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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

What to do in Athens in 2 or 3 days

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

I dare say that Athens is a must-stop on any trip through Greece.


Even if you're going to the country to enjoy the islands and beaches, it's a good ideia to spend a few days in the Greek capital - and I'm sure you won't regret it!


I recommend staying at least 2 full days in Athens. If you have the time, 3 days (or more!) would be ideal to enjoy the city at the pace it deserves, but even in just one day, you can make the most of what Athens has to offer - history, culture, cuisine!


Mulher em frente ao templo Erecteion (Erechtheum), Acropolés, Atenas.

 

Other posts about Greece

 

We spent 2 and a half days in Athens during our road trip through mainland Greece; check out our post with everything about our 15-day itinerary through the Peloponnese.


We flew to Greece on ITA (formerly Alitalia) from Brazil (São Paulo - Guarulhos) to Rome. Taking advantage of the stopover in Rome, we stayed there for 4 days before continuing to Athens.


We arrived in Athens in the afternoon, so the first day was spent checking in at our Airbnb and taking a stroll around the Plaka region to get into the European vibe.


The next two days were dedicated to exploring the city - I'll share the itinerary shortly, but first, let's find a place to stay!


Where to stay in Athens


In Athens, there is no shortage of good accommodation options for every style and budget.


We stayed in Plaka, one of the most charming neighborhoods in the city with a perfect location, right in the center and easily accessible, either on foot or by public transport/taxi, to all the main attractions.


It's an historic neighborhood with narrow stone-paved streets and plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants. A delightful place to stroll and great for all the conveniences needed during a trip. Perfect if you're staying in the city for a short time.


We had chosen the Plaka Hotel, with great prices, an incredible view from the rooftop bar, and family rooms (in addition to the traditional doubles and triples). However, based on a friend's recommendation, we stayed in a house rented via Airbnb (which, unfortunately, is no longer on the platform).


Another fantastic option for staying in Athens is The Pinnacle Athens, which also offers family rooms.


The neighborhoods of Anafiotika and Monastiraki are also great areas to stay in Athens.


Check availability and rates here:



What to do in Athens in 2 (or 3) days

In 2 days in Athens, I suggest this itinerary:


Day 1:

  • Acropolis Museum in the morning

  • Lunch in Plaka

  • Visit the Acropolis in the afternoon

  • Quick visit to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian's Arch, and the Panathenaic Stadium.

  • Late afternoon and dinner in Plaka and/or surroundings


Day 2:

  • Archaeological Museum (and Field of Mars Park) in the morning

  • Syntagma Square (where the changing of the guard at the parliament takes place) and National Gardens in the afternoon

  • Stroll through the Plaka, Anafiotika, and Monastiraki area (and do what you didn't have time to do on the day before)

  • If you have time and energy, go to the "Athens Riviera" region for the late afternoon

With a third day, you can do these activities at a more leisurely pace and include the Ancient Agora and the ascent to the Lycabettus viewpoint (the highest point in the city), either on foot or by funicular - they say the sunset there is amazing!


Criança sentada em frente ao Partenon, Atenas, Grécia

Acrópoles & Parthenon


A visit to Athens without seeing the Acropolis is as serious, if not more so, as going to Rome and missing the Colosseum.


The Acropolis, which means "high city," is a collection of various temples, monuments, and buildings built around 450 B.C., a time when the city was ruled by Pericles. Among the most well-known are the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Propylaea.


The Parthenon, one of the greatest examples of Greek architecture, is dedicated to the goddess Athena. Built between 447 and 432 B.C., it has always been considered a symbol of democracy, which has its origins precisely in that era (although with characteristics quite different from what we commonly understand by the concept today).


With approximately 70 meters in length and 30 in width, the Parthenon was surrounded by columns on its entire perimeter, 8 on the main facades and 17 on the sides. Constructed with white marble from Mount Pentelicus, it was designed to house the gold and ivory statue of Athena Parthenos, a colossal twelve-meter-high statue created by Phidias.


