What to see in Athens: top 20 places to see
Athens is the ancient cultural center of Greece and simply a very beautiful and distinctive city. Today in our guide to Athens we will tell you about its most interesting places that will turn your Athens vacation into an unforgettable magical fairy tale when visiting the sights .
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Athens is an antique city, so start your acquaintance with its most “bearded” sights. One such place to visit is the Plaka district. The oldest historical district of the city rests under the shadow of the no less ancient hill – the Acropolis. The labyrinths of narrow, shady streets, twined with greenery and flowers, are woven into a bizarre pattern, taking you back in time, slowing down time. Wander amongst the old traditional Greek houses and then wander into one of the hospitable little tavernas to experience Grecian hospitality.
After a walk around Plaka, don’t be lazy to go up to the Acropolis. Everyone must know this flat-topped rock topped with a classic Greek temple. In the past it was decorated with many temples and sculptures, but today only the temple of Nika Apteros, the Erechtheion and the famous Parthenon remain of all this splendor.
The hill offers a beautiful view of the city, as if scattered below, and its temples are a great place to explore the culture and history of Ancient Greece.
The Acropolis is open daily from 08:00 to 15:00, the ticket costs €12 (full). For young people under 18 years old admission is free (proof of age required). The Acropolis is free to visit on March 6, June 5, April 18 and May 18 (public holidays), the last weekend in September and every first Sunday from November 1 to March 31.
And those who are ready to delve deeper into the history of ancient sites are sure to enjoy a tour of the historic center of Athens.
Want to see Athens from above? Nothing could be easier! Just climb the Areopagus Hill at the northwestern end of the Acropolis. Once the center of social life in Athens, the Hill of Ares (as its name is translated) is now a tourist attraction with its spectacular views of the city!
The Areopagus can be reached by metro (Thissia station on line 1 and Monastiraki on line 3).
Athens Archaeological Museum
Greece in general and Athens in particular can rightly be considered one big open-air museum. Yet to explore the rich architectural and sculptural heritage of Hellas, you should visit the Archaeological Museum of Athens. There are more than 20,000 exhibits from different eras, from early civilizations to antiquity. Ancient ceramics, figurines, housewares, bronzes, jewelry – you can’t list everything. So take your time and go to the unexplored places!
The Archaeological Museum is located at 44 Patissión Street.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 08:00 to 15:00, Monday from 13:30 to 20:00. Tickets cost €7 (full), €3 for students and free for anyone under 19.
Your introduction to the culture and history of Greece would be incomplete if you did not include the Benaki Museum in your “tourist list”. Yes, it is dedicated to archaeology (why should it be surprising if Greece is famous for archaeological finds?). But its rich collection will not leave you indifferent, because the artifacts presented here cover a time period starting from the Paleolithic period!
And then, in the museum you can see not only the heritage of Greek culture, but also Andean, Islamic and Chinese. Sculptures, paintings, icons, jewelry and utensils will immerse you in a bygone era and reveal the charm of ancient times.
Museum works: Wed, Fri. – from 09:00 to 17:00; Thu. – from 09:00 to 24:00 and Sun. – From 09:00 to 15:00. The museum is closed on mondays, Tuesdays and holidays.
Fee for admission is €7. Every Thursday and May 18 (Museum Day) admission is free.
You can get to the museum by bus №022, 060, 200, 203, 204, 211, 222 – 224, 235. Or by trolleybus № 3, 7, 8, 13.
There is nothing more desirable for a tired tourist than to rest in peace and quiet. In Athens, the best place for this is the National Garden. To find it is easy: the garden is located near Syntagma Square, just behind the Parliament.
The shady alleys keep you cool while the pond keeps you cool. In addition there are ancient ruins, remnants of columns and ancient mosaics. There is a mini zoo and a botanical museum, so you won’t get bored.
Museum of Greek Folk Art
Greece is not only a place of ancient statues and temples, as it may seem. To get to know this country better, you should visit the Museum of Greek Folk Art. That’s where all the color of folk crafts are collected! Here you will find products of wood, metal and clay, richly decorated with carvings and incrustations, and a hall devoted to traditional carnival costumes. There is also an exhibition of silverware and weapons, and you can see puppets of the national theater Karagiosis, depicting scenes from everyday life in Athens.
The museum is located at Kydathinaion Str., 17, Plaka. Opening hours are from 08:00 to 15:00. The ticket costs €2.
Please note: due to the fact that the museum plans to move the exhibition to a new building, it is possible to change the opening times / days.
