Although Athens is mostly known for its heritage, when you arrive here you will see that the pace of a modern big city beats at every corner. The capital of Greece offers you an abundance of ancient and modern Greek culture. The best thing about Athens is its topology: everything that a traveler wants to see is located in the historic center and within walking distance. So, even one day is enough to explore the city's famous monuments like the Acropolis and the Parthenon, its most famous neighborhoods like Plaka and Monastiraki, and enjoy an authentic “Greek” day along the way.
Start your day with a traditional Greek breakfast and walk
For us Greeks, breakfast is not a popular meal. We try to earn as much sleep time as possible and getting up earlier for breakfast is not our thing. We usually have a cup of coffee and we may buy a “koulouri” on our way. So, start your day like a Greek! Grab a “koulouri” (sesame bread) from any of the many street vendors you will find on street corners selling them and also buy a coffee on the go. Thiseio neighborhood is a great starting point for your one day in Athens. Located near Monastiraki square, you can either walk towards Thiseio or take the metro. Start your walk exploring the handmade products of the dozens of street vendors you will find there, a practice that goes on for more than 2 millennia! Walking on Dionysiou Areopageitou Street (the most famous pedestrian street of Athens), make your way to the Hill of the Muses and Pnyx. At the top of the Hill, you will find the orators’ ‘bema’, the step where the great Pericles and other ancient Athenian citizens would stand to make their speech in front of the city’s Assembly. You are looking at the core of Democracy! From there, you will also enjoy an excellent view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
Marvel at the grandeur of the Parthenon
Walking down the Hill of the Muses, head to the most important hill of Athens, the Acropolis Hill. Just before the entrance to the archaeological site, you will find the Areopagus Hill, also called the Rock of Ares. According to Greek Mythology, this was where the Olympian Gods put the god of war, Ares, on trial for his countless war crimes. This rock used as the seat of the criminal court of Ancient Athens. Today, it is a famous spot for watching the sunset over the city and the port of Piraeus. The panoramic view from the rock is truly worth it!
Next, enter Acropolis and enter the ancient site from the great Propylaea. Propylaea serves as the entrance gate to the site and you do not see the Parthenon until you reach the last step. The sight almost takes your breath away! On your right, you can see the temple of Athena Nike. This small temple is one of the most elegant structures of the Acropolis. Finally, you arrive in front of the Parthenon; the grand temple of the goddess Athena and the symbol of Democracy. Anyone looking at the temple is deceived by the illusions put in place by its architects. Truly a marvel of design and architecture! But, although the Parthenon is the most famous building on the Acropolis, the Erechtheion is the most sacred. Located just across the temple of Athena, the Erechtheion is home to the famous Caryatids; the elegant female figures that support its roof. Greek mythology lovers will remember that this was the spot where the battle between Athena and Poseidon took place for the patronage of the ancient city.
Take a stroll at the most picturesque neighborhoods of Athens
In the shadow of the Acropolis lies Plaka, the most picturesque and oldest district of Athens, with continuous habitation from antiquity to the present day. The ‘neighborhood of the gods’, as it is called, looks like a time-trip to old Athens adorned with antiquities, historical buildings and Byzantine churches. Make your way also to the ‘secret neighborhood’ of Athens, Anafiotika! Unique in every way, this little white houses and narrow alleys will make you think you are on a Cycladic island. But if you raise your head, you can see the Parthenon and Athena gazing on you. Walk through the alleys until you reach Yassemi steps, the real name of which is the steps of Mnisiklis, named after the architect that designed the entrance of Acropolis. There is a very picturesque coffee house called Yassemi (jasmine) and you can sit at its steps and enjoy its homemade desserts or refreshments. The colorful little houses and the fuchsia bougainvilleas that adorn the alleys compose a magical image of colors and memories!
