There are plenty of free things to do in Athens. This makes the Greek capital a perfect travel destination if you are on a budget!
In general, Athens is a very affordable city when you compare it to the majority of European capitals. Admission prices to museums and historic attractions are not unreasonable, you can eat for less than €5 per person, and you can easily find accommodation for less than €30 a night.
That said, it is completely understandable if you are trying to see the city as affordably as you possibly can. This guide discusses the best free things to do in Athens.
Yes. You can experience many of Greece’s famous landmarks, best historical sites, and cultural highlights without spending a penny.
- 1 Free Things to Do in Athens
- 1.1 Visit Anafiotika
- 1.2 Admire the View from the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre
- 1.3 Pack a Picnic and Head to the National Gardens
- 1.4 See Athenian Landmarks from Afar
- 1.5 Fall in Love with International Kypseli
- 1.6 Embark on a Free Walking Tour
- 1.7 Swing by the City’s Free Museums
- 1.8 Discover the Hidden Ntrafi Waterfall
- 1.9 Explore the Grounds of the Abandoned Tatoi Estate
- 1.10 See the Evzones at Syntagma Square
- 1.11 Sink Your Toes into the Sand of Hidden Beaches
- 1.12 Walk Through the Fragrant Diomidous Botanical Garden
- 1.13 Go On a Hunt For Street Art
- 1.14 Hike to Kaisariani Monastery
- 1.15 Wander Along Dionysiou Areopagitou
- 1.16 Make Use of Free Museum Entrances
- 1.17 Check Out Seasonal Events and Festivals
- 1.18 Admire the Quirky Displays in Evripidou Street
- 1.19 Enjoy Scenic Panoramas From Mount Lycabettus
- 1.20 Spend an Afternoon in Piraeus
- 1.21 Hang Out in the Piazzas of Pagrati
- 1.22 Browse the Stalls of Athens Central Market
- 1.23 Windowshop in Elegant Kifissia
- 1.24 Walk From Alimos to Glyfada and Beyond
- 1.25 Visit an Independent Art Gallery in Koukaki
- 1.26 Dispel the Bad Reputation of Metaxourgeio
- 1.27 Admire the Acropolis From Filopappou Hill
- 1.28 Climb up to Areopagus Hill
- 1.29 Look Out for an Old, Forgotten Mosque
- 1.30 Admire the Vibrant Frescos of Orthodox Churches
- 2 Parting Words
Free Things to Do in Athens
I have lived in Athens for three years now and I have loved exploring every nook and cranny of this city. Without further ado, let’s look at the best things to do in Athens that are completely free! The sites listed here ought to offer something for every interest.
Anafiotika is one of Athens’ best kept secrets. This little neighbourhood is the complete opposite of something that you would expect to find in the bustling centre of Greece’s congested, chaotic capital.
Anafiotika is a little out of the way but that works in your favour. Aside from the occasional guidebook wielding tourist, you won’t see a ton of people here.
This little residential district resembles a Cycladic island. That is because Anafiotika was created in the 18th century when residents from the island of Anafi moved to the capital for work. They built their new homes with whitewashed walls, and blue roofs, doors, and window shutters – just like they would have done in Anafi.
Admire the View from the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre
The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre is a modern culture park close to Kallithea. The grounds boast a library, an opera house, an art exhibition hall, and several cafes that line a man-made stream.
It is possible to take free tours of the SNCC if you wish. However, the highlight of visiting is the incredible 360-degree panoramic views that you can enjoy from the top floor.
From up here, you have a completely different viewpoint of the city than you do in the centre. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to the Saronic Islands.
Pack a Picnic and Head to the National Gardens
The National Gardens are the Athenian answer to New York’s Central Park. They provide some nice respite from the concrete jungle and the hustle and bustle of the Greek capital.
These gardens have been open since 1840 and were the brainchild of Queen Amalia. The grounds are expansive and you will find boating lakes, flower gardens, coffee shops, and playgrounds within their limits.
The National Gardens are particularly magical in the springtime when the leaves from the cherry blossoms start to bloom. Consider grabbing yourself a Greek street food eat, an iced freddo cappuccino, and heading into the grassy banks of the garden.
