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Athens Travel Guide

10 Free Things You Can Do While Visiting Athens

From an island village beneath the Acropolis to street art to the changing of the guards.

Athens is famous for its ancient and archeological sites, but that’s not all. The main sights in this ancient city may cost a pretty penny, but there are still a surprising amount of free things to do in Athens if you know where to look.  From nature to gardens to art and museums, here are the 10 best free things to do when visiting Athens.

1 OF 10

The Rock of Areopagus

WHERE: The Acropolis

For an uninterrupted view of the Acropolis, head to Areopagus Hill. Situated below the entrance to the Acropolis, it’s said to be where Ares, the Greek God of War, was tried for murdering one of Poseidon’s sons. Climb the five or six steps carved out of marble, and join the locals and tourists (at least those in the know) to sit and admire the 360 views of the city. You see all the way down to the port of Piraeus and beyond to the nearby islands.

INSIDER TIPWear non-slip shoes. While the marble steps aren’t many, they can be slippery.  It’s a perfect spot at sunset to see it sinking into the Aegean, but it does get busy at this time of day, as it’s a romantic spot.


2 OF 10


WHERE: Plaka

A unique find and referred to as an “island on the mainland,” Anafiotika is a little village of sugar-cubed, whitewashed, bougainvillea-clad houses connected by cobbled alleyways beneath the northeastern side of the Acropolis. The story goes that in 1832, King Otto brought Masons from the small Cycladic island of Anafi to build his palace, which is now the Greek Parliament. Homesick for their island, the workers went about building a place to live that reminded them of home, the resultant Anafiotika.

Only 45 of the original houses remain, but other than that, little has changed. Wandering its streets, seeing pots of flowers, and encountering many cats at every turn is a real break from the modern-day traffic and city noise below. Afterward, wander from Anafiotika down the Plaka stairs and stop for a coffee at one of the many outdoor cafés with seating on the stairs.

3 OF 10

The Flea Market of Monastiraki

WHERE: Monastiraki

As you leave Monastiraki Station from the Line 1 (Green) exit, turn left and enter a long pedestrianized street under the sign “Athens Flea Market.” Many small shops line the street, and you don’t necessarily have to buy anything to appreciate its uniqueness; from vintage clothing to souvenirs, from leather sandals to CDs and vinyls, and even army clothing, it’s all here.

Sunday is the real Flea Market experience. Avissinias Square in Monastiraki sees vendors set up stalls to sell their variety of wares, such as old postage stamps and drachma coins, and sit and play tavli–Greek Backgammon–together. Here’s where you’d haggle if you want to buy anything.


4 OF 10

Street Art

WHERE: Gazi / Keramikos

Many think “street art” is graffiti. Graffiti is originally a Greek word from graphein, meaning “to write.” Yet the murals and designs found in many of Athens’ neighborhoods are far from the ugly tagging associated with graffiti. Years of the European Financial Crisis have given rise to fascinating street art reflecting the political and social issues in the country during this time. Gazi and Keramikos–the gas works district–is one such neighborhood where the ‘Last Supper of Athens’ by INO–Athens’s top active muralist–can be seen alongside an old tram building, a work of art depicting the original Last Supper but with politicians dining, handing each other bribes and ignoring the needy public at the mural’s base whose hands can be seen begging. Just one of many unique pieces, Gazi/Keramikos, is the perfect place to also spot smaller pieces along narrow side streets.

INSIDER TIPTo better appreciate what you’re seeing and understand each mural’s meaning, a free tour can be taken of Athens’s Street art.


5 OF 10

The Acropolis Museum

WHERE: Acropolis

The world-famous new Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 and is the city’s proud crowning glory. It draws many people to its exhibits over its three floors filled with Greek antiquity. Its entrance fee is €10, yet it’s possible to appreciate this magnificent building for free, albeit not see the exhibits. The building itself is enough of an attraction: a huge glass box that shines in the sunlight and is surrounded by olive trees with a Parthenon view. Propped up by concrete pillars, at its entrance, you’ll find the site’s archaeological excavation below: remnants of a once thriving ancient neighborhood complete with a drainage system, bathhouses, and mosaics.

