The 11 Best Tours in Athens
- Original Gourmet Food Tour of Athens
The single best tour for exploring the urban core of modern Athens. This is a fun walking tour of the best food and restaurants in central Athens. There’s also a stop at the iconic Central Market (fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, spices). You’ll get a good overview of the city’s culture (and a bit of history) while eating some great food with a friendly guide. There’s a 10am morning tour and a 2pm afternoon tour. I know I sound like a broken record on this but food tours are an awesome way to explore a new city.
- Acropolis & Acropolis Museum Tour with Entry Tickets
A 4-hour small-group guided tour of the Acropolis, Parthenon, and nearby Acropolis Museum. Includes entrance tickets to both the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. (A huge advantage of doing a tour is that you get skip-the-line tickets. When you visit on your own you need to queue for tickets and that line can be insanely long.)
- Athens City Highlights Tour (Private Tour)
This is a great private tour of the Acropolis and surrounding area (Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaea, Temple of Nike, Dionysus Sanctuary, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and Ancient Agora) and is the best way to see the highlights of Athens and learn the city’s history. Like all tours, your guide will have access to skip-the-line tickets for the Acropolis which allows you to bypass the long entrance queues. This tour is very flexible with time, duration, and route.
- Athens Street Art Tour
Awesome tour of the graffiti and street art of central Athens. Many tours describe themselves as “off the beaten path” that only visit the expected top sights. This one really does explore a side of Athens tourists rarely explore or think about. Very cool and great for families with teens.
- Traditional Greek Cooking Lesson
Great introduction to Greek food and how to make it. Recipes will be sent to you so you can prepare them at home. Very family-friendly. There’s also an excellent Night Food & Wine Tasting Tour.
- Private Wine Tour and Lunch
The best wine tour from Athens with an excellent tour guide (usually Spyros – he really knows his wine). Includes hotel pick up and drop and a good quality lunch at a seaside taverna.
- Old Town Highlights Electric Bike Tour
Fun and easy-going tour of the highlights of central Athens on simple-to-use electrick bikes. The 9 KM route takes in most of the top historic sights and tours Plaka and National Gardens. Tour starts at 10am in an easy-to-find spot in Plaka.
- Athens Eco Tours (6 hours)
Bespoke private tours exploring the natural heritage and biodiversity just outside the city, whether hiking, birdwatching, spotting butterflies and wildflowers among the monastaries, or seeking out the elusive Mediterranean monk seal. Tours are led by ecologists, botanists, biologists, and other environmental scientists, depending on the particular excursion.
- Delphi Day Trip from Athens (10 hours)
Hotel pickup (in Athens) and transportation to one of the top historical sites in Greece. Tour guide and lunch included. There’s also a private Delphi tour if that’s what you prefer.
- Meteora Monasteries (12 hours)
The Meteora is my favorite destination in mainland Greece. It’s spectacular. Delphi is great, but you do need to have a keen interest in Greek history to make it worth the trip. The Meteora, on the other hand, will appeal to anyone with a pulse. The dramatic and awesome setting is stunning. It’s very hard to visit the Meteora in one day unless you do a private Meteora tour. With this tour, you’ll get picked up from your hotel (in Athens) and make the 3-hour drive to the Meteora. A stop for lunch and a few other historical sights are built into the itinerary but most of the focus is on seeing the monasteries of the Meteora. There is also a cheaper Meteora tour that involves taking the train; an overnight tour that allows for a complete tour of all 6 monasteries (worth it if you have the time); and a combination tour that visits both Delphi and the Meteora.
- Full Day Tour & Sailing to Agistri, Moni, & Aegina (10 hours)
Great boat tour of 3 wonderful islands a short boat ride from Athens. Lots of swimming and sunbathing. Includes traditional Greek lunch, made and served onboard. Highly recommended!
The Best Things To Do in Athens
Best Acropolis & Parthenon Tours
One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, this ancient hilltop citadel houses the remains of several temples, including the Parthenon. The Acropolis was inhabited from the 4th millennium B.C., though its most recognizable landmarks date to the 5th century B.C. The Acropolis site includes the Parthenon (a temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom, civilization, and war), Temple of Athena Nike (a temple to Athena, triumphant in war), the Erechtheion (temple of Athena and Poseidon – god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses), and more. On the way up to the Acropolis, you’ll see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and pass by the trail to the Sanctuary of Dionysus, both on the slope of the hill beneath the Acropolis. Tickets to the Acropolis can be purchased on their own or bundled with the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Acropolis Museum, the Roman Agora, and more. I strongly recommend doing a guided tour of the Acropolis. Guides will have skip-the-line tickets and lines can often be two hours long. If you’re part of a tour you’ll skip right by the queues.
