From the minute I set foot into Greece, I loved it. I travelled to Greece in October of 2018 and spent 17 days there. We did a road trip to other cities in Greece and also ferried our way across to the Cyclades. But first, here’s a quick tour guide of some of the incredible things we did and saw in Athens, the capital of Greece and how you can efficiently explore the best of Athens in just 2 days.
Athens Tour Guide – Detailed Itinerary
Depending on the time you fly in or out, you can make the required changes.
If you’re a morning person, you should definitely wake up early to watch the sunrise. The sunrise when we went in October was at 7:20 am. Though you technically can’t see the sun ‘rise’ from here (as it is hidden behind a mountain range) the view of the morning rays hitting the entire city of Athens is a beautiful sight to see!
You get a beautiful view of all of Athens surrounded by mountains.
You can take your car almost all the way up with just about 15 minutes of a climb at the end to get to the church on top.
Alternative: You can get a beautiful view of the Acropolis at sunrise from Philopappou Hill (recommended) or Areos Pagos Hill. Remember, it is a climb! Not a tough or long one, but make sure you reach there early enough depending on your walking pace and fitness level!
After your morning exercise and vitamin d, visit Daphne Monastery. The monastery opens at 9 am and shuts at 3 pm. It’s best to finish this visit early, else the traffic would make the trip longer. It’s about a 25-30 minute ride on a light traffic day from the city.
It’s an absolute delight this place. The exteriors and interiors are beautiful. There’s a story behind the monastery and the mosaic on the ceiling. You could read up on it before you go or download a pdf onto your mobile/kindle and read when you are there to relate to it better!
Temple of Zeus
Get back into the city and head straight for the absolutely awe-mazing Temple of Zeus. It’s also called Temple of Olympian Zeus. There is an entrance fee here for 6 euros. You could also buy a pass for 30 euros that allows you to enter other museums and sites (that’s what we did! It’s just more convenient)
Just the sheer height of this temple leaves you spellbound. You will soon come to realise all of their temples are similar in nature but they are all magnificent none the less.
The sun by now could get strikingly hot, so ensure you have enough protection. You will find shade only at the outside walls of the monument and not within, as the temple is in the middle of a large field.
You can see the Arch of Hadrian from here.
You can make a brief stop at the Panathenaic Stadium, which was first built in the 6th century and then got renovated multiple times. It is the only stadium in the world to be made entirely of marble! You can go in and pose for a few pics, but that’s about it. We chose not to go in because the sun was too hot to handle.
Change Of Guards
Head to the parliament building at Syntagma Square. Depending on which month of the year you go, the timing of the change of guards might differ slightly. Make sure you are there by 11 am. Grab a snack from nearby stalls and wait till the crowds gather and the change of guards takes place. It’s a 15-minute ‘show’ that’s put on when the guards are relieved of their duties for their shift and replaced by 2 other guards. A ‘big’ show is put on every Sunday at the same time.
By the way, look out for the Pigeon man! He’s a man who has got bird food on him and for a few bucks, you can feed pigeons and they will fly all over you, eat from your hand, for you to take pretty (or scary!) pictures! Oh yeah, and since they are pigeons, they may also crap on you… so be warned!
There are many cute places to have lunch around Syntagma Square, so its best that you spend time around here in shady places until it’s time for food!
Go check out the Metro station. It is unique because it has a little gallery of artefacts that were found by workers while building the metro!
There is also the National Gardens nearby which is quite pretty. It’s huge, so you may not have the time to walk around it. Just have a peep if you must or chill out under some shade.
Once you’ve got your tummy full, head over to the Ancient Agora and get ready to walk walk walk!
Check out the various structures and read up on their history. The most important building here is the Temple of Hephaestus. You will also get a cool view of the Acropolis from here.
FYI – There is a railway track passing right outside the Agora and the trains are colourful and cute!
You will come across the Roman Forum on your way towards the Acropolis. We didn’t go inside cos we were short on time, but you could. There isn’t too much to see though!
If you walk from the Agora to the Acropolis, google maps will tell you its only 1.1km… but it forgets to tell you that it is uphill! We took almost 30 minutes I think, cos we weren’t prepared for a climb! And we were taking breaks every 5 minutes. (If you are not out of shape like me, you’ll be fine!)
