You will definitely need a well-planned itinerary for Athens if your time in Greece is limited. Wondering how much time to spend in the city? The answer is, at least two days. Of course, you will not be able to see everything, but forty-eight hours is enough to explore all must-sees like the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, and a few more. With a solid itinerary, you will even be able to slow down and relax at the vibrant local neighborhood of Plaka and Monastiraki. This post will help you plan your visit from the moment you arrive, including suggestions on where to stay and what to see and do in Athens.
ITINERARY FOR ATHENS, GREECE – WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN TWO DAYS
Let’s start with the fact that two days for Antens is not a lot, especially if you are interested in history. With that said, if you want to see just highlights, a two-day visit will be enough. Still, you need a good plan. Last time I visited, I was with a friend, and we had just two days to explore. It was the first time for her, so I wanted to show her as much as possible. My itinerary really worked for our needs, and therefore I feel confident sharing it. Hopefully, it will satisfy your needs as well.
Before you arrive
Plan to be in Athens on Sunday to witness the ceremonial Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guards in Athens takes place every Sunday morning at 11 AM. People gather in Syntagma Square to watch the official changing of the guard in front of the Hellenic Parliament.
Buy skip- the- line tickets in advance
Plan what you want to see in Athens well in advance and purchase entry tickets online, especially if you are visiting in high season. Try for the first entry of the day before tours arrive, it gets really crowded later in a day.
Arriving in Athens, Greece
I scheduled our visit to Athens after a spring visit to Santorini. We took a very early flight and arrived around 8 AM. There are many ways to get to the Athens city center from the airport, but we decided to take a taxi. Why taxi? Because it takes you where you need to go, to your hotel’s door. No need to drag your bags on the street, no need to figure out how the public system works, and fewer chances of being pickpocketed. (In Athens, just like in many other European cities, pickpocketing is an issue). Do not get distracted at the airport by people offering transportation, those options are expensive. Go straight to the formal taxi stop. The rates are fixed from the airport to the city center – around 40 Euros. In my opinion, a taxi would also work best if you arrive by ferry, bus station, or train.
Uber in Athens, Greece
Officially, Uber doesn’t exist in Greece, but you can request and pay for a taxi in Athens with the Uber app. The taxi drivers use the app like all other Uber drivers. You can use Uber to ride from the Athens International Airport (ATH) to your hotel and back.
Itinerary for Athens, Greece – Where to Stay
Definitely stay in the city center in order to reach all major attractions on foot. An excellent location will save you a lot of time. And when I am saying the city center, I mean right by the Acropolis. Surprisingly, the rates are not outrageous.
Airotel Parthenon – Athens, Greece
We stayed at Airotel Parthenon. I strongly recommend it for many reasons. You cannot beat its location, just a 5-minute walk to Acropolis and Plaka but hidden away from the main traffic. Many other city’s attractions are within walking distance too, including the Acropolis Museum. We paid around $100 per night, and that included a superb breakfast buffet. The staff was accommodating, and the rooms were clean. Since we arrived early, we left our bags at the hotel and went out to explore the city.
Itinerary for Athens, Greece – Day One
Morning – the Acropolis of Athens
- wear proper shoes, rubber soles preferably, to navigate very slippery marble stone
- bring a sun hat, there is no shade during the climb
- bring lots of water, the climb is steep, you will get tired quickly
The sites on the Acropolis include the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a Roman stone theater located on the southwest slope. For the best experience, make sure to learn how to visit the Acropolis and Parthenon.
On the way to Parthenon, stop to see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Afternoon – Monastiraki Flea Market
If you have any legs left, head to Monastiraki Flea Market. It is a beautiful walk to get there. You will get to see the Acropolis from every angle. I suggest the market is not necessary for shopping but more for its melting pot atmosphere. If you are familiar with Canal Street in New York City, the Monastiraki is similar. Lots of cheap stuff but the fun area to explore. Many locals there too.
Evening – explore Plaka in Athens, Greece
Located on narrow hilly streets next to the Acropolis, Plaka district burst with life, especially during the summer when locals venture there for their late dinner. At 10 PM, you will get to observe three-generation families dining together, including small children. Outdoor dining takes over every little nook of the ara, and music is playing everywhere. Those evenings at Plaka feel like a celebration of life.
Plaka restaurants are touristy, but it does not always mean bad food. Spot the places where the locals eat, chances are that food would be more authentic there. If you want more than a good dinner, you will find many restaurants providing live entertainment. Of course, many of them are targeting visitors, but I do not see anything wrong with it. Obviously, locals are not breaking their plates every time they go out or dance to Zorba music. We, the tourists, crave those traditional shows, and Plaka delivers.
Itinerary for Athens, Greece – Day Two
Start early to make your way up towards the Syntagma Square for the ceremonial changing of the guards.
The Arch of Hadrian
This triumphal arch is not even a five-minute walk from Airotel Parthenon. The construction of this temple started in 131 BC to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and to thank him for his benefactions for the city.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Proceed to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, that was once an impressive construction made entirely of white marble. The monument used to have 104 Corinthian columns. Nowadays, only 15 remain standing.
The Panathenaic Stadium
The stadium was made entirely of white marble in 144 AD. In the nineteenth century, it was uncovered and rebuilt. It hosted the first contemporary Olympics in 1896.
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard ceremonies take place at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just off Syntagma Square below the Hellenic Parliament. The Evzones, special unit of the Hellenic Army, provide a 24-hour honor guard with an hourly sentry change.
Every Sunday morning at 11 AM, people gather in Syntagma Square to watch the official changing of the guards. Arrive early to secure a good spot.
The National Archaeological Museum
After the changing of the guard, take a walk to the National Archaeological Museum to get to know the city, but if you are low on time or desire, take a taxi/Uber. You will find many exciting exhibitions at the museum, including the Prehistory Collection, the Sculpture Collection, the Vase, Minor Objects Collection, and the Metallurgy Collection. The museum also houses a varied art collection from Ancient Egypt.
If the weather allows, award yourself with an upscale dinner or just a drink at one of the many rooftop restaurants and bars in Athens. During my solo visit years ago, I stayed at Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Athens and loved its dining with a view arrangement. It was a fantastic experience worth a few extra bucks.
If you have more than two days, expand your itinerary for Athens with 25 things to do in Athens.
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