Top 10 Places to Visit in Athens, Greece

Here are the landmarks, archaeological sites, and neighborhoods that no one should miss during their trip to Athens.

Mar 22, 2024By Marialena Perpiraki, MSc. Media & Convergence, BA Communication, Media & Culture

places visit athens greece


There is a rumor circulating around flight crews that the most beautiful city from above is no other than Athens. Its hilly landscape features vast olive groves, palm tree-lined coastal avenues, and urban neighborhoods sprawling across the Attican peninsula. The sight is breathtaking. Upon landing, however, visitors are met with a surprising realization: this European capital is profoundly different from the slow-paced, traditional Greek countryside.


There are so many things to see and countless more events to attend. The quirky architecture and urban planning, the growing population that exceeds three million people, and the wide list of “must-sees” can be overwhelming. To save you some time, here is a curated list of the top ten places to visit in Athens (also read this article for our list of Athens’ must-visit museums).


1. The Acropolis Hill

Monastiraki square and the Acropolis Hill, Athens, Jimmy Teoh, Source: Pexels


Although Athens has at least seven hills of historical significance, the most prominent is the Acropolis — the acro (high) of the polis (city). The limestone rock is more than a citadel. Since antiquity, it has been a major religious site and the epicenter of the infamous Periclean building program.


Taking place during Greece’s classical era, the program involved the construction of marvelous temples made of Pentelic marble. The temples were dedicated to ancient Greek deities, with the most prominent one, the Parthenon, being associated with the goddess Athena, the patroness of the city. Other temples include but are not limited to the Erechtheion, the Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus, and the Temple of Athena Nike.

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The Acropolis: the Propylaea and the temple of Athena Nike. Athens, circa 1930, Nelly’s, Source: Benaki Museum


Today, the Acropolis Hill is one of the most popular archaeological sites in Greece. Although it is no longer an active site for religious ceremonies, it stands as a symbol of Greece’s Classical Era. After all, Athens is known as the “cradle of Western civilization”, and its main landmark, the Parthenon, stands as a universal symbol of the ideas and values of the West.


Thesion and Acropolis, Gallinas Angelos, 1895, Source: Greek National Gallery


Situated at the heart of the city, the Acropolis Hill can be reached by following the iconic Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, near the Acropolis Museum and the Acropolis metro station. Children under five and young European citizens can enter the site for free, whereas regular tickets cost around 20€, depending on the season. On certain Sundays and selected dates, all visitors can enter the sight for free.


2. Plaka and Anafiotika 

Athenian coffee-house during the 1956 parliamentary election. Athens, 1956 Dimitris A. Harissiadis, Source: Benaki Museum


Surrounding the Acropolis Hill, visitors can find two of the most picturesque neighborhoods of Athens. The streets and low-rise houses of Plaka and Anafiotika are commonly found on postcards from Athens. Thanks to the limited car access to the area, both neighborhoods offer a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Although their names are often used interchangeably to describe the northeastern area surrounding Acropolis Hill, the two neighborhoods have their own distinct character and charm.


Plaka is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Athens, recognized for its neoclassical buildings, iconic art cafes, outdoor cinemas, and numerous souvenir shops. Visitors are encouraged to walk around its narrow pathways and explore what the neighborhood has to offer. Through doing this they can discover various galleries and lesser-known museums, such as the Frissiras Museum.


Due to the large number of tourists that gather around Acropolis Hill, it is not uncommon to come across various tourist traps in Plaka. However, exploring the neighborhood is a must when visiting Athens for the first time.


Anafiotika is a distinct neighborhood within Plaka that can be reached via Prytaneiou Street, right behind the Byzantine Church of St. Nikolaos Ragavas. Contrary to the elegant neoclassical buildings of Plaka, with their distinct ornate pediments and symmetrical facades, the houses of Anafiotika exude a rural ambiance. After a long walk up and down the alleyways leading to the neighborhood, visitors often feel as if they entered a portal to the Cyclades.


Anafiotika, 1899, Xydias Nikolaos, Source: Greek National Gallery


Constructed in the late 19th century by the builders of the Royal Palace of Athens (currently known as the Hellenic Parliament), Anafiotika is an islanding enclave within Athens. Locals and visitors distinguish it from its white-washed cube houses, outlined flagstone alleyways, and vibrant bougainvillea planters, all characteristics of the Cycladic architecture. That is because its first residents originated from the island of Anafi — hence the name “Anafiotika.”


3. Syntagma and 4. The National Gardens 

The Royal Garden with the Acropolis and the Filopappou Hill, 1901, Iakovidis Georgios, | Source: Greek National Gallery


After visiting the Acropolis Hill, Plaka, and Anafiotika, travelers often find themselves in the less touristy parts of Athens. Just one subway stop away from Akropoli, there is Syntagma Square, one of the most common meeting places for Athenians. Right there, visitors can admire the Hellenic Parliament and the former Royal Palace of Athens. They can also witness the change of the guards in front of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier that stands nearby.


A few steps away from Syntagma Square, a green oasis awaits those who seek a break from the concrete jungle that is the center of Athens. You will recognize it by the tall palm trees that invite the visitor to enter its green iron gates. The National Gardens of Athens were designed by the German agronomist Friedrich Schmidt in 1840, following the request of the first queen of Greece, Amalia of Oldenburg. Known initially as the “Royal Gardens,” the park includes ponds, a zoo with small animals, and a great variety of plants from all around the world. Those who are lucky can witness non-endemic birds, such as exotic green parrots, flying from tree to tree. It is not clear whether those birds were released there by Schmidt himself or if they somehow found their way to the Gardens by other means. The sighting, however, is truly remarkable.


