Athens, Greece is a world-class city that combines the ancient with the modern, the traditional with the trendy, and the culture with the fun. It’s a city that will continuously surprise and inspire you.
Named after the goddess of power and wisdom, Athens quickly became one of the most powerful cities in Ancient Greece, and its significance remains to this day. The city is known as the birthplace of western democracy, arts, and some of the most prominent thinkers the world has ever known.
Here are 9 things you should definitely do on your visit to Athens!
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1. Discover the Acropolis
Athens is one of the most historic cities in the world, and the ruins found throughout the city will leave you in awe. One of the most iconic of these ancient sites is, of course, The Ancient Acropolis.
The Acropolis proudly stands as a symbol perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. Having survived over 25 centuries of war, invasions, earthquakes, and recreations, just walking around the Acropolis will leave in you a daze of wonder. The site contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historical significance, such as the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike.
Tip: Either be one of the first to enter or the last to exit the Acropolis. Do not go midday, it will not only be a million degrees but it will be packed with people. The best time to go is right when the doors open, or be among last to leave.
2. Explore Ancient Ruins
The Acropolis is not the only ruin that Athens is known for. The city itself is a historical monument to the rest of the world. With the special ticket, you have the ability to check out six historic sites including the: Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kermeikos, Olympieion (Temple of Zeus), and the Archaeological Site of Lykeion.
Tip: Get the ancient ruins ‘combo ticket’. If you plan on seeing the Acropolis and at least two other sites then the extra money is worth the price. Here’s a list of what the combo ticket includes.
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3. Wander Through the National Library
The National Library of Greece was designed by Theophil Hansen, a Danish architect in 1888. He was the architectural mastermind behind the Athenian Neoclassical Trio of buildings; the National University, the Academy of Athens and the National Library.
All three of these buildings are architectural marvels and well worth a visit. Today, the library has outgrown its space and is in the process of being relocated to a larger building.
Tip: GO INSIDE! Yes, the architecture and outside of the building are gorgeous; but go inside and check it out. The library is being relocated so you can see transcribers working on old manuscripts and documents centuries old.
4. Be a Champ at the Panathenaic Stadium
The stadium is a classic monument for Greece and the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. Constructed in the 4th century BC, it was used as a place to celebrate the city of Athens.
Since then the stadium has gone through a whirlwind of historic changes including reconstruction and abandonment for years. Today, it serves as a reminder of the Olympic Games and the idea of celebrating the athletic spirit.
Tip: Even if you don’t want to pay the few euro to go inside the stadium, you can still walk right up to it and peek inside. It is worth it to go inside, but if you are short on time don’t forget to take a peek.
5. Wander the Flea Markets in Monastiraki
Shopping in Athens will leave your wallets empty. The amount of treasures and souvenirs that can be found throughout the city of Athens are enough to decorate an entire house.
The Monastriaki Flea Market brings the city to life every Sunday morning, from handmade jewelry to paintings of the city. The clothes sold here range from traditional garb to festive tanks. Essentially, you can buy just about anything inside this flea market.
Tip: Don’t settle on the first item you see, especially if it’s related to olives. Chances are you will find the same product just a block down. Shop around before you get your heart set on buying something.
6. Get Lost in the Streets of Plaka
Plaka is considered to be one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. Personally, I think it is one of the most picturesque and traditional parts of Athens; away from the tourist lines and eager vendors.
This part of old Athens is filled with taverns, cobblestoned alleys, and vibrant flowers. This area is the perfect place to stop, breathe, and spend a moment appreciating the fact that you are in Athens.
Tip: Just chill out here, Athens is a huge city and majority of the time you will be walking around in the heat. Grab a beer, snack on some olives, people watch, and just simply enjoy your surroundings.
7. Take a Day Trip (on land)
There are a few day trips you can take from Athens without getting in a boat and leaving the mainland. Delphi, the worship site for Apollo (the Greek God of the Sun) is located 2-3 hours outside of Athens. This is the ancient city where the oracle that gave the local Greeks predictions about their future.
Mycenae, which is about an hour and a half outside of Athens, brings your high school history books to life and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.
Cape Sounion is an hour drive from Athens and found here are the ruins of the god of the sea: Poseidon. Travelers and tourists flock to this destination at sundown, when the golden rays cast their shadow on the Mediterranean clear blue waters.
8. Take a Day Trip (on water)
If you are looking to escape the mainland and adventure across the Mediterranean, there are a few islands close enough to Athens. These islands are a popular destination for a daytrip away from the city. The most popular are Aegina, Hydra and Paros.
Read More: 7 Best Attractions in Paros, Greece.
Read More: A Quick Guide To Santorini
Aegina is a small island (less than an hour from Athens) that is dedicated to pistachios. Pistachio everything, from ice cream to butter to liquor; if you are a fan of pistachios I can’t recommend this island enough, it is delicious!
Find some peace and tranquility on the island of Hydra, famed for its Greek Isle décor and vibrant colors abound. Lastly, get lost on the island of Paros with the picturesque views of that bold blue and white Greek style.
9. Indulge your taste buds
Eat everything you can. Everything from the tzatziki, horiatiki salata (Greek salad), cheese saganaki (fried cheese), to the wine and ouzo is all worth trying! Do your taste buds a favor and indulge in everything on the menu.
Tip: Meals in Greece are a social event, you aren’t actually dining to just eat, it is meant to be an experience.
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