See Athenian Landmarks from Afar
One great thing about many of Athens’ most famous historical landmarks is that they are easily visible from the roadside. Yes, you may gain a little more information and context by paying an admission fee and entering the sites directly.
However, many of the city’s main ancient sites: The Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium, and the Roman Agora, can all be seen from the street. You can easily stop, revel in the view, and take photographs without having to venture inside. Just be sure to do some reading prior to your trip so that you have some context of what you’re looking at.
Fall in Love with International Kypseli
Kypseli is a small residential neighbourhood that sits close to Pedion tou Areos. This area is home to just over 50,000 people and is one of the most multicultural parts of town.
Many people from Asia, the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East, and further afield relocated to Kypseli in the 1990s. They were drawn to the area by the lower costs of rent. However with them, they brought the highlights of their own cultures and opened up restaurants and tea rooms that serve foods from across the globe to Athenian locals.
Wander down Fokionos Negri Street – Kypseli’s main pedestrianised street. As you enjoy your stroll, you will bypass stores, restaurants and businesses whose displays are in virtually every language imaginable.
Historically, Kypseli was an affluent neighbourhood. Today, its noble past is distinguishable in the mishmash of architectural types that stand on its streets.
Here, striking Bauhaus designs sit beside old neoclassical mansions. Many of these old structures have been well preserved and have been converted into cafes and restaurants.
Embark on a Free Walking Tour
There are several tour companies in and around Athens that offer free (tip-based) walking tours of the city. Some of the tours cover the main central districts and important sites such as the Parliament building, the Monastiraki flea market, Athens Central Market, etc.
However, others focus on specific city neighbourhoods. For instance, Kypseli or Pagrati.
Swing by the City’s Free Museums
While there are some Athenian museums that are only free on certain dates, others are permanently free to enter. The Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments (Diogenous 1) is a particularly interesting place to stop by while in Monastiraki.
Discover the Hidden Ntrafi Waterfall
Very few people know of the existence of Ntrafi waterfall in Athens – even Athenians! This little paradise can be found at the end of a short walking trail close to Drafi.
The falls are situated approximately 30 minutes out of Athens and you can take the 301B bus to reach them. The walk to the falls itself only takes around 20 minutes.
However on a warm sunny day, you could spend hours swimming in the natural pools, standing beneath the streams of water, and enjoying a picnic or a chilled beer with friends.
Explore the Grounds of the Abandoned Tatoi Estate
The Tatoi Estate is a gorgeous, yet abandoned, former Royal home that sits approximately 40 minutes north of Athens. Once upon a time, this was a summer home for the Greek Royal Family. However, after the monarchy was abolished, it fell into disrepair.
The Tatoi Estate spans over a phenomenal 10,000 acres. There are dozens of walking trails that weave through the woodlands here.
Although you cannot enter the buildings, you can get up close and personal to admire their architecture. There is a somewhat eerie vibe to Tatoi today, offset only by the constant presence of hikers, dog-walkers, and cyclists from nearby Athens.
See the Evzones at Syntagma Square
The Evzones are an elite ranking of Greek soldiers. You can find them in central Athens standing guard outside the Parliament Building and in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Greek Evzones are easily distinguished by their outfits. These soldiers wear an intricate, handmade costume that features a bold red hat (Farion), a blue and white kilt-like garment (Foustanella), and fluffy pom pom shoes (Tsarouchia). If you find yourself in front of the Syntagma Parliament building on a Sunday at 11 am, you can watch the Changing of the Guards Ceremony.
Sink Your Toes into the Sand of Hidden Beaches
There are a plethora of gorgeous, whitesand beaches that await just a stone’s throw away from Athens. While they are easier to get to if you have your own car, many of them are accessible by public transport too.
Athens beaches range from chic, exclusive beach clubs that offer every amenity imaginable, to rugged, secluded coastlines and secret coves. Dikastika Beach is a great shout if you’re looking for desert island vibes.
This place is seldom crowded, even in the height of summer. At Dikastika, you can swim and relax against a backdrop of forests and craggy rock formations.
