Last Updated on August 29, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow
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Are you looking for the ultimate Athens 2-day itinerary to plan your trip to the Greek capital? Look no further! I have been living in Greece’s largest city for more than seven years and have created the perfect itinerary for your two days in Athens.
This Athens 2-day itinerary is ideal for those who want to see the most popular ancient sites but also get a glimpse of the modern Athenian lifestyle.
And of course, I have a lot of inside tips for you, such as the best times to head to each site to avoid the heat and long queues. Because you want your two days in Athens to be as pleasant as possible.
Depending on when you arrive and depart you might be able to move some things around, especially since the first day is very packed. But because some people might arrive late at night or depart early in the morning I’m only providing an itinerary for two full days.
- Why You Should Visit Athens
- When to Visit Athens
- How to Get to Athens
- What to Pack For Your Trip to Athens
- Where to Stay in Athens
- How to Get Around
- Day 1 of the Ultimate Athens 2-Day Itinerary
- Day 2 of the Ultimate Athens 2-Day Itinerary
- Enter the Panathenaic Stadium
- Observe the Changing of the Guards
- Head to the National Archaeological Museum
- Check Out the Amazing Street Art
- Where to Eat in Athens
- Going Out in Athens
- The Best Tours in Athens
- If You Have More Time in Athens
Why You Should Visit Athens
Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. As the birthplace of Ancient Greece, it houses the Acropolis of Athens, classical theaters, Greek temples, and the ancient cemetery of Athens. But with most people traveling to Greece for its stunning islands, there is usually not enough time to explore Athens. This is why I will show you how to spend two days in Athens and make the most of them. I have spent more than seven years in Athens so here’s my Athens 2-day itinerary for the best things to do in Athens in two days. But if this is your first time traveling to Greece check out my post on things to know before your trip.
When to Visit Athens
One of the main questions people usually have when planning a trip to Athens or anywhere else for that matter is when to go. It’s not easy to answer that question because it depends on several different factors: Are you only visiting Athens or combining it with a trip to other parts of Greece? Do you want to spend most of your time wandering through ancient sites? Are you more interested in the museums? Do you want to get a glimpse of everyday Athenian life? The answer to when best to visit Athens would differ for each of those scenarios.
Athens is busy with tourists from May until September. Museums and other sites will be extremely crowded during those months. Additionally, it gets very hot in July and August, and while you may think that you want to experience the Greek summer, trust me when I say that unless you get to spend it at the beach you really don’t.
From October, Athens tends to get quite rainy, but this is usually restricted to a few days each month. You won’t really get an entire week of rain. And if you’re from a colder climate you might even be lucky enough to experience relatively warm days with around 20°C and clear skies.
My personal suggestion for the best time to visit Athens would be November. There are very few tourists left at this time, making it less stressful to visit the most popular sights in this Athens 2-day itinerary. It won’t be hot at all anymore so you can easily spend the whole day outside exploring. And even if you experience rain during your stay you can spend that time in the city’s museums.
Another advantage of coming to Athens in November is that admission fees to many sights are reduced between November and March, with the first Sunday in each of those months even being free for landmarks like the Acropolis.
How to Get to Athens
Athens is served by Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, and no matter the airline you fly with that’s where you will arrive. To book the best flight you can compare prices on various different websites such as Expedia, Omio, Aviasales, or Trip.com. Or book directly via Kiwi.com:
There’s a suburban train, metro, and bus stop at the airport from where you can get to Athens for €9 (train, metro) or €5.50 (bus).
If you arrive by boat you will probably arrive in the port city Piraeus which is connected to the Athens public transport system by bus and line 1.
You can also take the bus from other cities in the Balkans. Train services on the other hand are rather limited with the exception of trains from Belgrade, Istanbul, Sofia, or a few Greek cities. Do check out Trainline to look for connections.
What to Pack for Your Trip to Athens
Personally, I believe in packing light, and I think that a trip to Athens for two days doesn’t require a lot of packing. There are a few products that I suggest you bring along to make your trip more sustainable.
