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One Day in Athens Itinerary: What to See in Athens in One Day

Wondering how to spend one day in Athens? This Athens day trip itinerary includes the best things to do in Athens in one day!

Only have one day in Athens? Perhaps you are going Greek island hopping and simply making a pit stop in Athens on your way. Or perhaps you’re in Athens just for a weekend getaway.

The great news is that Athens is a relatively small city so you can get around entirely on foot and see the best of the sites in just one day. 

One Day in Athens Itinerary

Before we get going with this Athens itinerary, I want to share my two top tips with you for visiting Athens. Both of these tips will save you some money and help you get the most out of your trip to Athens!

Athens Tip #1

I’d highly recommend purchasing the Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket, which is available from GetYourGuide.

With this ticket, you get entry to the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Temple of Zeus, Aristotle’s School, Hadrian’s Library, and Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery, the majority of which are on this Athens itinerary.

You may not have time or want to visit quite all of these, but even if you just visit the ones on this list, you will save time and money.

Once purchasing, the ticket will appear on your phone, and you’ll simply present this at each ancient site. No need to queue for tickets.

Plus, tickets from GetYourGuide are cancellable up to 24 hours before your visit, which is ideal in these uncertain times!

Buy your Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket from GetYourGuide here now.

Athens Tip #2

The main sights to see in Athens are the ancient ruins, which are mostly open to the elements and under the blazing sun.

Unfortunately, there are not many information placards to read as you walk around these open-air ruins, and therefore I’d highly, highly recommend downloading an audioguide to accompany you as you walk around so you can get the most out of your experience.

An excellent, free audioguide that I discovered for my trip is Rick Steves Audio Europe™ Travel App.

The app contains guided tours for some of the key ancient mythological sites in Athens, which are clear, easy to follow and also very enjoyable, if a little cheesy.

There’s a map to help guide you on your phone, otherwise you can just listen along to the instructions and information as you wander around these sites.

If you’d rather read about them, there is also an option to just read as you walk, but I found the audio experience much more rewarding and meant you didn’t need to keep looking at your phone.

Download Rick Steves Audio Europe™ Travel App from the app store here.

The Acropolis

The Acropolis is the most famous tourist site in Greece and Athens. It’s the name of the citadel up upon the hill and is where you’ll find the Parthenon and other notable buildings dating back to 447 BC.

The Parthenon is the main event here – the ancient and ruined temple to Athena, who was the patron of Athens city and the goddess who gave it its name.

If you’re not already familiar with the ancient story of how Athens got its name, let me enlighten you.

Both the God Poseidon and Goddess Athena wanted naming rights to this city. So both offered the city a gift – Poseidon struck his trident down on the ground and a salt spring came out of the rock; Athena created an olive tree, a symbol of prosperity and peace.

The city preferred Athena’s gift and chose her to be its patron, and thus the city took the name Athens.

The Acropolis opens at 8am in the morning and it’s worth getting there first thing to try and avoid the crowds (of which there are plenty!).

It’s also very hot during the day in Athens so getting here before the sun and heat are at their peak is in your best interests. 

What’s more, the Acropolis looks most beautiful when the light is soft in the early morning so if you want to take some pretty snaps then you’ll get the best pictures early on in the day.

Before coming down from atop the hill, make sure to visit the viewpoint over the city that’s partway up the hill.

It’s a large rock called the Aeropagus cropping out of the side of the hill and you won’t miss it as there’ll be tourists crawling all over it!

Buy your Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket from GetYourGuide here now.

Ancient Agora

The Ancient Agora is another absolute must-see site whilst in Athens and is located just under the Acropolis.

In modern day Greek, agora means “marketplace” and this is the former gathering place of Athens where people would meet, discuss politics, conduct business and more.

Today, this archaeological site is a mixture of ruins, grassy hills and impressive temples.

Two of the key sights are the Stoa of Attalos, which has been rebuilt to mimic its former glory, and the Temple of Hephaestus, which is one of the best preserved classical temples still standing today.

The Stoa of Attalos is an enormous building with tall columns lining the open space on the bottom level. Here there is a museum now with ancient artefacts and ruins for you to read more about.

The Temple of Hephaestus is pretty much entirely entact, which is extraordinary given that building began way back in 449 BC.

Hephaestus was the patron God of craftsmanship and I’m guessing he gave those who built this temple a little sprinkle of magic because it has certainly stood the test of time!

You will also get amazing views of the Acropolis from here as you get an unobstructed side view of the Parthenon in all its glory.

Buy your Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket from GetYourGuide here now.

