What to see in Athens on your own in 1 day: walking itinerary
Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Here literally every stone breathes with thousands of years of history, so it is unlikely to see all the most interesting things in Athens in 1 day. However, if time is limited, and you do want to see Athens on your own, we have a few recommendations for you. Before we make a plan for the day, here are a few things you can do.
Some helpful recommendations
The sights of Athens are very compactly located, but if you don’t want to beat your feet too much, it makes sense to buy a ticket to the tourist bus with an audio guide.
A bus ticket costs only 20 euros and you can ride it for 24 hours getting off only at the stops you want. You can buy your ticket here. Below is a map of the Hop-On, Hop-Off tourist bus with all possible stops.
You can also always book an individual guided tour either for a whole day or for a few hours. Perhaps the widest choice of excursions in Athens in Russian with numerous reviews by travelers can be found on this page.
Finally, a budget solution for smartphone owners – is a ready-made audio guide to the most popular route in Athens for 1 day for iPhone at Appstore [link] and for Android at Google Play [link].
The app has a map with sights, GPS to track your location and find your way to the tour sites, and about two hours of stories about the most interesting places. In addition, the installed application works without Internet and does not consume mobile traffic.
In the free version of the application are open the first few points of the tour, but to access all 60 sites need to buy the full version. It costs only 5 euros, which is much cheaper than even the most budget tours.
Morning in Athens
If you arrive early in the city, the best place to start seeing Athens on your own is the central square, Syntagma Square, also called Constitution Square.
The square’s main attraction is the palace of the Greek Parliament. In the middle of the XX century at its foot stands a Memorial of Military Glory with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Presidential Guardsmen dressed in national costumes are on round-the-clock guard.
Every hour on the square gathers another “flock” of tourists to watch the ceremonial changing of the guard. I don’t think you can see something like that anywhere else. Make sure you have time to see it.
Every hour at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier there is a ceremonial changing of the guard.
From Syntagma it makes sense to go up to the main attraction of the city, the Acropolis of Athens. You can do this either on foot or by tourist bus.
If you go on foot, consider the dilapidated temple of Zeus the Olympic.
It was built in the VI-II centuries B.C. and, despite the fact that only a few columns have survived, the building makes a lasting impression. Nearby you can see the Hadrian’s Arch, also dated in the II century BC.
The Temple of Zeus the Olympic in Athens is the largest temple in Greece
By the way, if you walk a bit along Vasilissis Olgas from the Temple of Zeus the Olympic, you will find yourself right next to another Athens landmark, the Panathinaikos Stadium.
The reason this stadium is interesting is that the first modern Olympics were held there in 1896 and it is also unique in that it is the only stadium in the world that is completely made of marble. Its name translates as “beautiful marble”.
Panathinaikos Marble Stadium – the pioneer of modern Olympics
In the meantime, we return to Hadrian’s Arch. From it, the big street Dionysiou Areopagitou leads upwards, right to the entrance to the Acropolis. If visiting Athens in summer, the best time to visit the Acropolis is in the morning when it’s still not so hot on the streets.
The entrance to the Acropolis is open daily from 8:00 to 18:30. About the main attraction of Athens we have already written a separate article, we will say only about the structures that can be seen here:
- The Propylaea, the front entrance to the Acropolis;
- The temple of the wingless goddess Nika;
- Parthenon, the main structure, the temple of the heavenly patroness of the city, the goddess Athena;
- Erechtheion, decorated with a portico with caryatids, built in honor of King Erechtheus, which also recalls the dispute between the gods Athena and Poseidon for the right to rule over the city;
- below you can see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, where musical and theatrical performances are still held to this day;
- The ruins of the temple of Asclepius, god of medicine;
- the ruins of the theater of Dionysus and other attractions.
In addition, from the top of the Acropolis Hill there is a stunning panorama of the entire city.
A day in Athens
The traditional Greek siesta, when the doors of almost all public institutions close during the hot hours, fortunately Athens museums are not affected. You can wait out the midday heat and enjoy the beauty of the city in one of the museums.
Those who came to Athens on their own will be impressed by the National Archaeological Museum, which is considered the largest museum in the country.
It is a bit far from the main sights, so you can get there either by subway or by tourist bus.
