Is Athens worth visiting? By the end of this post, you’ll have all the info you need to make that decision for yourself.
Athens is a city with thousands of years of history. The place where Western philosophy really began, you can still visit today the remains of ancient buildings where great minds like Socrates and Plato once debated and discussed the fundamental nature of human existence.
Why you should visit Athens is essentially what this post is all about, and there are all sorts of amazing activities that we can personally recommend in the Greek capital.
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Athens multiple times, and our most recent trip stretched over an unforgettable week. During that time, we dabbled in a range of cool activities– think Segway tour around historic sites and incredible food tours that led us to the heart of Athenian cuisine.
Speaking of food, our top tip is to eat where the locals eat; the main touristy areas rarely capture the authentic flavours we discover.
Another reason we’re smitten with Athens? Its hip neighbourhoods like Psiri – perfect for a night out and cool Athens boutique hotels, which can make your stay extra special.
Is Athens Worth Visiting In 2023?
There are many reasons why Athens is worth visiting, but let’s start with our top three.
🌟 Firstly, it is a city that’s full of history, as evidenced by such incredibly preserved ancient monuments (must see on your Athens itinerary) as the Parthenon, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We often felt like we couldn’t turn a corner in downtown Athens without walking into the ruins of a building from the BC era.
🌟 Secondly, Athens (well, Greece in general, really) is worth visiting for its delicious food, from spanakopita (filo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese) to gyros (flatbreads filled with a mixture of meat/chicken, vegetables, and sauce). We could easily spend a whole holiday just, well, eating!
🌟 Lastly, the city has excellent weather, particularly in the shoulder months in late spring and early autumn. It’s at these times that you can best enjoy the sun tempered by mild Mediterranean breezes. (We recommend staying in one of the Athens hotels with pools if you’re visiting in the summer months.)
25 Best Things To Do & Activities In Athens
If you’re asking yourself is Athens worth visiting, maybe these 25 reasons to visit Athens will help you make up your mind.
Taking dining with a view to new heights, dinner in the sky in Athens sees you enjoying a six-course meal with free-flow wine while suspended from a crane 40 metres above the ground.
This was one of our favourite experiences in the Greek capital, not just because of the gourmet cuisine but also because of the panoramic views of the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill, and other iconic parts of the Athenian skyline.
It is fairly pricey at €155 for the afternoon or nighttime service, rising to €175 for the sunset slot, but we thought it was worth every penny.
Is Athens worth visiting? For the food by itself, we’d say yes!
We had a mouth-wateringly good time on our food tour, which included chowing down on plates of Greek meze like zucchini balls and fried cheese, baked treats like the sesame-topped koulouri, and more unusual fare like sand-brewed coffee. Our personal favourite, though, was the fried anchovies!
While our food tour in Athens took around four hours and visited seven stops, there are quite a few different options out there to suit all sorts of tastes. Regardless of what you go for, make sure you come hungry!
#3 Navigate The City On A Segway
This is a fun way to get an overview of Athens during the course of a morning or an afternoon. On our segway adventure, for example, we managed to take in the Acropolis, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Ancient Agora, and Monastiraki, among other stops, in just under three hours. It was my first experience of segway, and it was super fun and easy!
One thing to be aware of is that most segway tours don’t involve going into the archaeological sites. Instead, you’ll just get a concise overview of the history of the various places from an experienced guide, plus enough time for a few pictures before heading off to the next destination.
This way, you can decide which places you want to revisit in more detail later.
#4 Explore Athens On Two Wheels
Another way to see the main stops in double-quick time is on a bike tour. It’s a great activity for those who don’t have much time in Athens.
Don’t worry. This isn’t as much hard work as it might sound at first since you’ll probably be on an e-bike that will do half the work for you – just make sure to check beforehand!
The tours generally take a similar amount of time to the segway versions – about three hours – and cover pretty similar ground. For a slightly different look, hop on one of the nighttime alternatives, which are much less hot and mean you can save daylight for visiting sights that are closed in the evening.
#5 Tour The Acropolis
Is Athens worth visiting for the Acropolis alone? Well, not quite, but almost! The city’s most famous monument is one of the most recognisable sights in the entire world, attracting three million people last year. It’s so popular, in fact, that just this year, the Greek government has begun introducing daily visitor limits.
The site is a marvel of Ancient Greek architecture, hovering above Athens like a watchful guardian. Upon its summit, you’ll find a trio of main structures: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike, all dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena.
