Do you have Athens on your travel list for this year? If so, you’re in for a treat. The city of Athens is home to many attractions from different eras. It has also been the capital of Greece for years and a popular tourist destination with a large influence on all cultures. So, whether you are visiting Greece for the first time or an experienced traveler, there is plenty to see and do. In this article, I will share with you the 17 top tourist attractions in Athens. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you check them out
1. National Archaeology Museum
I start my list of Athens Top Attractions with the National Archaeology Museum because it is my personal favorite, and I can’t wait to write about it.
This museum is one of the world’s largest archaeological museums founded in the 19th century. All of its priceless artifacts were found at different sites throughout Greece. They date back to prehistoric times (which makes up most of the collection). But there are also items here from Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman times too.
The museum features more than 11,000 exhibits, which are divided into five categories. The Prehistoric Collection includes marvelous items from the Neolithic, Paleolithic, and early Bronze Age. The Sculpture Collection has pieces dating back to ancient Greece. Vase and Decorative Objects Collection showcases Greek pottery skills. The Metallurgy Collection features little sculptures made from various metals. And finally, The Stathatos Collection features small sculpted objects, figurines, and pottery that date from 2500BC.
It’s not often that you come across a museum like this with something for everyone. And because of that, I believe that coming here is one of the best things to do in Athens.
2. Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2007, is a modern-style building designed by Swiss-born American architect Bernard Tschumi. It is one of the most important museums in Greece due to its silver metallic structure that pays tribute to classical Greek architecture.
The museum houses about 4,500 artifacts from different periods, including Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times. The most interesting pieces are the Athena statue, Parthenon Frieze, Color the Peplos Kore, Parthenon Gallery, and Athena Nike.
In my personal opinion, coming to this museum is one of the best things to do in Athens. This is because it contains some incredibly beautiful arts that tell us more about how people used to live thousands of years ago. Plus, you get an amazing view of the city from its rooftop.
3. Museum of Cycladic Art
The Museum of Cycladic Art is one of the top tourist attractions in Athens if you’re interested in art and history. It was founded in 1986 by Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris as a gift to both Greece and the world. It’s one of the world’s finest museums devoted to the Cycladic culture, which flourished during the Early Bronze Age.
The fascinating collection of more than 3000 artifacts includes an array of important works dating from the 4th century BC to the 6th century AD. These artifacts were found at numerous ancient sites throughout Greece. Also included are rare examples of paintings, pottery, and figurines from the Cycladic Islands. And just like at other major museums in Athens, there are brilliant educational programs here too!
And because it offers such an interesting insight into how people lived in those times, I believe that seeing this place should be one of your top things to do in Athens. It offers an incredible insight into Greek culture from thousands of years ago.
4. Ancient Agora
Without a doubt, the Ancient Agora is one of Athens’ top attractions, as well as being one of the most important sites from ancient times. It was used as a gathering place since ancient times and hosted markets, workshops, and public buildings. There is not only plenty to see but also lots of activities that one can enjoy such as concerts and festivals.
The Archeological walk is a great experience. You can stroll through the ancient streets and admire the monuments on your way. You can see temples, public buildings, monuments, sculptures, commercial shops, and even a few stairs from the city’s Bouleterion (Senate House). There is also a theater where musical contests took place, and it is one of the most impressive ancient theatres in Greece.
One of the most impressive things about this site is that you can easily see how similar ancient Greek architecture was to Modern Greek architecture since it still has all its original stones. And that is why I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the city’s rich history.
5. National Gardens and the Zappeion
Another great option for seeing Athens is through its National Gardens. More specifically, you should visit the National Garden, the largest public park in the city. The Garden covers an area of 15.5 hectares and features some truly breathtaking sights.
The Garden’s lawns are filled with trees, while blossoming gardens are dotted around each corner. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting during springtime, you’ll get to see this place come alive with flowers and blossoms. In the middle of all this beauty is a large fountain and a statue.
Because of its size and beauty, visiting this place is one of the best things to do in Athens. It’s also very popular among locals who love spending their weekends relaxing in the park.
But if you love history just as much as I do, then the Zappeion will be calling your name too. Dating back to the 1870s, this building has been used for various purposes over time. But now it functions as a conference center and exhibition space.
This is also a very pleasant place to visit and admire the Neo-Classical architecture of this building with its impressive Ionian columns. And it’s even more interesting if you know that the design of the Zappeion was inspired by the design of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. All in all, this historic building is another spot worth seeing in Athens.
Read More: 14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Greece
6. Theatre of Dionysus
The Theatre of Dionysus, which means “The god of merriment and wine,” is the first stone theatre ever built in Athens. It was completed in the late 6th century BC and is one of Athens’ most well-preserved monuments from Ancient Greece.
