General Tips

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Reserve your accommodations as close to the sites as your budget will allow.

It saves time and is safer, if you’re returning back late at night. Most of the sites are clustered around Acropolis, so that’s where you should ideally stay.

We stayed at the King George hotel in Syntagma Square (next to its well-known sister property, the Grand Bretagne). If you can afford to, Athens Was hotel is a very nice hotel that came highly recommended, and it’s only 850 m from the Acropolis. There are other properties, but they go very fast, so as I mentioned in the previous post under “Reservations”, book sooner rather than later. AirBnB and similar services may also be a good alternative to hotels.

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Beware of thefts in the metro.

Take a taxi or Uber from airport. The metro can take you from the airport to the city but with your luggage, you’re more susceptible to pickpockets and thefts. The perpetrators’ MOs are usually to create chaos just before the stop or at the stop by blocking your path to the exit.

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Carry water in thermos like bottles to keep it cool especially for when it gets very hot.

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Some places are cash only, but there are plenty of ATMs around. 

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Sites

1. Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens

Why it’s worth it: This is the most famous landmark of Athens, and has a lot to see beyond just the Parthenon, even though just to see the Parthenon is quite something.

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  • Location/Transportation:

    Get there by metro (Acropolis stop, line 2). The stop is near the Acropolis museum and is a 3 – 5 minute walk to the Acropolis ticket counter.
  • Tickets:

    Buy the multi-site, multi-day pass to visit Acropolis (includes the Parthenon), Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Agora (there are other sites included also, if you wish to see those).

    Tip: remember that you can only visit each site just once. Once you exit the site, you can’t re-enter with the same ticket, no exceptions.
  • Site information and tips:

Arrive early in the morning before 9 AM or after 2 PM to avoid tour group traffic. (Rick Steves’s recommendation).

There are two entrances – one close to the metro (east entrance), and the other where the tour groups enter from (west entrance). The west entrance has a more direct path to the Parthenon but is a steeper to climb. The east entrance is closer to the metro and is easier to climb but takes longer to get to the Parthenon.

Once you’ve seen the Parthenon (and the other sites at the top of the Acropolis, like the Erechtheum), you can circle back to see the other sites, such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus.

Be aware of the roped off areas and don’t pose. Be mindful of where you’re sitting down also, if you feel tired. If you do something “wrong” there are site workers who will blow their whistles at you for you to stop.

  • Photography:

Parthenon’s east side yields the best pictures. (West side has a lot of scaffolding obstructing it).

Time of day: Go to the Acropolis early in the morning, and straight to the Parthenon, regardless of the entrance that you used. You can circle back to see the other sites within the Acropolis grounds, like the Theatre of Dionysus.

For some of the other pictures, the afternoon may be better.

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2. Acropolis Museum

Why it’s worth it: Most of the artifacts at the museum are quintessentially classical Greek, and many of them depict things out of Greek mythology (you won’t see too much of this at the National Museum). It’s worth noting that they have replicas of what the Parthenon’s east and west pediments looked like, since they’re now pretty much non-existent.

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  • Location/Transportation:

Located next to the Acropolis metro station (Line 2 – Aghios Antonios-Aghios Dimitrios station), if you go past the Acropolis’s east entrance. The large, modern building is on the left.

Address: 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens 11742

  • Tickets:

Requires a separate ticket from the multi-site/multi-day pass that you use for the Acropolis.  You can buy tickets inside the museum (cash only).

  • Site information and tips:

You must store any big bags or backpacks at the bag check counter near where you purchase your tickets.

There are three floors with lots of classical Greek artifacts. There are plenty of benches to sit inside the museum if you get tired.

  • Photography:

You can’t take picture or video in first floor (after the ticket entrance) and parts of the second floor.

No flash photography anywhere in the museum.  

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3. Ancient Agora of Athens

Why it’s worth it: You get a sense of ancient Athenians going between the Acropolis and the Agora, to shop at markets and go to the government buildings of Ancient Athens. You also see how important of a place it was – Socrates used to teach his pupils there (Look for a marble post located in the north west corner near the house of Simon the cobbler with the inscription, “όρος ειμί τες αγοράς”).

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  • Location/Transportation:

Next to the Acropolis. Follow signs from the tourist group entrance.

  • Tickets:

Use your multiday/multipass ticket, or if you didn’t purchase that, you can buy a ticket just for the Agora.

  • Site information and tips:

Much of the Agora is in ruins, and it’s hard to tell what’s what. Some of the areas are labelled, but it’s most useful to use the map that you can get from the entrance.

There are many stoas, some in good condition.

Visit the Temple of Hephaestus, Temple of Athena, Church of Apostles, middle stoa, and stoa of Attalos (now fully restored and serves as the museum).

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4. Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Hadrian's Arch       Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, Greece

Why it’s worth it: The temple of Olympian Zeus is an Architectural marvel. If you saw this building from the Parthenon, you could probably tell how big it was, but it’s something else to see it up close. It’s quite easy to see building it was quite an achievement, and one can imagine just how tiny a person could feel walking inside such a long, wide, and tall building.