Theater of Dionysus
Many people have heard about the famous Greek amphitheaters, but few know that the oldest of them is located in Athens. The theater of Dionysus was founded in V century BC! Here the productions of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes were staged, and the theater could seat 17 thousand spectators.
Today the favorite entertainment of tourists is to check the fantastic acoustics of the theater: if one person stays in the orchestra and speaks, and the other person goes up to the top row, he will hear every single word. Don’t be lazy to check it out for yourself!
The theater is located on Arepagitu Street. You can get here by metro (red line, Acropolis station). The theater is open every day from 08:30 to 18:00.
Agios Elefterios Cathedral
The Agios Eleftherios Cathedral can be overlooked. And you should. This little church of XII century is considered one of the most beautiful in the city. The exquisite marble construction with intricate carvings on the walls evokes a feeling of amazing peace and tranquility.
From Syntagma Square take bus no. 025-027 (from Syntagma stop to the Metropolis stop). The church will be directly across the street.
Museum of Cycladic Art
Another must-visit for those who can’t imagine their life without new knowledge. At the Museum of Cycladic Art you will learn about the life and culture of the civilizations that inhabited the Aegean and Cypriot coasts. Especially interesting is the collection of figures depicting scenes of ancient life: hunting, family scenes, everyday activities, etc. You can also see the rarest Cypriot antiques: works of gold and silver, bronze and glass of amazing work.
The main collection is located at 4 Neophytou Douka, while temporary exhibitions take place at the Stafatos Mansion (Vassilissis Sophias/Herodotou 1).
Tower of the Winds.
In fact, the tower with such a romantic name has a quite prosaic purpose – today it houses a meteorological station. But it is still worth a visit: the tower has a hydraulic clock that tells the time according to the sun, and the structure itself is a living monument of architecture (built in the I century BC). Particularly interesting are the friezes of the tower, depicting the gods of wind. Under their figures you can see the markings of the dial, as the tower was used as a giant clock.
It is located in the Plaka area, not far from the Agora square. A ticket to see the tower together with the Agora costs €3.
One can get to Plaka from Athens center by bus #025 or by metro (Monastiraki station).
Museum of the Kerameikos area
The Kerameik Museum is called so for a reason. Potters and sculptors have lived and worked in the neighborhood of the same name since ancient times, and many interesting finds were later made here.
The museum has the largest collection of statues, sculpture groups and compositions from the ancient period. And in the museum’s courtyard you’ll find the gem of the collection – a statue of Dionysius the Bull (340 BC). And of course – an abundance of ancient pottery, jewelry and household items.
The museum is located on Ermu Street 148. In winter the museum is open from 08:30 to 15:00, in summer from 08:00 to 19:30. Ticket price – €2.
Odeon of Herodes the Attic.
Greece has long been famous for its love of music: that’s why the famous amphitheaters were so popular in Hellas. One of them is still in use today.
The Odeon, the amphitheater on the southern slope of the Agora, is an ancient venue for musical events that has retained its functions to this day. This majestic structure is beautifully preserved, and today serves as the central cultural scene of Athens and . Festivals, concerts, and theatrical productions take place here (for example, the annual Athens Festival is held from May to October).
You can get to the amphitheater on foot along Dionysios Areopagitus Street or by bus #230 (the stop is right in front of the Odeon). You can visit the Odeon only if a concert or festival is held there, so you have to buy a ticket to the event itself at the Odeon box office or the official Athens Festival offices.
Temple of Hephaestus
Athens is firmly associated with graceful ancient temples, but it’s a mistake to think they all look the same. Each temple is unique in its own way, and you can verify this only by visiting it yourself.
For that we recommend you to visit the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved temples of Ancient Greece. To enter the ancient shrine you can buy a comprehensive Acropolis ticket (€12) which includes other sights such as the Agora, the Temple of Zeus or the Hadrian Library. But you can also get in for free: from November to March, entrance to the temple is free every Sunday.
The temple can be reached by bus number 227 or by metro (stop St. Thisiou). The temple is open daily from 08:00 to 18:00.
Port of Piraeus
Greece would not be Greece without the sea, because the whole history of the country is closely intertwined with this powerful element. So don’t deny yourself the pleasure of a walk to the port of Piraeus in Athens. Take a walking tour of the port of Piraeus and it shares not only the sea air and magnificent views, but also its interesting history and notes on modern life. The view from the promenade is magical: scatterings of white houses against a background of blue sky and azure sea will enchant you at first sight!
To get here you can take the metro (green line ends right by the port) or bus (from Omonia Square take #049 or from Syntagma take #040 and get off at Kotzia Square).
