48 Hours In Athens, Greece: Everything You Need To Know

Most travelers breeze through Athens, Greece, opting to give precedence to the enchanting Greek islands over the rough-around-the-edges capital city. And honestly, we weren’t all that different. Dan had firm dates that he had to be in Santorini to photograph a yoga retreat, which meant that we only had a few days in Athens before we were “forced” to take the ferry to Santorini.

All in all we spent about six weeks island hopping around Santorini and the Dodecanese islands, and we can eagerly agree that they are just as magical as the reputation that precedes them. I don’t think we would have changed a thing, except that we wish we had allotted a few more days to discovering Athens.

 

The Ultimate 48 Hours In Athens Greece

 

We were pleasantly surprised by Athens. We were visiting during the economic crisis, so we weren’t really all that sure what to expect. (And if you turned on the news during the protests, then you would have assumed the worst.) But what we discovered was an edgy city of contrasts. A breathtaking view of the Acropolis is never too far away (though neither is street art and graffiti.) Great restaurants, world-class shopping, and an efficient metro add to the joy of exploring the city and provide a welcome distraction when you’ve had all the epic ruins and museums that you can handle.

 

A Cruising Couple Athens Greece

Graffiti Athens Greece

Ruins Athens Greece

 

If you have longer than 48 hours in Athens, Greece—take it. You wont be disappointed. However, if you’re traveling on a time crunch and still want to experience the best the city has to offer, here’s our quick and dirty guide to 48 hours in Athens:

 

What To Do In 48 Hours In Athens, Greece

 

It’s not easy to wake up early in Greece, largely because dinner stretches on late into the evening. However, for your short stint in Athens, we recommend making the most of the mornings. There’s a lot to see and do, and you’ll want to beat the crowds.

 

Day One In Athens

 

The Acropolis

 

Parthenon Acropolis Athens Greece

The Acropolis Athens Greece  A Cruising Couple The Acropolis Athens Greece

Amphitheater from The Acropolis Athens Greece

 

Start your exploration at one of the most famous sites in the world: The Acropolis. The ancient fortified town of Athens dates back to the 5th century BC, and is easily noted for its iconic location perched upon a high rock, towering above the surrounding landscape. The Acropolis Ruins includes the Parthenon, as well as various other ruins of astonishing proportions such as The Erecthion and the Temple of Athena Nike. Walking around The Acropolis will take a few hours depending on how many photos you take and how interested you are in learning about the sites. Be sure to purchase a bulk pass for 12 euros that will get you into just about all of the ancient ruins in Athens, valid for four days.

 

Lunch At The Acropolis Museum Cafe And Restaurant

 

The Acropolis Museum Athens Greece

 

After all that exploring, chances are you’re ready to sit down and enjoy some delicious Greek cuisine. Head to the nearby Acropolis Museum Cafe and Restaurant where you can enjoy fantastic views of the acropolis from the 700-square meter public terrace. We chose the fresh steamed mussels with ouzo, and though we typically don’t love the flavor of ouzo, this subtle flavor was perfect when paired with seafood.

 

Wander The Acropolis Museum

 

Acropolis Museum

 

Since you’re already at the museum, finish up your full day of exploring the Acropolis by checking out the Acropolis Museum. As the name suggests, the museum covers everything pertaining to the archeological site of the Acropolis. It provides excellent information that explains everything you saw while wandering around the actual ruins earlier in the morning. What’s more, general admission to the museum is only five euros.

 

Take A Late Afternoon Stroll Through Monastiraki

 

Monastiraki Athens Greece

Monastiraki Market Athens Greece  Shopping in Monastiraki Athens

 

If you’re exhausted, then head back to your hotel to relax before dinner. But if you still have a bit of energy in you, then head to the popular shopping district Monastiraki. The eclectic shops are undeniably touristy, but the streets here make an amusing place to window shop or take home a few souvenirs. And for those who are really looking to bargain hunt, time your visit on a Sunday morning when the Monastiraki Flea Market is bustling. We found a typewriter here I was dying to bring home, but since it was the start of our two months in Europe, Dan insisted I reconsider.    

 

Dinner At Tzitzikas Kai Mermingas

 

This unpretentious restaurant is as authentically delicious as could be. I recommend the Kirtharoto, mushroom orzo with parmesan and white truffle oil, or the Moussaka. You’ll want to make reservations as Tzitzikas Kai Mermingas is relatively well-known and it gets busy on the weeknights. This was one of our favorite meals we ate during our entire Greece trip, so don’t miss it if you get the chance.    

 

mushroom orzo with parmesan and white truffle oil

Moussaka

 

We opted to enjoy some wine and night caps at the restaurant, but there are plenty of other bars within walking distance if you prefer to mix it up a bit.

 

Day Two In Athens

 

The National Archaeological Museum

 

The National Archaeological Museum

 

After a leisurely breakfast of Greek yogurt and a frappe, head to the National Archeological Museum. This museum houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece, from prehistory to late antiquity. You can spend as long or as little as you like here, but it is certainly a site you won’t want to miss while in Athens.  

 

The Agora and Temple Of Hephaestus

 

Agroa Athens Greece

Agora Athens Greece

A Cruising Couple at Temple Of Hephaestus Athens Greece  Temple Of Hephaestus

 

Now it’s time to marvel at one of our favorite sites in Athens: The Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus. Both of these ruins are absolutely astonishing in scale and detail. The Ancient Agora is considered to be the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora, or an ancient marketplace and civic center; The Temple Of Hephaestus is thought to be one of the best-preserved temples in Greece. It’s easy to walk around these ruins and see both in about an hour.   

