Top Activities to Experience in Athens

XcelTrip|6 min read|Jun 13, 2023

Athens offers a rich experience beyond being a mere starting point for the Greek islands. Discover the ultimate guide to exploring this incredibly historic city.

Tourists who opt to stay and explore the vibrant Greek capital instead of escaping to one of the nearby islands via a high-speed ferry will quickly discover a fascinating contradiction in this historically rich city: Athens, known for its hustle and bustle, possesses a relaxed and inviting ambience that matches its pleasant climate.

Within Athens, history and culture permeate the surroundings. The remains near the Acropolis alone offer days’ worth of exploration, yet Athens offers much more than ancient marvels. Legendary tales and impressive landmarks coexist harmoniously with multicultural celebrations, trendy rooftop dining spots, and a thriving street-art scene, injecting a creative flair into this dynamic destination. Traditional tavernas and bustling farmers’ markets continue to define the unique Athenian atmosphere, even as the city embraces its newfound artistic edge. Moreover, where else in perpetually sunny Athens can one experience the laid-back vibes of a Greek island all year round, whether by lounging on a sandy beach or relishing fresh seafood at a seaside restaurant?

  1. Ascend the Acropolis for breathtaking views

Begin your Athens adventure by ascending the Acropolis, an awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece that dates back 2,500 years. To avoid the crowds and heat, it’s recommended to visit early in the morning and wear appropriate footwear for climbing. Enhance your understanding of this ancient wonder by exploring the Acropolis Museum, where you can marvel at the recovered archaeological treasures. Take advantage of the top-floor exhibit, showcasing the Parthenon frieze in its original configuration for an unforgettable experience.

2. Indulge in authentic Athenian cuisine at Keramikos

Athens has witnessed a remarkable transformation in its gastronomic landscape, extending well beyond the traditional souvlaki (now available in vegetarian and upscale variations as well). To discover the authentic Athenian palate and explore local food markets, consider embarking on a guided excursion of Keramikos, an urban area that boasts a diverse range of culinary offerings. This district has everything from Chinese grocery stores and innovative Greek restaurants to unpretentious Cretan meze establishments. Take delight in sampling seasonal Greek produce as you venture through the bustling weekly street market, an integral part of every neighbourhood’s vibrant fabric.

3. Engage in a workout inspired by the Olympic Games to stay active

An excellent approach to uncovering the city’s Olympic heritage is through a captivating tour that combines physical exercise with a captivating history lesson. Accompanied by a knowledgeable Athenian athlete, you’ll undergo rigorous training sessions in historic Olympic venues, while also receiving instruction on discus and javelin techniques at a gymnasium that once prepared athletes for the inaugural modern Games. Immerse yourself in the heroic origins of the Athens Marathon at the Panathenaic Stadium and have the exhilarating opportunity to sprint along its grand marble track. To further indulge in the Olympic experience, consider a separate excursion to the state-of-the-art Athens Olympic Museum located in the northern part of the city.

4. Engage in a refreshing oceanic dip accompanied by locals

Athens boasts a sun-drenched coastline, perfect for year-round swimming, and immersing yourself in the company of sociable Athenian water enthusiasts promises an unforgettable adventure. WeSwim, a vibrant community of open-water swimmers, organizes weekly gatherings on the Athens Riviera, offering free guided swims in the Aegean Sea that welcome all. Originating during Greece’s financial crisis under the leadership of long-distance swimmer Petros Parthenis, WeSwim holds summer plunges and winter dips, often followed by a refreshing beer or a delightful meal at a local taverna, allowing you to foster connections with the locals beyond the water.

5. Savor a revitalizing beverage while enjoying the stunning views from a rooftop

During the period from early spring until late autumn, enhance your sightseeing experience by indulging in one of the most desirable Athenian delights: relishing a sundowner at a rooftop bar that offers captivating vistas of the timeless Acropolis. You can opt for renowned establishments like A for Athens (famous for being the backdrop of numerous Instagram photos featuring Monastiraki Square and the majestic Parthenon) or seek out a lesser-known gem like the Foundry Suites. This stylish boutique hotel located in the Psirri neighbourhood boasts a vibrant rooftop garden exuding a laid-back urban ambience, where you can savour Greek picnic baskets while admiring panoramic views of Athens’s National Observatory — Greece’s inaugural scientific research facility — and the ever-present symbol of the city.

6. Embark on a scenic exploration of Mount Penteli’s historical trails

Embark on a serene and verdant journey in Athens, far removed from the bustling Syntagma Square. Venture to the lush northern slopes of Mount Penteli, where you can immerse yourself in a harmonious blend of history and nature by traversing ancient marble quarries that were instrumental in constructing the iconic Parthenon and other significant structures of classical Athens. Join forces with Nefeli Nine, a reputable retreat organization offering expertly guided mountain hikes along legendary trails, and be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of Marathon Bay, enchanting chapels straight out of a fairy tale, and a myriad of delectable flora including wild asparagus and sage. Indulge in a delightful vegan picnic box meticulously crafted to align with the nourishing principles of the Blue Zone diet.

7. Feast on fresh fish in Piraeus

Piraeus, a bustling port city closely connected to Athens, offers a vibrant coastal community with a blend of traditional charm, hardworking fishermen, and a bustling fish auction that prioritizes local customers. When it comes to exquisite seafood dining, the picturesque areas of Marina Zeas, Kastella, and Mikrolimano are the go-to spots, hosting renowned restaurants such as Papaioannou, Dourabeis, and the Michelin-starred Varoulko. For a more relaxed dining experience, one can explore the array of exceptional seafood tavernas along Hatzikyriakeio Street or visit the well-loved Taxidevontas in the Keratsini neighbourhood, a favourite among the very fishermen who provide fresh catches for your plate.

8. Explore the enchanting neighbourhood of Anafiotika

It’s truly unfortunate that many visitors overlook Anafiotika, an enchanting Cycladic village exuding a Mediterranean ambience, gracefully meandering along the northern slopes of the Acropolis. Adorned with dozing felines and vibrant geraniums, this picturesque settlement was erected in the mid-19th century by skilled stone craftsmen from Anafi island, summoned by Otto of Greece to construct his palace, which now serves as the Hellenic parliament building. Most travellers find themselves pleasantly lost within its nameless alleyways — precisely the essence of its allure. For an added touch of romance, embark on a walking tour exploring hidden nooks, culminating in a Greek picnic atop the Hill of the Muses, offering a breathtaking panorama of Athens below.

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Athens with XcelTrip and immerse yourself in a myriad of captivating activities. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or a beach aficionado, Athens offers an array of activities that are sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. Let XcelTrip be your guide to these incredible experiences in the captivating city of Athens.

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