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Athens is a city rich in history and culture. One that has influenced the world is written about in history books, and was once a powerhouse of a city; Athens, Greece is a culturally and historically rich city to visit. Lacking the sheer beauty of the Greek Islands, in Athens, you have to search a bit harder to find out what makes it beautiful. A quick walk through one of the busy streets can leave you wanting to pull your hair out, or wondering why you didn’t visit earlier. 2 Days in Athens is sure to come and go quickly. It’s full of grit and grace and to truly learn the city, it would take months to explore.
It’s a city that on the one hand you have to be firm with locals to avoid scams. And on the other hand, a city where locals welcome you wholeheartedly. Showing you the importance of family, food, and good company. Athens… it’s a city that I didn’t fall in love with at first. But upon leaving I began to see the charm and character. Spending 48-hours in Athens solo was a treat. I covered all of the tourist spots, never felt bored, and was able to learn about the history of the city along the way.
If you plan to start in Athens before exploring the Greek islands, don’t miss…
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Santorini
A Guide to Visiting Tinos, Greece
The Ultimate Paros Travel Guide
Spending 2 Days in Athens… SOLO
5 Things You Should Know About Athens Before Arriving
1. The X95 bus costs 6 Euros and takes you from the airport to Syntagma Square and vice versa. Tickets can be purchased on the bus.
2. The Athens metro system is extremely easy to use. Well marked, clean, and predictable… a ride from the airport to the Acropoli stop (in the Plaka neighborhood and next to the Acropolis Museum) is only 10 Euros. Be aware that the metro does not run at night.
3. A taxi ride from the airport to the city center should be a flat fee of 45 Euros (this is an increase from the standard 38 Euros they were charging a few years ago). After midnight the fee increases. Otherwise, if you get in a taxi make sure that the meter is running. It’s illegal for the meter to be off. (If you want to book a taxi ahead of time, book here).
4. Uber does not operate in Athens, but if you have the Uber app you can retrieve a taxi from it.
5. Unfortunately, pickpocketing in Athens is common and mostly occurs around the main tourist spots. Keep in mind that nothing is truly “free”. Although advertised as so (i.e. giving you a rose, a bracelet, etc)… it’s expected that money will be exchanged. Keep your wallet/phone in your front pocket and when you’re in crowded areas keep a hand on your purse and move your backpack from your back to your front.
Best Time of the Year to Visit Athens
Located in the Mediterranean, the weather in Greece is warm and sunny throughout most of the year. The tourist season kicks off in mid-June and starts to die down in mid-September. At this time Athens is incredibly hot and crowded. If you’re planning on visiting the islands and you’re aiming for hot weather, this would be the time to go. However, if you want to visit Athens at a more laid back and relaxed place without hoards of people around, you might choose to visit during “shoulder season” instead. In October-November, the crowds die down and the weather starts to cool. At this time hotel prices begin to drop and restaurants become less crowded.
Day 1 – Get Oriented to the City
Upon arrival in Athens, orient yourself with a free walking tour of the city to get a feel for where things are and background history on the major sites. Athens Free Tour runs daily at 0945, at 2 pm Sept 15-June 30, and at 5 pm Apr 1-Oct 15. The tour lasts anywhere from 2.5-3 hours. If you’re able, I’d recommend going in the morning so that you’re oriented to the city and can explore the city as you please.
Once you’re done with the walking tour, spend the rest of your day leisurely strolling through the Plaka neighborhood. (Note that if you happen to be staying further out of the city, the Akropoli stop on the Athens Metro will drop you in the heart of the Plaka neighborhood). Plaka is the area at the foot of the Acropolis, with twisting streets and café lined sidewalks. Because of the location of Plaka, expect it to be quite touristy and crowded. Ignore all of those that offer you “free” goodies (they’re never really free after all), and make sure to keep a hand on your belongings. Pickpocketing in Athens is common! If you’re looking to stop for a sweet treat, make sure to hit Snoyo for traditional Greek yogurt, located across from the Akropoli metro stop.
Out of all of the things to do in Athens, walking through Plaka ranked high for me. Being able to aimlessly stroll with no expectations or intentions. Stopping as I pleased, continuing on as I pleased; taking in Athens for what it is. A busy, fun, and lively capital city.
Day 2 – Visit the Major Sites of Athens
From a historical aspect, Athens reminded me of Rome. Walking through the streets only to come upon ancient ruins at any turn. It makes you feel as though if only for one second, you’ve been transported back in time. And while walking the streets allows you to see a ton of ruins for free; there are some things worth paying to see.
One of the most recognized structures in the entire world, in Athens you’ll find the Acropolis housing the Parthenon amongst other ruins. Even if you are only visiting for a short period of time, out of all of the places to visit in Athens the Acropolis should be at the top of your list. The Acropolis can be seen from many viewpoints throughout Athens, however, it’s worth it to buy a ticket and make the trek up to the top of the rock yourself. Acropolis hours vary from summer to winter months so make sure to check the website in advance for opening and closing times. I’d recommend visiting right when it opens or a couple of hours before it closes in order to avoid the insane heat and crowds of tourists that flock there during the middle of the day. You can buy tickets here ahead of time, which allows you to skip the line. I’d also recommend downloading the free app, Rick Steve’s Audio Europe, where you can find a great audio tour as you move through the Acropolis. Don’t forget your headphones!
If you’re interested in history, other things to see in Athens include the Ancient Agora and the National Archeological Museum which houses ancient Greek artifacts. I also visited the Acropolis Museum to view relics from the Acropolis… but wouldn’t recommend it.
Fun fact: There are Greek ruins all throughout the city and even in the Athens Metro! In order for the Olympics to be held in Athens, it was required that Athens come up with a public transportation plan. (It’s hard to build new things in Athens because when you dig you come upon ruins). So, when they were required to build public transportation they decided to build a metro system. When they started digging they came upon historical remains. These are preserved in the metro station, which you can view yourself.
After spending your day touring the ancient sites of Athens, head to the Psyri neighborhood for dinner. I recommend starting with sunset drinks at A for Athens where they have a rooftop bar with incredible views of the Acropolis. For dinner head down the street to eat at Bandiera.
So while 2 days in Athens is enough to begin peeling back the layers… I’m sure that one day, I’ll be back for more. Back to discover new neighborhoods. Back to meet more friendly locals. And back to learn more about what made the Greek’s so powerful.