The ultimate break away for enthusiastic culture vultures, Athens is at the heart of ancient Greece and all its historical gems. Spend 72 hours roaming around ancient ruins, marvelling at some of the oldest objects on earth and experiencing the lifestyle of the population that founded Western Civilisation. From where to stay, to modes of transport, here’s our ultimate guide to 72 hours in Athens, Greece.
Perhaps the most recognisable landmark in Athens, the Acropolis sits above the city and houses some of the most famous ancient ruins in the world. Originally built as a refuge for citizens when the city fell under attack, the ancient citadel is now one of the most visited attractions in the capital and an absolute must-see to add to your list of things to do in Athens. Take the funicular up the hill just before sunset and watch as the city below turns from day to night.
Dominating the hill of the Acropolis, the former temple is one of the world’s most famous buildings. Dedicated to the patron of Athens, the goddess Athena, the rectangular, white marble structure has lost most of its sculptures to damage but the basic foundations are still intact for people to visit. Built in 447 BC, the foundations are made from limestone and the columns from Pentelic marble echoing the Doric order of Classical Greek architecture. With its main purpose being to house the gold and ivory monumental statue of Athena, the most prominent feature of the Acropolis also offers stunning panoramic views over Athens that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else!
3. National Gardens – Leoforos Vasilisis Amalias 1
Located right behind the Greek Parliament, between the districts of Pangrati and Kolonaki, the large public park in the middle of the city centre offers an escape from the craziness of everyday life. Shaded by eucalyptus trees, the area used to be named after Queen Amalais, who made it her mission to care for the gardens and planted the now iconic 25 metre high Washingtonia palm trees at the Amalais Avenue gate. A little oasis amongst the hustle and bustle, make sure to grab a traditional koulouri Thessalonikis – bread rings covered in sesame seeds – from the local vendor outside the gates.
4. Roman Agora – Polignotou 3
North of the acropolis, the ancient ruins of the once bustling open market space are a great sight to see on your visit to Athens. Built in the 1st century BC during the reigns of Caesar Augustus and Julius Caesar, the large open courtyard flanked by columns on all four sides, is home to important landmarks such as the Library of Hadrian. Wander around the space that used to be covered with houses and note the Gate of Athena Archegetis, the former entrance to the market. Visit this place and you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a once thriving ancient civilisation.
5. National Archaeological Museum – 28is Oktovriou 44
Considered one of the greatest museums in the world, the National Archaeological Museum is home to some of the most important ancient artefacts from a variety of civilisations. Founded in 1829, this is the largest of its kind in Greece and is thought to have the largest collection of objects from Greek antiquity across the globe. Just one of those things you’d be stupid to miss out on seeing, the archaeological museum needs to be added to your list immediately!
As the central square of Athens, staying here means access to the hub of public transport and a short walk to most attractions in the city. Set in front of the 19th century Old Royal Palace which houses the Greek Parliament, you will come face to face with history as soon as you walk out the door.
Where to stay? Electra Palace Athens - 18-20 N Nikodimou Street
Nestled on the southern slope of Lycabettus hill, Kolonaki is the stylish shopping hub featuring international labels, museums, galleries and restaurants. A great location to stay in if you’re looking for a few days of retail therapy and fine dining.
Where to stay? St George Lycabettus Lifestyle Boutique Hotel – 2 Kleomenous Street
Seen by locals as Athens’ hippest neighbourhood, the streets of this south-eastern neighbourhood offer up plenty of sights and attractions. Located at the foot of the Acropolis and Filopappoli Hill, the area is brimming with ancient Greek landmarks and a vibrant university campus. Stay here for an authentically Greek experience.
Where to stay? Herodian Athens – 4 Rovertou Galli Street
Centred around Iroon Square, the vibrant, colourful neo-classical neighbourhood is the spot for nightlife in town. Book into Psyri if you’re looking for a weekend of drinking and dancing till dawn.
Where to stay? Fresh Hotel – 26 Sophokleous Street
Athens is a bustling hub for public transport so you will have no problem navigating the city. Look into getting a three day pass, to minimise costs of travelling during your short trip. Choose between the bus, electric trolley-buses, Athens metro, Athens tram and suburban railway.
Planning a visit to the Greek capital soon? Make sure to tag us in your photos of things to do in Athens, Greece, using the hashtag #ryanairstories for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s Instagram feed.
Flights to Athens
- Lucy Norris