Some people think of Athens as a stopover destination, that has nothing worthwhile to see except for the Acropolis. While Acropolis is a must-visit place the beauty and spirit of Athens aren’t defined by just this one place. You can easily stay in this city for a week and it will uncover its new shades to you every day. But staying in one city for a week is not something that travelers often do these days, this is why we have prepared a 3-day itinerary for a first time visitor. 3 days in Athens is a minimum number of days that you should dedicate in order not just to see, but to feel this city.
Being one of the most historical places in the world, Athens should be treated and explored with proper attention and this is what this guide offers you to do. Please mind that this 3-day Athens itinerary was compiled by a local, who has been living in Greece for 27 years. After exploring every corner of the city and giving hundreds of highly appreciated recommendations, this itinerary was born out of pure desire to pack the most breathtaking Athens experiences in just three days.
And before we start exploring the ancient and marvelous Athens, let’s see how we can get there from Dubai.
3 Day-Itinerary for Athens: The Newest Guide from the Local
From Dubai to Athens: List of Flights
If you’re flying to Athens from Dubai and want to take a direct flight then you should fly with Emirates. They fly regularly and have a convenient schedule. Here’s a list of Emirates flights that go from Dubai to Athens:
- Flight number EK209 with departure at 10:50 and arrival at 15:00 (5h 10m). Flies every day of the week.
- Flight number EK210 with departure at 17:05 and arrival at 23:40 (4h 35m). Flies every day of the week.
- Flight number EK103 with departure at 16:20 and arrival at 20:25 (5h 5m). Flies every day of the week except for Wednesdays.
Once you’re in Athens airport the best way to get to the city to avoid the hassle of waiting is to pre-book your Athens Airport Transfer online before you arrive. If you choose this option, then once you arrive, you will see a person holding a sign with your name, so you’ll be on your way to Athens very quick. If you don’t book a taxi in advance you will need to wait in a queue to get one. The taxi will cost you €38 during the day time and over €50 if you arrive in the night. Other ways to get to the city center are:
- Metro. Line 3 will take you from the Athens Airport to Syntagma Square. It goes 7 days a week, every 30 minutes and costs €10. You can’t use the metro if you arrive at night.
- Suburban Railway. This train goes to the main Athens Railway Station from where you can get a train to other places in Greece. The ticket price is the same as for the metro – €10.
- Bus. You can choose between five different bus lines depending on where you need to go. X95 bus can take you to Syntagma Square for €6.
Visiting Acropolis on your trip to Athens is not a cliché, it’s a MUST! It won’t be an exaggeration if we say that the one, who hasn’t been to Acropolis, hasn’t been to Athens. Being one of the world’s most ancient historical monuments, it’s also the highest point in the city. According to historians the hill where Acropolis stays was the greatest cultural center in this area in the mid-5th century. Things you must see at the Acropolis:
- Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena. It was constructed in 438 BC and reconstructed in 2017.
- the Erechtheion, the temple that was dedicated to Poseidon and Athena
- the Temple of Athena Nike
- the gateway to the Acropolis – the Propylaia
- Better start exploring Acropolis as early as possible to beat the crowds. You can also use the second entrance which is close to the Acropolis Museum, because usually it is less crowded.
- If you plan to do a lot of traditional sightseeing in Athens, get a combined ticket that allows you to visit 10 popular sights for a reduced price. The combined ticket is valid for 5 days.
- It is possible to buy the tickets to Acropolis online from the official website of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.
This magnificent ancient theater was built in 161 AD by Roman Herodes Atticus. In contrast with many other similar amphitheaters that only serve as monuments of the ancient civilization, this one is used for housing performances of music, drama dance and art. Such world-renowned figures as Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Andrea Bocelli and Sting had performances in this amazing place. You can expect to see a show there too if you’re visiting Athens somewhere between May and October.
It was opened in 2009 and was labeled as one of the best museums in the world by both visitors and experts. Designed by Bernard Tschumi and Michael Photiadis, this fascinating building houses the most valuable artifacts of ancient Greek civilization. Museum has three floors:
- The ground floor has a gallery which displays a collection of ancient Greek artifacts
- The first floor has the Archaic Gallery with statues that date back to the 7th century BC and the five Caryatids that supported the porch of the Erechtheion
- The top floor has 92 panels that were once a part of the temple of Parthenon
Insider’s tip: observe the majestic view of the Acropolis from the rooftop restaurant and bar located at the Acropolis Museum.
