Last Updated on April 12, 2023
Athens may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you’re planning a weekend trip, but we think it should be at the top of your list! Athens is a beautiful and unique city that has so much to offer for anyone and everyone who visits. Of course, Athens is probably most well-known for being home to some amazing landmarks that truly make you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time.
Even if you’re not a big history buff, the city also has a thriving arts and culture scene and some great dining and shopping options that make it well worth a weekend visit. This Ultimate 2 Days in Athens Itinerary is perfect for those who will be taking a trip to Athens for the first time and want to experience all of the must-visit spots.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in the below article are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. All opinions on what to do for your 2 days in Athens itinerary are our own. Click here for the full disclosure statement.
Table of Contents
Is Two Days Enough in Athens?
To put it simply: yes and no. For history buffs or lovers of ancient architecture, you could easily spend a week or more in Athens and still not see everything that the city has to offer. For more casual visitors who like to incorporate a little bit of history, adventuring, and shopping, two days is the perfect amount of time for a trip to Athens.
If it’s your first time in Athens, you’ll be delighted to find that you can experience the city’s rich history on virtually every street corner. There are seemingly countless historical landmarks and ruins throughout the city, and you’re sure to discover some just by wandering around. A number of the most famous historical landmarks in Athens are also within walking distance of each other, making it very easy to visit them in just two days.
Is Athens Expensive?
In comparison to many other capital cities in Europe, such as Paris or Rome, Athens is a much more budget-friendly option. How much money you spend during your two days in Athens will largely depend on your choice of accommodations, how often and where you choose to dine, and the number of activities you plan to participate in.
While you can definitely visit Athens on a budget, it certainly isn’t a “cheap” vacation destination. Similar to other tourist hotspots in Greece, such as Mykonos or Santorini, Athens is definitely catered towards tourism which inevitably means higher prices for lodging, dining, and shopping.
What Should I Avoid in Athens?
There tend to be a lot of misconceptions about Greece, and Athens in particular, which unfortunately results in travelers being hesitant to plan a visit. We want to encourage you to look past any negative opinions you may hear and consider a trip regardless! The main tourist areas in Athens are safe and clean, so as long as you exercise common sense and stay aware of your surroundings, there’s no need for concern. We’ve also found the locals to be very friendly and accommodating, and have had some great interactions with them during our time in Athens.
How To Get Around Athens
Walking is a great option for getting around Athens if you want to get a feel for the city and save some money on transportation costs. Athens is a very pedestrian-friendly city and you’ll have no issue exploring it by foot.
For activities or day trips that are a bit further away from the Athens city center, we recommend using Uber. Uber is a very convenient and popular option in Athens, and your feet will definitely thank you!
Another option for getting around Athens is to take the metro. They have a great metro system that is easy to use, cost-effective, and safe.
The Ultimate 2 Days in Athens Itinerary: Day One
As you’re planning your two days in Athens, it can feel really overwhelming to know what sights are worth seeing and which you should skip. This itinerary highlights some of the top sites and activities in Athens so you can make the most of your time in the city. Be prepared for a very full Athens itinerary if you want to see and experience as much as possible during your two day trip!
Day one is all about exploring some of the city’s most well-known and iconic spots, so let’s jump right in and check out all of the best things to do in Athens.
Visit the Famous Acropolis
If you only have time to do one activity during your two days in Athens, visiting the Acropolis should be your top choice! The Acropolis is home to some of the most famous landmarks in Athens, such as the Parthenon, the Herodion, and the Erechtheion. Located atop a rocky hill that overlooks the entire city of Athens, the Acropolis has a rich political, religious, and cultural history. The buildings that still stand are some of the most significant monuments to Ancient Greece that can be found today.
People travel from all over the world to experience these historical monuments, and you will be glad you planned a visit. If it’s your first time in Athens, the Acropolis is an especially great option because you get a lot of bang for your buck, so to speak. Plan to spend several hours in the Acropolis so you can really experience all that it has to offer. Make sure you also take plenty of pictures during your visit! If you need some inspiration for your Instagram feed, be sure to check out our article on the Top 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Athens.
Hours: During the summer, visitors can experience the Acropolis from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Winter hours for the Acropolis are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Cost: From April 1, 2022 to October 31, 2022, entry to the Propylaea at the Acropolis costs €20 ($21 USD). From November 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023, tickets for the Propylaea cost €10 ($10.50 USD).
