Coming up with a list of the top 10 things to do in Athens was quite a challenge. This is a large, vibrant city with an ancient history. There are so many things to see and do here the mind boggles. Still, despite the plethora of things to do and see in Athens there are a few that are an absolute must, and these few comprise my list of the best attractions in Athens. No matter what your interests are, you will have no trouble finding things to do in Athens. The bigger problem, for those with time constraints, is figuring out which sights and activities to enjoy before moving to the next leg of the journey. Hopefully this list will help you organize your trip, and maximize your activities with the time you have. Here are my picks for the top 10 things to do in Athens:
10 – Monastiraki
For those who love to haggle, check out the Monastiraki Flea Market. Vendors here display a dizzying variety of wares, and if you are looking for a few little treasures to take home, this is a good place to find them. Sunday is the “big” market day, stretching as far as the eye can see. Get there early if you want to be able to move though. By late morning you’ll be packed shoulder to shoulder with deal-seekers.
9 – National Garden
This entry on the list of the top 10 things to do in Athens is actually more of an escape from the city than anything else. Away from the sprawling concrete buildings and the oppressive heat is a tropical refuge. Slow down from the hectic pace of Athens, and take a stroll through the shaded pathways, and visit the turtles and ducks. If you are a nature lover and the hustle and bustle of the teeming streets of Athens is starting to get to you, this is your perfect escape if only for just a couple of hours.
8 – Delphi
Okay, technically not in Athens, but Delphi is so close that it merits a spot on the list of the top 10 things to do in Athens. The site of the ancient Oracle, Delphi holds great historical significance for the people of Greece. Take a bus, rent a car, or make sure a trip to this fabled site is included in your land tour itinerary if booking an organized trip.
7 – Olympic Stadium
This stadium dates back to the 2nd century, was renovated for the 1896 Olympic games, and updated again for the recent 2004 Summer Olympics held in Athens. This is where the Olympic torch relay begins every year, and you should definitely try and squeeze this historic venue in when deciding how to spend your time in Athens.
6 – The Plaka
The entertainment district of Athens is not to be missed and holds a deserving spot at number 6 on the list of the top 10 things to do in Athens. The oldest neighborhood in Athens, in the shadow of the Parthenon, the Plaka features restaurants, museums, and trendy shops alongside local artisans. Definitely a must visit.
5 – National Archeological Museum
A city as steeped in culture and history as Athens is unsurprisingly filled with museums. However, if your time is limited and you can see just one, make sure you pay a visit to the National Archeological Museum. A veritable treasure trove of artifacts dating back millennia, the museum holds some of the greatest artifacts from as far back as the Neolithic era. Truly one of the greatest museums in the world and not to be missed while in Athens.
4 – Athens Central Market
If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen where you are staying in Athens then a visit to the Central Market might rank even higher on the list of the top 10 things to do in Athens. Fish, meats, produce and spices will tempt you as you explore the lively marketplace. For those who prefer to let others do the cooking, the Athens Central Market features many reasonably priced restaurants that will calm your cravings.
3 – Mount Lycabettus
Like great views? Budgeting time for a walk to to the top of Mount Lycabettus is absolutely essential when considering things to do in Athens. If the prospective climb seems too daunting you can always take the train that weaves its way to the top. Once at the summit enjoy the spectacular view, and have a bite to eat in the cafe up there.
2 – The Temple of Poseidon
Though the attractions of contemporary Athens are fun to visit, when considering the top 10 things to do in Athens a premium is placed on the historically significant sites of Ancient Greece. From around the world travelers flock to see these ancient monuments, and the Temple of Poseidon is not to be missed. Not actually located in Athens, it is about an hour’s drive away at Cape Sounion. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, the ruins sit atop a headland and if you stick around until evening you will be treated to one of the most gorgeous sunsets in the world.
1 – The Acropolis
I’m sure no one is surprised that the Acropolis, and more specifically, the Parthenon, sits atop the list of what to see and do in Athens. These ancient ruins date back to the 5th century B.C. and are a monument to the achievements of the people of that ancient culture. Despite partial destruction by the Venetians in the 17th century, much of the Parthenon still stands as an enduring reminder of the accomplishments of the ancient Greeks. If you have only a few hours in Athens, just time enough to do one thing, make sure a visit to the Acropolis is that one thing.
Featured image by Adeel Anwer