One Day in Athens, a Local’s Itinerary

Having spent my childhood and most of my adult life in Athens, and having plenty of experience showing foreign visitors around my home city, this is what I, as an Athenian, recommend doing if you have one day in Athens and want to see the historic highlights as well as the iconic neighborhoods.

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Best Time to Visit Athens

April-May and October-November are ideal for sightseeing when it’s not too hot and also not too cold, however, if you’re planning to pass by Athens en route to the Greek islands, May, June, and September can also be an ideal time to explore Athens in one day.

Check out my detailed post for the best time to visit Athens, here.

How to get to and from the airport of 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
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.

If you are a cruise passenger you can read here how to get from Athens airport to the city centre.

You can see the map here

How to spend one day in Athens

Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis - How to spend One day in Athens
The Erechteion – Acropolis

Kickstart your one day Athens itinerary off at the Acropolis, where else?! Aim to be here for the opening to beat the crowds of other tourists including cruise ship passengers as well as to beat the heat of the midday sun. You should allow yourself 2 hours to explore the Acropolis as the site is vast, made up of so much more than just the iconic Parthenon.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus - Historical sites Athens
Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Slopes of the Acropolis (Acropolis meaning ‘upper city’) covers 70,000 square meters so you won’t get to see everything but you should definitely make an effort to see the 6th-century Sanctuary of Dionysus Eleuthereus which includes the Theatre of Dionysus and the 2nd-century Odeion of Herodes Atticus after exploring the Parthenon.

Here are my absolutely favorite tours that include the Acropolis:
Acropolis Small-Group Guided Tour with skip the line entry. This small-group tour starts at 8:30 and it lasts 2 hours. This way you get to skip the crowds and the heat in the summer months.

– Another favorite is the Mythology Highlights Tour. This 4-hour tour includes Athen’s most important sites; the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Ancient Agora. Please note that it doesn’t include the entrance fees with is €30. It is a very interesting tour that combines Mythology and History.

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

For more details on how to visit the Acropolis and avoid the crowds, check my Acropolis guide here.

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 - One day in Athens itinerary
Acropolis Museum

The new Acropolis Museum is vast, filling 4 floors with finds uncovered from the Acropolis and its slopes. Although you could spend a half-day looking around the museum, I recommend you limit yourself to about 1 hour here, starting with the Archaic Works Hall on the 1st floor then moving up to the Parthenon Hall on the 3rd floor with its panoramic views of the Acropolis and the 160m long frieze from the Parthenon which tells the story of the Panathenaic Procession.

At the Archaic Works Hall don’t miss the iconic Caryatids (the sculptures of women that served as columns), the Horsemen, statues of the goddess Athens and The Moschophotos – One of the first examples of marble used in Ancient Greek architecture.

Here 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

Coffee Break

Take a short break at the Acropolis Museum – There is a café on the ground floor which overlooks the archaeological excavation and a restaurant on the 2nd floor with panoramic views of the Acropolis from its terrace.

Hadrian’s Arch & Τhe Temple of Olympion Zeus

Temple of Olympian Zeus - One day in Athens
Temple of Olympian Zeus

From the Acropolis Museum, it’s just a 5minute walk to Hadrian’s Arch and the neighboring Temple of Olympian Zeus which can be viewed from the arch if you don’t wish to enter the archeological site.

Hadrian’s Arch aka Hadrian’s Gate is a symmetrical triumphal arch that was built to honor the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It makes quite an impression today, standing in the middle of the modern city but back when it was built in 131AD, it spanned an old road linking Ancient Athens with Roman Athens.

Hadrian's Gate
Hadrian’s Gate

The Temple of Zeus, otherwise known as the Olympeion, is a ruined Ancient Greek temple dedicated to the King of Olympian Gods, Zeus. Started in the 6th century BC it took 700 years to build, originally having 105 Corinthian columns standing 17 meters tall but today, only 15 of these columns remain upright.

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.

Syntagma Square

Evzones on Syntagma Square
Evzones on Syntagma Square

From Hadrian’s Arch, take a 10-minute walk down the busy vehicle-filled street to Syntagma Square with its iconic pink Parliament building. Try to time your arrival so that you’re in the square on the hour to watch the changing of the guard.

The traditionally dressed presidential soldiers known as Evzones march from their barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where they carry out the changing of the guard in slow motion wearing the iconic ‘pompom shoes’, knee-length socks, white kilt, waistcoat, and hat with black tuft – It’s a must-see!

