10 Great Things to Do in Athens

People have for many years ditched Athens on their way the Greek islands but I urge you, plan to stay in the Greek capital for two or three days (at least) and you won’t regret it. Starting now, 10 great things to do in Athens! Once you’re done, you’ll definitely want to come back for more.

1. Catch a sunset

10 Great Things to Do in Athens

I could easily say any sunset anywhere but for the sake of simplicity I will suggest just three out of literally dozens of locations to witness the sun’s ‘end of shift’.

Cape Sounion at the Temple of Poseidon – a 45-minute-plus drive from Athens. No need for words. Take a bottle of nice wine and think that 2,500 years ago, people just like you were enjoying the exact same sight – the sun’s spectacular dip into the Aegean Sea.

Lycabettus Hill – in the heart of Athens, overlooking the city to the sea stands this beautiful 277-meter hill with its tiny Agios Georgios Byzantine chapel and a smaller – Agioi Isidoroi – in a cave below. Panoramic, romantic, and easily accessible, plus it’s a nice walk up. 

Filipappou Hill – a romantic stroll along the stone walkaway all the way to the peak of the hill with a beautiful view of the sun bidding farewell for the day. Find a spot and let the glow inspire you.

⛴ Book your ferry to the Greek islands right here 

2. Have an ouzaki

10 Great Things to Do in Athens

If there’s one thing that best describes – and embodies – the Greek Experience, it’s the ouzaki – which is basically all about finding a spot by the sea, preferably mid-day or early evening before the sun sets, ordering some ouzo (a traditional Greek anise-based spirit) and a meze… side dish or two of small titbits, which usually include some cheese, sausage, fish, octopus, tomato, cucumber, Greek olives, and bread. Attention: a meze is not food nor a complete meal. It’s meant to accompany the ouzo. Picture it as a mini-eating session meant to take you out of a busy day and remind you that life is meant to be enjoyed with (or without) company. As simple as that. Read my tips about tips about making your own meze anywhere any time.

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3. Take a ferry to a nearby island

10 Great Things to Do in Athens

Sounds complicated? Well it’s not. The great thing about Athens is that you can just take the train to Piraeus port, hop on a ferry and go to Aegina, Spetses, Agistri or Hydra islands – just for the day. No more than an hour’s journey and you get the complete Greek island experience. Many people commute every day from the these tiny isles to Athens for work.

Cosmopolitan Spetses: A Pocket-sized Isle Near Athens

4. Take a Stroll Under the Acropolis

10 Great Things to Do in Athens
Take a stroll along the same paths that Plato and Socrates walked some 2000 years ago!

What an experience! Just think about it. You’re walking the same path Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato once took some 2,500 years ago… with imposing views of the Parthenon and the same Greek sky. This area is bustling with life, street musicians offering the lyrical accompaniment, traveling artists the shows, and dozens of street vendors selling their crafts and wares. If you don’t want to wait in lines (mostly in July and August) or prefer something more exclusive, book a private tour of Acropolis Hill and the Acropolis Museum and dinner after with spectacular views.

5. Catch a Concert at the Ancient Irodion Theater

10 Great Things to Do in Athens

(In summer and fall only), right below the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill. Why? Because you’ll be sitting in a venue built in 161 AD where some the world’s greatest artists dreamt of performing: among them Maria Callas (see below), Florence and the Machine, Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, and Patti Smith – to name a few.  

Best Way to Recharge: Sailing and Yachting in Greece

6. Rent a Sailboat for Two Days

10 Great Things to Do in Athens
Sailing in Greece starts with a rainbow.

It’s not as expensive as you might think. If you’re a group of about five or six people, you can rent a sailboat and skipper for as much as you would be paying for a decent hotel room. All you have to do is hop on a boat and let the skipper take you to some nearby islands. In the meantime, enjoy the ride, the rejuvenating Aegean Sea breeze, diving from the boat, and island life. For the better off, Greece has one of the world’s best fleets of yachts and super yachts.  