Walk Through the Fragrant Diomidous Botanical Garden
The Diomidous Botanical Garden is the largest flower garden in the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean. Arguably, this is one of Athens’ most overlooked and forgotten gems.
The garden sits in the upscale southeastern district of Chaidari. This may not be a touristic part of the Greek capital. However, locals often head to Chaidari for dinner and drinks at chic establishments.
The Diomidous gardens span over 186 hectares and are home to more than 500 different species of plants and trees. Very few tourists venture here. However, local joggers often come here in the early mornings to exercise.
Go On a Hunt For Street Art
Athens is essentially one big canvas. Here, street art covers practically every surface. You will find a lot of graffiti in the city centre. This gives Athens something of a gritty, edgy vibe.
Some of Athens’ graffiti is simply vibrant and nice to look at. However, a lot of it is thought-provoking and politically charged.
Psyrii is one of Athens’ main nightlife districts. As you navigate your way through the neighbourhood’s twisting narrow streets and passageways, you are greeted with countless colourful and eclectic murals.
If you are interested in the more political Athenian street art, head to Exarchia. Exarchia doesn’t have the best reputation. Yet, it’s a pretty unique place to explore.
The district has a long history of political protests and has now become synonymous with anarchist groups and an anti-establishment mindset. Most of the time, police won’t even set foot inside Exarchia.
While that may sound sketchy, Exarchia has thrived to become a fun, lively, alternative zone. The streets of Exarchia are filled with old vinyl record stores, rock bars, and cheap tavernas.
You can find a lot of graffiti here – some of which is pretty extreme. Famous European graffiti artists Borondo and Ino also have thoughtful street art in Exarchia.
Hike to Kaisariani Monastery
Kaisariani monastery sits in the woodlands just south of Athens city centre. This is a nice place to visit if you enjoy hiking, culture, or both! The route starts at Leof. Eth. Antistaseos in Kaisariani.
After you follow the woodland footpath for twenty minutes or so, you will find yourself at the monastery. The beautiful building is filled with vibrantly coloured frescoes and paintings that depict scenes from the Orthodox faith.
There is a charming little cafe close to the monastery where you can enjoy a Greek coffee or a pastry amid the peaceful ambiance of the Vyronas forest. If you wish to enjoy a longer hike, you can continue wandering through the woodlands and exploring other hidden monasteries and churches (there are several!).
Alternatively, continue to follow the path to the peak of Mount Hymettus. The walk to Kaisariani Monastery is one of the best hikes in Athens.
Wander Along Dionysiou Areopagitou
Dionysiou Areopagitou is essentially the heart of touristy Athens. This long cobbled boulevard runs from the Temple of Olympian Zeus, past Filopappou Hill and the Acropolis, and winds up in Thissio.
Dionysiou Areopagitou is crowded with tourists and street vendors, sure. However, there is something about this street that is just magical.
Perhaps it’s the old folk music that plays out from the tavernas here. Or maybe it could be the street performers that attract crowds with their singing and magic tricks.
As you walk the length of Dionysiou Areopagitou, take note of your surroundings. The architecture here is spectacular. You will pass dozens of grand neoclassical mansions, ancient archaeological sites, and museums.
Make Use of Free Museum Entrances
You will be able to enter the likes of the Acropolis Museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of the Ancient Agora without spending a penny on these dates.
- New Year’s Day (January 1st)
- Greek Independence Day (March 25th)
- May Day (May 1st)
- Feast of the Virgin Mary (August 15th)
- Oxi Day/Day of No (October 28th)
- Boxing Day (December 26th)
In addition to the above, most museums offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month during the winter season. This runs from 1st November up until the 31st of March.
Check Out Seasonal Events and Festivals
The Athens annual calendar is bursting at the seams with festivals and events that are free to attend. This ranges from traditional Greek festivals and celebrations, to live music performances.
For example, there is a free Jazz festival that is hosted in Gazi district every May. When you arrive in Greece, check to see if anything is going on during the dates of your trip.
Admire the Quirky Displays in Evripidou Street
Evripidou Street is one of the most unique streets in Athens. Whenever friends and family come to visit, I always bring them here because it’s just so interesting to look at the displays!
