Get the most out of your stay in Athens with this comprehensive 3-day itinerary! Learn what sights to see, where to eat, and how best to explore this bustling city.
Greece has always been on my list of places to visit, although, if I’m being honest, it was really Santorini. However, with Madison in tow for term break, we decided to visit the capital of Greece instead. I have even shared my reasons for visiting Athens with kids.
We visited in the fall (October) and fell in love with the city. It was the perfect time to visit, as it wasn’t as crowded and the weather was absolutely perfect. We’d done a bit of research before visiting, so we knew what we wanted to do, and we also wanted to visit at least one other island.
We booked for four days in Athens, spending three days in Athens and one on the island of Hydra, an easy day trip. However, we spent our first day relaxing as we had a red-eye flight and were utterly exhausted. This guide is going to take you, however, on a full 3-day itinerary.
To be honest, I wish I had booked a few more days in Athens, because I really would have loved to do a bit more. But to be fair, if you only have two or three days, there’s quite a lot to do, and you’ll be ok. You’ll at least be able to do the major highlights, but if you do have more time, don’t hesitate to book it. You’ll love it!
Without further ado, here is the perfect itinerary if you have three full days in Athens, Greece. Where to stay, where to go, and what to see.
Transport from Athens International Airport (ATH)
Uber is generally my transportation of choice whenever I travel. That’s because I know exactly how much it’ll cost me to get from point A to point B. Uber is available in Athens, but only for taxis. As we were getting in very early (before 5 a.m.), there was a flat rate of €55. From 5 a.m. to midnight, there’s a flat rate of €38 to the city center.
Greek Weather in October
We visited in the fall, in October, as I mentioned previously, and the weather was sunny and absolutely beautiful. The average temperature while we were there was a high of 76 °F and a low of 56 °F. However, due to the humidity in Athens, it can sometimes feel warmer, especially in the evenings, but it is cool early in the morning.
Our hotel informed us that although it rarely lasts for very long, it can rain occasionally in October. However, we were blessed with beautiful weather for our entire stay.
What to Pack for Greece in October
I recommend bringing some shorts for the daytime and something a little longer for the evenings, such as denim. But I also recommend bringing a jacket or sweater for late evenings and early mornings. We found that the morning weather can feel a bit brisk, but by 10 a.m., there was no need for either.
When it comes to footwear, take comfortable shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I brought along a pair of sneakers and my Birkenstocks.
Also, bring a swimsuit and flip-flops for the ocean. You can swim in October, as the water is very warm as well. Bring a towel with you in your backpack and a change of clothing as well. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
Where to Stay
Staying in the city center is the obvious choice, and you’re spoilt for hotels. As I mentioned when I wrote about ways I save money on travel, I always book hotels that include free breakfast. We stayed at the Athens City View after reading the reviews on the hotel through Tripadvisor and were pleasantly surprised.
The hotel is kid-friendly and the staff was amazing.The hotel is about an 8-minute walk from Monastiraki and the metro and is close to the many attractions around Athens. The restaurant where breakfast is served gives you a birds eye view of the Acropolis, and the food is absolutely delicious! It’s also about a minute’s walk from Lukumade, Madison’s favorite Greek treat.
How to Get Around the City?
Athens is a walkable city; there really is no need to get a taxi or even take the train unless you’re planning on making a day trip to another island. However, there are taxis, trains, buses, and trolleys that can take you around the city. You can also get on a Hop On Hop Off Bus and do a city tour (something that we did). Otherwise, pack comfortable walking shoes and get your steps in.
Now that we’ve taken care of the basics, let’s get into our days and I’ve made it so that you won’t waste as much time as we did.
1. Visit the Acropolis Museum
As I mentioned in “Things to do in Athens with Kids, No.7“, visit the Acropolis Museum first.
The Acropolis is without a doubt the most well-known landmark in the entirety of Athens and sits on a hill above the city. This ancient complex features the Parthenon and a few other structures.
I visited the Acropolis first, then followed up with a trip to the museum, but looking back, I wish I’d done it the other way around!
