10 Cool Ideas and Tips To Help You Plan Your 4-Day Athens Itinerary

Athens is the gateway to your vacation in Greece. Make sure to spend some time exploring this ancient and modern capital city before you head out to explore the Greek Islands. In this post, I'll cover ideas and tips to help you plan a 4 day Athens itinerary.  
Places to Visit on an Athens Itinerary: The Acropolis

Getting to Athens

Athens International Airport is well-served by both budget and national carriers. Athens is a major European hub with excellent regional connections. You can also get to Athens directly from the U.S. via New York and Chicago. You can even fly direct from Singapore to Athens. After your Athens itinerary, you can fly onward to various Greek Islands like Santorini (just 45 minutes by air) on Aegean Airlines. 

Athens Itinerary: Aegean Airlines flight

We flew business class on Aegean Airlines via Frankfurt. You even get a choice of your main for breakfast (a rarity on regional business class flights). I chose Greek pumpkin pie with fruit and Greek white wine. I always say that it's wine o'clock somewhere!

I was intrigued by the mastiha with chocolates and pralines on the menu so decided to give it a go before landing. The dark chocolate square was by Stelios Parliaros from Sweet Alchemy where we got a memorable black forest cake in Kolonaki on our trip to Athens (but I'm getting ahead of myself now...more on that later!)

Where to Stay in Athens

Coco-mat is a famous brand of mattresses and bedding in Greece with a reputation for providing luxurious comfort. Coco-mat also runs a small group of hotels in Athens. We stayed at the Coco-Mat Athens Jumelle in Athens' Kolonaki neighborhood. Enjoy a rooftop breakfast outside. There were so many sweet things on the buffet! The marble halva was simply amazing. 

Rooftop terrace at the Coco-Mat Athens JurmelleAthens Itinerary: Art tiles at the Syntagma Metro Station

Kolonaki is a central, but less touristy neighborhood to base yourself in during a stay in Athens. You'll find plenty of upscale shops and restaurants. It takes about 30 minutes via Monastriaki to walk to Athens' famous ancient sites like the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and the Roman Agora of Athens.

Getting Around Athens

Buy a 90 minute Metro ticket for 1.40 EUR in Athens. Not only is the Athens Metro handy and well-priced, you'll also find fun things to hold your attention in the stations. We discovered cool modern art tiles, an Easter market, and displays of antiquities at Syntagma Metro Station.

Download the Beat App taxi app if your destination is not easily accessibly by Metro. It cost us about 5 EUR for a 20 minute ride across the city.

Things to do on an Athens Itinerary at a Glance

Athens door with graffiti

Now let's take a quick look at what to do on your Athens itinerary to help you plan your trip. 
  1. Go on a Sidewalk Safari
  2. Explore the National Garden in Athens
  3. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
  4. Shop Local in Athens and Give Yourself a Makeover
  5. Go Door Hunting
  6. Experience the History and Grandeur of Greek Orthodox Churches
  7. Marvel at the Acropolis
  8. Visit the Ancient Greek Agora
  9. Appreciate the Roman Forum
  10. Explore Athens Airport 

Things to do on an Athens Itinerary in Detail

Now that you have an overview of some of our Athens highlights, let's dive into the things to do in Athens in more detail.
Street art on an Athens Itinerary

1. Go on a Sidewalk Safari

One of the best things to do in Athens is embark on what I like to think of as an old school Sidewalk Safari. We didn't have a particular destination in mind, just a plan to walk and see what we'd see. First up? Athens Central Market, home to a huge fish market, countless butchers (not for the squeamish!), plus fruit and vegetables. From here, we wandered into Psyri and discovered that Athens is obsessed with recreating fairy tales. Alice in Wonderland was the theme at Little Kook. We found fantastic street art everywhere we turned in Athens. Psyri and the streets around Technopolis are two particularly rich areas to look.

