A three day Athens itinerary is a perfect amount of time to spend in the Greek capital for your first visit. It gives you ample time to explore the city’s main historical attractions and central neighborhoods, as well as time to go off the beaten track to the lesser-known beaches and coastal villages of the Athens Riviera.
This guide has been written by someone who has lived in Athens for close to five years (Me!) It provides recommendations for districts, bars, and restaurants that you simply will not find in other Athens itineraries that have been written by people who simply passed through as a tourist.
Your Perfect 3-Day Athens itinerary
Athens, as the capital of Greece, needs no introduction. This is the birthplace of democracy and modern civilisation and home of some of the most impressive temples and historical sites in Europe.
With a history that spans over 2,500 years, it is also one of the oldest cities on the continent. The likes of Plato and Socrates, and infamous writers and creatives like Lord Byron, once strolled down the same cobbled streets and frequented the same places that you can visit as a tourist today.
Athens doesn’t have the same beauty as other European cities like say, Porto, or Prague. But what it lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in personality and charm.
This suggested 3 day Athens itinerary contains a mixture of well-known tourist attractions and hidden gems that Athenians have been keeping to themselves.
Athens itinerary day one: historical highlights
Day one of this 3 day Athens itinerary will focus on seeing the city’s historical highlights. Attractions like the Acropolis with its magnificent Parthenon are a lot of peoples’ raison d’etre for visiting Athens in the first place.
Athens combination ticket
It is worth purchasing an Athens combination ticket for your itinerary. This ticket costs €36 per person and includes admission to several archeological sites – including the Acropolis and its museum, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Ancient Agora and the Agora Museum, the Roman Agora, Hadrians Library, Kerameikos, and the Archaeological site of Lykeion.
Since entrance to the Acropolis is €20 anyway, you only need to visit one other historic site to make purchasing the pass worthwhile. This 3 day Athens itinerary will take you to most places listed above so the pass can save you a little money.
You can read more information on the pass here.
Breakfast in Greece’s historic capital
Wake up bright and early on day one of this 3 day Athens itinerary so that you can be one of the first in line for the Acropolis. If your hotel serves breakfast – great!
If not, consider stopping by one of Athens best loved breakfast and brunch spots.
The Underdog (Iraklidon 8) is an Athens institution. This specialty coffee shop in Thissio awaits on Iraklidon, a narrow street that veers off from Apostlou Pavlou boulevard in central Athens.
The baristas here are widely recognised as being among the best coffee brewers in Greece and indeed, the world! In fact, they have entered international contests and won awards for their coffee making skills so you can feel assured you are in good hands here.
Treat yourself to an international breakfast classic, like eggs benedict or croque madame. Or alternatively, try something with a contemporary twist.
For instance, the huevos pochados (poached eggs, mashed potatoes with bacon, asparagus, mushroom ragout and toasted bread) is to die for.
Kononi (Falirou 48) is another local favourite. The airy Bohemian eatery serves classic breakfast dishes from around the world, right in the shadow of the Acropolis.
Visit the Acropolis
Visiting the Acropolis is a highlight of any Athens itinerary. The site opens at 8am daily and it is worth getting there when it opens if you want to avoid the crowds.
There are now automatic ticket booths at the entrance close to the main entrance gate (the Propylaea). But to save having to queue at all, consider buying your Athens combo pass or your Acropolis entrance ticket online in advance.
That way you can go straight to the entrance (and sometimes there are online discounts to be had too). The Acropolis site is actually more expansive than many people realise and you should set aside at least 2-3 hours to exploring it.
Once upon a time, all Greek cities had Acropolises located in their centres. Most of these were built for defensive purposes but the Acropolis at Athens was primarily built for the worship of the Goddess Athena.
You will pass by several interesting ruins on your ascent towards the Parthenon. Look out for the Theatre of Dionysus – an ancient theatre constructed by Peisistratos in the 6th century CE.
The Parthenon itself dates back to 447 BC and was built in honour of the Ancient Greek Goddess Athena. Your Acropolis ticket includes admission to the Acropolis Museum.
The Museum contains artifacts recovered from the region and gives a chronological history of the area.
Recommended Acropolis tours and ticket options
- Athens: Acropolis & 6 archeological sites combo ticket
- Acropolis and Acropolis museum entry tickets with audio guide
- Athens Acropolis skip-the-line entry ticket with audio guide
- Acropolis and Acropolis museum tour with entry tickets
Follow Dionysiou Areopagitou
Follow the scenic cobbled boulevard of Dionysiou Areopagitou street past the Acropolis, Areopagus Hill, and Filopappou Hill, until it merges with Apostlou Pavlou. From there, follow the pedestrianised walkway to Thissio and the Ancient Agora.
