Is Athens Worth Visiting in 2024? Here’s What a Local Has to Say

Is Athens worth visiting? The answer to that question is a resounding YES. 

The Greek capital has lots to offer and is worth a dedicated itinerary all of its own. You could easily dedicate weeks or months to exploring Athens, Greece, and still feel as though you have barely scratched the surface of everything the city has to offer. 

And I should know. I am a British Travel Writer that has been based in Athens for close to five years and I am still continually finding new things to love about the city. 

When people think about the things that they can see and do in Athens, most are only really aware of the Acropolis. They see Athens as a place to quickly skip through en route to the Greek islands.

And while the appeal and beauty of the Greek islands are undisputable, there is a lot more to Athens than meets the eye too. So is Athens worth visiting?

Yes. This article will look at all of the reasons why Athens should rank high on your Greek travel bucket list in 2024. 

Is Athens Worth Visiting in 2024? YES! 

Monastiraki, Athens
Monastiraki, Athens

Athens is one of the oldest, continually-inhabited cities in the world. It has a history that dates back 2,500 years and many of the fabulous, sunbleached ruins and ancient structures here were built by the Ancient Greeks and the Romans. 

Admittedly, Athens is a little rough around the edges. It is a little grittier than other European capitals and its appearance often takes people by surprise. 

But what Athens lacks in beauty and aesthetics, it more than makes up for in personality, charm, and archeological sites and museums. Athens is made up of a network of different neighbourhoods.

Each is like a little town in itself and each has its own unique personality. For instance, Exarchia, Athens’ alternative district, is the place to go for street art, rock bars, and eccentric stores selling second-hand books and old vinyl records. 

Kifissia and Kolonali are upscale areas that are often referred to as Athens’ answer to Beverly Hills. The leafy districts of the Mets, Pagrati, and Vyronas are loved by creatives and filled with quaint coffee bars and homely tavernas. 

Most tourists skip through Athens and don’t have the chance to see all of the things that locals love about it that make it so wonderful. But fortunately, with this guide by an Athens local, you will get an idea of why Athens is worth visiting for more than just the Acropolis.

There is an abundance of incredible street art 

There are some parts of Athens where every square inch of the walls and store facades have been painted with vibrant, thought-provoking street art. The best place to head for street art in Athens is Exarchia. 

However, up-and-coming Metaxourgiou and central Psiri are also great places. A lot of the street art in Exarchia is politically motivated. 

Much of it looks at issues such as gender equality, police violence, refugees, and wealth disparity in Greece. Some pieces have been created by renowned European graffiti artists like INO and Borondo. 

Athens is home to hundreds of museums 

Is Athens worth visiting?
Is Athens worth visiting?

There are more than 70 museums in Athens. They each contain fascinating exhibits that provide insight into different aspects of Greek life, culture, and history. 

Better yet? The museums are free on certain days of the year. 

With so many places to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which Athens museums you should prioritize during your trip. Without hesitation, you should be sure to visit the “New” Acropolis museum. 

Admission to the museum is included in the price of your Acropolis ticket. The exhibitions and artifacts here help provide some context to the various temples and shrines you see at the Acropolis. 

There is also a great little cafe on the top floor where you can glance over Dionysiou Areopagitou and the Acropolis with Greek coffee and a spanakopita

The National Archeological Museum (28is Oktovriou 44) is the largest archaeological museum in Greece. It contains many interesting examples of Ancient Greek artwork. 

The most notable collections to look out for are the collection of Mycenean Antiquities, the collection of Cycladic antiquities, and a collection of Neolithic antiquities. 

Athens is a foodie paradise 

Stifado, a classic Greek dish
Stifado, a classic Greek dish

Greek food is as much of a highlight of any Greece itinerary as seeing the ancient ruins and sites! Popular dishes like souvlaki, gyros, and moussaka (essentially the national dish of Greece) are arguably among the most famous. 

But Greek food goes way beyond that. You should also add things like giouvetsi to your radar. This is a sumptuous meat hot pot dish that is prepared with orzo pasta, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, and beef. 

Stifado – a marinated beef stew cooked in a medley of onions, vinegar, wine, and spices. If you have dietary restrictions or you are vegetarian or vegan, you will be able to find foods and restaurants to accommodate you too. 

Despite the fact that Greece has a very meat-focused food culture, there are plenty of alternative dishes. In the last few years, many vegan spots have been popping up throughout Athens. 

Athens restaurants also have something to suit every taste and budget. Here you will find everything from fine dining restaurants where you can indulge in 25-course tasting menus, to homely tavernas. 

