Home to the world famous Acropolis, Athens is a city every traveler needs to visit at least once in their lifetime. The city is also used as a jumping off point to visit Greece’s beautiful islands such as Santorini, Crete, and Mykonos.
While archeology and history buffs may want to spend more time in Athens, the casual traveler looking to see only the Acropolis - or travelers looking to maximize their time on the Greek islands - may only have a few days to spend in Athens. The good news is that most of the highlights of Athens can be seen in two days.
I have been to Athens six times and know the perfect way to spend 2 days there. This itinerary includes fascinating archeological sites, exploring neighborhoods by foot, and breathtaking views of the city.
I would suggest beginning with the main attraction, the Acropolis. Getting an early start at the Acropolis is a great idea to beat the crowds and the heat, especially in summer months. The gates to the Acropolis open at 8am. You should buy your tickets online in advance to skip the ticket line queue. If you don’t have tickets in advance, you can buy them pretty easily from a ticket machine out in front of the entrance.
There is a bit of uphill walking involved to get to the top of the Acropolis, but you will pass by a few incredible sites on the way including the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theater of Dionysus.
Once on top of the Acropolis, you will come face to face with one of the world’s most famous ancient buildings: The Parthenon. You can walk around the entire Parthenon, admiring its beauty from all angles.
Two other impressive buildings located on top of the Acropolis include the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion.
Another advantage of being on top of the Acropolis is the incredible 360 degree view of Athens. On a clear day you can see out to the Aegean Sea. Look down on other ancient ruins like the Temple of Zeus and Ancient Agora, and see the superb Lycabettus hill.
Note: The entire attraction is outdoors. Planning the Acropolis as your first stop on Day 1 gives you a buffer day in case it is storming or raining hard that day. That way you can push it to Day 2, as this is the one must-see site in Athens.
After visiting the Acropolis, it’s time to make your way over to the nearby Acropolis Museum. Tickets for this can also be bought in advance online, or purchased at the front. Spend 1-2 hours observing ancient statues and artifacts found on and nearby the Acropolis. It’s also a great way to learn more about the history of the Parthenon and the other buildings on the Acropolis.
After spending your morning covering all things Acropolis, get yourself some lunch in the nearby neighborhoods.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
After getting lunch and relaxing for a bit, head over to the monumental Temple of Olympian Zeus. Also known as Olympieion, this is one of the best preserved and most iconic ancient sites in Athens.
A visit only takes about 30 minutes and tickets are $6 euro. Nearby are some more ancient ruins of Roman Baths and Themistokles’ wall that are free to visit. Not far from the entrance is also Hadrian’s Arch.
Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium
About a ten minute walk away from the Temple of Olympian Zeus is the original Olympic Stadium. It was first created in 335 BC, before being renovated with marble seating in 140 AD by Herodes Atticus.
The stadium was rebuilt in 1896 for the first modern Olympic games, and is the site where the Olympic torch is last exchanged before heading to the host country.
After a day full of history and walking around ancient ruins, it’s time to relax and have dinner and drinks with a memorable view. There are many rooftop bars and restaurants in Athens that offer amazing food and magnificent views. Seeing the Acropolis illuminated at night is one of my favorite memories of Athens.
One of my favorite places to see Athens at night from is A for Athens. Located in Monastiraki Square, the views of the Tzistarakis Mosque with the Acropolis in the background are iconic. I would make reservations in advance for dinner, but if you are only doing drinks later at night you probably don’t need them. Walk into the A for Athens hotel lobby and ask how to access the rooftop restaurant and bar.
Hit day 2 running with some more ancient archeological sites. This area was the heart and soul of everyday life in ancient athens. The area covers what was an ancient marketplace. Some of the remaining buildings are in great shape still to this day.
Some of the most remarkable buildings in ancient agora are the Temple of Hephaestus and the Stoa of Attalos.
A short walk from Ancient Agora is Hadrian’s Library, which was built during the Roman emperor Hadrian’s rule.
The nearby Roman Agora has ancient buildings, including the Gate of Athena and Tower of the Winds, that were built during Julius Caesar’s reign in the 1st century BC.
A short distance from Ancient Agora is the bustling Monastiraki square. The square is a major hub in Athens and has a popular metro stop. It is steps away from the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library. In Monastiraki you can find a slew of restaurants, cafes, and shops, and are just a short walk away from the Plaka neighborhood.
The striking Tzistarakis Mosque makes for some beautiful photos with the Acropolis in the background. The ancient Church of Pantanassa also sits in the square.
One of the most vibrant areas of Athens, the Plaka neighborhood is a tourist favorite and one of the best things to see in Athens. Stroll through the picturesque streets and look for the perfect souvenir, or find a hidden gem of a restaurant for some authentic greek food.
You can spend hours aimlessly walking through the Plaka without getting bored. Factor in a few hours to explore the Plaka. The Anafiotika area is particularly scenic with narrow streets, graffiti walls, and interesting shops.
To wrap up your time in Athens, take the cable car up to the top of Mount Lycabettus. Whether you decide to come up here during the day, for sunset, or at night, the view from up here is incredible. You will have panoramic views of the city, including the Acropolis, and get to end your stay with one of the best views in Greece.
If you decide to visit during the day and feel like getting in some exercise, you can hike up to the top of Lycabettus hill. Depending on your level of fitness, it can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to get to the top. Don’t forget to stop by the white washed St. George church at the top of the hill.
While two days may not be enough for some people, most tourists trying to maximize their time on their trips will make the choice to see Athens in two days. The city has a lot to offer, including its famed history, and I hope this 2 day itinerary helps you plan your visit to Athens, Greece.
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