TIP: Visit the Acropolis as early in the morning; this photo was taken an hour after the opening time, and as you can see, the hill was already packed.
#6 Explore Ancient Artefacts At The Acropolis Museum
As a complement to your Acropolis visit, the Acropolis Museum is a state-of-the-art facility where more than 4,000 artefacts are on display, including friezes from the Parthenon and caryatids (sculpted female figures that act as pillars) from the Erechtheion.
We spent about two hours wandering the exhibits here, gazing through glass floors at the remnants of the ancient neighbourhood that once occupied the area and marvelling at how much has been preserved. If you want to rest your feet, the museum also has a rooftop café with panoramic views of the Acropolis hill.
Entrance tickets cost between 10 and 15 euros, depending on the time of year.
#7 Wander In The Enchanting Anafiotika
Break your day with a meal at one of the cute cafes that fill the picture-perfect Anafiotika area, situated on the slopes of the Acropolis. We ate at Yiasemi, a sweet little spot that serves brunch bites up until 1 p.m.
Anafiotika is worth a detour because it’s a charming neighbourhood, one that originally sprang up to supply residences for carpenters in the 19th century. The carpenters came from the Cycladic island of Anafi, and this is why the neighbourhood is lined with Cycladic-style bougainvillea-adorned houses.
#8 Shop For Souvenirs
Why visit Athens and not pick up a souvenir or two? There are lots of stores in the city centre selling sandals, jewellery, and the occasional real-deal antique, plus the usual magnets, T-shirts, and postcards.
Our two favourite places to shop for souvenirs were Plaka and Monastiraki. In Plaka, we found Adrianoy Street particularly abundant in shops, while over in Monastiraki, there’s an excellent flea market where you can pick up something unique for your loved ones.
#9 Check Out Hadrian’s Library
While you’re in Monastiraki, make sure you spend a few minutes exploring Hadrian’s Library. This complex once housed a number of cultural buildings, including music halls and lecture rooms, in addition to the titular library. As its name suggests, it was built by Emperor Hadrian, known as one of the Five Good Emperors of Rome, who was a noted Grecophile.
What you can see now is mostly ruins, but part of the western wall of the library has been restored to give you an idea of just how impressive it all must have been back in the day.
The €20 ticket for the Acropolis includes access to Hadrian’s Library (as well as another sight we’ll mention later on, the Ancient Agora), so you may as well pop in if you’re nearby.
#10 Have A Drink At A Rooftop Bar
Don’t miss out on a drink at one of Athens’ numerous rooftop bars, which trade on the fact that they offer great views of the city skyline. We can personally recommend the bar at A for Athens, situated atop a 3-star hotel, which has unmatched views over Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis.
Sure, drinks are probably a bit overpriced, but it’s worth it for the gorgeous spectacle. It tends to get pretty busy in the evenings, so make sure you book ahead if you want a good table from which to gaze out on the twinkling lights of Athens at night.
#11 Visit The Jewish Museum Of Greece
Housed in a fairly unremarkable building on the edge of the Plaka neighbourhood, the Jewish Museum of Greece is a bit of a hidden gem. Offering a different perspective on the history of Greece, it traces the Jewish population of the country all the way back to 2,300 years ago, with more than 10,000 artefacts crammed within its walls.
It also provides a sobering but inspiring look at the Greek Jews who fought the Nazis during World War II.
Entry is €10.
#12 Watch Sunset From The Lycabettus Hill
A trip up Lycabettus Hill to see the sunset is a rite of passage for every tourist visiting Athens. For those who like a (moderate) challenge, you can hike to the top in about 30 to 40 minutes. We found it pretty steep in places, but overall, it was very doable. Alternatively, there’s a funicular that will carry you all the way up lickety-split for €10.
Once you’re at the top, you’ll be treated to views across Athens from 277 metres above sea level. There’s a little café where you can reward yourself with a beverage for your efforts, as well as the bijou Saint George Chapel, built in the 19th century.
#13 Gorge On Pita Gyros
We know we’ve already mentioned food several times, including a food tour, but if there’s one thing you really can’t miss eating in Athens, it’s pita gyros. This inexpensive street food is found throughout the city and traditionally consists of a pita flatbread wrapped around meat/chicken, salad, and tzatziki sauce – it’s the perfect handheld meal!
We ate a lot of these beauties during our stay in Athens, but Tylixto Greek Wrap was probably the best. It even has some solid veggie options, which are not always easy to find.