This spectacular and relatively new museum is a highlight of a visit to Athens. It’s located a short walk from the Acropolis (head south down the hill towards the Odeon of Herodes Atticus), so the two sites are easy to visit together and complement each other well. (If you have 5 hours or less in Athens then visit the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum.) The museum houses and displays artifacts sourced from the Acropolis and its slopes, and rests upon huge pillars over the excavated ruins of an ancient Athenian neighborhood (which is included in the admission fee). There’s an excellent cafe on site, with terrace seating in the shadow of the Parthenon. Doing a guided tour of both the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum is a great way to save time (as tour guides will have skip-the-line tickets to both attractions). You can also buy skip the line tickets for the Acropolis Museum separately.
The single best museum in Greece, loaded with archaeological treasures. It’s one of the few top attractions that isn’t a short walk from the Plaka/Acropolis area so you’ll need to take a taxi (5 minutes), metro (10 minutes, get out at Omonia station), or walk (about 25 minutes from Plaka or Syntagma Square). If you have only one day in Athens you might be forced to miss this. If you have 2 days or more then make an effort to get here. The experience is dramatically enhanced if you get a private tour guide to explain all the history and top exhibits. If you don’t do a tour then you can get tickets in advance here.
4. Plaka and Monastiraki
These adjacent neighborhoods at the base of the Acropolis are filled with historical sites like the Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Hephaestus, and Stoa of Attalos. Largely pedestrianized throughout, Plaka and Monastiraki feature a fun and lively atmosphere that’s great for wandering, shopping, eating, and sightseeing. They’re also two of our favorite areas to stay in Athens, and are home to many of our favorite restaurants and hotels.
5. The Agoras
Agora means marketplace in Greek, and there are two archaeological sites in Athens that house the remains and artifacts of these communal gathering spaces. Combination tickets to the Athens archaeological sites are available that include both Agoras, the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, the Acropolis Museum, and more.
The Ancient Agora lies between Monastiraki and the base of the Acropolis. It’s easy to make out the ancient streets and squares here that were once the haunting ground of Socrates and Plato. This sprawling area includes sites such as the Temple of Hephaestus (shown above), the Stoa of Attalos (which houses a small and interesting museum), and the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles. Much of the Ancient Agora dates to the 2nd Century BC or even earlier.
The Roman Agora was built during the reigns of Julius Ceasar and Ceasar Augustus in the 1st century BC. It has an impressive entrance (the Gate of Athena Archegetis), but not as much going on as in the Ancient Agora. The most famous structure in the Roman Agora is the eight-sided, marble Tower of the Winds: combination weather vane, water clock, and sundial, built by a Macedonian astronomer in the 2nd century BC. The Roman Agora lies on the border between the Monastiraki and Plaka neighborhoods of central Athens.
Every hour on the hour, there is a changing of the guard at the Hellenic Parliament building on Syntagma Square. The guards, known as Evzones, stand stock-still before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier until the ritual begins: a slow-motion dance of precision and strength. Usually, the practice involves two guards who are wearing a more understated version of the traditional uniform in khaki, black, and white (shown above). On Sunday mornings at 11am, however, visitors can expect to see many more guards and a more elaborate ritual, with Evzones led by a military band and dressed in the more traditional and colorful uniforms that are reserved for special occasions. (Interesting fact: the kilt of the Evzone uniform has exactly 400 pleats; one for each year of Turkish occupation.) It is free to watch the ceremony; arrive early on Sundays to secure a good view.
