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Must-Do’s in Athens, Greece to Save You Time & Money

Must-Do in Athen, Greece

There are many must-do’s in Athens, the city of Greek gods and beautiful temples that have stood for more than 2000 years – but which ones are worthwhile and must-do’s in Athens, Greece? It’s an incredible experience to witness and stroll among some of our ancestors’ earliest relics. It’s not like going to a museum and viewing something through glass, but being able to go and breathe the same air or climb the same steps is the kind of experience we seek from time to time.

Athens, Greece What To Do And Where To Go

There are numerous tourist sites and even some hidden treasures; but, which ones are worthwhile if you have a limited budget or time? Many entrepreneurs and digital nomads struggle with this when they want to see what the world has to offer.

Here’s your guide to what I felt was magnificent and a once-in-a-lifetime event, as well as what could’ve been seen from a distance or on images.

Where To Stay

When I’m traveling, I’m usually a big lover of hotels. However, in this case, I propose that you book an Airbnb (which can be found for as little as $40-50 a night near the Acropolis).

Here’s why:

  • While Greece is less expensive than most other European countries, food will be your most expensive spend. As a result, if you stay a little longer, you’ll save a lot of money by cooking most of the time.
  • If you’re cooking, you’ll get to try authentic Greek food from the mini-markets without the price tag from your daily spend at the restaurant (the smell is unmatched!) – this is a total must-do in Athens if you want an authentic experience!
  • I booked an apartment in downtown and many things were within walking distance; getting a hotel in that location can be a bit more expensive. – Most of the time, free parking if you have a rental car (people drive like crazy there, so make sure you’re an experienced driver).

Of course, if you prefer to stay in a hotel, that is the best option for you. If you do, make sure to obtain one with a view of the Acropolis – you won’t regret it.

Starting Out - The Airport

When arriving at the international airport of Athens or Athina, visitors may be confused as to how to get to the city centre.

Here’s how to get to the city center, which is the beating heart of Athens: Acropolis

You have four choices for getting downtown:

  • Taxi/Uber (pricey)
  • Airport shuttle service ($8 one-way)
  • Tram/Subway ($22 for a 3-day tourist pass)
  • Automobile rental ($XX)

If you decide to take the tram/subway, you will take line 3 (blue) and drive Syntagma, which is the centre, from there you can take the other lies (1 and 2) to get to other places. Take line 2 and 1 stops to get to acropolis. 

Must-Do in Athen, Greece

I took the subway because I’d had positive experiences with it in the past, and it was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know the system better for subsequent use.

Here are some of the reasons why I believe the subway is the best option:

The 3-Day Tourist Ticket is valid for three days (ideal for a weekend visit) and allows you to use any public transit, including travelling to and from the airport – moreover, you’ll get to know the specific stops for when you want to go sight seeing.

Tip: To save money, get the 5-day ticket for 8€ and the airport ticket separately if you’re staying for more than 3 days.

If you want to see the real Greece, try renting a car for a few days during your trip. That is where the real adventure begins, and you will discover truly hidden jewels that even many locals are unaware of.

Tip: Pick up a map of Greece at the airport; even though we have phones, there may be dead signal locations around the country. You don’t want to be trapped, especially if you don’t know how to Greek.

Navigating the Subway

This was undoubtedly an issue at first because there are no billboards displaying the times they will run. If you have Apple Maps, which normally indicates when buses and trams arrive and depart in big cities, it will not work here.

If you don’t already have Google Maps, get it now. You can enter the destination and view the trams/buses that will take you there.

Except for the tram to and from the airport, which runs every 30 minutes, the tram runs in 7-10 minute increments most of the time.

Tip: Get your tram tickets as soon as you exit the airport; this will save you time from having to stand in line at the tram stop – my whole plane basically went there.

The Must-Do Highlights in Athen

Every touristic city has many sight-seeing locations; nevertheless, you most likely learned in the past that not everything is worth traveling to and spending time and money on.

