Athens in 2 Days: everything you need to know

With over 3000 years of history, Athens is the ideal place to wander through museums, archaeological ruins and ancient temples.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

Athens in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Athens | ©Enric Domas

Cycling around Athens in 2 days can be a fun and interesting way to learn or deepen your knowledge of Ancient Mediterranean history. The only problem is that the sheer amount of things to see and do in Athens makes it essential to organise your itinerary well in order to get the most out of your trip.

Athens is an ideal place to explore on foot or by public transport, as there are so many archaeological sites, museums and monuments in such a small space that it's easy to see why this city is considered the cradle of civilisation.

Day 1: See the splendour of the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the Agora, watch the sunset from the Mount and dine at Kolonaki

The Acropolis| ©Mauricio Muñoz
The Acropolis| ©Mauricio Muñoz

The first day in the Greek capital can have no other protagonist than the Acropolis and its impressive Parthenon.

The rest of the day will not be short of cultural and historical attractions that will make you feel as if you were strolling through classical Greece.

You can visit the Acropolis on your own or hire one of the organised tours of Athens, which include a guide who will explain its history and secrets.

Visit the Acropolis

The Acropolis and, especially, the Parthenon are probably the most emblematic places in Athens, so it is almost obligatory to visit them.

This is because most of the temples, monuments and statues were built in the 5th century BC during the 'Golden Age' of Pericles.

As its name indicates, the Acropolis (Akro: Top, Polis: City) is located on one of the highest points of Athens, so if you want to walk there, keep in mind that you will always be going uphill.

As time is money, I recommend you to get the Acropolis ticket in advance, as this way you will avoid queuing up at the entrance under the sun's rays. Also, if you take the online option, bear in mind that you can also use the combined ticket to enter other sites of interest

  • Opening hours: from April to October from 8am to 8pm (The last entrance is at 7.30pm.). From November to May the opening hours are from 8am to 5pm. The Acropolis is open all year round except 1 January, 25 March, 1 May, Easter Sunday, 25 and 26 December
  • Prices low season: From November to March the price is approximately 15 euros. This price also applies to persons over 65 years of age residing in the EU and non-EU students
  • High season prices: From March to October the entrance fee is approximately 30 euros.
  • How to get there: The most convenient way to get there is to take the metro to Monastiraki station, on line 1 and 3. Once you get off, you can walk through the beautiful Plaka neighbourhood, which has many activities to offer or through the ancient Agora. I don't recommend you to go by car, as the place has no official parking and Athens traffic is usually quite complicated
  • Duration of the visit: Normally, it will take you 2 to 3 hours to do the whole tour, so this activity will allow you to connect this walk with others. The best time to visit is either early in the morning or during the afternoon, as the midday sun can be quite strong and the site lacks shaded areas.

Buy your ticket to the Acropolis of Athens

Visit the Temple of Zeus

Just 500 metres from the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus is another archaeological site I recommend you visit.

Although its construction began in the 6th century BC, it was only completed in 132 AD, on the orders of Emperor Hadrian.

Like the Parthenon, this temple was built with marble from Mount Pentelicus and its size was colossal: it had more than 104 columns over 16 metres high. Only 15 are still standing today, as the temple was destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages, but they will give you an idea of the size of the temple.

Please note that the visiting hours of the Temple of Zeus are between 8am and 3pm, so you will not be able to see the ruins during the afternoon.

If you visit Athens in summer or spring, I recommend you visit early in the morning, as you will have less exposure to the sun and avoid the crowds that gather after midday.

  • Opening hours: Open every day from 8am to 3pm, except 1 January, 25 March, 1 May, Easter Sunday, 25 and 26 December.
  • Prices: You can buy tickets at the ticket office at the entrance or online. Admission for adults over 25 is 15 euros and 6 euros for students.
  • How to get there: From the Acropolis it is less than a 10-minute walk.

Travel back in time by visiting the Roman Agora and Ancient Agora

Roman Agora| ©Josef Zelherm
Roman Agora| ©Josef Zelherm

Another key point to learn more about the history and tour the buildings of Classical Greece is to visit the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora.

Located just a 20-minute walk from the temple, the Agora was the centre of Ancient Greek society, a place where the social, political and economic life of the polis was concentrated.

The ancient Agora was created in the 6th century BC, which means that you can walk through places that were built more than 2500 years ago.

