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3 Days in Athens Itinerary: A Complete Guide

3 Days in Athens Itinerary: A Complete Guide

This 3 days in Athens itinerary will cover everything you need to know for your trip to Athens including transportation, where to stay in Athens, the best things to do in Athens, and where to eat the best Greek food in Athens.

Athens has long been a city that I have dreamed of visiting and after spending a week wandering the streets, seeing the Acropolis up close, learning about the history of this incredible place, and eating piles of lamb chops and blocks of feta every night, I feel like I have plenty to help you fill three days in Athens.

How Many Days in Athens?

Three days in Athens will allow you to see all of the best things to do, the historical sites in the historic center, and try some fantastic Greek food.

If you want to explore more of Athens in-depth, a fourth day would allow a good amount of time to see more and five days would allow you to see pretty much all of the best attractions in Athens as well as dine at the best restaurants in the city.

With any extra days in Athens, you could do a day trip to Corinth or visit one of the islands that is close to the port like Hydra or Aegina.

Best Time of Year to Visit Athens

Since most people tend to visit Athens as part of a larger Greece trip to some of the islands, the most popular time of year to visit Athens is the summer. In particular, the busiest time of year is in July and August.

However, Athens is very hot in the summer months. So while you may want to add it to your island-hopping adventures around Greece, it’s worth noting that it can reach extremes of 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit (32-37 degrees Celsius).

If you want to explore Athens as part of a larger trip around mainland Greece and visit places like Delphi, Thessaloniki, and Meteora, then the best time of year to visit is in Spring or Autumn.

At this time of year, temperatures range from 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit (16-25 Celsius). You can enjoy the Acropolis and other archeological sites without sweating through your clothes or needing to find shade (of which there is little).

cat sitting on the ground with spray painted door behind it.

One of the many cats in Athens.

How to Get to Athens Greece

Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, (Code: ATH) is a large international airport located about 45 minutes from the center of Athens.

There are direct flights to Athens Airport from hubs all over Europe including London, Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid, and even my local airport in Vilnius.

Throughout the week there are a few international flights from Washington DC, Montreal, and New York as well as a few other larger North American Airlines. I always use Kiwi to search for flights and that way I can search specifically for non-stop or 1-stop flights.

If you are traveling from other parts of Athens, the bus network is reliable and affordable, if not a bit confusing and difficult to navigate. Check out Omio to find the most up-to-date details on the buses that are available and their timetables.

Finally, there is a train network in Greece that operates mostly between a few major hubs and it is quite inexpensive and easy to use. Again, I use Omio or Trainline for most of my European train bookings and you can search their network here.

The train station in Athens is not right in the center, but it is close to a metro station that you can use to get to your hotel easily.

Getting Around Athens

The metro system in Athens is (mostly) clean, affordable, and easy to navigate.

I simply use Google Maps to figure out where I want to go.

You put in the location of the hotel, museum, or restaurant you want to go to and then click directions, and then use the picture of the train, and Google Maps will show you the public transportation route to take to get where you want to go. It will even tell you what time the train leaves and walking directions to the nearest station.

You can buy the metro card inside any station at any of the machines. They have multiple languages available including English, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and of course Greek. 

Once you select your language, you can choose a 90-minute, two 90-minute tickets, five 90-minute tickets, 11 90-minute tickets, a 24-hour ticket, or a 5-day ticket.

Although there is no three-day ticket, if you are going to be in Athens for three days, the 5-day ticket is probably better value than continuously buying 24-hour tickets (unless you will not be using the metro very much).

Every person needs to have their own ticket. Even if you buy a multi-trip ticket, you cannot share the card with anything.

If you want to go on day trips or move on from Athens from here, the best option is to rent a car. If you do not have a European driver’s license, you will need to make sure that you have an international driver’s license in order to rent in Greece. 

I always use RentalCars.com to find my car rentals around the world. You can specify if you want manual or automatic and they tend to always have the cheapest prices available. Search rental cars in Greece here.

athens metro tickets

Athens metro tickets.

Where to Stay in Athens

There are so many fantastic hotels and apartments to choose from in Athens. 