Reusable water bottle: It’s always important to stay hydrated, but even more so in a city like Athens which gets extremely hot in the summer. While bottled water is cheap in Athens (50 cents for a half-liter bottle), this is not the most environmentally friendly way to travel. Your own insulated water bottle will also keep the water at the right temperature.
Portable coffee mug: I don’t drink coffee myself, but if you do Athens is going to be a small paradise for you. Athenians absolutely love their coffee at any time of day. If you have your own collapsible coffee mug you’re going to be able to enjoy your coffee at all the amazing sights in this Athens 2-day itinerary.
Bamboo cutlery set: If you’re planning to get takeaway from one of these amazing vegan spots in Athens your own reusable cutlery set is going to ensure that you don’t litter in a city that is already troubled by a lack of environmental awareness.
Comfortable shoes: The pavement even in many parts of the center of Athens is in very bad condition. I’ve ruined several pairs of shoes and wouldn’t recommend wearing high heels during your stay. On top of that, this itinerary requires a lot of walking so you’re best off with a pair of comfy sneakers.
Where to Stay in Athens
If you only have two days in Athens you want to make sure that you’re as close to all the important sights as possible. With public transport in Athens being notorious for strikes you’ll also be better off staying somewhere within walking distance of the majority of things on this Athens 2-day itinerary.
No matter the type of accommodation you are looking for, there are ways to ensure a more responsible stay. For example, if you want to have a whole place to yourself make sure to look for an apartment that is not available year-round. This usually signifies that somebody actually lives there and is only renting out the place while they are traveling themselves. Athens has a serious housing crisis so I urge you to avoid services like Airbnb.
How to Get Around
Before we can even get to all the things to do on this Athens 2-day itinerary let me give you some tips on how to get around the Greek capital.
As a tourist, the best way to get around will be on foot, especially if your accommodation is located in the city center from where you can get to all of the items on this Athens 2-day itinerary.
Always be careful when crossing the street as cars don’t usually give way to pedestrians! Even after the lights have turned red for cars you might see up to five cars still crossing the light. Expect motorbikes on sidewalks as well.
As bad as Italian and French drivers’ reputation is I have yet to visit a European city with worse and more intimidating traffic than Athens. This is also why I absolutely advise against driving yourself, let alone riding a bicycle. There is only one bicycle lane in the entire city, and it’s located outside of the city center.
For the few times that you need to use public transport, note that you will need a ticket to enter the Athenian metro and train system. A single ticket is quite cheap at €1.20 and is valid for 90 minutes, but you can also get a 5-day pass for €8.20. Note that although you will only spend two days in Athens this might be a good option if you plan to use public transport a lot.
Why? Well, it’s cheaper than the 10-trip ticket, exactly the same price as two 1-day tickets, and cheaper than the 3-day tourist ticket which costs €20. Keep in mind that the tourist ticket includes one trip from and to the airport which will otherwise set you back €5.50 by bus or €9 by metro for a one-way trip.
As you can see, it’s a good idea to figure out in advance which ticket will work best for you so you can save money on public transport. If you’re unsure of the best option for you please leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.
Inside tip: Note that when Athenians talk about the metro they are only referring to lines 2 (red) and 3 (blue). The green line, while technically part of the same system, is much older and traditionally referred to as the “Ilektrikos.” People in Athens will get confused if you call line 1 the metro and may not give you the best directions if you only ask for the next metro station!
There’s an extensive bus network in the city, but due to the amount of traffic, it’s best to avoid buses.
Like buses, trolleys are best avoided during your two days in Athens. On top of the traffic problems, trolleys often have to stop due to incorrectly parked cars which don’t allow them to continue driving.
Note: Both buses and trolleys will only stop if you raise your arm.
There are three tram lines serving the southern suburbs. One of them connects Athens to Piraeus, one to the southern suburb of Voula, and another one connects Voula and Piraeus. During your two days in Athens, you probably won’t be needing the tram.
Note that you will need to press the button to stop the tram. While there are usually people waiting to get on there could be a situation where this is not the case, so unless you press the button the tram will pass your stop.
