, it’s important to check with your provider about international charges. In addition, it’s always a good idea to alert your provider (and your bank) that you’ll be traveling internationally.
Credit Card Transaction Fees
It’s important to check your credit company’s policy on international transactions before using it abroad. There are plenty of credit cards available that advertise “No International Transaction Fees”. If you want to get a new card before leaving, find one like this.
Things to have before you arrive
It’s not imperative; however, I’ve always found travel much more relaxing when you arrive without a dire need of any essentials. Here are a few of them:
- Electrical Adaptors
- Power Bank
- Offline Map (app)
- Directions to your accommodation
Athens – or Greece, in general – is a country a part of the European Union – which means Americans are granted 90-days in a 180-day period to travel freely throughout the E.U. This means if you plan to be in Europe for longer than three months, you should take a look at this. That should tell you what to do in Athens Greece before you visit.
There are a lot of stereotypes that Americans have adopted over time. There are, also, a lot of stereotypes we have made about Europeans that just aren’t true. With that being said, there are some cultural differences in everywhere you go. Embrace those – they’re the best part about traveling because those differences educate you.
In Greece, tipping is common. A ‘rounded-up’ tip is an acceptable amount as waiters tend to make a higher salary in Greece where wages are generally low. Be careful that gratuity isn’t already included on your bill! Now you know what to do in Athens Greece when it comes to tipping!
What to do in Athens Greece
Greece left a very inviting impression on me with all the things to do in Athens and I will certainly be back in the future. However, I do believe there’s more to see in Greece than just Athens. If you want to find out more about how to travel Europe on a budget, and all that it has to offer, click on over to our Europe travel blog page dedicated to tips for backpacking Europe! You will find these to be informative, giving you excellent insight into planning a trip through this multi-cultural continent.