Are you going to spend a weekend in Athens? Is it worth to visit the capital city of Greece? There are different opinions about Athens on the Internet. Some people say that this city is not particularly interesting, other people are absolutely thrilled with it. I didn’t know what to expect either. So I did what I had to do. I booked a flight and I planned my weekend in Athens to make my own judgement. In this post I listed all the must-see places for your weekend in Athens.
I do think that this city is worth a visit, especially in low season. Two days should be enough to see the most important places and get the feel of Athens. I visited this city in April and it turned out to be an excellent choice. Weather during spring is perfect to explore the city as sunshine is pretty much a given. Nights are cooler but it’s not a big deal. Nothing warms you up better than Rakomelo, an alcoholic beverage, traditionally used by Greeks as a home remedy.
The Acropolis of Athens was an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop built in the 10th century BC. Later on, it was transferred into area of several ancient temples dedicated to Greek gods. It’s the most famous archaeological site of ancient Greece and a place of great historic significance. The ruins of majestic Parthenon stand proudly on the top of the Acropolis and there’s also the Erechtheion on the north side of the hill. Don’t forget to explore the slopes of Acropolis where you can find a well-preserved Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Theatre of Dionysus. Despite the fact that nowadays, there are only ruins of ancient buildings, the Acropolis is unbelievably impressive. Not to mention the splendid views from the top of the hill. It’s definitely a must-see place during a weekend in Athens and personally, my favourite attraction in this city!
The Acropolis remains the most popular landmark of Athens and it is visited by crowds of tourists, especially in summer. I would recommend visiting this place in the morning, shortly after its opening. If you plan to visit the Acropolis and at least two places from the following list: Agora of Athens, Roman Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library and Lyceum, a combined ticket would be the best option for you. This ticket costs €30, it’s valid for 5 consecutive days and can be used one time for admission into each archeological site. Another advantage of the combined ticket is that once you get it, you will skip the ticket line at each place. It’s worth to mention that people under 18 years from EU countries and students under 25 years from EU counties can enter all the above-listed places free of charge.
AREOPAGUS HILL & PHILOPAPPOS HILL
The real treat is to see the Acropolis from a distance. The Areopagus is a viewpoint located next to the main Acropolis entrance. There is also Philopappos Hill which offers the most spectacular view of the Acropolis. It takes only 30-minutes to get there, so make sure to take a stroll to Philopappos Hill during your weekend in Athens.
You may consider climbing up Philopappos Hill in the evening, just before the sunset. The Parthenon is beautifully illuminated at night and looks absolutely fantastic on the top of the hill. It’s a very nice place to chill out in the afternoon and enjoy the stunning views.
TEMPLE OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS
Nearby the Acropolis, there is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was the largest temple in ancient Greece, located in Athens, dedicated to Zeus. Construction began in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the 2nd century AD. A substantial part of the temple was destroyed and presently, only 16 original columns remained as a historical site. One of them collapsed from a fierce wind.
The ticket to the Temple of Olympian Zeus costs €8 (for an adult). If you have already bought the combined ticket, you are allowed to enter this archeological site free of charge. If you are travelling on a tight budget, it may be worth saying that the ruins of this temple can be viewed from outside, from a distance. It’s up to you if you want to purchase a ticket to get inside.
PLAKA & ANAFIOTIKA
Plaka is an old historical neighborhood of Athens with narrow cobblestone streets and interesting architecture. There are also tiny shops selling jewelry, clothes and local ceramics. It may look a bit touristic, but don’t get disappointed too soon. Try to get lost in here and wander around to feel its vibe. You can find here some street art too, and cute cats that happen to appear on the street out of the blue.
Anafiotika is another must-see place in Athens. It’s the most picturesque part of Plaka which gives visitors the feel of Greek islands in the middle of the city. There are tiny houses with white walls and colorful shutters, decorated with flowers and narrow, often blind alleys. This area is also full of cafés and restaurants that get crowded at lunchtime and in the evening.
Are you looking for some souvenirs? Make sure to visit the flea market at Monastiraki square, especially on Sunday morning. You can buy here craftwork, ceramics, jewelry, clothes, antiques, books and also fresh veggies and fruit from local sellers.
