14 Top Activities to Experience in Athens Today

Craving sunshine in 2024? Athens is more than just a summer getaway.

This city is a treasure trove of history, filled with astonishing ancient landmarks and captivating museums. Yet, Athens has a modern side too, boasting hip bars, quaint cafes, and a vibrant arts scene.

Greek cuisine here is a foodie's dream, offering everything from dolmades and souvlaki to an abundance of feta cheese. The beaches are pretty great as well. Beyond the sand, you can explore flea markets, trek into the mountains, or catch a movie at an open-air cinema. With so much to do, Athens promises a packed itinerary. Here's what you shouldn't miss in Athens today.

Best Athens Experiences

Looking for lively markets, breathtaking hikes, and the roots of Western culture? Athens is the place to be for these amazing experiences.

A view of the Acropolis in Athens, showcasing ancient structures and surrounding greenery.

Visit the Acropolis

What is the Acropolis? Imagine a 2,500-year-old historic site right in the heart of modern Athens. The Acropolis is a must-see, sitting proudly at the top of our Athens to-do list. If you're going to do just one thing in Athens, visiting the Acropolis is it.

Why go to the Acropolis? This place is home to some of the most impressive architectural wonders from ancient Greece. The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, is a stunning example of Doric architecture at its best. Just a short walk away, the Acropolis Museum houses all the significant artifacts found on the site since 2009, making it a fascinating visit for any history buff.

Sunset view of the Temple of Poseidon ruins with the sea in the background.

See the Temple of Poseidon

What is the Temple of Poseidon? For those enchanted by Greek mythology, Athens offers many gems, including the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. It's a must-visit for anyone diving into Greece's ancient past.

Why go to the Temple of Poseidon? Positioned 60 meters above the sea on Cape Sounio, the temple dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea, offered ancient sailors hope for a safe return. Today, its majestic columns stand against the backdrop of stunning sunsets, creating a breathtaking scene. While it's a bit outside Athens, making the journey by bus or car is rewarding.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater with the cityscape of Athens in the background.

Enjoy the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater

What is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater? Nestled at the base of the Acropolis, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient Roman theater built in the 2nd century AD. After its destruction in 267 AD, it was beautifully restored in the 1950s. Now, it stands as one of the most well-preserved ancient sites, still hosting concerts and performances.

Why go to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater? Since 1957, it's been a vibrant part of the Athens Epidaurus Festival, showcasing cultural and artistic events. A visit to Athens isn't complete without experiencing a performance here, particularly in summer when the setting is perfect for outdoor entertainment. With a seating capacity of 5,000, it offers an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy ancient Greek drama in a historic setting.

A wooden bridge over a pond in the National Gardens of Athens.

Walk around the National Gardens

What are the National Gardens? Hidden in the center of Athens, the National Gardens provide a peaceful escape from the city's hectic pace.

Why go to the National Gardens? Initiated by Queen Amalia, Greece's first queen, in 1838 and finished by 1840, this expansive park spans 16 hectares, featuring meandering gravel paths, tranquil ponds, and a quaint zoo home to wild goats, peacocks, and chickens.

Butchers and customers at the meat section of Varvakios Market in Athens.

Eat at the Varvakios Market

What is the Varvakios Market? Monastiraki's bustling food market, both indoors and outdoors, comes alive early in the morning. Greek sellers energetically promote their freshest meats, fish, fruits, spices, and local products, creating a vibrant scene.

Why go to the Varvakios Market? It's a unique experience where both travelers and locals weave through tight lanes surrounded by stalls showcasing hanging meats, traditional Greek deli treats, and seafood on ice, offering a real taste of local life.

View of Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis in the background.

Stroll through Monastiraki Neighborhood

What is Monastiraki neighborhood? Monastiraki buzzes as one of Athens' oldest and liveliest districts, brimming with rooftop bars, historical landmarks, and sprawling markets.

Why go to Monastiraki neighborhood? Right by the scenic main square, you'll find the Monastiraki metro station, offering stunning Acropolis views. Dive into the vibrant flea market, navigate bustling walkways, and explore shops teeming with antiques, bespoke jewelry, and Greek crafts.

A stone-paved alley in the Plaka neighborhood with colorful houses and potted plants.

Roam around Plaka Neighborhood

What is Plaka neighborhood? Plaka lies beneath the Acropolis and is celebrated as one of the oldest neighborhoods where people have lived without interruption.

Why go to Plaka neighborhood? Venture into its alleyways to discover quaint, narrow streets adorned with a mix of dilapidated structures and elegantly renovated homes. Plaka is filled with ancient landmarks, tiny museums, old churches, and charming squares alive with eateries and coffee shops. Make sure to visit Anafiotika, renowned for its vibrant balconies draped in blooming bougainvillea, offering a truly picturesque scene.