You probably won’t need the suburban train unless you plan on going on a day trip to Corinth from Athens. However, depending on the location of your hotel it might actually be a great way to get to the airport.
The public transport system in Athens does not run between about midnight and 5 am with the exception of the airport buses, a bus to Piraeus, three night buses, and a trolley in the residential neighborhoods.
Athens isn’t the only city in the world where taxi drivers have a bad reputation for their driving skills and trying to rip people off. As the inner city is usually congested I advise against the use of taxis unless you are planning to go somewhere that cannot be reached on foot or public transport or if you need to get around at night.
Day 1 of the Ultimate Athens 2-Day Itinerary
Now that you know when to go to Athens, what to pack, how to get there, and how to get around, let’s dive right into the only Athens 2-day itinerary you will need. Note that the first day in particular requires a lot of walking. This is not an ideal Athens itinerary if you’re visiting with children or have mobility issues. You can absolutely use public transport once or twice, but most of these stops are located very close to each other but simply require a lot of walking on the grounds.
Start Your First Day at the Acropolis
Although I suggest visiting Athens in November I understand that you may be arriving in one of the warmer months between May and September. During those months, it can get very hot. Don’t underestimate the heat if you’re not used to a hot and dry climate. That’s why I suggest visiting the Acropolis as early as possible.
There are no trees that could provide shade when you arrive at the Acropolis. And while the hike up to the Acropolis is not strenuous it can feel more difficult when it’s particularly warm. I know not everyone rises early (I struggle with this on vacation as well), but since the Acropolis opens at 8 am I really suggest you get there that early. In addition to avoiding the heat, this means that you will encounter far fewer tourists meaning you’ll take much better pictures as well. Plus, the earlier you start your day the more of this Athens 2-day itinerary you get done.
After hiking to the top of the hill you will reach the entrance gate to the Acropolis. Nothing can prepare you for the indescribable feeling of passing through this gate that has been used for thousands of years. And with fewer people around, you will be able to savor this moment even more.
Right after entering through the gate, your eyes will fall on the majestic Parthenon. Most people conflate the Parthenon and the Acropolis, but actually, the Parthenon is only one of a few things you can see here, albeit the most impressive one. No matter what else you do in the city, a visit to the Parthenon is the one thing on this Athens 2-day itinerary you absolutely can’t skip.
Located a few steps from the Parthenon you will see the Erechtheion. The statues that hold the roof up are actually copies to protect the originals from the weather. Five of the original statues are housed in the Acropolis Museum. Sadly, the sixth statue is in the British Museum with no date in sight for the UK to finally return it to its home. This is only one example of Western museums depriving other countries of their cultural heritage.
The Acropolis is also home to the Temple of Athena Nike. It was finished around 420 BC and was where the Greek goddesses Athena and Nike were worshipped and where people prayed for and celebrated victory.
On the slope of the hill, you will see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This is an open-air theater built thousands of years ago which is impressive enough to look at. But what’s more, is that the Odeon continues to be a functioning theater for musical performances. I got to attend a concert by Concha Buika there, and it was absolutely mindblowing. If you come to Athens in the warmer months you may want to get tickets to a show.
Of course, tickets for artists like Sting and The Foo Fighters sell out quickly. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to get tickets for smaller names. Although I generally suggest visiting Athens in November I will admit that seeing a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus will make everything else on this Athens 2-day itinerary pale in comparison. It’s a marvelous example of an ancient site still being used for its intended purpose and not only as a tourist sight.
At the foot of the Acropolis, you will see the Theater of Dionysus. The world’s oldest surviving theater once accommodated up to 17,000 spectators. Thousands of years later, the number of seats has decreased due to erosion.
Tickets to the Acropolis are €20 from April to October and €10 from November to March. You can enter the Acropolis for free on the first Sunday of every month from November to March as well as on March 6th, April 18th, May 18th, the last weekend of September, and October 28th. You should expect to spend about two hours on this visit.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
After seeing the Acropolis itself you should take some time to visit the Acropolis Museum. It’s a very modern and beautifully designed building and has all the background info you need to understand what exactly you saw at the Acropolis. You also get to see the original statues that used to hold up the roof of the Erechtheion.
