2 Days In Athens, Itinerary For First Time Visitors

The most historic city in Europe with 3,000 years of history, Athens is known as being the birthplace of Western Civilisation. Today it’s both historic and hectic, combining an intoxicating mix of both the ancient world and the modern world that is inseparably intertwined with ancient ruins standing beside modern cafes and metro stations, office buildings looking out across some of the world’s most iconic architecture – One minute you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Socrates, the next stepping back into modern-day Greek culture as you grab a frappe and slip on your sunglasses to walk amongst the sleek and stylish students!

This 2 day Athens itinerary will allow you to see the highlights of Athens but rest assured, you’ll be back to explore its back streets more thoroughly one day!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that should you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission.

How to get to and from the airport of Athens

Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos) is located 35km (22miles) from the city center with a range of public transport methods available to suit all budgets. Journey times range from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the mode of transport and traffic.

OptionDurationPriceAvailability
BUS X95 to Syntagma Square55 min€624/7
Metro to Syntagma50 min€1006:30–23:55
Welcome Pickups (private transfer)30 min€43 / daytime24/7
Taxi 30 min€38/ daytime24/7
Athens airport to city centre

My personal recommendation is to pre-book a Welcome Taxi, where your driver will wait for you outside of the arrivals hall with a sign bearing your name plus a bottle of water and a map of the city, he/she will also help get your luggage to the car and share information on the city.

For more information and to book your private transfer check here.

For more information check my detailed post on how to get from Athens airport to the city centre.

Athens Itinerary: How to spend 2 days in Athens

You can also see the map here

2 Days in Athens: Day One

The Acropolis

The place where democracy was born, how could the Acropolis not be at the top of the list?! Most people mistakenly think that the Acropolis and the Parthenon are one and the same, but they’re not. The Acropolis means ‘upper city’ and refers to the rocky hill that has been inhabited since 5,000BC, it’s here that 3 temples sit including the iconic Parthenon.

Entering through the Beule Gate and then the Propylaia Entrance, you’ll pass the Temple of Athena Nike. Pause to enjoy the views overlooking the city as you get your breath back after the climb up and take a moment to reflect that you’re now walking where modern civilization began.

Tip: Try to visit the archaeological site of the Acropolis as early as possible in the day to avoid the crowds (and the heat during the summer months). Check here my detailed guide to visiting the Acropolis.

The Parthenon

The most iconic temple in Athens and the most photographed temple in the city, the Parthenon was built between 447-432 BC to honour the cult of Athena the virgin at the height of Athenian democracy. Walk around the ruined exterior admiring the towering Doric and Ionic columns and the carved scenes of the sculpted frieze that runs around the top.

Theatre of Dionysus

The ancient theatre of Dionysos Athens

Built in the 4th century, this amphitheatre could hold 17,000 people and is the oldest of the 3 architectural temples located at the foot of the Acropolis on the South side. Thought to be the world’s first theatre, the birthplace of the classic Greek tragedies, it was used for performances as well as festivals that honoured the god Dionysis.

Odeon of Herodus Atticus

Herodus Atticus theatre

Another iconic monument on the Acropolis, the Roman Theater of Dionysus which dates back to 161AD is certainly worthy of photographing but you should also see if your trip coincides with one of the live performances that take place in the Summer. If it does, pre-book your tickets so you can sit on the marble seats to watch a classical theatre performance, ballet, or pop performance in what is considered one of the best open-air theatres in the world.

Acropolis Tickets and Tours

A variety of tickets are available depending on how many of the sites on and around the Acropolis you want to visit.

A great idea is a guided tour to the Acropolis: Here are my two favorites:

A small group guide tour of the Acropolis with skip the line tickets. The reason I like this tour is that it is a small group one, it starts at 8:30 am, so you avoid the heat and the cruise ship passengers and it lasts for 2 hours.

Another great option is the Athens Mythology Highlights tour. This is probably my favorite Athens tour. In 4 hours you will have a guided tour of the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Ancient Agora. It is great as it combines history with mythology. Please note that the tour doesn’t include the entrance fee which is €30 (Combo ticket) for the mentioned sites. It also includes a couple of other archaeological sites and museums that you can visit on your own the following days.

– Alternatively, you can buy your skip the line tickets online and pick them up near the South entrance.

Opening Hours: Open daily 8 am-7 pm Summer and 8.30 am-5 pm Winter

Closed: 1 January, 25 March, 1 May, Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, 25 December, 26 December

Basic Acropolis Tickets: €20 from April 1st – October 31st and €10 from November 1st – March 31st Includes Acropolis and the Slopes

Combined Tickets: €30. The combined ticket includes entrance to the Acropolis and the North and South Slopes of the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora, Museum of Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kermakeikos, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion – for 5 days, it’s the ticket that will save you money in the long run

Free Admission Days: 6 March, 18 April, 18 May, the last weekend of September, 28 October, every first Sunday of the month from November 1st to March 31st.