An easier way to reach the Acropolis is to come from the front/main entry via Plaka. But that’s on the other side – so you lose a lot of time if you drive there or walk all the way around.
Try to reach the Acropolis by 6 or so (depending on the season) so that you have enough time to look around with daylight and then also watch the sunset from up there. You get a splendid view of the city and of course, the Parthenon and the temple of Athena are gorgeous!
The Odean of Herodes Atticus was probably the structure I was most impressed with. Something about theatres just delights me and this one was stunning! If you are lucky, there may be a show going on!
The theatre of Dionysus can be seen from the top of the Acropolis, but the entrance is from below – when you walk back towards Plaka.
Once you are done gaping at the wondrous Acropolis, get down from the main entrance and walk towards Plaka. Plaka is an area in Athens that is filled with narrow streets with dime a dozen shops and restaurants. It’s the perfect way to end your day.
Walk around and buy a few dozen souvenirs (don’t go to the first shop you see, go towards the interiors of Plaka and the shops get cheaper).
Eat some Greek yogurt or Ice cream 😀
Go to Cine Paris and catch a movie
Have a few drinks and eat Greek food at one of those restaurants that are right out on the streets with the humdrum of the shoppers around you. It is such an amazing experience!
This part of the town is lively till about 12 am- but some of the shops shut early by 9. Once you’ve had your fill for the day, head on over to your hotel and have a good night’s sleep 🙂
Ready to get out of your room before sunrise again? Then go to
Philopappos Hill and watch the sun rise above the Acropolis!
Temple of Poseidon
The first day covers plenty of sights within the city. But if you are in Athens for only 2 days, there is one place you can’t leave without seeing and unfortunately, it’s 3 hours away.
It’s not only that the temple is beautiful (similar to the others you’ve already seen) but the drive to the Temple and the location of the Temple is its beauty.
Poseidon is the God of the Sea, so of course, his Temple was built on top of a hill, overlooking the mighty Aegean sea with breathtaking views. You can also walk a little way down the hill towards the water.
The entire trip to and fro could take between 4 to 6 hours depending on the traffic, how many times you stop and how much time you spend at the Temple. If you leave at 9 am, you should ideally be back by 2 pm.
You may need to stop for lunch on the way back. There are some famous sea-food joints around the area nearer to the Temple (Sounio).
Archaeological Museum of Athens
If you are back in the afternoon, you may want to escape the heat again. Check yourself into the Archaeological Museum! You will be able to put into perspective everything you’ve seen so far. The artefacts on display are really very interesting and make history come alive. You don’t have to be a geek to love this place!
If you didn’t get time to visit it properly on the first day, you could go there after the museum. The garden is open till 8 pm (I think till 7 – 7:30 during autumn and winter months). You could also see the Arch of Hadrian up close which is close to the Gardens.
Monastiraki Flea Market
When you are ready to leave, you can go to the Monastiraki Flea Market. The little lanes have shops after shops. Pick up Olives, Spices, Alcohol and other food-based items from here. Quality wise – the souvenirs are better at Plaka but are cheaper here for sure. So choose wisely!
The Hard Rock Cafe is close by if you want to have some drinks and listen to music (there may be a live show going on).
There is a restaurant diagonally opposite the HRC that ‘claims’ Shahrukh Khan visited it! Just a bit of Bollywood trivia for the fans! (I am NOT one)
For dinner, I would suggest going to Psyri – an area with many taverns and restaurants out on the street. We went here on our first night and were lucky to witness the traditional Greek dance and some live music as well!
Walk back to Monastiraki Square if you aren’t ready to go back to the hotel. It is a lively area till midnight – however, the crowd may not be all that great. Street musicians may be out if it is a clear evening. You can sit by the square and watch the people go by.
Where To Stay In Athens?
We stayed at the Hotel Attalos – and I would totally recommend it. It’s walking distance to many of the hot spots of the city. And the terrace bar at the hotel also has a beautiful view of the Acropolis!
Just note that they do not serve meals in the hotel (except for breakfast) – but there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance – Including the areas of Psyri and Monastiraki.