If you are only visiting for three days, you probably won’t want to self-cater very much and a hotel will be a great option for you. And if you are visiting in the summer months, you’ll love the rooftop pool options available around the city.

If you plan to stay in Athens for more than three days or you want the option to self-cater while you are visiting, check out apartments on Plum Guide. They have the best selection of luxury and mid-range options. See all of the options here.

Budget

  • Bedbox Athens is a cute and clean hostel located close to awesome restaurants and bars in the Psiri neighborhood of Athens and a close walk to the metro and Monastiraki Square. Beds in a 6-person dorm start at $18 USD per night. Book a stay at Bedbox Athens here.
  • Iconic Athens Hostel is a very cool and modern hostel located to the west of the city center close to the metro and within walking distance of the Kerameikos archeological site. Beds in a dorm room start at $19 USD per night. Book a stay at Iconic Athens Hostel here.

Mid-Range

Luxury

  • Xenodocheio Milos is a 5-star hotel that is located right in the center of the city. The rooms are immaculate and very comfortable. The on-site restaurant is spectacular and the rooftop views are only made better by hopping inside the jacuzzi that sits atop it. Rooms start at $250 USD per night. Book a stay at Xenodocheio Milos here.
  • Coco-Mat Athens BC is a gorgeous boutique hotel with a rooftop pool and incredible views back over the city. The rooms are stylish with the bathtubs a particularly wonderful addition. There’s a fitness center, a sauna, and a seriously great breakfast served each morning. Rooms start at $165 USD per night. Book a stay at Coco-Mat here.
  • Hotel Grande Bretagne is part of the Luxury Collection hotel group and it delivers luxury at every corner. Located near Syntagma Square, you are at the center of everything great to see, do, and eat in Athens. The rooms are grand and beautifully decorated and the pool is so wonderful you’ll have to remind yourself that you’re in Athens to explore not simply to enjoy this hotel. Rooms start at $335 USD per night. Book a stay at the Grande Bretagne here.

3 Days in Athens Map

3 Days in Athens Itinerary Day One

The first thing you need to do on day one of your 3 days in Athens is to purchase the combined ticket

This ticket costs €30 (about $33 USD) and includes seven different archaeological sites around Athens, one of which is the Acropolis.

You can pre-purchase the tickets for a slight additional fee here on Get Your Guide. This includes a skip-the-line ticket (which doesn’t really mean anything to be honest). However, it does mean that you can go straight to the entrance of the Acropolis first thing in the morning and you don’t have to get in line for a ticket.

If you do not want to pre-purchase your combination ticket, you can purchase it from any of the seven sites that are part of the ticket. Those sites include:

  • Ancient Agora
  • Roman Agora
  • Temple of Zeus
  • Aristotle’s School
  • Hadrian’s Library
  • Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery
  • Acropolis

Whatever option you choose, I highly recommend purchasing your ticket from any of the other six archeological sites that are not the Acropolis.

This is where everyone in Athens goes to get their ticket (most people don’t bother going to any of the other sites). So the line to purchase tickets here is always, by far, the longest. If that’s what you choose to do, swap days one and two around and you’ll still get to see the best of everything.

acropolis with blue skies and lots of people in front of it

Parthenon, Athens.

Acropolis

The Acropolis is one of the most popular Athens attractions and should be at the top of your Athens itinerary.

Acropolis in Greek means the highest point of the town.

The first traceable inhabitants of this high hill built their palaces here in the 14th Century BC. Very little of that civilization can be seen at the acropolis today.

Over the centuries, the Acropolis has been home to places of worship, fortresses, and royal palaces.

Now you will find several buildings’ remains including the magnificent Parthenon, the Propylaea which was an enormous entryway to the Acropolis and which you will walk under on your way to the top, and the incredible Erechtheion.

The Erechtheion is most well known for the Caryatid, the pillars that are carved to look like maidens that hold up the side of the building. 

If you want to explore the Acropolis with a guide, you can book a tour like this one which includes your entry ticket as well as a stop for local Greek food to finish the tour. Book that tour here.

