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3 Days In Athens – A Perfect Itinerary By a Local (2024)

Uncover the secrets of Athens with our perfect 3-day itinerary crafted by a local! Dive into hidden gems, ancient wonders, and modern delights in a journey tailored for unforgettable experiences.
3 Days In Athens - A Perfect Itinerary By a Local

Imagine a city where every street corner whispers tales of mythology and legend, where the gods themselves once walked.

Welcome to Athens, where history is not just found in textbooks but is etched in its cobblestone alleys and monumental ruins.

It’s a place where the past and present coexist beautifully, painting a landscape that’s vibrant by day and electrifying by night.

From the awe-inspiring heights of the Acropolis to the golden sunsets that dance on the Riviera, Athens promises a journey of epic proportions.

Join me, a local who knows every hidden gem, as I take you through a 3 day itinerary in Athens.

Tip: I’d urge you to pick the best neighborhood in Athens to make your base and plan a trip that leaves you with memories as timeless as the Parthenon itself.

Table of Contents

How many days are enough to see Athens

Wondering how many days you’ll need to truly see Athens? Sure, you could tick off the Acropolis and wander through Plaka in a day, but Athens deserves more. Give yourself at least two days to get a taste of the city center.

Beyond the tourist-favorite Plaka, there’s Monastiraki with its flea market buzz, Thiseio with the serene Filopappou Hill, and the Makrygianni area, home to the Acropolis Museum.

And don’t miss exploring around Syntagma Square, where you can see the grandeur of the Greek Parliament, the lush National Garden, the upscale Kolonaki district, and the Ermou shopping street.

And it’s almost criminal not to catch the view from Lycabettus Hill at sunset or dive into the Athenian night – starting with rooftop drinks and ending in the dance-filled wee hours in Psirri or Gazi.

For all these gems, I’d say settle in for at least three days. I’ll even throw in a practical three-day itinerary to help you soak up Athens beyond the postcard spots.

How to get around Athens

Getting around Athens for first-timers means skipping the car rental; the traffic and parking are nightmares. From the airport, the metro or bus are your friends. The blue line metro whisks you from the airport to the city center, while the buses, though slower due to traffic, come in four handy lines.

To hop between neighborhoods, the metro runs from early morning to midnight – and even later on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s soon expanding with a new line, connecting more of Athens seamlessly. 

For coastal jaunts or areas off the metro map, trams, buses, or cabs are the way to go. Trams are slow but scenic, buses are quick but can get packed, and taxis? Affordable and easy to flag down or book with an app (FreeNow and Uber are available).

But honestly, walking is the best way to capture the city’s soul. Just remember, if it’s summer, arm yourself with a hat, sunscreen, and water – and plan coffee breaks wisely to beat the heat.

3 day Athens Itinerary

Day 1 in Athens: Acropolis & Plaka

Start your Athens adventure at the Acropolis – it’s non-negotiable for first-timers! Yes, the queues can be a pain and the summer sun is no joke, but trust me, seeing the Parthenon’s ancient grandeur up close is worth the sunscreen and patience.

If you’d rather not wait, snag a skip-the-line ticket or a guided tour. Either way, don’t miss marveling at the classical artistry of the Erechtheion and its graceful Caryatids.

For lunch, head to the nearby Makrygianni or Koukaki district. I always find myself at Little Tree Books & Coffee for a side of literary ambiance with an espresso and a lemon pie.

Have a coffee at Little Tree (photo: Pantelis Kakaris)
Have a coffee at Little Tree (photo: Pantelis Kakaris)

It’s a stone’s throw from the Acropolis Museum, perfect for an afternoon deep dive into Athens’s rich past. And if you don’t mind a tourist buzz, the museum’s café offers a stunning view to muse on.

Evening calls for a stroll down Dionysiou Areopagitou Street towards Plaka. Here, beneath the Acropolis’s shadow, you can peek into quaint neoclassical homes, peruse souvenir shops, and discover Greek designer treasures like Kourbela’s chic threads.

Afterward, why not settle into a cozy tavern in Plaka for dinner? Or if you’re feeling fancy, hit a rooftop bar in Syntagma Square for a nightcap with a view that’s as memorable as the day’s journey.

Day 2 in Athens: Monastiraki, Thiseio and Mount Lycabettus

Kick off your second day in Athens with a morning visit to the Ancient Agora. Picture yourself in the hustle and bustle of ancient Athenian daily life as you explore the remnants of storied buildings like the Temple of Hephaestus. Stoa of Attalos, a beautifully restored colonnade, now houses the Agora Museum and is a must-see for history buffs.

Come lunchtime, dive into the vibrant Monastiraki area. It’s a flea market haven on Sundays, but any day is good for sampling the local street food scene. Grab a souvlaki as you wander from Monastiraki Square to Agia Irini; At Kostas you’ll be introduced to one of the best souvlaki in athens.

In the afternoon, why not take a leisurely walk to Thiseio and climb up Filopappou Hill? You’ll get some of the best panoramic shots of Athens, the Acropolis, and the surrounding areas from this picturesque spot, also known as the Hill of the Muses.

