The oldest inhabited city in Europe, the birthplace of democracy, and home to Plato and Socrates. This is Athens. With a long list of archaeological sites and monuments, it seems that 1 day in Athens is not enough.
Fret not! Our guide walks you through the highlights that are both walkable and can be done within 24 hours in Athens. The highlights of our guide include:
- Ancient Agora of Athens
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Syntagma Square
Geia sou Athína! or Hello Athens!
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Where is Athens?
Sprawled within the Attica Basin, amongst Mount Aigaleo, Mount Parnitha, Mount Pantelicus, and Mount Hymettus lies the city of Athens. The Lycabettus, the tallest hill in Athens gives a panoramic view of the city, at any time of the day.
Athens is the hottest city in Europe with a hot summer Mediterranean climate. Athens summers are hot and dry which means that small businesses may close early. The crowd peaks during the summer months. The winters are mild with December being the wettest month.
From ancient monuments, museums, parks, and shopping streets, Athens will keep you on your feet. Although the area in our guide is walkable, Athens is a huge city with an extensive public transportation network. This means that getting around the city is not a hassle.
According to myths and legends, the city was founded by Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. The story goes that Athena competed against Poseidon for the patronage of this unnamed city.
Poseidon struck his trident and a saltwater spring welled up. Athena gave the Athenians their first olive tree and was declared the patron goddess of the city. The city has been continuously inhabited for the last 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world.
Athens became a leading city of Ancient Greece, only to face decline during the early Middle Ages. The city recovered under the Byzantine Empire and was prosperous under the Crusades.
When the Ottoman Empire took over, the city experienced a rapid decline and its population dropped. The city became a small country town. By the early 19th century, Greek insurgents captured the city.
Once the Kingdom of Greece was established, the modern city layout was drawn. The legacies from this period include the University of Athens, the National Gardens of Athens, the National Library of Athens, the Old Royal Palace, and the Old Parliament Building.
After World War 2, the city grew rapidly as the rural population moved to Athens. Today, Athens is one of the few cities to have hosted the Olympics more than once. The city is also the financial capital of Greece with tourism being the leading economic contributor.
The United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore are some countries that can enter Greece, visa-free. This is for a short stay not exceeding 90 days.
As Greece is part of the European Union, a Schengen Visa is required if you plan to extend your trip to other member states of the European Union. To apply for a Greece Schengen Visa, you need
- Greek Schengen Visa Application Form.
- Two passport photos.
- A valid passport with at least 2 blank pages and at least 6 months validity beyond your planned stay in Greece.
- Schengen Travel Health Insurance.
- Round-trip flight itinerary.
- Proof of accommodation and evidence of sufficient financial means.
If the above sounds like too much hassle, you can with iVisa if you require a visa to visit Greece. Click the link below to find out.
How do you get around Athens?
While it is easy to get around Central Athens, the city has reliable and efficient public transportation that makes traveling in the town much more accessible. The fares are affordable and convenient with the Ath.ena Card.
You can use the Athena Card on all the public transportation mentioned below. Make sure to validate your tickets before boarding and always keep your ticket until the end of the journey.
The best way to get around Central Athens is by foot. From panoramic views to the grand central square of Athens, walk as you admire the architectural marvel that dots the city. Our guide gives you a free walking tour which you can do at your own time and pace.
Take the Guided Mythological Walking Tour, Walk with a Local Tour, or the Athens Instagram Tour that takes you to the most scenic spots in Athens for your Instagram feed as you walk through the city and listen to the stories from a local Athenian.
The second best way to get around Athens is using the metro. The metro is the fastest mode of transportation with three lines, red, blue, and green with a fourth line in the works. Attiko Metro manages the metro and trams.
The metro runs from 5 am until midnight with the major transit stations being Monastiraki, Syntagma, and Omonia. The flat fare is €1.40 ($1.50) for 90 minutes on any metro or tram.
While Athens has an extensive bus network with announcements in both Greek and English, buses are not a favored option as they can be confusing, uncomfortable, and unreliable. Some bus stops are hidden with no proper signages which makes it difficult to determine your station.
If you prefer the slow and scenic route, then the trams are the best option. The trams operate from 5.30 am to midnight daily and have three routes. Tram T6 connects Syntagma with Faliro while tram line T7 connects Voula with Piraeus.
The tram connects to the metro and underground railway at Syntagma, Syngrou, Neos Kosmos, and the Peace and Friendship Stadium at Faliro.
