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Written by Savi, 27 Comments

Every day hundreds of cruise-ship passengers come into the Greek city of Athens to explore it in one day. While it isn’t possible to acquaint oneself fully with a city in twenty-four hours, the layout of Athens makes it seem somewhat feasible. Our favourite one day itinerary includes an introduction to staggeringly beautiful ruins, labyrinthine cobble-stoned alleys, and rustic food at local Greek taverns.

 

Athens in a day
The sprawling city of Athens seen from the ruins of The Acropolis

 

Getting There

Cruise ships dock at the port of Pireus for the city of Athens. Turn left on exiting the terminal. The nearest metro station is a comfortable 15-minute walk away.  Take Metro Line 1 from the port of Pireus to Monastiraki station (7 stops). Tickets cost less than $1. Besides being the cheapest means of transport, the Metro is also the perfect place to sample Greek street culture (most trains are laden with graffiti and street art) and famous Greek conviviality that is a trademark of holidays to Greece.

 

Athens in a day
A train in Athens, Greece

 

 

Exploring Athens In One Day

 

Athens is a huge city.  Don’t try to ‘do’ everything or cross everything off a checklist. Instead, stick to the Monastiraki area for a fruitful day of exploration.

 

Begin at the magnificent ruins of The Acropolis. The Acropolis needs no introduction. An ancient city located on top of a cliff, it is one of the most visited Heritage sites in the world. Winding pedestrianized streets lead tourists to the complex. It is best to visit The Acropolis early in the morning because it involves an uphill walk and can get very hot.

 

The complex houses a number of historically significant buildings. Most of the main buildings, including The Partheon, were built by Pericles in fifth century BC to commemorate the achievements of Athenians. Our favourites include the Theater of Dionysious  and the Theater of Herod Atticus. Once upon a time, they were used for gatherings and gladiator fights. These days both amphitheaters are used for concerts, ballet performances, and cultural programmes.

 

Prepare to be stunned once you are there. Nothing can prepare you for the grandeur of The Acropolis. That’s what we love about travel – no number of books or photos can compensate for seeing The Acropolis in person. The sight of The Partheon perched atop a cliff is so luscious it makes the heart ache. It is easy to spend hours exploring the ruins or just absorbing the atmosphere.

 

Gazing at Greek ruins is one of life’s more exquisite pleasures. The melancholic grandeur of the crumbling Acropolis against the surrounding landscape of modern-day Athens is second to none.

 

Athens in a day
The ruins of The Acropolis should definitely feature on a one-day itinerary of Athens

 

Athens in a day
The amphitheaters are our favourite spots at The Acropolis

 

explore Athens in a day
Vid at The Acropolis of Athens

 

Athens in a day
Crowds throng The Acropolis every day of the year

 

What after the ruins?

Crowds throng the Acropolis and are bound to get to you after a while. Fortunately, there is no shortage of areas to escape to.

 

Plaka is the historic heart of Athens. A tiny village within the city of Athens, it is nestled under The Acropolis. The labyrinthine streets of Plaka are full of musicians, florists, independent boutiques, and cafes. Its cobble-stoned alley ways have surprises around each corner. Scout the shops for souvenirs – you will find everything from the weird to the wonderful on offer. Sample the t-shirt below 😉

 

Athens in a day
The streets of the historical neighbourhood of Plaka are full of musicians, shops, and restaurants

 

Athens in a day
The markets around Plaka are full of souvenirs – from the wonderful to the downright offensive 😉

 

If you’re in the mood for some serious shopping, head to the Athens Flea Market at Avissynias Square – here you will find everything from trinkets and jewellery to spices and fresh fruits at competitive rates.

 

Athens in a day
Athens Flea Market

 

This district is also home to some amazing street art. Avoid the crowds by escaping to little by-lanes – flower-laden houses will give way to intricate and nuanced street art.  It is easy to spend a long time gazing at some of the art works on offer.

 

Athens in a day
Street Art in Athens

 

Athens in a day
Surreal street art in Athens

 

Eat 

 

When it comes to eating, we would suggest steering clear of over-priced dining options in the Plaka. The bougainvillea-laden streets of the Plaka are full of restaurants and cafes selling bog-standard Greek food. Cross the road at the Avissynias Square and head into the less-touristy section of the market. Here the streets are full of tiny taverns, ouzerias, and hole-in-the-wall eateries that specialise in Greek meze (small dishes). The décor at these places might be minimalistic but the food is delectable – expect little portions of succulent sea-food, juicy olives, salads, and locally-produced cheese. Sip on ouzo (an anise-flavoured aperitif) or hima (house wine) as you watch old men whiling away lazy afternoons by playing cards.