The peculiarity of the Athens Archaeological Museum is that it is better to visit it with a guide. Otherwise, it is easy to miss the most interesting things among the 20,000 exhibits. For example, the antikythera mechanism – an ancient computer lifted from an ancient shipwreck.
You can sign up for a Russian-language tour and read reviews about it at the link below.
There are also a whole series of interesting museums, including the Benaki Museum, the Byzantine Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art, right behind the Parliament building on Boulevard Vasilissis Sofias, where the Hop-On, Hop-Off tourist bus also “runs”.
For those who have little interest in museums, you can also head to the Parliamentary Palace, because right behind it is the richest district of Athens, where local politicians, ambassadors, movie and showbiz stars live. It is also home to expensive boutiques and restaurants.
For those looking for something a little more budget here, behind the palace, you can take a break from the afternoon heat in the shady National Garden, or go shopping in the Monastiraki neighborhood, where there is a large souvenir market.
Plaka, despite its modern appearance, is the oldest neighborhood in Athens
On your way, if you are only in Athens for 1 day, be sure to check out the Plaka district . It is the oldest neighborhood in Athens, located between the Acropolis and Syntagma Square. Here, on the foundations of ancient times, you can still see buildings from the XVIII-XIX centuries.
Many of the streets of Plaka are pedestrian, with many souvenir stores, cafes and wine cellars. It is also home to Athens’ oldest street, Hadrian’s Street, which has preserved its layout since Antiquity.
In the Plaka area there are several other places of interest in Athens:
- The Roman Agora, whose construction dates back to the 2nd half. The Roman Agora, built in the second half of the 1st century BCE, and the famous Tower of the City of Athens
- In addition to the Roman Agora, built in the second half of the 1st century B.C., Athens also boasts a famous Tower of the Winds, an ancient meteorological monument, also built in the 2nd half of the 1st century B.C. B.C. and probably even earlier.
Evening in Athens
Behind the Roman Agora adjoins the Athenian Agora – the center of social and political life of antique Athens.
Most locals like to spend their evenings in this part of town where they can simply sit in cafes, chat with friends, and enjoy the beauty and majesty of the Acropolis.
A visit to Lycabetus Hill can be the concluding point of a 1 day trip to Athens.
Another place that is especially appealing for the evening is Likabet Hill, which Grekoblog has already written about in this article.
This ascent to Lycabetus can be a great finishing point for those who came to Athens on their own for 1 day.
For the last
If you stayed in Athens for more than 1 day, you should take a look at our articles:
If you prefer to choose your own accommodation, more than 1,200 accommodation options are waiting for you on Booking.com. To find your dream accommodation follow the link below.
For those interested in unusual ideas for Athens, we recommend another of our videos.
Other interesting articles:
Photos by: emiliojge, C messier, Tilemahos Efthimiadis, Badseed, Christopher Steinle
10 things to do in Athens
There are many Acropolises in Greece, but the one in Athens is the most popular and most visited. The Acropolis is the main symbol not only of the Greek capital, but of the entire country. It is a citadel, preserved from ancient times, when myths and legends were born and the people were ruled by the gods of Olympus. The Acropolis is located in the center of Athens and represents an ensemble of buildings, the most famous of which are the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaeum, and the Odeon of Herodes the Attic.
2. Walking in Plaka
The Plaka neighborhood in Athens is one of the oldest in the city, with many buildings built on the foundations of ancient times. This area is located at the foot of the Acropolis, which from any point has a stunning view. Plaka is a true paradise for lovers of walking: colorful facades of houses harmoniously complement the appearance of the streets, it is pleasant to come here and walk along the winding cobbled streets, enjoy live musical performances, sit in a tavern or buy souvenirs.
3. Watch the sunset at Cape Sounion
It’s a long drive from downtown Athens to Cape Sounion, but well worth it. The sunsets at Cape Sounion are especially delightful. There is an omen that wishes made at the moment when the sun goes into the sea, will certainly come true. According to legend, the mythical king Aegeus, father of the Greek hero Theseus, victor of the Minotaur, threw himself into the depths of the sea as soon as he saw the black sails on the horizon of his son’s schooner.
Near the Cape stands the Temple of Poseidon, built in 444 BC and well preserved to this day. Even in earlier centuries, these vivid sights of Attica attracted the attention of European tourists. Thus, the famous Lord Byron was here and left a mark of his stay on the walls of the temple of Poseidon. Try to find it!