INSIDER TIPGo inside the Acropolis Museum and up to their top floor café for terrace views of the Acropolis. There’s no fee to go to the café, but you have to ask for a “ticket to the café” at the ticket booth.


6 OF 10

Changing of the Evzone Guards

WHERE: Syntagma

The Evzones are military soldiers who wear the uniform of the Klephts–mountain fighters who fought the Turks from the 15th through 19th century–white tights, white skirts, white blouse with blooming sleeves, an embroidered vest, red caps and shoes with large pom-poms. Guarding their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with respect, every hour they change shifts outside Athens’s Parliament building in Syntagma Square with their ceremonial “dance.” It’s about the only time they reposition, so it is also a form of exercise for them, as no movement whatsoever is allowed during their hour. Tourists and locals alike gather to see the Guards outside Parliament and take photos.

INSIDER TIPEvery Sunday at 11 am, watch the parade of Evzones together with a military band as they march from their barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where a ceremonial changing of the guard takes place. Crowds line the streets waving Greek flags, and it’s a source of national pride for the Greeks.


7 OF 10

The National Gardens

WHERE: Syntagma

Next to the Greek Parliament lies the National Gardens, 38 acres of parkland and palm-clad avenues in the center of Athens. Completed in 1860 as part of King Otto and Queen Amalia’s royal holdings, it offers a peaceful, green respite from the concrete jungle. You can find a small zoo, a children’s library, a duck pond, and a café. Sit and enjoy a book in the shade or watch Athenian life go by, not to mention the occasional squeak and flash of green parrots flying past.

INSIDER TIPThe neoclassical Zappeion Hall, built in 1888 as an Olympic building, can be found inside the Gardens and is a perfect Instagrammable spot. Since the 1800’s it’s been used for major political and cultural events and was the place Greece signed its accession to what was then the European Community, now E.U.


8 OF 10

Metro Station Archaeological Collection

WHERE: Syntagma

You don’t need to pay to go into a museum to appreciate artifacts found from archaeological digs. Many of Athens’s Metro (subway) stations resemble museums as they display relics from the past behind glass cases. The Metro Station at Syntagma is one such place.

You’ll find artifacts from the early 5th century B.C.E. to Ottoman times found during its construction. There’s also a skeleton of a female from the 4th century B.C.E. lying in her tomb between layers of soil, plus pipes from the ancient water supply and a mosaic of an ancient house’s floor. The best news? It’s located in the entrance hall before you buy a ticket to the Metro, so you don’t need to travel to see it.

9 OF 10

Mount Ymittos

WHERE: Kesariani

If you want to take in some nature when visiting the city, you don’t need to go far. Athens as a city is blessed to be surrounded by mountains, Mount Ymittos is the nearest at only a 15-minute taxi ride from the city center. At its peak elevation of 3,366 ft., Mount Ymittos stands guard over the city and is a firm favorite for walkers and hikers with its pine-covered slopes and several Byzantine Monasteries to discover, some very much intact with frescos to marvel over, others just mere ruins. It’s the perfect respite from the busy city.

INSIDER TIPLook out for the small kafeneio/café at Kalopoula where the Botanical Trail starts (signposted). They do great cheese and spinach pies.


10 OF 10

Mikrolimano Harbor

WHERE: Piraeus

More nature, but by the sea this time. Mikrolimano is a natural port in the Piraeus suburb, 6 miles from Athens’s center. Used as a port since antiquity, nowadays, you’ll find plush yachts moored and a delightful promenade with many cafés, wine bars, and restaurants right alongside the harbor. The neoclassical houses tumble amphitheatrically from its hillside elevation into the sea. It offers a real Greek island feel without the ferry ride.