How to spend 3 days in Athens – Dominated by its history and ancient ruins Athens is also referred as the cradle of Western Civilization. A city which is more then 2,500 year-old and a hotch-potch of concrete upon brick upon stone. Built around the famous Acropolis, a hilltop citadel Athens has far more to offer than just an entry point to Greece. We started our journey of discovering Greece here and headed off to the islands.
In the last few years, the Greek capital has renewed it’s status as the European arts capital. A three-and-a-half-hour nonstop flight from London, travellers flock here for the hilltop views of ancient ruins. The corridors filled with artists and award-winning restaurants and cocktail bars. Let’s find out – How to spend 3 days in Athens.
Welcome to Athens.
What is the Best time to go to Athens?
Without a doubt everyone agrees that the best time to visit is Greece is spring and early summer (mid-Apr to mid-June) or autumn (Sept to mid-Oct). This way, you avoid the summer high season, with its inflated prices, hordes of tourists and high temperatures reaching up to 100°F/+40C. Weather during the spring and fall months is much more pleasant and sunshine is pretty much a guaranteed. Our plan to travel in the last week of May was perfect.
How to Travel to Athens
Athens is well connected and the main entry point for most travellers. We used our very own British Airways to fly into the capital and a direct flight from Heathrow got us into the capital in just less then 4hrs. There are plenty of airlines flying into Athens so do your research and get the best deals.
Travelling around Athens.
Land into Athens International Airport and you have the option to hop on a train or use the metro, both convenient and cost effective ways to get into the city centre. The taxis in Athens are affordable generally. Make sure to check prices hailing one from the airport as most of them charge a flat €40 into the city centre, not a bad deal when travelling with kids. Athens boasts of an impressive public transport network including metros, buses, trams, ferries and trains to help you get around the capital.
Where to Stay in Athens.
The most desirable areas to stay in Athens are the Plaka, Makrianni,Syntagma and Monastiraki. These all border the Acropolis and the archaeological park around it. Everything you need including shops, restaurants, the metro to the ferries, buses, taxis and nightlife is within walking distance. One of the best place to stay in Athens is the Plaka area between Syntagma Square and the Acropolis. It’s the quietest and most pleasant part of Athens. If you are looking for something out of the hustle and bustle then your option is Caravel.
Our hotel the Divani Caravel was the perfect choice, a short taxi ride away from the centre. The Divani Caravel is part of the Leading Hotels of the World so the quality was guaranteed and yes it did live up to it. It’s roof top Pool and bar had mesmerizing views of the Acropolis. Large rooms and great service what else could you want.
When it comes to accommodation – There is so a vast choice and you should be able to find something within your budget quite easily in this city. For the best results check Booking.com
How to spend 3 days in Athens – Things to Do and See.
It’s hard to come to Athens and not see the ruins so why not start with the most famous one the Acrpopolis. Start your day early to beat the crowds and the midday sun which can get very strong and with limited shade it can get hottttt at the top of the hill. Timings of the Acropolis – The doors open to the public at 8 a.m. in the summer, 8.30 a.m. in the winter. The nearest station to the Acropolis is Akropoli metro station. It is a short walk from here.
If you prefer the more touristy option, the hop on hop of bus is the perfect way to see this city. The Acropolis is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times. The Acropolis is situated on a hill but it is not a steep climb.
Most city-states in ancient Greece had at their centre a rocky mound or hill where they built their important temples and where the people could retreat if under attack. The most famous acropolis is the one in Athens and a perfect example of this.
The Acropolis is home to one of the most famous buildings in the world and a UNESCO heritage site the Parthenon. The views from the hilltop are some of the best in the city, but the Parthenon is even more impressive up front or lit up at night.
Tickets to enter the Acropolis – The tickets to the Acropolis can be purchased quite easily at the ticket counter on the foot of the hill. Tickets costs €20 per adult and kids under 10 are free. If you have an EU student card then make sure to carry it as there are plenty of discounts and free entrance in Greece.