Over the centuries, the Parthenon underwent various transformations that deteriorated the building: it housed a Byzantine church in the 13th century and in the 15th century was transformed into a mosque. Just over a hundred years later, in 1687, when it was used as an ammunition store by the Turks, there was an explosion that damaged the building. Between 1801 and 1803, various decorative elements were taken by the British, and at the end of that century, in 1894, it was affected by one of the most significant earthquakes in the history of Greece.


Today, cranes and scaffolding are part of the photographic landscape of the Parthenon, but even so, the beauty and grandeur of the site are unshakable.



The Propylaea is the entrance to the Acropolis, and the Erechtheion is famous for the gallery where six columns in the form of women, the Caryatids, support the roof - those columns are replicas, the originals are in the Acropolis Museum (and just for that, the visit to the museum is already worth it!).


The Temple of Athena Nike was built to celebrate the Greeks' victory over the Persians in the Battle of Salamis, and it housed an image of Athena Nike, the symbol of victory.


I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance online, especially if you are (like us) visiting during the high season.



Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum is an ultramodern structure, entirely made of glass and metal, housing objects and structures found on the Acropolis. With excellent explanations in English and well-organized exhibits, it is essential for your visit to Athens.


We went to the museum after visiting the Acropolis, but today, upon reflection, I think it's more interesting to go to the museum first to learn about the history, myths, and significance of the various structures before exploring the ruins.


And perhaps as a bonus, you might encounter a smaller crowd at the Acropolis since, being Greece's most popular tourist attraction, there's a great deal of anticipation, and everyone tends to visit it at the earliest opportunity.


You can secure your museum ticket in advance online or purchase it on-site - there are usually queues, but not as long as those at the Acropolis.



Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian


The Temple of Olympian Zeus, situated close to the Acropolis, has its origins in the 6th century BC but was only completed in 132 AD. It had a length of 96 meters and a width of 40 meters, but currently, only 15 of the original 104 columns remain.


Adjacent to the temple is the Arch of Hadrian, an impressive marble arch standing at 18 meters in height, which separated the ancient city (the city of Theseus) from the modern city (the city of Hadrian). It was built in 131 AD in homage to the Roman emperor.


In the same region, it's also worth visiting the Panathenaic Stadium, the venue for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, constructed on the same site where sports competitions called the Panathenaia were held in the 3rd century BC.


Plaka and Surroundings

Situated practically at the foot of the Acropolis, the Plaka neighborhood is a delight to stroll through, enjoy the bars and restaurants, and explore the shops (there's a lot of trinkets and cheap souvenirs, but it's worth rummaging).


Nearby are also the neighborhoods of Anafiotika and Monastiraki, equally pleasant for a daytime or nighttime stroll.


Acrópoles, vista de Plaka. Atenas

Archaeological Museum of Athens

The Archaeological Museum of Athens, founded in the late 19th century, is not only the largest archaeological museum in Greece but also one of the most important museums in the world dedicated to Ancient Greece.


We spent an afternoon there, and surprisingly, the kids were enchanted, particularly with the Egyptian section of the museum. As a mother who loves Greek history and mythology, I was somewhat disappointed at first, but then it hit me: we travel to spark interest in history, culture, beauty, and differences. What better way to initiate these discoveries than with Egyptian mummies?


These are just a few of the main attractions in Athens; there is much more to see and do in the city. Here you can find various other suggestions for tours and activities.


Athens Riviera


The most famous seaside area in Athens, known as the Athens Riviera, encompasses the neighborhoods of Glyfada and Vouliagmeni.


We didn't have time to go, but it seems to be beautiful.



Complete itinerary of our 2 weeks Greek trip


Here is the Google MyMaps map with the detailed itinerary of our 15-day roadtrip through mainland Greece; just click and save it to your Google account. When you plan your next trip to Greece, you'll know where to start ;-)


In this post, I explain how to use Google MyMaps to plan a trip. It's a really useful resource; it's worth checking out!



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