Last Updated on January 21, 2022 by Thalia
Last week, I was back in Athens for a few days for a change of scenery, change of pace and a change of cuisine.
So I thought I would dedicate this week’s blog post to the beautiful city of Athens and share with you the top things to do, see and where to eat while you’re there.
From close-up, Athens doesn’t seem like anything spectacular.
A little bit run-down with graffiti markings in most places, and buildings that need a paint job, the city might seem a little underwhelming.
But spend a couple of days in Athens and you’ll see the magic.
Athens is a city that is bustling during the day with lively coffee shops. But it is also a city that continues to stay alive at night with restaurants that stay open late, crowded bars and entertaining nightlife.
This is a city where locals mingle with tourists.
A city that boasts modern and Ancient architecture and is dominated by the stunning Parthenon that lies atop the Acropolis.
I love the fact, that in most places in the city you can see the Acropolis. Walk down the narrow, cobbled streets offering token souvenirs… look up and there it is.
So whether you stay in Athens for a few days, a week or longer, you will never run out of things to do, things to see or places to eat.
Table of Contents
What to do in Athens
Whenever I first arrive in a city I like to do a walking tour.
If I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll choose to go mega-tourist and do an open bus tour.
Doing something like this helps me to ground my feet and get a good sense of the place.
The centre of Athens isn’t particularly large so I would say everywhere is accessible on foot, and unless you want to get stuck in traffic I would choose a walking tour.
Me and John used Athens Free Walking Tour and our guide, George, was an archaeologist so we learnt a lot about Ancient Greece and the start of the modern city in 1840.
During this walking tour, we went to places we had not seen before including The National Library and the Academy of Athens (University).
The next thing to do is to go shopping on Ermou (the Oxford Street of Athens) or get lost down the many delightful streets of Plaka.
And don’t forget to stop for souvlaki at lunchtime!
If you ask me, Greek people can’t f**k up souvlaki.
So wherever you choose to grab lunch or dinner, you know it’s going to be good.
A walk up Filopappou hill for an unforgettable view of the city and Acropolis is also a must-do when you are in Athens.
And make it extra special by going for sunset.
Just be careful on the way back down as it gets darks quickly and there are no lights in the area so bring a torch!
When in Athens at night, a rooftop bar for sunset drinks is an absolute must.
The Parthenon lit up at night is one of the most stunning views I have ever seen!
So if you find yourself in Athens at night, do not skip having drinks at a rooftop bar.
Watch the sun go down among a sea of white buildings that soon turn to pink with a horizon full of colour.
Pair it with an Aperol spritz and have an evening to remember.
There are a range of rooftop bars in Athens to check out, my favourites being:
1. a for athens
Not only does A For Athens have a view of the Parthenon but also Monastiraki square.
Higher than the other rooftop bars in the area, it has two levels of seating to choose from.
Always head up to the top floor for uninterrupted views!
2. 360 cocktail bar
I went to 360 Cocktail Bar for the first time this year and it did not disappoint.
Although the rooftop is lower down than A For Athens you still get a stunning view of the Acropolis.
It’s also important to note, that they have a bigger seating area so if A For Athens is ever full, make 360 your second choice!
3. electra metropolis athens
Electra Metropolis was the first rooftop bar me and John visited on our first trip together to Athens in 2019.
So, of course, it is one of my favourites!
The roof garden belongs to a hotel so is slightly more expensive than the other rooftop bars but you get to see the Acropolis from the front and side making it a spectacular view.
What to see in Athens
Where do I even begin with this one?!
There is so much to see in Athens and the surrounding area!
Ancient ruins are scattered all over the city, nestled in between famous landmarks and busy streets. So I highly recommend walking everywhere to really take it all in.
Here are a few must-see stops to visit while you’re in Athens:
1. The Acropolis Museum
Start your day at the Acropolis Museum.
I’ve been to this museum twice and absolutely love it! Hands down it is probably the best museum I’ve been to, and I’m not being biased.
It is full of amazing artefacts that date back to 500 BC.
Once you’ve finished inside, head outside to marvel at the ancient city that sits below the modern glass floor.
And for a cheeky view of the Parthenon head to their café for a morning snack and coffee.
2. The Parthenon
The Acropolis Museum is right opposite the Parthenon so why not head there next before getting caught in the mid-day sun.
(Unless you want to leave this until sunset which I highly recommend).
On your way up to the top make sure you take a moment to marvel at the marvellous Ancient Theatre of Dionysus.
Grand in scale and still heavily intact, it’s the perfect place to stop for a picture.
The Parthenon is one of my all-time favourite landmarks.
And once you make it up the stairs through the monumental gateway, you’ll see why.
Yes, it is currently covered in scaffolding (due to an ongoing restoration project) but it is still so fascinating to see a temple that was built in the 5th century still standing.