Roman Agora

The Roman Agora is a much smaller space and far fewer of the structures here have survived.

This space was built much later, likely in the 1st century BC and was the former marketplace of the city, where people would come to shop and trade.

You can see the remains of the many columns that once lined this open-air space all around the grass and imagine what this would’ve looked like in its heyday.

One building remains standing at the end of the Roman Agora, which is the Tower of the Winds. Whilst this was originally a water tower and sundial, it was later used as a chapel, which may explain why it has survived the test of time.

Buy your Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket from GetYourGuide here now.

Hadrian’s Library 

I love to visit bookish locations whilst I’m travelling but this one was a little different to most.

I often seek out old libraries but this has to be the oldest I’ve visited so far – so old it’s in ruins!

Hadrian’s Library was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 AD. At that time, it was the largest library in Athens and is thought to have held around 16,800 books.

Today there isn’t a single manuscript in sight but there are some magnificent ancient Corinthian columns that remain on the outer wall.

These are incredibly tall and give a sense of just how large and grand this library once was.

Hadrian’s Library is located quite centrally and very close to Monastiraki station and it’s well worth popping in to visit.

There aren’t many information plaques at this one so listening to Rick Steves Audio Europe™ Travel App is a good idea here.

There are also a couple of resident tortoises and cats which you may see wandering around the ruins.

Buy your Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket from GetYourGuide here now.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Temple of Olympian Zeus was once an absolutely enormous temple dedicated to the Greek God Zeus. Construction began as early as the 6th century BC and it was intended to be the greatest temple in the ancient world.

However, it took almost 700 years for this structure to actually be completed and it wasn’t until the 2nd century AD that it was completed.

What’s particularly sad is that after all that effort, the temple was pillaged by barbarians just over a century afterwards and likely fell into ruins after that.

Today, sixteen of the original columns remain and you can see from the size of the grassy plain the columns stand upon and from their height that this was no doubt once a very impressive temple.

One column lies broken on its side, but you can see how a column would’ve been built from its presentation today as something similar to a sushi roll.

There’s practically no information to read at this site, so I’d recommend reading up on its history or listening to Rick Steves Audio Europe™ Travel App.

NB. When I visited, a large portion of the standing columns was covered in scaffolding, so there wasn’t a great deal to look at.

Buy your Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo ticket from GetYourGuide here now.

Visit the Acropolis Museum 

You’ll probably be rather hot and sweaty at this point, having been out under the blazing Greek sun for most of the day so far.

Head to the Acropolis Museum where you can learn more about the history of Athens and admire some of the ruins that have survived until today. You’ll be pleased to know that the museum has aircon!

One of the highlights of the Acropolis Museum is getting to see the Caryatids up close. These sculpted figures of women serve as columns and are taken from The Erechtheion or Temple of Athena Polias, which you will have seen at the Acropolis.

Yep, those columns at the Erechtheion are actually just replicas at this point with the real columns standing inside the museum to help preserve them.

Another amazing part of the museum is the Parthenon Gallery, where you can learn all about the sculptures that were first built on the Parthenon.

This part was particularly striking as it becomes very apparent how much the British took from the Parthenon way back in the early 1800s.

It is indicated on the boards which statues are Elgin Marbles and now live in the British Museum. As a British person, I couldn’t help but feel saddened and ashamed whilst walking around this part.

Just recently, Stephen Fry spoke out about this issue again and said that it would be a “classy” gesture for Britain to finally return these, noting that Brtiain “hasn’t done a classy thing for some time”. That did make me chuckle.

I’d highly recommend booking your tickets for the Acropolis Museum in advance as there can be very long queues here during peak season.

Don’t make the mistake I did and buy the tickets when you get there, battling with weak signal to try and complete the sale.

Again, if you purchase your tickets via GetYourGuide, you will have these available to download immediately on your phone and you won’t have to queue to enter.

What’s more, you can cancel the tickets up to 24 hours before your visit, which is perfect for the times we live in and offers you that little bit of comfort.

Buy tickets to the Acropolis Museum now and skip the queue!

Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is the central square in Athens and is located in front of the Old Royal Palace, which has housed the Greek Parliament since 1934.

This square is now the centre of Greek politics and commercial activity due to the surrounding shops.

It’s worth visiting the square to see the changing of the guards, which is a traditional ceremony that is great fun to watch.

If you happen to be visiting on a Sunday, then it’s worth visiting for the official changing of the guards at 11am on Sunday morning.

However, if this isn’t possible, a smaller changing of the guards ceremony takes place each day, on the hour, every hour.

