Looking for the perfect one-day in Athens itinerary?
For many first-time visitors to Greece, a quick stopover in Athens whilst on route to exploring the gorgeous Greek isles is usually their first and only introduction to this incredible city.
With so much history, culture and charm, you really should be spending at least two to three days at a minimum to really get to grips with the city.
Regardless, if you are pressed for time, you can certainly still see many of the major sights and attractions to get a feel for ancient Athens! In this guide, I’ll provide a rundown of all the key essential information you may need to plan for a perfect day in Athens!
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Where to Stay in Athens
We get it, Athens is too pretty to spend only a day there. So if you’ve fallen in love with the city, and you decide, last-minute, to stay for the night, then why not check these hotels. If you want, this accommodation guide to Athens will give you even more choices, or you can also read this article if you’d like to book a room with unforgettable Acropolis views.
With only 24 hours in Athens, you’ll want to stay somewhere that isn’t too far from the main attractions and has easy access to the public transportation system. Plaka is one of the best places to stay in Athens for sightseeing. You can check hotels in Plaka here or take a look at these places:
Budget: If you’re looking for a budget hotel in lively Monastiraki, book a stay at Fivos Hotel. Located right by Monastiraki Station, the hotel has free wifi and ensuite bathrooms. Check out prices and availability at Fivos Hotel here.
Mid-range: If you want more traditional accommodation, stay at the Kimons Athens Hotel in Plaka. The rooms are cozy and there’s a roof terrace that guests can enjoy. Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Kimons Athens Hotel here.
Luxury: To enjoy a bit of luxury in Monastiraki, check into the four-star Emporikon Athens Hotel on Agia Irini Square. The rooms are sophisticated and swanky, with a traditional take on comfort. Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Emporikon Athens Hotel here.
How To Get Around Athens In A Day
Getting around the capital city is easy.
If staying centrally, the city is easily walkable, especially for this one-day Athens itinerary.
Additionally, there are plenty of transit options provided. Take a look at some of the popular modes of transportation around the city to enjoy the top things to do in Athens.
Metro and Bus
The metro is considered one of the best ways to get around the city. It’s a cheap and reliable service and takes you within walking distance to some of the top attractions.
To save money, you should buy a day pass for €4.50, or you can purchase a 90-minute ticket for €1.20 – excluding airport transfer. Another inexpensive option to get around the city is the bus system.
Alternatively, you can take the tram. There are three tram lines that run between downtown Athens and some coastal destinations like Moschato, Glyfada, and Palaio Faliro.
A taxi is the most reliable and safe way to get around the city. Keep in mind most taxis are metered, and you won’t know what your trip will cost in advance.
Athens used to have Uber, but now it’s been replaced by Taxibeat. We recommend downloading the app before going to avoid any taxi issues.
Hop-Off Hop-On Bus
Finally, if you want to get a combination of sites to see with a group, book a hop-on hop-off bus ticket and explore the city of Athens.
Where To Eat In Athens
What better way to immerse yourself in the unique culinary heritage of the famous Mediterranean menu, than indulging in different Greek cuisines?
Apart from strolling the streets with an abundance of superb eateries, take a look at some of these exquisite restaurants to satisfy your tastebuds – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast – Yiasemi
Start your day the right way and enjoy homemade tarts and delicious pies at this quaint traditional cafe-bistro, before venturing out for the day.
Lunch – 2Mazi
This restaurant captures the essence of classical Greek cuisine. Enjoy fresh salads, perfectly cooked fish, and amazing tarts.
Dinner – Art Lounge
The Art Lounge is situated in Syntagma Square and provides delicious cuisine. A must-try is the Kritharoto, a delicious type of risotto, with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and slow-cooked pork, yum!
What To See In Athens In One Day
Set your alarm clocks for a bright and early day to explore the ancient wonders around the spectacular city. You’ll want to squeeze as much into your one day as possible, before heading off to a magical island adventure, like the popular route from Athens to Mykonos.
Let’s dive straight into the ultimate city guide to Athens in a day.
When visiting Athens, the first stop on your one-day itinerary should be to Greece’s crown jewel, the Acropolis. An ancient complex that was built in the 5th-century and is made up of several structures.
Try and aim to leave your hotel by 7:30 am, so that you can get to the Acropolis as soon as it opens at 8 am. This way, you can avoid the crowds, and have time to absorb the historic sites.
