Do you have one day in Athens and need help making the most of it?
In 2019, Athens received more than 6 million visitors. The capital of Greece is popular with tourists, and rightfully so. It’s full of history, Greek and Roman ruins, trendy neighbourhoods and great restaurants for sampling Greek food.
There are so many things to do in Athens, you could easily spend a week here without getting bored.
If you have less time, you need to focus on the city’s highlights. We want to show you what to see in Athens in one day, so you can see the best sights and enjoy your time.
One Day in Athens Itinerary
When you think about Athens, what to do and what not to miss, one of the first places that probably comes to your mind is the Acropolis.
The Acropolis is the city’s most famous sight. Therefore, you’re going to start your one day in Athens there.
Since the Acropolis is very popular with tourists, make sure to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds. You can find the main ticket office on the western side of the hill, and queues can get incredibly long in the middle of the day.
If you arrive shortly after the attraction opens (you can find the opening hours online), you should have no problem getting your ticket quickly, so you can start exploring. Alternatively, you can also get your ticket online and then don’t have to worry about any crowds.
The official ticketing website of the Greek government is a bit clunky to use, but you can be sure to get the best price. Make sure to get the combined ticket, which gives you access to the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and many more archaeological sites around Athens!
As an alternative, you can go through a third-party website like Get Your Guide, where you can buy a combination ticket for the Acropolis and the other archaeological sites you’re going to visit later. Be aware, though, that you will pay a few Euros extra for this service.
The highlight of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, the giant temple on top of the hill. It dates back to the fourth century BC and is dedicated to the Goddess Athena.The Parthenon survived the fall of the Ancient Greeks and stood intact for two millennia. During the Morean War, in the late 1600s, the Ottoman Turks used the temple as a gunpowder magazine. The Venetians fired at the city, hit the magazine and blew up the Parthenon.
Besides the Parthenon, you can find multiple other temples on and around the hill. Make sure not to miss the Theatre of Dionysus, which you can find on the southern slope of the Acropolis. The area down there is usually less busy, so it’s an excellent opportunity to escape the crowds.
#2 Acropolis Museum
Athens is full of amazing museums. But since you want to see the best of Athens in a day, you should limit yourself to one of them.
We suggest visiting the Acropolis Museum, as it is one of the best things to do in Athens. You’ve already seen the Acropolis, and in this museum, you can see many relics found on and around the hill. Plus, you get an impression of how the Parthenon once looked with its colourful friezes.
When entering the museum, you can see a glass floor with ancient Greek ruins underneath. The building, like most of Athens, stands on top of the remains of the old city.
If you’re travelling in summer, which is the high season in Athens, it’s a good idea to buy your tickets online. That way, you can skip the line and enter quickly.
After the Acropolis and the museum, it’s time to head to the city. Your next stop on your one-day tour of Athens takes you to Plaka, the neighbourhood underneath the Acropolis.
Plaka is one of the oldest areas of modern-day Athens, and it’s famous for its restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Most streets are closed for cars, so you can wander around without worrying about traffic.
Depending on when you arrive here, you could opt for a coffee break or an early lunch. Many restaurants are aimed at tourists, but you can still get delicious traditional Greek food in most of them.The most famous Greek dishes to try are Moussaka, Souvlaki, Gyros or a Greek salad. Many restaurants also offer great lesser-known meals that are absolutely delicious. Or you could order a few starters and share those, which is an excellent way of trying multiple dishes in one meal.
One of the best hidden gems in Athens is the neighbourhood of Anafiotika. You can find it wedged between Plaka and the Acropolis on the northeastern slope of the hill.
The residents of Anafiotika originally came from the islands and built their houses in a style that was familiar to them. That’s why you can find white-washed houses, colourful window frames and narrow alleys here. It’s as close to a Greek island as you can get in Athens!
While you’re here, climb to the highest point to get a fantastic view of Athens.
#5 Roman Agora
This afternoon, you should explore some more ancient sights. The combination ticket you got at the Acropolis earlier includes the entrance to those.
The next stop on your full-day Athens tour is the Roman Agora. This site once served as a marketplace during Roman times. People would come here to shop but also to gather. On one end of the Agora, you can find the Tower of the Winds.
This tower was mainly used to tell time, and you could find a sundial on the outside and a water clock inside. It also served to describe and forecast the weather.
Close to the Roman Agora, you could find Hadrian’s Library, which is where you’re heading next.
#6 Hadrian’s Library
It might seem like the afternoon of this Athens one-day itinerary is packed with many attractions, but don’t worry. The Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library are quick to visit, so it makes sense to stop by both.
Hadrian built his library in 132 AD, and it was much bigger than the remains you can see today. People called it the “One Hundred Column Libary” as a hundred columns surrounded it.
Three Byzantine churches stood on the grounds of this library complex, constructed and destroyed again over the centuries.
While not much of the building is left, it’s worth stopping by to get an impression of how giant this library must have been.