Interior of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center showing an exhibition space with sculptures and installations.

Wander around the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)

What is the SNFCC? Imagine a haven filled with lush Mediterranean plants, alongside offerings of opera, literature, and a stunningly designed central building.

Why go to the SNFCC? Spread over 170,000 square meters, this park features everything from playgrounds and gardens to cafes. You'll find an eye-catching, environmentally friendly glass structure that houses the Greek National Opera, a manmade river, and the National Library of Greece. And as a bonus, there's an amazing view of the Acropolis.

View of Lycabettus Hill overlooking the cityscape and greenery in Athens.

Climb the Lycabettus Hill

What is the Lycabettus Hill? Lycabettus Hill stands as one of Athens' tallest points. You can reach the top by walking through a wooded path or, for an easier route, take the cable car.

Why go to the Lycabettus Hill? The summit offers breathtaking panoramic views of Athens. You'll also discover the charming St. George church, a café, and Orizontes, a fine-dining Greek restaurant boasting the city's most picturesque terrace. Additionally, the Lycabettus open-air theatre hosts concerts during the summer, making it a prime spot for entertainment.

The illuminated facade of the Onassis Stegi building at night with the phrase "ALL WE HAVE IS WORDS" displayed.

Discover the Onassis Stegi

What is the Onassis Stegi? Onassis Stegi isn't just your ordinary cultural hub in Athens; it's a dynamic intersection of contemporary culture, aesthetics, and science.

Why go to the Onassis Stegi? Known as 'roof' in Greek, Stegi bursts with life, hosting an array of events from theater and dance to concerts, film viewings, and art exhibitions. It's a haven for emerging Greek creatives and a stage for international stars like Marina Abramovic and John Malkovich. Plus, its top-floor restaurant offers stunning views of the Acropolis, Philopappos Monument, Lycabettus Hill, and the Saronic Gulf.

Modern interior of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, viewed from an escalator.

Explore the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)

What is the EMST? The EMST stands as Athens's counterpart to iconic institutions like the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, or the Museum of Modern Art.

Why go to the EMST? It's a buzzing hub of conversation-starting art, showcasing works by Greek and international artists across various forms, including painting, video, and avant-garde architecture. The museum's location adds to its allure, housed in a building that once brewed the famous Greek beer, Fix.

Evening view of Ellinikon Experience Park with lit fountains and recreational areas.

Experience the Ellinikon Experience Park

What is the Ellinikon Experience Park? The site of the once abandoned Ellinikon International Airport in Athens' southern suburbs is being transformed into one of the largest coastal parks in Europe.

Why go to the Ellinikon Experience Park? It's a perfect spot to unwind by the sea, away from the city's noise, surrounded by over 600 trees and 80,000 Mediterranean plants. Now open in its initial phase, the park invites visitors to enjoy numerous activities, such as a water maze, a woodland playground for kids, a peaceful zen garden, and outdoor fitness areas. Year-round festivals and events add to its charm, especially when the park lights up beautifully at night.

Entrance of the Museum of Cycladic Art with banners and posters of current exhibitions.

Tour the Museum of Cycladic Art

What is the Museum of Cycladic Art? This museum boasts a collection of over 3,000 artifacts from Cycladic, Ancient Greek, and Cypriot cultures.

Why go to the Museum of Cycladic Art? Marvel at the unique, slender marble figurines from the Bronze Age, or explore the extensive ancient Greek art collection, featuring 150 items like vases, small statues, and weapons. These pieces are thoughtfully arranged into themes such as Gods and Heroes, Eros, Women's Lives, and The Underworld, offering something for every interest.

Outdoor movie theater Cine Paris in Athens with seating and a large screen at dusk.

Watch a movie at Cine Paris

What is Cine Paris? The start of summer in Athens is marked by the opening of outdoor cinemas, with the iconic Cine Paris, a staple since the 1920s, famed for its breathtaking Acropolis views.

Why go to Cine Paris? Experience a classic Greek night out at Cine Paris, one of the city's roughly 90 outdoor movie spots. Here, viewers enjoy a mix of old Greek and international classics alongside the newest films from Hollywood.

Exploring Athens offers an enchanting blend of ancient history and vibrant contemporary culture. From the historic Acropolis and its surrounding treasures to the lively markets of Monastiraki, the serene National Gardens, and the cultural beacon that is Onassis Stegi, Athens is a city that captivates at every turn. Whether you're marveling at the panoramic views from Lycabettus Hill, unwinding in the expansive coastal park at Ellinikon, or enjoying a film under the stars at Cine Paris, Athens is a place where every moment is steeped in rich history and modern Greek life. It's a city where the past and present live side by side, offering endless discoveries for every visitor.

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