Visiting Athens: The Complete Guide

Visiting Athens: The Complete Guide

A local expert shares his best tips on what to do and see during a vacation in Athens.

Rich in history, brimming with life and with stories to tell, Athens is perfect for a cultural holiday and a good starting point for exploring the surroundings. This Greek capital truly has a lot to offer and is a destination that caters to all types of travelers.

In 1896 the first modern Olympic Games was held here. What better time to visit the city than during its XXXIII edition? Even if this year it will be hosted in Paris.

To discover how to best organize your trip we interviewed a local expert, Adam Gore, Service Delivery Manager for TUI Musement.

Originally from Cardiff, United Kingdom, Adam has been living in Greece for three years and regularly visits Athens for work and pleasure.

He loves the city’s diverse range of activities, which perfectly combine culture and nightlife, as well as its proximity to beautiful beaches.

Keep reading to find out the best things to do and see in Athens:

Best things to do in Athens

For families

  • The XPLORE Entertainment Centre, half an hour from the city center, is a fun stop for those traveling to Athens with children. It’s an educational park where you can spend hours exploring various topics. The little ones can learn about the human body, dinosaurs, physics, oceans, and much more interactively, playfully, and adventurously. One of the highlights of the park is the ocean area, where over 2,000 fish, sharks, rays, crabs, and other aquatic animals coexist.
  • A visit to the Museum of Greek Children’s Art is a family-friendly experience. Founded in 1994, the museum is one of the few in the world entirely dedicated to exhibiting drawings and handmade works created by children aged 5 to 14. Admire together the 7,000 works of art or participate in one of the many workshops.
  • While you’re visiting the museum, don’t miss the Plaka neighborhood, the oldest in Athens, where children will appreciate its car-free streets. The colorful houses, scents, tranquility, and traditional shops offer a pleasant escape from the bustling city center.
  • Feeling hungry after all the walking and exploring in Plaka? Then take the kids to Little Kook. This café is extravagantly decorated, changing with each season, and feels like you’re stepping into a fairy tale. Here, you can enjoy delicious pastries and pancakes in a place your children will surely love.

For culture enthusiasts

  • Acropolis of Athens: The city’s iconic landmark must be on your list of things to visit in Athens, especially for the most famous monument in the complex, the Parthenon. Wake up early in the morning and prepare for a beautiful climb to the top of the hill that houses this UNESCO World Heritage site. After the visit, continue your exploration of Ancient Greece at the Acropolis Museum, which houses hundreds of artifacts.
  • Odeon of Herodes Atticus: An ancient amphitheater perched on the slope of the Acropolis. Although you can admire it from above, it’s not usually accessible for visits except during events and concerts. Check the scheduled events, and if you have the chance, seize the opportunity to attend a show in this truly special place.
  • Ancient Agora of Athens: At the foot of the Acropolis, you’ll find the excavations of the ancient political, social, and administrative center of the city, dating back to the 2nd century BCE. Among the must-see stops are the Agora Museum and the Temple of Hephaestus.
  • Archaeological Museum of Athens: Another must-see for history lovers, this museum houses numerous artifacts from Ancient Greece, including the famous Head of Zeus and the gold masks. A fascinating visit that guides you through the different civilizations of Greece.
  • Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion: Just over an hour’s drive from the city center, Cape Sounion is a fascinating place steeped in myths and legends. It’s said that King Aegeus jumped into the sea here in despair, giving the Aegean Sea its name. It’s a great option for a day trip from Athens, especially for the scenic Temple of Poseidon, which is particularly beautiful at sunset and sunrise.
  • Mount Lycabettus: At 277m high, Lycabettus is the highest hill in Athens. It’s a popular tourist spot thanks to the beautiful views and the panorama that can be admired from the summit. Accessible by funicular, you can enjoy a lunch or dinner with a view of the Acropolis and visit the 19th-century Chapel of St. George at the top.
  • Panathenaic Stadium: In this special year for sports, a visit to the Olympic Stadium of Athens is a must. The first modern Games were held here in 1896. It’s located on the site of the historic stadium built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic Games, a religious festival held every four years in honor of the goddess Athena.


