Two days in Athens
Athens is the capital of Greece, a city of remarkable beauty, historical, modern, multicultural, and vibrant.
I love Athens, I have been living here for years, and I know every corner of it!
Many times visitors choose to stay in Athens for a couple of days before going to the islands. Having 48 hours in the city, they wonder how to prioritize sightseeing.
If you are one of these people, this article is for you.
Below I give a detailed guide of the best things to do in Athens in two days!
See also our dedicated posts about Athens
Some tips before we start:
- Start early! There are many things to explore, so give yourself time.
- Do not forget a hat and a bottle of water, especially in the summer months, when temperatures are high.
- Wear comfortable shoes; you will have to walk quite a bit, so be prepared.
- Book museum tickets in advance; You do not have time to wait in the queues of museums, so I advise you to book your tickets online before you get to Athens. You can also choose a combo ticket end visit more sites with a discount.
- The Metro of Athens is very modern and convenient. You can use it to go around in the city center.
- Buy a travel guidebook, from which you can learn all the important historical information for the places you visit. In this way, you add value to everything you see.
To be frank, our day one is busier and has more things to do than the second one. I personally prefer to be more relaxed on the second day and have less things to see!
If you like to balance a little bit, you can move 1-2 things to the second day. It’s up to you!
Day 1 in Athens
Start your day on the Acropolis! You can take the metro to Acropolis station. If your hotel is close, you can also walk there.
Early in the morning, there are fewer visitors on the hill, and you can admire the ancient building and take amazing photos without having too many people around.
Acropolis is open at 08.00 am, so the sooner you reach the archaeological site, the better!
It is a UNESCO world heritage and one of the most important buildings in the world. At the hill, there are several things to discover. On the lower parts, you can see the theatre of Dionysus and the Odeion of Herodes Atticus. Higher up, as you enter from the Propulaia, you see the Parthenon, the imposing temple of Athena Nike, Erecthion with the beautiful statues of Caryatids on the front side.
Apart from the remarkable architecture and the historical and archaeological value of the site, you will also admire the panoramic view of Attica. You will be impressed by the sight of the white buildings spread between the mountains.
Note that you will spend there in average around 1-2 hours (minimum I think!) to walk up the hill and view all the monuments of the Acropolis. Of course, you can take your time and spend even more and take as many photos as you want!
It is already time for a snack, so I suggest you try a koulouri, a round bread with sesame seeds on top, or a tiropita, the typical Greek cheese pie. You can buy your snack in the street in front of the metro station.
After visiting Acropolis, I recommend you to visit the museum of Acropolis, which is under the hill and next to the metro station.
Here you can admire exhibitions of archaeological treasures found in this area, around Acropolis. The museum is modern, spacious with rooms full of light that almost bring to life the ancient statues. The exhibits, placed in chronological order, show you the history of ancient Athens.
The average time here is 40′ to 60′ but sometimes I tend to spend even more! You can book your e tickets on their official website here!
If you feel tired, then the museum’s cafe has a nice view of the Parthenon. I love going for brunch on the terrace of the café on bright sunny days!
After all this historical information, is it time for a relaxing walk in the most charming neighbourhood of Athens: Plaka.
Plaka and Anafiotika
It is the area under the rock of Acropolis, and for centuries this was the main settlement of Athens.
There are houses with balconies and backyards full of flowers. The air smells jasmine and cooked food.
The neighbourhood of Anafiotika, built by migrants from Anafi Island looks a bit like a village of a Greek island!
The rest of Plaka has neoclassical buildings, taverns with Greek food, cafés, and souvenir shops are everywhere. In most of the streets, there are no cars, and you get the feeling that you have travelled back in time.
You can choose one of the taverns in the alleys to enjoy your lunch. If this is your first time in Greece, lunch in Plaka is the perfect introduction to Greek cuisine.
Plaka can be quite crowded and feel at some points a little bit touristy, but once you will get to the narrow streets, you might forget it!
At the end of Plaka is Monastiraki square, which you can easily recognize by the noise of hundreds of people walking around.
This area was the centre of the old Athens and the ending point of Ermou and Mitropoleos streets.
On the square, you can see some trademarks like the old church of Theotokos, the mosque of Tzistaraki, and right next to it the ruins of the Roman library of Hadrian.
The streets surrounding the square have shops and flea markets. You can buy souvenirs, postcards, and gifts for your friends. You can also find local products and folklore art to fill your bags.
Tip: Monastiraki Square is very popular and very busy. Unfortunately, it has attracted the attention of pickpockets who try to distract tourists a take their personal belongings. When you are in the square, be extra cautious and not talk to strangers.
After shopping for souvenirs and gifts, it is time for another dive into Greek history.
By the famous Andrianou street is the Ancient Agora, one of the most important places to visit in Athens.
The Agora was the political, cultural, educational, and social centre of ancient Athens. Since ancient times, the site has changed many times, and new buildings were built on top of the old ones.
I advise you to have a guided tour in the Agora, as there are many historical details that you can learn if you do so.
Next to the ancient agora is the Roman agora. In my opinion, the ancient agora has more to see and more fun stories related to it, but the roman one is also interesting.