You won’t have time to properly look at all the thousands of artifacts on display, but if you spend another two hours here you’ll be quite well-informed about the most popular Athenian landmark and the artifacts that were found on its slopes.
It will take you about ten minutes to walk to the Acropolis Museum after exiting from the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The Acropolis Museum opens at 8 am from April to October and at 9 am from November to March. Tickets are €10 in the summer season and €5 in the winter season.
Explore Plaka and Anafiotika
After walking around the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum for a few hours you will probably want to rest for a while. The neighborhoods of Plaka and Anafiotika lie below the Acropolis and can be reached within a few minutes from the Acropolis Museum. There is no doubt that these scenic neighborhoods are the most beautiful part of Athens. The city is a gray concrete jungle, but in Plaka, you will see many colorful buildings dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Anafiotika with its whitewashed houses gives off serious Cycladic island vibes – in the center of the busiest Greek city! So make sure to find a cozy café and simply enjoy the old town of Athens. Once you’re ready to continue with this Athens 2-day itinerary make a final stop at some of the souvenir shops in Plaka where you can find beautiful locally-made products made of olive wood and other items.
Check Out More Ancient Sites
Now that you’ve rested for a while at one of the cafés in Plaka you can visit the nearby Roman Agora, the ancient Roman market, which is only a few minutes away. It was built in the first century BC, and you’ll notice the imposing entrance gate right away.
As you walk from the Roman Agora, you will reach Hadrian’s Library almost within seconds. Everything is right below Plaka where you started off.
From Hadrian’s Library, you can make your way back through Plaka towards Hadrian’s Arch. It’s going to take about 15 minutes to get there. This is a free site where you can take great shots with the Acropolis in the background. Right behind Hadrian’s Arch, you will see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, my favorite ancient site in Athens. It used to consist of 104 columns, but after so many centuries only 16 of them remain.
These ancient sites are all included if you purchase the combined Acropolis ticket for €30. There is no reduced fare for the combined ticket! Since many of these sites can be seen without entering you may want to only pay for one or two of them.
The individual prices are as follows: €8 for the Roman Agora, €6 for Hadrian’s Library, and €8 for the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The reduced fare is half, and it’s free to enter all these sites on the same dates that the Acropolis is free.
Have a Delicious Lunch
After waking up early and walking so much you definitely need to have an extensive lunch. Avoid the expensive tourist spots in Plaka and Monastiraki. If you’re vegan there’s a cozy café near the Temple of Olympian Zeus called Veganaki which offers veganized versions of Greek dishes as well as quick meals like sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. It’s the perfect spot to relax after so many hours of exploring.
The area around the Temple of Olympian Zeus also has some Indian restaurants, such as Indian Haveli, that can make vegan dishes for you. Of course, there are several Greek restaurants as well. If you’re vegan make sure to check out my guide to being vegan in Greece so you know which dishes to order and how to specify the ingredients you don’t want to eat.
Visit the Ancient Agora
Once you feel ready to continue with this Athens 2-day itinerary you can visit one final ancient site, the Ancient Agora. You’ve done a lot of exploring today, but the Ancient Agora is not something you should skip. Walking here from the area around the Temple of Olympian Zeus will take about 25 minutes.
The Ancient Agora used to be a marketplace in Ancient Athens and is still very well-preserved. You will see different temples and monuments that were located in this gigantic market area.
One of the highlights at the Ancient Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus which is in particularly good condition. If you want a little more background info pay a visit to the Museum of the Ancient Agora, located in the monumental Stoa of Attalos. In total, you will probably need another 1.5 hours for the Ancient Agora.
Admission is €10 in the summer and €5 in the winter. The Ancient Agora is also included in the €30 combined ticket. It’s free to enter the Ancient Agora on the same dates as the previous ancient sites.
