Planning to spend one day in Athens soon? This is the best 1-day Athens itinerary you could follow to enjoy your perfect time there and see most sights.
Having spent my childhood and most of my adult life in Athens and having plenty of experience showing foreign visitors around my home city, this is what I, as an Athenian, recommend doing if you have one day in Athens and want to see the historical highlights as well as the iconic neighborhoods.
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- How to spend one day in Athens
- One Day in Athens Detailed Itinerary
- Acropolis of Athens
- Acropolis Museum
- Coffee Break
- Hadrian's Arch & Τhe Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Syntagma Square
- Lunch Break
- Cathedral, Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
- Explore Plaka & Monastiraki
- Alternative Afternoon Itinerary – Athens Central Market & Psyrri Neighbourhood
- End The Day With Dinner, Dessert, and Drinks
- Where to stay in Athens
- One day in Athens for Cruise Passengers
How to spend one day in Athens
Best Time to Visit Athens
April-May and October-November are ideal for sightseeing when it’s not too hot and also not too cold; however if you’re planning to pass by Athens en route to the Greek islands, May, June, and September can also be an ideal time to explore Athens in one day.
How to get to and from the airport in Athens
By Bus: You can take the 24-hour express bus X95 to Syntagma Square (the main square in Athens) / it costs 5,50 euros/traveling time is 60 min depending on the traffic.
By Metro: Line 3 runs every 30 minutes from around 6: 30 am to 23:30 pm/it costs 10 euros/ traveling time 40 min.
By Taxi: You will find a taxi stand outside of the arrivals/ cost: (05:00-24:00):40 €, (24:00-05:00):55 €, traveling time 30 to 40 min depending on traffic.
My personal recommendation is to pre-book a Taxi By Welcome Pick-Ups: Book your private transfer online and have your driver waiting for you at the airport/cost (05:00-24:00) 47€, (24:00-05:00):59 € / traveling time 30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic. For more information and to book your private transfer, check here.
If you are a cruise passenger, you can read here how to get from Athens airport to the city center.
One Day Athens Itinerary Map
One Day in Athens Detailed Itinerary
Acropolis of Athens
Kickstart your one-day Athens itinerary off at the Acropolis; where else?! Aim to be here for the opening to beat the crowds of other tourists, including cruise ship passengers as well as to beat the heat of the midday sun. You should allow yourself 2 hours to explore the Acropolis as the site is vast, and made up of so much more than just the iconic Parthenon.
The Slopes of the Acropolis (Acropolis meaning ‘upper city’) covers 70,000 square meters, so you won’t get to see everything but you should definitely make an effort to see the 6th-century Sanctuary of Dionysus Eleuthereus, which includes the Theatre of Dionysus and the 2nd-century Odeion of Herodes Atticus after exploring the Parthenon.
Here are my absolute favorite tours that include the Acropolis:
– If you are interested in a guided tour I recommend this No-Crowds Acropolis Tour & Skip the Line Acropolis Museum Tour by the company Take Walks which gets you in the Acropolis for the first viewing of the day. This way not only do you beat the crowds but the heat as well. It also includes a skip-the-line tour of the Acropolis Museum.
– Another favorite is the Mythology Highlights Tour. This 4-hour tour includes Athen’s most important sites; the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Ancient Agora. Please note that it doesn’t include the entrance fee which is €30. It is a very interesting tour that combines Mythology and History.
For more details on how to visit the Acropolis and avoid the crowds, check my Acropolis guide here.
The new Acropolis Museum is vast, filling 4 floors with finds uncovered from the Acropolis and its slopes. Although you could spend a half-day looking around the museum, I recommend you limit yourself to about 1 hour here, starting with the Archaic Works Hall on the 1st floor and then moving up to the Parthenon Hall on the 3rd floor with its panoramic views of the Acropolis and the 160m long frieze from the Parthenon which tells the story of the Panathenaic Procession.
At the Archaic, Works Hall, don’t miss the iconic Caryatids (the sculptures of women that served as columns), the Horsemen, statues of the goddess Athens and The Moschophotos – One of the first examples of marble used in Ancient Greek architecture.
Here are some great options for visiting the Acropolis Museum:
– Acropolis Museum Entry Ticket with an Audio Guide
Take a short break at the Acropolis Museum – There is a café on the ground floor which overlooks the archaeological excavation and a restaurant on the 2nd floor with panoramic views of the Acropolis from its terrace.
Hadrian’s Arch & Τhe Temple of Olympian Zeus
From the Acropolis Museum, it’s just a 5-minute walk to Hadrian’s Arch and the neighboring Temple of Olympian Zeus, which can be viewed from the arch if you don’t wish to enter the archeological site.
