Traveling to Athens for a day and you’re not sure how to spend it? With so many unique historic attractions, it’s no wonder you can’t decide what to do during your day in the Greek capital! That’s also why you’re exactly in the right place because this detailed itinerary allows you to explore the best of both modern and ancient Athens!
This one-day itinerary for Athens includes all the city’s top sights, from the iconic Acropolis of Athens to the city’s best rooftop bars. Discover the ancient history, exotic plants, a bit of modern Greece, and all the best local food you can eat – just stick to this itinerary for exploring Athens in a day!
The best and easiest way of getting around Athens is on foot and by public transport. Most attractions in central Athens are within walking distance of one another, so you can easily explore all the top sights on a walking tour of the city.
The Athens metro is the best option for traveling to attractions that are a bit further away. It’s the quickest way of getting around the city and the most convenient option if you’re in town for just one day.
We don’t recommend renting a car to get around Athens. The traffic is nightmarish with large crowds, so unless you want to spend your day in the Greek capital stuck in traffic, just walk or take the metro to explore the city.
When it comes to reaching the city center from the airport, you should know that there’s an express airport bus. It has four routes so you can easily get to your accommodation no matter which part of the city it’s in and tickets are 6€. The buses run every 30-60 minutes (depending on the route), and they operate 24/7.
Visitors traveling to the city center should get on the X95 bus to Syntagma Square. This is also the most frequent bus route, with departures every 15-30 minutes during both the winter and summer seasons.
The most popular time to visit Athens is the summer, but that’s not necessarily the best time to travel to the Greek capital. If you’re looking to avoid crowds of tourists, plan to visit in late spring (May) or early fall (September and October).
The summer season is the hottest in Athens. If you generally enjoy warm weather and you want to explore the beaches close to the city or travel to the islands, then summer is the best season for you. But it gets really hot in Athens in the summer, the hotel prices are higher than usual, and there are large crowds everywhere.
That’s precisely why late spring and early fall are better for tourists who want to discover the top sights in Athens without having to wait in line. There are fewer people in the city, it’s still pleasantly warm, and accommodation prices are lower than during peak season.
Winter is generally not a great time to visit Athens. It’s much colder with frequent rainfall, some tourist attractions are closed, and even businesses don’t remain open the entire day. Also, bad weather can interfere with the ferry schedule, so it’s much more difficult to explore any nearby islands.
On the other hand, the popular tourist attractions that remain open in winter are usually 50% cheaper in this season, so there’s some merit to visiting Athens between November and March.
Our one-day itinerary for Athens starts in Plaka because it’s one of the best neighborhoods to stay in while you’re in town. It’s worth noting that you can easily adjust this itinerary to fit your schedule – most attractions are very close to one another, so you can easily switch things up if you want.
The hillside neighborhood of Plaka is locally known as the Old Town of Athens. With narrow alleys, loads of family-owned taverns, and tiny stores, the neighborhood is just waiting to be explored.
If you’re staying in Plaka, this is the perfect way to kick off your day. Just go outside and start exploring the alleys, do some souvenir shopping, or grab coffee at one of the myriad cafes in this area. If you’re in the mood for breakfast, you’ll find an abundance of options for delicious Greek food in this central Athens neighborhood.
When you feel like you’ve seen enough or you stumble upon whitewashed houses that make you feel like you’re in Santorini, it’s time to move on to the second item in this Athens itinerary.
Anafiotika is a small part of the Plaka neighborhood so you can easily stumble upon it while you’re exploring this part of the city. The neighborhood is situated on the northeast side of Acropolis hill so you can easily explore it while you’re walking towards the Acropolis.
This charming old neighborhood is best known for its whitewashed houses that are reminiscent of those on the Greek islands. That’s because the area was initially inhabited by construction workers who arrived from the Cyclades Islands to work on the reconstruction of King Othon’s Palace. They constructed the first houses in Anafiotika and modeled them after their homes in the Cyclades.
That’s also the main reason why everything looks and feels so old in this neighborhood. Most houses were built in the early 19th century, and they’ve stayed the same since.
The Acropolis is perhaps the most famous landmark in the city of Athens. It’s situated just above the Anafiotika neighborhood, and you can be at the ancient temple complex in less than 10 minutes if you just walk uphill. Ticket prices start at 10€ for adults in the off-season and go up to 20€ between April and October, making this the priciest tourist attraction in Athens.
It’s worth the money though because you won’t experience anything like this anywhere else in the world. With more than 20 different points of attraction at the site, there’s plenty to see and explore here. The Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus remain the two most popular sights at the Acropolis, but they’re certainly not the only ancient landmarks worth checking out.