The Acropolis Museum is located at the base of the Acropolis itself and houses many artifacts from the site, including pottery, jewelry, marble sculptures, and much more. By visiting the museum, you’ll not only learn a lot more background information about the Acropolis, but you’ll also be able to picture what the structures on the site were like when they were first constructed.
Along with these amazing views of the Acropolis, the museum also has a cafe with tables outside.
Free admission days
6 March (Melina Mercouri Day), 25 March (National Holiday), 18 May (International Day of Museums), 28 October (National Holiday).
|Open 9am daily
(1 NOVEMBER – 31 MARCH)
(1 APRIL – 31 OCTOBER)
|Reduced admission* (age 6-25)
2. Visit the Acropolis
Once you’ve had your fill of the Acropolis Museum, head up the hill to the Acropolis itself. The Acropolis is the most famous landmark in all of Athens, and it is also a World Heritage Site.
It contains the remains of several ancient buildings, the most notable of which are the ruins of the Parthenon (a temple dedicated to Athena), the Temple of Athena Nike, the Theater of Dionysus, Propylaea, and Erechtheion.
Mnesicles, a Greek architect, made the Acropolis of Athens as a tribute to Athena. He built it as a fortified sanctuary that contained a number of important temples dedicated to the goddess. The Parthenon was completed in 438 BC and has been preserved as one of the most important monuments of ancient Greek architecture.
I recommend purchasing your tickets beforehand or you’ll be in line for some time waiting to purchase tickets, then in another waiting to get in.
I also recommend getting the combination ticket that allows you to visit several different historic sites around Athens in a 5-day period for €30.
Free admission days
6 March (Melina Mercouri Day), 18 April (International Monuments Day), 18 May (International Day of Museums), the last weekend of September (European Heritage Days), 28 October (National Holiday), and the first Sunday of each month from November 1st to March 31st.
They are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with summer hours of 7:30 p.m. (April to October). Winter hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last admission at 4:30 p.m.
3. Explore Anafiotika and Plaka
On your way down from the Acropolis, you’ll meet the beautiful neighborhoods of Anafiotika and Plaka. They are adjacent to each other, and you’ll be able to find some great restaurants for dinner there in Plaka.
While Plaka is more well known, you may need a local to direct you to Anafiotika, as I almost bypassed it myself as it’s nestled below the Acropolis and is totally missable. If it weren’t for a good friend of mine mentioning that I should visit, I would have totally missed it.
Anafiotika is reminiscent of Santorini, with whitewashed homes, bright blue doors, and amazing views over the city. Depending on the season when you visit, you may even find flowers adorning the walls.
3. Explore the Roman Agora
On your way down from the Acropolis and in Plaka, you’re going to come upon the Roman Agora. Your combo ticket that you purchased for the Acropolis gives you free entry into not only the Roman Agora, but also the Ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Library, all within close proximity to each other.
The Roman Agora is just one of many ancient sites in Athens worth exploring.
Visitors can wander through the remaining stone structures and imagine them in their former glory. Exploring the site is a great way to get a better understanding of the city’s incredible history.
4. Visit Hadrian’s Library
Hadrian’s Library should be your next stop. This ancient library was built by Emperor Hadrian and houses some of the oldest manuscripts and books in the world. You can explore its collection of artifacts such as statues, vases, coins, sculptures and more. As you wander through this historic building, take time to appreciate its history and marvel at the beautiful architecture and art it contains.
5. Explore the Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora is also another must see when visiting Athens and is also included in your combination ticket.
The Agora was the center of social and political life in Athens. It was also where the city’s most famous thinkers met to talk about their ideas.
Even though most of what is left here is just piles of rubble and broken columns, the Temple of Hephaestus is in surprisingly good shape. You’ll also get some amazing city views while wandering around.
Visiting in the afternoon is definitely the best time to visit. I visited earlier in the day and wish I had done it later as the sunsets in Athens are gorgeous.
