What to do in Athens, Greece

Greece: The cradle of western civilization

Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, the home of gods and goddesses and the Olympics, a country where whitewashed homes on sun-baked islands dot turquoise blue seas. A trip to Greece really can feel like setting foot in heaven - especially when you combine that stunning beauty and culture with the country’s still-reasonable prices and its strong tradition for enjoying a fun night out. Your Greece vacation will probably begin in Athens, where most international flights arrive. There is a lot to see and do in Athens, so you want to make sure to hit these particular highlights.

The Acropolis, Athens. Photo by Eustaquio Santimano (flickr)
The Acropolis, Athens. Photo by Eustaquio Santimano (flickr)

The Acropolis and the Parthenon (of course!)

The Acropolis in Athens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. The collection of ancient buildings sits on a flat-topped rock that rises out of the center of Athens, like the city’s historic heart.

Settlements on the Acropolis date back to the early Neolithic era, but what you will find there today are the ruins of temples and memorials built and rebuilt in the golden age of Athens in the 5th century BC.

In the thousands of years since, the Acropolis has seen invasions and war, destruction and celebration. Greece is currently trying to get back some Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum.

Through it all, the Parthenon, and its temples honoring Athena, goddess of wisdom, still stand as testaments to a classic and ancient time.

Egyptian Artifacts. National Archaeological Museum, Greece. Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis (flickr)
Egyptian Artifacts. National Archaeological Museum, Greece. Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis (flickr)

The National Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum is another don’t miss site. With more than 20,000 exhibits from Greece’s dynamic history, this museum is home to the best of what this country’s past has to offer. The ancient Greeks were scholars and artists, leaving many advanced and beautiful works. Their world view was ruled by a host of gods, and the myths of the Greek gods seem like a far-out soap opera. Even if you're heading out to visit archaeological sites in other parts of the country, this will give you some good background information to start with.

Plaka District at night. Photo by Svetlana Zhukova. (flickr)
Plaka District at night. Photo by Svetlana Zhukova. (flickr)
The path up Lykavittos Hill. Photo by adamsofen (flickr)
The path up Lykavittos Hill. Photo by adamsofen (flickr)

A Great Night Out

Athenians makes the most of their warm, starry evenings, by sitting and enjoying a leisurely meal and ample amounts of laughter, music and ouzo with friends and family.  There are many fine restaurants all over Athens, but for a truly great night out, you can head to the historic Plaka district, which sits at the base of the Acropolis.  It's a pedestrian area - perfect for strolling, and there are lots of restaurants with tables outside.  For somewhere less touristy, look for a place in the fashionable Psyrri, Gazi or Kolonaki districts.

Go for a Hike

Put on some comfortable walking shoes and head up Mount Lycabettus, or Lykavittos. Easy winding walking paths lead to the top of the hill, or you can take the cable car, if you prefer. Either way, the view from the top is spectacular, with Athens at your feet, the Acropolis rising out of the city, and if it’s a clear day, you can see out as far as the port of Piraeus.

Greek Parliament, Syntagma square, Athens, Greece.  Photo by dungodung (flickr)
Greek Parliament, Syntagma square, Athens, Greece. Photo by dungodung (flickr)

Democracy in Action

It was the Greeks who invented the idea of democracy, citizen involvement and public discourse, and those traditions still run strong today. For a look at the classical roots of this political ideal, head to the Ancient Agora. It was once the center of the Athenian government, and was a place for all citizens to gather, discuss and argue.

Today, that same thing happens in Syntagma Square, right by the Greek Parliament. It’s surrounded by the serene and lovely National Gardens, and is the site of fairly frequent Greek protests and political demonstrations. If there’s no protest on when you visit, you can still watch the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Greece is one of the most fascinating countries in the world to explore. From the warmth and passion of the people, to the fresh Mediterranean cuisine, and the thousands of years of history that come alive in this modern city, a trip to Athens is bound to be a trip of a lifetime.


Explore Athens, Greece

show route and directions
A markerAcropolis, Greece -
Acropolis, Theorias, Athens 10558, Greece
[get directions]

B markerParthenon, Greece -
Parthenon, Athens 10558, Greece
[get directions]

C markerNational Archaeological Museum, Greece -
National Archaeological Museum, Patision 44, Athens 10433, Greece
[get directions]

D markerMount Lycabettus, Greece -
Mt Lycabettus, Athens 11471, Greece
[get directions]

E markerSyntagma Square, Greece -
Syntagma Square, Athens 10563, Greece
[get directions]

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Comments? 8 comments

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Oh that looks so marvelous - the restaurant seaside - may I make reservations like now? Great piece and love traveling 'virtually' as it is all so wonderful! Thanks for bringing me a bit of Athens. I will add it to places I want to go see one day!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Thanks for your comment! I hope you make it to Athens one day - Greece is such a fascinating country!


Marigold 5 years ago

Athens at my feet would be awesome! I know of Acropolis and all the other famous spots but I seldom come across travel suggestions as detailed and helpful as this post! Thanks!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Marigold!

Thanks for dropping by and for your comment. I am glad that you find it helpful. It's such a splendid place and I can't help but write and share about it!


afrodite 5 years ago

I'm so glad that you,someone not from Greece,can see so many hidden things and meanings about this country and spread the word!!we Greeks,are so thankful!!!hope you had a marvelous time here in Athens:)


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi afrodite!

Greece gives me every reason to spread the word. Yes, I always had marvelous time. You must be very proud!


Neosapartmani Marmaras 5 years ago

I've been to Athens several times, mostly in the spring and it is a very beautiful city. Crowded and always in a rush, but with lots of tourist attractions. Greek taverns and traditional restaurants are still high on my "what to visit" list since they have very tasty mediterranean cuisine. Beware of traffic jams in the rush hour and you will have a great time in Greek capitol.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Neosapartmani Marmaras!

The taverns are indeed must-go places in Greece - delectable cuisine! Thanks for dropping by.

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