Visit the world-famous Acropolis of Athens

Visiting the Ancient Acropolis is some people’s entire raison d’etre for visiting the city of Athens in the first place. The spectacular UNESCO world heritage site is perched atop a craggy rock, watching over the city protectively as it has done for thousands of years. 

The Parthenon is actually a temple that was built in honour of the Goddess Athena. It dates back to the 5th century BC and was built using Pentelic marble quarried from the flanks of Mt. Pentelikos. 

The Acropolis hill site is actually larger than you may realise. You should dedicate at least 2-3 hours to exploring it. The main entrance is via an ancient gateway known as the Propylaea. 

You will pass by several ancient temples, shrines, and theatres as you walk toward the Parthenon. Look out for the temple of Athena Nike which dates back to 420BC and is where Ancient Greeks would pray for victories in battle. 

See the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Is Athens worth visiting?
Is Athens worth visiting?

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus sits at the base of Acropolis hill, just off the pedestrianised walkway of Dionysiou Areopagitou. The theatre was built by a wealthy Athenian benefactor of the same name between 160AD – 174AD. 

He built the theatre in honour of his late wife. It is still used to this day, particularly during the Epidaurus festival in Greece in May. It seats 4680 people who come to watch Greek dances, theatrical, and musical performances. 

A smaller theatre to look out for nearby is the theatre of Dionysus, a 17,000-seater theatre named after the Greek God of Drama. 

You can see the Evzones at Syntagma Square 

Syntagma Square is the main square in Athens city centre. Several luxury hotels are scattered around it and it is here where you will find the Greek Parliament building. 

Every hour, on the hour, a group of elite Athenian soldiers known as Evzones performs a changing of the guards ceremony in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the parliament building. The Evzones wear a unique uniform that is unlike that of any other Greek military personnel. 

They can be found wearing long-sleeved white shirts, a frilly blue kilt-like garment known as a fustanella, and shoes known as tsarouchi. If you happen to be in the city center on a Sunday morning at 11 am, you can catch a particularly elaborate version of the ceremony. 

Learn the history of the Temple of Olympian Zeus 

If you are a history buff, you will love all of the archaeological sites to be found in Athens. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is an ancient temple that was built in honour of Zeus, kind of the Greek Gods.

Construction on the site started in 520 BC. However, due to various changes of rulers, wars, battles, and funding issues, the temple wasn’t completed for centuries. 

The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally completed the temple in 131 CE. In total, it took 638 years for the site to be built. 

In its heyday, the temple was one of the largest in the ancient world. It was made up of 104 Corinthian columns, each of which was 17 meters in height. 

The Temple of Olympian Zeus sits close to the Athens National Garden and Hadrian’s Gate. It is a good idea to purchase an Athens combination ticket during your trip. 

This pass costs around €36 and includes admission to the Acropolis, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and several other sites. Since the Acropolis is €20 to enter during the high season, you only have to visit one more attraction to make the combo ticket price worthwhile. 

Athens hiking trails lead to hidden monasteries and palaces 

Athens is Greece’s largest city. At first glimpse, it can look like a chaotic, bustling megalopolis. 

However, there is an abundance of parks, hills, and Athens hiking trails that enable you to get back to nature, even without leaving the confines of the city. A short walk from the southern neighbourhood of Zografou brings you to the woodland Kaisariani monastery which is tucked away in the Vyronas forest, in the foothills of Mount Hymettus. 

The monastery dates back to the 11th century. The walk through the woods is pleasant. 

There is a little store by the monastery where you can buy pastries, coffees, and gifts for the Grecophiles in your life back at home. If you want to continue walking, you can explore various botanical gardens, churches, and lookout points on the ascent up Hymettus. 

Another great walking trail to consider is the route to Tatoi Palace. The palace now lays in eerie abandon but it was once the summer residence of the Greek Royal family.

Take a guided walking tour 

Is Athens worth visiting?
Is Athens worth visiting?

One of the best things that first-time visitors to Athens can do is to take a guided tour. This is a great way to get your bearings in a new city. 

Exploring with an Athens local means that you will discover neighborhoods, great restaurants, and bars that you may not have stumbled upon independently. It also allows you to obtain more information and context into the various things that you see. 

Better yet? You have a local expert on hand to ask for recommendations on where to stay, eat, drink, and hang out.

Recommended Athens tours

A number of repeatable tool companies offer walking tours in Athens. A selection of great options is shortlisted below for your consideration. 

Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!

