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10 Unique Things to Do in Athens in 2024

City Guide January 30, 2024

 

 

Welcome to Athens in 2024, a city where the allure of ancient history and the vibrancy of contemporary culture blend to create an unforgettable experience. Beyond the renowned Acropolis and the world-famous Acropolis Museum, Athens is a treasure trove brimming with unique activities and hidden gems. For those looking for non-touristy things to do in Athens or wondering what to do in Athens besides visiting the Acropolis, this guide is your gateway to the city's lesser-known yet equally captivating attractions.

From the mystical heights of Mount Lycabettus, offering unparalleled views of the Acropolis, to the lively and colorful streets of Monastiraki Square, prepare to explore the city of Athens in a way that transcends the ordinary and leaves you with lasting memories and stories to share. Whether you're delving into the rich tapestry of Greek culture or seeking out the best spots to view the majestic Acropolis, this guide will lead you through an exploration of Athens that reveals the heart and soul of this ancient yet ever-evolving city.

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1. Discover the Secrets of the Ancient Agora

This archaeological site, nestled in a neighborhood in Athens close to the Acropolis, boasts the well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus and the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, housing a fascinating museum. As you explore the Agora, you're walking in the footsteps of philosophers like Socrates and Plato.

Like a smaller version of the National Archaeological Museum, the museum presents artifacts that offer insight into everyday life in ancient Athens. It's a perfect spot to visit, especially in the summer months, where the shade of olive trees provides a respite from the Athenian heat.

 

2. Rooftop Bars with a View of the Acropolis

One of the most enjoyable things to do in Athens besides the Acropolis is to experience the city's rooftop bars. These venues provide a bird's eye view of the Acropolis and panoramic vistas of Athens stretching to the sea.

As the sun sets, these bars, like the GB Roof Garden at Hotel Grande Bretagne and the A for Athens Cocktail Bar, offer an enchanting backdrop with the Acropolis illuminated against the night sky. They are particularly delightful during summer, offering a breezy escape and a unique city perspective.

 

3. A Hike Up Mount Lycabettus

For those seeking adventure and unparalleled views, a hike up Mount Lycabettus is one of the top things to do in Athens. This journey leads to the highest point in the city, where a panoramic view encompasses the Acropolis, the Aegean Sea, and the expanse of Athens. The small chapel of Agios Georgios sits at the summit, and a nearby café provides a serene spot to enjoy a refreshment. The hike is especially magical during sunrise or sunset, offering a peaceful escape from the bustling neighborhoods of Athens below.

 

4. Uncover Hidden Gems in the City Center

The heart of Athens is a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Beyond the main attractions, the city center is a labyrinth of charming streets, each offering its unique allure. In areas like Anafiotika, nestled under the Acropolis, you'll find a slice of island life with its Cycladic-style houses and narrow paths. This neighborhood starkly contrasts the grandeur of nearby ancient sites and is perfect for leisurely exploration and photography.

In the bustling commercial neighborhood of Ermou, just off Syntagma Square, discover small artisan shops offering handmade jewelry, traditional Greek crafts, and contemporary designs. Take a break in one of the many cozy cafes, where you can enjoy a Greek coffee and watch the world go by.

Street art enthusiasts should head to the neighborhoods of Psiri and Exarchia, where the walls are adorned with impressive murals and graffiti that speak volumes about the city’s contemporary culture and political landscape. These vibrant and sometimes edgy districts offer a different perspective of Athens and are hubs for creative expression.

 

 

5. Visit the Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus, standing majestically in the Ancient Agora, is one of Athens' best-preserved ancient temples. Dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalworking, this temple is a testament to the architectural excellence of ancient Greece. Its Doric columns and well-preserved structure offer a serene and majestic ambiance, unlike the more visited Acropolis.

Take a moment to sit on the temple's steps and admire the views of the Agora and the Acropolis. The temple's location in the Agora means you can also explore other lesser-known but equally fascinating sites nearby, like the Church of the Holy Apostles with its beautiful Byzantine frescoes.

