It was a cold November day in my Bucharest when I set off for Athens with one of my best friends, hungry for new and interesting things in a history-packed destination as Athens is. We had planned this escape for some time and in time did a little bit of research on the best things to do in Athens, for us to make the best out of our 2 days in Athens itinerary.
I also need to confide in you and tell you a secret: we’ve also had the help of an “insider”, and let me tell you that’s the best help one could have.
One of my husband’s work colleagues living in Athens was so kind to help us with a list of the best things to do in Athens and places not to miss, including, of course, one of the best places to include in our 2 days in Athens itinerary: the restaurants!
And since I’m so nice, I will share all my secrets with you 🙂
I need to admit that during my research, there was a lot of information lacking from all the articles I’ve come across dealing with Athens, Greece top attractions or things to do and see, thus I hope I will do a better job with my article and help you plan your trip accordingly.
Our 2 days Athens itinerary
Day 1 of the Athens itinerary
Plaka and the streets just below Acropolis
Here is where the magic happens!
Plan your breakfast in this area and choose from one of the many amazing places on display, you won’t regret it.
During the day come here for a stroll on the narrow marble-paved streets flanked by shops on both sides and keep in mind you will have to sacrifice some consistent hours here because you will surely want to step inside all the beautiful colored stores.
Of course, this is the place where you will shop for souvenirs but at the same time, you will allow yourself to get kidnaped by all the people alluring you in their restaurants with their wide diversity of delicious dishes.
Don’t miss out on the great options you will find here for spending time at a coffee (do as the Greeks do, have a coffee for hours), Plaka and the area around Monastiraki is where you will find plenty of restaurants and bars to be enjoyed during your Athens itinerary.
Moreover, don’t feel shy about wondering on Ermou Street – one of the most commercial streets in Athens.
Don’t ignore Kolokotroni Street either, where plenty of coffee places are lined up, or Mitropoleos Street – where in between cafes and pastry shops you will get to see also the Cathedral of Athens.
Oh, and Karagiorgi Serbias Street is where you will find the chocolate heaven!
Once you’ve started the day right with a hearty Greek breakfast and a strong Greek coffee, start your 2 days Athens itinerary with a visit to one of the most important touristic attractions of Greece’s capital: the Acropolis Museum.
The Acropolis Museum has a total area of 25,000 square meters, with exhibition space of over 14,000 square meters. Here is where you will learn everything about archeology and history surrounding the Acropolis and much more.
Opening hours start from 8 AM during summer (April to the end of October), and from 9 AM during the winter season (November to the end of April), while a ticket costs 10 EUR during summer and half of that during the winter season.
Address: 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens 11742
Acropolis of Athens
This is the one thing that comes to mind when thinking about Greece’s capital, it is certainly the most important landmark and something everyone will recognize when seeing a picture. Thus, something to be visited during the first day of your 2 days in Athens itinerary or included in any Athens itinerary.
The Athenians know that and I got the feeling that everything in the city revolves around this: there are a lot of cool rooftop bars overlooking the beautiful ruins, fancy hotels have rooftop restaurants and pools with Acropolis view, the most buzzing and touristic streets will be found at the foot of this hill.
Climbing the hill is a must, not only because the ancient temples are unique and most beautiful, but also because from the top, you will get to have a complete view of Athens.
But don’t rush it, take the time to explore the little streets leading you up because you never know what you will find and if you’re like me, all the cats you’ll meet will make to trip even longer.
Once up the hill, be prepared to fight the crowds.
As usual at tourist places and top attractions, this Athens attraction is also very crowded with people all over the world so be prepared to wait in line for that picture you’ve dreamed about.
Especially if you are visiting Athens on the first Sunday of the month from November to the end of March when you will have free access to all the museums, or on any of the below dates:
- 6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
- 18 April (International Monuments Day)
- 18 May (International Museums Day)
- The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
- 28 October
If you’re not choosing this weekend get ready to pay 20 EUR in Summer (from April to October) and 10 EUR in Winter (from November to end of March).
If you want to skip the lines and get directly in and start climbing the hill all the way up, make sure to purchase your tickets online here before your visit.
Not something many might know about, especially since I’ve understood it is a rather new addition to the list of Athens, Greece attractions, but I’m happy we found it on a Saturday rainy day when we were looking for shelter.
