If you’re like me, you might have heard mixed reviews about Athens. It seems to be a city that people either love or hate. But from my experience, I think if someone didn’t enjoy their time, maybe they didn’t go to the right spots. My 2 days in Athens were absolutely PERFECT and I’m going to share with you my exact itinerary.
You might be questioning whether 2 days is enough time in Athens. I think 2 days is a great way to introduce yourself to the city, get a feel for it, and maybe even visit the surrounding area; which is exactly what this itinerary will do for you. Could you spend longer there? I would say probably! One extra day could give you more time to visit other ancient monuments and more time to discover new foodie finds. You could probably even add on a 4th day to go on a day trip!
But, if you working with a small window of time, 2 days in Athens is great! This itinerary will break down for you what can manageably be achieved for 2 days in this iconic city. We accomplished everything on this list, so you definitely can too!
*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Tips on visiting Athens
📆 The best time to visit is in September: Be sure to visit during shoulder season if you want to avoid crowds and uncomfortably hot temperatures. We visited in April and I was able to wear long pants and feel quite comfortable. However, I have since learned that September is a particularly good time to visit because not only is the weather still comfortable but the sea is as well!
🚊 You DO NOT need a 3-day metro pass: After getting off the plane, I opted for a 3-day metro pass, to make sure my bases were covered. In reality, I only used the metro to get to and from the airport. Athens is very walkable! Depending on where your accommodations are and where you want to visit, you might want to skip the 3-day pass.
🏨 Choose your accommodation in the right neighborhood: One of the reasons I’ve heard people didn’t enjoy Athens was because they felt unsafe. So choosing your accommodations in a good neighborhood is particularly important. We stayed in Plaka and had no problems at all (I linked the Airbnb we stayed in below)! Another neighborhood I’ve heard great things about is Psyri!
Day 1: Immerse yourself in Ancient History
Day 2: Athenian Culture & Coast
Arriving in Athens
✈️ Arriving by plane: You most likely will be arriving in Athens by plane. You can take the Blue Line (metro line 3) to go from the airport to the city center. It runs every 30 minutes from 6:30 am until 11:30 pm. Depending on where you’re going, the trip can take roughly 40 minutes.
🚂 Arriving by train: If by chance you arriving in Athens by train, you most likely will be arriving at Larissa Station – this is the main train station in the city. You can transfer to the metro here at St. Larissis Station and can take the metro or public transit to wherever you need.
🏨 Where to stay in Athens: As I said above, we stayed in Plaka and absolutely loved our 2 days in Athens. We stayed in a rooftop Airbnb that had spectacular views of the Acropolis. Everything was within walking distance and we felt safe the entire visit. It was also a very reasonably priced place but if you are looking for budget-friendly accommodations, check out these cool hostels on Hostelworld.
Day 1: Immerse yourself in Ancient History
HIGHLIGHT: Stroll around the Acropolis
You can’t visit Athens without visiting the Acropolis! And let me tell you, it’s worth it! What I didn’t know before visiting Athens was that there is a lot to see at the Acropolis! It’s not just the iconic Parthenon. You can see the remains of other sites such as the Theatre of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Temple of Nike Athena. All of this is included in your ticket!
⏰ We spent just over 1-2 hours exploring the grounds
⛰️ Reminder: the acropolis sits on top of a hill so there will be some uphill walking required!
💰We spent around 40 euros (this ticket included access to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum)
🌅I’d recommend visiting right when they open, it’s usually before the big groups come through. If you are visiting in the hotter months, avoid visiting mid-day when temperatures are at the highest!
PRO TIP: There is a Combo Ticket option that is very popular. A Combo Ticket allows you to access the Acropolis, plus 6 other archeological sites around Athens. Typically when you book the combo ticket, you book a timed entry for the Acropolis and then have 5 days to enjoy the other sites including the Ancient Agora, Hadrien’s Library, and the Roman Agora. If you have more time in Athens or are interested in seeing more sites than just the Acropolis, I’d definitely consider the combo ticket! (This particular ticket doesn’t include access to the Acropolis Museum!)
Visit the Acropolis Museum
I mentioned above that our ticket to the Acropolis also included access to the Acropolis Museum. I highly recommend visiting the museum! The building is very modern looking which is interesting considering the amount of historical treasures that are found inside. It is also built right beside an active archeological excavation, which you can admire with the price of your ticket. The Acropolis Museum is where you can find original relics from the Acropolis and it’s seriously impressive!
⏰ We spent about 2 hours visiting
☕️ There is a cafe inside that offers a nice view
🎒 You have to check your bags at the door (for free)!
🎧 We didn’t pay for a guided tour but if you want an audio tour, make sure you bring head phones! The audio tours are accessed from your phone.
Walk through Monastiraki Square
Monastiraki Square is full of energy and excitement, you need to visit at least once. This is where you can find Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora. It is also where you can find a flea market and many shops and restaurants. It is one of the oldest areas (making it one of the most historic) of the city and truly feels like you’re in the heart of Athens!
Take a break in a cafe or rooftop bar
The Monastiraki area is full of bars, cafes and restaurants. One thing I LOVED about Athens was the attention to detail for each restaurant’s decor. Every place was absolutely beautiful! So this is a really great spot to take a break!
