When planning our trips, several weeks if not months ahead of our departure, I usually find myself in the fortunate position to research our next destinations. I read every Top 10 Must-See blog post I can find, carefully comb through reviews on TripAdvisor and Google, and page through hard-copy guidebooks at the local library (if I’m lucky enough to find them in English).
All of this research leads to lots of notes and just as many saved points on Google Maps. This slightly obsessive routine is a lot of work when I’m in the middle of it but it definitely pays off in the end when I’m left with a concise must-see list for our next getaway.
As a follow-up to my Travel Tips for Athens, here’s my list of 10 must-see attractions for Greece’s capital. Everything on this list is free or affordably priced. I hope you find it useful as you plan your own Athens itinerary. Enjoy!
While it would be possible to only visit free attractions while travelling, we don’t mind paying for an attraction here and there. We’re more than happy to support museums and archaeological sites by paying entrance fees because this ensures they’ll be maintained and preserved for future generations. That being said, we never have an unlimited budget so we have to pick and choose which ones to visit.
Budget aside, we couldn’t say no to the Acropolis. The cost of entry is a small price to pay to wander around the most important ancient sight in the Western world! We’re lucky that we visited Athens during the winter because tickets for the Acropolis were half price. In fact, all archaeological sites are discounted during the winter. Score!
Cost: €10 from November 1 – March 31 / €20
Pottery fragments found on this site suggest that this hill has been inhabited since 4000 BC but it wasn’t until the 5th Century BC that the hill was transformed into the citadel we see today. Pericles, a general and prominent statesman during Athen’s Golden Age, commissioned this ambitious building project to beautify and protect the city.
The Acropolis features four major monuments:
- The Parthenon
- The Temple of Athena Nike
Besides these four monuments, there’s even more to see! According to Wikipedia’s article on the Acropolis, this site contains 21 archaeological remains. You could spend several hours here, so don’t forget to bring water and snacks!
We ended up walking a lot during our stay in Athens. What better way to explore a new city, right? If you’re looking for impressive views of the Acropolis from afar, try an easy hike up Filopappou hill. The path is paved and you’ll find benches along the way so you have plenty of places to stop and rest. It’s more like a casual stroll up the hill than a full-blown hike. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, give this a try because the views are worth it!
Street art in the Plaka Neighbourhood
Acropolis literally means “high city” so be prepared for a leisurely walk up the hill to check it out. On your way, you’ll pass through Plaka, a village-like neighbourhood nestled into the hillside. We noticed street art all over the city, but this neighbourhood was definitely the most colourful out of all the areas we explored.
Take your time as you work your way up the hill so you can appreciate Athens’ vibrant street art scene.
Falafel from Falafellas
If you fancy going out to eat, treat yourself to the best falafel in Athens!
Coffee and cake from Veganaki
Veganaki is an all-vegan cafe known for its fair trade coffee and appetizing homemade Greek specialities. Several reviewers claim that Veganaki has the best coffee in Athens so we had to try it ourselves. I’m glad we did because we both agree that this was the best coffee we had in Athens. (After a disappointing latte from Taf Coffee, this was just what I needed!)
Kuba enjoyed his cake (both slices, in fact!) but I wasn’t impressed with their Plastos pie, a savoury pie consisting of spinach, leek, mint, onion, and lots of olive oil. It was slightly too oily for me. They also serve more substantial plates (like falafel wraps) if hunger strikes.
Veganaki is within walking distance of the Acropolis (a short 15-minute walk). Before sight-seeing commences, why not start your day with coffee and cake? 🙂
Cost: €12.50 for two slices of cake, one serving of pie, a double latte and double americano
If you’re looking for a quiet place to chill to break up your sight-seeing, try the National Garden. Conveniently located next to Syntagma Square in Athens’ city centre, this lush 38-acre public park is lined with walking trails. Ducks and geese paddle away in the pond, turtles bask in the sunlight, and birds nesting in the trees chatter away. What’s not to like?
Regrettably, we didn’t make it to the following attractions this time around. That means they will just need to stay on my must-see list until we return with our van. If you have the time, check them out!
The Acropolis Museum
This modern archaeological museum showcases many of the original ancient Acropolis artifacts. It’s located right next to the Acropolis, so you can even visit them both in one day.
Cost: €5 from November 1 – March 31 / €10
The Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments
We planned to visit this museum but missed our chance due to incorrect hours listed on Google! We tried visiting on Tuesday but to our dismay, the museum was closed. It’s open every Monday, Wednesday to Sunday from 8:30-15:30. (Thanks to the updated opening hours posted on their door!) The museum is free so swing by (just not on a Tuesday!) and let me know what you think.
Changing of the Guard
Members of the Presidential Guard, known as Evzones, guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24/7. Every hour, the guards change places. This ceremony takes place next to the Parliament building and across from Syntagma Square and lasts 30-35 minutes. On Sunday at 11:00 the ceremony is more elaborate with a full unit of guards and a marching band. Get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier early if you want to see this. We noticed crowds of tourists forming each time we walked by.
Vegan gyros at Cookoomela Grill
This place has RAVE reviews for their gyros and kebabs. I really wanted to try it but didn’t want to spend the money at the time, especially when we had food to eat back in our apartment. We’ll definitely try it next time and I hope you try it too! Big thanks to Eftychia for recommending this on YouTube.
Plan on visiting multiple ancient ruins?
If you visit Athens outside of winter and intend to visit several ancient ruins, you might be interested in purchasing a combined or special package ticket for €30. This ticket includes access to the Acropolis plus:
- Ancient Agora (€8)
- Hadrian’s Library (€4)
- Roman Agora (€8)
- Kerameikos (€8)
- Temple of Olympian Zeus (€6)
- Lyceum (€4)
You can buy combined tickets (as well as regular tickets) at each site. Remember that archaeological sites are half off during the winter. For example, a ticket for the Ancient Agora during the winter costs €4 as opposed to €8.
The special package ticket is only worth it if you are visiting Athens outside of the winter and intend to visit multiple sites within a 5-day period. The special package ticket isn’t discounted during the winter. Hence, it is cheaper (by €1) to buy tickets individually at each site if you visit Athens from November 1 – March 31.
- Discounted cost of visiting the Acropolis + six other sites in the winter: €29
- Cost of visiting the Acropolis + six other sites during the rest of the year: €58
Thanks to Archaeology Travel’s Ticket Tips for the Acropolis for helping me sort out the cost of entry of these sites!
We weren’t in Athens for very long so we didn’t cover much ground. We’ll be back soon enough, though!
What are your must-see attractions in Athens?