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For foodies

Greece is a paradise for those who love cuisine and good food. In Athens, various gastronomic events are held throughout the year, including the Food Expo in March and the Athens Street Food Festival in May. A great option for exploring the city and discovering local flavors is to join a food tour or book a traditional cooking class.

Visit the Musement site to browse available tours and activities


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Where to watch the sunrise and sunset in Athens

We asked Adam for his favorite spots to watch the sunset and sunrise and he told us the best sunsets are those with a view of the Acropolis. To the west of the site is the Hill of the Areopagus, where people gather to watch the sunset with a view of the monument. The best spot for photos is next to the ticket office. According to Adam, the Acropolis also offers one of the best views of the rest of the city. If you’re an early riser (or a night owl) and want to see the sunrise, it’s best to be near the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion; beautiful photos are guaranteed.


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Eating in Athens: Typical products and dishes

Lunches and dinners in Athens are not just pit stops but sensory experiences. Some must-try dishes include moussaka, a savory eggplant and ground meat casserole, dolmadakia, stuffed vine leaves, and saganaki, pan-fried cheese. For a quick and delicious lunch, don’t miss souvlaki and the ubiquitous pita gyro. Among the desserts, loukoumades (fried dough balls with honey and cinnamon) and baklava (phyllo pastry sweets) are perfect after a meal. Finally, to start your day or as a refreshment at any time, try the various types of iced coffee, including the beloved frappé.


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The best beaches near Athens

There’s nothing better than combining a city vacation with a few days at the beach; Athens does this very well. Although the city is not directly on the sea, you can easily reach the most beautiful beaches. Here are some of Adam’s favorites:

  • Vouliagmeni: About a 45-minute drive from the capital, it’s ideal for a day trip. It’s surrounded by greenery with crystal-clear water. There’s an entrance fee, but it includes a sunbed and umbrella. Also visit Vouliagmeni Lake when you’re there.
  • Voula: A bit closer to Athens, this beach is easily accessible by public transport. There’s also an entrance fee. A convenient beach in a beautiful setting.
  • Kape: Near Cape Sounion, this pebble beach is over an hour from the city center and is worth the trip. Being a relatively hidden gem, there are no facilities. A long staircase leads to the shore.
  • Sounion: Located below the Temple of Poseidon, this sandy beach is a favorite for those who love Greece. There is an entrance fee (quite expensive), but it covers a full day with sunbeds, umbrellas, parking, and services.

Best time to travel to Athens

Athens is a city rich in activities, events, and tourist attractions, so it’s always a good time to visit. However, keep in mind that summers here are very hot, with average highs exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in August and reaching up to 40 degrees at its hottest. If you want to visit and walk a lot, consider cooler times of the year for your trip.

Events in Athens not to miss

  • Rockwave Festival: One of the largest music festivals in Greece, it’s held in Malakasa, not far from Athens, between late June and early July. The lineup includes artists of various musical genres, from jazz to rock to classical music.
  • This is Athens – City Festival: A festival that involves the whole city of Athens during the month of May. The program is very rich and varied, ranging from concerts to picnics, skateboarding competitions to temporary exhibitions. The aim is to invite residents and tourists to explore the city beyond the Acropolis and discover new places that will remain in their hearts.
  • Athens – Epidaurus Festival: An annual festival dedicated to performing arts held between June and August. The program features high-level artists and theater companies, both local and international, ranging from musicals to concerts. Today the festival is hosted in various theaters and locations in the city, including the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus.

Practical tips

  • When packing, remember to bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a light sweater for the evening, and comfortable walking shoes.
  • Avoid wearing very revealing clothing if you plan to visit monasteries.
  • It’s customary for tourists to leave a tip of 1 or 2 euros in cafes and 10/15% in restaurants.
  • Remember not to throw toilet paper in the toilet. Greek plumbing is quite narrow and there is a risk of clogging. Instead, throw the toilet paper in the bin next to the toilet.


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Adam also shared his insider tips for visiting Rhodes; check out his guide.

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