A short walk from Syntagma Square and the Greek Parliament buildings, The National Garden provides a relaxing break from the chaos of busy Athens. Take a picnic, let the kids run around and watch the ducks and turtles (there’s a nice children’s playground in the garden’s southeast quadrant), or simply relax in the shade for a bit. In addition to the greenery, the National Garden also has some ancient ruins, Corinthian columns, mosaics, and a small botanical museum on site. And it’s free.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus dates back to the 6th century BC; it once featured over 100 17-meter columns and was filled with statues of gods and emperors, but after centuries of damage, only 15 columns remain standing. It is the namesake and most prominent feature of the Olympieion archaeological site, which also includes ruins of Roman baths, Classical residences, a 5th century basilica, and a portion of the city’s fortification wall. The well-preserved marble Arch of Hadrian (132 A.D.) sits just outside the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and they’re both only a 5-minute walk from the Acropolis Museum, making them an easy stop in the central area. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is included on the combination ticket of Athens archaeological sites.
There is more to Athens than ancient ruins. The city makes an excellent home base for trekking into the wilds of Attica and beyond, a welcome break from the crowds. Natural Greece offers several sustainable tours where travelers can participate in conservation efforts on land or at sea, while led by a team of environmental scientists. Day tours leaving from Athens may focus on birdwatching, wildflowers, butterflies, or hiking. Multi-day tours are best (though day trips are possible) for studying the ultra-rare Mediterranean monk seal (seen above), one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. Private or small group tours available.
10. Athens Central Market
A wonderful and lively slice of modern Athens. Meats, olives, feta, spices, olive oil, fruits, vegetables – you name it, it’s here. The adjacent side streets are lined with shops of all kinds. The excellent Original Gourmet Food Tour of Athens stops here and explains the markets origins and history. Located about 500 meters north of Monastiraki Square in central Athens.
Established in 1930, this well-curated collection of Greek artwork and artifacts (ranging from ancient to modern) is set in the beautiful neoclassical family mansion of Antonis Benaki, who also donated over 35,000 pieces of his own art collection. Along with paintings and sculpture, the museum houses terrific examples of historic Greek textiles, jewelry, and other cultural artifacts. The Benaki also maintains satellite galleries throughout Athens, which include the Museum of Islamic Art, The Ghika Gallery, and the Toy Museum. Located in central Athens near Syntagma Square, across the street from the Parliament building and the National Garden. Closed Tuesdays.
12. Monastiraki Flea Market
On Mondays to Saturdays, the “Flea Market” adjacent to Monastiraki Square is mostly a collection of narrow pedestrian lanes lined with souvenir and sandals shops, but on Sundays people come from miles around to sell all manner of used, cheap, and antique goods: books, clothing, trinkets, toys, furniture, textiles, home goods, electronics, anything you can think of and then some. It’s crowded and cramped, but fun and free and always interesting; arrive before 11am to avoid the crush. The best stuff is usually found at the stalls crowded into the market’s epicenter at Avissinias Square, with lanes of quirky vendors branching out from there in every direction.
The oldest of its kind in Greece, the National Historical Museum in Athens was founded in 1882, and has found its permanent home in the building that housed the Greek Parliament from 1875 to 1932. The museum’s permanent collection tells the story of Greek culture throughout the ages; corridors and rooms narrate different centuries and periods. Items on display include weapons, personal belongings and memorabilia from historical personalities such as Lord Byron, historical paintings by Greek and foreign artists, authentic manuscripts, and a large collection of traditional Greek costumes and jewelry from various regions of Greece. Located one block northwest of Syntagma Square. General admission fee is 3€, with free entrance on Sundays; closed Mondays.
14. Outdoor Cinema
Watch a movie in the heart of Plaka under the lights of the Acropolis at Cine Paris rooftop outdoor theater. Films are typically American (in english) with Greek subtitles. Beer, wine, and light snacks are available. Tickets are sold at the theater box office only; we recommend queueing up early or buying tickets in advance, as shows often sell out. With theaters generally operating from May to October, outdoor cinema is a highlight of summer in Greece.
More great outdoor cinemas in central Athens:
- Cine Thisio – Another excellent spot with Parthenon views, located on the Acropolis’ western side. Tickets sold at the theater only.
- Cine Aegli – Atop Zappeion Hall in the National Garden. Wonderful food and service. Tickets sold at the theater only.
- Cine Dexameni – In Kolonaki, at the foot of Lycabettus Hill. Online tickets available.
Built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 A.D., this complex once housed three stories of books, as well as areas dedicated to academic instruction, reading, philosophical walks and reflection, and athletic recreation. The site also includes what is believed to be the oldest Christian church in Athens. Hadrian’s Library is located very near Monastiraki Square and is included on the combination ticket of Athens archaeological sites.