These two charming walkways are always filled with street vendors selling everything from Greek street food to handmade jewelry, one-of-a-kind art pieces and artisanal goods. Meanwhile, musicians, dancers and street artists perform to delighted crowds of tourists and locals alike.
These pedestrianised boulevards are beloved by Athenians, as much as they are necessary routes for tourists to follow to get from one historic site to another. You will often see locals come here to meet their friends, walk their dogs, run, and enjoy an al fresco cup of coffee.
Visit the Ancient Agora
During the Classical era, the Ancient Agora was the civil centre of Athens. It was the main rendezvous point for city residents, speeches would be given here, and Greek Philosophers like Socrates would wander around barefoot imparting their wisdom on anyone that would listen.
You should dedicate at least 1.5-2 hours to exploring the site. Turning right immediately after entering the complex, you are met with the impressive Temple of Hephaestus.
The temple is often overshadowed by the Parthenon, but the two sites were built around the same time in 449BC. When it was first discovered by archeologists, it was wrongly believed to have been built in honour of Theseus, the mythical son of Poseidon.
(It is for this reason that the surrounding area was wrongly named Thissio!) It was later discovered that the temple was dedicated to Hephaestus, God of metal workers, and Athena Ergane, Goddess of pottery.
The Stoa of Attalos at the Ancient Agora
The Stoa of Attalos is the grand collonaded building on the left of the entrance to the Agora. It contains the fascinating Agora Museum.
It was originally built in 159BC. However, it was largely destroyed in 267 AD so what stands today was largely reconstructed in the 1950s.
Explicit care was taken to reconstruct the site to be the same as the original. Workers even went as far as using the same building materials and sourcing them from the same places.
Stroll down Evripidou street
From the Ancient Agora, head towards Athens’ vibrant Psiri district. This area is known for its colorful street art, eclectic cafes and ramshackle antique stores.
Evripidou street is particularly charming. Many of the independent stores here sell homeopathy products and homemade cosmetics which make lovely souvenirs.
There are also a lot of spice stalls that feel more reminiscent of what you would expect to see in an Arabian souk than in Southern Greece. There are two stores in particular to look out for that make great places to stop for lunch.
Enjoy a charcuterie lunch
One great place to stop for lunch in Psiri is Karamanladika tou Fani (Sokratous 1). Karamanladika is an Athens institution that specialises in preparing charcuterie boards made up of cured meats and cheeses from Drama in Northern Greece.
You can buy cuts of the deli produce to take home with you, or you can opt to enjoy a meze platter. Several recommended platters can be found on the menu, or you can ask the servers to prepare a bespoke one for you.
Not forgetting to wash it all down with a glass of locally sourced Greek wine, of course! Your server will be able to recommend a wine that perfectly complements the flavours of the food you have ordered.
Alternatively, head to Miran (45, Evripidou). This delicatessen and meze spot has been delighting Athenians since 1922.
While Karamanladika specialises in products from Drama, Miran specialises in products from Thessaly, Serres and Lake Kerkini. Try the oregano-infused sausages, the Armenian veal sausage, the soutzouki or the pastourma.
Check out the Athens Central Market
The Athens Central Market (Varvakios Agora) is the largest and oldest farmers market in Athens. It first opened its doors back in 1886 and has been one of the busiest marketplaces in the city ever since.
The market place is just around the corner from Evripidou street, and is worth a quick walk through. Every day, thousands of Athenians pass through to purchase fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, and meat.
If you are staying in self catered accommodation, it can be fun to shop for ingredients here and prepare them later. Otherwise, the market is a great place to visit for the people watching opportunities alone.
The fish market here is the largest in Europe. Every morning, local fishermen haul in their latest catches and set up their stalls, while every evening, Greek yiayias (grandmothers) stop by to ferociously haggle on the best prices for tuna, swordfish, anglerfish, and menolules.
Explore the Charming Streets of Old Plaka
The quaint district of Plaka is one of the oldest parts of Athens. During the Ottoman occupation, this was the city’s Turkish district.
Today, many old Ottoman structures still remain, pointing to the area’s multicultural past. In particular, look out for the Fethiye Mosque and the Pelopida street madrassah (Islamic School).