This glorious temple was built from marble in 129 AD and was supported by 104 columns. You can see only 15 out of 104 columns today, but nevertheless, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is something that you should surely experience while visiting Athens. The next stop is Hadrian’s Arch and it’s located right next to The Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Emperor Hadrian built it in 131 AD to separate the old and the new city of Athens. On the one side of Hadrian’s Arch, you can read the inscription that says “This is Athens the former city of Theseus”, while the inscription on the other side of the arch states “This is the City of Hadrian, not Theseus”. What a battle of egos!
You will probably want to take a break from exploring the historical side of Athens after seeing the five previous points of interest on the first-day list. Although Anafiotika is also a historical village it will give you a completely different feeling compared to the ancient majestic Greek constructions. Anafiotika was built in the 19th century and it still hasn’t been touched by mass tourism, so while visiting it you will feel relaxation and forget that you’re in the center of the big metropolis. Just walk and soak the atmosphere of this special place.
If you have time and energy you can also explore the Plaka neighborhood on the first day. Otherwise, you can finish your day at traditional Hammam baths.
7. Al Hammam Traditional Baths
Very close to Anafiotika neighborhood you can find the Al Hammam Traditional Baths. There’s really no better way to finish your first day of exploring Athens, than treating yourself with some traditional Asian spa procedures. It will make your body and mind relaxed so that you are well prepared for the second day in Athens.
1. The Panathenaic Stadium
Being one of the most important landmarks in Athens, The Panathenaic Stadium (also known as the Kallimarmaro stadium) is related to the history of the modern Olympic Games. It housed the Olympic Games in 1896, played a very important role in the conduction of games in 2004 and it’s also a starting point of the Olympic flame’s journey to the Olympic Games host cities. The Panathenaic Stadium is a very popular sight among tourist so it is highly advisable to visit it early in the morning, or on the contrary, late in the evening, at least 30 minutes before it closes.
Located not far from The Panathenaic Stadium, The National Garden was once a place where the Queen and the King took rest. It’s one of the few retreats with an abundance of greenery in the busy city of Athens. There are two ways to explore the National Gardens. The first way is to do it on your own and the second way is to take one of the many Athens tours that include the National Gardens.
3. Changing of Guards at the Hellenic Parliament
While being completely optional I feel that this point on the list is worth your time. Since the building of the Hellenic Parliament is located near the National Gardens you can easily plan your day in such a way that will allow you to catch the changing of guards. The guardians who stand in front of the Hellenic Parliament are known as the Evzones and you can watch the changing of guards every hour, every day. But the most beautiful ceremony takes place at 10 am on Sundays.
This square is also known as the Constitution Square because it is where the people of Athens rose up against King Otto of Greece and demanded constitution on the 3rd of September 1843. Now Syntagma Square is one of the most popular parts of the city. It also houses a lot of festivals and concerts. Ermou Street, which is one of the main shopping streets in Athens is located at the top of Syntagma Square. As you can expect from a major shopping street it’s super-bust and noisy, but that’s what usually accompanies shopping!
5. Shopping in Athens
Speaking about shopping, after exploring the Ermou street you can go to Voukourestiou Street located within a walking distance from Syntagma Square. There you will find a lot of boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Prada. Other major shopping places in Athens include the Attica Department and Monastiraki Square which is great for souvenir shopping (visiting this square is included in the third day of the itinerary). But Dior and Prada can be found anywhere and Athenian Rivera can be experienced only in Athens. For this reason, on the second day, we recommend taking a break from the busy city center and going to the Temple of Poseidon located at the Cape Sounio.
6. Watch the Sunset at the Temple of Poseidon
If you have a car you can go to Cape Sounio yourself. Otherwise, you can book an afternoon tour. Aside from being an important historical landmark, the Temple of Poseidon is considered one of the best places in Greece to watch the sunset. Just take a look at this photo to see why. But of course, looking at the pictures is one thing and experiencing it yourself is a completely different thing. If you’re up to the afternoon tour, then you should know that it takes approximately four hours to complete it and you can get back to Athens by dinner time.
1. Varvakeios Central Market
After having an excellent evening at the Temple of Poseidon on the second day and taking a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to face the busy streets of Athens again. One of such busy places is the central market. On Varvakeios Central Market you can find everything! In addition to this, you will have a very authentic experience. The best time to fist the market is in the morning.
