Athens’s Bucket List: 20 Things You Shouldn’t Miss cover - Global Storybook

Athens’s Bucket List: 20 Things You Shouldn’t Miss

Marsa Louloudi

Marsa Louloudi

Marsa Louloudi is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Greece).

Marsa has studied Sociology with the purpose of becoming a social hero, with a superwoman outfit, but eventually she realized that red & blue were not her colors. Since then, she has found comfort in cinemas, and in consuming a ton of popcorn.

In another universe she works hard as a rock-band groupie. She loves talking about pop art, traveling, TV-series, and the strange syndromes. Her happy place is a quiet room with a piece of paper and a pencil.
Marsa Louloudi

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If you are going to live up to your myth of Greece, you will probably want to visit Athens.  Our capital city is a mixture of ancient culture, important historic ruins, and of course modernism.  Economic crisis and tough political circumstances are intertwined here with the famous Greek ‘free-spirit’ and a general attitude of nonchalance.  The coffee places are always crowded with locals enjoying the sun 12 months out of a year.

So let’s make a list of the top things that you definitely shouldn’t miss here in Athens, whether it’s your first visit or an annual escapade.

1. Visit Parthenon and the Acropolis

One of the most famous monuments in the world, the Doric temple of Parthenon, stands completely synonymous with the Ancient Greek history.  Designed by Ictinus and Kallicrates, it was built entirely with white Pentelic marble and it took more than 15 years to complete.  Parthenon is dedicated to goddess Athena.

Crowned by Parthenon, Acropolis – the symbol of Athens, is the most important ancient site in the Western world, and it will certainly move even the most demanding travelers.

Acropolis, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Hours: April – October: 8am – 8pm ; November – March: 8am – 5pm
  • Price: adults: 20€, concessions: 10€, children: free
  • Website: http://odysseus.culture.gr

2. Visit the Acropolis Museum

You just can’t finish your Acropolis experience without visiting the Acropolis Museum.  Τhe modern building located on Dionysiou Aeropagitou street, one of the most beautiful streets in town, will definitely catch your attention.  On the inside you will find the surviving treasures from the ancient Greek history.

The collection covers the Acropolis of the 5th century B. C., as well as the Archaic and Roman periods.  Upstairs you will find a nice surprise – a good value for the money restaurant, with an incredible view. (Because you deserve a good glass of wine while you are still mentally processing the masterpieces that you just saw).

Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Location: Dionysiou Aeropagitou 15
  • Hours: Monday: 8am – 4pm, Tuesday – Sunday 8am – 10pm, Friday: 9am – 5pm
  • Price: Adults: 5€, Children: free entrance
  • Website: http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/

3. Explore the Monastiraki’s Flea Market on a Sunday Morning

Sunday is always a special day in Athens and particularly in Monastiraki.  People come here from all over the city to buy/sell their products in the Monastiraki’s flea market.  You can find pretty much anything here – from old paintings to tea sets, antiques to stamp collections, second-hand books, clothes, and even some weird things.  It can get pretty crowded, so brace yourself for this experience.

Monastiraki flea market, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

Photo © Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com

  • Location: Monastiraki square
  • Hours: Sunday: 8am – late afternoon

4. Buy a Pair of Ancient Greek Sandals

Trust them, sandals, Jackie O and John Lennon even did once.  They are very comfortable and a total value for money.  Also, a must-have according to Pinterest and the modern fashion bloggers.

Greek sandals, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

5. Visit Stavros Niarchos Foundation

Opened in 2016, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a 210,000 square meters multi-purpose building, which includes the National Library, National Opera, several parks and other facilities.  This is a perfect place for walks, picnics and a well-spent quality time with friends and family.  During Summer, the locals enjoy free music concerts and movie nights, with a drive-in theater.  There are numerous things to do here and you can also see some temporary art exhibitions.  When the sun comes down, the whole place looks magical, so maybe you should visit it twice.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

6. Try an Alternative Walking Tour

There are a ton of alternative walking tours in Athens, organized by local musicians, architects, photographers, and others, with a purpose to teach you about this city, from their native point of view.  You can also either choose a foot or a bicycle tour.  If you are a “hipster traveler”, make sure that you have a fully charged camera because you might spot a bunch of fun graffiti walls and urban exhibits.

Athens, Greece - Global Storybook7. Eat a “Koulouri”

You can’t spend a day in Athens like a local, without trying a traditional koulouri.  Freshly baked and simply delicious – it’s a must, enough said.

Koulouri, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

8. Visit the National Garden

In this 285 acres public park you can find 15,000 species of plants.  With 38 acres of greenery featuring a small zoo, a duck pond and a Botanical Garden, it is a definite must.  During the Spring and Summer seasons, the locals spend a lot of their free time here, practicing outdoors yoga, enjoying a picnic and or just tanning.

National Garden, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Location: Amalias 1
  • Hours: 6am – 7:30pm
  • Price: Free entrance

9. Take a Lunch Break at Telis

This is the perfect place for the meat lovers.  Telis has been serving deliciousness and simplicity since 1978.  You don’t have to ask for a menu, because there is no menu there, just a set meal: a delightful mountain of charcoal-grilled pork chops, served with fries and one of the most epic Greek salads that you will ever taste in Athens.

pork gyro

  • Location: Euripidou 86
  • Price: 10-20€
  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 8am – 2pm

10. Go on a Self-Walking Tour Around Plaka 

Plaka is an old historic neighborhood of Athens, with narrow labyrinth-like streets and stunning neoclassical architecture.  It is known as “the neighborhood of the Gods” because of its short distance from Acropolis as well as the numerous archeological sites found in here.  Strolling around the small shops and cafes you will feel like a character from a Woody Allen movie.  And for the record – many movies were filmed in the area.

