How to spend a long weekend in Athens

Travel Itinerary

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Freya Godfrey
Itinerary by: Freya Godfrey
a month ago
Travel Writer
Duration: 3 days

Home to the Parthenon, the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora, and seen as the birthplace of western civilisation, it’s no wonder that Athens is such an enduringly popular European destination. But away from its breathtaking ancient sites, Athens is also a vibrant, modern city, with noisy bars and excellent restaurants that spill out onto the streets, meaning you’ll eat, drink and party well here. What’s more, with easy access to the sea, it’s a great stopping-off point before a tour of the Greek Islands. While Athens does offer a huge amount of historical and cultural riches, it’s worth pointing out that these are largely centred in its historic core. The city’s population grew exponentially in the years after the Second World War, meaning that there’s a mish-mash of post-war architecture. So remember that you won’t find yourself surrounded by grand, classical buildings at every turn. Plaka is the most popular location for tourist accommodation, and here you’ll also find many cafes and tavernas to keep you fuelled-up between sightseeing. Other good neighbourhoods for tourist accommodation are Monastiraki and Koukaki. Getting around Athens is easy, thanks to its metro and bus systems, which were improved in the run-up to the 2004 Olympic Games. While travelling the metro, look out for the ancient artefacts that are on show in many of the stations – they’ve been put on display in the locations that they were found during the railway’s creation. Almost every shop in Athens will accept credit or debit cards, but it’s always worth having cash with you as well. People tip around 5–10% in restaurants in Greece. Greece is a very popular summer holiday destination. This means that, in the summer months, Athens fills up with tourists from around the world, making it harder to book restaurants or sites. Greek summers also get very hot, particularly in the middle of the day, so it’s preferable to visit Athens between September and June. While the months between November and February benefit from less crowds, it can get cold, with occasional rain and snow. Note that all archeological sites are free on the first Sunday of the month November–March each year. A combination ticket can be bought for the acropolis and ancient sites for €20 April–October (€10 November–March). This will save you money on buying separate tickets to each of the sites included in this itinerary. Images by Gonbiana from Pixabay; user32212 from Pixabay; Natasa Pavic from Pixabay; and Nimrod Oren from Pixabay.

Day 1

Day 1: The Acropolis, the Parthenon and archeological museums

Visit Athens' most famous site on your first day, The Acropolis, before exploring the pretty neighbourhood of Plaka and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
08:00 - 11:00
The Acropolis and the Parthenon
Athens 105 58, Greece
Start the day at the Acropolis, the famous ancient citadel that looms majestically over Athens. No matter how many times you visit, the sight of the ancient marble-columned temples standing proudly above the city is nothing short of spectacular. It’s best to arrive early, or close to dusk, especially during Athens’ hot summers, as the beating sun reflects back off the marble structures during the heat of the day. You’ll enter the Acropolis through the Propylaea, or the “gateway” to the Acropolis. Once inside, look out in particular for the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and – of course – the Parthenon. These historically important structures are all thought to date back to the fifth century BC, when their construction was ordered by the Greek statesman Pericles. All of the buildings have been damaged over time by various sieges, but they still give an incredible insight into ancient Athens. The Erechtheion was named for Erectheus, a demi-god and mythical king of Athens. It was largely built to glorify both Athens itself and the patron goddess of the city, Athena, but it was also a shrine for other mythical beings and gods, including Hephaistos and Poseidon. The Temple of Athena Nike is one of the smallest buildings on the Acropolis, and dedicated to “Athena of Victory”, paying respect to Athena’s role in protecting Athens. The temple was taken apart by the Ottoman Empire in 1687, but it was restored in the early nineteenth century, with some of its most important elements being removed to the Acropolis Museum for safekeeping. And finally, the greatest structure on the hill is the Parthenon. Dedicated to Athena, it is thought to be the best example of Doric architecture. Its cellar housed a huge statue of Athena by the sculptor Phidias (his Statue of Zeus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), as well as the city’s treasury, and was the largest Doric Greek Temple. You can learn more about the Acropolis at the Acropolis Museum (see below). Image by Leonhard Niederwimmer from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 20.00 EUR
Students 10.00 EUR
Kids 10.00 EUR Under 18
Seniors 10.00 EUR

Notes

During winter months (November–March), tickets to visit the Acropolis are half the price, meaning £10 for adults and £5 for students, children and over-65s.

