It is impossible to exhaust the long list of gorgeous attractions the city of Athens has to offer during one weekend. However, if you plan your trip carefully, you should be able to see plenty and relax a bit in between even if you only have two or three days to spare. Here‘s my guide to a weekend in Athens.
Everyone has heard about Acropolis, the ancient citadel that towers over the city of Athens. No trip to the capital of Greece is complete without a visit to this world-famous historical site.
Acropolis seen from the Plaka district in Athens. Wonderguide/Nina.
Parthenon, the most famous attraction in Greece, resides on the hill of Acropolis amidst many other iconic ancient remains. Its construction began around 450 years BC and scholars believe the temple was completed in 432 BC. It is dedicated to the goddess Athena, which is also the patroness of the former citizens of Athens.
Although Parthenon is the principal attraction on Acropolis, there are plenty of archeological remains nearby worth seeing, such as the Old Temple of Athena, the Erechteum and the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus. The entire site is quite small, which means that all the important sights can be explored easily on foot.
Parthenon, plus some gorgeous tourists. Wonderguide/Nina.
The view from Acropolis. Wonderguide/Nina.
The Erechteum. Wonderguide/Nina.
I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Acropolis Museum, which is located a few steps from the archeological site, during your visit to the Acropolis hill. It is a fantastic museum, exclusively dedicated to archeological remains found on the hill.
When I visited Athens in early October 2021, I was advised to visit Acropolis in the morning to avoid crowds. I arrived around nine and there were no queues. As it draw nearer to noon, the crowds definitely grew larger. However, it is possible to buy tickets online to avoid the lines.
The vibrant neighbourhood of Plaka. Wonderguide/Nina.
Fresh fruit for sale. Wonderguide/Nina.
Plaka, the oldest quarter of Athens, is a great neighbourhood to explore on foot. Just make sure you make enough stops at the neighbourhood‘s many quaint cafés and restaurants.
Its location at the foothills of Acropolis make it an ideal next stop after exploring Parthenon and the nearby archeological remains. Plaka is very touristy and you will surely come across a plethora of tourist boutiques and restaurants that target tourists (you know, the type of restaurant that has a photos of the courses on the menus and red and white checkered tablecloths). Although these restaurants may be fine, I can ensure you that nicer restaurants can be found in the neighbourhood. Try for example Kiki de Greece, Nolan or Birdman.
Thision open-air cinema. Photo: Facebook.
Outdoor cinema is supposedly a big thing in Athens. During my visit to the city, I went to an open-air cinema called Thision, which is located close to Acropolis. The cinema has been operating since 1935 and ranked no. 1 on CNN Travel‘s top 10 list of the World‘s most enjoyable movie theatres in 2017.
If you decide to attend a screening, make sure you wear suitable clothes. They do offer you blankets though, which I very much appreciated.
Check out the cinema‘s website which has information on upcoming shows here.
The exterior of the museum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
This museum is dedicated to Greek art and culture, with artefacts dating from prehistorical to modern times. The entire collection used to belong to the Benakis, a family of avid collectors. Anthony Benakis established the museum in 1930 and donated the building (which used to be the family home of the Benakis) to the city of Athens a year later.
The ground floor accommodates the oldest collections, while modern culture is celebrated on the top floors. The museum is surprisingly big and has plenty of very interesting items.
There are also some other interesting museums close by, such as the The Byzantine and Christian Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art.
The center is designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano. Flickr/Ava Babili.
This gorgeous cultural center is located close to the Piraeus Harbour in Athens, so it is a bit far away if you are staying close to Acropolis. There is however, a free shuttle from the Syntagma station that departs every half an hour.
The National Library of Greece. Wonderguide/Nina.
The Center is home to both the National Library and the National Opera of Greece. It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano (perhaps best known for the Pompidou museum in Paris) and was completed just a few years ago, in 2016.
I wasn't really sure whether to visit National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens or not, but I eventually decided to go. I was pleasantly surprised by how big and impressive the museum turned out to be. It was established in 2000 and focusses exclusively on contemporary art. The pieces are very diverse and original, and represent a range of different Greek artists as well as some international names.
Visiting the museum gives you a fabulous opportunity to explore the contemporary art scene in Greece, which to me seems to be extremely vibrant.
Pro tip: there’s a nice restaurant called Neratza close by, an ideal spot for a light lunch.
Athens gets very hot in the summer and that is why the transition seasons, that is autumn and spring, are generally considered to be the best time to visit the city. I was there in early October and the weather was fantastic. Make sure to pack a light jacket for breezy evenings.
No, not really. Eating out is relatively cheap compared to other major European cities and it is quite easy to find good accommodation for less than 100 Euros per night.
That is not necessary, but of course it won’t harm to know a few basic phrases. There are plenty of apps nowadays that can help you with grasping the basics of foreign languages, such as Duolingo and Babbel. Google Translate can also be handy in case communication difficulties arise.