If you want to experience the vibrant atmosphere of Athens, don’t you? Be sure to visit the Monastiraki Market, the oldest marketplace in the city. Today it is a vast flea market where everyone can find something to their liking and find something to do while visiting Athens. Every day from 8:00 a.m. a colorful act called “Greek trade” unfolds here. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, be sure to wander among the vendors, watching the lively haggling, soaking up the atmosphere of real Athenian life.
The Monastiraki Market is located at 28 Hephaesta Street. It is open every day: antiques from 08:00 to 15:00, the whole market till late evening.
Temple of Erechtheion
While on the Acropolis, don’t miss your chance to visit the temple of the Erechtheion, where the ancients worshipped Poseidon and Athena. Today there is not much left of its former splendor, but the temple still retains its grandeur and beauty and is worth a visit. Especially worth seeing are the statues of the caryatid maidens that adorn one of the porticoes.
The temple is located on the Acropolis, so you can get here by the same route, for example, by taking the metro to Monastiraki station. And if you buy a comprehensive 4-day ticket to visit the Acropolis grounds, you can see the neighboring sights as well. And on May 18 (Museum Day), admission here, like in the museums of Athens, is free.
Buy your Acropolis Museum ticket online here.
If you are a romantic “by vocation,” we know one interesting place in Athens that you will definitely love! We’re talking about Cape Sounion. What’s the point of driving a whole hour from Athens for a cape?
Well, you can meet the inexpressible beauty of sunsets at the ruins of the temple of Poseidon, the access to which is open every day without restrictions. And before you return to Athens, make your deepest wish, they say it will come true.
You can get to Cape Sunion by bus. From Athens, find the Victoria metro station and from there walk along 28 October Street to the intersection of Avenida Patission and Alexandras. There find the Attica area stop (KTEL Attikis). You want the beige and orange bus that runs in the southern Attica area.
Perhaps the most colorful and expansive panorama of Athens can be seen from here, the Likavitos (or Likabet) Hill, the highest point on the outskirts of the city. In addition to the impressive view, the top is home to St. George’s Chapel and the open-air theater, which hosts music performances and concerts.
The funicular railway (open from 08:45 to 00:45 in summer and from 08:45 to 00:15 in winter) takes you up the hill. You can get to the hill itself by metro, line 3, station Megaro Moussikis.
Ilias Lalounis Jewelry Museum
Do you want to know what jewelry was in fashion in Greece at different times? Nothing could be easier! Check out the Ilias Lalounis Jewellery Museum and see for yourself.
The museum’s collection has more than 4,000 pieces: jewelry, decorative objects made of precious metals and small sculptures. This is not all that can be seen there – the permanent exhibition includes pieces by the museum’s founder, jeweler Ilias Lalaunis, while the temporary exhibition tells the history of jewellery making all over the world.
Museum address: 12 Kallisperi Street. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 09:00 to 15:00. On Sunday from 11:00 to 16:00. Tickets cost €5, for students, seniors and groups (more than 10 people) – €4.
10 places worth visiting in Athens
Athens is the heart of Greece and one of the country’s key tourist attractions. For a short visit – to diversify and enrich the experience – it is better not to scrimp and hire a guide. A lot of reviews and contacts for guides in Athens can be found here. If you decide to visit the city on your own, here is a list of the places that are definitely worth seeing. The Acropolis and the Parthenon, of course, are a good place to start.
The Acropolis and the Parthenon are the capital’s calling card and a must-see pilgrimage destination for millions of tourists from all over the world. Even if there were no Parthenon, the Acropolis is worth a visit just for the stunning views it offers of the city.
Grekoblog has devoted a separate article to the history of the Acropolis, how to get there, opening hours and ticket prices in more detail.
The Acropolis is the main tourist attraction of the city
If you decide to explore the Acropolis without a guide, we recommend downloading our audio guide for iPhone or for Android [link]. This is two ready-made audio tours of the most interesting routes in the city [one of them – with the Acropolis ascent] with a handy built-in walking map and GPS support, so that you don’t waste mobile traffic while roaming.
In the trial version of the audio guide, the first 5 points are free, and the full version will cost many times less than even the most budget group tours.
National Archaeological Museum
This world famous museum is located in the heart of the capital. It is difficult to drop in here for a minute – the exposition is so wide that it will take at least 2-3 hours to see it.
The Archaeological Museum is situated in the center of the capital
The halls, arranged in chronological order, begin with the exhibitions of Cycladic culture and Mycenaean period and cover the period from ancient times to the present.
The museum is located at 28is Oktovriou Street, 44. Opening hours from 01.01.2018: Mon: 13:00 to 20:00; Tues-Whs: 09:00-16:00
Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
A romantic evening trip to Cape Sounion is equally popular with tourists and Greeks themselves.