What’s the best thing after a couple of hours of exploring the city? Obviously tasting local specialities! Souvlaki became my favourite Greek dish so far. They are grilled pieces of meat, usually pork, but also chicken, beef or lamb, served with pita bread and sauce. Delicious!
You also have to try a Greek salad. A traditional recipe always (and only!) includes a tomato, cucumber, pepper, onion, olives and of course, aromatic feta cheese. All these seasoned with dried oregano, salt and dressed with olive oil. I have never tried a better Greek salad than in Greece!
Do you fancy trying some local alcoholic drinks? If yes, don’t miss the opportunity to drop by Brettos when you are in Plaka. It’s a distillery established in 1909 that has been producing liqueurs, brandy, wines and of course… ouzo! Once you get inside, you will be amazed with hundreds of multicolored bottles, neatly arranged on the shelves and lit from behind. It’s a great place to experiment with ouzo.
Ouzo is a Greek, anise-flavoured vodka up to 48% of ethanol. Even though, I’m not the biggest fan of this alcohol, the Athens vibe made me actually like it. The other local alcoholic beverage is Rakomelo that combines raki or tsikoudia with honey and species such as cinnamon, cardamom or cloves. Rakomelo is often served warm and it’s just perfect to heat you up in the cold evening.
AGORA OF ATHENS
The ancient Agora was a main square used as a commercial, assembly and residential gathering place. The most important public institutions, as well as temples were situated in this area. Nowadays, you can visit here the Temple of Hephaestus, Stoa of Attalos and Synagogue. This archeological site is quite large, so it will take you a while to see the entire place.
The Temple of Hephaestus was dedicated to two Greek gods, Hephaestus and Athena. It was built around 445 – 425 BC and today, it’s one of the best-preserved temples of ancient Greece. It’s unbelievable that after such a period of time, the temple remained almost intact.
The Stoa of Attalos is a façade of columns that was designed to provide an open space but at the same time to protect ancient Greeks from rain and sun. The current building was reconstructed and now houses a museum with an exhibition mostly related to the Athenian democracy.
The ticket to the Agora of Athens costs €10 (for an adult). If you have already bought the combined ticket, you are allowed to enter this archeological site free of charge. Is it worth to get inside? I think it is. This historical site can’t be viewed from outside and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to see this place.
The Roman Agora in Greece? Is that possible? Yes! It’s an ancient square built in Athens during the Roman period. Currently, you can see here ancient ruins with the Tower of the Winds which is considered the world’s first meteorological station.
The ticket to the Roman Agora costs €8 (for an adult). If you have already bought the combined ticket, you are allowed to enter this archeological site free of charge. If you are travelling on a tight budget, it may be worth saying that the Roman Agora can be viewed from outside, from a distance. It’s up to you if you want to purchase a ticket to get inside.
Kerameikos is a necropolis dating from the 8th to 1st century BC. The collection of sculptures used as grave-markers and ceramic was found here. The most valuable exhibits and burial-related artifacts are maintained in a museum. In fact, I didn’t come here only to visit the necropolis. Who would have thought that turtles can be seen here? Well… I didn’t believe it either. The truth is that it’s not hard to spot them, and I was lucky to see even three!
The ticket to Kerameikos costs €8 (for an adult). If you have already bought the combined ticket, you are allowed to enter this archeological site free of charge. If you want to see turtles, but you are not keen to visit Kerameikos, you may consider going to the National Garden. They can be usually spotted in the ponds. Good news is that there is no entry fee to the National Garden.
Mount Lycabettus is the highest point in Athens that offers stunning views of the city. You can walk up the mountain or buy yourself a ticket for a cable car ride. If you are coming here from the city, it’s best to get off at Evagelismos metro station. Then, you will have to take a 15-minutes walk to get to the cable car station. The ride up takes just a few minutes. On the top of the mountain, beyond the beautiful views, there’s also a restaurant. Mount Lycabettus is definitely worth a visit during your weekend in Athens.
The cable car operates all year round and goes up every 30 minutes. Frequency can be raised at peak hours. The ticket costs €7 (both ways) or €5 (one way only).
Are you thinking about going on a city break in Europe? Have you ever been to Barcelona? Make sure to check what is worth doing before you spend your weekend in Barcelona.
These are the must-see places for a weekend in Athens. Which place is your favourite so far? Let me know by leaving a comment below.