The taxis here at not expensive and licensed taxis come with meters. The fare is calculated depending per kilometer and on a per-hour basis. While taking a taxi is convenient, most taxi drivers speak very little English.
This means that unscrupulous drivers can charge you above the standard rate. Also, the passenger would have to bear the additional charges when passing through tolls, entering the airport, and extra luggage.
You can contact a radio taxi service or call Taxiplon to arrange for your pick up and drop off. Both of these providers provide an estimate of the fares based on your desired destination on their websites.
Uber is available in Athens. The option available is UberTaxi where you hail a ride on the app and a yellow taxi picks you up. An alternative to Uber is Lyft which works the same way. As these two options depend on the driver’s ability, the fares may be higher than a taxi.
The last way to get around in Athens is using an electronic scooter. To use these scooters, download the Lime app and unlock a scooter for €1 ($1), and drive them around town for €0.15 ($0.15) per minute.
At a maximum speed of 20 km/h, you may not be able to cover much of the city. These scooters are an environmentally friendly option and an interesting way to see the city on your own. Take the Guided E-Scooter Tour of the Acropolis Area for a refreshing experience.
The easiest option to get from the airport to the city center is to book your Athens Airport Transfer. You can pre-book your transfers and rest assured that you will be greeted by English-speaking drivers. The drivers would also monitor your flights for delays. And, you are assured that the prices for each transfer are low and the rates are fixed.
Is 1 day enough in Athens?
Yes, 1 day is enough to visit the main tourist sites in Athens as most of these are within a compact area and walkable. However, you will need more than a day if you want to do a day trip to Delphi, Piraeus, or Cape Sounion.
Ancient Agora of Athens
The first of our 1 day in Athens is the Ancient Agora of Athens or Market Hill is on the northwest slope of the Acropolis. In ancient Athens, the agora was a meeting place, a market, and a residential gathering area.
The most iconic structure here is the Temple of Hephaestus which is an ancient Greek temple dedicated to the Greek god Hephaestus who was the patron god for metalworks, blacksmiths, carpenters, and craftsmen.
What was the agora used for in ancient Athens?
The agora was used as a meeting point for the citizens of ancient Athens. It was used for social, business, spiritual, and political meetings.
Is Ancient Agora worth seeing?
Yes, the Ancient Agora is worth seeing as it has the best-preserved temple of antiquity, the Temple of Hephaestus built entirely from marble. The temple was built in 449 BC. Make sure to visit the Stoa of Attalos which is now the Museum of Ancient Agora.
The second of our 1 day in Athens is the Parthenon which is a 6-minute walk from the Ancient Agora of Athens. This building is a symbol of democracy and ancient Greece. The temple is known for its Doric and Ionic architectural features.
By the 5th century, the temple was converted into a church and became the fourth most important Christian pilgrimage site in the Eastern Roman Empire. At the end of the 15th century, the Parthenon became a mosque once the Ottoman Turks invaded the lands.
The present structure you see today resulted from an explosion in 1687 when a Venetian mortar round blew out the building’s central portion and damaged the walls into rubbles. Today, the structure is undergoing restoration works where the interiors would be partially restored to what it once was.
Why was the Parthenon destroyed?
The Parthenon was destroyed during the Great Turkish War as the Turks had used the Parthenon to store gunpowder and the fact that they did not believe the Venetians would destroy a building with historical importance.
Are Acropolis and the Parthenon the same thing?
No, they are not the same thing. The Acropolis of Athens is a citadel on an outcrop above the city of Athens while the Partenon is the most iconic landmark within the acropolis. Parthenon sits on a hill that overlooks the rest of the citadel.
Acropolis of Athens
The third of our 1 day in Athens is the Acropolis of Athens. This is an ancient city on a rocky outcrop above Athens. The temples within this city are dedicated to Athena, Zeus, and Nike.
Why is the Acropolis of Athens so famous?
The Acropolis of Athens is so famous as it is the complete and most striking ancient Greek complex still standing today. Enter through the Propylaea and see the small Temple of Athena Nike.
At the center, lies the Parthenon with the Erectheum on its north. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus are located slightly below the Acropolis.
How long is the walk up to the Acropolis?
The long walk up to the acropolis can take between 20 minutes to an hour, depending upon your fitness level. The 1.1-mile route is considered moderately challenging, so bring a bottle of water, wear sunscreen, and bring a hat.
The best time to do the walk-up is during the winter months from December to February. Avoid the summer months as the heat becomes unbearable and the Acropolis closes at noon. The Acropolis reopens at 3 pm and remains open until 8 pm.
