6 Absolute Must-Visit Sites in Athens

more than a year ago
The birthplace of many great philosophers, mathematicians, and rulers, Greece is considered a symbol of western civilization and democracy. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the region, boasting a well-documented 3,400-year history, which is why choosing the perfect places to visit may be a little overwhelming at first. Here's a narrowed-down list to help make your visit count.

The National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece. Photo taken in the inner garden with natural light © Mika Ruusunen / Unsplash
An inner garden of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens © Mika Ruusunen / Unsplash
Cost: €12 April to October, €6 November to March
Hours: 8:00-20:00 (Tues 13:00-20:00, also reduced November-March)

This is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most prominent worldwide. It boasts about 8,000 m2 of exhibition space and at least 11,000 exhibits. With such a comprehensive collection, this museum is the best place to learn about Greek history. Some highlights include the prehistoric collection, the vase/ decorative objects, and the sculpture collection.

The prehistoric collection has objects as old as 1050 BC, while the sculpture collection hosts Greek sculptures dating back to the sixth century BC. Moreover, the vase and decorative objects section provides an amazing perspective of ancient Greek pottery that can be traced back to the classical Roman period.

There are at least 11 separate sections, so covering the whole ground might take a while. However, you could take a break and re-energize in the inner garden cafe.

The Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora of Athens © Martin Fuchs / Pixabay
Ancient Agora of Athens © Martin Fuchs / Pixabay
Cost: €5 in winter, €10 in summer
Hours: Every day, 8:00-20:00

"Agora" means a gathering place, especially a marketplace. The ancient Agora was a centre of commerce, administration, and everyday life in general. It is believed that athletic competitions and theatre performances were held here, too. Moreover, the Ancient Agora is thought to have set the stage for Socrates' trial in 399 BC. The site is home to several former mythical grounds, including the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved Greek temples. However, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was once the largest.

You can also stop by the Stoa of Attalos, believed to have been a commercial centre littered with shops. It was originally built during the 2nd century BC but was reconstructed in the 1950s and now houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. Some of the museum's highlights are artworks dating back to the stone age, artefacts related to the Classical period in Athens, and everyday objects.

The Acropolis

The Acropolis of Athens at sunrise © Zach Vessels / Unsplash
The Acropolis at sunrise © Zach Vessels / Unsplash
Cost: €20 April to October, €10 November to March
Hours: Every day, 8:00-20:00

One of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Athens, the Acropolis is a big draw for visitors and locals in Athens. It is a fortified limestone area highlighted by the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Theater of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and many other historical monuments.

The Acropolis is where ancient philosophers and scholars questioned the universe, and temples were erected in honour of Greek gods. It is the place to go for a sense of the celebrated Greek history and mythology that has inspired many works of art, including movies, famous brands like Nike, and even online casino games such as Gates of Olympus.

Since the Acropolis is one of the biggest attractions in Athens, you should expect big crowds during peak hours, especially midday. Still, you can avoid the crowd by visiting at opening time or in the last two hours just before closing.

Mount Lycabettus

View to Mount Lycabettus, from Acropolis © Klāvs Taimiņš / Unsplash
View to Mount Lycabettus from the Acropolis © Klāvs Taimiņš / Unsplash
Cost: free
Hours: 24 hours

Towering 227 metres, mount Lycabettus is the highest point in Athens, providing a picturesque view of the Acropolis and its surroundings. It is also the best place for a night view of the city, given that the funicular (cliff railway) operates up to 0:00-01:30, depending on the season.

You can take a taxi up to the Lycabettus Cable Car station or do some healthy uphill walking to the cars. Moreover, you can also walk all the way to the top via a paved trail. The latter option would take about 15 minutes to reach the summit.

Consider visiting mount Lycabettus during the sunset for the most enchanting views. The church of St. George, which offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city, is at the top. The night is also amazing, offering a unique view of the city lights and the fully-lit Acropolis. You will also find a restaurant at the top, where you can grab a bite or a cold drink.

Piraeus Harbour

Ship at anchor in Piraeus Habour © Bernfried Schnell / Pixabay
Ship at anchor in Piraeus Habour © Bernfried Schnell / Pixabay
Hours: 24 hours
Cost: free

Also referred to as the Port town of Athens, Piraeus Harbour offers one of the best chill spots around Athens and is a great place to visit with family and friends. It is littered with several museums and excellent restaurants to enjoy quality dining and a view of the open waters. The area particularly boasts several top-class restaurants, such as the celebrated Margaro restaurant, a three-dish fish tavern serving delectable deep-fried shrimp.

The Hellenic Maritime Museum offers a fine collection of maps, flags, rare books, and naval weaponry, amongst other exhibitions. Moreover, you will find some important bronze statues and the city's history at the Piraeus Archaeological Museum. The harbour is also lined with numerous taverns, culture stops, large fashion chains, and boutiques.

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square in Athens © user32212 / Pixabay
Monastiraki Square © user32212 / Pixabay
Hours: 24 hours, but the highlight is Sunday
Cost: free

Head to Monastiraki for a classic Athens shopping experience. Situated in the heart of Athens is a neighbourhood of narrow streets outlined with shops. This is the place to go for a peek into everyday life in Athens. You will find jewellery, trinkets, clothing, and other goods in the Flea Market in Monastiraki, one of the area's main attractions. However, the market is only dominant on Sundays.

The neighbourhood is full of restaurants too. You can expect a mix of old and new buildings housing various restaurants that serve traditional Greek dishes, such as gyros. Moreover, the area is more casual than the relatively upscale Plaka district.

Final Tips

Athens and its surroundings are teeming with archaeological sites, fine dining, and unique shopping opportunities at any time of the year. However, the peak season lasts from April to October. You can visit key sites during early and late hours or purchase "skip the line" tickets to avoid large crowds.


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