With this 2 day Athens itinerary, explore ancient Greek and Roman ruins, enjoy the view from a rooftop restaurant, go shopping, get a history lesson at one of several world-class museums, and of course, visit the amazing Acropolis.
Sites such as the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, Ancient Agora, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus draw big crowds. The last thing you want to do is to spend your valuable time waiting in line. In this Athens itinerary, we share tips on how to skip the ticket lines and avoid the crowds so that you can have the best experience.
Athens Itinerary: Day 1
The Heart of Athens
Your first of 2 days in Athens focuses on the main sites located around the Acropolis, ancient Greek and Roman sites that are over 2000 years old. You will also visit the Acropolis Museum, do a little shopping, and enjoy the view from one or two rooftop restaurants and bars. At the end of the day, you have the option to visit the Acropolis.
This is a big walking day. You will walk 5 miles, not including the amount of walking you will do inside of museums, historical sites, etc.
How to Use This Map:Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
The Acropolis Museum is an archeological museum that houses the artifacts found on the Acropolis and the surrounding slopes. This is a great place to visit before you step foot on the Acropolis because you learn about the history behind the Parthenon, Erechtheion, and other temples and sanctuaries on the Acropolis.
Acropolis Museum | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
The museum opens at 8 am and tickets cost €10 during the summer months (April through October). If you get here at or near opening time, lines should be short, so I do not think that it is necessary to purchase your tickets in advance. However, if you think you might arrive at 9 am or later, purchase your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in the ticket line. You can also purchase a museum entrance ticket with access to the ancient excavation through GetYourGuide.
A visit to the Acropolis Museum lasts one to two hours.
Kerameikos is an area of Athens that served as potter’s quarters and an ancient cemetery. It’s also one of the least visited sites on the combination ticket, making this one of the best places to buy the combination ticket.
We spent about 30 minutes walking among the excavations.
Kerameikos | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
The Combination Ticket. For €30, you can purchase a combination ticket that gets you admission into the Acropolis, Kerameikos, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Aristotle’s Lyceum.
If you plan to visit the Acropolis and two additional sites, the ticket pays for itself. It costs €20 for summer admission into the Acropolis. For just 10 more euros, you get admission into six additional sites.
The real bonus is that the combination ticket allows you to skip the ticket line at each of these sites (except at your first site, where you purchase the ticket). This can literally save you up to an hour at the Acropolis and 10 to 20 minutes at each additional site.
You can buy your combination ticket at the first site you visit or you can purchase it online in advance. The combination ticket is valid for 5 days. For this Athens itinerary, I highly recommend purchasing the Combination ticket.
Note: If Kerameikos looks boring to you, skip it. Honestly, of all of the ancient sites we visited, Kerameikos was the least interesting. Most likely, you will have to wait in line at one of the next sites we mention to purchase the combination ticket, but it will still be faster than exploring Kerameikos, even if just for a few minutes.
Getting Here from the Acropolis Museum: To get here you will need to take the metro. Get on the metro at Acropoli, next to the Acropolis Museum. Thissio station is the closest to Kerameikos (5-minute walk to Kerameikos), but you will need to change trains two times. Kerameikos station is a bit farther (8-minute walk to Kerameikos) but it might actually be faster since you only have to change trains once (at Syntagma).
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Before our trip to Athens, I installed the Athens Sbwy app onto my iPhone. This is a free but very basic map of the metro system in Athens. It comes in handy if you plan to use the metro a lot, especially if you also plan to take the metro to the airport or Piraeus port.
More Ancient Greek and Roman Sites
Not far from Kerameikos are three more important sites to visit: the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, and Hadrian’s Library. All three of these sites are on the combination ticket.
Depending on how quickly you move, you may want to take a break before or while visiting these three sites. They are all located near each other, along with the restaurant that we recommend for lunch.
For lunch, we recommend A for Athens, an awesome rooftop restaurant in Athens. The views over Monastiraki Square, the Ancient Agora, and the Acropolis are amazing and definitely one of the best views in the city. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The view from A for Athens | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
For 5,000 years, this area was used as a marketplace, gathering place, and residential area. The ground of this large site is littered with the ruins of buildings and walkways.