Grab a bite the Greek way
We Greeks love eating outside with friends and share drinks and smiles while enjoying the sun. Once in Athens, you will find that there are countless places to eat or grab a bite. The street culture is very widespread and the street food very popular. Since you only have one day in Athens, you should enjoy your lunch the Greek way. “Souvlaki” is the way to go! You can find good Greek souvlaki in Aiolou street or Ermou street. The meeting places of Athenian hipsters. From Syntagma to Plaka, you will find a large variety of taverns, bakeries, souvlaki stores and ouzeris, spreading sweet aromas in the air. Take your pick, buy your preferred meal and enjoy it in a square, looking at the locals come and go (we recommend Agias Eirinis square).
Tip! As you make your way from Plaka to Monastiraki and Agias Eirinis, make sure to pass by the Tower of Winds and admire the first meteorological station of the world!
Explore the local products at the Central Market
Just a few minutes away from Monastiraki and Psyrri neighborhoods is the famous Central Market of Athens, known also as Varvakeios Agora. It consists of a 19th-century building, the Varvakeio square across the street, and every little shop surrounding the two. What very few know - locals included - is that the 19th-century building of Varvakeios has a terrace! The future plan is to renovate the terrace so that everyone can admire the panoramic view of downtown Athens while taking a break from their shopping. The “traffic” in the Central Market, which has been operating continuously every day since 1886, is the best indicator of the country's prosperity. Here, authentic images, aromas and special flavors dominate the countless counters. Fresh meats, fish and vegetables, Greek products, spices and cheeses are available in a wide variety and at very good prices. It is worth taking a walk between the counters, trying some authentic Greek products (like the olives of Kalamata, the pistachio of Aegina, the mastic of Chios, the kefalotyri, the mizithra and Greek feta, and anything that will appeal to your senses). The owners of the benches are very friendly and you will find they are very open to have a conversation with you and explain everything about their products. It doesn’t get more authentic than this!
One day in Athens: Shopping therapy
When you visit the capital of a country, a stroll in its most famous streets for shopping is a must. For Athens, the starting point is Ermou Street. Ermou is Athens’ most commercial street, in the historic triangle of the capital’s old city. It hosts shops with famous brands and attracts crowds of people, locals and tourists alike, for a simple stroll or shopping. You can then continue towards Kolonaki neighborhood through Voukourestiou street. Kolonaki used to be the aristocratic district of Athens. Today, it is a favorite hot spot for coffee, brunch, drinks and of course shopping! It hosts a wide selection of boutiques from famous fashion houses and customized accessories. Voukourestiou Street is a breath away from Syntagma square and it is ideal for luxury shopping at some of the world’s leading brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc.
Desert time with a vintage touch
If you love dessert and sweets, then you have to try the Greek signature delights! In every bakery you will come across (and you will find one in almost every corner), you will find a plethora of Greek sweets and desserts. Try a “kataifi” or “galaktoboureko” and if you are a fan of lemon, try the ‘Ravani’. If you are visiting at Christmas, make sure to try “melomakarona” and “kourabiedes”. One of our favorite desserts with a rich history in the Greek countryside is the spoon sweets. Served on a small plate with a teaspoon, they are dry fruits boiled in sugar. Even today, when you visit a mountain village, the locals will treat you with a spoon sweet (“glyka tou koutaliou” as it is called in Greek). If you know where to look in Athens, you are in for a treat! Since you are only for one day in Athens, we will give you a hint: head to Cherchez La Femme and order a Greek coffee. What they will bring on the side is a surprise…
One day in Athens: A museum or two
One day in Athens is not enough to see and do everything. You may not have enough time to visit a museum as well, but if you are a fan of culture and you truly wish to get a grasp of the Greek heritage, then you can skip one of the above and head to a museum instead. The Acropolis Museum is the first choice that comes to mind. Located conveniently just across the Acropolis Hill, you can pay a visit just after your exploration of the Acropolis. The new Acropolis Museum has been voted among the best 10 museums in the world and it is built in a way to mirror the Parthenon temple. It hosts the artifacts and all the archaeological treasures found on Acropolis Hill. A guided tour of the Acropolis Museum is definitely recommended since it will give you a totally different experience. An expert guide can help you better understand the significance of the artifacts you see and the culture of ancient Greek society. Alternatively, you can take a quick metro ride and visit the National Archaeological Museum and travel through time admiring its rich collection.