The Erechtheum, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Temple of Athena Nike are all worth your time, as are most other landmarks at this ancient site. Plan to spend at least an hour or two at the Acropolis of Athens, and when you’re ready to move on, start making your way to the Acropolis museum, which houses numerous artifacts recovered from the archaeological site.
The Acropolis museum is situated just below the hill the ancient temple complex sits on, and you can get there in less than 10 minutes if you just walk. It’s an archaeological museum with a large collection of artifacts recovered from the site of the Acropolis of Athens.
The museum was constructed because a place was needed to store all the artifacts discovered on the site, and it’s truly one of the best museums in Athens if you want to discover ancient history.
With items dating back to the Bronze Age, Roman Era, and Byzantine Greece, there’s plenty to see at this museum. The entire collection consists of more than 4,200 objects that are spread across an area of some 14,000 square meters.
Museum tickets are pretty inexpensive – it’s 5€ if you’re visiting between November and March but 10€ from April to October – and they’re worth every penny. We recommend buying the tickets online a few days in advance, especially if you’re visiting Athens during peak tourist season.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is just a five-minute walk from the Acropolis Museum. While you’re casually strolling from one historic Greek attraction to the other, you’ll get a glimpse of Hadrian’s Arch – another iconic landmark that’s been around for centuries.
This iconic Roman temple dates back to the 6th century BC and it’s the focal point of an ancient outdoor sanctuary dedicated to Olympian Zeus. The initial construction of the temple began in the 6th century BC, at the behest of Athenian tyrants who wanted to create the absolute greatest temple in the world.
However, the Temple of the Olympian Zeus wasn’t completed until the reign of Emperor Hadrian, some six centuries later. At the time of completion, the temple had 104 colossal columns and it was the largest structure of its kind in Greece, as well as the home to the largest cult statue in the entire ancient world.
Not much of the original structure remains on site today, but even the few columns that are still standing tall are enough to illustrate just how grandiose the Temple of the Olympian Zeus once was.
Separated from the Temple of Olympian Zeus by the Zappeion Garden, the Zappeion Hall is just a 5-minute walk away from the ancient temple. It was constructed in the late 19th century for the first modern Olympic games, but nowadays it mostly functions as a conference center.
The building is definitely an impressive sight as it’s one of the most beautiful buildings constructed in modern-day Greece. You might not be able to go inside if there’s an event while you’re visiting, but if you get the chance just go see the atrium. It’s a stunning sight with numerous symmetrically arranged columns.
A short walk on the grounds of Zappeion Hall will allow you to discover quite a few other interesting landmarks. There are several impressive statues here, as well as beautifully manicured lawns of the Zappeion Garden.
Situated just behind the Zappeion Hall, the National Garden in Athens is a great place to visit if you want to experience a blend of ancient history and remarkable nature. The historic park features both exotic and native plants, as well as archaeological remains and busts of ancient Greeks.
Queen Amalia commissioned the creation of the National Garden in the late 19th century and it only took two years to complete the project. The garden was designed by Friedrich Schmidt, a German agronomist who imported more than 500 different species of plants, as well as peacocks, ducks, and other animals.
The National Garden in Athens is truly a beautiful sight and a different kind of city attraction. If you want to explore the Greek capital but you don’t want to just walk from one ancient ruin to another, this is definitely one of the best places in the city to visit.
Syntagma Square is less than five minutes away from the National Garden (on foot), and it’s considered the most important public square in the city of Athens. It’s situated in front of the Old Royal Palace and it offers a spectacular view of this important Greek building. The palace was constructed in 1834 and it was the first modern palace in Greece.
Since 1934 the palace building has housed the Hellenic Parliament, which just makes it even more important for both Athens and Greece. Even Syntagma Square in the city center is considered the heart of Greek politics and democracy – it’s named after the first constitution of Greece, signed by King Otto.
There’s not much else to do in the area other than admiring the famous neighboring buildings, so when you’ve taken enough photographs of the Old Royal Palace and Syntagma Square, it’s time to move on.
Syntagma Square and Monastiraki Square are about 10 minutes apart on foot, so you can easily walk from one public square to the other. You can also ride the metro if you want – the two squares are also consecutive metro stops on the M3 line, so you can get there a bit quicker but you won’t get to explore Athens as much.
The square is the central point of the Monastiraki neighborhood, one of the oldest and most important neighborhoods in the western world. The area has been inhabited continuously for about 6000 years, and it’s an amazing example of all the different cultural blends that make up the Greek civilization.
You’ll find plenty of other famous Greek attractions in this area, so be sure to walk around for a while and explore, if you have enough time. Hadrian’s Library, both Agoras, and quite a few ancient churches are all situated right there in Monastiraki.