A total audience capacity of around 17,000 people made this theatre an ideal setting to watch theatrical plays and conduct political business. However, Very little remains today from that glorious past except some marble flooring and parts of a stone orchestra where actors would perform their emotional scenes. There’s also a semi-circle of stone seats arranged in a ‘U’ shape, which are probably the most well-preserved areas of the theatre.
In addition, the Theatre of Dionysus is included in the list of the most important monuments inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Therefore, it much deserved place on my list of top tourist attractions in Athens. And if you’re thinking about coming here, I can tell you that it’s located much closer to Acropolis. So if you like seeing as much as possible during your tour around Athens, I’d recommend combining these two top attractions in one day.
7. Church of the Holy Apostles
Built-in the 10th century, the Church of Holy Apostles was the only building left after demolition to excavate the Agora archaeological site. This church is a great example of Byzantine architecture and a jewel to be admired.
The exterior decoration is distinguished by its ashlar masonry and Byzantine blind arcades. The interior decoration has been partly preserved, with beautiful marble floors and mosaics on the walls. Many of the original frescoes from the Byzantine period have been preserved. The frescos in this church depict Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of All), adorable little cherubim, John the Baptist, and archangels.
My favorite thing about this place is definitely the architecture and the impressive mosaics, which depict all kinds of scenes from early Christianity. Therefore, I think that visiting this place is one of the must-do things in Athens because it’s one of those hidden gems in this beautiful city.
8. Dining and Socializing on Mnisikleous Street Stairs
Even though there are many things to do in Athens, I believe experiencing the city’s lifestyle is something you can’t miss. And one of the best ways to do this is by going out for dinner or drinks with friends on Mnisikleous street stairs.
Mnisikleous Street is a lovely path connecting two of the most popular parts of town: Plaka and Monastiraki. It consists of a few sets of stairs that have cafes, bars, and restaurants located on their sides. These are also some of the most popular spots among the locals who flock here every night to enjoy a drink or two with their friends or just by themselves.
A good thing about this place is that in every one of these places you will be able to enjoy traditional cuisine in a warm environment. You can also find shops selling delicious organic products or fresh vegetables and fruits. Plus, the stairs offer a great view over the city as well as an escape from the busy streets below. So this makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Athens to visit after exhausting daylong walking tours.
9. Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaïc stadium is without a doubt one of the top tourist attractions in Athens, built during the era of Herodes Atticus.
This stadium was built in 335 BC near Acropolis. It used to host all of the Panathenaic Games, which were organized by the city-state of Athens to honor Goddess Athena. In total, about 60,000 spectators could fit inside this stadium at any one time. So its capacity was among the largest for any stadium ever built. However, the stadium was updated around AD 140 with new marble seating to host the first Olympic Games of 1896. Therefore, what you see today is the replica of the original stadium.
And since its construction, it has been used for several other events, including football finals, concerts, etc. It is also said to be one of the few ancient stadiums where people can still sit down on their original seats today. To sum it up, I believe that visiting this place should definitely be one of the top things to do in Athens because of its history and significance.
10. Olympieion: Temple of Olympian Zeus
When you think of Athen’s top attractions worth visiting, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the Acropolis. But did you know that not far from it lies another monument of great historical significance? The structure I am referring to is the Olympieion, which was once a temple dedicated to Zeus but eventually fell into disrepair.
The interesting thing about this place is that it’s actually built over another even older site called Hestia stoa, which dates back to more than six centuries BC. It was used as a sacred meeting place for Athenians until the sixth century AD. As already mentioned, during its glory days, it served as a temple for Zeus and his consort Hera. But now, what we see is just a ruin.
What makes it even more interesting is that you can go inside and explore it. In fact, within this structure, you’ll find only 15 marble columns remaining, parts of the parapet, statues, and friezes. Unfortunately, not everything has survived. But there are enough pieces left to see and imagine what it must have looked like at its best.
11. Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square
For those of you who don’t know what the Changing of the Guard is, it’s a ceremony performed every day at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Athens. It is one of the most popular events in Athens, and it has little to do with tourism, but more to do with tradition.
This small ceremony takes place in front of the Parliament building every day at 11:00 am. When the horn sounds, soldiers from the Presidential Guard go through an impressive display of marching in perfect sync. They are always dressed in their impressive uniforms and hold a certain air of mysticism about them as they stand still, not making a single move during the changeover. The whole ceremony takes about ten minutes, but it is something that everyone should see.
And if you want to go even further, I suggest you visit the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. This monument is dedicated to all the anonymous Greek soldiers who died in wars. All in all, it’s quite an impressive ceremony to see at least once in your lifetime. And I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you plan on coming here.
12. The Plaka District
The Plaka District is the oldest section of Athens, and that’s why it’s also one best tourist attractions in Athens. This District was an important commercial and residential center, especially for foreigners who would study or work in Athens during the 19th century. For this reason, the exteriors of most buildings are neoclassical, with flat roofs and balconies often decorated with Roman and Greek-inspired motifs.