Ancient Agora | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
Located in the Ancient Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved Greek temples. It was constructed in the 5th century BC to honor the god Hephaestus, the patron god of fire, metal working, and craftsmanship.
Next, walk to Hadrian’s Library. This was constructed in 132 AD under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was built to house rolls of papyrus books.
Hadrian’s Library | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
Located just a short distance away from Hadrian’s Library is the Roman Agora. This market and collection of buildings was built in the first century BC during the rule of Julius and Augustus Caesar. The main entrance is through the Gate of Athena. The Tower of the Winds is considered to be the world’s first meteorological center, featuring a sundial, water clock, and wind vane.
Roman Agora | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
Spend the early afternoon wandering the streets of Plaka, one of the best places in Athens to go shopping. This neighborhood stretches from the Acropolis to Syntagma Square.
Ermou Street is a pedestrian street lined with popular stores like H&M, Sephora and Mango. The older and more interesting streets are located closer to the Acropolis. The Anafiotika area is a charming, older section of Plaka with narrow, photogenic streets and shops.
While you are here, don’t miss the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, one of the oldest churches in Athens.
On this 3-hour walking tour, visit Plaka and Anafiotika with a local guide and visit the Acropolis.
If you get hungry, it’s just a short walk to Smak, our favorite restaurant in Athens. This tiny place serves pizza and peinirli, a delicious boat-shaped Greek pizza. Each little pizza costs less than €5 so they make a great snack or cheap meal.
Syntagma Square and the Monument of the Unknown Soldier
From Plaka, it’s a short walk to Syntagma Square, a large, bustling, busy square.
Located in Syntagma Square near the Hellenic Parliament Building is the Monument of the Unknown Solder. This is a war memorial that is dedicated to the Greek soldiers who died in war. Every hour there is a changing of the guard and the most elaborate display takes place at 11 am on Sunday when a group of soldiers march to the tomb.
While seeing the changing of the guard is interesting, I don’t think it’s worth your time to wait around for it, especially if you have to wait 30 minutes or longer.
Optional: Panathenaic Stadium
If you are running low on energy, you can give this next site a pass, but we thought it was interesting.
The Panathenaic Stadium dates back to 330 BC. In 144 AD, it was reconstructed in marble by Herodes Atticus.
In 1896, it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics. Then, in 2004, it was used as an Olympic venue. This is also the site of the last exchange of the Olympic torch before it leaves Athens for the host country.
Take a lap around the track, snap a photo on the podium, and marvel at how much history has taken place in this stadium.
Getting Here: From the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, you can get here by walking through the National Garden. It’s a 1 km walk and takes about 15 minutes.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
This is the final stop of the day. The Temple of Olympian Zeus was built to honor Zeus and it was planned to be the greatest temple in the ancient world. However, construction was not completed until the 2nd century AD. Not long after its completion, it was pillaged by a barbarian invasion. Now, fifteen of the original columns still stand.
Temple of Olympian Zeus | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
This temple is included on the combination ticket. To get here, it’s a 10-minute walk from the Panathenaic Stadium and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Sunset Views of the Acropolis
End the day with a sunset view of the Acropolis.
Athens Gate Hotel has a rooftop restaurant that offers 360° views of the area. You can have dinner here or just go for drinks and the view. We had dinner here and thought the food was mediocre for the price, so if we did again, we’d just go for drinks and appetizers, enjoy the view, and get dinner elsewhere (Indian Haveli, located nearby, gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor).
Athens Gate Hotel | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
Athens Gate Hotel is located across the street from the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Another highly rated rooftop restaurant is at the Hotel Grande Bretagne. The views aren’t quite as nice as Athens Gate Hotel but this will be a more upscale experience, since it is a 5-star hotel.
View from Hotel Grande Bretagne | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
For both of these restaurants, make your reservations in advance and request a table with a view of the Acropolis.