If you’re up for a different pace, stroll down Ermou Street, Athens’s shopping artery, all the way to Kolonaki Square. Then, whether you fancy a hike or a funicular ride, ascend Mount Lycabettus for a sunset view that’s simply unrivaled, stretching from the Acropolis to the sea.

For your evening, Kolonaki offers upscale dining and drinks in Athens’s most elite neighborhood. But if you’re in the mood for something edgier, Exarcheia‘s bohemian vibe is the way to go. Here, I’m partial to Ama Laxei, with its enchanting courtyard, or Rakoumel, for a taste of Crete’s mouth-watering traditional cuisine.

Day 3 in Athens: Archaeological Museum, Syntagma and Athenian Riviera

On your third day, split your time between urban discovery and seaside bliss. Start with the National Archaeological Museum if Greek history still beckons. It’s the nation’s treasure chest, showcasing an incredible array from prehistoric to late antiquity artifacts. Trust me, it’s a time capsule that’s worth every minute.

If museums aren’t calling your name, why not relax with a coffee in one of the city’s garden cafes instead? Later, make your way to Syntagma Square. The changing of the guard in front of the Hellenic Parliament is a pageantry of precision and tradition not to be missed.

For lunch, choose between the culinary delights of Syntagma’s eateries or a relaxing picnic in the lush National Garden, a green oasis perfect for a leisurely stroll among a kaleidoscope of flora.

In the afternoon, catch a tram, bus, or taxi to the coastal district of Palaio Faliro, the gateway to Athens Riviera, or push on to Glyfada. Both spots are ideal for a dip in the sea and a beachside café. I recommend Edem Cafe-Restaurant in Palaio Faliro for a quiet, seaside retreat, or Nikolas tis Schinoussas in Glyfada for its tranquility and underrated views.

If there’s time, a drive to Sounio to see the Temple of Poseidon is well worth it. The sunset there is legendary, making for an epic end to a day of exploration.

Come evening, Palaio Faliro is your go-to for Eastern flavors or a coastal dining experience. Meat lovers should not miss Kyr Aristos for the best kebab in town. Seafood aficionados will enjoy Sardelaki me Thea in Vouliagmeni. Both options offer a delightful dining experience without breaking the bank.

What to buy in Athens

Athens is the heartbeat of Greek commerce, a shopping utopia that trades mall escalators for the charm of its plentiful boutiques. Here, picking up souvenirs isn’t just an activity; it’s a treasure hunt across the city’s vibrant districts.

What’s delightful about Athens is the absence of those colossal shopping malls that overshadow other capitals. Instead, the trade triangles from Syntagma to Monastiraki and Omonoia squares boast the city’s retail soul.

Monastiraki is a haven for the timeless appeal of leather. Here, the scent of polished leather wafts from stores offering everything from sandals to satchels. Stroll down Agias Theklas Street, where Stavros Melissinos‘s shop crafts sandals rumored to have graced the feet of music legends like the Beatles.

In the nooks of Monastiraki and Plaka, you’ll find genuine Greek keepsakes—komboloi, a meditative string of beads, and tavli, a board game of strategy and luck, not to mention mati charms to ward off misfortune. Greek coffee cups, olive wood crafts, and mythological-inspired replicas are just a few of the picks that echo the spirit of Greece.

For a detour from the typical tourist trail, dive into Athens’ natural beauty scene. Apivita and Korres stand out with their Greek-infused products—think honey, pomegranate, and grape—found in almost any pharmacy.

Venture away from the historic hustle into Koukaki’s hidden gems, where concept stores on A.Zinni and O.Androutsou streets offer everything from uniquely crafted jewelry to contemporary ceramics, trendy mugs, and handwoven bags.

Before you leave, indulge in a sensory shopping spree of Greek gastronomy: rich olive oil, tangy Kalamata olives, a variety of honeys, mountain tea, aromatic herbs and spices, DOP-certified cheeses, and signature spirits like ouzo and raki. Your taste buds will thank you for a piece of Greek culinary heaven to savor back home.

Acropolis, how to get there

Getting to the Acropolis is a breeze if you take the metro, with the red line whisking you to the Acropolis station. From there, you’re a mere stone’s throw away from the southeast entrance—a quick two or three-minute walk, tops.

If you’re up for a little variation, grab bus 230. It drops you close to the same entrance, giving you a peek at Athens’ bustling streets along the way.

But if you ask me, the best way to absorb Athens’ ancient aura is on foot. Whether you’re wandering from the quaint Plaka district or making your way from the vibrant area around Thiseio station on the green line, each step is a journey through history. The routes from Monastiraki and Syntagma squares are just as convenient, with the blue line serving both stops.

You can step into the archaeological wonder from the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street, which is not only a picturesque path but also a journey through time paved with history. Whether you’re starting from the metro stop right by the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora via the Monastiraki stop, or the charming Plaka neighborhood, the approach is part of the experience. Each pathway leads you to the same legendary destination: the Acropolis, standing as a testament to Greece’s glorious past.

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