#14 Visit Ancient Agora
Not to be confused with the Roman Agora, which isn’t quite as old and hasn’t been as well restored, the Ancient Agora was once the bustling hub of Athenian life. Housing a mixture of administrative, commercial, and judicial buildings, it provided a place for merchants to trade as well as for great minds like Socrates, Plato, and Pericles to debate their ideas.
The crown jewel (at least for a visitor today) is the Temple of Hephaestus, a shrine dedicated to the god of fire and the forge, which is arguably the best-preserved Greek temple in the whole country.
Another building to look out for – well, you won’t be able to miss it – is the Stoa of Attalos, which has essentially been reconstituted from scratch but is designed to look exactly like the structure that once stood in its place.
#15 Watch The Changing Of The Guard
It’s not just Buckingham Palace of Greece that has a noteworthy changing of the guard. Parliament House, located on Syntagma Square, features an hourly bit of military pomp from the Evzones (also known as Tsolidades).
For the full effect, however, you need to head to Syntagma at 11 am on Sunday, when a more elaborate ceremonial changing of the guards takes place, featuring Tsolidades attired in knee-length white skirts, wide-sleeved white shirts, wool jackets, white stockings, and leather clogs decorated with black pompoms.
#16 Go Out In Psiri
Is Athens worth visiting for nightlife? Head to Psiri, and there’ll be no doubt left in your mind that the Greek capital has plenty to offer party people.
Even if you’re not someone who enjoys dancing into the sunrise, Psiri’s bohemian, artsy vibes make it a worthwhile place to explore during the daylight hours. We really liked the stylish cocktail bar – Contrabando, which was good for a short break from sightseeing and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
#17 Gorge On Loukoumades
The last bit of food we’re going to recommend on this list – though we could go on – is loukoumades, bite-sized doughnuts that are fried till golden, then drizzled with honey or sugar syrup. Yes, these are some delicious bad boys!
Loukoumades are not just tasty, though; they’re also ancient. Legend has it that they were originally employed as offerings to the gods, who clearly must have had a sweet tooth. This might be a controversial opinion, but for us, they’re even better than churros!
We particularly enjoyed the options at LUKUMAΔΕΣ, where you can buy the traditional kind but also modern variations that are covered in peanut praline, white chocolate, or salted caramel.
#18 Visit Monastiraki Square
Syntagma Square might be the heart of Athens, but Monastiraki Square has a lot more historical and cultural personality.
One of the oldest parts of Athens, it’s here that you’ll find some of the best rooftop bars (including A is for Athens), as well as numerous al fresco dining spots, the remnants of a 10th-century Byzantine church, and a rather splendid-looking former Ottoman mosque that now houses the Museum of Greek Folk Art.
#19 Visit Panathenaic Stadium
Another of the experiences we point to when people ask us is Athens worth visiting is the Panathenaic Stadium. A sports arena has existed on this site since 330 BC, though it has been rebuilt, renovated, and restored numerous times since then.
The Panathenaic Stadium has played a part in both the first modern Olympic Games and the 2004 Olympic Games, both of which were held in Athens. It has the pretty amazing distinction of being the only stadium in the world that’s entirely built out of marble.
Our favourite thing about this place is that it offers plenty of opportunities for some of those silly photo snaps that add a bit of levity amidst the glamour shots. Ridiculous posing is encouraged.
Entry is €10.
#20 Explore The National Museum Of Contemporary Art
So much of visiting Greece is about exploring its (admittedly amazing) past, but if you want to peer into a more modern aspect of the country’s culture, the National Museum of Contemporary Art features artworks across the media of painting, architecture, and new media from the 1960s onwards.
While these are mostly Greek pieces, there are also a few renowned international artists on display, too, including Bruce Nauman and Marina Abramovic.
Entry is €8.
#21 Watch A Movie At Cine Paris
If you visit Athens between May and October, consider checking out the Cine Paris, a rooftop movie experience set to the backdrop of the Parthenon. You won’t find a finer place to watch a classic film than this terrace, which usually showcases movies in English or with English subtitles, making it accessible for tourists.
While you can check what movies are showing online, you will have to head to the box office to buy tickets. Make sure you turn up at least an hour in advance, as Cine Paris can be exceedingly popular when the weather is nice and mild.
#22 Take A Day Trip To Meteora
Another thing to factor into your calculations when deciding is Athens worth it is that the city is an excellent base from which to explore the wider region, and renting a car in Athens is super easy. One of our favourite day trips was a visit to Meteora, a rock formation that is home to a series of precariously balanced monasteries.