7. Changing of the Guard

10 Great things to Do in Athens

Every hour on the hour the handsome “Evzones” that guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Greek Parliament building at central Syntagma Square change shift. This is an elite military unit, otherwise known as the Presidential Guard or “Tsoliades” dressed in the traditional kilt-like “foustanella”, white woollen hose and wooden “tsarouchia” footwear. They change uniforms in winter and on national holidays. At 11am on Sunday mornings, the ceremonial change of guard begins from the backside of the parliament building outside the Presidential Mansion, where they are headquartered. Awesome stuff for the kids and kids at heart. 

8. Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

10 Great Things to Do in Athens

Known as the SNFCC, where the culture of contemporary Greece takes center stage whether it’s a National Opera event, a concert, a theater performance, a seminar, an art show, the national library, a bike ride, or its spectacular ‘dancing fountains’. A must for anyone coming to Athens, promising a day of culture, recreation, fulfilment, and relaxation.

► Loutraki: More Than Just a Perfect Weekend Escape from Athens

9. Get the Genuine Greek Blues Experience

10 Great things to Do in Athens

Known as the “rebetika” – a music genre once associated with the outcasts and laymen. The genre later became a major part of upper class entertainment and an important part of Greek music culture. The rebetika were included in 2017 on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as an “expression of cultural and historical significance” that must be safeguarded for the collective interests of humanity. There are several venues in central Athens and Piraeus where you can find performers dedicated to the style.

Getting the Genuine Rebetiko (Greek blues) Experience in Athens

10. Go Hiking

10 Great things to Do in Athens

In Athens, you ask. Well, yes. The Greek capital stands in the ‘embrace’ of four mountains: Mt Parnitha (at 1,141 meters) to the northwest, to the northeast Mt Pendeli (were all the famous marble comes from and home to the National Observatory) at 1,109 meters, Mt Hymettus (once known as “Trellovouno” or crazy mountain) on the east at 1,026 meters, and lastly, the humble Mt Aegaleo to the west at 469 meters. In the last few years, dozens of trekking and hiking groups arrange well-organized activities on weekends for all levels that usually culminate with a much-deserved delicious Greek meal.

5 Perfect Short Day Trips Out of Athens

So before your great Greek island adventure or mainland road trip, spend a couple of days in Athens and then use my easy-to-pick Greek island(s) list for the rest of your vacation.

A map of Greece will definitely come in handy. I recommend you get this easy-to-read and detailed waterproof adventure map of Greece by experts NatGeo. A great tool!

Start Planning!

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I use Tripadvisor all the time for restaurant 🍔 and hotel 🏩 ratings and for things to do. 

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♫ As a final ‘note’, the 1962 song below was composed by one of Greece’s greatest composers, Manos Hadjidakis, to the lyrics of poet Nikos Gatsos, and performed by ‘global Greek’ Nana Mouskouri at the beginning of her long career. The song is dedicated to Athens… “Athina” – describing the Greek capital as “the joy of the cosmos and the dawn, this small blue lily”.

10 Great things to Do in Athens

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2 thoughts on “10 Great Things to Do in Athens”

  1. I don’t have the words to express what a wonderful job you’ve done putting this site together. I think the first thing that stood out was the video of the gentleman saying “Don’t Come To Greece” and then he proceeded to simply lay out that you wont want to leave. That said it all.

    I had privilege to travel to Greece in 1971 and I truly did not want to leave but you know how schools are, they tend to get upset if you don’t return with all the students you left with. Several years ago I took all of the pictures I had taken I put together a DVD but I fear that’s as close to getting back to Greece as I will have. At least I have that. In Athens we stayed at The Hotel Xenophon & in Portohelia we stayed at Hydra Beach.

    1. Dear David, thank you for the kind words and very happy you enjoy reading TheGreekVibe.com Yes, lots of hard work and love go into my stories. You were truly lucky to have experienced Greece at its best in the 1970s as the country was still unaffected by mass tourism so you have enjoyed the most genuine Greek experience. That is exactly what TheGreekVibe.com does today… identify where this real experience of Greek hospitality is still possible. I expect you to return to Greece. It’s always possible.

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