2. Monastiraki Square
You can continue experiencing Greek culture at the Monastiraki Square that you can easily reach from Varvakeios Central Market. In addition to being a beautiful place, Monastiraki Square is also good for shopping as it houses the popular Flea market where you can buy various souvenirs and artisan items. From Monastiraki Square, you can go to Pittaki Street. Known as the city of hanging lights, it is decorated by numerous lanterns and chandeliers.
Insider’s Tip: visit 360 Bar or A for Athens rooftop bar to get an excellent view of this part of the city.
Just like Hadrian’s Arch that you will see on the first day, Hadrian’s Library was also built by Emperor Hadrian. It was completed a year after the completion of Hadrian’s Arch, namely in 132 AD and housed lectures and music rooms. It is best to visit this landmark in the first part of the day as it closes at 3 pm.
4. Ancient Agora
In ancient times, the Ancient Agora was the heart of commercial, political, social, cultural and administrative activity in the region.This landmark will be of interest for those who are fascinated with the history of ancient Greece because otherwise, you have a risk of perceiving it as ‘just another Greek landmark’. For those interested in history we advise taking a guided tour or coming prepared by reading the information about this place in advance.
It’s probably not something that you expected to see on a 3-day Athens itinerary, but just take our word, you will be surprised. Since the 1980’s the street art in Athens started to develop and after graffiti artists got support and legal basis and canvases for their activity after 1998, it started to flourish. The 3-hour Athens Street Art tour will guide you through the most notable masterpieces that you can find on the walls of the city.
Chances are that after spending three days in the marvelous city of Athens you will want to explore more of the Greek beauty and culture. Good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to do so and one of the best ways to do this is by taking a day trip from Athens.
- Athens to Meteora Day Trip: if you haven’t heard about the marvelous Meteora monasteries, then you should fix this omission right away by at least googling this incredible place. But if you plan to visit Athens, then including Athens to Meteora Day Trip should be on your list for sure. Aside from the mountain-based monasteries that have existed for more than 7 centuries, you will also enjoy the scenic beauty of Greece on your train journey to Kalambaka where your tour will begin.
- Delphi Day Trip from Athens: some people get tired of ancient ruins on the second day of being in Athens, but there are also those who can’t get enough of them. If you belong to the latter, then you can consider visiting the heart of the classical Greek world – Delphi. There you can explore the Temple of Apollo (best-known for its famous oracle), ruins, hilltop museum and a beautiful amphitheater.
- Island Day Trips from Athens: Greece is famous for many things and one of them is breathtaking nature. And if you find it more fascinating then history and architecture, then you will find an island day trip from Athens absolutely adorable. You will visit the islands of Poros, Hydra, Aegina and Poros in the Saronic Gulf. You will make this trip on the ‘Cosmos’ cruise vessel which can accommodate up to 600 passengers. There you can enjoy live entertainment, delicious food, dancing and many other exciting activities.
- Argolis Day Trip from Athens: another option for the lovers of natural beauty is an Argolis Day Trip from Athens. You will go to the Corinth Canal to reach the city of Mycenae, see the Cyclopean walls, the Lion’s Gate and of course discover the majestic nature of Argolis region. Lovely experience to say the least.
Where to Stay in Athens
- Hotel Grande Bretagne: this luxurious multi-awarded hotel features lavish rooms with chic furnishing, gorgeous city views and beautiful rooftop terrace. There are rooms that have balconies facing the Acropolis and you can also see the original Olympic Stadium from the Roof Garden Restaurant and the Acropolis from the barstool. Grande Bretagne also has a luxurious spa zone that can easily get you relaxed after the whole day of sightseeing.
- Herodion Hotel: a hotel with elegant rooms that feature parquet floors and light wood furnishings. There’s also a beautiful roof garden with incredible views of Athens. Some rooms have balconies with Acropolis views. Herodion Hotel is located within a walking distance to all major attractions.
- Coco-mat Athens BC: if you like city views, Coco-mat Athens BC can offer rooms with patios that will leave you mesmerized as you watch the life of the vibrant ancient city. Hotel has an indoor pool, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a business center, a fitness center and spa.
- Electra Metropolis: located only 200 meters from Syntagma Square, the Electra Metropolis is a modern and stylish hotel that has warm tones and elegant décor. There’s a sun terrace a rooftop pool with waterfall effect, excellent restaurant with panoramic views of Acropolis and the lounge area with retro feeling. A great place to stay in Athens.