You can buy tickets online at the official e-ticketing service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

The Acropolis Museum

the Caryatids at the Acropolis Museum

Consistently rated as one of the best museums in the world, the new Acropolis Museum with its glass walkways and panoramic city views contains a wealth of archaeological finds from the Parthenon and surrounding temples.

Spread across 4 floors, the ground floor houses the auditorium, temporary exhibitions, and the ancient artefacts that were found on and around the Acropolis Slopes including a collection of theatrical masks from the sanctuary of Nymphe.

The first floor covers the Archaic period, a must-see being The Moschophotos – One of the first examples of marble being used in Ancient Greek architecture, the painted marble statue depicts a man carrying a sacrificial calf.

The second floor contains the multimedia centre plus shop and restaurant whilst the piece-de-resistance is the third floor aka the top floor, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Acropolis and Parthenon from the huge glass panel windows whilst seeing the artefacts found at the Parthenon itself.

If you are interested in a guided tour of both the Acropolis Museum and the Acropolis, I recommend the Athens, Acropolis and Acropolis Museum Including Entry Fees. This 5-hour guided tour includes skip the line entrance tickets to both sites and a guided tour as well. It also includes a visit to the Panathenaic Stadium and the Royal Gardens.

Alternatively, I recommend:

Skip the line ticket to the Acropolis museum including the ancient excavation.

A small group tour to the Acropolis Museum with skip the line ticket.

Opening Hours: Winter(1st of November – 31st of March): Monday to Thursday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Friday 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, Saturday & Sunday 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, Summer (1st of April – 31st of October): Monday: 08:00 am – 4.00 pm, Friday 8:00 am – 10:00 pm, Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday & Sunday 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Closed: 1 January, Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 December, 26 December

Reduced Hours: Good Friday 12:00 – 6:00 pm, Easter Saturday 08:00 am – 3:00 pm, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Tickets: Full: €10, Reduced: €5 from April 1st – October 31st and Full €5, Reduced: €3 from November 1st – March 31st

Free Admission: 6 March, 25 March, 18 May, 28 October

Plaka

Traditional houses in Plaka

Explore one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Athens as you wind your way up, down, and around the picturesque quintessentially Greek streets of Plaka and forget, for a moment, that you’re in the middle of Athens as the white-washed houses, snoozing cats, and blooming bougainvillea are sure to remind me of the Greek islands!

Mostly pedestrianised, the area is full of charming restaurants and cafes, neoclassical houses, diverse souvenir shops, and superb city views along with a wealth of street art. Stop for a drink, snack, or meal and enjoy some people watching as you soak up the atmosphere and rest those tired legs! Don’t forget your camera, and don’t hesitate to climb the steps to explore what’s around the next street corner, you won’t be disappointed.

Ancient Agora

Temple of Hephestus, one of the best preserved temples

Continue your journey through time and history as you stroll around the ruins of the majestic Agora (not to be confused with the Roman Agora). This site was the commercial hub of Ancient Athens, the Agora (marketplace) being the focal point of all social, economic, political and intellectual activities containing shops, market stalls, and schools (It was here that Socrates used to lecture his students).

The site also contained temples and statues, the Temple of Hephaistos, being the most recognisable monument on the Agora site today and the best-preserved temple from antiquity.

Ancient Agora

Opening Hours: Daily 8 am-7 pm Summer, 8 am-5 pm Winter

Closed: 1 January, 25 March, Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 December, 26 December

Tickets: Full €10, Reduced €5

Combined Tickets: €30. The combined ticket includes entrance to the Acropolis and the North and South Slopes of the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora, Museum of Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kermakeikos, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion – for 5 days

Free Admission Days: 6 March, 18 April, 18 May, the last weekend of September, 28 October, every first Sunday of the month from November 1st to March 31st.

The Psiri Neighborhood

restored house in Psyri

End the day (or start the night) in Psiri which was once the most dangerous neighborhood in Athens but is now one of the quirkiest and most fashionable. Walk the vibrant streets to discover the street art, pop into the art galleries, and watch the craftsmen at work in their small artisan shops using methods that have been passed down from father to son through the centuries.

If you’re hungry, stop at one of the meze restaurants where you’ll often find live music in the evenings. If Greek Blues (Rembetika) isn’t to your taste, head to one of the bars and dance to the beats the DJ plays.

