Updated: Jul 10
Athens is a true city of Giants. While in the city, we stayed at the Athens Gate Hotel, which boasts a central location and one of the best views in the city. From our balcony, we had an unobstructed view of the huge Temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the largest temples in the ancient world.
Travel to Athens: How to See the Most Sites in Athens for Less:
To see the most sites for less, especially if you plan on visiting the Acropolis, purchase a combo ticket from one of the other ancient sites included in the package in the day/s before you visit the Acropolis. This allows you to avoid the long lines at the Acropolis ticket office, as the combo ticket is valid at 7+ participating sites for the next 5 days. You can also purchase online through a third party and pay an additional handling/guide fee, or directly from the Greek Cultural Site, which costs 30 Euro per person.
After a delicious buffet breakfast at The Athens Gate Hotel, we set off to just across the street and stopped to visit The Temple of Olympian Zeus and purchase our combo ticket. Words cannot truly convey the size of the pillars of the Temple of Zeus. From a distance, the marble looks ancient and fragile, but up close the massive pillars are thick and solid, piercing a full 57 feet into the sky. Impressive is an understatement. Standing just beyond the Temple of Zeus is the impressive Hadrian’s Arch.
Travel to Athens: Is Athens is a Very Walkable City?
Athens is easily walkable, as most sites are located close by. After a quick ten minute walk from Hadrian's Arch, we arrived at the Panathenaic Stadium. Entirely built of marble, this massive structure was played host to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Tourists took turns standing on the podium, imagining their Olympic dreams have come true.
From the stadium, we comfortably walked another ten minutes to arrive at the Archaeological Site of Lykeion. The site exposes excavations of an ancient palaestra (gymnasium), revealing areas where athletes trained in wrestling and boxing.
Travel to Athens: Free Sites and Experiences in Athens:
Continuing west for ten minutes, we approached the Hellenic Parliament, where we witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony. The cleverly dressed guards, with their large spear guns and heavy pompom clogs, moved with angry precision.
From the Parliament, we continued west for another ten to fifteen minutes to the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, one of the oldest churches in Athens. It’s small structure does not diminish its architectural beauty. Since the church still offers mass services, the entrance is free but it is forbidden to take photos inside.
The combo ticket will grant you access to the ruins of Hadrian’s Library, but it is also largely visible from the street. We found many cats lounging around, enjoying the safety of the ruins.
Travel to Athens: The Ancient Agoras (Marketplaces) of Athens:
Both the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora are within a short walking distance from Hadrian's Library and both are accessible with the combo ticket. At the heart of the Ancient Agora, is the Temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved ancient temple in Greece.
Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.
The Roman Agora includes Horologion of Andronikos Cyrrhestes, or The Tower of the Winds. It is an octagonal marble clocktower that is considered the world's first meteorological station.
Travel to Athens: The Best Way to See the Acropolis:
Next morning, bright and early, we headed to the side entrance of the Acropolis (away from the tour buses). Slow and steady, we made our way up the winding path to the marble steps near the top. It was not easy, but it was not overly difficult. If you'd like more detail on climbing the Acropolis, click here.
We spent a lot of time at the top, walking across every possible area, not wanting to miss a different view or angle. The Parthenon, even covered in scaffolding, is a gorgeous piece of architecture.
The Erechtheion is equally impressive, especially the phenomenal Porch of the Maidens.
Leaving the hill, we then walked back down through winding paths to the north and south slopes to visit the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a beautiful theatre, sometimes still used for events.
The Theatre of Dionysus is less impressive visually, but historically considered the world’s first theatre.
The View of Athens from the Acropolis:
One would be remiss not to mention the spectacular view from any and every angle, as visible from the Acropolis. No matter the time of day, the view is simply breathtaking.
Travel to Athens: The Acropolis Museum:
After lapping up the outdoor history, we headed indoors for some more via the new Acropolis Museum. Underneath the museum, partially exposed to visitors as they enter, is an excavation site from the early Byzantine era. You can purchase you 15 Euro ticket online or in person at the Museum.
Travel to Athens: What to Eat in Athens:
Greek cuisine is one of the most beloved and there is no shortage of choice in Athens. We indulged in souvlaki, fried saganaki, grilled octopus, spanakopita, roasted potatoes, salads, dips, warm pita and lots of tzatziki.
TIP: if you’d like to try some of the seafood delicacies that Greece has to offer, like grilled octopus, you’re more likely to have fresh fish in Athens than you are on the islands. The islands are limited to what they are able to fish, so most seafood is imported and frozen. On the recommendation of a Canadian-Greek friend who travels back to Greece annually, I ordered grilled octopus while in Athens and it was divine.