The jewelry museum is rather small but still very interesting (especially for women wink wink) and a good addition to your 2 days in Athens itinerary.
You will find here lots of old pieces ( 4000 to be more exact) inspired by various periods in history and different civilizations. You will also have the chance to see the process of jewelry manufacturing demonstrated live.
The entrance fee is 4 EUR, but if you choose to visit the museum on a Saturday you will have free admission. Please also note that photo taking is not permitted inside the museum.
Address: Kallisperi 12 & Karyatidon Str., Acropolis 11742, Athens, Greece
Parliament and the change of guards
Every day you can get to see the guards changing but the best day to come here for it is Sunday, at 12 p.m. because now is when they do the full version.
Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to get there in time on our Sunday but saw the guards changing at another time.
It was still a cool thing to watch, from their traditional clothes looking like a dress, to their funny shoes and to the way they are supervised by a superior in order for everything to be just perfect, strolling here and spending a few minutes will sure pay off.
Another fun fact I learned about these guards is that no matter what, while on duty, they are not allowed to do anything: move, smile, laugh, not even blink if you can imagine.
Would you be able to do that for 2 hours straight? I sure wouldn’t!
End the first day of your 2 days Athens itinerary at one of the cool rooftop bars in Syntagma Square
Greek people sure know how to enjoy themselves and spend time with their friends and closed ones.
That’s why Athens is a bustling town filled with restaurants and bars, out of which many offer great views from above.
We stopped and had a drink at one of the bars in Syntagma Square, and just looked at the city light up while sipping from our cocktail.
Day 2 of the Athens itinerary
Meat and Fruit Market
We went on a Saturday but don’t feel sad if you’re not in town on a Saturday, the market is open also during the week, but I thought a stroll in the lively market will be an experience worth having on a weekend just before brunch or a coffee in the city center.
Trust me, you won’t miss this Athens attraction and if you are curious to see just how people go on with their daily lives, you should not skip going to the market. Just know that you need to go in the first part of the day and that you will be hit right in the face with a blend of colors, odors, and energy.
The market is very well structured and you will see that they have special areas for meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and spices, but whichever area you choose to visit, you will be welcomed by the loud noises of Saturday shopping.
People going about their daily shopping, people doing the selling part in their best way ever (shouting from the top of their lungs, negotiating, singing, you name it), people bringing new and fresh products stepping on your feet – this is sure one place where manners don’t matter, but where you will surely be won over by the buzz you’ll find here.
Tip: All the streets around the market are filled with all sorts of little stores where you will find anything from painted glass for olive oil to rope ornaments, to graffiti art, just allow yourself to get lost.
Just be sure to do it during daylight and try avoiding Sofokleous Street, nothing bad will happen but we ended up here at around 8 in the evening and were the only girls in a sea of man.
The Flea Market
Not much to say about it, just that you need to give it a tour, especially if you are looking for souvenirs or gifts to bring home.
Temple of Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium
You will see the building of the Olympian Zeus during your visit to the Acropolis if you just know where to look for it. But this archeological site is something else not to exclude from your Athens itinerary.
The temple is dating from 131 AD when Emperor Hadrian finished it and has only 15 out of the 104 Corinthian columns it originally had.
The Panathenaic Stadium is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble, and it was first built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic Games.
Later on, the stadium was excavated and refurnished in 1869, and it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896.
Kolonaki – the posh area
I have to admit this was one of my favorite areas in Athens, not very far from the center, right behind Syntagma Square on the left side, you will step into a whole different world.
Here is where you’ll find all the embassies, posh shops and of course a lot of restaurants and places where you can go out for a coffee.
Places on hills, you will have to climb many sets of stairs or take the steep roads, but trust me you won’t feel a thing because you will be busy observing your surroundings.
Sunset and a glass of wine on Lycabettus
If you took my advice and went in Kolonaki, just by walking around you will most probably run into the Funicular that climbs up on the Lycabettus Hill.
And if you’re here, don’t think too much and hop on, especially if it’s close to sunset, the 7 EUR for a round trip will sure pay off. You should know also that the funicular runs every 30 min and on top, you’ll find a bar, a restaurant and a small church that also hosts weddings (there was one actually when we went).
