Athens is a sprawling city established among seven historic hills and surrounded by remarkable mountains.
Inhabited for more than 3,000 years, Athens is widely known as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy.
The best times to visit Athens are between March and May and from September to November. Weather during these spring and fall months is agreeable and sunshine is pretty much a guarantee. Not to mention, crowds are thinner and hotel and airfare deals are easier to come by than in summer.
An overview of the top tourist attractions in Athens
1. Parthenon, Acropolis
The Parthenon is located on the Acropolis on a hill that overlooks Athens. The temple was built to honour the goddess Athena
Parthenos, the patron of Athens, to thank her for protecting the city during the Persian Wars.
The main attraction is a huge statue of Athena that was made out of chryselephantine also known as elephant ivory and gold.
2. Ancient Agora
Located to the northwest of the Acropolis, the ancient Agora of Athens was once a marketplace and civic center. The people gathered here to browse all kinds of commodities. The Ancient Agora of Athens is a flat area defined by the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis and the hill of Areopagus in the south and the hill of Kolonos Agoraios in the west. It is traversed by one of the most important ancient roads, the Panathenaic Way, which led to the Acropolis from the main gate of the city, the Dipylon Gate. This road served as the processional way for the great parade of the Panathenaic festival, which was held to honour the city patron goddess Athena.
TicketsFull: €8, Reduced: €4
Ancient Agora of Athens – Museum of Ancient Agora of Athens
Special ticket package: Full: €30, Reduced: €15 and has valid for 5 days.
Valid for: Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis
The Erechtheus or Erechtheion is a temple made from Pentelic marble. It’s located on the Acropolis, and it’s one of the legendary pieces of Greek architecture. The Erecthion sits on the most sacred site of the Acropolis where Poseidon and Athena had their contest over who would be the Patron of the city. Poseidon thrust his trident into the rock and a spring burst forth, while Athena touched the ground with a spear and an olive tree grew. Athena was declared the victor and the great city of Athens was named for her while Poseidon was given a small village in Syros after it was discovered he had merely ruptured a water main.
4. Temple of Olympian Zeus
The graceful ruins of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus can be clearly seen from the Acropolis and are floodlit at night. The temple is made of fine marble brought from Mount Pentelus and originally measured 96 meters long and 40 meters wide.
Hadrian had erected a giant gold and ivory status of Zeus in the cella, and placed an equally large one of himself next to it. Unfortunately, however, nothing remains of these or anything else from the interior of the temple.
There were originally 104 Corinthian columns, each 17 meters high; 48 of these stood in triple rows under the pediments and 56 in double rows at the sides. Only 15 columns remain standing today, with lovely Corinthian capitals still in place. A 16th column blew over in 1852 and is still lying where it fell.
5. Syntagma Square
A major point of interest for any traveler to Athens is the Syntagma Square. A major point of commercial, political and social life, Syntagma Square is the most important square of the city, and even the country. Its central fountain and statues with the Parliament building in the background, make it an easily recognizable sight. The most famous aspect of Syntagma is the changing of the guards by the Evzones in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
As the epicenter of the city, Syntagma is close to many attractions, such as the National Garden, the Arch of Hadrian, Plaka, the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium – the marble stadium built in the 6th century BC – and the charming neighborhood of Plaka. It is also the starting point of Ermou street, a pedestrian High Street connecting Syntagma to Monastiraki square.
Syntagma is also a hub for transportation and is a major junction point for Metro lines 2 and 3, with the station located underneath the square. It also features an on-site archeological display! The tram, connecting the center to the southern suburbs and the seaside, also makes a stop here.
6. National Archaeological Museum, Athens
For visitors who love art exhibitions, there is no better place to visit in Greece than the National Archaeological Museum. The collections include small vases, working tools, clay vases and other small artifacts that are some of the oldest archaeological finds dating back to the 7th millennium.
Monday: 13:00-20:00 Tuesday-Saturday: 08:00-20:00 Sunday & Public Holidays: 08:00-15:00
Closed on 25 – 26 December, 1 January, 25 March, Orthodox Easter Sunday and 1 May.