It was the central market of Athens in Roman times, created in the 1st century AD. It was built next to the ancient agora to facilitate new activities but be close to the main political centre of Athens.
On one side, you will see an octangular building with reliefs depicting personifications of the winds. This building’s name is Aerides (gr: Αέρηδες) which means Winds, and it worked, in Roman times as a hydraulic clock.
Most probably by now, you are exhausted by all the walking it is already afternoon.
Maybe it is time to go back to your hotel, relax and get ready for a night out in Athens. If it is your first time in the city, you need to start from the classics.
A night at Psyri can give you the best experience!
Psyri is one of the centres of nightlife in Athens, with various bars and pubs for all types and interests. Choose a traditional small tavern (also called koutouki), a jazz bar, or one of the pubs.
If you want to “reach for the sky”, you can choose one of the terrace bars (there are many of them in this area) which overlook the whole of Athens and usually have a great view of the Acropolis.
The first day is exhausting but also very rewarding!
You have already explored half of the historical centre of Athens.
Please do not overdo it with your night out at Psyri because tomorrow you have another fun but a full day!
Day 2 in Athens
Start your day like a Greek: Try a cold coffee, freddo espresso, or freddo cappuccino (Greeks love to start their day with iced coffee), and once the caffeine wakes you up, start your second day in Athens!
Take the metro and go to Syntagma station or walk there if your hotel is close.
It is the square of the parliament and the real heart of Athens, created in the 19th century.
Many important events of modern Greek history took place here. Today Syntagma Square is a meeting point for the Athenians, a space of cultural events and festivals, and the ending point of every demonstration!
You cannot miss the Greek Parliament, the imposing white building that stands on the one side of the square.
In front of the building stand the guards of the parliament, dressed in traditional Greek clothing. They do not move or talk…they do not even blink. They are serious and focused on their task, which is protecting the parliament. You must not go very close or try to destruct them, but you can take pictures.
Every hour you can see the ‘changing of guards’, a process in which new guards take the place of the previous ones. It is a unique ceremony that is worth seeing.
After that, it is time for a morning walk in one of the few green spaces in Athens!
The National Garden is next to the parliament. This space used to be a garden since the ancient years, but in the 19th century, the queen of Greece, Amalia decided to turn it into a botanical garden and brought plants from different parts of the world.
Today the gardens are open to the public. You can stroll around and enjoy the peaceful pathways. There are also cages with domestic animals like goats, ducks, and chickens.
On the right side of the Garden is an open space called Zappeion, and next to it is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which is the next thing you should visit.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
The story of the temple is long. The Greeks started building it in the 6th century BC, but it was completed in the 2nd century AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who added the imposing arch that can stand next to the temple.
Behind the temple, and after crossing a busy road, you will find the imposing Stadium.
Ancient Greeks used this stadium for games in honour of the goddess Athena. In 1896, this space hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern world. Today, the Stadium hosts athletic events, concerts, fashion shows, and other events.
After admiring the stadium and taking a few pictures, you can walk to the Acropolis or Syntagma metro station and take the train to Omonoia station. Close by is the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
This is probably the most important museum in Greece. Inside are archaeological treasures found in Greece from prehistoric to Late antiquity times. You will need 1-3 hours to see everything. It depends, of course, how much time you want to spend reading the historical information and admiring the art.
You can have a nice lunch at the café-restaurant of the museum. It has tasty food and a view of the square.
Now for the afternoon, you have a couple of choices
Choice 1 – Sounio-Temple of Poseidon
Very close to the museum is the bus station from where you can take buses to the suburbs of Athens. These buses, called KTEL, will take you to your next destination: Sounio, where you can see the sun setting in the sea.
If after this long day you still want to go out, you can try the Gazi area
Sounio is a municipality in the south of Attica. It is famous for the temple of Poseidon, built in the 5th century BC. Poseidon was the Greek god of the sea, and very often, temples dedicated to him are close to the coast.
I love to visit Sounio in the evening to see the breathtaking view of the sunset. There is something magical about this hour. The sun rays colour the ancient columns, giving a feeling of perfect harmony and beauty.
You can return to Athens the same way you came, on the KTEL bus.
The duration by car is around 1.10′ from the centre of Athens, depending on traffic of course!
From the museum, you can walk up Lycabettus Hill and enjoy the stunning views and of course the sunset!
Take a taxi or a bus and visit one of my favourite new places in Athens, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.
It is a cultural, educational and recreational urban complex in the bay of Faliro in Athens which includes new facilities for the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO).
Even if you don’t visit the library and the opera it is a nice park with access to the sea and the Marine of Floisvos where is great for walking and coffee!
Now, for the night you can visit Gazi.
This area took its name from a Gas factory that used to be there. Nowadays, the Gazi has lively nightlife, clubs, bars, koutoukia, and many places to eat. Just choose what you like and have fun!
You can have a lot of fun in Athens. However, to see that city in two days, you will have to follow a tight schedule and be punctual, but even if you do not have time to see everything, do not worry…Athens is always here, waiting for you to come back!
If you have anything to add or make a recommendation about how can anyone spend two days in Athens, just leave a comment below!