You can have dinner on your way back to the hotel or a few minutes walk back to Plaka. If you’ve made it back to the Ancient Agora, you’re a stone’s throw from Monastiraki and you can take a look around. You can find a few shops to grab your souvenirs and there are also a few restaurants here as well. No matter where you eat at, know the food is going to be amazing!
You’ve more than likely been on your feet all day previously, so if you can swing it, consider a Hop On Hop Off Bus tour. Purchase a 24-hour day pass and get off at the stops that you’re most interested in. The Hop On Hop Off Bus takes you to all the well known tourist sites, including a few that you might not have thought about.
However, this is how our day went.
1. Visit the National Historical Museum.
You do have your choice of museums to visit in Athens. One of the most recommended places besides the Acropolis Museum is the National Archaeological Museum, which contains artifacts from archaeological sites all around Greece. However, Madison wasn’t interested in visiting, so I didn’t personally get to do this while in Athens, but I had to mention it if you’re interested in museums.
The National Historical Museum in Athens also displays a wide array of artifacts and works of art from the past. It showcases the history, culture, and traditions of ancient Greece as well as modern Greek society. You can explore many sections, such as an exhibit on ancient Greek gods and goddesses, a replica of the Parthenon, and an area dedicated to traditional Greek cuisine.
There are also areas devoted to other aspects of Greek life, such as sports, architecture, and the Olympics. The museum is interesting and educational for people of all ages, and it is also a good way to learn about the country’s long history.
2. Visit Syntagma Square
This is a definite must-do, as something spectacular happens here every hour.
On Syntagma Square is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament Building, which is guarded 24/7 by members of the Greek Evzone dressed in traditional clothing. The changing of the guard happens every hour on the hour and is a 10 minute ceremony that is totally worth it.
I recommend coming at least 20 minutes before the hour so you can get a good spot to watch the entire change happen.
3. Take a Load Off and Relax at The National Garden
If you’re visiting in the heat of summer, then this is a great way to escape the heat. Even though we were there in the fall (October), it was still fairly hot.
The National Garden is adjacent to Syntagma Square, so not a far walk at all. It’s a beautiful and lush park smack dab in the middle of Athens and manages to provide a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can spend a leisurely afternoon here strolling through its numerous shaded paths avoiding the heat.
4. Visit Hadrian’s Arch
Right next door to the National Garden is Hadrian’s Arch, a popular tourist spot in Athens, Greece. The arch was built in the 2nd century AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian and it stands proudly today as an iconic symbol of the ancient city’s heritage. Marvel at its impressive architecture and history – while taking in some spectacular views of the Acropolis.
5. See the Temple of Olympian Zeus
Also next door is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It’s an impressive temple with a tall columned entrance. When we visited, they were doing some work on the temple, but you can still visit and explore the archaeological site at your leisure, learning more about its ancient history and culture.
Be sure to take some time to explore the grounds and take in all of their majestic beauty. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a must-see when in Athens!
Once again, you’re pretty close to Plaka and this is where we decided on dinner for day number 2. Once again there are numerous restaurants to choose from. On day two, I had the most delicious lamb chops and potato meal I’d had in a long time at the Zorbas Taverna Restaurant.
1. Take a Day Trip to Hydra
For day three, let’s get out of the mainland for a moment and visit one of the other beautiful islands that consist of Greece. Greece is made up of 6,000 islands and islets in the Aegean and Ionian seas, but only 277 of them are inhabited.
Hydra is known for its picturesque architecture and harbor, as well as the traditional stone houses and cobbled streets that make up much of the island’s towns. One thing to note is that there are no cars at all on Hydra.
The only motor vehicles that can be found are garbage trucks. It is against the law to drive a car or ride a motorcycle. The means of public transportation include equines such as horses, mules, and donkeys, as well as water taxis. But Hydra is so small that most people walk everywhere anyway.
How to Get to Hydra
There is no airport on Hydra, so the only way to get there is by taking a ferry (preferably the high-speed ferry) from the port of Piraeus in Athens to Hydra. The ferry takes approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes to get there and runs regularly.