If you go for sunset, the view will be absolutely stunning and you can treat yourself with a glass of wine with a view, just be aware that you will most certainly find a crowd waiting for the same thing as you.
You’re in Greece, don’t forget that! And of course, the food here is divine and the portions are huge, so you don’t have to worry about being hungry.
Gyros, Tzaziki, Souvlaki, baked feta cheese, Greek yogurt with honey, baklava, and the list could go on and on. There is one thing I can guarantee: you will come back home heavier 😉
Where to eat in Athens?
- Thanasis Kebab – really traditional, simple and delicious food. The staff is also fun and will be more than happy to help you take a picture or two. Here is where I’ve learned that when you order souvlaki, you don’t have to say it, the kind of meat is enough (pork, chicken, mix).
- Bairaktaris Taverna – always crowded, packed with people in the search for a fresh and delicious souvlaki
- Maiandros – we found this by chance and we were so so lucky to stumble upon it just before lunchtime when it got really crowded
- Hans & Gretel – this place is MAGIC! You won’t miss it because it’s so colorful and fun, and moreover, it smells amazing. Here is where you will find all the sweets you can handle!
Where to stay in Athens?
The best place to choose in town is, of course, Novotel Athenes. Only a 15 min walking distance from the city center and a few minutes away from 3 metro stations, the location offers great room and an even greater rooftop pool, bar, and restaurant.
Don’t be fooled by its surroundings who really don’t look that amazing (but hey, all streets look the same right?), once you’ll step inside you’ll be swept away by the buzziness and the bright cool design.
We had a lovely spacious and bright room at the 6th floor, perfectly fit for two persons, the only thing I found, let’s say different, was the fact that the bathroom’s door was made of two smaller glass doors which were not sealed, but at the end of the day, we did not have any issue with that cool design.
Apart from the big fluffy bad, the best part of our stay at the Novotel Athenes was our window view, who wouldn’t want to go to sleep with the bright lights in mind, only to wake up to see the beautiful Acropolis and enjoy a hearty Greek breakfast (trust me, you’ll be in difficulty when having to choose what to eat first)? I sure enjoyed it!
- If you are planning a longer stay, pack also some gym clothes, since the hotel offers access to a great gym area located on the 7th floor perfectly overlooking the city
- If you’re traveling with children please be aware that children under 16 years old can share the room with you at no additional cost. Moreover, breakfast is included as well and you don’t have to worry about the cost, while on Sunday you can prolong your stay and check out until 5 p.m.
- You can do your check-in online before arriving at the hotel
If, however, you are looking for other options on where to stay in Athens, I would always choose the central area, from where everything is accessible and within walking distance, or Kolonaki.
A few other options on where to stay in Athens
Stays in Kolonaki:
- Cutie by Stylish Stays – yes, it’s an apartment but that’s what you will mostly find in Kolonaki area mainly because this is a residential area. This place has a small balcony where you can drink your morning coffee.
- COCO-MAT Hotel Athens – a small hotel with a garden and a rooftop terrace from where you can see the beautifully lightened Acropolis. If you plan your trip in advance you can find rooms for as low as 100 USD per night.
- Soho Apartments – stylish spacious apartments, in the heart of Kolonaki, at a reasonable price.
- Periscope Hotel – a 4* hotel in the heart of one of the poshest areas in Athens. Watch the sunset over Athens from the outdoor SPA tub.
Stays in Plaka or central Athens:
- GK Athens – let’s start with the budget option because as you might imagine getting a small price in the heart of Athens can get a bit tricky.
- Best Western Plus Amazon Hotel – with a bit more rooms to choose from, but still in an affordable price range and walking distance to the main attractions on your 2 days in Athens itinerary
- Athens Gate Hotel – from this hotel, you won’t even need to walk to one of Athens’ top attractions, because you’ll have it below your window. I’ll just let you discover which one I’m talking about.
- COCO-MAT Athens BC – another hotel with stunning views, just a 7-minute walk from the Acropolis, with a SPA and a rooftop terrace.
- King George, a Luxury Collection Hotel – I’ve saved the best for last! Because this is the best you could get in Athens!
More time to spend in Athens? Here are some other destinations to add to your Athens Itinerary
Kifissia – escaping the city
Not that Athens is not a lovely city and you will need a break from it, but this little place is totally different and you will like it so much you will want to spend a day here. Kifissia is actually an extension of Athens, in its Northern part and you can get here by taking the metro and getting off at the end of line 1.