How much time do you need to see the Acropolis? You can easily spend half a day on the hill so depending on how much of a history buff you are plan your day accordingly.
After discovering the Ancient Greek history it was time to refuel. A leisurely walk down the hill and you are in the heart of the city Monsastiraki square. A relaxed lunch with some great views of the Acropolis and we were off to the Flea Market.
The Flea Markets in Athens
Monastiraki Flea Market is open seven days a week. The best time to visit the Flea Market in Athens is on a Sunday morning, this is when jewellery makers and artisans set up their stalls for the day. This is not an actual flea market but a collection of small shops – The nearest station to the Flea market is Monastiraki Square Metro station.
You can find almost everything in the Flea market in Athens- from clothing, jewellery, leather goods, cheap souvenirs to antique marble Greek statues and traditional Greek products. If you are tired or shopping and this is not your style then enjoy one of the many cafes here and watch the people passing by. As you walk through the narrow lanes passing the shops of the Flea market you land into one of the main squares of Athens Monsastiraki square.
Monastiraki Square – Athens
This is a unique blend of styles, eras and cultures, lively but firmly dedicated to trade and the reunion of people of Athens. Monastiraki was the site of one of the largest monasteries in Athens which was demolished during archaeological excavations in the nineteenth century with very little left of the original complex. It’s buzzing with people vendors and a great vibe fills this square so make sure to visit.
The only church which remained and ironically named ‘monastiráki’ or ‘little monastery’. This eventually gave the neighbourhood its name and stands here, it is small yet beautiful. Monastiraki Square is lively through the day and night with some very classy rooftop bars which have breathtaking views of the city by the night mainly.
360 Cocktail Bar. – We visited the 360 cocktail bar and I would highly recommend this for a great evening with unparalleled views of the Acropolis light up.
Plaka is located right under the Acropolis – It is one of the oldest neighbourhood in Athens and Europe. Its beautiful pedestrian streets with traditional houses has a charm of its own and makes it the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. The main attractions in Plaka are the museums and the archeological sites but if you are after some authentic Greek food then there are some great restaurants around this area.
Plaka is beautiful and gives you a real taste of Athens.
Roman & Ancient Agora
Located to the North side of the Acropolis is the famous The Roman and Ancient Agora, created to honour the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. This was the first commercial centre of Athens with large open patios surrounded by columns and a market area. Through the ages the Roman Agora, just like most of the monuments in Athens, was transformed with additions by the dominant cultures and religions.
The Ancient Agora of Athens includes several notable ancient structures including the Temple of Haphaestus, the best preserved Classical Greek temple. It was dedicated to Hephaestus, the ancient God of fire and Athena the goddess of pottery and crafts. According to the archaeologists, the temple was built around 450 B.C.
It also offers an excellent view of the Acropolis.
Evening in Psirri
Best place to spend evening in Athens ? Psirri or Psyrri is a great place to spend an evening if you are in Athens. Until the early 90’s it had an ill reputation, but now it has become one of the most fashionable and trendy choices for entertainment, music, food and hospitality. The central square of Psyri is called Heroes Square.
Psirri is one of Athens’ main nightlife districts. It is packed with creative stores, quaint restaurants, picturesque cafes and bars. Drinking and people-watching are the main activities in Psirri. I was surprised how lively and late this city is with most of the outlets open till the wee hours of the morning. Some extraordinary musicians performing in the cafes and bars lay the perfect backdrop for a great night out.
Must Eat Places in Athens – How to spend 3 days in Athens.
Athens is loaded with great restaurants but nothing beats an authentic Gyros and Souvlaki from a local shop. There are some great places just off Monastiraki Square.
What to eat in Athens? – When in Athens you must try Gyro and Souvlaki.
What is the difference Between Gyro and Souvlaki? Gyro or gyros is a special Greek delicacy consisting of meat, onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce served with pita bread.