Cape Sounion is only an hour’s drive from the center of the capital.
You usually come here to watch the sunset, and the well preserved ruins of Poseidon’s temple add a unique flavor to it. By the way, one of its columns has Lord Byron’s autograph.
The Sunion archaeological site is open to visitors every day from 09:30 am until sunset.
You can drive to Sunion on your own in a rented car, take a trip with a Russian-speaking guide [link], or take one of the group tours below.
Night walk in the city
Athens is one of the safest capitals in the world. And although common sense is the best defender in any place, statistics show that nighttime escapades are quieter here than in Paris, London, or Tokyo. Isn’t that an excuse to get some extra fun out of the rough Greek nightlife? Especially since in Athens, once the sun goes down, life is just beginning.
Didn’t get a chance to go to the Greek islands first or already miss one of them? Go to Piraeus. It’s easy to get here from the center by subway to dine in one of the charming tavernas or fashionable restaurants by Microlimano Bay. It’s not an island, of course, but the experience is similar in some ways.
Piraeus, one of the oldest and largest ports in the world
Take a little more time to visit the Archaeological Museum or the equally fascinating Maritime Museum of Greece. For details on how to get from Athens to Piraeus, we have written a separate article: How to get to Athens’ ports.
Plaka and Monastiraki
Plaka and Monastiraki are the oldest part of the city, located at the foot of the Acropolis. There are many souvenir shops, taverns and stores.
A distinctive feature of Plaka is a peculiar architecture, lots of intricate streets and pedestrian zones
The distinctive feature of Plaka is a peculiar architecture, countless intricate streets and pedestrian zones. Even though during the high season (01.04-31.10) there are a lot of tourists here, Plaka will not leave you indifferent.
Do you want to rise above everyone else? The highest hill of Likavitos is 277 meters above sea level. Likavitos and the Acropolis are like two great columns over the Greek capital.
From here you have a wonderful view of both the city and the Acropolis, beautifully illuminated by spotlights in the evening.
From Lycabetus you can take the best pictures of the Acropolis
At the top of the hill there is a white stone 19th century chapel of St. George. On a clear day you can even see Aegina from Lycabetus. One can get to the top by cab or by funicular. For more details about the latter, we explained in the video below.
Syntagma, also known as Constitution Square in Athens, is the heart of Greece in many ways. It is home to the Parliament building and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at which Greek soldiers, the eusones, dressed in colorful national costumes, carry a guard of honor.
Syntagma, also known as Constitution Square, the heart of Athens
Here you will find Athens’ most famous hotel, the Grand Brittany, and right next to it, the famous Ermou shopping street with its many brand stores. Which ones to visit first is up to you.
If you come down the Acropolis from the north side of the hill, be sure to visit the Agora. This is the third most important place for those interested in the history of the city.
The Agora was once a market square and was therefore considered one of the main centers of social life in ancient Athens. The well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus (also called Hephaestion) and the Attalus Gallery deserve special attention.
Looking at the Hephaestion, it’s hard to believe the temple was built several thousand years ago
The Archaeological Site of the Ancient Agora in high season is open to the public daily from 8:30 to 7:30 p.m., except on Mondays. On Mondays the site is accessible from 11:00 a.m. In low season, the Ancient Agora operates on a reduced schedule: from 08:00 to 15:00 daily.
Note that there are two Agora in Athens – the second is called the Roman Agora. It is more compact in size and it has fewer sights preserved. The most interesting of them is the Tower of the Winds – one of the oldest meteorological structures in the world.
When we wrote this article for Grekoblog, this section was dedicated to Omonia Square. But times change, and since then Athens has had another great site that displaced Omonia from the list – the New Acropolis Museum.
The history of the building deserves a separate story. One of the reasons for its erection was the continuation of years of attempts by Greece to reclaim its artifacts stored in the British Museum and once removed to England by Lord Elgin.
The Acropolis Museum seems to be floating in the air
Among the arguments of the British against the return was, in particular, that there were no specialized rooms in Greece capable of providing decent conditions for the display of artifacts. In response, the Greeks built a museum equipped with the latest technology, but “that’s about it.
Meanwhile, even without these artifacts the Acropolis Museum is rich in finds, which have the most direct relation to the main man-made attraction in Greece. The collection is definitely worth the time and place in your schedule.
Pay attention to the building itself as well. Its construction was deliberately designed to “float in the air” so as not to damage the ancient tombs beneath it.
The museum is located at 15, Dionysiou Areopagitou, and tickets can be purchased at the ticket office on site or online [link] to cut down the time in line.