 

Lunch And Shopping In Plaka

Athens Greece  Old Town Plaka Athens Greece

Plaka Athens Greece

 

 Now it’s time to process the ancient history you just witnessed over lunch. We recommend stopping at a small street-side restaurant serving up souvlaki or gyro pitas for only a few euros. Alternatively, there are plenty of trendy restaurants with lovely terraces that dot the area around nearby Plaka. After lunch, take time to explore Plaka, The Old City offers a glimpse into what life was like in Athens in the past, and is as idyllic as could be. Most of the streets are pedestrian-only, making it a wonderful place to take photographs and enjoy the tranquility. We wandered around here for a few hours, stopping for coffee or a glass of wine whenever we happened to pass a charming restaurant (which was quite often.)  

 

Climb Mount Lycabettus

 

Again here you have the option to relax before dinner or tackle one more adventure. If you’re up for the hike, then we recommend climbing up Mount Lycabettus at twilight to enjoy the stunning views of Athens and the Acropolis. The hill is also located outside of the bustling city center, making it a nice place to breath in the fresh wooded air if you need a break from the congestion. We actually didn’t make the climb ourselves since we were staying at St. George Lycabettus, a hotel with the same stunning views (and a rooftop pool and bar!) See below :)  

 

Dinner At St. George Lycabettus

 

We recommend basing your entire stay here, but at the very least head to the restaurant for dinner or drinks—and a phenomenal view of Athens. Both nights we stayed here we enjoyed glasses of wine as the Acropolis twinkled in the distance and Athens sprawled beneath us.  

 

Sunset over Athens Greece

Dinner Date Athens Greece

 

And there you have it—48 hours in Athens! That doesn’t even brush the surface of all there is to see and do, but it is definitely an appropriate amount to try to squeeze into two days. If you do have more time, don’t miss the massive Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, and Syntagma Square (which you’ll likely see walking around anyway.) You’ll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to theater performances, outdoor movie theaters and cultural performances… the list really does go on and on!

 

Where To Stay

 

As we mentioned above, we stayed at St. George Lycabettus Boutique Hotel. We found excellent last-minute deals as many people were canceling their travel plans due to uncertainty over the economic crisis and what conditions in Athens would be like. We actually thought about trying to stay one more night, but the in-hotel rate was three times what we paid online!

Whether you’re booking last minute (like we were) or planning a weekend escape earlier in advance, we recommend checking out HotelPlanner to see what great deals you can score in Athens, or elsewhere for that matter.

 

Additional Tips:

 

  • There’s an awful lot of marble in Athens. Wear comfortable walking shoes with non-slip soles unless you want to be slipping and sliding around the ruins.
  • Athens is an extremely walkable city. We walked just about everywhere, though the metro is also a convenient option if you prefer public transportation.
  • If you take a taxi, make sure that the meter is on the right number. During the day, the meter tariff should be at 1. After midnight, the tariff changes to 2. Any other numbers mean the meter has been rigged. Taxi drivers are required to start the meter, so always insist they do!
  • Most generally recommend it best to avoid the neighborhood of Omonia, especially after dark. We didn’t visit ourselves so we can’t attest to whether or not it is actually dangerous, but we also didn’t feel a need to venture there.

 

Ready to start planning your adventure to Athens, Greece? Don’t forget about your travel insurance. We always travel with insurance, and it was one of the reasons why we weren’t overly worried about traveling to Greece during the economic crisis. You never know what could happen, so we suggest playing it safe.

Have you visited Athens before? What did you think?

 

This post was made possible by Hotel Planner. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Meet: Casey Siemasko


Casey Siemasko is a blogger, content marketer, and co-founder of A Cruising Couple. She has been living and traveling outside of the US full-time since 2011. She finds her life inspiration in exploring the world and seeks to find the magic in the most ordinary of places.

14 Comments

    • OMG the food! Seriously drooling just thinking about it :)

      Reply
  1. Hey! I’m going to Greece next week and your post will be very useful in my day planning. I’ll be in Athens for 2 days, but I think I’ll try to come back at the end of my trip on the islands. 2 days seems a little too short. Thanks! Happy travel!
    Annie Anywhere recently posted…Escale360 : Scam or not?My Profile

    Reply
    • That’s so awesome! Yea if you have the time, definitely try to come back and explore Athens a bit more. There really is so much to do and it’s such a fun, unique city! Enjoy your time and eat a lot of delicious food for us ;-)

      Reply
  2. One of my favourite places to see, I had more fun though on the islands namely Mykonos and Ios.
    The food was great and the octopus from a restaurant opposite the black beach in Santorini to die for. I could go on and on…..

    Reply
    • We know the exact restaurant you’re talking about in Santorini. Can’t remember the name of it, but the seafood there is fab! We agree – the islands are as magical as their reputation and it’s hard not to want to spend all your time soaking up the sun there!

      Reply
    • Thanks guys! Athens was such a fun place to photograph :)

      Reply
  3. Glad you liked my hometown and I really applaud your itinerary!! And so excellent that you dined at Tzitzikas and Mermigkas…it is my top restaurant for modern Greek cuisine in Athens! I’m also sure you enjoyed the view from your hotel…it has one of the best views in Athens!
    Anna recently posted…The essential guide to ElafonisosMy Profile

    Reply
  4. Great article and pics! We spent a week in Athens, but if we had to condense it into two days we’d do it pretty much like you laid it out.

    Reply
  5. what do you call the acropolis that only angry people go to?

    The I’m-cross-polos!

    I whole heartedly and sincerely apologise.

    Reply

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