Souvlaki is also a Greek dish, but basically a fast food. It is prepared with small meat crumbs and grilled vegetables all prepared on a skewer wrapped up into a pita with French fries and sauce.
Gelato in Athens
Yes, there are plenty of Gelato parlours dotted around the city and with the sun shining bright there is nothing better then a bit of indulgence with a scoop of gelato.
Street Art in Athens
Venture off the tourist trail and discover a different side to Athens by taking a street art walking tour. Explore the city’s colourful neighbourhoods and admire unique graffiti art and murals. This will give you a feel for yourself why Athens’ bold street art has made a name for itself worldwide.
Athens is the entry point into Greece for most travellers who normally come here to see the Acropolis and after spending anything from 2-3 nights head out to the Greek Islands. However post my visit one thing is for sure, don’t come here just for the ancient monuments or as an entry point into Greece there is much more to Athens.
Is Athens safe ? Athens is safe to travel. Despite the economic crises, contemporary Athens has so much more to offer. From an electric nightlife filled with urban-chic bars and cafés to some of the most fascinating and upmarket restaurants serving cuisines from all around the world. If you love fashion there is plenty here from small boutiques to mega malls.
Athens is surely a great city and one that is making a mark on the map.
So come be a part Athens.
We started our trip of Greece with Athens – If you enjoyed reading about Athens follow us to our next destination Mykanos and onto Santorini.
Must Do and See in Athens
- Take a break from sightseeing and relax in the shade in the National Gardens.
- Enjoy a snapshot of Greek history and culture and visit landmarks like the Acropolis.
- Make a wish in a fountain at Syntagma Square.
- Visit the Acropolis, the National Archeological Museum and Delphi, for free every first Sunday of the month (from November to March).
- Visit the daily change of the guards outside the Greek Parliament.
- Enjoy some of the best views of the city from Areopagous Hill .
- Take advantage of your youth (if you’re under 18 or an EU university student) and walk into any museum and archeological spot for free.
- Shop for some antiques, souvenirs at Monastiraki flea market.
- Pay tribute in one of the oldest churches in Greece, Kapnikarea church.
- Appreciate the graffiti art of the young artists on the street of Athens.
- Catch spectacular views of Piraeus port from the top of Lykavittos Hill.
- Relax in one of the many rooftop bars around Monastiraki Square.
- Walk the ancient streets around Syntagma, Ermou street,Aiolou street.
- Take a stroll around the marina of Flisvos Marina .
- Discover the historic streets of Plaka.
- Admire some of the finest Greek sculpture around the old Cemetery of Athens.
- Window shop around posh Kolonaki Square.
- Enjoy a Gelato in one of the many parlours dotted around Athens.
- Sample the night life of Psirri.
- Treat yourself to a Souvlaki.
Always love your detailed and well written posts
Thanks for your continued support
It’s good to visit Athens in June. It was many tourists there?
Still quite busy but guess less hot then July August
I have recently been there and agree with you in saying that the Acropolis is a must-see place when in Athens. I would love to add in your list also the new Acropolis Museum which is very well done. It is also an important starting point to understand and discover the arts and culture of the ancient Greek world.
Wonderful and take your point which will be very interesting too.
Haven’t been back to Athens for at least 5 years wow. Reading through it really makes me want to go back. Don’t remember if I went to Plaka long enough so def a place to go back for!
Brilliant place must go.
Ahhh Greece. It’s definitely in my top 5 places I want to visit. I’d definitely take your advise and visiting either in spring or autumn. I much prefer the cooler weather, plus skip the mass crowds. I so would love to see the Acrpopolis, especially having learned so much about Ancient Greek history. Ohh and gelato shops dotted around the city sounds delightful! And I’m loving that you can also explore the city’s street art.
A beautiful city full of history and a must visit
Isn’t Athens fabulous! I think you’ve covered it really thoroughly here. We also loved the Acropolis when we were there. And how much fun are the flea markets?!
It’s a must see city.