Admission fee: 7 euros
Reduced fee: 3 euros for E.U. senior citizens (over 65 years old), students from countries outside the E.U.
7. Mount Lycabettus
Standing 277 meters above sea level, Lycabettus Hill (sometimes spelt Lykavitos) is the highest point of Athens. Although a beautiful walk up via a circular path, it will be a test of endurance and a challenge in summer.
The view from Lycabettus Hill is best enjoyed at sunset whilst waiting for the lights of the Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Panathenaic Stadium and Ancient Agora to come on. You will also be reminded that Athens is surrounded by sea with spectacular views across the Aegean.
For romantic evenings, gorgeous sunsets and an amazing panoramic view of Athens, Mount Lycabettus is an incredible adventure. At the top of the hill you will find a Greek church, an open-air amphitheatre used predominantly in the warmer months, the restaurant Orizontes with spectacular views across Athens and a cafe which opens for breakfast and lunch.
8. New Acropolis Museum
A main stop on any Athens tour is the New Acropolis Museum, which resides near the base of the hill overlooking the city. It has the largest collection of Greek architecture and ancient sculptures including statues of the goddess Athena and “Kritios Boy.”
9. National Garden, Athens
The National Garden of Athens: Right in the heart of Athens, between Syntagma Square and the Kallimarmaro (Panathenaic) Stadium, stands the famous National Garden of Athens, a beautiful area to escape the noisy city centre and relax in a lush green environment. It is almost unbelievable that such an amazing garden is situated among the busiest avenues of the city and still it is so well-protected from noise.
The National Garden covers a vast area of about 16 hectares and they have three entrances: from Amalias Avenue, Vassilissis Sofias Avenue and from the Zappeion Megaron. It is situated on the north of Syntagma square, right next to the Greek Parliament.
The National Garden distinguish for the narrow labyrinth paths, the wooden benches and the small lakes in between. It hosts a small zoo with wild goats, peacoks, chickens and other animals, a Botanical Museum, a children’s library, a playground and an open coffee shop. Particularly popular is also the duck pond, where visitors throw bread and food left overs for the ducks.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Athens is the Plaka District, which resides under the Acropolis and spreads out to Syntagma. This village is almost like an island within the city, and it’s the perfect way to experience authentic Greek culture. The area is well-known for its food, boutique shops and cafes. Along Kydathineon Street, visitors find the Jewish Museum, Folk-Art Museum and Saita Taverna, which serves delicious bakalairo and other grilled meats.
11. Byzantine Museum
The Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens is one of the most fascinating national museums you can visit. Established in the early 20th century (1914) in order to collect, study, preserve and exhibit the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine cultural heritage in the Hellenic territory.
The museum collection contains an important number (approximately 30,000) of works of art such as icons, sculptures, ceramics, ecclesiastical textiles, paintings, jewelries and architectural elements (wall paintings and mosaics).
12. Museum of Cycladic Art
In the Kolonáki quarter, the Museum of Cycladic Art was created in 1986 by the Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris Foundation. The collection represents ancient Greek art, ancient art of the Cyclades and Cypriot art dating from the fourth century BC to the sixth century AD.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00
Thursday: 10:00 – 20:00
Sunday: 11.00 – 17.00
Admission: 7 euros
13. Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Athens. It is Ancient Athens’s largest building, the Panathenaic Stadium, has a capacity for 60,000 spectators.
The Panathenaic Stadium is a classical cultural and touristic monument of Greece. Its history is directly connected to the Modern Olympic Games, from their revival in 1896 until the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. It is also the place from which the Olympic Flame is delivered to all the Olympic Games, Winter, Summer and Youth.
The Stadium is open 7 days a week, throughout the year.
Daily: March to October 08:00-19:00
Daily: November to February: 08:00-17:00
Admission fee: Adults: 3 €
Students and senior visitors (over 65 years old): 1, 50 €
Groups of schoolchildren and their escorts, and children under the age of six.