Athens is not just one of Greece’s most historic places, but easily rivals some of the other cities in Europe, too. Honestly, if you’re a keen history lover, then you’re going to love exploring Athens. Though, and it’s a big though, that’s not all that the city has; there’s a huge amount of incredible and best things to do in Athens that go far beyond its history, too.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of our favourite spots that dotted all across the city.
Now, obviously, you can’t really go to Athens without seeing all the incredible history (and why would you not). So, I’ve tried to use some of the incredible historical sights as anchors of where to spend your time exploring. This way, you’ll get to see the main sights, whilst also strolling through the little nooks and hidden gems all across Athens.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget that Greece is so much more than Athens, too. From the city, you can actually pop to some of the gorgeous areas in mainland Greece or even pop over to some of the prettiest Greek islands that are too stunning to miss.
Whatever you decide, have the best time in Greece and exploring all of Athens.
1.) Theatre of Dionysus
Being the oldest theatre in all of Greece, seeing the Theatre of Dionysus is easily one of the best things to do in Athens when you visit. perched on Akropolis Hill, it was actually created to be part of the sanctuary of Dionysos (who was the god of merriment and wine).
It’s totally worth visiting and even better if you go with a guide to explain all the differing histories of this incredible place. Not only that, it’s a stone throw away from the Acropolis and Hadrian’s Arch.
Also, if you can, try and visit the Acropolis first thing in the morning (ideally, before 10 am). This way, you’ll miss the majority of the crowds and also be able to pop over to the Theatre of Dionysus nice and easily.
2.) Philopappos Hill
Philopappos Hill may not be as well-known as the Acropolis but in terms of ancient history, it a total gem.
Now, the hill is named after a Roman senator who was the benefactor to Athens (I mean, how cool). Atop the hill, you’ll now find the Monument of Philopappos at the highest point of the hill in a marble tomb.
Honestly, strolling Philopappos Hill is one of the best things to do in Athens around sunset as the views are incredible.
From here, you’ll see all over Athens and it’s totally gorgeous with all the orange hues. For me, it’s by far the best place for views across to the Acropolis, too. See the Google Maps link, here.
3.) Benaki Museum
Housed in the former mansion of the Benaki family, exploring the museums is easily one of the best things to do in Athens if you love history and art.
You see, it’s home to a totally huge collection of art throughout different eras of Greece. They literally have over 100,000 pieces with some of the pieces dating from prehistoric times.
Plus, it also houses a huge collection of Islamic, Byzantine and Asian art, too. Oh, and the Benaki Museum is just across the road from the National Garden so it’s easy to visit both when you’re in the area.
4.) The National Garden
Located in the heart of Athens, the National Garden is a green oasis and one of the best things to do in Athens on a hot day. Almost 100 years ago, you can stroll the paths past Zappeio Hall, the lake and the Botanic Garden, too.
Afterwards, it’s well worth popping over to the Plaka District, too. It’s right in between the National Garden and the Acropolis so totally easy to find.
5.) The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium is a place deeply embedded in the history of Athens. Now, the original stadium was constructed in 300BC and then rebuilt in 2nd Century (by Herodes Atticus), making it thousands of years old. Over the years, it’s hosted several original Olympic tournaments over the last few centuries and decades.
Also, interestingly, It’s where the Olympic flame begins its journey every four years and is one of the only stadiums to be made entirely of marble across the whole world.
Oh yeah, don’t miss the Olympic Museum, too. It’s where you’ll see the Alter where the torches are lit.
Known for its ruins of Hadrian’s Library, exploring Monastiraki is one of the best things to do in Athens, especially if you want to grab a few gifts and then explore the area’s history.
Yes, you’ll see lots of little tourist stalls but you’ll also come across the incredible Monastiraki Flea Market that sells everything under the sun. The sellers and owners can be a little pushy (but polite) so take it in your stride and haggle if there’s something you love.
It’s also a great place for some street food, too; especially koulouri.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for pickpockets as it’s quite a crowded area and petty crime can be an issue here.
7.) Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Seeing the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is easily one of the best things to do in Athens if you’re keen on the history of this amazing city. Not only that, it’s so beautiful and one of the best venues in the city.
Built within the 2nd Century by, you guessed it, Herodes Atticus the amphitheatre can seat thousands of people on its steeply sided slopes close to the base of the Acropolis.
Now, the original was mainly destroyed after just 100 years and not reconstructed until the 1950s but that shouldn’t stop you visiting; it’s amazing.
Plus, it’s right next to the Theatre of Dionysus and the Temple of Athena; making it easy to visit.
8.)The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum houses all the finds, loads of history and artefacts from the area around the Acropolis. This all means the collection is huge and it’s filled with thousands of years of history.
Also, if you want to keep costs lower, the first Sunday of each month has a totally free entry (between April-October), too.
9.) Mount Lycabettus
Being the highest point in all of Athens, Mount Lycabettus is another one of the best things to do in Athens for views across the city.
At the top, the chapel of St. George sits proudly and is well worth navigating the winding pathway that begins in Aristippou Street. Alternatively, take the funicular to the top if you’re feeling a little more chilled (like I often do).
10.) National Archaeological Museum
Often considered one of the best museums in Europe to visit, exploring the National Archaeological Museum is one of the best things to do in Athens to explore the country’s history. With artefacts dating back to the Neolithic Age; it will take you days to actually see everything across the different rooms and exhibitions.
Don’t forget to see the bronze age fresco from the island of Santorini and the Mask of Agamemnon which is often considered the ‘Mona Lisa of pre-history’.
11.) Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square is one of the most interesting places to visit in Athens to see the changing of the guards in front of the ‘Tomb to the Unknown Soldier.’
At this location, you can also visit the Parliament Building, ancient statues and a heap of restaurants and shops close by.
For a tasty and unpretentious mezze lunch, pop into Tzitzikas kai Mermigas. Their cheese pies and stuffed peppers are everything!
12.) Plaka District
The Plaka District is probably one of the more popular areas of Athens to explore; especially as it’s so close to the Acropolis and Syntagma Square, too.
It is a perfect place to experience Greek culture through all the tasty Greek food in the many little restaurants here. Its small streets are full of cafes, boutique shops and the Jewish Museum (which is amazing to visit).
For a tasty bite, pop into To Kafeneio that’s totally chilled and relaxed with some yummy homemade Greek dishes. Their Kesaria Pie (pastry, spices, salami and cheeses) and Sfoliata (pastry, Greek feta and Greek honey) are so good.
No visit to Athens is complete until you visit the Parthenon, it’s one of the best things to do in Athens and can’t be missed.
Built to honour the goddess Athena Parthenos, it was completed in 438BC and is so beautiful to see. Whilst looking around, make sure to spot the stunning metopes that are carved so intricately. Oh, and be sure to see the east pediment that still sits proudly on the Parthenon itself.
One thing to note, if you do visit in the height of Summer, make sure to explore the Parthenon in the early morning or late afternoon. That Greek sun can be unbearable in the midday heat.
Technically, the Acropolis of Athens encompasses many of the ancient sites already mentioned but it’s worth noting in its own right, too.
Truth be told, it’s almost impossible to not visit this ancient citadel if you’re already seeing the Parthenon (that was built by Ictinus), the temple of Hephaestus and the Erechtheum Temple.
Make sure to spend at least a day wandering all the historical spots around the Acropolis; it’s totally amazing.
Just make sure to always stick to pre-defined paths.
This is such an important historical site and going ‘off-piste’ is a big no-no!