I never really thought about Athens being a place for good fashion and nightlife! But I have always wanted to visit after studying Latin and Classics and learning about all these ancient places and monuments. I used to love looking at the images of the ruins as a child too, there was something that fascinated me about Ancient Greek history. One day I will get there for sure! Just a long way from NZ!
It is a surprising and amazing city. I never expected it myself.
I love your recap and recommendations! I’ve been twice and didn’t get to stay in a place nearly as nice as yours either time. That rooftop pool looks incredible! I’d also recommend watching the sunset from atop Mars Hill – the views from there are just gorgeous.
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it
I really love how you write up Athens. You include so many details from flying, accommodation to what to see in Athens. Greece, or Athens in specific, is my dream destination. I would love to visit this city soon and explore all the ruins.
Thanks and glad you liked it. It’s a great city to visit.
I really loved Athens, due to history, culture, shopping in Palaka and overall a very vibrant and colorful city. You have listed useful tips for first-timers in Athens. I loved street shopping and even high-end shopping in Athens. Also nightlife is very vibrant here. Have you been to local Taverns- authentic Greek restaurants with folk Greek songs and Greek dances, as there are more than 4000 thousand forms of Greek dances.
A great city with a great vibe
Greece! Athens! Its an art history enthusiast’s dream destination… I’m yet to go there and its a priority! Esp., Athens than Santorini or other places. Thanks for the list of hotels & markets. I have to find a good flight deal…
A must visit destination
A complete post… you didt leave anything… all questions answered before they get raised.. 🙂 🙂
I might have shown these pictures/blogs to my friends and they might be hoping we plan a vacation there 🙂
Great. If my post has inspired you
I really enjoyed this article. I have added Greece to the bucket list. I am interested in seeing the architecture which has such character and holds an important place in world history. The weather is also fantastic not to mention the food and the people. I love Greek food, Greek traditional dancing and the greeks in general.
Must visit. It’s a must visit destination
I really enjoyed this article and Athens has just been added to my must visit places. The architecture is amazing, not to mention its character and the place it holds in world history. I love cooking Greek food and would love to try some made by a ‘local’ in Athens. I also like Greek traditional dancing and the Greeks are so warm and welcoming in general.
Must visit. It’s amazing. Historic and food
Athens is so pretty! I love your pictures! When I was there it was constantly raining 🙁 So I think I need to go back one day 😉
Athens, Greece is next on our bucket list and your post just made us more excited about our upcoming trip. Thank you for these detailed post and tips. Enjoyed reading it.
Thanks for all the information you provided, especially about the best time to visit. I went to Europe in mid-April itself, but couldn’t cover Greece. After reading your post it surely makes into my list for the next trip to Europe. Athens looks spectacular
Best time to go is May onwards
Athens is a city that figures high in our bucket list. With our keen interest in ancient Greek history and mythology,this is a place we want to visit. Of course the Acropolis is the place where we would head to first and spend a lot of time there.
Great place and every corner has historic places
This looks like a perfect guidebook to Greece Athens. The best part is the must do bullet points . I have been to Athens a few years back and I think I have missed a few must dos . Noting them for future travel. Night view of Acropolis looks amazing .
Psirri is somewhere I missed out when I was last in Athens, and now I really regret it! I love this city, and it brings back great memories for me. Plaka is such a fun neighbourhood, and full of life. Greek food is one of my favourite cuisines, so it’s nice to see you mention gyros, they’re so delicious!
It’s a beautiful city and culture
Athens really is an enchanting city. I absolutely adored my time there a few years back! Reading this has made me want to go back! I remember I loved exploring Monastiraki Square.
Athense is definitely an architectural delight. Someone who is into history and architecture, this destination is like a treasure for him/her. More I read your expedition, more I realize that I have to visit so many places around the world. Its a detailed post. I have a thing for small places and its history. I would definitely pick Plaka for that. It looks quite good.