Watch the Sunset From Lykavittos Hill
I suggest taking the metro from Monastiraki to Evaggelismos to save some time (and rest your feet for a while). As the highest point in Athens, Lykavittos Hill is the best place on this Athens 2-day itinerary to watch the sunset. You can hike up here, but definitely only once the temperatures have dropped (depending on the season you are visiting Athens). If you’re too tired from all the walking you can take the cable car to the top of the hill. You can find the cable car on Ploutarchou Street, and it departs every 30 minutes.
After the intensity of your first day in Athens, you will really enjoy the calm atmosphere on Lykavittos Hill. You will be rewarded for all the walking with a gorgeous view all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. And the little church located at the top of the hill adds a village feel to the experience.
Day 2 of the Ultimate Athens 2-Day Itinerary
The second day of this Athens 2-day itinerary is a bit more relaxed and allows you to set much of the pace yourself. If you didn’t manage to do all the items on day 1 you can replace some of the following things to do with them as the sights on the first day are generally more important.
Enter the Panathenaic Stadium
We started the first day of this Athens 2-day itinerary at the Acropolis because it can get much too hot later in the day. The same is true for the Panathenaic Stadium. The entirety of the stadium is constructed of marble, and there’s no shade once you pass the entrance.
This perfectly built stadium is more than 2,000 years old and was the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The white stadium is a marvelous place to see for yourself. If the ancient sites on the first day were difficult for you to connect with then the Panathenaic Stadium might be more to your liking as you can see its use clearly in front of you.
Ardittos Hill above the stadium is well worth a little stroll as well. This is where many Athenians go running or simply escape the heat and noise of the city center. As the stadium itself doesn’t require a lot of time you can absolutely set aside some time to breathe in the fresh air in the park.
Admission to the Panathenaic Stadium is €5. You can see everything without entering, but it’s pretty cool to walk around the stadium and see it up close. You’ll spend about 20 minutes here, but more if you also decide to go for a walk on Ardittos Hill afterward.
Observe the Changing of the Guards
It would be best to time this to arrive at the Parliament on the hour since the changing of the guards takes place every hour. To accomplish that you may want to leave the Panathenaic Stadium about 20 minutes before the hour. But even if you don’t arrive here right on time it’s always possible to come back.
Now, if you have a chance to see the changing of the guards on a Sunday at 11 am I absolutely recommend changing the rest of this Athens 2-day itinerary to make that happen. Because this special weekly event includes an orchestra and the official Sunday and holiday uniform.
The Presidential Guards are known as Evzones and are young men performing their mandatory military service. They are chosen mainly based on their height (1.87m, or 6ft1). In addition to guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they also protect the Presidential mansion.
Note that you can take photos with the evzones, but you are not allowed to touch them and will be reprimanded if you do. But in any case, it’s simply rude to do that to somebody who is not allowed to react.
Head to the National Archaeological Museum
To be honest, I’m not exactly an archaeology buff, but this is Athens we’re talking about, and a visit to the National Archaeological Museum is an absolute must. I actually prefer it over the Acropolis Museum as it has some really impressive archaeological artifacts on display.
The National Archaeological Museum is about a 25-minute walk from the Parliament. You could take the metro from Syntagma to Omonoia (two stops) and walk ten minutes from there if you prefer.
Tickets to the National Archaeological Museum are €12 from April to October and €6 from November to March. Note that in the winter season it closes at 5 pm on most days so I suggest you get here by 2 pm which shouldn’t be difficult if you start the day early.
Check Out the Amazing Street Art
Athens is a dream for anyone who loves street art. While there are a lot of uninspiring tags all over the city, you can find some really impressive murals throughout the Greek capital as well. If the first day of this Athens 2-day itinerary featured too many ancient sites for your liking then this modern aspect of Athens is going to be the perfect antidote.
To find the best street art all you have to do is wander through the streets of Exarcheia, Kerameikos, and Psyrri. But even Plaka has quite a few beautiful pieces you can snap photos of. If street art is one of your main interests you should even consider joining a street art tour. You can definitely spend 2-3 hours strolling through the streets of Athens and admiring the street art.
I suggest pausing for lunch in one of these neighborhoods at some point. Most of the restaurants here are not touristy and allow you a glimpse into modern Athens and the lifestyle of the younger generation. One suggestion if you want to be quick is to get some Greek vegan street food at Cookoomela in Exarcheia.