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  • Location:

Hadrian’s Arch: Close to the Agora, near the Temple of Olympian Zeus entrance.

  • Tickets:

Hadrain’s Arch is outside (no tickets). You can use your mutliday/multipass ticket for Temple of the Olympian Zeus.

  • Site information and tips:

Look for inscriptions on either side of Hadrian’s arch.

Temple of Olympian Zeus (aka Olympeion) has symmetrical Corinthian columns. The entire roped off area was how long and wide the temple used to be.

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5. National Archaeological Museum

Zeus or Poseidon

Why it’s only maybe worth it: The value for money is there, but I personally didn’t appreciate the lack of announcements of certain section hours. I didn’t get to see the Greek pottery section, which I was interested in, and that in itself was lost value for me. Aside from that, if you’re not really a museum person, you may feel that it’s not worthwhile seeing, especially since there’s nothing too well-known or familiar to most people.

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  • Location/Transportation:

National Archaeological museum is in the opposite direction from Acropolis if you are going from Syntagma square.

It can be reached by either bus or metro, though the bus is probably easier.

  • Tickets:

You can buy a single ticket just for this museum, or a combo ticket if you to also see Byzantine & Christian Museum, Numismatic Museum and Epigraphic Museum.

  • Site information and tips:

You must store any big bags or backpacks at the bag check counter near where you purchase your tickets.

The museum has an extensive collection of artifacts – paintings, statues, jewelry, pottery from all over ancient Greece, and even a few special exhibitions on Ancient Egypt. They also have a more modern section (1700s-early 1900s), and a “science” section.

Caution #1: The museum closes and opens sections randomly without prior announcement. The galleries are cleared twenty minutes before closing.

Caution #2: There’s a few benches to sit at, but not many, and it’s a very large museum, so you may want to budget quite a bit of time (4+ hours) if you want to see the exhibits thoroughly.

You can visit the Academy of Athens while you’re in the neighborhood, since it’s only a short distance away.  

  • Photography:

Allowed in all sections, without flash. There are some sections with poor lighting, so you may want to bump up your ISO settings there.

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6. Panathenaic Stadium 

Panathenaic Stadium

Why it’s worth it: The stadium is completely made of marble, except for the track area. There’s also a neat Olympic gallery inside, which was a surprise (I didn’t see this in any of my research).

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  • Location/Transportation:

Located in the center of the city, on, on the east side of the National Gardens (at Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue).

Best reached by the bus, but you can walk (it’s a 20-30 minute walk from Temple of Olympian Zeus).

  • Tickets:

You have to purchase tickets to get inside. This includes the gallery.

  • Site Information and Tips:

The name comes from the athletic competitions of “Panathinea”, the greatest festivities in ancient Athens.

If you’re asking information about this stadium (or trying to find it on your way there), don’t call it “Olympic stadium”. There’s a modern Olympic stadium that’s commonly referred to as “Olympic stadium”. I would suggest calling it the marble stadium instead.

Be careful when climbing up the rows – the stairs are not uniform height, and some are very steep.

The gallery inside there is at the end of the tunnel (used for athletes to enter and exit the stadium). The tunnel entrance is at one corner of the stadium. This gallery has exhibitions of all the past modern Olympics, with their flags and torches. You can get souvenir coins from a vending machine located in the tunnel before the gallery in exchange for 2 Euros, and there are a total of 4 coin designs.

  • Photography:

In terms of lighting, the late afternoon/early evening (~6PM) is better for more uniform lighting. There’s also less people there at that time.  

Don’t forget to take your pictures on the victory stand or the royal chairs in the stands.

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7. Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square

Why it’s worth it: This is a very colorful square, where you can see a mix of architectures. You can see the Tzistarakis Mosque, a dome shaped building with a triple-arched loggia on the south corner of the square, and the church, the only remains of a great monastery.

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  • Location/Transportation:

The square is a 15 minute walk from Syntagma square or via metro. If you’re using a map for directions or GPS (like Google navigation), look for/route it to the Monastiraki metro station.

  • Site Information and Tips:

There’s a good number of fruit merchants and souvenir merchants. It’s better and cheaper place to buy souvenirs than any other location.

Be aware of pickpockets.

  • Photography:  

A panorama is quite useful here.

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8. Syntagma Square and National Gardens

Why it’s worth it: Syntagma Square is across the street from the Parliament House, where you can see the changing of the guards. It’s change is the most unique changing of the guards I’ve ever seen, not least of which, is because it takes 30 minutes, and there’s sometimes 5-6 guards changing at once.

Note: The National Gardens weren’t worth it (at least to me).

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  • Location/Transportation:

The square can be reached by either metro, bus, or taxi. There is a direct train from the airport to Syntagma square (M3 line) and between the Acropolis (M2 line).

The national gardens are behind the Parliament house.

  • Site Information and Tips:

The square is lively until about midnight.

Be aware of pickpockets.

There are lots of kiosks and restaurants close by for snacks, drinks, and food.

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