3 Days in Athens – a Local’s Itinerary

Born and raised in Athens and also having also spent most of my adult life in this historic yet modern city, I always say that 3 days in Athens is the perfect amount of time for first-time visitors. 3 days allows you time to visit all the key historic attractions, wander the most picturesque neighborhoods, and even venture out of the city on a day trip. So without further ado, let me present my 3 days Athens itinerary.

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 Spend 3 Days in Athens, an Itinerary for First-Timers

You can also see the map here

The Best Time to Visit Athens

I recommend avoiding the height of Summer (July-August) as well as the depths of Winter (January-February) when Athens gets wet and cold! April-May and October-November are ideal months for sightseeing, however, if you’re in Athens en route to some Summer fun on the Greek islands, May, June, and September can also be great as you’ll avoid the worst of the heat and the worst of the crowds, without having to see the Ghost City that Athens becomes in August when the Athenians head to the islands for their summer vacations.

Click here for more information on the best time to visit Athens.

How to get to and from the airport in Athens

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
Taxi30 min€38/ daytime24/7
Athens airport to city centre

I recommend that you pre-book a Welcome Taxi, a 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.

Check out my detailed guide on how to get to and from the airport to city center.

3 days in Athens: Day One

The Acropolis

Acropolis - 3 days in Athens

Start your first day in Athens by exploring the Acropolis and its slopes. From the Acropolis metro station, you can walk up the impressively picturesque Dionyssiou Areopagitour Street taking in the neoclassical architecture and the Acropolis towering above as you make your way to the main Acropolis entrance on Theoias Street. Arrive early, in time for the opening, to be able to enjoy the Parthenon before the crowds arrive, and if visiting in summer before the heat hits the city!

The slopes of the Acropolis are filled with monuments but head straight to the top for the Parthenon, entering through the Beule Gate and passing the Temple of Athena Nike, as you can explore the amphitheaters on the South slope on your way down.

The Acropolis, which means ‘upper city’ not only contains the Parthenon but also the iconic Old Temple of Athena, famous for its 6 caryatids (the female sculptures which act as columns) the remains of the Temple of Rome and Augustus and so much more.

Once you have wandered around the Acropolis, taking in the breathtaking views across the city, start making your way down the South Slope passing the 2nd-century Herodeion Theatre built by the Roman Herodes Atticus and the older 6th-century Theatre of Dionysus.

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

A small group guided 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.

Check out my complete guide on visiting the Acropolis and skipping the lines.

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.

Acropolis Museum

Acropolis museum
Acropolis Museum

See the artifacts that have been uncovered at the Acropolis and surrounding slopes whilst learning more about the history of Ancient Greece at the award-winning Acropolis museum. Spread across 4 floors, the ground floor contains the artifacts uncovered on and around the slopes and includes the auditorium along with temporary exhibitions.

The first floor covers the Archaic period and contains the must-see Caryatids, the Horsemen, statues of the goddess Athens and The Moschophotos, a painted marble statue that is one of the first examples of marble used in Ancient Greek architecture.

View of the Acropolis from the Acropolis Museum
View of the Acropolis from the Acropolis Museum

The second floor of the museum contains the multimedia center whilst the third floor contains the Parthenon Hall from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Acropolis from the huge glass panel windows whilst seeing the artifacts found at the Parthenon including the 160m long frieze which tells the story of the Panathenaic Procession.

Both the ground floor cafe and the 2nd floor restaurant at the Acropolis museum make a great place to rest your legs whilst refuel, the cafe overlooking the archaeological excavation site and the restaurant’s terrace boasting panoramic views of the Acropolis.