What to do here you ask? Well, nothing much, just relax, walk around the city, admire the beautiful houses, enjoy a luscious meal and in the evening go out for a perfect cocktail in one of the many cool bars out there.
Just below Acropolis, the Anafiotika neighborhood is one of the best well-kept secrets of Athens.
The streets are not packed with tourists and the houses’ architecture will make you feel in a true Greek island, filled with cats and simple but typical Greek homes.
How to get to Anafiotika? Just follow Vyronos Street from Plaka district and you’ll find yourself in the heart of traditional Greece. Your final destination should be the Agios Georgios church.
Go to a beach from Athens
Even though Athens is not a beach destination, that does not mean that you cannot escape to one of the beaches nearby for a few hours when you have 3 days in Athens or even more.
If you want to feel the true Greek life, head to one of the below beaches, sit back and relax:
Maybe not what you were imagining when matching Greece and beach together, but Glyfada is still the longest strip of public beach near Athens.
If you don’t feel like staying at the beach, just come here to the marina and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants close to the sea.
Get here by tram from Athens city center.
Choose to stay in Glyfada? Here are some options:
- Glyfada Riviera Hotel – just a 4 minutes walk from the beach, offering stunning views and rooftop jacuzzi and a pool, this is the only 5* hotel in Glyfada beach
- Sea View Hotel – looking for a more affordable option that will still offer pool access and terraces with stunning views? This is the place for you!
- Fenix Hotel – family-friendly, only an 8-minute walk to the beach, and with a beach.
Vouliagmeni beach and lake
Just 20 km away from Athens, which will be just a short taxi drive from the heart of Greece’s capital, Vouliagmeni is where you’ll find fancy private beaches but also a beautiful lake.
Here are a few of the beaches you could choose from, and maybe you can stay overnight and enjoy an early morning on the beach:
Astir Beach or Akti Vouliagmenis Beach
- Seaside Secret by BluPine – on the lower range of the budget, but with a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea, the place is pleasant for a getaway from Athens or a prolonged stay.
- Somewhere Boutique Hotel Vouliagmeni – a 5* affordable boutique hotel, with an infinity pool and jacuzzi with amazing views. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that?
- Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens – I honestly don’t think I need to say more. If you really want to feel like your 2 days in Athens itinerary escape was complete, add at least one extra night and live it to the fullest.
Visit an island close to Athens
Why not board a boat from Athens’ main port Piraeus and head on for a day trip from Athens to one of the islands close to Greece’s capital?
You can always take a cruise from Athens and here is a complete cruise guide
I chose a list of islands where you can get in around 1 to 2 hours on the boat, and where you can enjoy Greek island life for a day:
- Hydra – only 90 minutes away from Athens and such an amazing island
- Kea – the closest Cycladic island only 2 hours away from Athens
- Aegina – the closest island to Athens and will take you only 45 minutes to get there
- Poros – one of the loveliest island close to Athens with a commuting time between 55 minutes and 2 hours and 40 minutes depending on the boat
- Spetses – the island where cars are forbidden and your little beach paradise 2 to 3 hours away from Athens.
Other useful facts to have for your Athens Itinerary
Getting from the airport to the city
You will have 3 options to choose from with prices for all pockets:
- the bus – line X95 will take you straight to the city center, having its last stop in Syntagma Square, right in front of the Parliament. A ticket will cost you 6 EUR one way, you can pay by card but be sure to say that in advance.
- the metro – not offering you the possibility of admiring the city but maybe a bit faster than the bus, even though you need to change trains at Piraeus – wait on the same line. It will cost you 10 EUR one way and 18 EUR if you are 2 persons; site checks this for more information on timetables and maps.
- the taxi – the fastest and most direct way of traveling, coming of course with an additional cost, reaching almost 50 EUR from the airport to the city center.
If you can, try avoiding Omonia Square, Eksarxeia and Vathis Square in the evening – nothing will happen to you (as we crossed Omonia several times in the evening), but the streets won’t be really nice to see and you might not feel safe.
When to visit Athens?
Well, almost any time since the climate is very mild and they rarely have snow.
But I guess October – November and during Spring would be my choices, since the city is not that hot nor crowded.
Pin for later!