You can always find me dreaming about Greece and reminiscing about my time in this beautiful country. After my recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where I saw a replica of the Parthenon, I was inspired to create more blog posts about traveling Greece. Here you’ll find a guide to four days in Athens, the country’s stunning capital.
Before you go, you should purchase a City Pass Plus. This all access pass will get you into the Acopolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Library, the Lyceum, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Kerameikos Archaeological Site, the Stoa of Atalos, as well as free admission to the National Archaeological Museum, Epigraphical Museum, Byzantine & Christian Museum and Munismatic Museum. It also allows you to skip the line at these places since you don’t have to wait to purchase a ticket!
Day 1 – Adjusting
You may be jet-lagged, but there’s an entire city waiting for you. Instead of napping, get out into the city to keep yourself on a regular schedule.
A great place to start is Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is still partially standing, and is a beautiful structure in Athens. As you can tell from the name, it was dedicated to the Greek God Zeus, and it took over 600 years to complete. There were originally 104 columns, and it was the largest temple in Athens, although today just 16 remain.
The Arch of Hadrian stands just outside this temple, and is fitting because this temple was completed during Emperor Hadrian’s reign. This was a great Roman triumph after they took over the city and was dedicated to Hadrian upon his arrival in 132 A.D. I loved the gate because it acts as an archway into Athens.
From here you can see the Olympic Stadium in Athens from the 2004 summer games. The track has flags as well as a souvenir shop. The original track is in Olympia, a few hours outside of Athens.
The last thing to see on your first day are the National Gardens. What was originally known as “The Garden of Amalia” in honor of Queen Amalia, the National Gardens are a beautiful “oasis” in the middle of the city. There are thousands of different trees, bushes, flowers and animals, many of which are native to Greece. As well, beautiful statues and temples can be found in the grounds.
After this, relax and grab some dinner. Get a good night’s sleep and try to recover from your jet-lag. There are fun days ahead!
Day 2 – Ancient Athens
The great thing about Athens is that everything relating to the ancient city is within walking distance. This day will be long and we will pack in a lot!
Start off with the pride of Athens: The Acropolis. This is the very center of the city, and the rest of Athens circles around it. Begin with the Acropolis Museum. Interestingly enough, the location of the museum was chosen because they believed it was a spot without any ruins. However, when they started excavating, they uncovered an entire city underneath the ground! They have uncovered most of it, and it can be seen beneath walkways around the museum.
After learning all about each structure that can be found on the Acropolis, as well as the history of the Acropolis, it’s time to make the walk to the top. On your way up you will pass the Theater of Dionysus, a Roman Theater, and then you’ll reach the top. Enjoy famous structures such as the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. The view of Athens from here will take your breath away.
Next stop, the Areopagus and the Pnyx. Both were important spots in history located next to the Acropolis. The Areopagus was the location where the Christian Apostle Paul stood and preached to the Athenian citizens. The Pnyx was the location of Athenian democratic meetings, making it a great historical monument. The birth of democracy is said to have formed here during historic assemblies.
Follow this by exploring the Ancient Agora. This central market was the heart of Athens. You can see different temples, and explore where the main life of the ancient city was. The Temple of Hephstaseus is here, as well as a two-story temple that is now a museum.
Day 3 – Museums & Parliament
Start off your day at the National Archaeological Museum. Of all the museums in Athens, you can’t miss this one. Inside are very famous statues, including the Artemision Bronze – it represents either Zeus or Poseidon, but either the thunderbolt of the trident that he would have held is missing. Which god do you think it represents?
Up next is the Lyceum. This was the starting place of Aristotle’s teachings. The Peripatetic school was a school of philosophy that operated under Aristotle’s teachings from 334-323 B.C. While much of it was destroyed by the Roman general Sulla, what remains was excavated in the 1990’s and you can tour the school.
Right next to the Lyceum is Syntagma Square. It’s where the Parliament Building is and you can watch the traditional changing of the guard ceremony. Please be respectful during the ceremony and do some research on the history of the the guards. It’s a very unique experience!
End the day with your choice of museums. The Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine & Christian Museum are all very close to Parliament. You can decide which sounds most interesting to you, or try to squeeze in all three!
Day 4 – Monastiraki Square
It’s your last day in Athens! Let’s finish off a few more ancient sites we haven’t seen yet: The Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library. In first century B.C. when Athens was under Roman rule, the Romans built a new market place. Tour the ruins and compare how they differ from the Greek’s Agora. Right next door is Hadrian’s Library. It was built in AD 132 and was the largest library in Athens.
Now it’s time to shop! Monastiraki Square is in the heart of Athens. This is the best place to shop local street vendors and souvenir shops. One of my favorite things I purchased was Olive Oil soap. You can find it all over, and it’s a great inexpensive gift to bring back to your loved ones.
This is the perfect opportunity to stop in the Poet Sandal Shop. These unique sandals have been crafted for generations. It’s a popular stop in Athens, and some sandals are even named after the celebrities who have purchased them! These classic Greek sandals are made specifically for your feet, which means they can only be purchased in-person at the sandal shop. Take the time and spend the money to get beautiful, high quality shoes.
Here I am wearing my sandals in Corinth, Greece.
Shop ’til you drop, and just enjoy your last day in Athens eating pitas and drinking Freddo Cappucinos. Athens is a beautiful city, and there is so much to see and explore. And while you’re at it, view all of the graffiti and street art. The city is filled with it!