Here are some great options for visiting the Acropolis Museum:

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

Hadrian’s Arch

Hadrian’s Arch

A 5minute walk from the Acropolis Museum is the triumphal arch built in 131AD to honor the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Standing just to the side of the hustle and bustle of the modern city, this arch, or gate as it’s otherwise known, once spanned the old road that linked Ancient Athens with the more modern Roman Athens.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens
temple of Olympian Zeus

Right next to Hadrian’s Arch is the Temple of Zeus. Construction of the temple began in the 6th century BC taking 700 years to complete with 107 17 meter tall Corinthian columns erected to honor the King of the Olympian Gods. Today only 15 of the columns remain standing but it’s still a sight to behold as you marvel at the history of this site whilst the hustle and bustle of the modern city carries on around you.

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.

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaro)
Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaro)

The place where the modern Olympic Games were revived in 1896, and still the place where the Olympic Flame begins its journey, this is the only stadium in the world to be made entirely from marble. Built in the 6th century BC, the venue was built for male-only track events and could hold 60,000 spectators – Fast forward through the centuries to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and this is where the archery competition took place as well as being the finishing point for the women’s and the men’s marathon.

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

The National Gardens

National Gardens of Athens - 3 days in Athens
National Gardens of Athens

From the Panathenaic Stadium just cross the road and you’ll be entering the peace and tranquillity of the 15.5 hectare National Gardens. With its Roman Floor excavations and iconic sundial located at the main entrance, lose yourself in the tranquillity as you find the 6 lakes of the gardens which are home to turtles, peacocks, ducks and other birdlife and follow the palm, carob, and oleander lined paths through the gardens to Syntagma Square.

Syntagma Square

Parliament in Athens in 3 days
Parliament in Athens

The hub of central Athens, the site of the iconic pink Parliament Building and the changing of the guard, be sure to arrive in Syntagma Square on the hour so that you can watch the famous procession of traditionally dressed presidential soldiers (Evzones) that takes place on the hour daily in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Check out more beautiful squares in Athens.

Athens Trilogy Buildings

National Library of Athens
National Library of Athens

In the busy and bustling Panepistimiou Street walk past the 3 elegant jewels of neoclassical architecture that make up the ‘Athens Trilogy’. The National Library, the University of Athens, and the Academy were all built between 1864-1890 and designed by the Danish Hansen Brothers.

The Academy was inspired by the Acropolis’ Propylaea and until recently, the National Library held approximately 2,000,000 volumes including the first-ever printed book in Greek from 1476. Admire these mansions from the outside with their sculptures and gardens and know that you’re standing in the middle of Greece’s academic heart.

Ermou Street

Emou Street
Emou Street

Walk part of the 1.5km long pedestrianized street that connects the Kerameikos archaeological site with Syntagma Square. Considered the main shopping street of the city, home to fast-food restaurants, cafes, Greek and international chain stores as well as indie stores, enjoy some window shopping and entertainment in the form of street musicians, clowns, and mime acts, as you make your way along this famous street to Monastiraki Square.

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki square from above
Monastiraki square from above

End your first day in Athens at Monastiraki Square where you can shop for souvenirs on Ifestou Street or enter into the famous maze of alleys that make up Monastiraki Flea Market. The bustling square itself is a great place to pause with its eateries, fountain, Ottoman mosque, and metro station which will get you back to your hotel at the end of a long but satisfying first day exploring Athens.

3 days in Athens: Day Two

Explore Plaka and Anafiotika

Plaka

Once again begin your day outside the Acropolis metro station this time walking along Vyronos Street towards the famous neighborhood of Plaka. Enroute you’ll pass by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates otherwise known as the Lamp of Diogenes (the only surviving example of an ancient circular monument that would have once been the display base for a choral or athletic prize, this one was erected in 334BC!)

The neighborhood of Plaka lies in the shadow of the Acropolis and has a village feel to it with its cobblestone streets lined with neo-classical buildings that are now shops, cafes, and tavernas.

Anafiotika Athens
Anafiotika Athens

This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and if you like wandering picturesque back street and browsing in boutique shops you’ll be in your element. It gets better though as nearby you can enter another world, the tiny neighborhood of Anafiotika.

