Athens is the capital of Greece and dedicated to the goddess Athena. It’s often called the “birthplace of democracy” and the ‘Cradle of Civilization’ because it was also home to the Platonic Academy and the Lyceum of Aristotle.
With a recorded history dating back 3400 years, Athens (also called Athenai) has many archaeological wonders worth visiting.
Filled with temples, ancient ruins, and statues of deities, Athens is now a mix of modern buildings along with older architectural marvels. It was also just named one of the best holiday destinations to visit in 2021.
Aside from the history and architecture, the city is known for, there are many other fun things to do in Athens that most people miss… The donuts from Everest Coffee shop are conveniently located all over Athens. The BEST donuts that I’ve had so far
If you’re planning to spend some time in Athens, I wanted to recommend some of my favorite fun and unusual things to do, no matter what time of year you visit.
1. The Acropolis
Ain’t no way you’re visiting Greece and not going to the Acropolis. As one of the most important Athens locations, as well as a World Heritage Site, this fortified citadel perched on a hill above the city stands out as a testament to Greek wisdom and culture and some dope ass views at night.
If you’re ready to “ooh” and “ahh” at pillars and structures that are old af. The Acropolis is just the place, with many different ancient ruins, like the world-famous Parthenon temple, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena.
Plan to spend at least a few hours exploring the Acropolis hill itself, maybe even a half-day. There is a lot to see, plenty of stair climbing, and worn-smooth slippery rocks. Get your walking legs ready for a workout!
2. The Parthenon
While part of the Acropolis complex, the Parthenon deserves a specific mention. Built in 447 BCE on the hill of the Acropolis, with Doric marble columns that thinned towards the top — showcasing the architectural marvels of ancient Greece.
Dedicated to goddess Athena, the Parthenon ruins are a must-visit attraction in Athens during the day, and seen from across the city the magnificent columns look spectacular lit up at night.
It can get crowded up there, so I recommend going first thing in the morning — right when the Acropolis opens, or during the last few hours before they close!
3. Odeon Of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient theater perched on the South-Western slope of the Acropolis in Athens. Diana Ross and Elton John have performed here!
Built by Herodes Atticus in 161 AD, in memory of his dead wife, the steep-sloped Odeon had a cedar roof and seated 5000 for music concerts till it was destroyed in 267 AD.
It has been used as a venue for many popular concerts since it was restored in the 1950s. If you happen to be visiting Athens when a concert is going on here, I highly recommend you go!
4. Ancient Agora & Temple Of Hephaestus
The Central Square in ancient Greek cities, the Agora was a gathering place for citizens to discuss affairs of state, marriages, and partake in religious rituals. Over the course of time, the Agora also came to be used as a marketplace selling goods, food, pottery, and religious artifacts.
Next to the Athenian Agora, you’ll also find the Temple of Hephaestus which was very well-preserved compared to other Greek temples. This Doric temple was built by The Hephaisteion Master under the aegis of Pericles between 449 to 415 BC to honor Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, fire, and metalwork.
The Stoa, another good site nearby, houses the Museum of Ancient Agora, which is home to Athenian, Byzantine, and Turkish artifacts.
5. Varvakios Central Market
The Varvakios Central Market in Athens (not to be confused with Central market where food trucks gather) is also called the Varvakios Agora or Dimotiki Agora. If you love public markets, this is where you’ll find fish, meat, produce, street food, souvenirs, and whole stores dedicated to olives or spices.
Because of the variety of goods, low prices, and freshness, this is where many local restaurants get their ingredients.
6. Run Around The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium was built to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, on the same site as an even older ancient stadium where nude male athletes competed in track events.
While the older stadium built in 335 BC could hold 60,000 spectators, the modern Olympic Stadium you see today can hold 45,000 spectators on 47 tiers.
You can climb to the top of the stadium for an even better view of how massive it is, and of course, there is a tri-level medal podium where you can pose for photos.
You can also go inside the stadium to visit a little museum of Olympic history, complete with the torches used in past games.
7. Hike Mount Lycabettus
A cretaceous limestone hill towering over Athens, Lykavittos, or Mount Lycabettus rises 300 m above sea level. Covered with pine trees, the hill is perfect for a hike to the top and rewards the visitor with picture-perfect views of Athens.
If you’re too lazy to hike, ride the Lycabettus Funicular to the top, and spend time at the restaurant after visiting the Chapel of St. George.
8. Hike Up Philopappou Hill
Declared an archaeological park in 1955-56, the 173-acre Philopappou Hill (or Filopappou Hill) is home to the Athenian owl, peregrine falcon, and other indigenous birds. It also gives you great views of Athens from above! Probably why the birds like it so much.
The park includes the Hill of the Nymphs, the Pnyx, and the Mouseion Hill or Hill of the Muses where the Philopappou Mausoleum or Monument is located.
The Philopappou Mausoleum is dedicated to Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a prince of the Kingdom of Commagene who lived from 65 to 116 AD. His death caused grief to the citizens of Athens and the imperial family.
9. Temple Of Olympian Zeus
The half-ruined Temple of Olympian Zeus is within walking distance from the city center of Athens. At its peak, the temple was composed of the temple had 104 columns, each 17 meters high.
But in 267 AD, the temple was damaged during an attack on Athens. Later the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II prohibited the “cult” of ancient Greek and Roman gods in the temple. Citizens slowly took apart the temple’s fine marble for the construction of churches, homes, and other buildings.
10. The Prison Of Socrates
A cave-like structure cut into the Hill of Muses has long thought to have been the jail used to hold the ancient philosopher Socrates before he was executed. No one knows for sure.
The teachings of Socrates were thought of as dangerous in Athens, leading to the decline of morality in the population of Greece. A new Athenian democracy was afraid that citizens would stop obeying the established laws and rules or fulfilling their civic duty, which would lead to overthrowing the new political system.
So Socrates was imprisoned and eventually executed in 399 BC by poison hemlock. This structure was also used as a place to hide antiquities from the Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum during World War II.
Transportation Around Athens
The best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car and drive in Greece.
Taxi Or Uber
You’ll find taxis everywhere in Athens. Don’t go with drivers that bargain for prices. Make sure you catch a licensed taxi that has a meter and it’s switched on. You can choose from radio taxis, Uber, Taxibeat, or Taxiplon.
The Athens Metro System is very easy to use and has lines running from 5 AM to midnight. On Fridays and Saturdays, Lines 2 and 3 run till 2 AM.
Standard metro tickets worth €1.50 are valid on most trains, buses, and trams for a 90-minute journey. Day passes worth €4.50 and 3-day tourist tickets worth €22 are also available.