The area around the Temple of Hephaestus is quieter and more contemplative, allowing for a more intimate connection with Athens' ancient past. History feels tangible, and the stories of ancient artisans and craftsmen come to life.

 

6. Experience Greek Culture in Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square, a bustling hub in the heart of Athens, is a vibrant tapestry of Greek culture and history. This lively square blends the old and the new, where traditional markets sit alongside trendy boutiques. Street performers add to the lively atmosphere, showcasing Greek music and dance, while local vendors sell everything from handmade crafts to Greek delicacies.

In Monastiraki, you can explore the famous Flea Market, a paradise for bargain hunters and collectors, offering antiques, vintage items, and unique finds. The square is also surrounded by numerous cafes and traditional tavernas where you can taste authentic Greek dishes such as souvlaki, moussaka, and fresh seafood.

Adjacent to the square, landmarks like the Tzistarakis Mosque and the Hadrian’s Library add historical depth to your visit. The area is also a gateway to other historic neighborhoods like Plaka and Psiri, making it an ideal starting point for a deeper exploration of Athens.

 

7. A Day Trip to a Nearby Greek Island

Taking a day trip to a nearby Greek island is a refreshing counterpoint to the urban energy of Athens. These islands, each with its unique charm, are easily accessible by ferries from the Athenian ports of Piraeus, Rafina, and Lavrio.

Hydra, one of the most picturesque islands, is known for its car-free streets, stunning mansions, and clear waters. A haven for artists, its quaint harbor is lined with galleries, boutiques, and seaside cafes.

Alternatively, Aegina, famous for its pistachio orchards, offers a glimpse into traditional island life along with historical sites like the Temple of Aphaia. Poros, with its pine-covered hills and sandy beaches, offers scenic beauty and a relaxed atmosphere for a day trip.

For those seeking a more secluded experience, islands like Agistri and Spetses offer beautiful beaches and a more laid-back vibe. Each island provides a unique experience, from exploring ancient ruins and hiking scenic trails to simply relaxing on a sun-drenched beach.

 

 

8. Explore the National Garden and Panathenaic Stadium

The National Garden, located right behind the Greek Parliament, is a peaceful haven in the bustling heart of Athens. This botanical paradise, designed in the 19th century, is home to over 500 species of plants and trees, serene ponds, and charming pathways. It's an ideal place for nature lovers or those seeking a quiet escape from the urban environment. The garden also hosts a small zoo and several neoclassical structures, adding to its charm.

Just a short walk from the National Garden is the Panathenaic Stadium, an impressive marble structure famously known as the venue for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The stadium, originally built in the 4th century BC for the Panathenaic Games, is a marvel of ancient architecture and engineering. Visitors can explore its stands, walk on the track, and even stand on the winners' podium, offering a unique glimpse into the world of ancient athletics.

 

9. Attend a Performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Attending a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that transports you back to ancient Greece. With its stone arches and tiered seating, this beautifully preserved theater provides an extraordinary setting for various performances, from Greek tragedies to international music concerts. The theater's acoustics and the open-air setting under the Athenian sky make every performance here special. Check the schedule in advance to catch a performance during your visit and experience the timeless magic of Greek theater.

 

10. Explore the Artistic Neighborhood of Psiri

Psiri, often referred to as the Soho of Athens, is a neighborhood where the city's artistic soul truly comes alive. It’s a quiet area with unassuming buildings by day, but as night falls, it transforms into a lively hub of entertainment. The district's streets are lined with art galleries, quirky shops, and studios where you can see artists at work.

Psiri is also known for its culinary scene, featuring a mix of traditional tavernas and trendy eateries. The neighborhood's nightlife is vibrant, with numerous bars and clubs offering live music ranging from traditional Greek to contemporary genres. Exploring Psiri is an exploration of Athens' creative heartbeat, where the past and present of Greek culture merge.

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