 

If nibbling on meze leaves you hungry, try Gyros – the Greek version of the Doner Kebab. This one comes with crisp shavings of meat, sliced tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki rolled into pita bread. As if that weren’t enough, the roll is then topped with chips (or fries as the Americans like to call ’em). Gyros is the ultimate comfort food – nom, nom, nom!

 

Athens-in-a-day - gyros
Gyros in a small ouzeria

 

Have you been to Athens? What part of the city would you include in a one day itinerary of Athens? 🙂

 

27 thoughts on “Athens In A Day – Experience Greek Grandeur

  1. Haven’t been to Athens since I was a child, but this made me want to go back! We stayed in a hotel with a rooftop terrace, where we could have breakfast (yoghurt with nuts and honey) overlooking the Acropolis. Then in the evenings we went to little Greek tavernas, and while we were waiting for the food to arrive, my mum would tell me the stories of the Greek myths.
    (I also think I must have been the only child ever to get Oedipus as a bed-time story. Not sure ‘he married his mother and then was blinded’ is the best ending to send a chid off to sleep!)
    Still, I would love to go back to Greece. These photos are definitely reminding me why!

  2. I thought that exploring Athens for 24 hours is nearly impossible, but you nailed it. I am heading to Athens for TBEX this October so I will definitely follow your tips and food recommendation. That’s going to be my second visit in Greece :). Hope to meet you there! ::)

    1. We won’t be there at TBEX this year Agness but hope to see you in London sometime. We’d love to catch up over a couple of drinks 🙂

  3. Great tips guys. We did Athens in a day, although for other reasons than being on a cruise ship. We found we got to see everything we wanted to see and experience a bit of the food. If I was to ever go back It would be to eat, and eat and eat!

  4. I could not believe the crowds that formed at the top of the Acropolis as we were on our way down when we visited back in 2009! I’m glad we followed our couchsurfing hosts’ advice and went early in the day.

  5. Greece is definitely on my list, but i always thought i could give athens a skip…but after reading your post i changed my mind. Athens is definitely worth a visit. thanks for such a lovely post 🙂

  6. Loved this post; we are heading to Athens for a city break the first weekend in May and totally looking forward to spending a few days discovering the city again. Your photos have got me all excited for Athens and I will definitely be looking out for the street art on display – your photos are amazing. xx

  7. Loved my time in Athens and wished I read this guide before I went there 2 years ago. I was there for 3 days and think I need a revisit. This guide is definitely useful!

  8. Hey Duos!

    Great going and Im truly inspired.

    Me and my partner Aj are heading to greece on 23 june 15 from London. We are in Athens for a day n heading to Mykonos n Santorini. I Want to buy a new Dslr before I go to greece. Can you tell which camera model and lens are u guys using. Also I love shopping junk jewellery from flea markets..shall I buy them there or pick from london for the beach wears.

  9. I love following your blogs about things to do on vacation and are traveling abroad. I found your blog last year around August when looking for ideals and things to in Iceland for my 12 anniversary and now have return for ideals and things to do in Athen Greece this March for our birthdays; we both are born in March. Thanks for the all the information on how to see Athen in one day. We will be there for six day but plan on visiting other areas of Greece.

    1. Dear Letonya,

      Thanks for dropping by – we had a great time in Athens and would love to return for a slightly longer duration. Hope you guys have a blast celebrating your birthdays in Greece.

      Cheers

  10. Hi Savi & Vid,

    I’m a big fan of you guys and your work!! It’s really inspiring what you do and with such perfection and fun!! And so I would need some help from you guys in planning our trip to Greece!!

    Me and my husband are planning Our summer vacation in Greece this 2018. We tried many travel agents but they are all providing us the typical itineraries which is very boring!! Will you help us??

    Thanks & Love
    Neha

    1. Hey Neha,

      Thanks for all the love. To be honest we don’t really have the bandwidth at the moment to help our readers with customised itineraries. We would LOVE to – hopefully someday in the near future 🙂

  11. we are planning our travel to greece next month, high summer !! 😉 i liked ur tip on visiting the Acropolis early in the morning…still a bit confused on renting a car or public transport …wat do u recommend?

  12. Bula again to my favorite travel couple in the World 😉

    Travelling to Greece for work next year September, thinking of taking hubby and baby with me. Any tips and suggestions would be great. Much love to you both.

    Vinaka Sanjana
    Fiji

    1. Hey Sanjana,

      While we haven’t really been to much of Greexe we hear Mykonos and Santorini are gorgeous (albeit a bit too crowded now)

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