Start exploring the Acropolis from the south slope. As you enter, you’ll first find the Theatre of Dionysos and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Climb the marble steps to the top of the hill. There, you’ll find ruins of the grand Parthenon, and a spectacular view of Athens below.
Your walk around the spectacular grandeur structures should take about 2-hours. You can book your tickets in advance, or join a small group tour. You can buy multi-site tickets for €30 (recommended), or you can purchase a single ticket to the Acropolis for €20.
As you leave the Acropolis, stop at the Areopagus Hill. Here you can get a sight of the Ancient Agora, where Socrates developed his philosophy.
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Once you’re finished exploring the magnificent Acropolis, make your way to the city’s oldest and most colorful neighborhood, Plaka. It’s one of the best places to visit in Athens and you can also do it with a walking tour of the city, this one is a great value for money opportunity because it also includes a visit to the Acropolis.
Plaka is a pedestrian-friendly area lined with charming restaurants, cafes, and fascinating architecture. Stroll along the shopping streets of Kydathineon and Adrianou. Interrupt your stroll and spend some time in an authentic Greek cafe. Along your way, keep a lookout for antiquated Athens sites such as the Byzantine churches, museums, and 19th-century homes.
The Temple Of Olympian Zeus
From Plaka, it’s a quick 10-minute walk to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a large temple that was built to honor the gods. It was completed in 131 AD, and today it houses 15 remaining Corinthian columns. Also on-site, you’ll find the remains of ancient Roman bathhouses and Hadrian’s Arch.
Learn about the fascinating history of the Temple of Olympian Zeus with a self-guided audio tour. Alternatively, if you’re interested in Greek mythology and legends, take a small-group walking tour to learn more about the Plaka neighborhood, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Zeus.
Although this is one of the largest ancient temples of the Greek-Roman Empire, you don’t really need to spend much time here – a maximum of 15-minutes. A single ticket entrance fee is €6, or you can use the combination ticket.
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The National Gardens
Your next stop on the itinerary is the National Gardens, neighboring the Temple of Olympian Zeus. On-site you’ll find the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, which was built in the 1880s for the first Olympic Games. The hall plays a significant role in Greek history and is certainly worth taking a look inside.
To get from the National Gardens to your next stop, you can use the closest metro station to the Monastiraki Metro Station.
The Library of Hadrian
Located in the heart of the city, next to the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library was created by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, in 132 – 134 AD. With its grandeur facades and large surrounding walls, it was clearly built to impress.
The building was used to store important legal and literary works. It also included lecture halls and served as a place for schools of learning and philosophy debates.
Combination tickets for the Acropolis are included here, otherwise, a single entry costs €6. Like most archaeological sites, opening times are from 8 am-8 pm, daily.
A 3-minute walk from Hadrian’s Library is the Ancient Agora. It was once the political and business hub of the Greek capital, and on the north side, it houses the 5th-century Temple of Hephaestus and Athena.
A single ticket entry fee to the Ancient Agora is €12 unless you have a combination ticket.
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Your next stop will be a quick 5-minute walk from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora. These ruins date back to the 1st-century, during the reign of Julius Caesar and Augustus. It was once used as a commercial marketplace and is well worth the visit.
Another fascinating part of this site is the octagonal Tower of Winds, a Pentelic marble clocktower.
A single entry ticket to the Roman Agora is €6; otherwise, you can use your combination ticket to enter.
As your one day in Athens comes to an end, head to the Monastiraki Square.
It’s around 3-minutes walking distance from the Roman Agora and is a great place to shop around for souvenirs and enjoy the hustle and bustle of street musicians and street vendors.
5 Things to Bring with You to Greece
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.
– A physical guidebook, on paper or Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in most of Greece is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places in Greece, especially on the island, where the water tastes like minerals.
We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
– Motion sickness pills. Santorini roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.
– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
– Travel safety items. We think Greece is safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison nor I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack.
It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
Read More: Essential Greece Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Greece
More Greece Travel Resources
First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a separate guide to tipping in Greece so you know what to give to different servers and staff while you’re here.
Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.
If you are still trying to figure out your Greece itinerary, check out our guides on where to go in Greece, the best places for island hopping in Greece, and when is the best time to visit.
If you know you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram guide, the best Athens day trips, and our complete Athens hotel guide. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Athens in winter.
Check these Athens safety tips for a hassle-free trip. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned!
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!
Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Greece is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” and we think it’s true!
Pin this Guide to Enjoy the One Day in Athens!
About the Author
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 3 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way.
Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain, and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.
You can follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter!
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.