You can follow in the footsteps of Greek Philosophers at the Ancient Agora 

Temple of Hephaestus
Temple of Hephaestus

The Ancient Agora is one of the most famous historical sites in Athens. In Greek, Agora means marketplace. 

However, the Ancient Agora of Athens served a mostly civic purpose. Public speeches and events would be hosted here, and even Greek Philosophers like Socrates and Plato would walk barefoot through the area, sharing wisdom with anyone that would listen. 

The Temple of Hephaestus is one of the best-preserved sites in the complex. It was built around the same time as the Parthenon (circa 450 BC) and is one of the most important Doric temples in the Ancient Greek world today. 

Athens has a diverse nightlife scene 

When night falls, Athens really comes alive. The capital of Greece has something for every taste. 

If you are looking for raucous nightclubs and live music venues where you can dance until the early hours, head to the streets of Pireos, Persefonis, and Voutadon in Gazi.  For live jazz and blues music, head to Half Note Jazz Club (Trivonianou 17) in the Mets. 

If you are looking for Athens rooftop bars with unparalleled views over the Acropolis, head to A for Athens (Miaouli 2) or Couleur Locale (Normanou 3)  in Monastiraki Square. There are some excellent cocktail bars and chic, upscale hangouts in central Athens. 

Many are headed up by expert mixologists that have won awards for their concoctions. Jazz in Jazz (Dinokratous 4) is an intimate spot in upscale Kolonaki that is the size of someone’s living room. 

Nearby, Minnie the Moocher (Tsakalof 6) and Mai Tai Athens (Ploutarchou 18) are local favourites for Friday and Saturday nights. 

Gorgeous upscale beach towns are just a stone’s throw away 

Did you know that there are dozens of beautiful beaches near Athens? Just south of the capital city, you will find an area that is known as “the Athens Riviera” or “the Hellenic Hampton”. 

The gorgeous, upscale beach towns of Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Voula, and Vari sit just 10km south of downtown Athens. Few tourists are even aware of their existence. 

Several decades ago, this area was little more than just a pristine stretch of coastline with views of the Saronic Gulf islands and the glittering Aegean sea. However, in the 1950s, several Greek entrepreneurs decided to work on opening hotels and tourist businesses here.

Their intention was to make the Athens Riviera an upscale Southern European travel destination that would attract the jet set. They succeeded. 

The likes of Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, and Frank Sinatra were among those that love this region. It became known as Greece’s answer to the Cote d’Azur. 

Athens makes a great base for exploring Southern Greece 

Athens makes a great base for taking a day trip or two out to other regions in Southern Greece. The Ancient City of Delphi, the Meteora monasteries, and the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion are a few of the most popular excursions that you can do from the capital. 

Hang out with creatives and artists in Pagrati and the Mets 

Modern Athens is made up of various different districts, each with its own distinct charm. Pagrati is one of the most underrated, and quintessentially Greek areas that has been beloved by artists and creatives for decades. 

It sits behind the marble Panathenaic Stadium. Since Pagrati is not a touristy area, it is not somewhere that you would stumble upon accidentally unless you had a local friend to show you around. 

Pagrati’s Varnava Square is one of the most lively squares in Athens. On Friday and Saturday nights, locals flock here in droves to share six-packs of beers with their friends and indulge in Greek street food. 

Mavro Provato restaurant (Arrianou 33) is one of the best in the city and is known for its exquisite menu of traditional Greek dishes prepared with an international twist.  

Complete a victory lap around the Panathenaic Stadium 

Is Athens worth visiting?
Is Athens worth visiting?

The Panathenaic Stadium (“Kallimarmaro”) sits on the busy road of Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou. It is the only stadium in the world that has been built entirely out of marble and it is here where the first modern Olympic games were hosted in 1896. 

The original site dates back to 566 BC. It was first made of wood and then upgraded to marble during the Roman era.  

Today, you can visit the spectacular stadium and unleash your inner Mo Farah to perform a victory lap around its tracks (people actually do this!). There is also a small museum on site that displays Olympic torches and promotional materials from various Olympic ceremonies around the world. 

Admire the panoramas from Mount Lycabettus 

Mount Lycabettus is the highest point in Athens. It sits 277 meters above sea level, with the little whitewashed church of Agios Georgios at its peak. 

It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the base of the hill to the church at the top. The path is well-paved and follows a gradual ascent. 

However, if you don’t feel like walking, you can take the funicular train from Aristippou 1. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to the port of Piraeus and the islands of Hydra and Spetses from up here. 

