As Athens is such an eclectic and historical city, there are tons of things to see and do around the capital that won’t cost you a cent. Whether you’re exploring archaeological sites (from a distance or on free days), are wandering through the city markets, are checking out the street art or are visiting free museums, you’re sure to be entertained by the wealth of attractions Athens has to offer.
This list will give you plenty of things to do in Athens on a budget, meaning that there really is no excuse not to come and discover the Greek capital!
22 Free things to do in Athens
1. Book a free tour with a local
This is Athens has a great program where you get in touch with locals and depending on your needs and interests you arrange with them a free tour. Whether you are a history buff, a foodie, a shopping enthusiast or an outdoor enthusiast you are bound to find a tour that suits you and get to discover the great city of Athens through the eyes of a local.
One of the most popular and interesting things to do while in Athens is to watch the change of the guards. The ceremony takes place every hour in front of the Parliament at Syntagma square. There you will see the guards called Evzones wearing traditional customs standing guard in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier. Every Sunday morning at 11 a.m. there is a big group of Evzones, accompanied by a band marching down Vassilis Sofias avenue until the tomb of the unknown soldier. It is a ceremony worth seeing if you are visiting on a Sunday.
3. Have a picnic at the National Gardens
Located behind the Parliament building the National Gardens are an oasis in the heart of the city. They were designed by Queen Amalia and were completed in 1840. It is home to many plants and animals. Inside the garden, you will also find a small lake with ducks, ponds with fish, a playground for the children, the botanical museum, a small zoo, a children’s library, and a coffee shop.
Also spread inside the park are monuments of antiquity and the busts of important Greek personalities like poets and politicians. So grab a souvlaki or a sandwich from a nearby shop and relax at the National Gardens.
4. Check out the Street Art in Psirri and Gazi neighbourhoods
Athens has become quite famous for its street art, with colorful murals and tags popping up all over the city. Psirri and Gazi are two neighborhoods that are particularly well known for their graffiti, and Anafiotica has some great street art too! While you can book tours around the city with a street artist, you can just as easily explore the paintings for free by wandering through the streets. You can then take the sights at your own pace and don’t have to worry about budgeting.
4. Explore The Major Greek Archaeological Landmarks
Most people come to Athens to explore the major Ancient Greek landmarks, and thankfully, many of these can be visited for free every first Sunday of the month (from November to March). This means you can experience the magical sites of the Acropolis, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Ancient Agora, and much more without spending a cent!
Even if you don’t happen to be in Athens of the first Sunday of the month, some sites such as Hadrian’s Library, the Roman Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus can be seen from a distance, so if you’re not too fussed about reading the information boards of getting up close, you can witness these for free too.
5. Visit Museums And Archaeological Sites (Certain Dates)
Similarly to the free Sundays in winter, there are certain dates throughout the year in which museums and archaeological sites across the capital are open to the public for free. These include the last weekend of September, October 28th (Oxi Day), March 6th (Melina Mercouri Day), April 18th (International Monuments Day ), May 18th (International Museums Day), and June 5th.
6. Check out the free museums
There are a number of other museums that have free entry at all times such as the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments and the Plato Digital Museum. While these are quite niche subjects, they can be a fun way to keep the kids entertained or a good option for a rainy day.
In addition, there are some mini ‘museums’ houses in the Metro stations around the city, such as Syntagma, Monastiraki, and Acropolis. These stations play host to Ancient Greek artifacts that were found during the excavations of the city over the past few centuries. This is a great way to see some of the archaeological finds for free!
7. Benaki Museum on Thursday’s
The Benaki Museum is a Museum of Greek Culture, with a range of temporary and permanent collections that feature everything from statues and vases to jewelry and Byzantine art. Every Thursday from 6:00 pm to 12:00 am (late night opening), the permanent exhibits are open to the public for free. Full admission normally costs €12 so this is a great opportunity to gain an insight into Greek culture for free!
8. Visit Some Of The Many churches
Greece is quite a religious country, so it’s no surprise that Athens is dotted with churches of different shapes and sizes, most of which can be visited for free. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, most often referred to as simply “Mētrópolis” is a grand cathedral located halfway between Syntagma Square and Monastiraki.
The marble church features three aisles, two towers, and a domed basilica and is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Mother of God. The nearby Church of St. Eleftherios aka “Little Mitropoli” is also well worth a visit.
Further down towards Monastiraki is the little church that gives this area its name, the Church of Kapnikaréa. This is arguably the most photographed church in Athens as it is an old Byzantine stone church, now situated right in the middle of the high street.
Other churches to explore in Athens are the Agios Georgios Church, located on top of Lycabettus Hill, the Church of Metamorphosis Sotiros in Anafiotika, and the Church of Agios Nikolaos Ragavas in Plaka.
9. Browse Monastiraki Flea Market
The Monastiraki Flea Market is a bustling place to explore, with a whole host of different items on sale. Whether you’re looking for touristy souvenirs or would rather keep an eye out for quirky antiques and artwork, this market has you covered.
It is especially good to explore over the weekend when vendors come out to sell their wares on the back of barrows or even on blankets on the floor. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, the Monastiraki Flea Market is a great place for people-watching and candid, fly-on-the-wall photography.
10. Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a public space that invites visitors to take part in free activities and events, relax in the green spaces, dance around in the water fountains and use the area as they wish. This centre includes the Greek National Opera and the National Library and visitors can take free guided tours of the SNFCC in either Greek or English.