As I explained in my recent piece How to Travel the World and Make Money – Time, it says to lose sight of time and then miss out on seeing sites that would’ve been some of the best in your life – ask me how I know, ha.

Acropolis - The Classic

The most famous collection of temples is undoubtedly the Acropolis, which is positioned on top of a hill – yes, you’ll be climbing a fairly big hill, so bring some decent hiking shoes. The view from the top is breath-taking – this is one of the major must-do’s in Athens!

Tip: Wear hiking shoes with a high profile since the marble stone on the steps and the floor will become exceedingly slippery as you climb the hill of the Greek gods.

This site will most likely take up the majority of your time because there are numerous temples and relics to view. Anything from actual temples to statues, shattered bits, and beautifully painted delicate temple parts.

If you go down the path that leads to the bathroom, you’ll be able to view the entrance to a cave up close. It was eventually converted into a church on the inside, unfortunately it is closed, most likely due to transportation concerns.

Time to budget: ~ Half the day, about 3-5 hours easily 

Cost: $10

Tip: if you plan to visit more of the touristic sites, consider getting the combo-card that’s sold at the office or online (save yourself the time). With this cart you get to see 7 sites, whereas each one costs $7-12 on average — save yourself time and money.

Athenian Agora

This was my personal favorite, second only to the Acropolis, because you get a much closer look at the temple. Once there, you’ll probably want to walk inside and explore – more on that later, I have a surprise for you, stay tuned.

Another significant advantage is the opportunity to witness an old church from the year 1000 AD in its pristine splendor. They even conducted interior tours in the past, so check to see whether they do so again before you attend. Even if you don’t get to walk inside, the outside is very stunning and offers an excellent backdrop for instagram-worthy photos – making it a must-do in Athens when you visit.

Once there, make your way up the hill to the temple of Hephaistos (460-415 BC), which is unusual since you can get up close to it.

Can you believe it’s over 2000 years old if you look at the figures on the interior top of it?

This temple has a unique history and is Greece’s best-preserved temple; if you look closely at the top, you will notice figures depicting the fight of Theseus and the centaurs (west side). On one of the other sides (the east side), there is a sculpture depicting Herakles entering Mount Olympus – making it one of the top must-do’s in Athens.

The garden around that temple? That one was first planted around 300 BC.

The temple was converted into the church of St. George around the 7th century BC, while in the 19th century it was used as a burial place for protestants and many European philhellenes who died in the Greek war of independence in 1821 – it was then still in use until 1834 and welcomed King Otto, the first king of modern Greek state. It wasn’t until 1930 that it was converted into a museum — incredible, right? It wasn’t all that long ago that it was still in use.

Must-Do in Athen, Greece

There’s also a roman agora close by, make sure to go to the right one that you actually want to see. While this is also a major attraction, I wouldn’t call it to be one of the must-do’s in Athens.

This sure is including within the combo cards, making it a win win. 

Time to account: 2-3 hours 

Cost: Free if you got the combo card, otherwise $8

Tip: If you’re walking from the Acropolis up to this, you’ll have to walk quite a distance. The GPS will direct you to a closed entrance (it’s just behind three restaurants on your right). Just keep going straight ’till you see it on your right.

Bonus: If you walk this distance from the Acropolis, you will see numerous minor hidden gems such as ancient water systems and mosaics built by the Greeks and Romans. It’s incredible to think they were so advanced over 2000 years ago — it blows my head.

Old Town Downtown

This is a short walk from the Acropolis and has several tiny romantic restaurants, little boutiques, and a few antique shops where you can buy genuine Greek antiquities.

Here’s how to find it – click here to get to it.

These directions will take you to Coco’s Frozen Yogurt, which is situated on this strip with all of these establishments.

If you’re walking back towards Acropolis, there’s a small store on the left side. It features silver handmade jewelry and a silver coin, which is almost 2000 years old and has a poem on it. They just discovered it was a poem a few years ago, when they were finally able to interpret it – these are my sort of souvenirs. A one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry with a story linked to it – if you’re down for something more extraordinary, this is a must-do in Athens.

