By Soren Rivero
Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece, is simply jam-packed with incredible things to experience. As the birthplace of democracy, it's no surprise that the city is brimming with historical landmarks and unique culture. To help make the most of your time in this vibrant city, here are some of the best things to do in Athens!
We of course have to begin with the #1 best thing to do in Athens: visiting the Acropolis. Not only is it a fascinating display of art and architecture, but the Acropolis also has significant history behind it. Acropolis translates to ‘high city’ and typically refers to constructed buildings atop of hills. Specifically, the Acropolis of Athens rests upon a large limestone hill overlooking the city. Throughout the centuries, this famous archaeological site in Greece has played a role as a home to royalty, home to the Gods, a citadel, and now a public tourist attraction. It is by far one of the most unique things to do in Greece.
Situated just a few steps away from Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum. This modern-day museum was built in 2009 on the southern slope of the limestone hill, by Bernard Tschumi of Switzerland. The intention behind its construction was to find and collect unique artifacts from the Acropolis for safekeeping and display. You can take a tour of the museum that’ll guide you through the three levels divided by chronological eras. You’re also free to explore the museum at your own pace.
Check out these Athens vacation packages that include Acropolis tours, air, hotels, and more!
Temple of Hephaestus
On the northwest edge of the Agora of Athens is the extremely well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus. As you might guess, this Doric peripteral temple was built in honor of Hephaestus, the God of fire, blacksmithing, and craftsmanship all the way back in ~450 B.C. Visiting the temple is not only fun, but also a cheap thing to do in Athens. You can gain entry to the temple by purchasing an Ancient Agora ticket. The cost is usually less than $15 for a full day, and includes most (if not all) of the attractions around the area.
If you visit the Temple of Hephaestus, you might as well take full advantage of the ticket and explore the rest of Ancient Agora. This is the best way to get a feel of how ancient Greek agoras were like. Agoras are public community areas used for gatherings, meetings, and trading. You can walk around the agora ruins and spot some other popular attractions in Athens (Temple of Ares, Monopteros, Apollo Patroos Templet. etc.). This is the perfect opportunity to make a sort of ‘scavenger hunt’ style activity if you’re looking for fun things to do in Athens. Just across the street from Ancient Agora are a handful of shops and restaurants where you can eat Greek food in Athens.
The neighborhood of Plaka stretches from around the edge of Acropolis all the way to Syntagma Square and is the perfect place to explore away from the crowds. You’ll get the ‘old village’ feel while walking around this narrow, yet cozy, neighborhood. The twisting alleyways are also lined from corner-to-corner with family run shops and restaurants. Some even say that the best restaurants to eat in Athens can be found in Plaka!
Philopappos Hill + Philopappos Monument
Philopappos Hill is a neighborhood southwest of the Acropolis, which gets its name from the Philopappos Monument that it shadows. You’ll notice that Philopappos Hill is less of a neighborhood and more of a public space to hike in Athens. There are a handful of trails leading to different areas, each with their own unique view of Athens. The most dynamic view you’ll get is by visiting Philopappos Monument. The monument was built in dedication to Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, an early-age Greek prince. Mouseion Hill acts as the resting place for this well-preserved monument. Visiting the hill is highly recommended if you want something unique to do in Athens.
Diomidous Botanical Garden
The Diomidous Botanical Garden is an exceptional choice for travelers who want to relax in nature in Athens. Over 40 acres of luscious greenery, hundreds of plant species, and a lovely pond are all nestled inside this beautiful garden. Cute modern-day additions have made the garden all the more lively, including stone walls and a playground. You can take a tour of the garden which will guide you through the plant species categorized into herbal, aromatic, ornamental, and historic. Otherwise, bring yourself a meal or a drink from one of the best cafes in Athens to enjoy a picnic in the great outdoors.
Continuing back to our deep dive down into Greece’s fascinating history, you’ll want to visit the Parthenon. It’s an astonishing aspect of Greek history, as it was a former temple dedicated to the one and only goddess Athena. Historians and archaeologists both say that Parthenon is the Doric Order’s greatest achievement. Whether you agree or disagree, you can’t deny that this Parthenon is a fundamental part of any Greece vacation itinerary.
Plato's Academy Digital Museum
The Plato's Academy Digital Museum is an innovative museum that provides guests with the ability to travel back in time to Plato’s era, where the bulk of certain philosophical genres began. Interactive installations and video projections make the experience whole, with a digital replica of Plato’s cave (from The Republic), truly enhancing the experience. This is definitely a must-try unique activity in Athens as well as a kid-friendly attraction in Greece.
Herod Atticus Odeon
If mesmerizing is the name of the game, then Herod Atticus Odeon truly takes the prize. This interesting historical site in Athens is a theater from way back in the second century. It’s built into a hillside and features 35 rows that can fit well over 4,000 guests. The theater was traditionally used for music concerts and related events when it was first built, and still continues to host live music and dance performances throughout the year. So really, you’re gaining historic knowledge and contemporary-era entertainment all at the same time! That alone makes this one of the best things to do in Athens.