Although there have been some issues between my homeland (Turkey) and Greece, I don’t have a problem with Greece, and I definitely plan to visit this interesting country soon. My first stop will be the Acropolis, right after I get some souvlaki and gelato, hmmm!
Acropolis is just stunning
I was there last year and loved Athens. the Acropolis and the adjacent museum are indeed amazing. i just wish the British give them back the missing pieces!
Indeed a great museum
Athen’s seems like a great and vibrant city to visit. I would love to try out the Greek cuisine and gelato! The Acropolis is also amazing! Thanks for all the information on Athens!
Yes amazing and very lively
I’m looking forward to visiting Athens and the Acropolis in particular. The view from the 360 bar is absolutely amazing! I didn’t realize that Athens had a metro that really gets you to so many popular areas. The cemetery of Athens is a great suggestion too!
A beautiful destination and one you come back with memories of a life time.
Your article brought back lovely memories of our visit to Athens back in 2012. We stayed in the Plaka area and loved it. After reading your article we should have stayed longer we did not get to visit the Monastiraki Flea Markets – that would have been fun.
There is so much to do and see in Athens. Hope you can re visit some day.
It’s been a few years since I visited Athens, and I loved every second. While I know seeing the Acropolis may be a touristy thing, it has to be done. You’ve definitely put me in the mood for a gyros now, they’re so delicious and cheap from what I can remember. I can’t believe I missed seeing the flea market when I was there. I remember the square very well, but we didn’t go in and take a look! Looks like another visit is in order.
I must say that a trip to the acropolis is an absolute must and however touristy it may be it had to be done. The flea market is a great place to get some bargains.
I can not WAIT to go to Athens. Great info on when to go, I didn’t realize that the hottest time of the year is also the most crowded. Seems a little backwards to me, but I’m glad that I can go when the weather is better and there will be less people! I got really excited when you mentioned flea markets too because those are my FAVORITE! They seem even better when I’m traveling because it’s like getting a look into that person’s life.
It’s best to travel in shoulder seas with less crowds and cooler weather
I haven’t been to Greece yet, but one of my bucket list items has been to go island hopping. Athens is a history-lover’s dream and a place I would love to visit. I appreciate your recommendations for traveling to Athens during the spring and pre-summer months, and September. I can’t imagine walking around and looking at all of the historical sites in 100* weather. The night views from the 360 cocktail bar are simply stunning!
I certainly would recommend going outside peak summer holidays. You can enjoy it much more with less crowds.
Greece is still in my bucket list and I am sure Athens will be a good place to start with. I loved the Plaka square and I think I will prefer living there to be in the heart of all actions. You have helped me understand what all to see while in Athens. I will make sure to visit Acropolis without fail. I have heard of vegan gyros available too there, and I would love to try them.
Plaka is a great place to stay in Athens. Acropolis is a must and hope you find the vegan gyros.
I visited Athens when I was four or five, and all I remember (though quite vividly) is our visit to Acropolis, which I was very impressed by even at so young an age. I’d like to visit it and the city again now I have the knowledge of its rich history to add to the experience. The Divani Caravel looks like a great place to stay and I’m ALL OVER the flea markets (flea market addict!) I’m also a huge fan of Greek food!
Wow. It is a great structure and does leave its mark after you visit. Hope you can re visit it. Divani is a great property to stay in Athens.
I am yet to visit Greece and Your post gives me an urge to visit sometime soon . I have always been fasccinated with those fascinating sunsets on med sea . And the food to talk about . What was the budget you had for this trip ? Just curious !
The sunsets are fascinating. Out trip was Athens Mykonos and Santorini and for a family of 4 so wouldn’t be able to give you a pet person budget unfortunately
I so want to visit Greece and Athens after reading this.
I had Greece on my radar for this year, but it never materialized, due to other commitments. But there were lots of gaps in my research which is why I didn’t try too much. But your post has answered all those questions. Loved reading it.
Must plan and visit Greece. It’s a great destination specially if you enjoy historic places.