Optional: Tours of Athens and Poseidon’s Temple at Sunset
Looking out at the Acropolis over dinner is wonderful but there are also several sunset tours worth mentioning. By bus, travel out to Cape Sounion to explore Poseidon’s Temple at sunset or explore Athens in the evening by e-bike.
Optional: The Acropolis
You have the option to skip the sunset dinner and instead, watch the sunset from the Acropolis. The Acropolis is open until 8 pm from April 1 to October 31 (last admission at 7:30 pm). The last hour of the day is the least crowded time to visit the Acropolis.
Most people visit the Acropolis in 1 to 2 hours. Plan on arriving by 6 or 6:30 pm to give yourself enough time to visit the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the slopes.
Read more about the Acropolis in our article How to Visit the Acropolis and Parthenon.
If you are coming from the Temple of Olympian Zeus, use the side entrance (Acropolis SE Gate) to enter the Acropolis. It is located near the Acropolis Museum and it is usually much less crowded than the main entrance near the Propylaea. Since you have the combination ticket, you can bypass the ticket line, if there is one this late in the day.
Athens Itinerary: Day 2
The Acropolis, Best Views of Athens, & a Museum of Your Choice
If you didn’t visit the Acropolis last night, spend this morning at the Acropolis.
The term “acropolis” refers to the fortified hill. Sitting on and around this hill are several very important sites. The Parthenon is the most famous, but there is also the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysus.
Most of these sites are located on top of the limestone plateau, but several sites sit on the slopes, the southern hillside of the Acropolis. The Theater of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus are found here.
The Acropolis opens at 8 am and I recommend getting here right at 8 am, even though you already have your tickets. The Acropolis starts to get very busy at 8:30 am with big tour groups arriving between 9 am and 10 am. If you want to avoid the worst of the crowds, it’s worth it to roll out of bed early.
For full details on hours, cost, what to see and do at the Acropolis, and more, don’t miss our article How to Visit the Acropolis and Parthenon.
I recommend entering through the side entrance (Acropolis SE Gate). There is a handy metro station nearby (Acropoli).
As you head up to the Propylaea, you will pass the Theater of Dionysis and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Then, spend the rest of your time on top of the Acropolis.
If you like the idea of taking a guided tour of the Acropolis, here are three highly-rated skip-the-line tours that include a guide.
Exit the Acropolis from the main gate and then it’s just a short walk to Areopagus Hill. Also known as Mars Hill, you get one of the most iconic views of the Acropolis from here.
Areopagus Hill | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
From Areopagus Hill, walk downhill to Philopappos Park. From a viewpoint near the Monument of Philopappos, you get an amazing view of the Acropolis, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the southern slopes.
We found a second viewpoint with a slightly different view also in Philopappos Park. Located near the Pnyx and the National Observatory of Athens, this is the view.
For more information on where to get the best views in Athens, read our article Best Views of the Athens and the Acropolis, 9 Great Spots to Try.
Sin Athina is a great restaurant that, guess what, has views of the Acropolis from its rooftop. Have lunch here, or at one of several other nearby restaurants, before moving on.
Three Options for the Afternoon
Depending on your interests, here are three different options for how to spend your afternoon.
Option #1: Archaeological Museum and Psyrri
National Archaeological Museum
This important museum, founded in 1829, houses more than 11,000 exhibits depicting Greek culture over thousands of years. The imposing neoclassical building contains the five major permanent collections as well as temporary exhibits.
Cost: €12 April 1 to October 31; €6 November 1 to March 31
Hours: April 1 to October 31: Tuesday 1:00 pm to 8 pm; Wednesday through Monday 8 am to 8 pm; reduced hours November 1 to March 31
Website: get updated hours, pricing, and purchase a ticket in advance on the official website. You can also purchase skip-the-line tickets here.
Getting Here: The closest metro stations are Omonia and Victoria stations. Both are on the M1 line, the same line as the Thissio station. We took the metro to Omonia station and then it was a 10-minute walk to the museum.