The Plaka steps (Mniskleous 22) are one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Restaurants and bars line either side of the stairway, and by nightfall, patrons sit on the steps enjoying meze dishes and glasses of ouzo poured over ice.
If you want to experience a Greek bouzouki bar, there are a couple of places to add to your radar. To Perivoli T’Ouranou is the oldest live music bar in Athens.
Meanwhile, Stamatopoulou Palia Plakiotiki taverna (Lisiou 26) is another local favourite. In both places, you can enjoy traditional Greek food while live musicians play bozouki music.
The experience is very interactive and people often get up on the table to dance after they are finished eating.
3 Day Athens Itinerary Day Two
Day two of this 3 day Athens itinerary is more about relaxing by the coast and enjoying the Greek way of life, than hurrying around trying to see all of the sites. Visiting Vouliagmeni and the Athenian Riviera in the middle of your trip is a nice way to break up all the walking and early starts!
If you are travelling to Athens in the summer months, this is a perfect itinerary. If you are visiting Athens in the winter, you can still enjoy walks by the coast and most days are still sunny and pleasant (if chillier). But obviously it isnt the same as being able to swim and enjoy the beaches.
So, if you are visiting Athens between say, November and April and the schedule for this day doesnt really fit with what you want to see and do, you can trade this day for the optional day four listed below.
Have brunch by the sea in Vouliagmeni
The Athens Riviera is an upscale, pine-covered peninsula just south of central Athens. It consists of the beach towns of Glyfada, Voula, Vari and Vouliagmeni and is a great place to spend a day by the coast.
Before the 1950s, this area was nothing more than a sprawl of coastline overlooking the Saronic Gulf islands. Seeing an opportunity, local real estate developers and entrepreneurs started building luxury hotels and resorts with the view to transform the Athens Riviera into Greeces very own Cote d’Azur.
It worked, and Hollywood celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Brigette Bardot and Sophia Loren are among those who fell in love with the area. This area is often referred to as ¨the Hellenic Hamptons¨ but despite the glamorous atmosphere, the Athens Riviera feels neither pretentious nor overly expensive.
Take the bus or a taxi to Vouliagmeni from Athens and have a Greek coffee and breakfast at Del Posto (Leof. Posidonos 4) as you watch the sea waves lap against the shore.
Enjoy the coastal areas of the Athens Riviera
The coastal towns south of Athens are home to several gorgeous beaches both public and private – some of which that would rival the beauty of those found on Greek islands. You will also find several limanakia here – hidden beaches and coves that you have to hike through woodlands to see.
There is a pleasant walking trail that runs along the coast from Vouliagmeni Bay, along the sands of Vouliagmeni public beach, and to Lake Vouliagmeni. On your route, you will pass the little stone church of Agios Nikólaos.
If you want to visit a beach club, check out Astir beach (Apollonos 40, Vouliagmeni), an exclusive beach club owned by renowned Greek architect Kostas Voutsinas. You can rent a cabana or a sunbed for €60.
Alternatively, Kavouri and Lemos beaches are free, and perhaps the more budget-friendly options.
Check out the healing powers of Lake Vouliagmeni
Lake Vouliagmeni is a thermal lake in the namesake town of Vouliagmeni. Its warm waters are filled with natural vitamins and minerals, including calcium, lithium ammonium, potassium and natrium.
As a result, the lake is said to have healing powers that can aid with the symptoms of various ailments such as eczema, arthritis, sciatica, etc.
Admission to the lake is €9 on weekdays and €10 on weekends and it can get a little crowded in the summer. Interestingly, there is an extensive network of caves beneath the surface of the lake and nobody has ever fully explored the extent of them!
If you can’t make it to Lake Vouliagmeni in time to experience it by day, know that seeing the lake by night is just as magical. (If not more so).
In the evenings, entrance to the site is free, and while you cannot swim in the water at this time, you can enjoy a cocktail or two prepared by the excellent mixologists at the waterside bar. The lake is illuminated with twinkling lights, and old Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra classics play over loudspeakers.
3 Day Athens Itinerary Day Three
Day three of this 3 day Athens itinerary is dedicated to visiting the remainder of the city’s most popular highlights, and exploring some lesser known districts. Although it is sites like the Agora and the Parthenon that put Athens on the map as a travel destination, it is often the various Athenian neighborhoods that steal the show and the hearts of most visitors.
Each Athenian district is like a little town or village in itself. Each has its own square (plateia) and its own distinct personality.