Another business to check out as you stroll along that strip is Gallery Demeter, which sells Greek helmets, muse figures, and other items. It was a thrill just to look at it!

Hidden Gems of Athens

Must-Do in Athen, Greece

Holy Temple of Saint George (1782-1785) – Agios Georgios

This hidden gem is so well-kept that many locals have never even heard of it.

While on top of the Acropolis, start gazing around for a white castle appearing on top of a larger hill in the distance. It’s not a hill, as I discovered, but a church erected between 1782 and 1785).

Here’s what’s so special on top of this hill

  • There’s a romantic restaurant on top of the hill, and because many people are unaware of its existence, it’s generally always quite vacant. On a Saturday evening, there was only one couple (unheard of practically everywhere)
  • From the top of the hill where the church stands, you can see the entirety of Athens’ magnificence. It is the tallest peak in Athens, making it unique.

A second church, Agiis Isidori, was only uncovered approximately ten years ago after an earthquake struck Athens.

It was concealed under stones for hundreds of years, and now since it’s just been open for a few years, it’s almost like going back in time — step back in time by visiting it.

They even have service there! You may see it every Sunday morning about 10 a.m. Soon after, you may walk around and have a closer look at the well-preserved church – don’t miss out on this real experience.

Both are must-do’s in Athens if you want to experience more of the culture and less touristy things.

Socrates Prison

Up for a different kind of must-do’s in Athens? Follow the trail to this maze of rooms carved into bedrock on the Filopappou Hill slopes. Socrates is said to have been imprisoned here before his trial in 399 BC. During that time, the political climate altered and democrats came to power, which pitted them against a slew of opponents, including Socrates. They intended to set a precedent by imprisoning him when he spoke out against the new laws and regimes – they imprisoned him as they wanted to show that speaking up against the new rules and regimes would follow consequences.

As the new & young Athenian democracy feared that individuals would begin to follow Socrates’ teachings and philosophies, leading to them stopping to respect the established laws and rules, as well as failing to fulfill their civic duty, resulting in the demise of the new political order. Despite it being a democratic union then, they turned towards extreme measures to protect the new order – crazy, isn’t it?

Must-Do in Athen, Greece

Poseidon’s temple – Feel, Smell, Walk among the ancient Greeks

This temple is a one-of-a-kind experience, as you actually get to walk inside it and experience it as close as possible as far as I know, it’s the only one that you’re able to walk into (if you know another, please let me know).

This makes it special, as all other temples are off-limits to touch and walk into.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time before they closed it, so make sure to leave early. It’s about 40-50 mins away from downtown and you will need a car to get there, however, it’s worth it.

Looking at the temple, which used to be a very popular location during the time of Greek mythology – even festivals were celebrated there. Behind the temple, you can see remains of a settlement with a port. However, the temple was abandoned and began to deteriorate once the legendary greek mythological faith faded.

If you have a chance to get a rental or maybe a tour bus, use it. You won’t regret it. This one is one of the major must-do’s in Athens.

Here are some other things that are worth visiting if you have extra time:

This city is filled with tons of things to do, this is just another list of other must-do’s in Athens if you have some extra time.

  • Athens Flea Market – great for souvenirs, make sure to check out their traditional house shoes, they’re handmade and extremely comfortable (about $10-12).
  • If you have a car: the Oracle of Delphi is must-see. This will be a day trip, so keep that in mind.
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus – great to look at, and will take you about 1h (free if you have the combo card)
  • Library of Pantainos
  • Hadrian’s Library (incl. in combo card and close to the flea market)
  • Altar of the twelve Gods

Anna is a traveler, blogger, and entrepreneur who can’t keep herself still. She’s always on the move, whether working hard on a new passion project or exploring a new city as a part-time digital nomad. Dare to keep up? Check out The Tatted Nomad for everything digital nomad, social media marketing, mental health, and travel (and to see her latest addition, Novah, her service dog and travel companion). As a psychotherapist (to be) she also offers insights about your mental health related questions – anything you see that isn’t covered but you have questions about? Let her know!

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