1. Explore the National Gardens of Athens
The National Gardens of Athens is literally an oasis in the center of the city. Located just next to Syntagma Square, it is an ideal place for a morning or afternoon walk. They used to be the Gardens of the 1st queen of Greece, Queen Amalia. Before you enter try a local delicatessen; next to the gate of Amalia Avenue there is a retailer that sells the traditional koulouri of Thessaloniki. Enter the Gardens like Kings and Queens, walk through the paths and patios, read a book on a bench hidden from plain sight, fall in love at the pergolas like Greek poets used to and wander around a collection of more than 7000 trees!
Tip! Inside the National Gardens, on the northeast side, there is a cute little café where you can enjoy a Greek coffee or a refreshment under the pergola.
2. Have a picnic on Philopappos Hill
Maybe a personal favorite from the things to do in Athens for free: Get a blanket and a basket full of Greek snacks, like olives and pasteli (bar with sesame and honey) with some ice-tea or wine, and lay back on the green open fields of the hill of the Nymphs. Long established as a sacred hill, the Philopappos site has a free entrance to anyone who wants to visit and admire its nature and ancient ruins. The area is vast but search and find the perfect spot for you and feel the vibes of the ancient spirits of the woods!
3. Listen to the street musicians
Street musicians in Athens are everywhere. Walk through Ermou street and find yourself from a classical concert to funky tunes at Kapnikareas Square. The melodies of the street musicians in the Monastiraki area and the terraces around the Odeon of Herodes Atticus are enchanting. Listen to old Greek rempetika or modern folk music from young and old musicians that enjoy sharing their music with the world. And if you pick up the wonderful melody of Zorba, don’t hesitate to start dancing in the street! You will find that many will join you.
4. Everything that happens at the SNFCC
When you enter the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) anything is possible! Concerts by the canal; summer cinema with picnic blankets spread on the lawn of the glade; sailing lessons at the artificial lake; Latin dance evenings… There is something going on at any time of the day. Book a free tour with the Foundation’s guides if you feel extra eager to learn about this modern architectural jewel; discover the hidden games in the vast garden and play like you were a child again. Whatever time you go and whatever you choose to do, having a great time is a sure thing!
5. Enjoy the majestic views from the Rock of Ares
Areopagus Rock, aka Rock of Ares, was the seat of the high court of Athens. Today, it is literally a rock, but with a beautiful panoramic view of Athens. Although convictions and romance do not fit together very well, it is considered one of the most romantic places in Athens for a first (and second and third) date! Climb the steps and find yourself gazing at the Acropolis Hill, the Ancient Agora, the Hill of the Nymphs and the port of Piraeus. Go preferably around sunset hours and watch the colors fill the sky above the ancient and modern neighborhoods of the city. Although an archaeological site, it is completely free to enter!
Hint! The Areopagus is also the place where Saint Paul delivered his famous sermon in Athens.
6. Watch a movie under the stars
Athens would not be the same without summer cinemas! You can watch a free movie under the stars in squares, parks and beautiful yards. The most famous summer festival is the Open Air Film Festival that puts up a big screen in the most unlikely places; from a forest in the heart of Athens for a midnight horror film to the beautiful yard of Byzantine and Christian Museum to enjoy a classic like “Bridges of Madison County”.
7. Dance the Tango in the streets of Athens
Athens is a city full of passion and Monday is Milonga night! Head to the lower part of Ermou Street, near Kerameikos archaeological site, and enjoy a night of dancing with the locals. “Milonga Dromou”, as it’s called, is taking place every Monday night and brings together people of every age and culture. Share a dance, stories and laughter with other people and create special memories from a night in Athens!
8. Admire Greek (or not) art - for the art lovers
There are many things to do in Athens for free during summer and this is true also for the lovers of art! Athenians are very dilettante and the city is full of public and private art galleries. Many of those galleries have a free entrance and are an ideal place for you to explore what the city has to offer in this field. The Municipal Gallery of Athens in the old Metaxourgio area is a great example. Bring out your artistic side and start by admiring the Greek painters through the ages.
9. Try to discover the numerous arcades of Athens
The center of Athens is run through an incredible number of arcades, each one with a different character. The arcades are the heart of Athens and its reassuring sense of continuity. Although in the city center, they are easily overlooked and not easy to find them if you are not with a local. Korai Street Arcade, Books Arcade and Emporon Arcade are only a few of the Athens arcades. Set in a path of discovery and exploration, ask the locals, follow the entrance or exit signs of the arcades and walk an alternative route in Athens. Talk with the merchants and try street delicatessen while enjoying the coolness away from the heat!
10. Discover treasures at the book festivals
If you are a book lover, then summer book festivals and the old bookstores around the Panepistimio area are the places to be for you. Each summer there are many book festivals taking place in Athens. One of them is the Book Festival in Zappeion which usually takes place late in the summer. Leaf through the pages of hundreds of books, enjoy the open spaces and try some loukoumades (traditional small round bites of flour spread with honey) from the local street vendors.
If this is your first time in Athens and wish to have the most out of your time in the vibrant capital of Greece, have a look at our article about how to spend 48 hours in Athens and enjoy it Like a local. If the reason you came to Greece is your love for Greek mythology, then you should definitely read our guide about the sights you should tour in Athens to bring Greek mythology to life! Finally, if you are a serious Instagrammer or love taking photos, these are the best photo locations in Athens.