#7 Ancient Agora
Your last stop from ancient times is the Ancient Agora. Don’t confuse this one with the Roman Agora! As you can easily hear from the name, the Roman Agora dates back to Roman times. The Ancient Agora, on the other hand, is much older and dates back to Greek times, to the 6th century BC.
The Agora served as a marketplace but also as a place for socialising and gathering. Two buildings stand out here.
The first one is the Stoa of Attalos, which was once lined with shops. Today, it houses a museum. While the current building is a reconstruction, it gives you a good idea of how the original might have looked.
The second famous building is the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved Greek temples. Approximately in the 7th century, it was turned into a church. Its continuous use might explain why it’s still standing today and in such a perfect shape.
Depending on how much energy you have left, you can explore many more ruins in the Ancient Agora. We suggest you focus on the temple and maybe the stoa, and then move on to the next stop.
#8 Monastiraki Square
Almost in front of the Ancient Agora, you can find Monastiraki Square.
It’s a bustling square and a popular meeting place. You might see some market stalls here, and you can find lots of souvenir shops nearby. If you still have the energy, explore the area around the square.
Monastiraki is one of Athen’s oldest neighbourhoods, where you can also find many great cafes and restaurants.
#9 Syntagma Square
A day in Athens passes far too quickly, and it’s almost time to head to dinner.
Depending on how late it is and how tired you are, skip this step and move on to Psyri. If you still want to see a bit more of Athens first, though, we recommend walking to Syntagma Square.
At the eastern end of the square, you can see the Hellenic Parliament. It was initially a Royal Palace, which Otto, the first king of Greece, built in the 1800s. In 1934, it then became the Greek Parliament.
Just below the parliament building, you’ll notice two soldiers. If you come here on the hour, you can watch the changing of the guards. It’s a cool ceremony and worth waiting for if it’s not much longer.
#10 Dinner in Psyri
The neighbourhood northwest of Monastiraki Square is called Psyri. It’s the perfect area for having dinner.
Psyri comes alive at night, and you’ll find many restaurants and bars here. Whether you want a large meal (which you’ve certainly deserved after a full day of exploring Athens) or just a snack and some drinks, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Psyri.
The central square is called Heroes Square, and streets radiate out from here. It’s fun to walk around and let yourself get carried away by the crowds.
Psyri was once a dodgy neighbourhood, by the way. In the early 90s, you wouldn’t have wanted to walk here in the dark, but now it has become one of the best areas to go out in the evening.
Best time to visit Athens
The best time to visit Athens is in spring or autumn. April to early June are great, as well as September and October.
In summer, July and August, Athens can get so hot that you’ll find it difficult to walk much. You might have to leave out some stops of this one-day Athens itinerary if the heat forces you to take many breaks along the way.
Winter, on the other hand, comes with shorter days and lower temperatures. Spring and autumn are the perfect compromises, and you’ll also escape the summer crowds.
If you come in winter, you won’t see many other tourists, and you might even get better hotel deals. On the other hand, you’ll likely experience some rain, and some tourist attractions have reduced opening hours.
How to get to Athens
If you’re coming from abroad, the easiest way to get to Athens is to take a plane. Athens has a large international airport with good connections. To find cheap flights, look on an aggregator website like Skyscanner, where you can compare different airlines and fares.
If you’re already in Greece, you can reach Athens by bus, train or ferry. From the islands, it’s easy to catch a ferry to Athens. The biggest port is Piraeus, but depending on where you’re coming from, you can also find connections to Rafina and Lavrio.
On the mainland, the easiest way to travel is by bus. Most cities have connections to Athens. If you’re coming from Kalambaka, the town below the Meteora monasteries, you can also travel by train. The train is fast and comfortable, so it’s a great option on this particular route.
How to get around Athens
For this one-day-in-Athens itinerary, you can walk between the sights we listed.
If your hotel isn’t close to the Acropolis or you get tired or want to explore other sights, the easiest way to get around is by metro. In addition, you can also find a network of buses and trams that helps you reach whichever corner of the city you want to visit.
One of the biggest metro stations in Athens is Monastiraki Square, where you can connect to the green and blue lines. Or you could head to Syntagma Square if you want to take the red line.
You can find a map here to get an overview of the metro network.
From the airport to the city, you need to take a suburban train and then, if necessary, connect to a metro line.
We hope you now have a good idea of how to see Athens in one day. While many more sights in the Greek capital are worth a visit, the itinerary above covers the most interesting and important ones. We know it’s packed with things to do, so feel free to skip one or two stops if you get tired.
While you’re here, make sure to check out our other resources about Greece. They will help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in this beautiful country.
- How to spend a perfect week in Greece
- Top 10 Amazing Things to Do in Parikia, Paros
- How Many Days in Santorini Do You Need?
- Discover Meteora, our favourite spot in Greece, and find out how to hike to all of the monasteries
Until your next adventure!
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