This takes around 15 minutes as you will get to see the new guards marching into the square with impressive and measured footwork to take over from their colleagues. Think raised arms and legs, dramatic marching and slow lunging.

It’s very different to the changing of the guard in London!

It’s best to arrive at least 10 minutes before the hour so you can stand near the front. By the time it reaches the hour, there will no doubt be a small crowd.

Climb Lycabettus Hill for Sunset

Sunset in Athens is one of the most beautiful I have encountered. As the sun sets and the Acropolis is bathed in an orange glow, you can’t help but fall in love with Athens.

The best place to watch the sunset in Athens is Lycabettus Hill. This is the tallest point in the city and offers beautiful sweeping views across the whole of Athens and the sea beyond.

But I must warn you that it’s quite a climb!

It took us around 30-40 minutes from our accommodation in Monastriki to get to the viewpoint near the top of Mount Lycabettus.

Once you get to the bottom of the hill, you can choose to walk up via the roads, which is longer but less steep, or follow the footpaths that take you through the grass and trees, which is much steeper.

I chose to walk up via the trodden footpaths, which was very steep and even a little slippery in some places. This isn’t an official path, so I would recommend taking the main road for safety.

Once you get up to the top, you’ll find a flat viewing platform with views of the city, hawkers selling cold drinks and trinkets, as well as a beautiful church.

This is the church of St George (Agios Georgios) and it looks like something you’d find in Santorini rather than Athens!

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get up her before the sun starts to set so you can get a good spot and wander into the church.

I personally recommend coming down from the viewing platform to actually watch the sunset.

The winding path that leads up to this point has a low wall following it up and actually sitting on the edge of the wall or finding a spot to sit on the edge of the path is much more peaceful as there are much fewer people.

It was sitting in one of these spots that I was able to get the above photo with my feet over the city!

Have Dinner at an Old Greek Taverna

One of the best things about Greece is the food. And so of course you’ll want to head to a traditional old Greek taverna to taste the traditional local cuisine.

There are plenty of these tavernas in Greece, but I’d highly recommend checking out Tavern Klimataria, which has beautiful, rustic interiors with overgrown plants and coloured walls.

The food is absolutely delicious and there’s live music here from Thursday to Saturday evening too.

The restaurant and its food almost make you feel like you’re eating a home-cooked meal inside a Greek person’s home.

The menu isn’t extensive but everything on it is a traditional Greek dish. I enjoyed a large Greek salad and a mousaka, which was excellent.

What’s more, the food is incredibly cheap and the portions are large!

It’s a fairly large restaurant but if you want to guarantee a table then I’d recommend calling to book a table.

Address: Tavern Klimataria, Pl. Theatrou 2, Athina 105 52, Greece

Rooftop Bar in Athens

Have Drinks at a Rooftop Bar

Monastiraki is a neighbourhood in the old town of Athens and one of the liveliest parts of town. From numerous spots in this area, you’ll find stunning views of the Acropolis up above, which makes it a great place to head out for drinks at night.

There are plenty of restaurants and rooftop cocktail bars in the area where you can enjoy some nibbles and drinks with the Acropolis in the backdrop.

I’d suggest that you go for a stroll after dinner to explore the area and just pick one that takes your fancy. As you walk the pedetrianised streets that lead you up to the Acropolis, you are sure to find lots of restaurants, bars and hotels where you can stop of for a drink.

However, if you want to guarantee a good spot, it’s best to book ahead. Unsurprisingly these bars can get very busy on a nice warm evening in Athens!

And that’s it for my one day in Athens itinerary!

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Editor of What’s Hot?

Laura is an award-winning travel and book blogger based in the UK. She studied French literature at Oxford University and is now an IP lawyer at a top law firm in London. She was named UK Book Blogger of the Year in 2019 and loves to combine her passion for books and travel with literary travel.

Dr. Doug Buchanan

Thursday 30th of December 2021

This was a pretty good summary and I covered much of it the last time I was in Athens. You should include the Keramikos (for which the guide app or book is a must). There is more here of Ancient Athens than any place else except the Acropolis. I would easily surrender the Roman Agora or Hadrian's Library for this sight. Also you should mention the Theatre of Dionysos (although it is part of the Acropolis complex) as an important cultural center. After that there is the main Museum of Athens which is very old fashioned but extraordinary and contains multiple marvels, not the least of which is the mask of Agamemnon. The new Museum is a marvel but the old museum still holds up. If you've got any time (and legs) left over, take a food tour.