What should I wear to the Acropolis?
Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, and good pair of shoes, wear plenty of sunscreens and bring a hat. During the warmer months, you can wear light clothing. When visiting during the winter months, bring an umbrella as December is the wettest month in Athens.
The fourth of our 1 day in Athens is at the Acropolis Museum which is located in the Makrigianni neighborhood. The museum was created to house more than 4,250 exhibits that were found on the surrounding slopes of the Acropolis of Athens.
These artifacts date back to the Greek Bronze Age and lie on the ruins of an early Roman settlement. Take the Guided Tour with an Entry Ticket to learn more about the history, mythology, and architecture of the Acropolis.
What’s inside the Acropolis Museum?
An ancient Athenian neighborhood on the level below ground is open to visitors, allowing you to time travel back to a time when this area was a lively neighborhood. Look out for the bust of Alexander the Great, Artemis, and Aphrodite.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The fifth of our 1 day in Athens is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus or the Herodion. This Roman stone theatre was built by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife. The walls were originally made from marble with a capacity of 5,000 spectators.
In its glory, the theatre had beautiful mosaic floors with a cedar roof. The theatre was renovated in the 1950s with major events such as the Miss Universe being held here. The theatre is considered one of the most beautiful in Athens and is not open to the public unless there is a concert or event there.
What was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus used for?
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was used to host plays and musical performances as well as being a gathering place for the locals during the Roman era. Today, it is an open-air theatre that has hosted legendary singers such as Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti, and Liza Minelli.
Is the Theatre of Dionysus the same as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus?
No, the Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus are not the same. The Theatre of Dionysus is an ancient Greek theatre on the southern slope of the Acropolis while the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient Roman stone theatre on the southwest slope of the Acropolis.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
The sixth of our 1 day in Athens is the Temple of the Olympian Zeus or the Columns of the Olympian is an easy 11-minute walk from the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The temple was built and dedicated to Zeus, the head god of the Greeks.
The temple took nearly 638 years to complete and in its prime, it was the largest temple in Greece with colossal 104 columns. The Hadrian’s Arch is another remarkable structure to commemorate the Roman Emperor Hadrian and separates the old city and the new city.
How much does it cost to go to the Temple of Zeus?
The entry fee for the Temple of Zeus is €12 ($12) for adults and €6 ($6) for children. You can opt for the Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo Ticket that gives you skip-the-line entry to the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, and the Temple of Zeus.
Is the Temple of Zeus worth it?
Yes, the temple of Zeus is worth visiting, although not much is left of it. The temple was the largest in ancient Greece and took six centuries to complete. Marvel at the height of the remaining columns and imagine the sheer size of this once magnificent building.
The seventh of our 1 day in Athens is Syntagma Square or Constitution Square. The square is about 750-meters or an easy 10-minute walk from the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. Among the other attractions nearby include the Old Royal Palace which now houses the Greek Parliament.
Other interests include Hadrian’s Library, the Tower of the Winds, the Arch of Hadrian, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. What is unique here is that the tomb is guarded by Evzones who are an elite light infantry unit of the Greek Army.
Is Syntagma Square safe?
Yes, Syntagma Square is safe as with other areas such as Plaka, Monastiraki, and Kolonaki. The risks to be aware of are petty thefts as they are known to work in groups at Syntagma Square.
Streets of Plaka
On the eighth of our 1 day in Athens are the streets of Plaka. These streets are a 6-minute walk from Syntagma Square. This neighborhood lies below the Acropolis and is nicknamed the “neighborhood of the Gods”.
The pedestrian-friendly streets are filled with souvenir shops, cafes, and jewelry stores. You can visit the Museum of Greek Art, the Jewish Museum of Greece, and the Athens University Museum.
Is Plaka worth visiting?
Yes, it is worth visiting as it is the oldest historical neighborhood in Athens. As you walk along, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of street musicians, florists, and photographers.
Look out for Anafiotika, the cluster of homes built on the slopes of the Acropolis. The inhabitants of these homes were stone masons who came to Athens to rebuild the city in the 19th century.
If you have more than 1 day in Athens, take a guided full-day trip to Delphi. Delphi is about 130 miles or a 3-hour drive from Athens. This was a sacred precinct known as Pytho in ancient times. In ancient times, Delphi was a place dedicated to Gaia, the mother goddess of fertility and earth.
Among the ruins, it is the Temple of Apollo is the most striking. These 4th-century ruins were where the Oracle of Delphi operated.