Varvakeios Central Market
From the National Archaeological Museum, it’s a 10-minute walk through a slightly gritty neighborhood to get the Varvakeios Central Market. For sale at this busy market is meat, fruit and vegetables, spices, seafood, and more.
Continue to the funky, eclectic Psyrri neighborhood. Filled with great restaurants, unique bars, a vibrant nightlife, and small boutique shops, this is a very cool spot to go out for dinner and drinks. Wander the maze of streets, go wine tasting at the Cinque Wine & Deli Bar, or have dinner at Lithos Tavern, a cozy restaurant that serves traditional Greek and Mediterranean food.
For those with an interest in street art, this private walking tour with an expert guide takes you to Psyrri, Monastiraki, and other colorful neighborhoods to see the best street art in the city.
Psyrri | 2 Days in Athens Itinerary
Option #2: Benaki Museum and Mount Lycabettus
The Benaki Museum houses Greek works of art from prehistory to modern time, as well as an extensive collection of Asian art. The Benaki family donated their house and their enormous collection of art and artifacts to Greece.
Visit the official website for hours and entrance fees.
Getting Here: Take the metro from Thissio to Syntagma, transferring to line M3 at Monastiraki.
For a sprawling view of Athens and the Acropolis, walk or take the Lycabettus Cable Car to the peak of Mount Lycabettus. From here, you get to see just how big this city is, with the Acropolis proudly rising up in the center from the low, white buildings.
Getting Here: From the Benaki Museum, it is an uphill walk to the cable car station. Or, you can choose to walk all of the way to the top on a paved trail that switchbacks its way up the hill. It’s about a 15-minute walk up this paved trail to the summit.
End the day with dinner and drinks.
Option #3 : Take a Food Tour in Athens
One of the best things to do in Athens is to eat and there are many great food tours in this city. Go wine tasting, take a cooking class, or take a food and wine tour at night with an expert foodie.
Here are a few more ideas:
Getting Around Athens
To get between Athens and the airport, you can take a bus, the metro, or a taxi. You can also book a private transfer in advance.
In this Athens itinerary, you will ride the metro twice. Depending on the location of your hotel, you might use the metro more than this.
You can purchase individual metro tickets for each journey (a good idea if you only plan to use the metro twice, as in this itinerary). You can also purchase a paper ticket that is good for five journeys on the metro (a good idea if you are staying outside of the city center and plan to use the metro to get into town).
There is a 3-day tourist ticket, but this is more than you need for this Athens itinerary. However, if you have more than 2 days in Athens, it might be worth the money.
Click here for an article that explains all of your options.
Consider installing an Athens metro app onto your smartphone. I used the Athens Sbwy app, a free but very basic map of the metro system in Athens.
We used the metro as our primary form of transportation (other than walking) but we did use taxis a few times, too. There is also a hop-on hop-off bus that you can use to get around Athens.
Where to Stay
We have an entire article about where to stay in Athens. Whether you want a hotel room with a view of the Acropolis, a hotel with a rooftop pool, or a budget hotel that gets rave reviews, we have lots of options for you.
Where to Stay in Athens: Best Hotels for Your Budget
Recommended Reading & Travel Guides
Do you have any questions about this 2 days in Athens itinerary? Let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Greece:
PLACES TO GO ATHENS: For a full list of things to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Athens. And don’t miss our guide to the Best Views of Athens & the Acropolis.
GREECE TRAVEL ADVICE: First time in Greece? Here are essential things to know about Greece, from SIM cards to booking the ferries to renting a car.
GREECE ITINERARY: Learn how to visit Athens, Santorini, Naxos and Mykonos in our 10 Day Greece Itinerary.
NAXOS: Learn how to plan your visit to Naxos in our article Best Things to Do in Naxos. We also have information on hiking to Mount Zas, how to hike to Apano Kastro, and a detailed guide to hiking the Village Trail to Melanes, Myli, and the Kouroi.
SANTORINI: For a full list of things to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Santorini. In our Santorini Itinerary, learn how to plan your visit, whether you have 1, 2 or 3 days. In our Santorini Hotel Guide, we list the best hotels in Santorini, organized by location and budget.
TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide. And tips and tricks for taking great photos in our article How to Take Better Photos while Traveling.
Planning a trip to Greece? Read all of our articles in our Greece Travel Guide.
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We are in Naxos now having climbed Mount Zas on your suggestion, heading to Athens tomorrow! Thank you for the “trip planning!”
All the Best,
Awesome!! Have a great time in Athens! Cheers, Julie
MOUNT LYCABETTUS NEEDS TO BE MOVED TO A MUST DO!! The view from there is unparalleled. That may have been the highlight of our (very long) day today!!
I’m glad you enjoyed the view. 😊 It’s a spectacular vantage point of Athens. We do have it listed on day 2 of this itinerary and our Athens Bucket List, for those reading this and making their plans to visit Athens. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Greece! Cheers, Julie
Athens is rich with huge history and culture. You can’t afford to miss that city, if you’re traveling ‘Greece’.
Thanks for your good guide.
Thanks for collating such a wonderful post. Enjoyed thoroughly reading every bit of it. Everything is very nicely explained and covered in detail, making it a lot easier for first time travellers like me to follow, who is planning to visit Athens next week.
I have two questions, hoping it’s not much of a botheration.
1) I have been reading a lot about pickpockets and how people are getting robbed of their things on metros and busy areas. All this have made me paranoid about carrying my camera or taking the metero at all.
Taking pictures for me is of utmost importance but now I feel like some is waiting to snatch away my phone or camera. 🙁
From your experience, did you encounter any such thing ? How safe is it for a tourist and anything one needs to be aware of in particular ?
2) I am planning to buy the combined ticket for the Acropolis and little confused about how it works. If I buy it online can I redeem it at any of the smaller sites and enter them and then do the acropolis ? or is it a better idea to redeem it at the Acroplis entrance itself ? Will I still have to stand in queue for that ?
Looking forward to your suggestions and advice.
Thanks and Regards-
Hello Rajani. We had no issues with pickpockets or robbery and didn’t see any of this going on during our visit (but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen). We walk around with Tyler and Kara, our kids, so I don’t know if this keeps people away from us (although, in Paris, someone did try to pickpocket me even with my kids standing near me, but they didn’t succeed). There are some things you can do to keep yourself safe. Keep your valuables tucked away in a bag. Don’t have anything in your pockets. I wear a purse that I use as a camera bag. It hangs just down in front of me so pickpocketers can’t really get to it. I always keep my camera in the bag unless I am taking a photo. Tim sometimes wears a backpack and on the metros/busy streets he can lock it to avoid pickpocketing. The most likely spot to be pickpocketed is in crowds, like on the metro, as you mentioned. The only place that could feel a little edgy to some people is on the short walk between Omonia metro station and the National Archaeological Museum (take the bus or a taxi to get here instead but we felt fine here).
That’s a good question about the combined ticket. On the official website it states that if you are buying a general admission ticket, then you will get it emailed to you (quote from the website: General admission tickets are automatically issued and sent via e-mail once the transaction is completed. ) However, if you are purchasing reduced admission tickets or free vouchers for kids, you will have to pick these up at your first site. So, we bought ours at the first site, since we would have to wait in line anyway for Tyler and Kara’s tickets. But, if you are only buying tickets for adults (general admission) I am fairly certain that you would immediately receive these by email, so no waiting in a ticket line in Athens.
Thanks for this post. It has great and helpful information! We are planning our trip to Greece for August 2021 (a family of 4 like yours (two kids) and I am a bit confused about the combined ticket for the kids. I read that they can buy the single-ticket with a 50% discount but I did not find information about the combined ticket. I would like to know the details to decide if it would be better to buy them online or on site.
Yes, you can get 50% reduced single tickets but there is not a 50% reduced combination ticket for kids. Because we visited so many sights, and we did not want to wait in line at each of them, we bought the full priced combo ticket for Tyler and Kara. But I think you can order the single reduced tickets online in advance, but they would be for a particular date, so you would have to come up with a set itinerary and not deviate from it. Cheers, Julie