Wow, y’all. I can’t believe how much I loved visiting Athens! The people are not just kind, they are proactively helpful. It’s very walkable, definitely affordable, and there’s so much to see and do! We only spent about 36 hours there on our recent trip, and I think we did a pretty good job of seeing as much as possible with our time, so I wanted to share our itinerary in case it helps you, too.
It’s just a taste, and you will most likely want to visit again for a longer trip, but for those of us who need to make the most of our vacation time, here’s how to spend 36 perfect hours in Athens, Greece!
Know What You Want to Do
If you don’t want to follow our itinerary exactly, that’s okay, too! Just know what you want to do and see. Use Trip Advisor, make notes, read through a guide book, whatever works for you. When you have limited time, it’s always important to know what you want to do and see before you get there.
More here: How to Use Trip Advisor to Plan Your Perfect Trip
Ask for Help
If you’re like my husband and me and you just can’t find the entrance to the sites, ask for help! As previously mentioned, the people of Athens were incredible kind, and proactively helpful. We were so impressed with their hospitality, and I think you will be, too. Don’t waste your time looking around—you don’t have all the time in the world after all!—just ask.
Related: Words to Learn in the Local Language Wherever You Go
Make a Plan
This is the key to making the most of a short trip: Having a plan. It’s perfectly fine for the plan to change, but when you start with a plan, you’re starting on the right foot! You don’t need to plan every single minute of your trip (please don’t—have some flexibility!), but you do need to have a general idea of how your days will go. See below for a sample plan!
Also helpful: Exactly How to Plan a Trip
If you don’t know where to start and just want to follow an easy itinerary, you can have ours!
Arrive into Athens International Airport (ATH) and take the Metro or a Taxi into Athens. Check into your hotel, and store your luggage there if your room is not ready yet.
Stay in the middle of it all: Everything You Need to Know about Staying at Home & Poetry Hotel Athens
Once you’re unloaded and refreshed from your travels, keep yourself awake by staying outside to take advantage of the natural light, and get some walking in to help fight the jet lag. If you’re staying far from the historic area, feel free to take the metro or take a taxi to the first stop. Get food when you need to, but try to eat at “normal” times for your destination. This will help your body adjust to the time difference.
Essential info: Mistakes People Make When Planning a Trip to Greece (and how to prevent them)
First Stop: Buy Your Ticket at the Temple of Olympian Zeus
This is a less-visited site on the Athens Combination Ticket site list, so it’s the perfect place to get your ticket to all the sites on this itinerary without waiting in a long line. Don’t start at the Acropolis—you’ll waste valuable time just waiting to buy your ticket! This was once the largest temple in mainland Greece, but now only a few columns remain.
More about the ticket: Your Ultimate Guide to the Athens Combination Ticket
Second Stop: The Lykeion
Stroll through the National Gardens or take a taxi to the next site: the Lykeion. This is the place where athletes used to train, and where Socrates lectured as well. Archaeologists and historians also believe this to be the first school!
Train for your travels: The Best Fitness Apps for Travelers
Third Stop: Hadrian’s Library
This library dates back to 132 AD and was used to house scrolls and legal documents. People also came here to listen to lectures and attend philosophical schools. Since then, however, it’s also been used as a prison, customs house, military barracks, and the seat of Turkish government!
Ruins can be beautiful: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places
Fourth Stop: Kerameikos
Located in the former potters’ district, the word “Kerameikos” gives us our word for “ceramics.” This is also an ancient cemetery, so you’ll see a lot of impressive markers while you’re here. Don’t miss the museum for more artifacts as well.
Read next: What to Know Before You Visit Athens
Morning Option: Morning Run at the Panatheanic Stadium
One option you have is to sleep in. Another option is to go for a morning run, or any outdoor workout you choose, at the Panathenaic Stadium, home of the first modern Olympics and site of the ancient Olympics! There is also a small museum here, and the Olympic torches are on display as well! It’s a good way to work off the jet lag, if you’re so inclined.
Runners must read: How to Have the Ultimate Morning Run at the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
First Stop: The Acropolis
This is the reason you’re here! It’s the most recognized site in Athens–possibly in all of Greece–and it’s the most popular site. You’ll be glad you got your Athens Combination Ticket elsewhere so you can skip the line and head up first thing! There’s a lot to see here besides the Parthenon, however, so plan to spend some time and read some signs around here.
Also helpful: What to Know Before You Visit Greece
Second Stop: The Ancient Agora
Tip #1: The Ancient Agora is quite large! It was the primary gathering and market place in Athens, and the Apostle Paul preached here as well. There’s a lot to see, so wear your walking shoes, and don’t miss the associated museum as well.
Don’t forget to eat! Where to Eat in 36 Hours in Athens
Third Stop: The Roman Agora
This is the Roman market place and social gathering spot dating back to Julius Caesar and the first century BC. Don’t miss the distinctive octagonal building, also known as the Tower of the Winds.
Keep reading: 10 Essential Blog Posts All Travelers Need to Read
Fourth Stop and Bonus: Changing of the Guard (Evzones)
Every hour, on the hour, 24 hours a day, you will find the Evzones performing their Changing of the Guard ritual in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. It’s a ceremony unlike any other.
More here: Money Saving Tips for Athens, Greece
Want more? Check out everything you need to plan your Greek getaway on my dedicated Greece Page!
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