Top chosen destination during Summers, for a good reason, Athens is a perfect choice if you are looking for a mix of bright sun, white sand and a bit of history.
In this itinerary of 3 days in Athens, I will show you what to do in Athens in 3 days, including the best greek ruins to visit and how to get to the beaches nearby, and the best attractions to visit in Athens.
How to get around Athens
Getting around Athens is quite easy, the metro system is really good and there are metro stations nearby most of the important monuments in the city center.
Honestly, the bus system I found kind of confusing, especially because everything is written in Greek, and it is hard to understand if you don’t recognize a single letter.
For the adventurous ones, who want to give a try to the public transport, here is a map of the Athenian public transport, to help you out.
But for those, like me, who prefer the comfort and certainty, go for the Hop on Hop off bus. In my opinion, this is always the best option, especially if you have only a few days in Athens and want to visit not only the main monuments but also the Athenian riviera, as the Hop on Hop off bus offer itineraries in the city center and also in the coast site.
What to do in Athens in 3 days
Considered one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, dated back to 3000 years, Athens is the gem of the Mediterranean and the historical heart of the world.
Once home to a memorable empire, owner of a rich culture that influences lives even centuries later, Athens is not only beautiful by its natural landscapes and famous beaches that attract millions of people every year, but also a hotspot for history & culture lovers looking for a time travel experience.
For those who, like me, love history, I suggest spending some time in the Plaka neighborhood, this is the oldest neighborhood in the city and the background of the ancient Athens city. Here you will find ruins in every corner, some iconic ones like the Acropole, others not so famous as the Ancient Agora.
Walking down the streets of Plaka is walking down the path of important figures such as Socrates, Plato, Sophocles and many other remarkable characters who helped write our history.
The central square of Athens and probably the most famous square in modern Greece is home to the beautiful 19th century Old Royal Palace, that houses the Greek Parlament since 1934.
This is the heart of modern Athens and around the square, you will find the top five-start hotels, restaurants, and Mc Donalds.
In Syntagma Square, don’t miss the chance to watch the change of the guard. It happens every hour, every day, in front of the Greek Parliament. Although it happens everyday, Sunday at 11 am is the best day and hour to watch the changing of the guard as it is the official ceremony with the official customs.
In front of Syntagma Square, is the main shopping street in Athens, Ermou Street. Here you can find the most popular shops, from famous brands like Zara and H&M to other greek brands. If you are looking for clothes or shopping in general, that’s the place.
Another good point in taking Ermou Street is that it brings you directly to Monastiraki Square, another main square in Athens.
On the way, you will pass by Panaghia Kapnikarea, an old Greek Orthodox church. It is one of the oldest churches in the city, probably built around 1050. As it was a common practice back then, the church was built over a Greek temple dedicated to a goddess, probably Athena or Demeter.
Pro Tip: In front of the church you will find some cafes, don’t miss the chance to try baklava, the traditional dessert of Greece.
At the end of Ermou Street, you will arrive in the old neighborhood of Psyri, one of the most historical and touristy neighborhoods in Athens.
Psyri is full of old buildings, today most of them are restored and narrowed streets. The area is full of cafes and bars, as well as many shops selling especially antique items. Definitely worth a visit.
Pro Tip: Two blocks away from Monastiraki Square, in the Pittaki street, you will find the Little Kook, a fairy-tale inspired cafe. The street is an attraction by itself, but do take your time to try an ice cream or another dessert.
One of the main squares in Athens, with several historical buildings worth visiting. Besides historical, the area is famous for its shops, it is the best place too for souvenirs or cheap clothes.
Another shopping highlight that definitely caught attention from any tourist passing by, is the huge flea market located in one of the streets adjacent to the square. If you, like me, love old stuff, this is like a Disneyland, do spend some time looking around.
The buildings around Monastiraki are a mix of ages and reflect the many events that happened in Athens during the centuries.
The first building in the entrance of the square is the Pantanassa church, an orthodox church built in the 10th century, as part of the now-vanished monastery that used to occupy Monastiraki, the name of the square means “little monastery”, a reference to the old building that despite the name, was once the greatest monastery in Athens.
The building next to it is the Tzistarakis Mosque, built-in 1759, during the time of the Ottoman occupation. The building nowadays is an annex to the Museum of Greek Folk Art.
Behind the mosque is located the oldest building in the square, Hadrian’s library. It was built by Emperor Hadrian in 132 AD and worked as a place to storage papyrus, offering reading rooms and lecture halls.
Taking the metro to the Acropolis station and following down the street of Dionisyus Areopagitou, you will find yourself in front of the Arch of Hadrian.
If you opt for taking the Hop on Hop off the bus, it will leave you right in front of the Arch.
Passing through the Arch, there is one of the most important temples in Athens and the whole of Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
The construction of the temple began in 6th century BC but was only finished 638 years after, in the 2nd century AD, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
The building was destroyed several times during its construction and today, only sixteen of its 104 columns survived. It is believed that the temple was destroyed by earthquakes.
Following the Dionisyus Areopagitou back, let’s visit now the Acropolis.