One day in Athens: A dreamy sunset
After a full day of walking and exploring, it is time to slow the rhythm and take a few moments to pause and reflect where you are. Santorini is not the only place in Greece with a unique sunset. You can enjoy a wonderful sunset in Athens as well and we can prove it to you. A breath away from Acropolis, Plaka and Thiseio, you will find the Areopagus Hill. As we wrote earlier, it is one of the most favorite spot of Athenians for the sunset. The hill enjoys the privilege of easy climbing combined with stunning views of the most beautiful part of the city. The sun dives at the west over the port of Piraeus and the orange colors in which the surrounding landscape is bathed ensures great captures with your camera or phone. Enjoy the mixture of ancient and modern vibes and the music notes coming from the street artists nearby.
A movie under the Greek sky
After the sunset - yes, like the movie! A couple of minutes away from Areopagus Hill you will come across the best summer cinema in the world, according to CNN. You may wonder: I only have one day in Athens, why lose time in watching a movie? Well, because watching a movie at Thision Open Air Cinema is an experience you cannot have anywhere else. From your seat, you can watch the movie and see the luminous Parthenon at the same time! This cinema is an established summer ‘stop’ for the local Athenians. There are many open-air cinemas in Athens but none is more magical than this. Movies and a magical view is not the only thing you can find in this beautiful establishment. You also have to try the cinema’s canteen, which offers handmade sour cherries juice, with a home recipe from the owners, freshly baked cheese pie, as well as handmade ‘tsipouro’.
Dinner with a view
Athens is magical at night. And since you only have one day in Athens, you need to make the most of it! Combining food and drinks with the night view of the Parthenon in the background is the way to go. Head towards Monstastiraki again and climb on the rooftop of The Zillers. Immediately as you step out at its terrace you are in awe with the view! But a night view of the Acropolis is not the only thing you will enjoy there. This restaurant offers refined modern cuisine with excellent flavors. Try the 'trachanoto' with cuttlefish ink and the "village" risotto. Delicious cocktails and a small but very interesting wine list. Yum!
Hint! Book a table in advance since it gets busy most nights.
Sleepless in Athens
Athens never sleeps! It is not an exaggeration to say that you will see more people on the streets of Athens after dark than during the day. Greeks love going out till early in the morning. They like to dance, drink and flirt. They usually change a spot after a while. They start from bars, move to clubs and end their night with “Bouzoukia”! Before they return home and to their bed, they always make a quick stop to fill their stomach with fresh “mpougatsa” or “tyropita”. Drink a cocktail at one of the terraces circling Monastiraki square, listen to rebetika at Taki Street in Psyri neighborhood, have a jazz night at TAF (The Art Foundation) surrounded by works of art and enjoy a cold beer at the beautiful hidden garden at Six d.o.g.s. These are some favorite and alternative hangouts of the city but the options are numerous, for every taste and for every age!
One day in Athens: The morning after
The alarm clock is ringing and as you wake up we hope that you smile from the sweet dreams you had. It is time to start packing and look ahead to your next destination. We sincerely hope that you had a wonderful time in Athens, even if it lasted for just a day. However, if you have some time to spare we recommend you take a last stroll and explore the neighborhood of Psyri. Make a stop at “Mpougatsadiko Thessaloniki” and enjoy a traditional Greek breakfast (order the ‘mpougatsa with cream’ and also try the ‘mpougatsa with cheese’ if you have company). Sit at the tables on the little square and breath in the local vibes. You just created everlasting memories that will bring a smile to your face every time you look back.
That was it! That was the best way to explore Athens in one day and we hope you enjoy it. It is safe to say that Athens has so many more things to offer and therefore, you’d better renew your appointment with our beloved city. Check out how you can plan your trip to Athens accordingly. Hope to see you soon!
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