Monastiraki Square is known for its many rooftop bars, so while you’re exploring the popular city square you can kill two birds with one stone. Admire the buildings and views at the plaza and then head to one of the many rooftop bars to enjoy panoramic views of the Athens skyline.
There are at least 5-6 sky bars in the buildings that directly line the square, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. The 360 Cocktail Bar is a very popular place for drinks, but it’s best experienced in the afternoon when you can get a great view of the illuminated Acropolis against the dark sky.
There are also a few rooftop restaurants here where you can enjoy delicious Mediterranean cuisine with a side of a spectacular view.
While you’re still in Monastiraki you have to check out the two famous Agoras. Both the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora are in this neighborhood and they’re just a 5-minute walk away from one another.
The Roman Agora is the less impressive out of the two, so it’s best to start with it. Walk around the ancient ruins and see the tower and the columns that remain today – it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to explore the site.
The Ancient Agora of Athens is the more extensive and the more impressive of the two historical sites. There’s even a museum on site and it’s located in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos.
It’s worth noting that there’s an entrance fee during peak season for both these historical sites. It’s about 2€ for the Roman Agora but some 8€ to see the Ancient Agora. The combo ticket for all of Athens’ best historic attractions includes entrance to both.
The Athens Central Market is a 10-minute walk from the Roman Agora, so you can easily reach it on foot. It’s the best place for shopping in the city, especially if you’re looking to score some fresh produce or meat. The market is known for having a huge selection of fresh fish, meat, spices, and produce, but those aren’t the only things you can buy there.
With restaurants, pastry shops, and souvenir shops, you can do all sorts of shopping at the Athens Central Market. Definitely check out any stalls that seem messy at first glance – you might just find some true gems when it comes to Greek souvenirs, and you’ll pay much less for them here than if you go to a proper souvenir store.
The National Archaeological Museum is the only attraction that’s a bit outside central Athens. It’s still just a 15-minute walk from the Athens Central Market or a 10-minute bus ride from the Town Hall. It’s about 15 minutes by metro or 20 by bus to return to Plaka from the museum, so it’s not too far out of the way.
Even though the location of the museum isn’t the most convenient, it’s absolutely worth it to go out of your way to visit it. It’s the largest archaeological museum in Greece with a collection that includes artifacts discovered at archeological sites all over the country.
The objects in the museum’s collection date from prehistory to late antiquity, so there are plenty of historical discoveries to unpack at this impressive museum.
Tickets are 12€ during the summer season (April to October) and they’re half the price in the winter season (November to March).
It’s best to stay in central Athens, especially if you’re in the city for just a day. There are loads of hotels and rental apartments in the heart of the city, and they’re all within walking distance of some of the best-known tourist attractions in Athens.
Plaka, Kolonaki, Syntagma, Psirri, Koukaki, and Monastiraki are generally the best neighborhoods for tourists who don’t have too much time in Athens. They’re all centrally located with plenty of tourist attractions and great cafes/restaurants within each of the neighborhoods.
Staying in one of these central Athens neighborhoods is the best option if you want to be surrounded by content while you’re in the city. You’re within walking distance of all the city’s top attractions, there are loads of bars and restaurants just a short walk away from your accommodation, and you can enjoy beautiful views of central Athens.
You’ll also have easy access to the metro, and you won’t have to pay a fortune for accommodation in the city center because Athens is fairly inexpensive.
Get a combo ticket for archaeological sights. It’s the best way to save some money, especially if you want to explore most of the attractions featured in this itinerary. The Athens combo ticket costs 36€ and it includes skip-the-line tickets for the Acropolis, Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Aristotle’s School, and Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery.
If you were to visit only the Acropolis (20€) and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus (16€) you’d get your money’s worth, not to mention that you wouldn’t have to wait in line anywhere.
Get a daily ticket for the metro. A 90-minute metro ticket in Athens is 1.4€ while a daily ticket costs just 4.1€. With the daily ticket, you get unlimited rides on the metro, trams, and buses, so it’s definitely worth the money if you plan to ride public transport in Athens.
This allows you to visit places that are a bit further outside the city center, but it’s worth noting that the ticket excludes rides on the airport express bus.
Don’t flush toilet paper unless you’re at a hotel. And you probably shouldn’t do it in the hotel either, but you’ll get away with it more easily than if you do it at a restaurant. The plumbing system in Greece isn’t that great and excessive toilet paper use can easily clog the toilet.
That’s why most restaurants and cafes in Greece have signs that warn customers they shouldn’t flush the toilet paper. Instead, the toilet paper goes in the bin that’s next to the toilet – it’s disgusting, but it’s better to do this than to clog the toilet and risk incurring the wrath of a Greek cafe owner.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!