Explore the Ancient Cemetery Kerameikos
Surprisingly, Kerameikos is a bit less-known among foreign tourists to Athens, but in my opinion, it shouldn’t be skipped even if you only have two days in Athens. The cemetery was home to the potters of Ancient Athens (ever wonder where the word “ceramic” comes from?).
At this open-air site, you will find the road to Plato’s Academy. How fascinating it is to be walking the same road as the philosophers of ancient times!? Expect to spend around 30 minutes at Kerameikos.
Admission is €8 from April to October and €4 from November to March. It’s also included in the €30 combined ticket.
And this is the end of this Athens 2-day itinerary. You’re now free to find a spot for dinner, relax at a café or bar, or even head back to Lykavittos for another sunset.
Where to Eat in Athens
Athens has a plethora of eateries to choose from though you might be surprised at the prices. Despite the crisis, it’s very easy to stumble upon restaurants that are more expensive than similar spots in more well-off cities elsewhere in Europe. Sadly, service is also notoriously bad in Athens so it’s not like the high prices are justified.
As a general note, absolutely avoid the tourist traps on Adrianou street. While you do get to look at ancient sites from there the food is of low quality and comes at a high price tag. The street is also extremely busy with pedestrians so not exactly the kind of place to go for a cozy meal.
I have an extensive guide to the best vegan restaurants in Athens which you should definitely check out if you’re traveling to Athens as a vegan. Some highlights in the center of Athens are Avocado, a vegetarian place with plenty of vegan options, Falafellas for great falafel, and Cats and Monsters for vegan ice cream.
Contrary to what other travelers might tell you, tipping is not customary in Greece. Tips are appreciated as in any other country, but they’re nowhere near as widespread as in North America or some other European countries. It’s possible that people will expect you to tip because you’re a tourist, but most Greek people actually don’t tip (even after spending hours at a café and only ordering one coffee).
Going Out in Athens
While the nightlife in Athens is nothing to write home about there are some cool areas to check out if you’re in Athens for a weekend. Check out café/bar/club six d.o.g.s. for example.
Exarcheia: This anarchist neighborhood gets a bad reputation among more conservative Greeks but certainly has the best vibe in the entire city. The crowd is open-minded and friendly, political street art decorates the walls, and there are tons of cafés, bars, and restaurants to choose from.
Psirri: A bit less cozy than Exarcheia and a lot busier on weekends, this neighborhood boasts bar after bar and is conveniently close to the Monastiraki metro stop.
Gazi: Located near the old gas factory (hence the name), Gazi is filled with small bars that generally seem to play the same type of music (Greek charts, the odd rock bar). Due to the proximity to Kerameikos metro, you can easily get home from here (from 5 am).
Beach bars: In the summer, there are tons of beach bars on the Athenian riviera if you have time to head there during your two days in Athens.
The Best Tours in Athens
This Athens 2-day itinerary includes all the must-see places in the Greek capital. But if you’re not one to wander around a new city on your own there are also numerous tours you can join to explore the city. From free walking tours that give you an overview of the city to very specific tours these are only a few of your choices:
- Acropolis and Old Town Small Group Walking Tour
- Acropolis Guided Tour
- Private Secret Acropolis Tour
- Private Architecture Walking Tour
- Myths & Philosophers Private Walking Tour
- Acropolis Museum Afternoon Guided Tour
- Bohemian Tales Sightseeing Tour
- Athens by Night
- Sunset Tour to Sounio
- Private Full-Day Tour
If You Have More Time in Athens
If you have more than two days in Athens you should definitely consider one of these day trips from Athens. Nafplio is a great option for those trying to escape the company of international tourists as it’s far more popular with Greek visitors.
If you can make Athens your base for even longer getaways consider Kalamata for the gorgeous beaches in the area, Corfu for an island getaway with beaches and cultural sights, or Ioannina for a glimpse into Greece’s Islamic history.
If you have any questions about this Athens 2-day itinerary please let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to help you.