Getting there

Most visitors stay in the Plaka neighbourhood, and from here it's just a ten-minute walk to the Acropolis.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
11:00 - 13:00
Plaka
Plaka, Athens, Greece
Make your way to your next stop, Plaka, via its small enclave of Anafiotika. This historical neighbourhood features whitewashed houses with shuttered windows that would be more at home on a Greek island. And the reason for that is that they were built by stonemasons from Anafi, an island in the Cyclades, in the mid-nineteenth century. Continue on to the centre of Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighbourhood, where bougainvillea trails down from the roofs of historic homes and restaurants spill out onto the streets. Although some places are a little touristy, it’s still a great place to stop for lunch or a refreshing drink, and arguably the city’s prettiest neighbourhood. There are also jewellery shops, museums, and souvenir shops. Image by Despina Galani from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey

Getting there

From the Acropolis, it's a ten-minute walk to Plaka.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
13:00 - 15:00
Acropolis Museum
Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, Athina 117 42, Greece
After visiting the Acropolis in the morning, take the opportunity to learn more about its history at the nearby Acropolis Museum. Inside, you’ll find painted vases, sculptures from the Parthenon’s pediments and friezes, beautiful caryatids, statues and more. As well as these, there are uncovered objects from the Acropolis’s early history, the Archaic period, and even archeological finds from the slopes leading up to the Acropolis, where the remains of homes, religious structures and entertainment venues have been found. It’s a fascinating museum that will give you a wonderful insight into both the story of the Acropolis and Athens itself. Image by Athens at a Glance from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 10.00 EUR

Getting there

It's a five-minute walk south from Plaka to the Acropolis Museum.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes
15:00 - 16:00
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Athens 105 57, Greece
Dating back to the sixth century BC, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was – as its name suggests – an ancient temple dedicated to Zeus, the chief deity in Ancient Greek mythology. The temple took over six-hundred years to build, and was only completed in the second century AD. For a time, it was the largest temple in Greece, and it also contained one of the world’s biggest cult statues. Unfortunately, after being pillaged in 267 AD, the site was quarried for its materials, so much of the original structure has been lost to other buildings around Athens. Nevertheless, the imposing columns that do remain are still an impressive site, and it’s worth visiting this open-air museum for its archeological importance. Image by TravelCoffeeBook from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard Free

Getting there

Wander only five minutes from the Acropolis Museum to reach the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes
16:00 - 18:00
National Archeological Museum
Ethniko Archeologiko Mousio, 28is Oktovriou 44, Athina 106 82, Greece
To round off your day of archeological discovery, head to Greece’s largest museum of its kind, the National Archeological Museum of Athens. Inside, there’s a rich collection of art from across Greece. The major permanent collections give you a sense of the depth and breadth of the museum’s offering: the Collection of Prehistoric Antiquities, the Collection of Sculpture Works, the Vase and Miniature Collection, the Collection of Metalworking Works, and a collection of Egyptian and Eastern Antiquities. Additionally, selected temporary exhibitions explore areas of Greek arts and culture. No matter which exhibitions you choose to see, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the dazzling array of sculpture, paintings and jewellery on display here. Photo by Arno Senoner from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 12.00 EUR

Notes

Admission to the museum is half the price in winter, at 6€ (1 November until 31 March).

Getting there

From the Temple of Olympian Zeus, walk to Acropoli station to take the train to Omonia, from where it’s a ten-minute walk to the National Archeological Museum. Alternatively, take the bus to Polytechneio.

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
18:00 - 22:00
Exarcheia
Exarcheia, Athens, Greece
The Exarcheia neighbourhood has long been the centre of anarchist movements in Athens – look out for political street art across its walls. But it’s also a great place to spend an evening, thanks to its cafe bars, live music clubs and vegetarian restaurants. Alternatively, go a little further north, to the multicultural Kypseli neighbourhood. The bars and restaurants reflect the neighbourhood's diverse population, with cuisines including Ethiopian and Kurdish. Image by Julian Hacker from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard Free

Getting there

The National Archeological Museum is in the Exarcheia neighbourhood, so you won't need to wander far.

