Athens, founded in 508 BC, is a gigantic city that sprawls over 1,131 square miles (2,929 square kilometers) and is home to over 3 million people.
There are over 5,000 years of history in Athens and you’ll find some of the largest collections in the world of Greek ruins and artifacts here.
But I’ll be honest: I don’t love Athens. I didn’t like it when I first went in 2006 and, after four visits (most recently last year), I’m still not completely sold on it. I think it’s dirty, ugly, and, overall, there’s just something about it I just don’t like.
That said, it’s not all bad.
I love the Plaka area (that’s where all the history is) and Psyri, just north, is my favorite neighborhood in the city. It’s got this cyberpunk/hipster vibe to it and has a lot of excellent bars, street drinking, cafes, and restaurants.
Overall, I have a feeling that Athens is a place that truly reveals its magic when you live there. So, while I’m still not sold on it, I warmed up to it after my last visit and can see why some people like it.
Given the amount of history and sights here, I suggest you spend at least three full days when you visit. There’s a lot to see and do here.
This travel guide to Athens will give you the low down on everything you need to know to plan your visit, save money, and make the most of your time here!
1. Visit the Acropolis
The Acropolis is a 5th-century BCE citadel overlooking Athens. The hilltop complex includes ancient buildings and ruins like Propylaea, the temple to Athena, and the famous Parthenon. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s undoubtedly one of the best historical spots in the city. Lots of plays are hosted in the Odeon of Herodes here in the summer too. Arrive super early or late to avoid the crowds. Admission is 20 EUR, or for 30 EUR you can get a 5-day combined ticket that includes many other archaeological sites in Athens .
2. Visit the Acropolis Museum
This newer (opened in 2009) museum is housed in a modern building that’s juxtaposed with the archaeological treasures that it holds. One of the highlights is the glass floor where you can walk over the ruins of an ancient neighborhood. There are also over 4,000 excavated finds, including sculptures, friezes, pottery, and more. End your visit at the museum’s restaurant for one of the best views of the Parthenon in the city. Admission is 5 EUR in the winter and 10 EUR in the summer.
3. See the National Archaeological Museum
This museum, founded in the 19th century, has one of the most extensive collections of ancient Greek artifacts in the world. There are five main permanent collections with exhibits covering Prehistoric Antiquities, Sculpture, Metalwork, Vases and Minor Arts, Egyptian Antiquities, and Cypriot Antiquities. You can even see the 2,000-year-old analog “computer” found in a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera. Plan to spend at least a half-day here. Admission is 6 EUR in the winter and 12 EUR in the summer.
More…. Nomadic Matt