If you want to try a cafe:
Just around the corner from Monastiraki Square is Little Kook. I have NEVER seen anything like this! The entire street leading up to the cafe is covered in decorations, head to toe, around a certain theme. During the Christmas season, there have been winter themes and Nutcracker themes. When I went it was Alice in Wonderland theme.
They have a few shops and snack options around but the main cafe is where you should grab a seat. It is a complete sensory overload with decorations from the ceiling to the floor, music, and that craziest menu! I will admit, this is not a cheap place to eat. You pay for the food and the experience. But it is definitely the most unique place we visited during our 2 days in Athens.
If you want to try a rooftop bar:
Athens is known for having many rooftop restaurants and bars. They all compete to offer beautiful views of the city and the Acropolis. We opted for A for Athens Rooftop bar in Monastiraki Square. This bar had the best view! It is quite a popular spot because they are known for their view so we decided to book a table in advance. We had to pay a minimum of 25 euros per person, which was perfect for a drink and an appetizer!
Watch the sunset from a hilltop
Another must-do activity in Athens is to watch the sunset from one of the hilltops. The 3 main hilltops in Athens are Philopappos Hill, Areopagus Hill, and Lycabettus Hill. We opted for Lycabettus Hill! It is a bit of a hike to get there but it was super worth it! The views from up top are spectacular! There is also a tiny church at the top of the hill, when we were there, there was a service going on which was really special to witness.
⏰ From the bottom of the hill, it took us around 15 minutes to get to the top (but it took us longer since we were walking from the city center)
🌅Come here the earlier the better, it’s a nice view of the sunset so there will be a lot of people
⛰️You don’t necessarily need to make it all the way to the top for the nicest view. It was way too crowded when we were there so we found a nice spot a little way down the hill to watch the sunset. There is also a restaurant on the way up as well that has patios and tables to enjoy a drink with the view!
Enjoy live music in a Taverna
For authentic Greek cuisine, make sure you visit a Taverna! Psyri is an excellent place to find plenty of dinner options and my recommendation would be to stop by Taverna Tou Psirri! This restaurant had a beautiful backyard patio surrounded by plants. To top it off, they also had live music! You can get plenty of local food here including fish, baked feta, and a variety of salads!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: How to have a PERFECT weekend in Budapest
Day 2: Athenian Culture & Coast
See the changing of the Guard
If during your 2 days in Athens, you happen to be there on a Sunday, head over to Syntagma Square and watch the changing of the guards ceremony. The official ceremony happens every Sunday at 11 am but there are also small guard changes that happen hourly.
Take a walking tour of Athens
The reason I recommend taking a walking tour of Athens is that after you visit the popular tourist spots, such as the Acropolis, it’s time to get to know the other neighborhoods in the city. Spend the morning being shown Athens by a local, get to know the hidden gems, and uncover facts you might not have known about before.
We went for a food walking tour and this particular one was everything I needed and more. Our guide was amazing and we were shown that there is so much more to Greek cuisine than salad, moussaka, and souvlaki! Every spot was authentic and 90% of the foods we tried I had never heard of before! We visited local markets, cafes, shops and had a cheese and olive tasting all while exploring new areas of Athens.
Here is a link to the exact tour we took – I really enjoyed it!
Do some shopping in Plaka
If you haven’t already done so, spend some time shopping in Plaka. This is where most of the shops are and you can find some very interesting ones. My particular favorite is called Flaneur Souvenirs & Supplies. This is the sweetest local shop that supports Greek and Athenian artists. You can find your go-to souvenirs like stickers, prints, t-shirts, and postcards, all designed by locals.
HIGHLIGHT: Visit the Athenian Riviera
If you can, make some time in your 2 days in Athens schedule to visit the coast. If I’m honest, I hadn’t heard of the Athenian Riviera until we were looking for one last activity to finish off our time in Athens.
Here are some spots you can visit along the Athenian Riviera:
🏊🏼♀️ Lake Vouliagmeni: a thermal lake that was historically a cave
🏖️ Sounio Beach: located just at the bottom of Poseidon’s Temple, with crystal clear waters
🏛️ Poseidon’s Temple: the BEST place on mainland Greece to watch the sunset!
We visited all of these spots through an Airbnb experience. They are all only an hour outside of the city – which means you would need to either take a tour or figure out public transportation. From my experience, this tour did everything for you. It was just our group and our guide and we got to learn a little bit more about the area from a local!
Here is a link to the tour we took but there are plenty of tours I’ve linked below for you to check out:
2 days in Athens: is it worth it?
You can probably tell that I actually really enjoyed Athens. Not only is the city incredibly historical and just a bucket list moment to be there, but the food was incredible and the culture really fascinating. Our 2 days in Athens were really well balanced between these different sides of Greek culture – if you’re hoping to have the same experience, I hope you use some of these tips for your own travel planning!
If Athens is just the starting point for your trip to Greece, you might be heading on to the islands next! If you are heading over to Santorini, be sure to check out ALL of the island and not just the popular town of Oia. You can read more on my 7 things to do when visiting Santorini post.