These religious institutions were built in the 11th century by monks who wanted to be closer to God – and presumably further away from humanity. We thought the Monastery of the Holy Trinity was the most impressive of the various buildings, featuring a beautiful church that contains well-preserved frescoes.
It takes about four hours to drive to Meteora, though you can also do what we did and sign up for a tour. Make sure you dress appropriately or at least pack some long clothing, as both women and men are expected to cover their shoulders and their legs before entering the monasteries. Entrance is €3 per monastery.
#23 Take A Day Trip To Delphi
We also highly recommend a day trip to Delphi, perhaps most famous as having once been the home of Ancient Greece’s most prestigious oracle. Today, it’s a collection of scenically situated ruins, including the Temple of Apollo, the Ancient Theatre, and the Treasury.
Make sure you check out the museum that houses relics that have been excavated from Delphi. Nearby, you can also visit the Sanctuary of Athena Pronea, included with the Delphi ticket and featuring the remains of a tholos: a circular building held up by 20 Doric columns.
Reaching the ancient city from Athens takes about two and a half hours – about the same amount of time, you’ll probably want to allocate to a visit. Just like Meteora, you can decide to drive yourself or join a tour. Tickets are €12 per person during the summer season, though if you are in town from November to March, entry is half-price.
#24 Visit The Temple Of Poseidon
Around an hour and a half’s drive from Athens, the Temple of Poseidon is a perfectly positioned ruin perched on the Cape of Sounion. Dating back to the 400s BC, it’s a very romantic setting, particularly at sunset, when you can see the sun descending into the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s a small site that can be amply explored in a short time, so to round out our visit, we stopped at several sweet little fishing villages en route along the coastal road.
Tickets cost €10.
#25 Chill At The Beach
Is Athens worth visiting for beaches? Well, it might not have the finest sandy stretches in all of Greece – particularly if you include all those gorgeous islands – but there are certainly a few places worthy of any sun-worshipper’s attention.
There are several beaches around half an hour from Athens, including some that can be reached using the Hop On Hop Off bus, but we would recommend travelling a little further to Kape Beach. Though it’s about an hour from the Greek capital, it’s a clean, unspoilt, sandy area made up of several coves that back onto picturesque cliffs.
For something with a few more facilities, Sounion Beach is also a good option. Not far from the Temple of Poseidon, it has several dining options, plus sun beds and umbrellas to rent.
Best Places To Stay In Athens
Is Athens worth visiting if you don’t have a nice place to stay? Of course not! Good accommodation can make or break any holiday, though it doesn’t have to be expensive to offer an attractive experience.
At the upper end of the scale, Asomaton is in the heart of Athens, about 10 minutes from Monastiraki Square. The facilities include an indoor pool, a modest terrace with excellent views, and a handful of pop-art decorated rooms.
NEMA HOTEL ATHENS
This 3-star spot is also excellently located in the middle of town. The accommodation is a little more workmanlike in design, though undeniably modern and smart. A continental breakfast is included in the lodging price.
BREEZE BOUTIQUE ATHENS
To the north of the city centre, not far from Omonia metro station and the National Archaeological Museum, Breeze Boutique is an affordably priced hotel whose most attractive feature is the floor-to-ceiling windows found in every room.
Are There Reasons NOT To Visit Athens?
Overall, we can heartily recommend a trip to Athens. However, there are a couple of reasons you might not want to make the journey:
🥵 Stultifying summers. It’s one thing feeling hot and sticky when there’s a nearby pool or sea to help you cool off and quite another when you’re tramping through streets filled with other tourists on their summer holidays. If you’re looking for a summer destination, we wouldn’t recommend Athens.
👥 Crowds. Even outside the June to August period, Athens is a busy place. Don’t expect to find yourself alone while scaling Lycabettus Hill or snapping photos on the Acropolis unless you’re very lucky.
🏙️ Poverty. Greece’s economic problems have been well-documented over the last few years. When we visited recently, the fallout from this was pretty obvious in the form of graffiti-covered walls and dilapidated houses.
Best Ways Of Getting Around Athens
One of the most important things to know before visiting Athens is how to get around the city, particularly as a lot of the things we love about the Greek capital are spread over a broad distance.
Uber In Athens
Uber does exist in Athens, and it works almost exactly the same way as in other countries: you input your current location and your destination, and the app will give you an estimated price and arrival time, as well as details of your driver’s licence plate and rating.
