The city of Athens is Europe’s classical capital, carrying mythical and cultural baggage. To help you plan your stay, below are the best places and things to do in and around Athens.
Athens’s Acropolis is one of the most well-known archeological sites worldwide. Visiting this antique limestone building is a must for anyone coming to Athens. Head down to the Acropolis area in the morning when the sites are just opening up. Stop at the Temple of Zeus to buy an Acropolis combo ticket. Go in only for a few minutes to see the ruins and the view up to the Parthenon. Pass by Hadrian’s arch as you walk up the Acropolis.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is situated in the Exarchia neighborhood. The museum holds the originals of all the Greek treasures you’ll recognize from textbooks and pictures.
Visit a Greek island
For the quintessential Greek experience, head to Hydra. It is beautiful, historical and no cars are allowed, with a feeling of going back in time. Take the fast, hydrofoil ferry there and back to maximize your time on the island. If you are visiting the peak summer season, be sure to reserve your tickets in advance. Leave in the morning and come back in the evening. The boats leave from Piraeus harbor which is only a few minutes walk from the last metro station. There are lots to see and do on the island: explore the old mansions and museums in Hydra town, hike up to the monastery, take a donkey ride, walk along the coast, take a boat taxi to a nearby beach or eat at many great cafes.
A closer island to visit is Aegina. Many ferries offer departures from Piraeus each day. The island is famous for pistachio nuts. Once in the small port town, rent a scooter or quad for the day to get around. There are a small museum, ruins and beach just north of the port. Drive your bike down the coast to the south and find a good beach to relax on. Head back up and through the island center to the east side and make sure to stop at the hilltop Temple of Aphaia, one of the most stunning Doric temples of Greece.
If you want to cram in as much as possible, a number of tour companies offer three islands in one-day cruises. You can visit Hydra, Poros and Aegina in one day.
The Peloponnese is a large peninsula southwest of Athens. Visit ancient Corinth, a famous Greek and Biblical city right where the peninsula joins the Greek mainland. The site of the old city has a small but excellent museum and ruins you can walk through in a couple of hours.
Do not miss the ruins of Mycenae, where king Agamemnon once ruled. There isn’t much left of the city but once can still notice the famous walls, the lion gate, the vast burial chambers and the small museum.
Visit the town of Nafplio, a beautiful city on the sea. It has been around since antiquity but shows heavy Venetian influence today. Walk around the old town to admire the views and stop at a Gelato (ice cream) store. Then drive up to the Palamidi fortress above the city. The fortress is a spectacular citadel, standing on a 216m high rock outcrop and was built by the Venetians in 1711. Hike along the walls to get more amazing views of the city and sea.
Athens is a fantastic city to visit and five days can be a good amount of time to see the sights. The best seasons of the year to visit the city are from March to May and from September to November.