Honestly, pictures don’t do it justice.
Take a walk around and be amazed by the Ancient ruins, most notably the Porch of the Caryatids, The Sanctuary of Zeus and the Temple of Athena Nike.
And of course, don’t forget to marvel at the view of the white city down below.
And if you do decide to stay until sunset, walk around slowly and head back to the Propylaea just us the sun dips for the most magical horizon and view.
Once you head down from the Parthenon, hop across to the Areopagus Hill right next door for a different view.
3. The Ancient Agora
Once you exit the Parthenon turn right and walk all the way around it until you get to the entrance of the Ancient Agora.
Wander around and admire the hub of ancient Greek civilization. The Agora was the place where the Ancient Greeks, mainly men, would hang out, shop and discuss politics.
The Ancient Agora boasts the most well-kept and intact temple in Athens. Built roughly at the same time as the Parthenon, the Temple of Hephaestus is still standing in all its original glory.
4. Monastiraki Square
Next, head to Monastiraki square. One of the oldest and busiest areas in Athens. Save the rooftop bar until sunset and instead browse the flea market.
You might find something that catches your eye.
5. Syntagma Square, Hellenic Parliament and the Monument of the Unknown Solider
From Monastiraki square, walk all the way up Ermou to Syntagma square. Here you will find the Hellenic Parliament building and Monument of the Unknown Soldier.
Make sure you hang around to see the changing of the guards in traditional dress.
6. The Presidential Palace and National Gardens
On your way to the National Gardens for a short rest, take a detour past the Presidential Palace to see some more guards in traditional dress!
Once in the National Gardens sit down, rest your feet and look up. The gardens contain over 500 types of plants and trees from all over the world to keep you busy.
7. The Temple of Olympian Zeus
End your walking tour by strolling through the National Gardens and ending up at the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Although most of the columns have collapsed and the ones remaining are kept up in scaffolding, this site is still a pivotal location to visit.
Also quick note to add that on the 1st Sunday of every month from November to March all museums and Ancient sites are free.
So if you find yourself in Athens on one of these Sundays, make sure you take full advantage!
Where to eat in Athens
I’ve been to a number of restaurants in Athens, and I can’t begin to mention every single one so I will try and keep this section short and note down the ones that stuck out to me the most.
1. modern greek
One of my favourite restaurants to visit in Athens this time round was Dopios.
A little bit on the pricier side this eatery is all about the small plates. Traditional Greek dishes but with a twist. I 100% recommend trying the shrimp popcorn, braised octopus in fava with truffle oil, the marinated anchovies and spicy cheese foam with sour cherry.
Oh, and make sure you get the chocolate mousse for dessert.
2. Traditional Greek Food
For hearty traditional Greek food head to Makrigianni Street next to the Acropolis Museum and you’ll find a range of restaurants.
It’s in the more touristy area but you can’t go wrong with fried calamari, greek salad, Lamb Kleftiko and homemade moussaka.
As I said, it’s extremely hard to eat a bad meal in Athens.
Athena on the same street also offers sit-down souvlaki with a great view of the Parthenon as you eat.
3. Asian Cuisine
Aside from the traditional Greek tavernas, Athens has a great Asian food scene.
And definitely check out Gaku for a more fine dining sushi experience with incredible flavours and exotic cocktails.
If you do end up going here you must get the octopus leg with wasabi mayo and kimchi. Probably the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten!
4. Brunch spots
If like me, you’re a digital nomad and need a chilled place to work from your laptop then head to Kinono.
It offers a wide selection of hot and cold drinks as well as delicious brunch dishes (vegan too).
It’s relatively quiet, the staff don’t mind that you work and the music offering is cool electro beats.
Athens holds a special place in my heart.
I came here frequently as a kid thanks to my dad living close to the city.
My first full memory of being in Athens was when I came here with my best friend Sophie in 2007 when we were just 16.
I then went back quite a few years later when I was 25. I remember going to A For Athens for the first time and saw the Parthenon lit up at night just oozing beauty.
From that moment, I just knew Athens was going to be my favourite city.
Athens was also the first city I arrived at in Europe after spending a year abroad in South America.
It was also the first destination that me and John visited after the infamous lockdown of 2020.
And it was in October of that same year that John got down on one knee on the top of the Acropolis and proposed.
So yes, Athens has played a very special part in my life and continues to do so.
And I want to share my love of this city with you.
So the next time you are stuck on where to visit or want to escape your home for a weekend, then I can’t recommend Athens enough.
As soon as you arrive you’ll wonder why it took you so long to visit.
Fall in love with the ancient ruins, fall in love with the culture and fall in love with the food.
Until next week,
♡ Thalia xx
N.B – All pictures that appear in this post were taken by me between 2019 and 2021. They have been edited in Adobe Lightroom.