According to ancient Greek texts, five temples were built and dedicated to Apollo in Delphi. These temples served as a political and health space for the Greek settlements on Delphi.
How long does it take to visit Delphi?
You would need at least 3 hours to visit all the sites in Delphi. Walk The Sacred Way which leads to the Temple of Apollo. Imagine walking through a path that was lined with treasuries and monuments of various Greek cities.
Look out for the Treasury of the Athenians, the theatre and stadium that once accommodate 500 spectators. Head east from the sacred precinct and you come to the Castalian Spring where the priestess would purify themselves before heading to the Temple of Apollo.
Lastly, head to the Sanctuary of Athena Pronea where you can find the Tholos. Although no one knows why the Tholos was constructed, it could be a place where the statues were kept.
Is Delphi worth visiting?
Yes, Delphi is worth visiting as it is a place where the lines between history and mythology are blurred. From the Temple of Apollo to the stadium, this place once welcomed kings and peasants alike.
What part of Athens should you stay in?
The best part of Athens to stay in, in our opinion are Plaka and Syntagma. Whether you are a first-timer or a frequent visitor to Athens, knowing the best places to stay would save you time and money. Hence, we have curated our best places to stay that are steps away from sights, shopping, and food.
Plaka lies in the shadows of the Acropolis and is one of the oldest historical neighborhoods in Athens. Adrianou Street is the central street that divides Syntagma and Monastiraki. Plaka is further divided into two areas, Ano Plaka and Kato Plaka.
Look out for the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates and the Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments which showcases exhibits of traditional musical instruments from Greece. And, even if you have 24 hours in Athens or more, we have curated the best places for you to stay at.
Our first choice in Plaka for a 1 day in Athens is the Athens Ikon. This apartment-style hotel has 6 rooms, 5 of which are 2-bedroom suites while the last one is a junior suite with a terrace that overlooks Athens. All suites have free WiFi, a safety deposit box, a microwave, a kitchenette, a Nespresso machine, and toiletries.
The hotel is strategically located at the borders of Plaka and Syntagma with the Ernou Shopping District just a minute away. Guests loved that the hotel is centrally located and has friendly and helpful staff. Other reviews mention the excellent location, modern and clean rooms, and breakfast that was served in the room.
Our second choice in Plaka for a 1 day in Athens is the Ergon House. This 38-room boutique hotel is a foodie hotel with its owners being the founder of Ergon Foods, Greece’s premium specialty food brand. With a location that is 3 minutes from Syntagma Square, 16 minutes to the Acropolis, and Plaka at its doorstep, you would be spoilt for choice once you step out of the hotel.
On the ground floor, shop for the freshest greens and look up to the vertical orchard on the first floor. All rooms come with access to the communal kitchens, lounges, and panoramic rooftop terrace. While the small room has an open layout, the extra large room has a panoramic view of the Acropolis and a breathtaking view of Athens at night.
Guests loved the friendly staff, the location, and the excellent restaurant and deli within the hotel’s premises. Other reviews mention the courteous staff, delightful breakfast, and the quirky and artistic vibe of the interior decoration.
Our third choice in Plaka for a 1 day in Athens is Ava Hotel and Suites. This 16-room hotel has spacious rooms with kitchenettes and is an easy walk to the main sights in Athens. The kitchenettes are complete with pots, pans, and plates.
Guests loved the personal attention given by the staff, the location is in the heart of Athens, and the clean and spacious rooms. Other reviews mention the delightful breakfast and the quaint and charming neighborhood with pedestrian-friendly streets just a walk away.
Syntagma or Constitution Square is the central square in Athens that is bordered by Plaka on its west and Kolonaki and the National Gardens on its east. The square is significant as it was built when King Otto moved the capital of the Greek Kingdom to Athens.
Syntagma is home to the Old Royal Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Other sights include the Tower of the Winds, and Hadrian’s Arch, and is within walking distance of Monastiraki.
Our first choice in Syntagma for a 1 day in Athens is Paleo Suites. This 6-room apartment-style hotel is in a 100-year-old building that has been recently refurbished. All rooms are spacious and come with high ceilings, free WiFi, and a Netflix-enabled smart-screen television.
Guests loved the helpful and informative owners, clean and spacious rooms with ample storage, and the central location that is close to many restaurants and bars. Other reviews mention the beautifully furnished apartments and that it was a 10-minute walk to the Acropolis.