Lunch Break

To make the most of your time, stay around Syntagma Square for lunch. I recommend eating at Tzitzikas & Mermigas (Mitropoleos 12) which serves up classic mezze along with other Mediterranean dishes or the vibrant Avocado Cafe (Nikis 30) with its vegan and vegetarian food plus an array of fresh juices.

Cathedral, Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds - One day in Athens itinerary
Tower of the Winds

From Syntagma Square make your way down Mitropoleos Street to Mitropoleos Square where you’ll find the strikingly modern Metropolitan Cathedral and the old church of Panagia Gorgoepikos.

From this modern square, you can re-enter the heart of Ancient Athens, enjoying your own walking tour as you pass the 2nd century BC Tower of the Winds (the world’s first meteorological station) so-called because of the 8 Greek gods of wind depicted in the carvings at the top of the tower and the 1st century Roman Agora which became the administrative and commercial center of Athens during Roman times.

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.

Explore Plaka & Monastiraki

Plaka Athens
Plaka Athens

From the Roman Agora, you’re moments away from the vibrant bustling neighborhood of Plaka, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city that is filled with neoclassical buildings, and numerous souvenir shops with plenty of people-watching opportunities (and feet resting opportunities!) to be had from the cafes that line the street.

But first, heading downhill to Monastiraki Square, turn onto Adrianou Street to walk back in time past the Ancient Agora with the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephestus, this being the administrative center of Ancient Athens, the place where Athenian democracy was born and where Socrates and Plato once walked.

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.

Tzistarakis Mosque
Tzistarakis Mosque

Now that you’ve passed by both the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora it’s time to re-enter the hustle and bustle of the modern world. The best souvenir shops can be found on Ifestou Street but you might want to head on into Monastiraki Square and the maze of alleys that make up the flea market, alternatively, pass by the 17th century Fethiye mosque and carry onto Hadrian’s Library in the Monastiraki neighborhood knowing that you’ve now walked past most of Athens historic monuments.

Hadrian’s Library

Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

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

Tickets: Full: €6, Reduced: €3

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.

Alternative Afternoon Itinerary – Athens Central Market & Psyrri Neighbourhood

If you don’t want to see more ancient ruins after lunch, head down Ermou Street and enjoy exploring more of the modern city with a visit to the glass-roofed central market known as Varvakeios Agora.

Street Art in Psiri

Here you can wander around the stalls selling meat, cheese, fish, fruit and veg, spices, and sweet treats, watching the locals go about their everyday shopping, perhaps picking some snacks or souvenirs up for yourself. Afterward, you can explore the vibrant Psyrri neighborhood famed for its street art before picking up the itinerary above to explore the Plaka and Monastiraki neighborhoods.

Central Market Opening Times: Monday-Saturday from 8am

End The Day with Dinner, Dessert, and Drinks

For a relaxed sit-down meal head to Platanos Taverna (Diogenous 4) in Plaka and dine on traditional homecooked food beneath the plane tree. Alternatively, if you’re short on time or already had a big lunch, grab some Greek fast food at Kostas souvlaki place in Agias Irinis Square.

Nancy’s Serbetospito

After your meal, take a stroll through Pittaki Street to the vibrant Psyrii neighborhood famous for its street art and rembetika music (Greek blues). For dessert I recommend stopping by Nancy’s Serbetospito, a pastry shop then, with your sweet tooth satisfied, relax at one of the rooftop bars around Monastiraki – 360 Degrees, A for Athens, and City Zen are all rooftop bars with panoramic views of the Acropolis whilst Couleur Local is the place to get your groove in with DJs playing almost every night of the week.

Where to stay in Athens

I suggest somewhere central since you will be in the city for only one day. One option is the area around Monastiraki especially if you are taking the ferry to the islands from Piraeus the next day or you are heading to the airport as you can easily reach both from Monastiraki metro station.

Click here for my post: Where to stay in Athens.

One day in Athens for Cruise Passengers

Since you won’t have a full day at your disposal I suggest visiting the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum followed by a walk around the Plaka neighborhood. A guided tour or the hop on hop off bus might be a good idea too depending on how long you have available.

Check out how to get to and from Piraeus port to the city center.

As you can see, it’s entirely possible to see the highlights of Athens in one day when you put this one day Athens itinerary into play. All that’s left is to wish you Kalo Taxidi – Have a good trip!

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How to spend one day in Athens / Athenis in a day

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