Day 2

Day 2: Museums, the Olympic Stadium and the beach

On your second day, intersperse Athens' Museum Mile and the Panathenaic Stadium with exploring some of its best neighbourhoods, before heading to the beach.
08:00 - 09:00
Kolonaki Square
Kolonaki, Athens, Greece
Start your second day in Athens in Kolonaki Square, within the Kolonaki neighbourhood. With a wealth of cafes with outdoor seating, this is a brilliant, central spot for your morning coffee – watch Athenian life go by as you sip your drink. It’s one of Athens’ more expensive neighbourhoods, and if you decide to hang around, you’ll find plenty of art galleries, trendy shops and stylish places to eat to keep you busy. Image by Daria Nepriakhina from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard Free

09:00 - 11:00
The Museum Mile of Athens
Leof. Vasilissis Sofias, Athina, Greece
Walk down Leoforos Vasilissis Sofias and you’ll stumble across three fantastic museums. In fact, they are so well-regarded that the street has now been dubbed the “Museum Mile of Athens”. The first stop, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, features Christian art from the Early Christian era to Byzantine and Medieval exhibits. Among the 25,000 artefacts on show are frescoes, miniature sculptures and gold-leaf paintings. Just down the road, the Museum of Cycladic Art highlights artworks from the Cycladic culture, which dominated islands in the Aegean Sea from the 33rd century BC to the 12th century BC. There are also regular temporary exhibitions. Finally, the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, which is located in the Benakis family’s mansion, hosts a wide-ranging collection of artworks, including Byzantine, Chinese and Roman art. On the way to your next stop, look out for Aristotle’s Lyceum – the remains of a temple that was once dedicated to Apollo, and where Aristotle founded a school of philosophy. Image by Daniel Nebreda from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 8.00 EUR
Students 4.00 EUR
Kids 0.00 EUR Under 18
Seniors 4.00 EUR

Notes

The museum is not open on Tuesday mornings.

Getting there

From Plaka, the walk to The Museum Mile of Athens takes twenty minutes.

Travel time
0 hours 20 minutes
11:00 - 12:00
Panathenaic Stadium
Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou, Athina 116 35, Greece
Make your way to the Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium in the world to be constructed entirely from marble. It was built in 144 AD with space for 50,000 people, but after the fourth century AD it was rarely used. Nevertheless, the stadium was renovated in order to host the first ever modern Olympic games in 1896, and was used again in the 2004 Athens Olympics, when it housed the archery competition and became the finish line for the marathon. The huge, open-air arena is also used as a music venue. Image by cosmix from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 5.00 EUR
Students 2.50 EUR
Kids 0.00 EUR Under 6
Seniors 2.50 EUR

Getting there

From Leoforos Vasilissis Sofias, it's a ten-minute walk to the Panathenaic Stadium.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
12:00 - 13:00
Pangrati neighbourhood
Pangrati, Athens, Greece
After visiting the Panathenaic Stadium, spend some time in its surrounding neighbourhood, Pangrati, for lunch. You’ll be able to choose from dining at a relaxed cafe, to enjoying a modern taverna, or even splashing out on a Michelin-starred restaurant. If you have space in your itinerary, check out some of the area’s art galleries and cinemas, too. Image by Emmanuel Tsoutsas from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard Free

Getting there

The Panathenaic Stadium is within the Pangrati neighbourhood, so you won't need to walk far to find great places to eat and drink.

13:00 - 17:00
Legrena Beach
Thiseos & Aktis 3, Legrena, Sounio 195 00, Greece
One of the best things about visiting Athens is that, as well as magnificent ancient sights and a wealth of museums and galleries, the city is located near the sea. So why not spend half a day at the beach during your trip? Drive southeast down the coast to reach Legrena, one of the best beaches in the area, for an afternoon by the sea. There’s a supermarket, plus seafood restaurants and other places to eat, too. Image by Luca Nicoletti from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard Free

Getting there

It'll take just over an hour to reach Legrena Beach by car from Athens.