I recommend getting your round trip ferry tickets in advance as it guarantees you a seat. Waiting until the day of travel might mean that tickets are sold out. However, you can purchase your ticket at the port at the ferry ticket office.
We booked with Ferryhopper as it was pretty straightforward and easy to understand.
Please note your departure and return times and your gate number, and be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your ferry departs. At the time we visited in October 2022, masks were still required in order to board the ferry. You’ll be denied boarding if you don’t have a mask.
What to Do in Hydra
There is so much to do in Hydra. You can enjoy activities such as swimming, scuba diving, sailing, and other water sports. While I don’t partake in animal tourism, you can also ride a donkey. Donkeys are one of the official modes of transportation in Hydra, as mentioned previously, and you’ll find many of them at the port with their “owners” asking if you’d like to ride. We politely declined.
We decided to tour the island instead and walked around the island, taking in the sights, taking a dip in the ocean, and petting the numerous cats that were scattered around the island. Madison even counted and “named” a few. We had lunch at a charming Greek restaurant on the island and as it was with all our meals, thus far, this one did not disappoint either.
Other Things to Do in Athens
Pet a Few Cats
Madison and I saw so many cats in Athens that we started calling it “the city of cats.” However, on our day trip to Hydra, we saw even more. I can guarantee that there are no mice in Athens or on Hydra because of how many cats we saw. Some hotels even place dry food and water outside for them so they can eat. We didn’t see many dogs, so I’m also beginning to think that dogs are not loved as much, but I could be mistaken.
Watch a Greek Sunset
The sunsets in Greece are absolutely stunning. Especially the ones on the island. If you decide to visit the Acropolis in the afternoon, stay for the sunset. On the northwest side of the Acropolis is a rock named The Areopagus (the Hill of Ares). You can climb up the rocks and watch the sun go down over the city.
Of all the Greek treats that you can eat, this is one that you should not miss. If you decide to stay at the Athens City View Hotel, it is roughly a 2-minute walk away.
Lukumade is a traditional Greek dessert made of fried dough balls covered in honey and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It may not look like much, but it is oh-so-delicious! The combination of the sweet, sticky syrup and the crunchy doughball is like heaven for your taste buds. I decided to top mine with ice cream, and it was divine!
Be prepared for a wait, as there are usually long lines. Both times we visited, we had to wait at least 10 minutes to order and at least another 15 before it was ready. But it was oh, so worth it.
Ways to Save Money on Things to Do in Athens
This includes your trip to and from the airport. The metro is very reliable in Athens, and it costs about €10 from the airport to Monastriaki, compared to €38 to €55 depending on the time you get in. If you’re flying in during the middle of the day, taking the metro would save you quite a bit of money. But it is convenient to be dropped off in front of your hotel.
Free Walking Tours
Whenever we travel to a new city, we always do a free walking tour, because they’re essentially “free”. These two tours (FreeTour.com Athens Free Walking Tour and Athens Free Tour) come highly recommended.
Although these are free walking tours, please remember to tip your guide!
Purchase the Athens Combo Ticket
Remember that combined ticket I mentioned when visiting the Acropolis? That’s another way to save some money. Unfortunately, the Acropolis Museum is not included.
The combined ticket costs €30 and includes admission to the following and is valid for 5 days from the day of purchase:
- Acropolis of Athens
- Ancient Agora of Athens
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Roman Agora of Athens and the Tower of the Winds
- Hadrian’s Library
- Aristotle’s Lyceum
Travel During the Off Season
The off season in Greece is from November through March, and most museums and attractions will generally offer reduced admission. The off season is really the best time to visit to avoid the crowds and enjoy the milder weather.
I hope this post is helpful in not only sharing a 3-day itinerary, but also some of the best things to do in Athens, Greece.
While I would still love to visit Santorini one day, Athens ended up being a dream. Between the history, food, the people, and the cats (if you’re a cat person), you’ll end up loving Athens as much as we did.