When you arrive at Evripidou Street, make a beeline towards the intersection of Athinas and Menadrou. Here, you will find lots of weird and wonderful stores.
A lot of the shops here look like something from another era entirely. They have flowers, and dried food produce, and preserved meats dangling from the ceilings, and sweets stored in old fashioned jars.
In particular, look out for Miran and Karamanlidika. These are two quintessentially Greek delicatessens that sell an array of edible Greek agro products.
Enjoy Scenic Panoramas From Mount Lycabettus
The ascent to the top of Lycabettus is one of the most pleasant hikes in Athens. You can enter the park area of Lycabettus from elegant Kolonaki. The pathways twist and turn through woodlands and cacti forests.
At the top, you are met with an adorable little white-washed church. This is the church of Agios Georgios and it is free to enter.
The peak of Lycabettus provides incredible panoramas across the city. On a clear day, you can see out to the waters of Piraeus.
Spend an Afternoon in Piraeus
If you have more than a couple of days to spend in Athens, consider heading out to Piraeus for the day. Piraeus is often overlooked, and people generally only find themselves here when they want to take a ferry to the nearby islands. However, there are actually some pretty interesting things to see here!
Wander around Marina Zea (Pasalmani) and observe the well-heeled crowd that occupy the bars here. Admire the impressive yachts moored in the marina. Next, stroll along the coast to Mikrolimano port and Piraeus’ colourful Kastella neighbourhood.
Hang Out in the Piazzas of Pagrati
Pagrati is a quirky little neighbourhood that is tucked away behind the ancient Panathenaic Stadium. This area has been beloved by Artists, Writers, and Creatives for centuries.
Here you can find eccentric themed coffee shops, independent art galleries, vintage clothing stores, and crowded piazzas. Of course, it’s free to walk around an get a “feel” for Pagrati.
This is one of Athens’ most personable neighbourhoods. You can also hang out with locals in the trendy Varnava Square.
Browse the Stalls of Athens Central Market
The Athens Central Market (Varvakios Agora) is the largest traditional market in the city. A lot of Athenians still prefer to shop at local markets (agoras) and you can find smaller scale versions of markets like this across the city.
The various halls of the market sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to meat and fish. Some of the things that you will see in the latter halls are not for the faint of heart! Be sure to wear closed shoes if you visit here, lest you want to step a sandalled toe into the fishy water!
Windowshop in Elegant Kifissia
Kifissia and Kolonaki are two of the most exclusive, and expensive districts in Athens. They may seem like obscure mentions on a list of the best free things to do in Athens. However, even if you are not heading to these districts to go shopping, they are worth exploring.
Kifissia is essentially a town in itself. This upscale region sits 14km north of Athens and can be reached via metro from Omonia.
Kifissia feels a million miles away from the chaos of Monastiraki and Syntagma. The atmosphere here is calm and peaceful, and the streets are lined with trees and stylish boutique stores.
There are many well preserved neoclassical mansions in Kifissia. These alone make exploring the neighbourhood, and taking the time to get lost in its cobbled streets, worthwhile.
Elaion and Char. Trikoupi are the main streets to check out for neoclassical architecture. Many of the old mansions have been converted into coffee shops and restaurants.
Notably, Dalliance House is an elegant manor that is now a coffee shop. When you want a break from walking, head to Varsos – the oldest bakery in town.
Walk From Alimos to Glyfada and Beyond
Many people that visit Athens don’t realise that the city has a stunning coastal region that awaits just 30 minutes from the downtown district. The “Athenian Riviera” extends from Alimos in Southern Athens, down to the sophisticated beach towns of Glyfada, Voula, and Vouliagmeni.
This pine-covered peninsula is a popular getaway destination for the Athenian elite. However luxury aside, one of the best free things to do in Athens is to follow the seafront trail that leads from Alimos on to Glyfada.
The trail is flat and takes you past isolated clifftop churches, secluded beaches, and scenic coves. If you want to continue walking, you can follow the route all the way down to Voula and Vouliagmeni. The beaches and grassy expanses by the sea provide the perfect spot for enjoying your own picnic.