4. Climb Wolf Mountain
The name of Athens’ highest hill, Likavitos, translates from Greek as “Wolf Mountain”. The hill towers over Athens and is visible from any part of the city. Its height is 277 meters, surpassing the Acropolis. The view from the hill is wonderful: you can see the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the port, and all of Athens. Artists, photographers, tourists and locals try to climb the hill before sunset to see and capture the moment when the last rays of sunlight gild the Acropolis walls.
5. Feel the pulse of ancient Athens
Once upon a time, life was in full swing at the foot of the Acropolis. The Acropolis was the center of political, social and cultural life. Here you can find the most important decisions, athletic competitions, brilliant orators, meetings of Athenian public. Today it is a popular tourist site and one of the largest ruins in the city. The best preserved one is the Temple of Hephaestus, believed to have been built in 449 B.C. The Stoa Attalos is home to the Agora Museum, where one can explore the history of Greek culture and its transformation over time. A visit to the museum is included in the ticket price.
6. See the changing of the guard of honor
Syntagma Square is located next to the Royal Palace. The most striking sight here is the changing of the guard of honor, which takes place every hour at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The honor guard is represented by the Euzzons, presidential guardsmen who belong to the elite unit of the Greek army. In translation, the word “euzon” means “well girded.” These soldiers look very colorful, always delighting the assembled public with their solemn passage. The most eye-catching detail of their costume is their “tzaruhi” shoes. These are wooden clogs with pompons, lined with nails, and each shoe weighs about 3 kilograms. After seeing the eusons, take a stroll in the Royal Garden behind the presidential palace. Even on the hottest day you can enjoy the coolness and relax in the shade there.
7. Wander through museums
The Athens Archaeological Museum has the largest collection of ancient artifacts in Greece, so don’t expect to see them all in a couple of hours. Particularly interesting here is the Maritime Hall, which contains unique finds from the seabed. The museum’s collection includes exhibits collected from all regions of Greece, from the Peloponnese and ancient Cyclades to the island of Santorini. The golden burial mask of Agamemnon and the Horseman’s statue, raised from the bottom of the sea, are some of the most interesting objects.
- Museum of Cycladic Art;
- Museum of Numismatics (with a rich collection of ancient coins);
- Byzantine Museum (with a collection of the oldest Byzantine icons and other Christian relics);
- Museum of Greek musical instruments.
8. Feel the flavor of the oriental bazaar
Athens’ main market, Monastiraki, is located in the square of the same name and is the living embodiment of the popular phrase that “Greece has it all. The typical Oriental bazaar and the distinctive markets of the southern Mediterranean are seamlessly blended here. Sunday afternoons are the busiest time for the flea market. Cheap junk goods sit alongside unique antiques and memorabilia. There are also jewelry stores and souvenir shops. If you choose to bring back a souvenir or a keepsake from Greece, you’ll find no better place to do so in Athens. But don’t be afraid to haggle and carefully check the merchandise.
On Monastiraki Square there is also a museum of ceramics with a rather interesting collection. It is located in the building of the former mosque, which was built in the Ottoman period from the marble of the Temple of Zeus blown up by the Turks.
9. Port of Piraeus
Piraeus, where the largest Greek port is located, is considered an independent city, but it is so closely adjacent to Athens that it is often mistaken for one of the districts of the Greek capital. In addition, it is easily accessible from the center of Athens by subway.
The port of Piraeus is very old, it existed during antiquity, but then it was not as big as it is now. The area of the modern port is huge – there are several terminals, which are located from each other at a decent distance, and between them buses run. Large cruise ships sail from the port.
10. Take a boat trip to the islands
Once in the port, take a boat trip to the Greek islands. Some of the Saronic Islands are quite close to Athens, and you can get to them on your own or with a guided tour. Athens’ tour agencies offer ready-made itineraries to the three Saronic islands – Poros, Idra and Aegina. The trip will take you all day.
The island of Aegina is interesting because of the monastery of St. Nektarios and the excellent beaches, where the citizens of the Greek capital like to spend their vacation. To get there you can take a ferry or a speedboat. The island closest to Athens is Salamina, which is visible even from the coast. You can reach the island in 20 minutes by ferry from Piraeus and Perama.