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Walking Athens: The Best Way to see the 12 Lesser Known Sites of Athens, Greece

Updated: Feb 12

Athens is one of the most walkable cities in Greece, and similar to most European cities, the best way to see the sites of Athens is on foot. You may see "more" by hopping around to the most famous sites, via car or subway, but you'll miss out on immersing yourself in the city and its unique culture.


To make it a trip of a lifetime, spend at least one day walking around the city, you will be surprised by how much you see. This is the best way to see the lesser known sites of Athens.



Covered archway in the National Gardens of Athens, Athens, Greece
Covered archway in the National Gardens of Athens, Athens, Greece


Visiting Greece emerged from a very stressful period in our lives. Not exactly a spontaneous trip, but definitely one not planned well in advance. Wanting more control (and needing a project), we opted to organize an epic trip of a lifetime, island-hopping adventure. In the end, we created an itinerary that landed us in Mykonos, Delos, Naxos, Santorini, but it all started in Athens.



One Day Walking Itinerary for Athens, Greece:




Inevitably, the first question is what to see in Athens? We researched and plotted the all the sites of Athens that we were particularly interested in, including historical sites, archeological ruins and infamous districts, creating our own one day walking itinerary for Athens.


You can see the route we chose and follow in our footsteps by downloading this free one-day walking tour, which you can also split into multiple days.



Walking Athens, in our opinion, is very easy. The terrain is mainly flat and it is easy to navigate. If you prefer to have someone with you, you can opt to be guided by a local on a walking tour of Athens for a minimal cost. We prefer local guides, as they know the city on a more intimate level and are able to provide you additional insight that other guides cannot. Whichever you choose, to truly experience Athens, it is best explored on foot.



A large number of the sites of Athens, Greece are located within walking distance from one another, but it is the lesser known sites of Athens; the hidden monuments, buildings and parks that will amaze you.


  • If you're interested specifically in the mythology of Greece and the mythological sites of Athens, we would recommend this tour, which includes a number of the lesser known sites listed here.


When researching a trip to Athens, most tourists undoubtable opt first to visit the Acropolis (and rightfully so), but the lesser known sites of Athens often get overlooked or pushed aside due to time restraints.




The Lesser Known Sites of Athens, Greece:


1. The Temple of Olympian Zeus & The Arch of Hadrian


During our stay in Athens, we booked a superior room with a view at The Athens Gate Hotel, which is the starting point for our walking itinerary.



After a delicious complimentary buffet breakfast at The Athens Gate Hotel, we set off just across the street to visit The Temple of Olympian Zeus and purchase our combo ticket, which allowed us entry into a wide variety of the ancient sites of Athens.



The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

 

TIP: You can purchase the Athens combo ticket at any location included on its long list of sites.


By purchasing the combo ticket at The Temple of Olympian Zeus, we were able to use it automatically and for the next consecutive 5 days, to easily enter any of the included sites of Athens. You can get more information on the combo ticket on the official website.



NB (December 2023): Greece announced that for the first time in 5 years, the ticket prices for the archeological sites will be revised and the combo ticket eliminated, beginning April 1, 2025. Archeological sites will be slotted into 5 different categories, with the ticket prices for each ranging from $5-20 Euros.

 

Words cannot truly convey the size of the pillars of the Temple of Olympian 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. The site is vast and open, with toppled ruins scattered around the perimeter.



The Temple of Olympian Zeus from the Athens Gate Hotel, Athens, Greece
The Temple of Olympian Zeus from the Athens Gate Hotel, Athens, Greece

LUXURY TRAVEL TIP: The Athens Gate Hotel has superior rooms (with a balcony) that face the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which are less expensive then the similar rooms that face the Acropolis. The ancient site is literally across the street and beautifully illuminated at night. It is a much more spectacular view than the Acropolis option, which is further away from the hotel and visible anytime from the Athens Gate Rooftop Restaurant.


Located just outside the Temple of Olympian Zeus, parallel to the road, stands The Arch of Hadrian, which is free to visit. Unclear why and for whom it was built, it is theorized that it was first erected in honour of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to commemorate the Temple of Olympian Zeus (which was completed during his rein), but some scholars disagree. Unfortunately graffitied many times, it still stands overlooking the street.



