How to Spend 48 Hours in Athens
Athens, the capital of Greece, is an ancient city that is full of historical treasures. As one of the world’s oldest cities, this metropolis is home to landmarks that have stood for centuries. As you wander around the streets of Athens, at every turn you’ll come across more ruins and old relics, many sitting in between more modern buildings. For lovers of history, it’s a fascinating city to explore. But it’s also a very chaotic city; it’s loud, touristy and rather dirty.
If you only have two days to see Athens’ main sights, here’s how you should spend them in order to make the most of this incredible city.
Rise bright and early, grab some breakfast and head straight to the Acropolis. The Acropolis is the one historical site that you absolutely must see in Athens. Arrive there ready to enter when the gates open at 8 am. Yes, I know that waking up early on your holidays is no fun at all, but the Acropolis attracts thousands of visitors daily. Get there early to avoid the crowds. Trust me, you’ll thank me later! To ensure you don’t miss anything, grab a map at the entrance and begin exploring the greatest symbol of ancient Greece.
There’s a lot to see in the complex. Start by climbing up the Dionyssiou Areopagitou pedestrian avenue and marvel at the archaeological sites along the southern side of Acropolis Hill. Before entering the main precinct, stop off at the Ancient Theatre of Dionysos. This theatre was built in the 5th century B.C and it’s the oldest surviving theatre in the world.
After visiting the theatre, continue up towards the top of the Acropolis and enter the sacred precinct through its gateway, the Propylaia. Your first view of the Parthenon will simply take your breath away. Although you’ve probably seen it many times on TV and in books, seeing it with your own eyes is so must better. You’ll totally want to snap off a few photos before moving on. From the top of the Acropolis, you also get splendid views out over the entire city of Athens.
While at the Acropolis make sure you also visit the Temple of Athina Nike and the Erechtheon, both are dedicated to Athena.
You could spend hours admiring this awe-inspiring archaeological site, but with only two days in Athens, it’s time to move on.
Bring lots of water with you, especially during summer, and wear some sturdy walking shoes.
Entrance fee: 20 Euros for the Acropolis only, or if you want to see more sights in Athens, get the 30 Euros combined ticket. This provides admission to the Acropolis and slopes, Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Aristotle’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Roman Agora. It can be used for five consecutive days.
The Ancient Agora
After exiting the main precinct of the Acropolis the same way that you entered, turn right and make your way down the rocky hill to the Ancient Agora of Athens. Along the way, you’ll come across Areopagus Hill, a rather steep hill. Climb the stairs to the top of the hill where you’ll be treated to some magnificent panoramic views over the Acropolis and Ancient Agora.
The ancient Agora is a large green area set between Monastiraki and the Acropolis. It used to be Athens’ ancient marketplace, but all that’s left of it now are scattered piles of rocks and some foundation walls.
The Temple of Hephaistos overlooks the Ancient Agora and is one of the best-preserved temples in ancient Greece.
By now it should be past lunchtime, so exit the Ancient Agora and head onto Adrianou Street. Adrianou Street has many tavernas where you can indulge in a souvlaki and a refreshing drink.
After lunch, take a stroll through the Athens flea market. There you’ll find anything you want, from jewellery, trinkets, souvenirs and antiques, to textiles, vintage vinyls and more.
Library of Hadrian
Before heading back to your hotel for a rest, fit in one last sight. The Library of Hadrian is just a short walk from the market. Constructed in 132-134 CE, this library was the largest in Athens and was built to house both books and the official state archives. Of course, none of those remain nowadays, but the ruins are still impressive and worth a visit.
Sunset on a rooftop bar
After a quick trip back to your hotel room to refresh, head to a rooftop bar to enjoy a cocktail while you watch the sunset over the city. Some great bars are GB Roof Garden, Point a and Athens 360.
Dinner in Plaka
Head to Plaka for a delicious Greek feast. Plaka is a very old section of Athens that neighbours the Acropolis. It’s a really nice part of Athens with a more relaxed, island feel. It feels like a small village inside the city. Most of the streets are pedestrian only and are lined with restaurants, cafes, tavernas and souvenir shops. Be careful when choosing a restaurant because the area has become very touristy and commercialised. Some restaurants are very pricey and yet still serve rather average meals. Our rule of thumb is to check TripAdvisor before heading out so that you always have a restaurant or two in mind.
Overlooking the magnificent Parliament building, Syntagma Square is the heart of modern Athens and is where many political protests and demonstrations take place.
Every hour on the hour, Evzones guards in traditional uniform (and with super cute pom-pom shoes), march their way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament House, for the changing of the guards’ ceremony. The tomb is guarded day and night by two Evzone guards and the changing of guards ceremony is a great spectacle.
After snapping a few photos of the guards, make your way to the National Gardens, right next door to the Parliament building. These former royal gardens are a delight to walk around, especially in the warmer months. Within these twenty-four hectares of gardens, you can find five-hundred and nineteen species of plants, several ornamental ponds, some extremely rare plants and plenty of birds.
The Panathenaic Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and is the only marble stadium in the world. It was built in the late 19th century on the site of 4th century ancient Athens. This impressively well-preserved stadium seats fifty thousand people. You can pay to enter the stadium and visit its small museum, but with only two days in Athens, we decided to just photograph it and move on.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a lot less busy than the Acropolis. It’s a wonderful temple to walk around and to check out from different angles. It took seven hundred years to build (building began in the 6th century BC) and it is the largest temple in Greece. Unfortunately, it has suffered a lot of damage over the years. Only fifteen of the original one hundred and four columns survived. As you explore the grounds, you’ll come across many fallen pieces of those columns on the ground. It’s a great place for photos, with the Acropolis in the background.
Lunch at the Acropolis Cafe
After all that walking, you might feel a bit hungry. So before entering the Acropolis Museum, grab a bite at the Acropolis Cafe which overlooks the archaeological site.
While in Athens, the Acropolis Museum is a must see. Take at least a couple of hours to explore this three storey museum. Learn about the history of the Acropolis and see more of the preserved ruins from the site and loads of recovered artefacts. The entrance way and other parts of the museum have glass floors that let you look down onto the ancient ruins below.
Entrance fee: 5 euros
Another night out in Plaka
We loved Plaka so I’d suggest spending one more night wandering its streets, eating Greek food from one of its tavernas, drinking Greek wine and making the most of your last night in Athens.
Where to stay in Athens?
The Athens Gate Hotel is a four-star hotel in the centre of Athens. It’s within walking distance of all the major tourist attractions – the Acropolis museum, the Acropolis, the temple of Zeus (right across the road), Syntagma Square and Plaka. The views from its top floor restaurant are gorgeous. Breakfast with a view over the Acropolis is always a great way to begin the day! Prices start from 178 euros. Click here to get the latest prices.
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