This Get Your Guide tour with a local guide is a cheaper option and only includes entrance to the museum and a wonderful multi-lingual guide to take you around the Acropolis. Groups are kept small so that you can ask questions and get a more personal touch. Book that Acropolis tour here.

acropolis building in athens

Erechtheion, Acropolis.

Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum is not included in the combination ticket, however, it is well worth visiting if you are interested in the history of Athens.

The entry ticket costs €10 per person and can be pre-booked right on the museum website here.

The museum is packed with many of the most well-preserved columns, carvings, and sculptures that were discovered at the Acropolis. There is a wonderful video on the top floor that you can watch and learn all about how it was built and what it would have looked like at the Golden Age of Athens.

There are tour options that include both the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum with a guide and all tickets covered. This Get Your Guide tour includes both as well as a local guide for $100 per person. Book the tour and tickets for both sites here.

Explore Plaka

Located at the base of the Acropolis is the neighborhood known as Plaka. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens and is now one of the most beautiful.

You can wander the pedestrian streets (and the narrow streets that perhaps feel like they should be pedestrian but aren’t). There are a few nice restaurants that line the street here, but try to walk a little bit further for some of the best food (in my humble opinion) in Athens.

The main street in Plaka is called Adrianou and walking along here is a nice way to see all of the beautiful boutique shops (stop for some souvenirs!) as well as to do some “restaurant shopping” for later in the evening. Most restaurants have their menus outside so that you can check if there is something on there that sounds good.

greek salad

Greek salads come with a whole lot of feta.

Lunch in Athens

If you started the day early, you will likely have managed to see both the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum in about 4-5 hours. If you got a later start to the morning, maybe you’ll want to stop for lunch in between the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum.

Either way, these spots are all well worth checking out. These are all of the lunch spots I recommend for the entire 3 days in Athens itinerary so I won’t list them again below.

Click the links to see their location on Google Maps and save them on your maps so you can easily find them when you are exploring Athens.

  • Kostas – This is one of the most famous places to have souvlaki in the center of Athens. The beef was my personal favorite, but they also have pork. There are a few tables, but otherwise, it’s easy to eat on the go. This place does seem to close for most of August, but if you are visiting outside of the summer months, it’s exceptional.
  • Hoocut – This place does fantastic souvlaki and has a lot more seating than Kostas. They have several souvlaki and kebab options to choose from. Grab a table, look over the menu, then order at the counter.
  • O Thanasis – This is a large and very popular spot for Greek food. The kebabs are what makes them famous, but they also have great Greek salads, mousaka, and stuffed tomatoes.
  • The Traditional – This is probably one of my favorite restaurants in Athens regardless of the time of day. They make grilled meat unlike any I’ve ever tasted. Huge thick slices of pork or beef cooked to utter perfection on a flaming barbecue. If you like juicy grilled meat, you’ll love this spot, too. It’s open for lunch and dinner and the prices are incredibly reasonable.
  • Zisis – This little restaurant is one of the best lunchtime seafood spots. They serve up lots of fried seafood which you can have to go in a little cone. However, I recommend having their whole grilled fish, their potato salad, or some of their other grilled seafood options which are all spectacular in flavor and price.
souvlaki lined up on the grill cooking

Souvlaki grilling at Kostas.

Lycabettus Hill

After relaxing in your hotel for a little while and resting from the heat if needed, head over to Lycabettus Hill.

There is a cable car that takes you nearly to the top which operates every day of the year from 9:00 am until 1:30 am and costs €10 for a roundtrip or €7 each way. It operates roughly every 30 minutes but tends to be more often in the summer months when it is busy.

If you have the energy, you can skip the cable car and walk to the top. From the base, it only takes about 20 minutes and offers some really wonderful views along the way.

At the top of the hill, there is a restaurant where you can sit for a sunset drink. There is also a church, the Church of Saint George which you can go inside. It’s quite small, but like many Orthodox Churches in Greece, has ornate and colorful paintings.

The views from the top are the real reason to come up here and sunset is so popular because just as it goes dark, the Acropolis comes to life. It is lit at night and Lycabettus Hill is one of the best places to take it in.

