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Top Things To Do in Athens: A Local’s Guide

Last Updated on: February 23, 2021

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Being one of the most lively cities in Europe, Athens offers endless choices for day and night. Whether you’re visiting the Greek capital in the summertime or in winter, you’ll find an abundance of activities to add to your itinerary.

However, if you’re looking for the ones that simply can’t be missing from your trip, this list with the top things to do in Athens is what you need.

Visit the Parthenon

Being Athens’ greatest landmark and one of the most important ancient sites worldwide, the Parthenon couldn’t but occupy the top of our list of the top things to do in Athens.

Perched on the top of the 156-meter-high Athenian Acropolis, the impressive temple bears witness to the glory the city enjoyed in the 5th century.

Built in honor of the goddess Athena, the Parthenon’s construction began in 447 BC and was completed 15 years later, in 432 BC, remaining known as the largest Doric temple in Greece.

You can’t come to Athens and not visit the Acropolis and see the Parthenon

Over the centuries, the Parthenon suffered damages and some of its surviving sculptures were moved to England and can now be found in the British Museum but over half of them are exhibited in the Acropolis Museum.

See the Exhibits at the Acropolis Museum

There are numerous museums in Athens showcasing different art styles and movements but if you’re fascinated by ancient Greece, the Acropolis Museum shouldn’t be missing from your list.

When there is a wish to find out as much as possible about Ancient Greece, then a visit to the Acropolis Museum in Athens is a must. Courtesy:

Set on the scenic Dionisioy Aeropagitou street, the captivating Acropolis Museum displays artifacts found on the slopes of the Acropolis as well as the surrounding area.

The museum’s permanent collection also includes statues and ancient ruins dating to the Archaic and the Roman Period.

While in Athens, make sure to make a visit to the Acropolis Museum

Walk Around Monastiraki Square

Home to numerous souvenir shops, second-hand stores as well as historic buildings, the bustling Monastiraki square blends the traditional with the modern.

The Tzistarakis Mosque, which nowadays houses a part of the Greek Museum of Folk Arts, the ruins of the Library of Hadrian and the Church of Pantanassa demonstrate parts of the Greek history and culture.

The area’s most popular street, Ifestou is lined with shops of all kinds boasting a vibrant atmosphere. 

Every Sunday, when an outdoor antique market takes place on Avissinias square in Monastiraki you’ll find a mixed crowd of locals and tourists.

Even if you don’t find anything to buy it is worth taking a stroll around the market and mingling with locals.

When in Athens, explore Monastiraki Square and the lively streets surrounding it.
Courtesy: ᴅɪᴍɪᴛʀɪs ᴀɴᴅʀ| ᴘʜᴏᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜᴇʀ

Climb on Top of Philopappos Hill

Philopappos Hill is another renowned site, usually holding a place in the lists with the top things to do in Athens.

Including the Pnyx Hill, Socrates’ prison, the Monument of Philopappos, and the 16th-century church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris, the green hill is undeniably of great historical significance.

However, this isn’t the only reason it is worth your while. 

It is a great spot to take an afternoon walk along marble-paved paths surrounded by olive and pine trees away from the city’s noise.

From the hill’s summit, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Acropolis and see the entire city up to the Saronic Gulf from above. Many tourists head here for great photo opportunities, while for locals is a place for escaping the city’s crowds.

One of the best views of the Athens Acropolis is possible from Philopappos Hill

Go Shopping at Athens Central Market

Athens Central Market commonly known as Varvakios is located on Athinas street in the center of Athens. Here you’ll find vendors selling meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and spices, you name it.

Athens Central Market is commonly known as Varvakios. Courtesy: tomislav medak –

This bustling food market has every local ingredient used in traditional Greek cuisine dishes and all of them are sold at lower prices than in supermarkets or local stores.

That’s why Athenians all over Attica head here to shop, especially before Christmas or Easter’s festive dinners.

Tourists, on the other hand, have one more reason to visit Varvakios Market. This vibrant food market will give you an insight into Greek culture and the country’s culinary habits.

Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Founded in 2017, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center breathed new life into the area of Kallithea, in Attica’s southern suburbs.

Home to the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece, and the Stavros Niarchos Park the modern architecture public space attracts locals and tourists.

Numerous cultural events, concerts, festivals, and performances take place throughout the year while in the summertime, the 21-hectare park hosts free events of all types.

When you visit Athens, don’t miss the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Explore Psirri’s Nightlife

Athens’ nightlife needs no introduction. It is widely known that the Greek capital is a city that never sleeps boasting a diverse and vibrant nightlife.

And even though there are numerous neighborhoods around the city center ideal for a night out, Psirri is the one that stands out.

The hip district close to Monastiraki station has always been one of the best nightlife areas and until nowadays, offers endless choices.

The little alleys around Psirri square brim with local taverns, classy restaurants, and stylish bars for all types and budgets.

To Locali in Psiri, is a great place to have some drinks. Courtesy:

Watch a Movie at an Open-Air Cinema

One of the top things to do if you’re visiting Athens in summer is to watch a movie in one of the open-air cinemas.

Around the end of May, when temperatures get higher, outdoor cinemas open their doors and welcome cinephiles.

During the summer months and until the end of September, Athenians skip cinema complexes in favor of their neighborhoods’ local open-air cinemas. Some of the city center’s cinemas screen the latest releases while others play some of the best film masterpieces of all time.

And while there are numerous outdoor cinemas all over Athens, if you want to watch a movie with the Acropolis on the backdrop, Cine Thission is a perfect choice.

Rated by CNN as the best cinema in the world, Cine Thission is the oldest summer cinema in Athens.
Courtesy: Cine Thission Facebook Page

Discover the Exarchia Neighborhood

Dotted with graffiti-painted walls, vinyl stores, and underground music venues, the neighborhood of Exarchia has a unique atmosphere that you won’t find in any other area in Athens.

Known for attracting the city’s alternative and bohemian crowd, Exarchia is for those wanting to avoid tourist places and go off the beaten path.

In the morning, take a stroll around the neighborhood and discover second-hand clothing stores, bookstores, and artisans’ shops.

At night, choose one of the numerous cafés, local taverns, and vivid bars and savor a drink among locals.

A tavern in the Exarchia neighborhood

If you want to explore Athens’ major landmarks and tourist areas but at the same gain an insight into the Greek culture and experience the city like a local, make sure to add at least a few of these things to your to-do list when you visit Athens.

It’s up to you to decide which of these places and activities suit your style and plan your trip to Athens based on your needs.

A Quick Reminder:

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