Helpful Tips: June through August is typically considered high season in Athens, meaning you’ll have to be prepared for large crowds and long lines.
Visit Hadrian’s Arch
After spending a few hours exploring the Acropolis, head back downhill to make your way towards Hadrian’s Arch. Hadrian’s Arch is a large gateway that once stood over an ancient Athenian road. The purpose of the arch was to separate the center of the city from buildings on the eastern side, and many historians believe it was originally built in 131 or 132 AD to honor the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian’s Arch is a striking example of Ancient Roman architecture, and it’s amazing to see it in person and consider just how long the arch has been standing. Hadrian’s Arch is a true testament to the city’s rich history, and an excellent spot to visit during your two days in Athens.
Location: Hadrian’s Arch
Hours: You can visit Hadrian’s Arch 24 hours a day, any day of the week.
Cost: It is free to view Hadrian’s Arch from a distance, but to get up close you must have a ticket to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus €6 ($6.30 USD) or a combination ticket to see a variety of archaeological sites throughout Athens, starting at €30 ($31.50 USD).
Helpful Tips: Although you can view Hadrian’s Arch from a distance for free, we highly recommend purchasing a Temple of Olympian Zeus or combination ticket to experience it up close as well. The combination ticket in particular is a great option because it will also give you access to the Acropolis.
Visit Temple of Olympian Zeus
Our next spot on this Ultimate 2 Days in Athens Itinerary is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympieion. We highly recommend paying a visit to these ruins, which were once a temple dedicated to Zeus. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is located in the same area as Hadrian’s Arch, making it very convenient to visit both monuments in one go. The temple looks great from above, but even better up close!
Unfortunately, due to a large earthquake during the Middle Ages, all that is left of the Temple of Olympian Zeus are fifteen massive columns. Still, these columns are a great remnant of what was once a grand and imposing temple. We definitely recommend a visit to the Temple of Olympian Zeus to reflect on what the building may have once looked like in its prime.
Location: Temple of Olympian Zeus
Hours: From May to September, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. From October to April, the site can be visited from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
Cost: A ticket to explore the Temple of Olympian Zeus is €6 ($6.30 USD). You can also visit the site with a combination ticket that starts at €30 ($31.50).
Helpful Tips: Due to the fragile nature of the ruins, visitors are not allowed to touch or walk within the columns.
Spend the Afternoon and Evening in Plaka
To wrap up day one of our Athens itinerary, we recommend spending the late afternoon and evening exploring the neighborhood of Plaka. Plaka is a beautifully quaint neighborhood that can be found virtually in the shadow of the Acropolis. The Plaka neighborhood is full of narrow cobblestone roads, boutique shops, and delicious cafes and restaurants.
Spending an evening in Plaka is a great way to feel as though you’re experiencing Athens like a local. A really fun way to explore Plaka is to grab drinks, appetizers, dinner, and dessert at different cafes and restaurants throughout the neighborhood. Of course, you also have to make time to do some shopping as well. There are tons of little stores throughout Plaka that are fun to wander around. Plaka has a very friendly, laidback atmosphere that is perfect for tourists who are visiting Athens for the first time.
Location: Plaka Neighborhood
Helpful Tips: Some of the most highly-rated restaurants in Plaka include Anafiotika Café and To Kafeneio. Both restaurants have an intimate, down-to-earth ambience and serve up some classic Greek fare!
The Ultimate 2 Days in Athens Itinerary: Day Two
After a long day of exploring, make sure you get plenty of rest so you can wake up ready to conquer day two of your trip to Athens! Two days in Athens isn’t a lot of time to explore the city, so we recommend spending your second day exploring the Monastiraki neighborhood. The Monastiraki neighborhood is a very walkable part of Athens that is home to a number of historical buildings. We’ll be spending all day exploring the area, so strap on your walking shoes and let’s get going!
At the heart of Monastiraki neighborhood, and really the whole city of Athens, is Monastiraki Square. Monastiraki Square is a large public square that has become a popular gathering place for both locals and tourists. Monastiraki Square can get quite popular later in the day, so we recommend visiting it first thing in the morning when there will be fewer crowds. From the square, you’ll be able to spot a number of ancient buildings ranging from museums to temples. Monastiraki Square is an excellent spot to wander around, and a great way to better acquaint yourself with the city if it’s your first time in Athens.
Location: Monastiraki Square
Helpful Tips: You can visit Monastiraki Square any time of day, so consider stopping by early in the morning or in the evening to avoid large crowds.
