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Top 9 Attractions in Athens Greece

Great things to do in Athens

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There's no end of monuments and attractions in Athens, Greece but these are the best of the best that you won't want to miss in your travel to Greece. Only time for one? It's conveniently placed first.

The Jewel of Athens Greece: The Acropolis and the Parthenon

The Acropolis and the Parthenon dominate Athens, and the most sightseeing-weary traveler will catch an enticing glimpse and be scrambling toward it before they know it. Even if there were no Parthenon, the Acropolis is worth the visit just for the magnificent view of Athens and the surrounding temples below. And now the New Acropolis Museum nearby is an attraction worth seeing all by itself. It's easy to visit both and you can purchase a discounted ticket that allows access to both, plus other local attractions. At the Acropolis, you can join a tour group organized by language, though there may be a short wait while a full group is gathered. These tours are led by licensed guides and usually cost about 12 Euro in addition to the entrance fee. If you prefer, you can also book an organized tour ahead of time which will generally include transportation from your hotel.

Book direct: Half-Day Sightseeing Tour with Acropolis & Parthenon

National Archaeological Museum

Gold of Mycenae
Picture copyright by deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com

This extensive collection is housed in the heart of Athens. Greece is rightly proud of its flagship museum. While even a brief visit is dazzling, the true museum junkie should allow 2-3 hours. Even then, you're speeding through millennia of Greek culture, starting with the Cycladic Island civilization and the Minoans and Mycenaeans, and stretching toward the present.

Don't confuse the National Archaeological Museum with the National Gallery, which is also fascinating and covers the rest of the history of Greece.

More on: The National Archaeological Museum

Book Direct: Walking Tour with Athens' National Archaeological Museum

Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

Sightseeing in Athens Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion
Photo of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion © deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com

A great afternoon trip from Athens, this is one of those spots that is as much a favorite with the locals as it is with the tourists. It's a favorite sunset-viewing spot for everyone, and will give you a classically Greek moment against the ruined monument along with a terrific sea view. While it is possible to visit Sounion by public bus from Athens, most visitors prefer to drive or to take an organized tour. You can book one directly ahead of your trip, through your hotel or by visiting any travel agency in Athens.

Walking Athens at Night

Sightseeing in Ahtens Greece - Thissio district near the Acropolis
Photo of the Thissio area in Athens Greece © deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com

Athens Greece is one of the safest capital cities in the entire world. While common sense is your best defense anywhere, statistically, you're far safer on the streets of Athens at night than in London, Paris, or Tokyo. So get out there and enjoy yourself! The tourist shops will be open late - and so will the tavernas. The ones that cater to Greeks will be just warming up at 10pm.

Piraeus

Picture of garlic seller in Piraeus
Picture of garlic seller in Piraeus, port of Athens, © deTraci Regula, licensed to About.com

Can't get away to the Greek islands? Or already missing the one you just left? Slip away to Piraeus, easily reachable by the Metro, and have dinner at one of the pricy but charming seaside taverns of Microlimano. Piraeus, the port city of Athens, is not quite a Greek island, but it will do. Allow yourself some extra time and stop by the excellent Piraeus Archaeological Museum or the equally-fascinating Nautical Museum first. You can also take an Open-Topped Bus Tour (find prices) between both Athens and Piraeus, making it an easy and interesting way to get back and forth between the two cities.

Lycabettus Hill

Sightseeing in Athens Greece - Lycabettus Hill
Photo of Lycabettus Hill in Athens Greece © deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com
Want to rise above it all, especially on a hot day when the thought of the stony outcrop of the Acropolis seems too warm and bright? Take the easy way up to the wooded top of Lycabettus Hill by using the tubular funicular rail car and escape the heat and, if you're lucky, some of the tourist crowds.

The Plaka & Other Neighborhoods in Athens Greece

The Plaka is the area of winding streets around the Acropolis. It's renowned for its small shops, restaurants, and some good examples of local domestic architecture. The downside? These days it's hopelessly touristy, but it's still engaging. My strategy is to stop somewhere for a frappe (iced instant coffee) every few hundred feet, especially in summer. And it's likely you'll wander into Monastiraki or Thissio without even noticing you've left the Plaka.<P>

Syntagma Square

Parliament Building, Syntagma Square, sightseeing in Athens Greece
Picture of the Parliament Building (Syntagma Square) © deTraci Regula, licened to About.com
Also known as "Constitution Square", this is the heart of Athens in many ways. It's a large, open square which often hosts holiday events, it's the location of several of Athens' most renowned luxury hotels, it's an intense public transportation hub, and it actually has the Parliament Building along one side of the square. Pedestrian-only Ermou Street leads off of it, providing access to some of Athens' better upscale shopping. And the daily "Changing of the Guard" is a colorful photo opportunity.

The Agora

Greek favorite Mariou performs at a free concert near the Hephaistion in Thissio.
Photo by deTraci Regula; licensed to About.com

This is one attraction that gets skipped, partly because it is readily confused with the Roman Agora and while you'd be falling over yourself to visit a Roman agora in Italy, well, this is Greece. (For the same reason, the very nice Egyptian antiquities collection at the National Archaeological Museum gets overlooked, too - except by Greeks.) But this spot offers an easy hour's wandering, with the almost-perfect temple of Hephaestus, a rebuilt colonnade housing the museum, and many minor monuments. A multiple-site combo ticket makes it a particularly good bargain to combine a visit here with the Acropolis and other nearby sites.

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