The Temple of Hephaestus, which is considered to be the best preserved Greek temple of the present day, stands out in this place. I also recommend you to visit the Stoa of Attalos, where the museum of the Ancient Agora is located.

The entrance to the Roman Agora is almost next to the Ancient Agora, a mere 300 metres walk away. It is an impressive site, as you can see the Gate of Athena Arquegetis and the Tower of the Winds.

  • Opening hours: The Roman Agora is open daily from 8am to 5pm, while the Ancient Agora is from 8am to 8pm, although 30 minutes before closing time tourists are asked to move towards the exit
  • Prices: Each ticket costs 10 euros for adults and 6 for students. I recommend that you get a combined ticket, as not only will you be able to enter both Agoras for 30 euros, but it also includes entry to the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Book a guided tour of Athens

Enjoy the sunset from Mount Lycabettus

Although it's a bit far from the previous point, it's worth going to Mount Lycabettus when the sun goes down.

Located in the south of Athens and about 290 metres above sea level, it is one of the best places to observe the beautiful panoramic view of the city of Athens, but above all a perfect vantage point to contemplate the beauty of the Acropolis.

The hill is located in one of the most exclusive and elegant neighbourhoods of Athens: Kolonaki. The name Lycabettus comes from the fact that in ancient times the hill was a place where wolves abounded.

I recommend that you visit it at sunset, as the last rays of the sun are reflected by the marble of the Acropolis' buildings. Also, if you decide to climb the hill on foot, in summer it can be less tiring to do so in the late afternoon.

At the top you can find small stalls where you can eat or drink while waiting for the sunset. You can also visit the small Chapel of Agios Georgios, which at night is like a small lighthouse illuminating the mountain.

  • How to get there The summit can be reached by funicular or cable car, which costs about 8 euros and leaves every 30 minutes, from 9am to midnight. This option is ideal if you are tired after a long day of walking. You can also get there by car or on foot.
  • How long it takes to get there By funicular it will take you no more than 15 minutes, which is about the same as if you take a taxi. On foot it is not too long either, as it is not a difficult climb, taking about 30 minutes, although this depends on the individual.

End the day with shopping or dinner in Kolonaki

Down from the hill, just over 15 minutes away, is what is considered by many Athenians to be the most elegant and luxurious neighbourhood in the city.

It is the perfect place to sample the incredible Greek cuisine or, why not, indulge yourself with a stroll through its exclusive clothes shops.

Its most famous spot is the Platia Filikis Eterias, its main square. It is surrounded by cafes, bars and exclusive restaurants, perfect for a first class dinner.

However, if you have the option of returning to the Greek capital with more time, don't miss out on a gastronomic tour of Athens.

Day 2: From the Theatre of Dionysus to the Archaeological Museum, with a final dinner in Piraeus

Detail of the Theatre of Dionysus| ©Iuliia Isakova
Detail of the Theatre of Dionysus| ©Iuliia Isakova

Athens has everything, so it is important that you get up early to make the most of the hours of the second day of your trip, as it is going to be quite full.

One option is to check out the tours offered by the Athens sightseeing bus or the bike tours around the city to save time on travel.

Visit the Theatre of Dionysus

If you like theatre, art history, or music, you can't miss this place full of Ancient Greek history and culture. This open-air amphitheatre was created more than 2500 years ago, and was used to celebrate in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and theatre.

The sheer size of this place is incredible and you can only realise its size by sitting in the seats: it is estimated that the theatre had a seating capacity of over 17,000 people. Opposite you will find luxurious marble seats, reserved for the upper classes of Athens.

Another advantage of this place is that it is a perfect place to take a break from the crowds of the city of Athens, as its large space makes it perfect for relaxing and imagining what ancient plays were like.

The theatre is 150 metres from the Parthenon and the Acropolis. It is also 200 metres from the Acropolis Museum, so if you feel like visiting the Acropolis Museum, you can go in and see it on the same day.

Book your Athens sightseeing bus tour

Relax in the National Garden

The National Garden of Athens could easily be considered one of the most beautiful parks in Europe. Created in 1839 on the orders of Queen Amalia, these gardens were originally intended to be used only by royalty. In 1923 it was opened to the public and named the National Garden.

One of the most interesting things about this park is that it has more than 500 species from all over the world. The park also has a pond, a botanical garden and a small zoo with animals, which is a hit with the little ones.

It is an ideal place to have a picnic, relax in the shade of the trees and pergolas, or simply take pictures of the beautiful surrounding vegetation.

