With a rich history and delicious food, Athens is Greece’s cultural melting pot. Most tourists choose to skip it in favor of the Greek islands but I recommend spending at least one day in this fascinating city.
I spent a few days in Athens, trying to uncover its secrets and I was amazed by the incredible places I found. If you only have one day in Athens, this guide is perfect for you. I’ve included the most important tourist attractions in the city so that you’ll get a taste of Athens’ vibe and history.
This guide is designed to help you get the most out of your time. You’ll have to wake up early and walk a lot but it’s all going to be worth it. Here are the best things to do if you’re planning a one day Athens walking tour.
1. Athens one-day itinerary
Visit historic sites, taste some delicious food, and see some beautiful street art. At the end of the day, enjoy a drink from one of the most famous rooftop bars while admiring the Acropolis and the city. Are you ready?
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Good to know – I’ve crafted this itinerary in such a way that you won’t need public transport or taxis. You can easily walk from one tourist attraction to the next.
#1 Climb the Acropolis
The Acropolis is Athens’ icon and you can see it from all around the old city center. Situated on a rocky hill above the city, this majestic construction is the starting point of our one-day itinerary in Athens.
Built around 2,500 years ago, the Acropolis consists of several buildings. The most famous one is the Parthenon but on the way to the top you’ll also pass by the Theater of Dionysos, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and many other smaller temples.
Once you get to the top, take your time to admire the ruins and the views of Athens. It’s impressive how this building lasted through time and I can only imagine how beautiful they truly were 2,500 years ago.
Important to know!
Wake up early and try to be at the entrance as early as possible. The Acropolis opens every day at 8 am and the queues can take hours, especially during the peak season.
If you can’t make it to the Acropolis early in the morning, buy your tickets online and skip the line. Make sure to bring a bottle of water with you since the climb to the top is quite challenging.
#2 Visit the Acropolis Museum – optional
If you’re passionate about history and archaeology, stop by the Acropolis Museum. Save around one hour and a half to visit the most comprehensive museum in Athens.
Usually, I’m not very passionate about history museums but I really enjoyed the Acropolis Museum. Here you’ll find everyday objects the Athenians used in their homes and Greek sculptures.
Head to the third floor the see from up close the decorations of Parthenon. Original blocks of frieze are on display together with cast copies of the pieces in museums abroad. It will give you an idea of the true former beauty of Parthenon.
Good to know – you can book your tickets to Acropolis and Acropolis Museum online to skip the lines.
#3 Admire Hadrian’s Arch and The Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Arch of Hadrian is a gateway and although it’s not very impressive, it’s worth stopping by on your way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It is said that the arch was built to honor Hadrian’s benefactions to the city.
The Temple of Zeus is one of the biggest ancient temples. Although only 15 Corinthian-style columns remain standing today out of 104, the temple is pretty impressive.
The construction of the temple started in the 6th century BC and it was finished only in the 2nd century AD under the reign of Hadrian. You can admire the temple from outside the gates. If you want to get inside, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of 6 euros.
#4 Explore Plaka
This picturesque neighborhood is perfect for taking a lunch break. There are many restaurants with delicious traditional Greek food to choose from.
If you’re not hungry yet, you can shop for souvenirs. You can find local stores with beautiful clothes, accessories, and other small souvenirs. Even if you only have 24 hours in Athens, it’s always a good idea to buy a souvenir.
#5 Visit the Roman Forum
If you plan to visit Athens in one day, you have to stop by the Roman Forum. Surrounded by beautiful yellow and orange Greek houses are ancient government buildings.
The Roman Forum was the center of day-to-day life in Rome, the place where public speeches, elections, and gladiator matches were held. Today only a few of the columns are still standing but they’re still impressive nevertheless.
You can admire the Roman Forum from outside the fences or you can walk inside and take a closer look at the ruins.
#6 Stop by Monastiraki Square
Just a short walk away from the Roman Forum is the Monastiraki Square where you can admire some incredible views of the Acropolis. Apart from the views, the Monastiraki Square is well known for the plethora of souvenir shops.
Most of the times, there are live bands singing Greek music. The square is bustling with noise, energy, and movement. It’s the perfect place to feel Athens’ vibe.
#7 Eat something sweet at Little Kook
Walk a few more minutes and you’ll get to the famous Little Kook. This beautiful themed cafe will take you to a world of fairy tales. Its decorations are over the top, both on the inside and on the outside.
After admiring its exterior, head inside the cafe and order one of their delicious cakes. When you finish your sugary treat, visit the umbrella street right in front of Little Kook and take some photos. Since your day trip in Athens is coming to an end, it’s time to head to the last destination on this itinerary.
#8 Admire the views from 360 Cocktail Bar
The last thing to see in Athens in one day is the view from the 360 Cocktail Bar. Grab a drink and see how the sun sets over the city.
The bar offers one of the best views towards the Acropolis. Enjoy it, you deserve it!
2. Athens alternative itinerary
If you want to spend a more relaxed day in Athens, you can try something else. Maybe you don’t want to walk that much or maybe you’re not passionate about history and archaeology.
In this case, you can take an awesome day cruise from Athens to the beautiful islands of Aegina, Poros, and Hydra. The cruises start at 8 am and end in the evening. While listening to Greek music you’ll sail the sea to some incredible islands.
To read more about this cruise, you can check out my guide.
Other AWESOME things to do in Athens in one day:
- Take a day trip to beautiful Meteora and admire the breathtaking views
- Take a day trip to Delphi, the center of the Ancient Greek universe
3. Where to stay in Athens
If you plan to spend a night in Athens, here are the best hotels in the city for each budget.
- Budget – Bedbox Hostel – excellent location, clean rooms, friendly staff, good amenities, fun activities
- Mid-Budget – Evripidou Suites – excellent location, clean and spacious rooms, beautiful design, excellent amenities
- Luxury – The Pinnacle – amazing rooftop terrace with view towards Acropolis, spacious and luxurious rooms, breakfast included, friendly staff, excellent amenities and location
Exploring Athens in a day is definitely do-able. If you follow my itinerary, you’ll visit the most important tourist attractions in the city and you’ll have a taste of the city’s history and culture.
I loved Athens and I was pleasantly surprised by its charm. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section below.
May the travel bug bite you!