For instance, Exarchia is known for its politically motivated street art and its rock bars, while Koukaki is known for its coffee shops and art galleries and Kolonaki is known for its boutique stores. You probably wouldnt wander into these places unless you had a local friend to show you around.
They are among Athens best kept secrets.
See Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus
Two notable Athens landmarks can be found off Leof. Vasilisis Amalias near Syntagma Square: Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The arch dates back to 131 AD and was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian was a true Grecophile who is recognised as being one of only a few good Roman Emperors. During his time in Athens, he is credited with building and improving several structures in Athens.
Most notably, he is credited with the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction on the temple was started by Persistratus in 520BC.
After Persistratus rule ended, the temple was left, half finished and forgotten for centuries. Various people picked up and then abandoned the construction process over the centuries.
It was finally completed by Emperor Hadrian in 131 CE. At that time, it was one of the largest temples in the Ancient World.
It had 104 spectacular Corinthian columns, each 15 metres in height, and decorated with intricate designs. In total, it took 638 years from start to finish for the temple to be completed.
Complete a victory lap of the Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium is the only stadium in the world made entirely out of marble. It is also one of the most important.
Locals refer to the stadium as “Kallimarmaro”. The original structure here dates way back to 566 BC. In 1896, it hosted the first modern Olympic games!
Do your best Usain Bolt impression and take a victory lap around the stadium. Then be sure to check out the small stadium museum that contains Olympic torches and advertisements collected from around the world.
Watch the changing of the guards
The “Evzones” are an elite rank of Athenian guards. They wear a unique outfit that is made up of a farion (red cap with a tassel), a foustanella (kilt-like garment), and a pair of tsarouchia (shoes with pom poms).
Joining the ranks of the Hellenic Evzones is considered a great honour. You will see them standing guard outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Syntagma Parliament Building.
You can catch the “Changing of the Guards” ceremony every hour, on the hour of each day. There is also a more elaborate ceremony that takes place on Sunday mornings at 11am.
Stroll through Monastiraki and Syntagma
The only difference from your regular high street? You will find half a dozen ancient Orthodox churches situated every few paces.
You can opt to try a Kolouri from a Greek street food vendor if you feel hungry. This sesame-seeded circular bread is Greece’s answer to the pretzel. It is a popular mid-morning snack.
Uncover the “secret” district of Anafiotika
A narrow, winding footpath leads you from old Plaka to the secret neighbourhood of Anafiotika. The architecture here is more reminiscent of that which you would expect to find on a Greek island than in the centre of one of Europe’s largest cities.
Anafiotika is characterised by idyllic whitewashed houses with blue roofs. The area was built by residents of Anafi island who moved to Athens and built their new homes in a Cycladic island style.
You can get some excellent photographs here among the quaint houses. Few people are aware of the existence of Anafiotika so many people overlook it from their Athens itinerary.
Anafiotika sits on the slopes of Acropolis hill and the views of the Greek capital from up here are second to none.
Watch the sunset from Mount Lycabettus
Lycabettus Hill is a tranquil green oasis in the heart of an otherwise fast-paced city. The adorable 19th-century whitewashed church of Agios Georgios can be found at the peak.
From up here, you can enjoy breathtaking panoramas of Athens. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to Piraeus.
The ascent to the top of Lycabettus takes approximately 30 minutes. However, if you prefer, you can also take a funicular train to the top. The entrance is close to Aristippou Street in Kolonaki.
Enjoy Cocktails with an Acropolis View
There are dozens of rooftop bars in Athens that offer unparalleled views of the Acropolis. The view is especially beautiful after sunset. As the night draws in, the Parthenon is illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights.
Athens Itinerary Day Four
There is enough to do in Athens that you could easily spend an entire week in the city. However, assuming that your schedule is flexible and you have an extra day to play with, a suggested plan for adding a fourth day to your Athens itinerary is provided below.
Ascend Filopappou Hill
As you meander along Apostlou Pavlou or Dionysiou Areopagitou, you will see signs for Filopappou Hill. This hill is famous for the 115AD Roman monument that sits at the top. However, the special thing about Filopappou is the views that you can enjoy from up here.
This is one of the best spots in the city for photos of the Acropolis. There are also some interesting things to see as you ascend the hill. For instance, the chapel of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris, and Pnyx hill, where democracy was created and the Athenian democratic assembly (ekklesia) would gather to discuss civil matters.
Search for street art in Exarchia
Exarchia does not appear on most people’s Athens agendas. The district is synonymous with anarchist groups and it does not have the best reputation. However, Exarchia may well just be one of the most interesting parts of town.