Plaka, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook11. Order a Souvlaki at Elvis

Named for Elvis Presley, this small rock’n’roll eatery is a must-see (and a must-taste).  The staff is very friendly and the souvlaki… is out of this space.  The high-quality meat is served with french fries and a small delicious pitta bread (a la NYC-style).  Pick up a beer and enjoy your meal.

Souvlaki, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Location: Plataion 29, Metaxourgeio
  • Hours: noon – 5am
  • Price: 1.5€ per souvlaki stick
  • Contact: 210-3455836

12. Explore the Exarcheia

Located between the University of Athens and the Politechnion, the Exarcheia neighborhood offers a hipster market with record shops, vegan stands, comic books, and some awesome miniature stores.  Here’s where you will find a mix of characters, from Greek families, immigrants, to students to anarchists.  You can also have a drink at the central square, as locals do, in the afternoon.

Exarcheia, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook13. Grab a Drink at A for Athens

This terrace with its breathtaking panoramic views of Acropolis and the amazing cocktails, is a perfect place to end your day in the city.  For sunset lovers, it is an absolute must-see.

Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Location: Miaouli 2
  • Hours: 9am – 3pm
  • Contact: 210-3244244

14. Enjoy a Concert at Odeon of Herodes Atticus

This large amphitheater was built in the 161 A.C. by a wealthy Roman, Herodes Atticus, in memory of his beloved wife Regilla.  There are a lot of music and theatre performances that take place here during the Summer.  It’s a very important monument and you will feel like a Greek God on the inside.  If you are lucky and there is a full moon – the experience will be unforgettable!

Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Location: Dionisiou Aeropagitou
  • Contact: 210-3241807

15. Have a Sugar Crash at Nancy’s Sweet Home

Juicy chocolate pies, strawberry tarts, oriental Kazan dibi, masticha creams and the Greek traditional treats are awaiting you at the most relaxed pastry shop in the heart of the city.  Extra tip: ask for a buffalo ice-cream, it’s a great match with any sweet you may choose.

Nancy sweet idea, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

  • Location: Irwwn Square 1
  • Hours: 8am – 3:30pm
  • Contact: 210-3211323

16. Spend a Day at the Southern

The Southern part of the city is known as the California of Athens.  At Marina Floisvou you will see a lot of palm trees, locals going for a jog, kids with bikes and rollers.  You will also discover crystal clear beaches, crowded from May until the end of September, some luxury resorts and some huge cafes and bars in front of the beach.

Just a 45-minute drive from here (and an epic one at that), is the historical Cape of Sounion with the Temple of Poseidon, which can easily rival the Acropolis.  It’s a truly underrated monument, though not by the locals.

Temple of Poseidon, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook17. Watch the Syntagma Square’s Guards Change Their Shift

At the Syntagma Square, right in front of the Greek Parliament building, you can find the guards dressed in traditional costumes (also known as euzones).  They change their shifts every hour, in front of the Unknown soldier monument.  On Sundays, at 11am they are also accompanied by a national band.  Extra tip: bring a loaf of bread with you to feed the local pigeons.

Syntagma square guards change, Athens, Greece - Global Storybook

Photo © milosk50/Shutterstock.com

  • Location: Syntagma Parliament
  • Hours: 24/7

18. Enjoy an Ice-Cream at Le Greche 

This small gelato shop is a handmade ice-cream heaven.  Pistachio flavor is to die for, bergamot peel and aperol are also worth a try.

ice cream

  • Location: Mitropoleos 16
  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 8:30am – 1am; Friday: 8:30am – 2am; Saturday-Sunday: 10am-2am
  • Contact: 216-7006458

19. Cocktail O’clock at Noel Bar

This bar’s popular slogan is: “where it’s always Christmas”.  But there is no dress code, so leave your Santa costume at home.  The cozy atmosphere filled with period furniture and some impressive chandeliers, makes it a perfect place to enjoy some of the most creative cocktails in Athens.  Music is mostly jazz, with a mixture from the 80’s and 90’s.  You can also enjoy a cup of coffee here, in the morning.

cocktails

20. Bouzoukia (Opa Opa)

Finally, don’t even think of visiting Athens without spending at least one night as most Greek people do.  In the past, a bouzoukia normally stayed open from Monday to Sunday, but since the start of the economic crisis you can currently visit it from Friday to Sunday only.

There are numerous places, as well as fantastic Greek singers that you can choose from.  Make sure to have a good night rest the day before, because the music program starts at midnight and ends in the wee hours of the morning (so don’t forget a pair of sunglasses)!  In a bouzoukia you will feel it in your bones the so-called Greek “kefi” when you’ll see numerous women dancing on tables, as well as a ton of flowers spread on the stage (which are a tribute to the lead singer).

Greek dance

  • Hours: 12am-6am
  • Price: 100-180€ per 4 persons

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