11. Check out the Neoclassical Architecture of the Athenian Trilogy
The so-called ‘Athenian Trilogy’ is a trio of Neoclassical buildings on Panepistimou Street, comprising of the National Library, the University of Athens, and the Academy of Athens. These three impressive structures were built in the 19th Century and can easily be reached from Syntagma Square in the center of the city. Guests can visit and photograph these mansions for free.
12. Check the many sculptures scattered around the city
Witnessing the sculptures that are dotted around the city is another free thing to do, so keep your eyes peeled for the Dromeas ‘Runner’ in front of the Hilton Hotel, the Monument of National Reconciliation in Klathmonos Square and the Statues of Alexander the Great and Constantine I of Greece.
13. Walk along Dionysius Aeropagitou
The pedestrianised Dionysius Aeropagitou Street stretches from Amalias Avenue near the Arch of Hadrian towards Philopappos Hill and is a wonderful place to admire architecture. Many of the buildings here were once homes of famous painters, composers and politicians and it has a relaxed, upmarket atmosphere.
The street is named after Dionysius the Areopagite who was the first Athenian to convert to Christianity after hearing the Apostle Paul’s sermon, the Apostle who then became the Patron Saint of Athens.
14. Visit an island in the heart of the city – Anafiotica
The area of Anafiotica on the banks of the Acropolis Hill is a quaint, island-like section of the city, that unlike the bustling high-rises of the center, is filled with white-washed buildings, small churches, flower-lined streets and classic, Greek blue shutters. This scenic neighborhood was created by a community from the Cycladic island of Anafi, who came to Athens as construction workers as part of the refurbishment of King Othon’s Palace.
As city life was so different for these islanders, they decided to make their home as much like the island of Anafi as possible, and so a settlement was born. Today it is a much-loved area by tourists (who can find it!) as the meandering passages and terracotta-roofed houses are so different from the rest of the city!
15. Walk around Plaka and Monastiraki
Plaka and Monastiraki are two of the main tourist areas of Athens as they are located in the heart of the city and are home to a great range of shops, bars, restaurants, and attractions. It is around this area that you can find many of the ancient archaeological sites such as Hadrian’s Library, the Roman Agora, and Ancient Agora.
You can visit these for free (on certain days) or you can just take a peek from the sidelines as you explore the area. Of course, Ancient Greek architecture mostly comprises of towering columns and archways, so there’s not much hiding them from view!
You could easily while away hours around Plaka and Monastiraki, people watching, enjoying a Greek coffee and strolling around the streets and shops.
16. Check out the central Food market (Varvakeios)
Another place to wander, people watch and photograph is the Central Food Market, a hub of market activity from dawn ‘til dusk. The market, often referred to as Varvakeios, is mainly a source of food stuffs, with butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and deli vendors selling their local produce.
This does mean that the market can be quite graphic and smell pretty pungent at times, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you have a gentle constitution! However, it really is a fascinating place. Around the outskirts of the main market, there are also more mainstream stalls selling souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, antiques, and trinkets.
17. Check out the Panathenaic Stadium (from the outside)
While it does cost to enter the Panathenaic Stadium, there’s no stopping you going to check it out from the outside. Visitors can walk right up to the front of the stadium, seeing the grand amphitheater in all its glory.
Although you won’t be able to take a photo of yourself on the track from here, it’s still pretty impressive and well worth a visit. The whole stadium is built entirely of marble and can seat almost 50,000 spectators!
18. Enjoy the view from Areopagus Hill
Walking is always a free activity and there are some great hikes and trails around Athens that allow you to witness the city from different angles for free. One of these is Areopagus Hill the rocky outcrop near the Acropolis. Visitors can climb up to this hill free of charge, sitting on the rocks at sunset to take in the view of the city and the Parthenon. Other free walks include Mount Lycabettus and Filopappou Hill
For the most astounding views of the city, you can head to one of the two hills near the center of Athens. Filopappou Hill also called the hill of the Muses has an incredible view of the whole city that stretches to the Saronic Gulf. The view of the Acropolis is pretty spectacular from there too.
At the top of the hill, you will find the Filopappos Monument built in 115 AD in honor of the town’s benefactor Julius Antiochus Filopappos. As you climb the hill don’t forget to check the beautiful church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbadiaris with the incredible frescoes.
Another hill that provides great views of the city is Lycabettus Hill. You can reach it by taking the path from Loukianou Street. At the top of the hill, you will find the chapel of Agios Georgios and a cafe.
20. Visit the beaches near Athens in the summer
Another free activity around Athens is visiting the beach. This is ideal if you’re staying out near the Athenian Riviera, but can also be enjoyed by those who don’t mind spending a little on public transport to reach a destination where you can have a free day out. The beaches here are lovely in summer, with the golden sands and warm waters being inviting after a busy week in the city! Travelers can take a picnic to save money or can enjoy a long, Greek lunch in one of the traditional seaside tavernas.
21. Walk in the marinas on the Athenian Riviera
Another beachside activity to enjoy for free is to walk around the marinas on the Athenian Riviera. This area includes marinas such as Floisvos, Mikrolimano, and Marina Zea, and visitors can stroll along the harbourside, admiring the boats and lifestyles of the yachties who have come to stay!
22. Take a free walking tour
There is a free walking tour of Athens that covers the city’s main attractions like the Parliament, the Kalimarmaro stadium, the Roman and the Greek Agora, the Monastiraki markets, etc. For more information, you can click here.
This list should give you plenty of things to do in Athens on a budget, as well as some tips and tricks about the best time to visit the city so you can make the most of free entry deals! Athens really is a city where you can explore a lot for free, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for cheap flights to the city so you can soak up the amazing atmosphere of the Ancient (and modern) Greeks!
Let me know what free things you’re looking forward to seeing in Athens in the comments below.
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