Here you’ll forget you’re in the city and think you’ve been transported to a quaint Greek island as you follow the scenic winding streets up and around taking in the whitewashed buildings, sleeping cats, and blooming bougainvillea – Photographers can easily spend hours here before dropping back down to Plaka again for a coffee break before re-entering Ancient and Roman Athens.

Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds

Tower of thewinds in Roman Agora
Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora

Built using money from Julius Ceasar and Augustus in the 1st century BC, the open-air market became the administrative and commercial center of Athens from 267AD after the invasion of Herulae.

Today visitors can wander around the ruins of the rectangular agora with its ancient columns, many of which are still partially standing, and the scattered rocks that would have once been the foundation walls imagining the hustle and bustle that would have surrounded the market stalls.

Located on one side of the Roman Agora stands the mighty Tower of the Winds – the first meteorological station that also functioned as a timepiece. Built in the 2nd century BC, the exterior of the octagonal tower has 8 Greek gods of wind-carved into it as well as markings for the sundial.

If you choose to go inside you can see exhibitions from the Folk Art Museum as well as the original position of the water clock which marked time using water from a stream that once flowed down from the Acropolis.

Roman 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 €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.

Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora Athens
Ancient Agora

Built in the 6th century BC the Ancient Agora was the hub of Ancient Athens – a place of commerce, politics, learning (Socrates would hold lectures here), religious events, and social activities including shows and sporting events. The Temple of Hephaestos is the most recognizable monument on the site of the Ancient Agora today along with the Attalos stoa – a type of ancient department store with a covered walkway which today contains the Ancient Agora Museum.

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.

Kerameikos Cemetery and Museum

Kerameikos Cemetery Athens
Kerameikos Cemetery

Often overlooked by visitors, this tranquil archeological site contains ancient graves being used continuously as a cemetery from the 9th century BC until Roman times. Wander around the columns of temples passing statues, and engraved marble tombstones before entering the small yet interesting museum that contains offerings, urns, and other interesting finds.

Opening Hours: daily 8:00 – 20:00 (last admission 19:45) during summer. daily 8:00 – 15:00 during winter

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.

Filopappu Hill

Filopappu Monument Athens
Filopappu Monument

Next, take in the incredible city views from the small pine-filled peak of Filopappu Hill which contains a monument dating back to AD114 which honors Julius Antiochus Filopappos, a prominent Roman consul.

You can reach the summit from several entrances including Arakinthou Street, Panetoliou Street, and Mousseion Street. Known as ‘The Hill Of The Muses’, the views at sunset are breathtaking as you look across to the Acropolis and out to the Saronic Gulf making it well worth the 147 meters (480 ft) hike up to the top!

Check out some more beautiful Hills around Athens.

Dinner and Drinks

After your easier downhill walk from Filopappu, head back to Plaka where you can enjoy dinner in one of the family-owned tavernas followed by drinks in one of the rooftop bars with Acropolis views.

Alternative Day 2 Options

I realize that not everyone wants to see every single historic site in the city so you could do the following instead:

Visit Athens Central Market and/or do a Food Tour

central Market Athens
central Market Athens

Athens Central Market aka Varvakeios Agora is a modern indoor market with a glass roof where you can wander between the many stalls selling meat, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables, spices, sweet treats, and more before people watching from one of the eateries in the food hall.

The Original Athens Food Tour lets you discover the city through your tastebuds! Starting with an authentic Greek breakfast at a 100-year-old cafe, the guided culinary tour continues on to the Athens Central Market, introduces you to Greek fast food with souvlaki and gyros, and ends with a meze lunch served with wine.

Click here for more information and to book this food tour.

Visit Psiri Neighborhood and/or do a Street Art Tour

street art in Psiri Athens
street art in Psiri

This neighborhood was once considered the most dangerous place in the city but today it’s a fashionably quirky area filled with street art, craft workshops, art galleries, and bars, and clubs well known and loved for their live Rembetika music (Greek blues).

