How long should you spend in Athens? This travel guide will show you how many days in Athens is best for first time visitors, and what to see and do.
How Many Days To Spend In Athens?
I'm often asked this question by people planning an Athens visit for the first time. In truth, there's no one answer that suits everyone, as it's really going to depend on what it is you want out of your vacation in Greece.
For the most part, visitors seem to want to see the main ancient sites in Athens such as the Acropolis, and then head out to the islands. As such, I'm going to make a sweeping statement and say that 2 days in Athens is about the best amount of time for first time visitors.The thing is, Athens is a big city, with a lot to see and do. I've lived here over 5 years, and there's still neighborhoods and places I've yet to visit!
So, if you're more of an urban explorer, you could easily extend your time in Athens to 5 days or more.
What to see in Athens
As you might expect of a capital city that has been continuously inhabited for over 3000 years, there's a fair amount to choose from! From archaeological sites to modern street art, Athens is constantly evolving and changing.
Some of the highlights of Athens you should consider visiting and experiencing are:
- The Acropolis
- The Acropolis Museum
- Ancient Agora (and its very good museum)
- The Temple of Zeus
- National Archaeological Museum
- The Streets of Plaka
- Monastiraki Square and Flea Market
- Street Art in Psyri
- The Coffee Scene
- Athens Central Market
- Changing of the Guard
- Museums (there's nearly a hundred of them)!
How many of these things you can do will be down to how many days in Athens you will have.
To help you out, I've included a few useful itineraries for first time visitors to Athens below.
One Day in Athens
If you're visiting Athens as part of a cruise, you may not have much say in how long to visit for. Many cruise ships allow passengers just a day in Athens, and so it's a matter of squeezing in as much as possible during the time you have.
As a result, most people who spend one day in Athens will want to visit the Parthenon and Acropolis, Acropolis museum and a couple of other places of interest should time allow.
I've got a comprehensive travel guide on how to enjoy one day in Athens that includes essential advice such as how to get from Piraeus Port to the center, what to see and more.
You can find the full guide here: Athens in a day
Two Days in Athens
As mentioned previously, I feel that 2 days in Athens is about the right amount of time for first timers to the city. It's long enough to see the main sights, and will leave people who love the city wanting to come back for more.
By spending two days in Athens, you'll need a hotel for one or two nights of course. My advice for a short stay like this, is to stay in or near the historic center. This way, you'll be in walking distance of all the popular attractions and night life.
In addition to the main places of interest mentioned in the one day itinerary, you'll also have time to visit the Agora and Agora museum. Of all the museums in Athens, I think the Agora museum gives the best account of history of not just the Agora, but development of the city.
Other ideas of things to consider for the second day include visiting the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, diving into the central food market, and perhaps take an afternoon tour out to Cape Sounion to see the sunset at the Temple of Poseidon.
You can find a full guide here: Athens in 2 days
Three Days in Athens
If you are visiting Athens for 3 days or more, you might like to consider adding a day trip into your itinerary.
So, assuming that you will keep the two days in Athens itinerary the same, you could then add one of the following trips on day 3:
Of the day trip destinations mentioned above, Delphi, Mycenae, Epidaurus and Meteora are all UNESCO World Heritage sites.
I personally love Delphi, and so would recommend this trip above the others if you are debating which would be best.
I'd only suggest taking the island tour if you are not visiting any other Greek islands during your vacation.
Read here for day trip ideas: Best Athens Day Trips
Read here for: My 3 day Athens itinerary
Four and More Days in Athens
Long term travelers, digital nomads, slowmads, and other people who like to spend longer in each destination they visit will want to look beyond just the main ‘must dos' of Athens. As a result, they may find that Athens is a lot more multi-layered than they first realised!
There's always something new and exciting happening. Whether a new art gallery opening, social initiative, festival, or event, Athens is a hub of creative activity.
For inspiration on taking your immersion into the city to the next level, you may find these Athens city guides useful.
How many days to stay in Athens
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