Vinyl record shops, rock bars, and eclectic coffee shops line the streets of Exarchia giving the area an alternative vibe. Exarchia is particularly renowned for its street art.
A lot of the street art that you will find in Exarchia is politically charged. There are also some pieces that were created by renowned graffiti artists Borondo and Ino.
Have lunch in Gazi
Gazi means gas in Greek. This is a fitting name as this was once the base of Athens’ old gas power plant. The shell of the plant still remains and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the atmosphere of the area.
Gazi provides a wonderful juxtaposition of tradition and modernity. There are many excellent restaurants here that place a contemporary spin on classic Greek dishes.
Gazohori (Dekeleon 2-6) is a popular and affordable mezedopoleio where you can enjoy lots of small dishes. This is a nice way to sample lots of different local foods in a small amount of time.
Shop for souvenirs in quirky Koukaki
Spend the last hours of your Athens itinerary navigating the streets of Koukaki. Koukaki is arguably one of Athens’ most eclectic neighbourhoods. However it is rarely overrun with tourists.
Dedicate a few hours to exploring the various vintage stores, themed coffee shops, thrift stores, and art galleries of Koukaki. This district is very international and you will find restaurants that serve up cuisines from all corners of the world for when dinner time rolls around.
Getting Around Athens
It is easy to navigate around Athens. The city has an extremely comprehensive public transport network. Buses, trams and metros service all corners of the city. Services are clean, safe and comfortable.
Getting from Athens airport to the city
It is easy to get from Athens International Airport into the city. From 5:30 am until 23:00 pm, the metro runs every thirty minutes to the central square (Syntagma).
You can also take the 24-hour X95 express bus that runs between the two locations. An airport metro ticket costs 10 euros, and an X95 bus ticket costs 6 euros. Concession tickets are available for children and travellers over 65.
Recommended Athens Tours
Taking an Athens walking tour is a nice way to get your bearings in the city when you first arrive. Exploring with a local means that you will gain more context into the various historical sites, buildings and neighborhoods that you visit.
You will discover tavernas, street food vendors and cafes that you probably wouldn’t discover independently. Better still?
Exploring with a local means that you have an Athens expert on hand who you can ask about the best places to eat, drink, and hang out in the city.
Recommended tours for your Athens itinerary
A number of reputable Athens tours and activities are detailed below for your consideration. Be sure to book them online in advance to secure your place!
- Sunset trip to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
- Small guided Acropolis tour
- Four hour Athens cooking class with market visit
- Athens street food tasting tour
- Athens guided urban street art tour
- Gourmet food tour of Athens
FAQs about planning an Athens itinerary
Do you have any further questions or concerns about setting out on your 3 day Athens itinerary? Hopefully you will find the answers you are looking for below.
Otherwise, feel free to reach out!
Where to stay during your 3 day Athens itinerary
Figuring out where to stay in Athens can be overwhelming as the city is so large. The districts of Monastiraki, Syntagma, Plaka, and Psiri are the most central regions. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best.
More low key, peaceful areas such as Koukaki, Kifissia, and Kolonaki allow you to spend your Athens itinerary in a quieter setting and feel more like a local.
Additionally, the public transport network in Athens is Excellent. Even if you opt to stay a little further out from the centre, getting around is easy.
Is 3 days in Athens enough?
3 days in Athens is enough to get an initial feel for the city and visit Athens most famous sites and landmarks. Truly though, you could easily spend a fortnight in the Greek capital and still feel as though you have barely scratched beneath the surface.
How to plan 3 days in Athens
A 3 day Athens itinerary is a nice amount of time, but still not enough to cover everything. It is a good idea to browse through Greece travel blogs and guides like this one, and make a note of all of the things that interest you, which are priorities etc.
Establish your budget and how many hours you need for each attraction. Then, you can plan out your days accordingly.
Since Athens is a large city, it is helpful to look at a map while organising your trip so that you can plan activities that are relatively close to each other and you are not trekking back and forth across town.
Final thoughts on this 3 day Athens itinerary
Do you have any additional questions about this 3 day Athens itinerary? I have lived in Athens since 2017.
I am happy to answer any questions that you may have about planning a trip to Greece. If you have longer to spend in Greece/a more flexible schedule, you can also use Athens as a base to take day trips out to places like Cape Sounion, Delphi, and the islands near Athens like Hydra and Poros.
Safe travels and enjoy Greece! Geia sou!