Our second choice in Syntagma for a 1 day in Athens is the Athens Ivy Suites. This 12-room hotel is all about luxury and elegance. All rooms come with balconies, free WiFi, Bluetooth speakers, and Nespresso coffee machines. Guests loved the comfortable beds and clean, spacious, and stylish rooms.
Other reviews mention the excellent location that is within walking distance of the major attractions. Guests also loved the friendly and helpful staff.
Our third and last choice in Syntagma for a 1 day in Athens is the Electra Metropolis. This 216-room hotel is a stone throw’s away from Syntagma Square. This hotel beautiful combines its past with timeless modernity. Look out for the ruins of Themistocles’ Wall in the building’s foundation. These ruins were a primary defense measure during the Classical Era of Athens.
Above that is the 16th-century Agia Dynami chapel that is embedded into the structure of the building. Guests loved the central location and the amazing rooftop bar views. Guests also praised the excellent breakfast and the nice and friendly staff and the hotel’s proximity to Plaka and Kolonaki.
Frequently Asked Questions on Athens
Athens is famous for being the birthplace of western civilization and democracy, the center for learning, arts, and philosophy, and home to some of the oldest landmarks in the world such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
No, Athens does not have a beach. However, due to its proximity to the Athens Riviera, some beaches are accessible by taxi. The best beaches in Athens include Astir Beach, Megalo Kavouri, Yabanaki Beach, and Edem Beach.
The spring months of March to May and the autumn months of September to November are the best time of the year to visit Athens. During spring, the weather is pleasant and less crowded as the summer tourists haven’t arrived yet.
In autumn, the weather is slightly warm during the day. You can expect a sudden drop in temperatures during the night. Exploring Athens during these months is easy and accommodation is cheaper.
Yes, Athens is a walkable city. Stay at Plaka, Monastiraki, and Syntagma and you would be within walking distance of the historic core of Athens.
Take the Great Athens Walk which takes you to the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Hadrian’s Arch. The route is about 4.2 miles and can be completed within 3 hours.
The hottest month in Athens, Greece is in August. The highest recorded temperature was 43°C (109.5°F) in August 2021 with only 1 or 2 days of rainfall. This is the best month for swimming and water activities.
Yes, it is safe to go out at night in Athens. Take extra precautions and avoid Omonia, Exarchia, and Patissia. Always be aware of your surroundings as petty theft is common in tourist areas, whether day or night.
Yes, English is widely spoken in Athens. Greeks are fluent in English around Athens and other major cities. However, some basic Greek is useful if you plan to venture into the rural areas of Athens.
Yassau which is pronounced as yah-soo is “hello” in Greek. A formal “hello” is herete and this is used during formal events and when addressing people of rank, politicians, or teachers.
Some common Greek phrases which are useful include “yes” which is neh, “good morning” is kalimera, “good afternoon” is kalispera, and “good night” is kalinihta. Other useful phrases are “thank you” which is efharisto while “nice to meet you” is harika.
Yasu tikanis means “hello, how are you doing?” and a reply to that is kala ime which means “I’m doing well”. Yasu is an informal term that translates to “hello”, “goodbye”, or “cheers.
Yes, absolutely! Athens is a place where legend meets reality and was already a major cultural center when it first appeared in recorded history. Here’s why we think a trip to Athens is a must, historical lover or not.
1) History. Athens has been continuously inhabited for the past 6,000 years and is recognized as one of the oldest cities in the world. It was a leading city of Ancient Greece and by the 5th century, the city had laid the foundations of the western civilizations.
2) Nightlife. Head to Psiri and Gazi for a cool night out. With hundreds of bars and nightclubs, Athens has something for those who prefer a comfortable place to drink or simply to dance the night away.
3) Food. From traditional taverns to fine dining restaurants, Athens has it all. Head to Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani for an authentic Greek deli experience and Klimataria for traditional Greek food, music, and dance.
4) Shopping. Head to Ermou Street which is a pedestrian-friendly street from Syntagma Square to Monastiraki Square where you will find souvenir shops and a variety of shops selling everything from clothing to push carts selling koulouri which is Greece’s equivalent to the bagel.
5) Beaches. Just half an hour away from Athens, you find yourself at some of the most beautiful beaches near Athens. From Edem Beach to Glyfada Beach, sip some cocktails and relax as the Aegean breeze brushes your hair with your feet in the sand.
This ancient city is not only worth visiting, but it also shows us that humanity is capable of creating architectural masterpieces that have stood the test of time. Athens beautifully combines old and new while maintaining culture, food, and art throughout the centuries.