Hadrian’s Arch, aka Hadrian’s Gate, is a symmetrical triumphal arch that was built to honor the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It makes quite an impression today, standing in the middle of the modern city, but back when it was built in 131AD, it spanned an old road linking Ancient Athens with Roman Athens.
The Temple of Zeus, otherwise known as the Olympeion, is a ruined Ancient Greek temple dedicated to the King of Olympian Gods, Zeus. Starting in the 6th century BC, it took 700 years to build, originally having 105 Corinthian columns standing 17 meters tall but today, only 15 of these columns remain upright.
From Hadrian’s Arch, take a 10-minute walk down the busy vehicle-filled street to Syntagma Square with its iconic pink Parliament building. Try to time your arrival so that you’re in the square on the hour to watch the changing of the guard.
The traditionally dressed presidential soldiers known as Evzones march from their barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where they carry out the changing of the guard in slow motion wearing the iconic ‘pompom shoes’, knee-length socks, white kilt, waistcoat, and hat with black tuft – It’s a must-see!
To make the most of your time, stay around Syntagma Square for lunch. I recommend eating at Tzitzikas & Mermigas (Mitropoleos 12), which serves up classic mezze along with other Mediterranean dishes, or the vibrant Avocado Cafe (Nikis 30) with its vegan and vegetarian food plus an array of fresh juices.
Cathedral, Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
From Syntagma Square, make your way down Mitropoleos Street to Mitropoleos Square, where you’ll find the strikingly modern Metropolitan Cathedral and the old church of Panagia Gorgoepikos.
From this modern square, you can re-enter the heart of Ancient Athens, enjoying your own walking tour as you pass the 2nd century BC Tower of the Winds (the world’s first meteorological station), so-called because of the 8 Greek gods of wind depicted in the carvings at the top of the tower and the 1st century Roman Agora which became the administrative and commercial center of Athens during Roman times.
Explore Plaka & Monastiraki
From the Roman Agora, you’re moments away from the vibrant, bustling neighborhood of Plaka, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city that is filled with neoclassical buildings and numerous souvenir shops with plenty of people-watching opportunities (and feet-resting opportunities!) to be had from the cafes that line the street.
But first, heading downhill to Monastiraki Square, turn onto Adrianou Street to walk back in time past the Ancient Agora with the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephestus, this being the administrative center of Ancient Athens, the place where Athenian democracy was born and where Socrates and Plato once walked.
Now that you’ve passed by both the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora, it’s time to re-enter the hustle and bustle of the modern world. The best souvenir shops can be found on Ifestou Street but you might want to head on into Monastiraki Square and the maze of alleys that make up the flea market, alternatively, pass by the 17th century Fethiye mosque and carry onto Hadrian’s Library in the Monastiraki neighborhood knowing that you’ve now walked past most of Athens historical monuments.
Alternative Afternoon Itinerary – Athens Central Market & Psyrri Neighbourhood
Here you can wander around the stalls selling meat, cheese, fish, fruit and veg, spices, and sweet treats, watching the locals go about their everyday shopping, perhaps picking some snacks or souvenirs up for yourself. Afterward, you can explore the vibrant Psyrri neighborhood, famed for its street art, before picking up the itinerary above to explore the Plaka and Monastiraki neighborhoods.
Central Market Opening Times: Monday-Saturday from 8 am
End The Day With Dinner, Dessert, and Drinks
For a relaxed sit-down meal, head to Platanos Taverna (Diogenous 4) in Plaka and dine on traditional homecooked food beneath the plane tree. Alternatively, if you’re short on time or have already had a big lunch, grab some Greek fast food at Kostas Souvlaki place in Agias Irinis Square.
After your meal, take a stroll through Pittaki Street to the vibrant Psyri neighborhood, famous for its street art and rebetika music (Greek blues). For dessert, I recommend stopping by Nancy’s Serbetospito, a pastry shop, then, with your sweet tooth satisfied, relax at one of the rooftop bars around Monastiraki – 360 Degrees, A for Athens, and City Zen are all rooftop bars with panoramic views of the Acropolis whilst Couleur Local is the place to get your groove in with DJs playing almost every night of the week.
Where to stay in Athens
I suggest somewhere central since you will be in the city for only one day. One option is the area around Monastiraki, especially if you are taking the ferry to the islands from Piraeus the next day or you are heading to the airport, as you can easily reach both from the Monastiraki metro station.
One day in Athens for Cruise Passengers
Since you won’t have a full day at your disposal, I suggest visiting the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, followed by a walk around the Plaka neighborhood. A guided tour or the hop on hop off bus might be a good idea too depending on how long you have available.
As you can see, it’s entirely possible to see the highlights of Athens in one day when you put this one-day Athens itinerary into play. All that’s left is to wish you Kalo Taxidi – Have a good trip!
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