The Arch of Hadrian, Athens, Greece
The Arch of Hadrian, Athens, Greece


2. The Panathenaic Stadium


From the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the walk is a mere 10 minutes to the Panathenaic Stadium. Entirely built of marble, this massive structure was played host to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Entry allows you the freedom to walk/sit in the stands around the massive structure. Tourists took turns standing on the podium, imagining their Olympic dreams have come true. It is one of the more impressive sites of Athens.


UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: If you truly want to feel like an Olympian, you can opt for a group workout and race in the Panathenaic Stadium, where in a small group, you not only get the chance to work out in the ancient stadium, but race around the track as former Olympians did.

We purchased coffee and cookies from the kiosk outside of the stadium and sat in wonder and awe, imagining what it would have been like to watch the Olympic games.


 

TIP: Entry to the Panathenaic Stadium is not included in the combo ticket, but is a minimal fee of $10 Euro.


NB (December 2023): Greece announced that for the first time in 5 years, the ticket prices for the archeological sites will be revised and the combo ticket eliminated, beginning April 1, 2025. Archeological sites will be slotted into 5 different categories, with the ticket prices for each ranging from $5-20 Euros.

 

The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece
The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece


3. The Hellenic Parliament & The Changing of the Guard


From the Panathenaic Stadium, slowly walking in our comfortable shoes, we headed towards the Archaeological Site of Lykeion, but were detoured through the nearby National Park and ended up at the Hellenic Parliament after 20 minutes of wandering. It was perfect timing, as we happened upon the changing of the guard ceremony. The ceremony takes place every hour on the hour, but on Sundays at 11am, the official changing of the guard occurs with the official costumes.


The cleverly dressed guards, with their large spear guns and heavy pompom clogs, moved with angry precision; both impressive and terrifying. A must-see if you can time it correctly, but aim to reach the site before the ceremony begins, as the crowds will quickly gather.




The Changing of the Guard at the Hellenic Parliament, Athens, Greece
The Changing of the Guard at the Hellenic Parliament, Athens, Greece


4. The Archeological Site of Lykeion


Backtracking from the Hellenic Parliament, we arrived at the Archeological site of Lykeion (also known as Aristotle's Lyceum). The site exposes excavations of an ancient palestra (gymnasium), revealing areas where athletes trained in wrestling and boxing. It is a fascinating and well organized site, with information points to guide your visit and point out where to look among the ruins.


UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: If you'd like to dive deeper and walk in the footsteps of Aristotle, you can opt for this unique experience, joining an immersive Philosophy Workshop that studies the master's wisdom at Aristotle's Lyceum. A one of a kind experience.

 

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.

 

Detailed section of the Archeological Site of Lykeion, Athens, Greece
Detailed section of the Archeological Site of Lykeion, Athens, Greece


5. The Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa


From The Archeological site of Lykeion, we casually walked for another 10 minutes, heading to the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa, one of the oldest and lesser-known churches in Athens, Greece. It’s small structure does not diminish its architectural beauty. The church now sits lower than the modern road, with a surrounding wall that many stop to rest upon, as it is located in a busy tourist area in Monastiraki Square.


 

TIP: It is free to enter most Churches in Athens, but be sure to dress and act respectfully, covering your knees and shoulders and being mindful of religious patrons. Be prepared, however, to leave a small donation.

 


The Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa, Athens, Greece
The Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa, Athens, Greece


6. Hadrian's Library


A few minute walk from the The Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa, is the entrance to Hadrian's Library. Built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the large complex of now ruins, was intended to be a place of great academic study. If you choose not to enter and explore the site, you can walk around it and see the ruins from afar. Many shops and open air restaurants are in the area, we indulged in a rich lunch of grilled octopus, Saganaki (fried cheese) and souvlaki. Opa!


  • If you're looking for a unique way to focus on Greek food, there are many cooking classes and restaurant hops available, but we would recommend this private Greek Walking Food Tour, which would allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and visit the markets.