Today, this part of town is full of great examples of charming villages, cobblestone streets, restaurants shaded by grapevines, cheerful little squares, and taverns. And although it may seem chaotic at first glance, you will discover that it is, in fact, pretty and easygoing. It has a special laid-back charm in the evenings when the wide sidewalks become bars for artists who play their guitars. The District’s cafes are also perfect for whiling away several hours over coffee.
And while I think that seeing the Plaka district during the day should be enough, some opt for night tours. But it doesn’t matter if you come here in the morning or the evening: it’ll be as amazing either way. This is definitely one of the most pleasant places in Athens to go, so make sure you visit it.
13. Monastiraki & the Flea Market
Another of the most popular attractions in Athens is also one of its oldest. Monastiraki is the most colorful and interesting neighborhood in Athens, full of life and activity, and home to many shops (from antique clothes stores to jewelry) and cafes.
But today, one of the main attractions here is the ‘Flea Market.’ This market started as a place where people would buy and sell their goods. And now, you can find many different items, ranging from small antiques to clothing, shoes, jewelry, and more. And if you’re hungry, there’s no better place than here. There are also several cafes throughout the market where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere.
My favorite part about visiting Monastiraki is that you will always find something beautiful here, from old photographs to jewelry. In short, this is a place where you will find all sorts of little things to take home with you, which is why it’s one of the best places to visit in Athens.
The flea market is open throughout the week, but Sundays are the busiest. With so much to see and do, you’ll need at least 3 hours to enjoy Monastiraki properly. And while you’re in the area, you might as well take a few moments to admire the beautiful architecture of this charming neighborhood.
14. Philopappos Hill
Another of the most interesting things to do in Athens is visiting Philopappos Hill. This hill, together with Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill, forms the city’s famous ‘trilithon.’ A unique landscape seen nowhere else on earth.
This hill rises 147 meters (482 feet) high with a path that goes all the way to the top of the hill, which is great for hikers.The view from up here is absolutely amazing. On a clear, you can see as far as the Acropolis and the Eagan Sea.
I think that this is a great place to relax and unwind after all those hours spent wandering through the city’s historic sites. It has become one of the most top tourist attractions in Athens for locals as well as tourists who find it an ideal spot to absorb Athenian culture and lifestyle. There are several cafes and restaurants around with live music performances scheduled throughout. And because of that, I recommend visiting this hill during your stay in Athens so you can enjoy this spectacular view.
Next is the Erechtheum, a temple dedicated to Erechtheus, Athena, and Poseidon. It was built between 421 and 406 BC with Pentelic marble. Its design is influenced by the Ionic order from the East and the Doric order from the West.
Visitors to this place can admire the remains of the temple and the six female figures carved on one side of the building. Those figures are called Caryatids. They were sculpted in the early years of the 5th century BC to represent the daughters of the Athenian citizens. The Erechtheum is also worth visiting for its beautiful view over the rest of the Acropolis and Athens.
Today, the Erechtheum is one of the few buildings from the ancient Greek world. It’s a marvel of architecture, and it should definitely be on your to-do list. In addition, the attention given to this monument is not only for its great historical value, but also because it is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that it appeared on this list of top tourist attractions in Athens.
16. Temple of Athena Nike
Following up is the Temple of Athena Nike, another Doric temple. It was built in 421 BC, and it’s not only notable for its structure but also its decorative sculptures on pediments, metopes, frieze, and parapets. It stands on top of a limestone hill in central Athens, and it’s named after the Greek word for victory.
The temple gets its name from the Greek goddess Athena (Nike). This was a popular destination for visitors in ancient times who would leave small offerings to the goddess in gratitude for their military victories. And although it is one of the lesser-known archaeological sites in Athens, it’s still something you should see when you’re around.
17. Byzantine Museum
Last on my list of Top Attractions in Athens is the Byzantine Museum, established to make Byzantium art accessible. It’s also one of the most important museums in Greece and Europe because it houses priceless treasures from Byzantine times.
The museum’s collection of Byzantine art comprises icons, frescoes, mosaics, and other objects dating from the 12th to the 19th century. The exhibits include treasures that were unearthed on Mount Athos and Crete, as well as ones that were given by Orthodox Christians who came to Greece after the population exchange.
The highlight for me was the collection of magnificent mosaics that decorated Byzantine churches. This is because it is very different from what I’m used to seeing and experiencing when it comes to museums. So, it’s definitely a good thing that there are places like this one all around Greece that you can visit.
Athens is a dynamic city that can offer you a great experience when it comes to tourism. I have just presented you with must-visit attractions in Athens. And I can promise you that any of these places is a truly enlightening experience because you’ll get an amazing insight into Greek history. So if this piques your interest, I encourage you to do something about it. And given all this information, I think we can conclude that visiting these places ensures you will have a great time in Athens.