Athens Central MarketAthens Itinerary: Alice Kookland

2. Explore the National Garden in Athens

We decided to take an hour and explore the National Garden in Athens (right next to Syntagma Station and Syntagma Square). My favorite part was the pergola of purple, white, and yellow blooms. That and the wee turtles by the central pond really made my day. The National Garden is an excellent free diversion in Athens on a sunny Spring day.

Wisteria at the National Garden in AthensAthens Itinerary: Turtles at the National Garden in Athens

3. Visit the National Archaeological Museum

It takes about 30 minutes to walk from Kolonaki to Athens' National Archaeological Museum. Make sure to go early! There were only a handful of people in line to buy their 12 EUR tickets at 9:30 when we got there. At noon on a rainy Sunday when we left, the queue snaked all the way back to the street!

Athens Itinerary: National Archaeological MuseumAthens Itinerary: Crowds outside the National Archaeological Museum

The National Archeological Museum in Athens was fantastic for putting into context what we saw at Ancient Thera on our Santorini itinerary plus Mycenae, Epidavros, and Tiryns (sites that we explored on our Nafplio road trip on the Peloponnese). Many of the major finds like the gold Mask of Agamemnon are on display here. It was very cool to see some of the skilled and colorful wall paintings from Ancient Thira on Santorini at the National Archeological Museum in Athens. Some of the sculptures on display are from Epidavros. The museum at Epidavros itself only had plaster copies in their on-site museum.

The Gold Mask of Agamemnon at the National Archaeological Museum in AthensWall painting from Ancient Thira at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Other highlights of the National Archeological Museum in Athens include

  • Aphrodite threatening lecherous Pan with her shoe.
  • A mini statue of Athena complete with the head of Medusa on her breastplate. The original stood 40 feet tall.
  • The inlaid eyes of a bronze youth seem to peer into your soul. 
Athens Itinerary: Aphrodite and Pan at the National Archaeological Museum in AthensAthens Itinerary: Mini Statue of Athena at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Athens Itinerary: Bronze youth at the National Archaeological Museum

Did you know that Greeks have Rome to thank for preserving much of their Golden Age history. Romans made copies of many exquisite statues from the 1st century BC to 3rd century AD. Many Greek originals (4-6 century BC) were lost to history (e.g., melted down) but the faithful copies let them live on.

4. Shop Local in Athens and Give Yourself a Makeover

You'll find lots of cool leather shops between the National Archeological Museum and Kolonaki selling shoes and handbags. I got myself a "pleather" bag for a pretty good price. We also stopped in Apivita, the famed Greek homeopathy shop where I picked up some lip balms, face masks, and hair masks for fun. Here's hoping for softer skin and stronger, more supple hair! The prices weren't too bad. It cost 5 EUR for a small hand cream and less than 3 EUR for lip balm.

Athens Itinerary: Shop for leather pursesAthens Itinerary: Shop at Apivita

5. Go Door Hunting

If you read Sidewalk Safari regularly or follow me on Instagram, you know that I'm obsessed with photographing doors (especially the doors of Dublin!) Instaworthy doors in Athens are harder to find, but they are there if you look carefully. Challenge yourself to go on an Athens doors scavenger hunt and give yourself an excuse to get off-the-beaten track.

White door surrounded by street art in Athens.Athens Itinerary: Historic Church near the Greek Orthodox Cathedral

6. Experience the History and Grandeur of Greek Orthodox Churches

We walked from Kolonaki to Plaka past Holy Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary (aka the Greek Orthodox Cathedral). Step inside and admire the grandeur. Don't miss the tiny church next door. Some stones date back to antiquity. You'll find different pagan and Christian motifs represented.

7. Marvel at the Acropolis

Views from the Acropolis in Athens Greece

We weren't planning to visit the Acropolis because it's expensive, crowded and we've already been there on a previous trip to Athens. Thanks to World Heritage Day we visited for free. I'll put up with crowds if it doesn't cost me 20 EUR for the privilege. Climb to the pinnacle of the Acropolis and explore the ancient monuments while taking in spectacular views over Athens. We could see Hytra, the restaurant where we dined the previous night with Acropolis views. It was like we'd come full circle. More on that to come in the section on "Where to Eat in Athens".