Also known as Kallimarmaro, this 50,000 capacity stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and was built on the site of the original stadium for the Panathenaic Games (330 BC), which were held every 4 years in honor of the goddess Athena. It is the only stadium in the world built entirely out of marble. The stadium continues to hold regular concerts in the summer, as well as host significant cultural, sporting, and ceremonial events. It is the finishing point for the annual Athens Classic Marathon, and during an Olympic Games year, it is the hand-off location for the Olympic flame from Greece. Enjoy impressive views of Mt. Lycabettus and the Acropolis by climbing to the top. Located in the district of Pangrati in central Athens, near the National Garden and the Temple of Olympian Zeus; about a 1km walk from Syntagma Square. Daily runs are held every morning from 7:30am to 9:00am.
Located in the Plaka neighborhood, the Benizelos Mansion is the oldest surviving house in Athens, built between the 16th and 17th centuries. The residence’s original occupants were Athenian aristocrats with Byzantine roots, and their 2-story house gives modern-day visitors a sense of the traditions and lifestyles of wealthy Athenians before the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The house is also known as the House of Saint Philothei, in honor of the couple’s daughter, Revoula, a philanthropist and freedom-fighter for Greek women enslaved into harems by the Ottomans. Severely beaten and later succumbing to death from her injuries, she is revered as a martyr and has been canonized as Saint (Agia) Philothei, which translates to “friend of God”. The Benizelos Mansion is open limited hours, entrance fee is by donation and goes to charity.
18. Mount Lycabettus
The highest point in Athens with dramatic panoramic views out over the entire city. Located across Plaka and Syntagma Square from the Acropolis (and shown here on the left), the 300 meter hilltop can be reached by foot or via a funicular tram that travels in a tunnel inside the hill. At the top sits the quaint and beautiful St George’s Chapel, an all-day cafe, and a panoramic fine-dining restaurant.
This ancient site is an 80-minute drive southeast of Athens. It’s super interesting, but only worth the trip if you have 3 days or more in the capital (any less and your time is better spent in central Athens). The excellent Cape Sounion Small-Group Tour with Sunset Viewing includes hotel pick up from central Athens.
20. Voluntourism at Let’s Be S.M.A.R.T.
This cat sanctuary south of the city has been caring for Athens many, many stray cats since 2011, nursing them to health and sheltering them until they can be adopted, often into homes abroad. Volunteers and veterinary interns are always needed to assist with daily operations of the shelter, feeding kittens, caring for elderly and infirm cats, aiding nearby feral cat colonies, and more. Multi-day stays at the shelter include accommodations, breakfast and lunch, organized activities, and more. Duties vary according the the volunteer’s or intern’s skill set and shelter needs.
The Best Places to Eat & Drink in Athens
21. Best Gyros and Souvlaki in Athens
Athens is loaded with great restaurants, but for good cheap eats, nothing beats an authentic gyro from a local shop. There’s a strip of good gyro places just off Monastiraki Square (opposite the metro station). Our favorites in central Athens include Kostas and O Thanasis. If you have time, Kavouras in the Exarcheia neighborhood (and not far from the The National Archaeological Museum) and O Elvis in Kerameikos are worth seeking out.
22. Best Restaurant in Athens
The best restaurant in the Plaka area is Psarras Taverna. With a magical setting and great traditional Greek food, Psarras (also known as The Old Tavern of Psaras) has been around since 1898 – and for good reason. It’s wonderfully romantic, with a casual vibe, great house wine, and live music on weekend nights. If you only eat at one spot in Athens, make it this one. Reservations are recommended for dinner. (+30 21 0321 8734)
23. Best Bar in Athens
Warm and lively Baba Au Rum is my favorite place to get a drink in the tourist center. It’s world renowned for its excellent cocktails and often packed, but staff are friendly and helpful even when it’s busy.
24. Best Rooftop Bar in Athens
360° Cocktail Bar, the rooftop bar of Hotel 360° in Monastiraki, features signature cocktails, regional wine and food pairings, and killer rooftop views to the Acropolis. Go at sunset, but make a reservation in advance to secure a good table. (+30 21 0321 0006)
25. Best Gelato in Athens
- Best Museums in Athens
- Best Archaeological Sites in Athens
- Best Restaurants in Athens
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- Athens Travel Guide
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