We arrived in Athens at sunrise, knowing we had to make the best of what little time we had. We had 24 hours to explore the city before our flight the next day to Lesvos. We had done this before. While jet lag was certainly present and I drank more coffee than I care to admit, our adventure included everything that we really wanted to do. I don't even regret the coffee, which led us into one, breathtaking bakery. I stood there staring and ooh'ing at the pastries, and it was a sweet (pun intended) reminder that sometimes it's the unexpected treasures that are the most unforgettable. That being said, start with this 24-hour guide as your base to discovering Athens!
We recommend walking or Uber (get $5 off your first two uber rides with this link!), which is very affordable in Athens and provides many locals with full-time jobs. The Greeks are very friendly, warm and giving, so it's easy to trust drivers and vendors.
1. Temple of Hephaestus
Our first stop, after grabbing an espresso perhaps, is the Temple of Hephaestus. It is a well-preserved Greek temple that stands much the same as it did when it was first built so long ago. The enormity is awe-inspiring, and you will find yourself marveling at this grand piece of art! This is one of the few well-preserved temples you will see in Athens. The cost of entry is a few Euro, like most sites you will visit in Athens.
In Greek, Acropolis means "highest point". The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located on an extremely rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. It's easy to see from almost anywhere in the city and standing at the top guarantees you extravagant views.
3. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a stone theatre structure located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. The building was completed in 161 AD and then renovated in 1950. I'm sure you've seen photos of it at some point or another. It's enormous. The stroll from our AirBnB up to the monument was lovely, even at night. It is still the main venue for many festivals and events, so check out what might be happening during your visit!
4. The Theatre of Dionysus
The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is a major theatre in Athens, built at the foot of the Athenian Acropolis. The structure is dedicated to Dionysus, the god of plays and wine (among other things). The theatre could seat as many as 17,000 people with excellent acoustics, making it an ideal location for ancient Athens' biggest theatrical celebration, the Dionysia. It was the first stone theatre ever built, cut into the southern cliff face of the Acropolis, and supposedly the birthplace of Greek tragedy.
5. Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is a fairly new museum that opened in 2009. It focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. The day we spent in Athens, it was drizzling and there was a ridiculously long line at the museum, so we did what any good tourist would do! We took a selfie and then moved along.
Luckily, we were still able to enjoy the museum from outside, as it lies on top of the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens. There are ruins underneath it, easily seen from standing outside and paying attention to the ground.
6. Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a former colossal temple at the center of the Greek capital. It was dedicated to Olympian Zeus, a name originating from his position as head of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, some 638 years after the project had begun. The site itself is a large open field, where you can walk to all sides for differing views of appreciation. The columns are constructed with such detail and precision. Just allow yourself some time to just gaze in awe here.
Unfortunately, the temple's glory was short-lived, as it fell into disuse after being pillaged during a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD, just about a century after its completion. There are now 16 surviving columns.
7. Kalyvas Family Grill
We had a great restaurant across the street from our Airbnb. Their specialty was gyros and they were delicious! Most of the staff speaks Greek, so we had to wait a few minutes until someone could translate for us, but it was worth it! They stuff their gyros with all the yummy stuff you are used too, plus french fries! The fresh lamb, tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, and the flatbread was ridiculously good, and the prices were very affordable. While this restaurant was amazing, it's not hard to find a yummy gyro shop around every corner!
Before you go
Before you go, consider what will best prepare you! A happy traveler is a prepared traveler! We recommend AirBnB, as we had a lovely experience in a cute apartment in the heart of Athens for a very affordable rate. If you're not familiar, read more about Airbnb in the blog I wrote here. Don't forget to download a free offline map for Athens from Maps.Me (see how to do that here). Remember you'll need a travel credit card or a debit card that will allow you to withdrawal Euro. You're also going to want a good camera for all of the amazing photos, and moments, you're going to capture! Bring your appetite for some of the best food you've ever had in your life, and enjoy! After all, life is short! Let's go!