See the location of Lycabettus Hill on Google Maps here

views from lycabettus hill with man and woman in photo

Top of Lycabettus Hill.

Dinner in Athens

It’s hard to choose the best places to eat when you only have three days in Athens, but these are my top picks if you only have a limited amount of time. If you don’t get the chance to visit The Traditional for lunch on one of your 3 days in Athens, be sure to head there for dinner.

These are my recommendations for all 3 days in Athens and you can click the name of each to see their location on Google Maps.

  • Το Στέκι Του Ηλία – If you only go to one restaurant on this list it should be this one. This place was one of the most memorable meals I had in Athens and after exploring the islands for a few weeks, this was my last meal in Greece before I flew home. It’s all about the lamb chops here and you can order them by the kilo. Half a kilo was more than enough for my boyfriend and me. They can take a while to cook, so be sure to enjoy some mezze beforehand. Their salads are all excellent and the tzatziki and grilled peppers are also fantastic. 
  • Μπριζολάδικο ΤΕΛΗΣ – This is an absolute local spot that serves up a few simple dishes very well. The main event here is the pork chops which are served on top of freshly fried French fries. One portion is more than enough for two people. Be sure to also order the tomato sauce which is really like one big blended-up Greek Salad with tomatoes, pickled chilis (not spicy), and feta cheese.  
  • Oinopoleion – This is a great option along a street full of really great options. Psiri is known as one of the most popular neighborhoods for bars and restaurants and you can stumble into any of the places along this street for a good meal. This one stands out for its lovely back garden which despite the restaurant looking empty from the front, is usually packed with people. The menu here has tons of great traditional Greek options as well as delicious grilled meats.
meal of pork chops, sauce and fries on a table with mans arm

The pork chops and tomato sauce at the Greek restaurant listed above.

3 Days in Athens Itinerary Day Two

Day 2 of your 3 days in Athens will include lots of the other archaeological sites that are included on your combination ticket.

Monastiraki Square

This square is a good place to start the day. You can grab the metro to this station or walk if you are staying nearby. From here you can explore the Monastiraki Flea Market which is really just a narrow pedestrian street lined with vendors on both sides.

This is a good spot to pick up some cheap souvenirs like t-shirts, magnets, or keychains. This is likely to be the cheapest area to find those sorts of souvenirs.

monastiraki square in athens greece

Monastiraki Square.

Ancient Agora of Athens

After the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora of Athens is one of the most popular archeological sites to explore in Athens. 

From the 6th until the 1st century BC, the Agora was the center of government. It was home to healthy debates and judiciary decisions. It was a place of worship and it was a marketplace.

It’s now a wonderful place to explore the ruins and there is a museum on-site where you can learn more about the different activities that took place here over the centuries.

Ancient Agora of Athens with a view of the Acropolis in the background

Ancient Agora of Athens.

Hadrian’s Library

As the name suggests, this library wasn’t built by the Greeks, but by the Roman Emperor Hadrian back in 132 AD.

At the time it was the largest library in Athens and was home to important literary works, and legal and administrative documents, and it was also a place where people could come to hear lectures.

There are signs around the site with explanations in both Greek and English that also have drawings of what some of the buildings used to look like. 

Roman Forum of Athens

The Roman Agora or Roman Forum is another site that is included on the combination ticket and is well worth exploring. It was built between 19-11 BC and includes the incredibly beautiful Gate of Athena.

The Gate of Athena was once the entrance to the Roman Agora and was built in 11BC. From here you can look up at the Acropolis while surrounded by the Doric columns and it’s in these moments you really feel like you are truly somewhere special.

From here you’ll probably want to take a rest and either head back to your hotel or head to one of the restaurants listed above for a lunch break.

roman agora of athens with a woman in the front of the photo.

Roman Agora of Athens.

Ermou Street

Ermou Street is pedestrian in part and is well worth wandering along. It is the main shopping street in the center of Athens where you’ll find big names like H&M, Zara, and Sephora.