Travel time
1 hour 15 minutes
17:00 - 19:00
Temple of Poseidon
Cape Sounio, Sounio 195 00, Greece
Once the sun has started to go down, take a short drive to Cape Sounion, where you can walk up to the Temple of Poseidon. The temple was constructed in the mid-fifth century BC, and is situated within a fort that was created to protect the coast of Attica, an ancient Greek region that incorporated Athens and its surroundings. Not only are the temple ruins a fascinating sight in themselves, but their location at the edge of the coastline means that there are sweeping views over the sea in all directions. If you can, time your visit to coincide with sunset. Image by Thanasis P. from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 4.00 EUR

Getting there

The temple is less than a ten-minute drive from Legrena Beach.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes

Day 3

Day 3: Ancient sites and Piraeus

On your final day in Athens, take in the final ancient sites – Hadrian's Library, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora and the Necropolis of Kerameikos – before heading south to Piraeus.
08:00 - 10:00
Hadrian's Library
Areos 3, Athina 105 55, Greece
Start your final day in Athens at Hadrian’s Library, which was once the largest library in Athens. Its construction was led by the Roman Emperor Hadrian from around 132–134 AD. While the library did hold works of literature written on papyrus scrolls, at the time, libraries were also a place for group learning. Hadrian’s Library was therefore used by various schools and philosophers for teaching, studying and lectures. Image by Tamal Mukhopadhyay from Unsplash
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 4.00 EUR
Students 2.00 EUR
Kids 0.00 EUR Under 18

Getting there

From Plaka, it's less than a ten-minute walk to Hadrian's Library.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
10:00 - 12:00
Ancient and Roman Agoras
Polignotou 3, Athina 105 55, Greece
In ancient Greek times, an "agora" was a meeting place, and Athens boasts the best-preserved example: the Ancient Agora. Alongside the remnants of spaces that would have been used for debate are religious structures, the most notable being the well-kept Temple of Hephaestus. Athens is also home to a Roman Agora, where the central market was held during the Roman era. Romans would have entered through the grand Gate of Athena Archegetis. Despite the damage that it has suffered over the centuries, the now-stunted columns that mark its boundaries give a sense of the Roman Agora’s one-time importance. Look out for the decorated frieze of the Tower of the Winds, a marble tower built by the astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus, which was used as a sundial and weathervane. Photo by user32212 from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 2.00 EUR
Students 1.00 EUR
Kids 0.00 EUR Under 18
Seniors 1.00 EUR

Getting there

The Roman Agora and Ancient Agora are below the Acropolis, in the same area as Hadrian's Library, so you'll only need to walk a few minutes to reach either.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes
12:00 - 13:00
Necropolis of Kerameikos
Keramikos, Athens, Greece
Walk a short distance northwest of the agoras to reach the Necropolis of Kerameikos. Again, due to damage over the years, this may not look much at first glance, but it’s actually a fantastic insight into an ancient Athenian settlement. As its name suggests, this is thought to have been where the city’s potters lived, who would have produced Attic vases (orange-and-black painted vases decorated with images from Greek mythology). You’ll be able to make out the remains of walls, gates and the Fountain House (which supplied water to the city), while most of the site’s architectural findings are in the on-site Kerameikos Archaeological Museum. While you're in the area, you may wish to head to the nearby Monastiraki neighbourhood – where there are plentiful tavernas and restaurants to choose from – for lunch. Image by chr2thing from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard 8.00 EUR
Students 4.00 EUR
Kids 0.00 EUR Under 18
Seniors 4.00 EUR

Getting there

It will take you around ten minutes to walk from the agoras to the Kerameikos Archaeological Park.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
13:00 - 20:00
Piraeus and the Greek Islands
Pireas, Greece
End the final day of your trip to Athens in Piraeus, a port just to the southwest of the city centre. Wander round the pretty, hillside neighbourhood of Kastella and wait to watch the sunset over the water. Alternatively, extend your holiday by taking a boat to one of the Greek Islands – from Piraeus’s port, you can reach the Dodecanese Islands, including the popular Rhodes and Kos, as well as Karpathos, Symi, Astypalia and more. Image by Dragos Ungureanu from Pixabay
Article By: Freya Godfrey
Standard Free

Getting there

It's a twenty-five minute taxi to Piraeus from central Athens. Alternatively, take the train, a journey of around twenty minutes, or the metro, which will run you there in half an hour.

Travel time
0 hours 25 minutes
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