Athens is the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece; a city that has been inhabited for over 5.000 years and which is known around the world as the birthplace of Democracy, Theatre, and Philosophy.
The city was named after goddess Athena, the Olympian deity of wisdom and strategy. Today, more than five million people visit the city of Athens to explore its archaeological sites and contemporary urban neighborhoods, and then hop onto the next ferry to one of Greece’s countless breathtaking islands.
Unfortunately, many visitors don’t get the chance to spend many days in the Greek capital, before traveling to their next destination. If you are in the same situation, the last thing you want to do is spend the entire day in your hotel room. Here is what to do if you stay in Athens for just one day!
7 Things to Do in 24h in Athens, Greece (Athens Must-See)
- Ascend the Acropolis of Athens.
- Visit one of the city’s countless museums (e.g. Benaki Museum, Acropolis Museum).
- Cycle next to the canal at SNFCC.
- Explore the Anafiotika traditional neighborhood (Athens’ Old Town).
- Try authentic Athenian street-food (souvlaki me pita and more).
- Have a cocktail at one of the countless Athenian rooftop bars.
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Early Morning: Ascend the Acropolis of Athens
Almost every European city has a citadel – a fortified center that serves as a refuge but also as a repository or even as a religious center. For the ancient city of Athens, that was the Acropolis – the city’s highest point. The Acropolis of Athens is known for the impressive ancient temples dedicated to the Olympian gods and goddesses.
The most impressive of them all is the Parthenon – the Doric temple dedicated to Athena, patroness of Athens. The temple was completed in 432 BC, and it was designed by the well-known architects Iktinos and Callicrates. Monuments other than the Parthenon are the Erechtheon, the Propulaea, and the temple dedicated to Athena Nike, the Eleusinion, and many more sanctuaries and temples. From the top, you can also view the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, which is still in use.
Nowadays, at least a million people visit the Acropolis of Athens every year. Situated at the heart of Athens, you can ascend the hill by entering from one of its two entrances: one close to the Areopagus Hill and one next to the Church of Hagia Paraskevi, close to the Acropolis metro station. The ticket shop is located next to the first entrance.
It is advised to visit the Acropolis Hill early in the morning. You will avoid waiting in long ques and walking around the citadel under the hot Athenian sun. You can always prebook your tickets and download them at your smartphone.
Before Noon: Explore Anafiotika
After exiting the archaeological sight of Acropolis, you can start exploring Anafiotika, the most picturesque neighborhood of Athens. Anafiotika is located in Plaka, the “old town” surrounding the Acropolis hill. And it can be described as an “island that overlooks the city of Athens”. No cars, streets, or tall buildings in sight. Just cats and the smell of Jasmine trees.
The neighborhood was founded by islanders from Anafi who moved to Athens to construct the Palace of Otto of Greece, the king of Greece from 1832 to 1862. Indeed, Anafiotika has an atmosphere similar to the ones in the Greek islands. A small escape within the city.
While strolling around, you can always stop and have a Greek coffee or an ouzo with meze (Greek version of tapas) in one of the local cafes and tavernas. Anafiotika and Plaka will amaze you.
Lunchtime: Athens Street Food Tour
After walking around for so long, you will probably get super hungry. But don’t worry, Athens is known for its great variety of street food options. The most popular option is of course the “gyros” or “souvlaki me pita”, as it is known in Athens. You can choose between a wide variety of ingredients -pieces of grilled chicken/pork, tomatoes, onions, fries, and tzatziki being the most popular options- to be wrapped within a delicious pita bread.
Athens has countless “souvlatzidika”, places where you can order and eat this delicious type of sandwich. They are in every neighborhood, and almost on every street at the city center. If you are looking for something sweet, you can always try the Eastern Mediterranean version of a donut: loukoumades. Round deep-fried pastries soaked in honey and coated with cinnamon. Loukoumades were reportedly consumed by ancient Greeks, who called them “honey tokens”.
Today, Athens hosts several street food restaurants that serve delicacies from all around the world: from crab burgers to bao buns. For a more authentic experience, you can always visit a local bakery and try a piece (or two) of Greece’s traditional savory or sweet pies, the so-called “pitas”: spanakopita (spinach pie), tyropita (cheese pie), and kolokythopita (zucchini pie). And, finally, it wouldn’t be a Mediterranean trip without a scoop of gelato to wash things down!
Top 10 Coolest Neighborhoods in Athens (to Explore or Live in)
When non-Athenians visit Athens, they usually explore the three historical neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis hill. But Athens is more than Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thiseio. Here are some of the lesser-known Athenian neighborhoods you should explore or consider living in.
Early Afternoon: Visit an Indoor Museum
Athens can get quite hot at noon and early afternoon. After your Athens street food tour, it is time to explore at least one indoor Athenian Museum. You will get a taste of the Greek culture, while enjoying the cool air from the air conditioning units.
Athens has numerous Museums and Galleries, including the Acropolis Museum, the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Benaki Museum, Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, Museum of Greek Folk Art, the National Art Gallery, and more.
Keep in mind that the National Archaeological Museum is the biggest Athenian Museum. Moreover, many of these Museums and Galleries are located in the suburbs. Since you will be staying in Athens for only one day, visiting a small or medium-sized Museum near the center, such as the Acropolis Museum, is the best option.
Late Afternoon: Visit the SNFCC
Founded by the philanthropic organization, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) or simply “Niarchos”, as locals call it, is a public space, where everyone has free access and can participate in various activities and events.
The Cultural Center includes the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece, and the Stavros Niarchos Park. Countless free events, such as open-air movie nights, concerts, and athletic activities, regularly take place at SNFCC.
Niarchos is one of the few places in Athens where you can safely cycle. You can rent public bicycles and cycle around the canal. You can walk up the “Lighthouse” and get a panoramic view of the city. You can also explore its magnificent gardens, such as the Mediterranean Garden.
Evening: Cocktail Time
After a long day walking around the city, it is time to return to the city center (Syntagma or Monastiraki) for some drinks. Athens is known for its rooftop bars, such as “Couleur Locale” and “Anglais Athens”, where you can enjoy some drinks and order some finger-food, if you feel like it.
Depending on how much time you have in hand, you can have a bar tour of Athens. The Greek capital has also plenty of cocktail bars that are situated on the ground floor. During the summer, it is common to get a drink at the bar and chat with your friends on the street.
Last but not least, Athens has some of the best bars not only in Europe but… in the world. From cocktail to wine bars to… underground speak-easy bars. “The Clumsies” has been repeatedly been placed on the top 3 best bars in the world, according to the “50 BEST” annual rankings! Getting a drink before you leave is a must.
Are you planning on extending your stay? Here is a list with the coolest Athenian neighborhoods to explore!
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