However, you’ll also find smaller local shops, a few supermarkets, and a very old Byzantine Church called Holy Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary.

It is said to be one of the oldest churches in Athens and has some incredible paintings inside. It is free to visit and open most of the day. 

Archeological Site of Kerameikos

Kerameikos is a neighborhood to the west of the city center and is an interesting place to walk around if you have the energy for yet more walking. 

Kerameikos means ceramics and it used to be where the potters of the city lived. However, the main reason to come to this part of town now is for the archeological site of the same name.

Kerameikos was once the largest cemetery in all of Greece. Wandering the site and reading the different plaques tells a story of how the Ancient Greeks treated their beloved both in life and in death.

There is a small museum that also shows some of the different relics that have been discovered at this site over the last few decades. 

kerameikos archeological site

Kerameikos, Athens.

3 Days in Athens Itinerary Day Three

It’s your last day in Athens and there is still so much to see! 

If you haven’t had a chance to sample a good Greek bakery yet, be sure to check out ΑΡΙΣΤΟΝ ΛΟΜΠΟΤΕΣΗ.

They make the best spanikopita or cheese pie that I ate during my entire month in Greece. The spinach and feta is particularly spectacular.

Panathenaic Stadium

The world’s only stadium made entirely out of marble, the Panathenaic Stadium is also home to the world’s first modern Olympic Games which took place in 1896.

As a lover of the Olympics, this was a really special place for me to visit. If you like to run, you can come here in the morning between 7:00 and 9:00 and run around the track for free.

However, I highly recommend paying the €10 entrance fee which includes an audioguide and taking the audio tour around the stadium.

panathaneic stadium in athens greece with two people standing at the center of the photo

Panathaneic Stadium.

Archeological Site of the Lyceum of Aristotle

Of all of the archeological sites included on the combination ticket, this is the one that requires the most imagination.

The Lyceum was a school of philosophy that was established in 334 BC by Aristotle.

As my boyfriend and I walked along the paths reading the plaques about what facets of education the Ancient Greeks held most dearly (free-thinking, questioning society, physical fitness, team and community sports) it was quite incredible to imagine that Aristotle himself walked this very landscape with his students and that was the most incredible part about the visit for me personally.

If that’s not up your street, you may want to simply skip this one as it’s kind of out of the way of the other archeological sites.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

The last of the archeological sites included on the combination ticket is the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

This temple has a long history of many rulers over the centuries attempting to create the largest temple in the ancient world. It was never fully completed, but at its best it was indeed one of the largest temples of its kind with 28 columns. Only 15 still remain standing but it is still pretty grand.

Pay particular attention to the column that is on its side, broken into several pieces. That column fell in 1852 and has remained on its side ever since.

Surrounding the temple are a few Roman ruins including a Roman bath area which is still visible.

column upright and one column on the ground in pieces

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Hadrian’s Arch

Just outside the entrance to the Temple of Zeus is another site worth stopping for and that’s Hadrian’s Arch or Hadrian’s Gate. 

When it was built it spanned one of the main roads in Athens that led to the city center. The arch was constructed sometime between 131 and 132 AD as a way to honor the Roman Emperor Hadrian for all the good things he did for the city of Athens.

changing of the guards ceremony in athens

Changing of the guards ceremony.

Visiting Athens on a Sunday?

If one of your days during your 3 days in Athens falls on a Sunday, then make sure you don’t miss the changing of the guard’s ceremony.

The changing of the guards actually takes place every hour on the hour in front of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, but on Sundays, it is a full-on event. 

At 11:00 AM on Sunday, stand in front of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier (find a spot on the partition of the road in front of it for the best view).

There is a band that plays and an entire group of marching soldiers that come marching. 

The soldiers on guard at the Monument here are required to stand still for an entire hour without moving a single muscle. When it is time for the guards to change, they move very slowly before rejoining the marching soldiers.

Their uniforms are also a wonderful thing to see. Notice the folds in their shirts. There are 400 of them to signify the 400 years that the Greeks were under Ottoman rule. The shoes each individually weigh 5 kilograms or 11 pounds!