Just outside of Monastiraki Square is the next destination on our Athens itinerary: Hadrian’s Library. Created by the same Emperor that Hadrian’s Arch is named after, the ruins of Hadrian’s Library are an amazing spot to reflect on Ancient Greek culture. Hadrian’s Library consists of not just a single building, but rather a whole complex of structures.
Although the library did indeed house books and scrolls that were deemed politically or culturally significant, the complex was also home to several lecture halls and gardens as well. The ruins of Hadrian’s Library are a great testament to how much the people of Ancient Greece valued learning and knowledge, and it’s an incredible place to experience in person.
Location: Hadrian’s Library
Hours: Hadrian’s Library has differing hours throughout the year, but it is generally open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
Cost: The full ticket cost is €6 ($6.30 USD). You can also visit the site with a combination ticket that starts at €30 ($31.50).
Helpful Tips: The entrance to Hadrian’s Library can be found on the southern side of Monastiraki Square.
Visit the Holy Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary
Try saying that three times fast! The name might be quite the mouthful, but the Holy Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary is another spot you must visit during your two days in Athens. This Greek Orthodox church, also referred to as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens or simply “Metropolis”, is a beautiful example of Neoclassical architecture.
The church was built throughout the 1800s, making it a relatively recent addition to the city of Athens. Construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens was quite the process: it took three architects and over 20 years for the church to be fully constructed. Interestingly, the church was actually built with marble taken from over 70 demolished churches!
Hours: Hours vary, however it is generally accessible to visitors throughout the standard day hours, every day.
Cost: Entry to the church is free.
Helpful Tips: The church asks visitors maintain a sense of respect for this sacred religious site and wear modest clothing while visiting.
Enjoy a Gyro at O Thanasis
You’ve probably worked up quite the appetite after a morning of adventuring, so it’s time to make your way to O Thanasis for lunch. If you only have the opportunity to spend two days in Athens, you must make a point to try some of the local fare! O Thanasis is without a doubt the most famous place in Athens to grab a gyro.
For those who may not have tried one before, a gyro is a classic Greek sandwich consisting of rotisserie meat (usually lamb or beef), vegetables, and yogurt sauce on pita bread. Although there are tons of places to grab a gyro throughout the city, we highly recommend visiting O Thanasis during your two days in Athens. The food is absolutely delicious and a visit to O Thanasis is a great way to experience Greek culture firsthand.
Location: O Thanasis
Hours: 10:00 AM to 2:00 AM, daily
Cost: O Thanasis is very reasonable, and you can expect to pay less than €5 ($5.25 USD) for a salad, and most main dishes are just under €10 ($10.50 USD).
Helpful Tips: Other delicious options to try at O Thanasis are their Greek salad and kebabs!
Shopping and People Watching on Ermou Walking Street
After filling up on some delicious Greek food, we recommend doing some shopping and people watching along Ermou Walking Street. Ermou Street is a very popular pedestrian street that is home to a wide variety of stores. You can find both large international brands, like Zara and H&M, as well as local shops and vendors on Ermou Street. Even if you’re not a big shopaholic, Ermou Street is a great place to wander around and people watch.
The street attracts both locals and tourists alike, and exploring this area is the perfect casual post-lunch activity to let your food digest, or to find a great gelateria! Our favorite gelateria in Athens is Le Greche! They have amazing flavors, as well as a sign outside that shows you where they source all of their flavors!
Location: Ermou Street
Helpful Tips: Ermou Street gets particularly busy during the high season and on weekends, so be prepared for large crowds if you visit during these times.
Monument to the Unknown Soldier
At the end of Ermou Street, you’ll come across the next location on our Athens itinerary, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Sculpted in the 1930s, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier is a memorial for Greek soldiers who lost their lives during war. The monument is located directly in front of the Old Royal Palace, which is home to Greek Parliament.
The monument is guarded 24/7 by Evzones of the Presidential Guard, a group of elite soldiers trained to perform ceremonial duties. The Monument to the Unknown Soldier is a somber but significant monument to citizens of Greece who gave everything to protect their country.
Location: Monument to the Unknown Soldier
Helpful Tips: The Old Royal Palace is a beautiful site to visit as well, and we also featured it on our list of the Top 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Athens.
Sunset at Lycabettus Hill
The perfect ending to your two days in Athens is enjoying a view of the sunset from Lycabettus Hill. Lycabettus Hill, also known as Mount Lycabettus, is the tallest point in Athens. From the top of the hill, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the entire city. Lycabettus Hill is a very popular area in Athens to watch the sunset, and for good reason.