The park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset and entry is free of charge. Since the area is guarded by security, the National Gardens are considered a very safe place for locals and tourists alike.


5. Zappeion

View of Zappeion in Athens, Spyros Vassiliou, 1982, Source: Bonhams


Right next to the National Gardens, visitors can see one of the oldest conferences and exhibition centers of Greece. Zappeion (Megaro) is a palatial building following the neoclassical architectural movement. It was used as the main fencing hall during the 1896 Summer Olympics and as an Olympic Village in 1906.


Apart from the palatial buildings, visitors can admire the beautiful Zappeion Gardens that surround the area. The park includes a playground for children and 2400 square meters of atriums and patios. Contrary to the National Gardens, the Gardens of Zappeion are less dense and people can freely enter and exit at any time of the day. For this exact reason, it is advised to avoid visiting the area late at night.


6. Temple of Olympian Zeus  

View of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, 1853-1854, James Robertson, Source: Benaki Museum


Another important landmark of the city of Athens is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, or simply, Olympieion. Situated right next to the southwestern part of Zappeion, its remains stand as a reminder of the city’s rich past. The temple was laid by the Athenian tyrants in the 6th century BCE on the site of an older outdoor sanctuary of Zeus. More than 600 years later, the Roman emperor Hadrian extended the structure by adding 104 colossal columns. Today, visitors can see 16 of them, since the original structure was hit by barbarian invasions and natural disasters.


7. Panathenaic Stadium 

The Panathenaic Stadium Under Blue Sky, Ali Menoufi, Source: Pexels


Less than ten minutes on foot from Zappeion and the Olympieion, there is another important Athenian landmark. The Panathenaic Stadium, or Kallimarmaro, is an open-air U-shaped stadium that has been hosting several athletic competitions and cultural events for centuries. Made entirely out of marble, it is distinguished for its impressive design. Initially, it was made out of limestone and was later reconstructed by Herodes Atticus in 144 CE, who envisioned it as a marble structure. In modern times, the stadium held the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1896 Olympic Games, as well as several more athletic competitions.


8. The Ancient Agora of Athens

North facade of the Odeion, drawing by John Travlos, 1948, Source: American School of Classical Studies


Moving away from the Panathenaic Stadium towards the northwestern part of central Athens, visitors can enter the ancient market (agora) of the city. The Agora was in fact more than a business area. Athenians would discuss politics, and many great ideas were born in this exact location. The Agora was also the meeting point of sculptors and marble workers, such as Phidias, Alcamenes, and Praxiteles.


Today, visitors can enter the Agora and its Museum from 8 AM to 6 PM from Adrianou Street, just a few minutes away from Monastiraki Square. The temple of Hephaestus and other important landmarks are enclosed within the archaeological site of the Agora. Ticket prices vary from 5€ to 10€, while there are many free admission days during the year.


9. Kerameikos Cemetery 

Stele from the Kerameikos Cemetery, Athens, Photo by William James Stillman, Source: The Met Museum


Within a short walking distance from the Ancient Agora, there is the archaeological site of Kerameikos and the homonymous Museum. Dating back to the early bronze age, it showcases part of the ancient necropolis of Athens, bringing forgotten rituals to light. At first glance, the site resembles a regular park. Upon paying close attention, visitors will notice monumental graves, statues, and wall ruins.


Moreover, the Museum of Kerameikos sheds more light on the religious beliefs of ancient Athenians. For example, recent archaeological findings from the area stand as proof that the local population would use the dead in occult practices even during the Classical Era. Curse tablets would be buried in freshly dug tombs with the hope that the deceased would carry them to Hades, where the goddess of witchcraft, Hecate, resided.


The entrance to Kerameikos is in close proximity to Thision metro station, right at the pedestrian part of Ermou Street. Ticket prices vary from 4€ to 8€, while there are many free admission days during the year, including the 28th of October.


10. The Pnyx

A view of the Pnyx and the Acropolis of Athens, Markus Winkler, Source: Pexels


Although Athens has many historical hills, most travelers are unable to visit all of them during their trip. Apart from the Acropolis, another important Athenian Hill is the Pnyx. Since 507 BC, ancient Athenians would gather on this rocky hill to attend the ekklesia (assembly) and discuss politics. Important figures such as Pericles and Demosthenes have delivered historical orations on that site, which visitors can freely access by following different alleyways in the historical center.


Visiting the site does not only offer a breathtaking view of Athens and the Acropolis, but it also allows travelers to see the first bema (speaker’s platform) to have ever existed at the birthplace of Democracy. The hill is open to the public at all hours of the day and night and there are no admission fees. The easiest and fastest way to get there is by following the alleyway that starts from the Doridis Observatory all the way up to the Nymphs Hill. The exact spot of the bema can be reached within 15 minutes from the train station of Thisio.

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By Marialena PerpirakiMSc. Media & Convergence, BA Communication, Media & CultureMarialena is a journalist and content writer with an interest in comparative mythology and folklore. She holds a BA in Communications, Media & Culture from Panteion University of Athens and an MSc. in Media & Convergence Management from AAU, Austria. She is the creator of the cross-media platform Helinika.