2 Days in Athens: Day Two

Syntagma Square- Change of the Guards

You’ve visited the heart of Ancient Athens, now it’s time to see where the heart of modern Athens lies with a visit to busy and bustling Syntagma Square!

A great place to watch the locals shopping or socializing, this is where the famous changing of the guard ceremony starts/ends, the traditionally dressed presidential soldiers (known as Evzones) marching from their barracks to stand on guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Parliament Building.

The changing of the guards’ ceremony takes place daily every hour on the hour with a longer ceremony each Sunday at 11 am.

National Gardens

As the transport hub of Athens, all the honking horns and exhaust fumes can be a bit much after the peace up on the Acropolis slopes earlier in the day so if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Syntagma Square after watching the changing of the guards, step into another world with a visit to the 15.5 hectares National Garden where you’ll find turtles, peacocks, and ducks inside a tropical paradise!

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic stadium

The birthplace of the Olympic Games, the Panathenaic Stadium dates back to the 4th century and is the only stadium in the world to be made entirely from marble. With a capacity of 60,000 spectators, the stadium was used as an event and competition venue for male athletes, the original Olympic Games starting in 1896. Sit on the marble seats and imagine watching the athletes of bygone years participating below.

Opening Hours: March – October 08:00 am – 7:00 pm, November – February 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Tickets: Full 5€, Reduced (students and visitors over 65-year-old) 2,50€, free for Visitors with disabilities and person accompanying them and for children under 6 years of age

Temple of Zeus

The temple of Olympian Zeus

Also known as the Olympeion, this ruined ancient Greek temple was erected to honour the Zeus, king of the Olympian Gods. It stands smack bang in the middle of the city and is quite a sight to see with the modern world rushing past this huge historic monument that took 700 years to build. The temple originally boasted 105 17metre tall Corinthian columns though today, only 15 columns remain standing.

Opening Hours: March – October 08:00 am – 7:00 pm. November – February 08:00 am- 5:00 pm

Closed: 1 January, 25 March, Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 December, 26 December

Tickets: Full: €8, Reduced €4

Combined Tickets: €30. The combined ticket includes entrance to the Acropolis and the North and South Slopes of the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora, Museum of Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kermakeikos, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion – for 5 days

Free Admission Days: 6 March, 18 April, 18 May, the last weekend of September, 28 October, every first Sunday of the month from November 1st to March 31st.

Arch of Hadrian

Hadrian’s Arch

Also standing in the center of modern-day Athens, just outside of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, is the Arch of Hadrian, otherwise known as Hadrian’s Gate. Dating back to 131AD, this symmetrical triumphal arch was made from Pentelic marble and constructed to honor the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. When built, it spanned an old road, linking the streets of Ancient Athens to the more modern streets of Roman Athens.

Athens Central Market

It must be time for a snack or lunch by now! Pretend you’re a local and shop for picnic supplies or sit down at one of the eateries inside the glass-roofed Varvakeios Agora as you watch the locals shopping for their meat, veg, and fresh produce. Let the Greek language wash over you as you watch daily Greek life at its best!

Monastiraki District

Monastiraki-Square

This bustling square with its church on the corner, street sellers, cafes, and colourful street art  has narrow backstreets leading off from it that contain the famous Monastiraki flea market. On Sunday’s locals take to the streets with their tables full of wares but no matter if you can’t visit on a Sunday as the regular shops (think of a smaller version of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul) are diverse and perfect for browsing whether you seek antiques, religious icons, small sculptures and pottery, furniture, books, leather goods, clothes, shoes, luggage, music, or souvenirs.

Sunset Sounion Tour

sunset in Sounio

End the day on a memorable high with a 4-hour evening tour to nearby Cape Sounion to visit the Temple of Poseidon before watching the sunset over the Aegean Sea with a glass of wine in hand. You’ll learn all about the importance of Cape Sounion in Greek mythology whilst also getting to see the elegant suburbs of Athens (the Greek Riviera!) and the splendid views of the Saronic Gulf on the 50-minute drive from the city.

Click here for more information and to book this tour

Alternative Option: The Original Athens Food Tour

Too much Ancient Greek culture and history for you? Skip the Temple of Zeus, the Arch of Hadrian, and perhaps also the Panathenaic Stadium (though all are worthy of seeing from the outside even if you don’t go in!) and start your day by discovering the city through your stomach!

This guided culinary tour starts with an authentic Greek breakfast (coffee and a bread ring or pastry) at a 100 year old cafe before taking you around the Athens Central Market to sample and buy meats, cheeses, olives, and other foods from the stalls. Eat souvlaki or gyros as you wander around, enjoy a meze lunch whilst sipping on local wine, grab another coffee, and allow your inner foodie to be indulged!

Find here more information about this Athens Food Tour.

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