There truly is no better way to close out your first time in Athens than with an amazing sunset view overlooking the whole city. The walk to the top of Lycabettus Hill is short but steep, so come prepared with appropriate shoes and attire. Alternatively, you can also take a cable car up to the top, although the railway goes through a tunnel, meaning you won’t get any views along the way.
Location: Mount Lycabettus
Hours: If you choose to walk, you can experience Lycabettus Hill any time of day. The cable car to the top runs from 9:00 AM to 2:30 AM.
Cost: A ride on the cable car is €7.50 ($7.90 USD) roundtrip or €5 ($5.25 USD) one-way.
Helpful Tips: Lycabettus Hill is known for being one of the best spots in the city to watch the sunset, so be prepared for some crowds and plan to arrive before sunset.
Best Time to Visit Athens
Although Athens is a beautiful city to visit year-round, we recommend planning your visit for late spring or early fall to experience warm, mild weather and fewer crowds.
Winter in Athens
Winter in Athens can be quite cold and rainy. Temperatures will typically hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (low teens in Celsius), meaning you’ll want to come prepared with layers. Winter is also the rainiest season in Athens, and you may be met with clouds. On the upside, it is much cheaper to visit Athens in winter, so budget-conscious travelers may prefer this time of year to visit.
Spring in Athens
Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit Athens. Temperatures during spring in Athens can vary anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 24 C). We highly recommend late spring for temperatures that are warm enough to enjoy the city’s outdoor activities without being uncomfortably hot. Flowers will also be blooming throughout the city which is beautiful to experience, and there will be fewer crowds than in the high season.
Summer in Athens
Summer is undoubtedly the most popular time of year for tourists to visit Athens. Temperatures can peak around 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 C) making for very hot conditions that can become uncomfortable if you plan to do a lot of walking. Summer is also high season in Athens, so virtually all activities and landmarks will be quite crowded. There is a greater variety of outdoor activities available during the summer, so if you’re a lover of outdoor festivals or a bustling nightlife scene, this may be the perfect time of year to plan a visit. Summer is also the season to make the most of Athen’s hotels with rooftop pools.
Fall in Athens
If you want to experience Athens with fewer crowds but pleasant weather, fall is another time to consider visiting. Temperatures in fall range anywhere from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27 C) in Athens, which is much more comfortable than the chill of winter and heat of summer. Fall is also a less popular time of year to visit, so you won’t have to worry as much about massive crowds or long lines.
Where to Stay in Athens
There are a number of great budget and mid-range hotel options in Athens, perfect for your 2 days in Athens itinerary
Budget Athens Hotel Options
The NLH MONASTIRAKI is a great budget-friendly option located near the Monastiraki neighborhood. This 4-star hotel offers beautiful rooms for around $100 USD per night. If you’re searching for reasonably-priced accommodations in an excellent location, the NLH MONASTIRAKI is the perfect option.
Mid-Range Athens Hotel Options
For a mid-range hotel option, we recommend Home and Poetry Hotel in the Plaka neighborhood. Plaka is the perfect home base for your first time in Athens because the neighborhood is very walkable and centrally-located to a lot of famous Athens sites. Home and Poetry Hotel is a beautiful upscale hotel that offers elegant accommodations for $130 to $150 USD per night.
Luxury Athens Hotel Options
If you want to indulge in a truly luxurious stay during your two days in Athens, we highly recommend King George Hotel. King George Hotel is in a great location within walking distance to a lot of shopping and dining options. The hotel itself is absolutely beautiful, and while rooms are priced around $400 to $700 USD, we think it’s absolutely worth it to splurge. You’ll truly feel like luxury when you stay at King George Hotel!
The Ultimate 2 Days in Athens Itinerary Conclusion
In our opinion, Athens is a very underrated vacation spot, and we highly recommend planning a visit if you love history, delicious food, and having a wide variety of activities to choose from. Although you could spend weeks in Athens and barely scratch the surface of what the city has to offer, a 2 days in Athens itinerary is the perfect introduction if you’ll be visiting for the first time. In just one weekend, you’ll be able to experience some of the most famous historical landmarks and locations in the world!
We hope this 2 days in Athens itinerary is helpful as you plan your visit. What are some of your must-visit spots in Athens for first-time visitors? Let us know in the comments if we missed any!