Are you planning to spend 2 days in Athens for the first time, and want to make the most of your short trip? This travel itinerary is for you.
We don’t mean to state the obvious, but Greece is an amazing country, packed with incredible places to see and things to do. And whether your travel plans involve partying in Mykonos, hiking in Zakynthos, or diving in Milos, a stopover in the Greek capital is usually necessary.
Athens is for many the very first introduction to Greece, a quick yet fun stopover to learn more about Greek civilization and art. If you’re planning to spend only 2 days in Athens and wondering whether it’s not enough time to see it all, don’t worry. With proper planning, 2 days in Athens are enough to get a taste of the city and see all the most noteworthy landmarks.
To help you get started, below is a perfect 2 day Athens itinerary for first-timers.
Athens Itinerary: Day 1
Acropolis: Parthenon, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Temple of Athena Nike
The capital’s most famous archaeological site is the perfect place to kick off your 2 days in Athens.
If you’re visiting the Acropolis in the summer months, you should know that both the heat and the crowds can get overwhelming, so aim for an early-morning visit. To avoid interminable queues, the best plan is to buy Acropolis e-tickets online 1 or 2 days before your visit and arrive at the entrance before 9 am.
The most important monuments to see in the Acropolis are:
- Parthenon – Erected approximately 2500 years ago in honor of the Goddess Athena, the Parthenon represents the epitome of Ancient Greece. The iconic temple is 70 meters long and 30 meters wide, all built in Doric style using white marble from Mount Pentelicus.
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus – this is the best-preserved theatre in the Acropolis. It was funded in 161 AD as an entertainment venue by an Athenian philanthropic magnate, Herodes Atticus, in memory of his wife. Today, the Odeon still hosts concerts and cultural events, and if you’re interested in seeing one during your 2 days in Athens, make sure to buy your tickets well ahead of time.
- The Erechtheion – Built around the year 400 BC, the Erechtheion complex consists of several ancient sanctuaries. One of the most celebrated features is the Porch of the Caryatids, where six draped female figures are sculpted under the guise of ordinary columns. The eastern part of Erechtheion is occupied by a sanctuary, the Temple of Athena Polias, dedicated to the city’s patron, while in the western section lies the Tomb of King Erechtheus.
- Propylaia – Built around 435 BC, the glorious entrance to the Acropolis sets the atmosphere for arriving visitors, preparing them for the great sites we just mentioned.
Plaka and Synthagma Square
By the end of your Acropolis tour it will probably be time for a snack, and Plaka is the best neighborhood to taste some delicious Greek cuisine. Plaka is located on the eastern slopes of the Acropolis and is considered to be the oldest district in Athens. Lost in the maze of cobbled stone alleys you will find charming cafes, Greek tavernas, jewelry boutiques, and gift shops. There is also a good variety of boutique hotels and low-priced apartments where you can stay.
From Plaka, it’s a very short walk to Syntagma Square. Ask any Athenian and they’ll tell you all the same thing: Syntagma Square is the very heart of the city. This bustling square is also known as Constitution Square, as it is where the Athenians first fought against King Otto of Greece in 1843 to demand a constitution.
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is an archeological museum that showcases the ancient artifacts recovered on the Acropolis slopes. With more than 4000 objects on display, the museum is the perfect place to visit right after seeing the Acropolis, in order to learn more details about the history of all the landmarks and sanctuaries. Under the building you can even see up close the excavation site of an ancient Athens borough dating back to 3000 B.C.
You can buy your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
If you’re up for it, you can add one more landmark to the itinerary of your first day in Athens.
But in 267 AD, the Temple of Olympian Zeus used to be Greece’s largest temple. Nowadays only a handful of columns remain, as during the Byzantine empire of Theodosius II citizens slowly started to pick apart the temple’s marble for the construction of other buildings. While you’re in the area, visit Hadrian’s Arch, constructed in 131 BC to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Athens Itinerary: Day 2
Right after Syntagma Square, Monastiraki is considered to be the second most central area of Athens. The square has a stunning fountain at its center and is surrounded by an Orthodox church, an Ottoman Mosque, and the entrance to the city’s most loved Flea Market.