Visit an Independent Art Gallery in Koukaki
Koukaki is one of the most charming yet underrated neighbourhoods in all of Athens. Sharing some similarities with Pagrati, Koukaki has a very ofbeat and quirky personality.
Those interested in art will not only enjoy observing the street art pieces that decorate the facades of old stores and buildings in Koukaki. However, they will also be delighted to hear that there are many independent art galleries here that are free to enter.
“State of Concept” and the National Gallery of Contemporary Art are located in Koukaki. The former is a “not for profit” organisation. Both display the works of up-and-coming Greek and International Artists.
Dispel the Bad Reputation of Metaxourgeio
Metaxourgeio is an Athenian neighbourhood that, up until recently, was widely considered as being a “no go” area. Many undesirable types would loiter around Karaiskakis Square and the Metaxourgeio was synonymous with crime.
Today, a lot of progress has been made in improving Metaxourgeio’s less than perfect reputation. This district is quickly emerging as Athens’ new “up and coming” arts district.
Like Exarchia and Psiri, there are many interesting street art pieces to be found in Metaxourgeio. There are also several art galleries worth adding to your radar. Notably, the Breeder Gallery, the Rebecca Camhi Gallery, and the Municipal Gallery of Athens.
Admire the Acropolis From Filopappou Hill
If you want to visit the Acropolis, standard admission tickets start from €20. The Acropolis makes a great inclusion on any Athens travel itinerary. However, that price can be high if you’re on a budget, so here’s a free alternative!
Filopappou Hill is a leafy green space that sits directly across from Acropolis Hill. It isn’t so well known, but it’s a great place to get photos in front of the Acropolis – especially if you come here early in the morning.
From up here, the Parthenon looks so close that it’s like you can reach out and touch it! Besides the views, there are several other interesting attractions on Filopappou hill too. As you ascend to the top of the hill, stop to admire the picturesque 16th Century AD chapel of Agios Dimitrios, the ruins of an old Greek theatre (Filopappou Theatre), and a prison that once held Socrates!
Climb up to Areopagus Hill
Another day, another viewpoint. Filopappou and Lycabettus hills may be the most well known. However, there are a seemingly infinite number of hills and trails in central Athens that offer excellent, alternative viewpoints over the Acropolis.
One such place is Areopagus. This rocky outcrop sits directly opposite the Acropolis.
This is a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset or to obtain some incredibly unique photographs in front of one of Athens’ most famous historic sights.
Look Out for an Old, Forgotten Mosque
There is a domed building that sits in the heart of Monastiraki Square, just across from the Monastiraki metro station. This building appears in many of the classic postcard shots of Central Athens. However, few people know the history of the building or its purpose.
This structure is actually Tzistarakis Mosque. The building no longer has its minaret. However, this is the remnants of an old mosque that was constructed in 1759 when the Ottoman Empire ruled over Greece.
Today, Tzistarakis houses a museum. However, sadly it is currently closed to the public. Regardless, it is worth looking out for the building when you pass by.
Admire the Vibrant Frescos of Orthodox Churches
Greece is renowned for being a deeply religious and spiritual country. Indeed, more than 90% of the population practices the Orthodox faith.
It should come as no surprise then, that Orthodox churches occupy virtually every street corner in Athens. The frequency of churches in Greek cities could be compared to the frequency of Starbucks branches in the US!
Practically every Athenian church is free to enter. Just be mindful of whether there is a ceremony taking place. Typically it is not considered respectful to take photographs inside.
One of the best free things to do in Athens is to venture inside the various Orthodox churches as you find them. Some of them display breathtaking paintings and frescoes inside.
Notable Athenian Churches
The large structure that sits between Monastiraki and Syntagma is The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. This is the “official” church of Athens, and the headquarters of the Archbishop of Greece.
There is also an interesting, small 12th century chapel next door that is dedicated to Agios Eleftherios. Many obscure relics can be found inside.
The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary/Panagia Kapnikarea is a stone church that is located at Ermou 55. This is one of the oldest churches in Athens and a great example of a Byzantine church.
If you are looking for more suggestions on free things to do in Athens, feel free to drop me a comment below and I’ll try and get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels!
Geia sou! Melissa xo