The Garden is located behind the Greek Parliament and Syntagma Square, so I recommend you walk around the area afterwards. This square is the political and social heart of the city, the meeting point of the Athenians. Don't miss the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, full of symbolism.

  • How to get there: You can get there by metro taking line 2 and getting off at Akropoli station
  • Opening hours: Open daily from 8am to 8pm
  • Prices: The entrance fee is approximately 15 euros, but it will also get you into Hadrian's Library and the Kerameikos Archaeological Site.

Visit the Central Market of Athens

One of the most interesting places to visit is the Central Market of Athens, as it is the place that best reflects the personality of the city.

I recommend that if you are sensitive, or susceptible to explicit images, consider another option or go prepared, because it is very common to see lambs being slaughtered and hung in full view of the customers.

But the most hypnotic thing about this place is the fights between the vendors or shopkeepers of each stall, who offer their products shouting at the top of their voices and where it seems that the one who reaches the highest volume wins. In addition, the market is full of Mediterranean products, which will be an unforgettable experience for you and all your senses.

I also recommend that you stop to admire themarket's architecture, as it was created in 1875 and its neoclassical style combined with the energy of the place will take you back in time.

To recharge your batteries before continuing your route, you can take advantage of a nearby taverna to eat in the area. These are traditional places where you can enjoy exquisite Greek food at very affordable prices. I suggest the Bairaktaris restaurant, very close to the market, where you can try some irresistible kebabs and gyros.

Visit the National Archaeological Museum

National Archaeological Museum of Athens| ©Lucretius
National Archaeological Museum of Athens| ©Lucretius

With 3 floors and more than 11.000 pieces, the museum has 5 collections that you will find throughout the year about the history and the most important archaeological finds of Ancient Greece. In addition, you will also find objects from the Near East as well as archaeological remains of pieces from Ancient Egypt.

One of the pieces you should not miss is the bronze statue of the Cape God Artemisius, which is not known whether it is a representation of Zeus or Poseidon. This statue, which was created in the 6th century BC and measures 2.10 metres high, was discovered in 1927.

Here you will also find the golden funerary mask of Agamemnon, found in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of Troy. This mask, found in Mycenae, is estimated to be over 3500 years old.

I recommend that you visit the Archaeological Museum, as it is one of the most important in the city and will help you to locate yourself temporally and spatially when visiting other archaeological remains.

  • How to get there: the museum is very close to the Omonia and Biktoria metro stations. From the Central Market, where you are, you can walk along Aiolou Street to the Museum in 15 minutes.
  • Price: approximately 12 euros
  • Opening times: 1 November to 31 March: Tuesday: 13:00 - 20:00 and Wednesday to Monday: 08:30 - 15:30. From 16 April to 31 October: Tuesday: 13:00 - 20:00 Wednesday to Monday: 08:00 - 20:00

Watch the sunset or dine at the port of Piraeus

Less than 8 kilometres from Athens and about 40 minutes by public transport from the Archaeological Museum is Piraeus, the closest port to the Greek capital. In fact Athens has grown so large that many consider it to be directly part of the city.

Piraeus is made up of 3 beautiful natural bays: Kantharos, Zea and Mikrolimano. From Kantharos all the cruise ships that visit Greece arrive and depart, so if you want to take a cruise around the islands of Greece you must go to this bay.

I recommend that if you travel to this area for sightseeing, you should visit both Zea and Mikrolimano, as they have small restaurants, bars and terraces by the sea.

Tours depart from Piraeus that will take you around the Aegean and the Greek islands, an incredible activity that will take you back in time to the era described in the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Book your trip to the Greek Islands from Athens

The best time of the year to visit Athens

Cycling around Athens| ©UrbanCyclist
Cycling around Athens| ©UrbanCyclist

This will depend on several factors, such as your budget, the date you wish to travel and the climate. The climate is subtropical Mediterranean, which makes the summers very hot, sometimes reaching 40 degrees Celsius, while the winters are mild with temperatures ranging between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. Based on this, the best time to visit Athens is autumn and spring.

If you choose to visit the city in summer, bear in mind that as it is a holiday season you will not only experience high temperatures, but there will also be many tourists in most places. Also, during the summer, prices tend to rise, so if you are on a tight budget, autumn or winter are the best options.

Bear in mind that if you choose to visit Athens in winter, this is when you are most likely to encounter rain. However, rainfall is not constant so you should be able to walk around during this time of year.