Much like the rest of Athens, Monastiraki can feel somehow chaotic in a fun way, with people coming and going by the second, at all times of the day and night. Not far from Monastiraki are three very important sites to visit: the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, and the Roman Agora.
Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora
The Ancient Agora is perhaps the most famous example of an ancient Greek agora. Simply put, the Agora was a meeting place for citizens to debate on politics and partake in rituals. It was inside an agora that Socrates and Plato discussed their ideas. The most impressive building in the Ancient Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved Greek temples. This Doric sanctuary was built under the aegis of Pericles around 420 BC to honor Hephaestus, the god of fire and metal.
From the Ancient Agora, continue walking down Adrianou Street until you arrive at Hadrian’s Library. Erected in AD 132 under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian, the Library was meant to house rolls of papyrus books as well as reading and music rooms. Unfortunately, nowadays, there is not much left of the ruins.
Very close to the Library are also the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds. Not to be confused with the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora was commissioned around 19 BC by the first Roman Emperor Augustus and was mostly used as a marketplace. Later, after the invasion of Herulae in 270 AD, it became the administrative center of Athens. Built in the 2nd century BC, the Tower of the Winds is the world’s first meteorological station, featuring a sundial and a water clock both still visible today.
National Archaeological Museum
Although many people skip the National Archaeological Museum in favor of the newer and shinier Acropolis Museum, we fully believe that a visit to this gallery is a must.
The National Archaeological Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Greek antiquities. Housed in a Neoclassical building designed by L. Lange, it houses over 10,000 artifacts dating back to the Neolithic Era, Mycenaean, and Classical periods. From bronze figures of celebrated gods to the gold mask of Agamemnon, it’s a pleasure to stroll each room and realize just how many of the showcased sculptures look strangely familiar.
Where to stay in Athens for 2 days
First-timers to Athens that are also short on time should stay in one of the central neighborhoods: Plaka, Monastiraki, Syntagma and Psyri are just about perfect. To help you choose the best area for your 2 days in Athens, below is a quick overview:
Best area to stay in Athens for sightseeing: Plaka / Monastiki
Plaka and Monastiki are located very close to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, not to mention the Ermou shopping district and a series of great greek restaurants and bars. The only issue with Plaka is that you won’t easily find any of the biggest hotels and resorts, but rather smaller boutique hotels and B&Bs. Syntagma Square is just around the corner and has some of the most luxurious hotels in the area, however, this is also where most political demonstrations take place in Athens.
Best areas to stay in Athens for Nightlife: Psyri and the City Center
Called the Soho of Athens, Psyri is a very eclectic area full of theatres, fine restaurants, tavernas, and workshops. The closeby City Center offers many restaurants and shops too, not to mention the Central Market and National Historical Museum.
Best area to stay in Athens for Luxury: Kolonaki
Kolonaki is a classy residential area in Athens packed with boutique shops and haute cuisine restaurants. Being one of the safest and wealthiest neighborhoods in central Athens, it is certainly a good option if you’re traveling with your families or just looking for something a bit posh.
Athens, Greece in 2 days: Q&A
Are 2 days in Athens really enough to see the city properly?
If you are short on time, 2 days in Athens are enough to see the most important landmarks including the Acropolis, Plaka, the Acropolis Museum, the Ancient Agora and Syntagma Square. However, if you want to get to know the city properly at a slower pace, then we suggest spending at least 3 days in Athens.
How to move around in Athens?
If you stay in a central area – like Plaka, Monastiraki, or Psyri – then everything you need to visit will be within 30 mins walking distance. And if want to move around beyond the limits of the historic center, then the Athens Metro is a great and safe option too.
Uber is not the best in Athens as the regular version is banned, so all you can call are regular taxis that signed up for Uber Taxi.
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