The view is particularly magnificent at sunset. 

People watch at Athens Central Market 

Athens Central Market (Varvakios Agora) is the largest and oldest covered market in Athens. It first opened its doors back in 1886 and it has been delighting locals and tourists ever since. 

Most Athenians prefer to shop for fresh fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables at smaller local markets. That way, they can be sure that the quality is fresher and better and the prices are more competitive. 

Thousands of people pass through the Athens Central Market every single day. If you are staying in self-catered accommodation during your Athens itinerary, it can be fun to stop by the Central Market and pick up ingredients for dinner. 

Alternatively, the market makes for a great place to people-watch.

See gorgeous neoclassical buildings 

In modern times, Athens has become known for its somewhat higgledy-piggledly layout and the ramshackle appearance of many of the apartment buildings built in the 1950s. However, there are still some gorgeous neoclassical buildings to look out for.

In Kifissia, grand, ornate neoclassical mansions run along the streets of Elaion and Char. Trikoupi. In downtown Athens, you can look out for the famous “Neoclassical Athenian Trilogy” of buildings designed by the brothers Christian and Theophil Hansen, and their student Ernst Ziller. 

Discover “secret” Anafiotika

Anafiotika is one of Athens’ best-kept secrets. This little district is hidden in plain sight on the slopes of Acropolis hill. 

Anafiotika is characterised by its whitewashed houses that have been built in the traditional Cycladic style. They are more reminiscent of something that you would find on islands in the Cyclades like Santorini or Mykonos than what you would expect to see in the gritty Greek capital. 

So what gives? The district was founded and built by former residents of Anafi island in the 19th century. 

After Greece gained its independence from the Turks in 1821, King Otto called for assistance in rebuilding the Greek capital. Skilled workers and builders came from across the country to assist.

Those that moved from Anafi built their houses in a style that reminded them of home. Today, it is a slice of island paradise in the heart of a concrete jungle.

Climb Filopappou Hill

Is Athens worth visiting?
Is Athens worth visiting?

At first glance, Athens appears as a bustling metropolis and a city of chaos. However, there are plenty of urban oases to be found in the midst of the concrete jungle. 

The Greek capital is known for its hills. Filopappou Hill is a leafy area in Thissio that was named after the Greek-Roman Commander Filopappos. There is a pleasant, steady walk to its peak.

It starts at Dionysiou Areopagitou street and leads you to the Filopappou monument at the top. 

However, Filopappou Hill is much more than that. This area is relatively vast and is popular among dog walkers and Athenian locals who want to enjoy a stroll, an al fresco coffee, or a picnic among friends. 

Filopappou is connected to the Hill of Pnyx – a rocky outcrop encompassed by olive trees where democracy is said to have been invented. Also nearby is the lush green hill of Nymphs.

All of these places can easily make you forget that you are in the beating heart of one of Europe’s biggest cities. 

Is Athens Worth Visiting? FAQs

Are you still wondering whether Athens is worth visiting or unsure about how to go about planning a trip to Greece? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below. 

Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. 

Is it worth just going to Athens?

It is well worth travelling to Greece “just” to go to Athens. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and it is bursting at the seams with things to see and do. 

All year round, you can secure affordable deals on direct flights to Athens airport from various cities around Europe, the US, Asia, and the Middle East. You could visit Athens as a weekend break, and if you visit during the autumn or winter months, you can escape all the hordes of tourists that head to Greece in the summer. 

What is so great about Athens?

The historic city of Athens has something for everyone. It is home to ancient temples and ruins that are remarkably well preserved and give valuable insight into what life was like in Ancient Greece. 

There are hundreds of museums, art galleries, and independent exhibits and there always seems to be some sort of event or festival going on. 

Why would people want to go to Athens? 

The Ancient Agora, Athens
The Ancient Agora, Athens

The question should be “why wouldn’t you want to go to Athens?” The Greek capital sits at a fabulous juxtaposition of ancient tradition meets modern living. 

The Ancient Acropolis is one of the best landmarks in Greece that you can see. Athens is worth a visit just for the Acropolis complex alone. 

However, aside from that, the city is home to vibrant marketplaces, cute coffee shops, fascinating ruins and temples, and some of the best museums in Greece. 

Is Athens worth visiting? Final Thoughts

Is Athens worth visiting?
Is Athens worth visiting?

Are you still wondering “is Athens worth visiting?” I moved to Greece in 2017. 

I am happy to assist with any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out! I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Safe travels! Geia sou!

Melissa xo


highheelsandabackpack

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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