The only difference is that rather than employing amateur drivers, Uber Greece can only be used to call licensed yellow cabs. Payment is through the app, and the prices are pretty much the same as if you hailed a cab on the roadside. The one major downside is that you may have to wait a little while.
There are only three metro lines in Athens, but they do cover most of the major destinations, making it one of the fastest and most convenient ways to traverse the city. A standard ticket costs €1.40 and allows you to travel across the metro as well as trams and public buses for 90 minutes. Alternatively, you can purchase a 24-hour ticket for €4.50 or a five-day ticket for €9.
You can also take the metro from the airport, just bear in mind that this ticket is different from the standard ticket and costs €10. If you plan to use the metro frequently, you can get a three-day tourist ticket that covers all travel for €22, including the journey to and from the airport.
Hop On Hop Off Bus
Hop On Hop Off buses are in cities throughout Europe and make it easy to streamline your Athens trip. Essentially, they call only at popular tourist destinations, such as Syntagma Square, the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, and Plaka, as well as beaches and hotels along the coast.
There are two types of ticket: a 48-hour (2-day) one, which costs €33, and a 72-hour (3-day) one that costs €40. All rides include a free audio guide, which is available in 13 languages.
Is Athens Worth Visiting: FAQ
How many days is worth it in Athens?
A three-day trip will give you plenty of time to see the city at a leisurely pace, visiting all the major sights and museums, as well as indulging in plenty of gastronomic exploration. If you want to spend a day or two at the beaches outside the city, we would recommend tacking on a couple of extra days.
What is so good about Athens?
Athens is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world, and many monuments, sculptures, and artefacts from that period have survived in a more or less intact form. Aside from that, the weather is pleasant, the food is great, the nightlife is fun, and there are lots of great day trips you can take to nearby places of interest, such as Delphi or Meteora.
What is the best time of year to visit Athens Greece?
We would say the best time to visit Athens Greece is in the spring or autumn. Temperatures are still fairly balmy – in May and September, temperatures average more than 20 degrees Celsius – while the insane summer crowds are at an ebb.
That’s not to say winter is off-limits. While it is colder, you’re not going to get many days that drop below 10 degrees, even at the chilliest time of year. However, you will have to put up with a bit more rain.
Can you explore Athens on your own?
Absolutely you can definitely explore Athens on your own – you may even enjoy it more if you’re setting your own pace. As long as you take the usual precautions you would take anywhere in the world, you shouldn’t run into any problems travelling solo.
What are 5 facts about Athens?
1. Athens originally rose to prominence as one of many Greek city-states in the Peloponnese, vying with Sparta for dominance.
2. It is Europe’s oldest capital, with a recorded history of 3,400 years, though some scholars think it may have been the site of human habitation for more than 5,000 years.
3. Athens is often cited as the birthplace of democracy. While the exact date that democracy was taken up by the city-state is debatable, it is conventionally put at around 508 BC.
4. Athens only became the capital of Greece in 1834, after the country freed itself from Ottoman control following a decade-long revolution.
5. While the very first Olympic Games are thought to have been held in Olympia (hence the name), the modern Olympics debuted in Athens in 1896.
Is Athens expensive?
When people ask: Is it worth visiting Athens, they sometimes mean it in a very literal sense, as in, do you get a lot of bang for your buck? The answer is a qualified yes. Athens is one of the more expensive places to visit in Greece, but it is substantially cheaper than a lot of other European destinations. In fact, it was ranked the cheapest city break in Europe last year.
Is Athens safe?
Athens is pretty much as safe as you would expect from any popular European city. There are pickpockets on the hunt in tourist areas and on public transport, but overall, we’re confident in saying that you shouldn’t expect to encounter any serious crime.
Is Athens a walkable city?
While Athens can be quite hilly, most of the major tourist attractions are in a tightly packed area, meaning you can easily walk between them all. There are some things that you may want to hop on public transport to reach, however, such as the National Archaeological Museum.
Is Athens Greece Worth Visiting: Final Word
Hopefully, our tips for visiting Athens have paved the way for you to have an awesome holiday. Is Athens worth visiting? In our opinion, absolutely. It’s a city that combines a wealth of historical attractions, from the Acropolis to the Agora, with a vibrant modern scene that offers something for the gourmands, the party animals, and the beach bums.
If you’re looking for an affordable city break where you can enjoy mild weather all year and have access to sandy coastlines, Athens is the place for you!