A Street Art Tour, led by a local street artist, lets you explore alternative Athens as you see the biggest, newest, and best street art and learn more about the people who create the street art and the meaning behind some of the graffiti that brings the alleys to life.

Click here for more information and to book your street art tour.

3 days in Athens: Day Three

There are two options for how best to spend your last day in Athens but both allow you to get out and about and see more of the country.

Option 1 – National Archaeological Museum & Halfday Sunset Sounio Tour

National Archaeological Monument

The National Archaeological Museum contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity in the world with some 11,000 exhibits to explore. Covering the periods from prehistory until late antiquity, not only does the NAM contain items from Athens, but for sites from all over Greece including Ancient Thera and the surrounding Cyclades.

Highlights include the bronze statue of either Zeus or Poseidon (experts can’t decide!), the Antikythera Mechanism aka the world’s first computer, and the gold death mask of Agamemnon to name just a few.

Opening Hours: Winter (November 1st – March 31st) Tuesday 1:00 pm – 8 pm. Wednesday – Monday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Summer (April 1st – October 31st) 12:30 pm – 8 pm. Wednesday – Monday 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Tickets: €6 Winter (November 1st – March 31st), €12 Summer (April 1st – October 31st) €12

There is also a combined ticket available that costs €15 valid for 3 days that includes entrance to the Archaeological Museum, the Epigraphic Museum, the Numismatic Museum, and the Byzantine and Christian Museum.

The Sunset Sounio Tour

Temple of Poseidon Sounio
Temple of Poseidon Sounio

End your time in Athens with a trip out of the city to the most Southern point of Attica to admire the views across Cape Sounio at sunset. On clear days you’ll be able to see out to the islands of Kea, Kythnos, Serifos, and Aegina and with the backdrop of the Temple of Poseidon, one of Greece’s ‘golden age’ temples’, it’s a truly amazing place to end your trip.

The easiest way to get to Sounio is by a guided tour. I personally recommend this half-day Sounio sunset tour from Athens

You might want to check my post on how to make a day trip from Athens to Sounio.

Opening Hours: Summer 9:00 am – sunset, Winter 9:30 am – Sunset

Reduced Hours: Good Friday: 12.00-18.00, Holy Saturday: 08.00-17.00

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

Tickets: Full €10, Reduced: €5

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.

Option 2 – Full Day Guided Tours to Explore More of Greece

There are numerous options when it comes to choosing a day trip from Athens whether you want to tick off some Greek islands or visit some more of the county’s famous historical sites. These are the best day trips from Athens:

Check out my post: The best day trips from Athens

Where to Stay in Athens

I recommend staying somewhere central, either around Syntagma Square, Monastiraki, or close to the Acropolis – This way all of the sights will be within walking distance of your accommodation but also with metro links so you can easily get to/from the airport or port and from A to B if you want to save your feet as much as possible.

Here is a small selection of recommended hotels in Athens:

$$$ Herodion Hotel: 200 m away from the Acropolis metro station and within walking distance from the major sites, it offers elegant air-conditioned rooms and free wi-fi.

$$ Niki Athens Hotel: 100 m away from Syntagma Square, it is a fantastic spot for those wishing to be within walking distance of the key sites of Athens; it is clean, modern, and elegant and has free wi-fi.

$ Evripides Hotel is located near Monastiraki square, close to all the city’s attractions. It offers simple air-conditioned rooms with free wi-fi.

For more information check my detailed guide on where to stay in Athens

Getting Around Athens

The electronic 3-day tourist pass saves you both time and money on transportation as it includes return transport to Athens airport by metro or express bus, as well as unlimited access to the metro, buses, and trams within the city center for 72hours starting from the time you first ‘touch in’.

Check out my guide to public transportation in Athens for more information.

As you can see, 3 days in Athens allows you to see and do so much, perhaps more than you ever thought possible given the day trip options too! I hope you have as much fun exploring my city as I do – If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.

Did you like it? Pin it!

3 days in Athens, Athens 3 day itinerary by a local. what to do in Athens in 3 days

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

shares