Acropolis in Greek means something like “city on a hill”, and there are several Acropolis across Greece, however, this one is the most famous of them due to the Parthenon.
On the way up you will see many interesting ruins, like the Theater of Dionysius, Temple of Themis and Odeon of Herodes Attico, that is still in usage today and receives shows and concerts every year during the Summer event.
The first building you will see in the Acropoli is the Propylaea, the beautiful gate, next to it is the Temple of Athena Nike.
Passing the Propyleae, you will already see the giant Parthenon, the symbol of Athens, considered one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments and an example of architecture even nowadays.
The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, considered the patron of the city, and in front of the temple, there used to be a colossal statue of the goddess.
On one of the Parthenon sides, there is another important temple, known as the Erechteion, known for the remarkable Porch of the Caryatids. The temple was dedicated to Poseidon and Athena.
Leaving the Acropoli behind, let’s visit the Acropolis museum now!
I highly recommend booking a tour to visit all Greek monuments in Athens as you will understand better the ancient buildings, learn more about the history, culture, and mythology. Book this tour to visit the ruins mentioned above, plus the Ancient Agora mentioned below.
To learn more about the ruins, check this post about the Greek monuments to visit in Athens.
Down the road, really close to the Acropolis, lay the Acropolis Museum. It is an archeological museum that focuses on the findings of the Acropolis site and in the surrounding areas.
With a collection of over 4,000 items, the museum houses artifacts from the Greek Bronze Era to Byzantine Greece.
To visit the Acropolis Museum, you must buy a ticket, you can buy it here.
Following now to the Ancient Agora, the archeological site next to the Acropolis. It is where daily life used to happen in ancient Athens.
Here people used to gather, do their shopping, listen to philosophers or politician speeches and learn about new rules passed by the Athenian government.
It is an area full of important buildings, the most remarkable ones in the site is definitely the Stoa of Attalos, rebuilt in 1956 and turned into a museum nowadays.
And the beautiful Temple of Hephaestus, the most well-preserved Greek building in the world.
Just like the Acropolis, it is interesting to book a tour to visit the Ancient Agora, this tour here includes both a visit to the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora.
Today we have three options. You can enjoy the Athenian Riviera, visiting the beaches on the coast of Athens. Most of us forget the fact that Athens is located on the coast and offers amazing beaches.
When we think about Athens, we think about history, culture, politics maybe, but definitely, we don’t think about beaches. But you must bear in mind that you don’t need to make your way to any Greek Island to enjoy the turquoise water Greece has to offer!
Athens has several beaches across its coast, some of them are private beaches, or how they like to call, Organized Beaches. Where you have to pay a fee to stay, you can also rent an umbrella and a beach chair.
And normal public beaches, where you don’t have to pay anything to enjoy your time.
If you get the Hop on Hop off bus ticket, there is a bus that makes the trip from central Athens to the coast side. The first beaches are not the best though.
My recommendation is to go directly to Glyfada. This is one of my favorite beaches in Athens.
Another good option is the Vouliagmeni beach, located close to the Vouliagmeni lake, which is our next stop.
Known as a natural spa, the lake has a supply of warm seawater, that comes through a complex of underground channels, part of a flooded water network, while a freshwater spring reduces its salinity.
The area used to be a big cavern, that collapsed around 2,000 due to an earthquake.
The high concentration of salts and minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, chlorine, iodine, etc, the combination of these elements with the high temperature helps in the treatment of several diseases.
The spa has been used since the 19th century and was declared a Natural Monument of Greece.
Second option: half-day Temple of Poseidon trip
Built between 444 and 440 BC during the Golden Age of the Athenian society, the Temple of Poseidon is one of the major monuments of the period. It was rebuilt in the same period as Pantheon, during the ascendancy of Pericles, and Athenian statesman.
The temple is located at Cape Sounion, around 70 km away from Athens, and 65m above the sea, a temple in honor of Poseidon couldn’t be in a better place than overlooking the sea!
To visit the temple from Athens you will need at least 4 hours, including travel time, and the best moment to visit it is early in the morning, or during the sunset.
Third option: Full Day Cruise to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina
For those who like beaches and natural places and still want to take advantage of a trip do Greece and visit the islands, I recommend taking a one day cruise to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina from Athens.
Unfortunately, famous islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Corfu are far from Athens, and can’t be visited as a day trip from the capital. However, if you only have 3 days in Athens you can still go for the full day cruise.
Located just 2 hours away from Athens by ferry, Hydra is a very cosmopolitan island and a famous destination for those visiting Athens.
Cars are not allowed on the beach, so to move around you will have to go on foot, or rent a donkey!
Poros is just 45 minutes away from Piraeus, it is considered a weekend gateway from the Greek capital Athens.
There is a more picturesque island, that offers great hotels, cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Another island really close to Athens, around 40 minutes away. It is also considered a gateway from the capital.
Besides the beautiful beaches, Aegina island also has many ancient greek monuments worth visiting. The island used to be one of the most important islands of ancient Greece.
One of the main monuments is the Temple of Athena Aphaia, built back in the 6th century BC.