Cat sitting on the ruins of Hadrian's Library, Athens, Greece
Cat sitting on the ruins of Hadrian's Library, Athens, Greece


7. The Roman Agora


A 5 minute walk from Hadrian's Library brings you to the Roman Agora (also known as the Roman Forum of Athens). It encompasses a large open space with ruins of multiple buildings, columns and shops. Among the ruins stands clock tower, gifted by Lord Elgin after the British Museum looted many sculptures from the Parthenon. Similar to Hadrian's Library, one may enter and explore or wander around the streets, snapping photos of the beautiful structures and the many cats who lounged upon the marble.



The clock tower of the Roman Agora, Athens, Greece
The clock tower of the Roman Agora, Athens, Greece


8. The Ancient Agora of Athens


From the Roman Agora, walking 5 minutes to the west, and you will reach the Ancient Agora of Athens. This massive site is brimming with temples and ruins sitting in the shadow of the Acropolis. Unlike the Roman Agora, it is recommended to purchase a ticket and enter to fully explore this absolutely impressive site. In addition, there is also a museum housed inside the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos. Visiting the Ancient Agora of Athens is best in the late afternoon, as the sun begins to set. The statues among the trees, as well as the Acropolis in the distance, glow in the golden sun. It is magical.



Interactive Map of the Lesser Known Sites of Athens, Greece:




 

TIP: If you're looking to combine a few sites, this combo ticket includes the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the Agora Museum. A great price for three very unique and picturesque ancient sites of Athens.


NB (December 2023): Greece announced that for the first time in 5 years, the ticket prices for the archeological sites will be revised and the combo ticket eliminated, beginning April 1, 2025. Archeological sites will be slotted into 5 different categories, with the ticket prices for each ranging from $5-20 Euros.

 


The Ancient Agora of Athens, Athens, Greece
The Ancient Agora of Athens, Athens, Greece


9. The Plaka District


The Plaka district is well known, for its small town feel and photographic qualities. The Plaka area is beautiful but can be very confusing if you don't know where to turn. It is filled with narrow streets that venture up steep hills and an obscene number of steps. It is best experienced on foot, wandering through the narrow streets without purpose and stumbling upon a hidden restaurant or café to sit and watch the world go by.


  • If you're looking for a guide to help you navigate the confusing streets and point out the important sites along the way, this walking tour includes the Plaka district and surrounding monuments.



Sunken ruins site, accessible by staircase, hidden in the streets of Athens, Greece
Sunken ruins site, accessible by staircase, hidden in the streets of Athens, Greece


10. The Zappeion and The National Gardens


From the heart of the Plaka District, it is a 10 minute walk to the Zappeion and the National Gardens. The Zappeion building was the first erected to aid the revival of the Olympic Games in the modern world. After a long day of walking and exploring, sitting near the beautiful fountains is most relaxing.



The Zappeion Fountains, Athens, Greece
The Zappeion Fountains, Athens, Greece



11. Socrates' Prison


Located a short 15 minute walk from The Athens gate Hotel or The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a stone structure buried inside a park. Socrates' Prison is located in an oddly peaceful location. Small rooms, carved into the bedrock with iron gates, are said to be where Socrates was held before his trial in 399 BC. The site is free, and there is a park bench nearby where one can sit and admire.



The Prison of Socrates, Athens, Greece
The Prison of Socrates, Athens, Greece


12. The Pynx


Just a few minutes further down the path from Socrates' Prison is the Pnyx. Seemingly unimpressive, it is a site of great importance, as it was one of the earliest sites where ancient Greeks would have gathered and one of the most important sites in the creation of democracy. Many tourists overlook this site, which is free to visit, unaware of its significance. If only to pay homage to the history, it is one of the must-visit sites of Athens.



The Pynx, Athens, Greece
The Pynx, Athens, Greece



Athens is filled with popular tourist spots, ancient sites and not-so-secret places to visit. Whether you choose to plan your own itinerary, opt for a guided walking tour of Athens or just wander and enjoy the rhythm of the city, be sure to spend at least one day exploring on foot. Visiting Athens for one day (or ten), will inevitably leave you impressed and amazed with its sites, sounds and delicious cuisine.

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