Athens Itinerary: Free entrance ticket for International Monuments and Site Day



SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT:
We happened to be in Athens on April 18th which was International Monuments and Sites Day (this year and every year!) What does this mean? All the big attractions in Athens are free.  We checked out the Roman Forum, The Acropolis, and the Ancient Greek Agora. In total we saved 30 EUR (cost of a combo ticket). 

8. Visit the Ancient Greek Agora

Athens Itinerary: Temple of Hephaestus at the Ancient Greek Agora

We paid a visit to the Ancient Greek Agora. The Temple of Hephaestus dominates the landscape both near and far. It's an easy to spot landmark from the Acropolis and it's even more impressive as you get closer. Did you know that Hephaestus is the Greek god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes?

Athens Itinerary: View of the Temple of Hephaestus at the Ancient Greek Agora from the Acropolis

The Stoa of Attalos is a good place to get some shade (or duck out of the cold rain in our case) at the Ancient Greek Agora. There is a small museum with pottery and other artifacts that were found nearby on display. Some of the artifacts date back to the Mycenaeans. Climb to the second story of the Stoa of Attalos for a display of sculpted heads (portraits).

Athens Itinerary: Head of a sculpture at the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Greek AgoraAthens Itinerary: Tower of the Winds at the Roman Forum

9. Appreciate the Roman Forum

Take time for a quick walk through the Roman Forum. The main highlight of the Roman Forum is the Tower of the Winds which features a water-based time keeping mechanism.

10. Explore Athens Airport

It should come as no surprise that Athens Airport has a small museum with archeological finds from the area around the airport. We used the Beat App to get a taxi and got to the airport extra early. We spent 10 minutes browsing the exhibits before heading through security.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: We visited Greece over the Easter holiday. Greece celebrates Orthodox Easter which is celebrated on a different date from the Easter commemorated in most other places in Europe and around the world. Traveling to an Orthodox place over non-Orthodox Easter means attractions, shops, and restaurants will be open and you potentially have the benefit of paid time off from work at the same time. 

Looking for other places to visit during Easter to maximize limited time off while ensuring all the key attractions will be open? Romania and Cyprus also celebrate Orthodox Easter. Why not:

Where to Eat in Athens

Taking time to see the ancient Greek sites and more is a key part of any Athens itinerary. Eating is another important component of the equation. Now we'll cover some suggestions on where to eat in Athens from casual dining to high end formal cuisine.

Dinner at Oikeio

On our first night in Athens, we dined al fresco for dinner at Oikeio in Kolonaki in Athens. We enjoyed halloumi with tomato jam to start, chicken Souvlaki and pork over fresh spinach served with a carafe of wine. Such a lovely neighbhorhood place not far from our hotel! We went to dinner early and were able to walk in and get a table. Make a reservation to avoid disappointment, especially on the weekend.

Where to eat in Athens Greece: collage of dinner dishes from Oikeio in Kolonaki

Dessert to Go at Sweet Alchemy

After dinner, we took some time to wander around Kolonaki. We chanced upon Sweet Alchemy by Parliaros, S. and were drawn in. We couldn't resist ordering a black forest cake to eat back at the hotel. The cake cost 6 EUR which was great value for money. The cake was so moist and dense. I wasn't planning to eat dessert that day, but I regret nothing! 

Athens Itinerary: Dessert at Sweet Alchemy

Drinks and Snacks at The Place by Coco-Mat

Stop into the Place by Coco-Mat near Technopolis (yes, Coco-Mat does bars too in addition to mattresses and hotels!) The Tropical Spice cocktail featured tequila and tabasco (that was what sold me on it...that and the ~10 EUR price tag). We ordered falafel sliders with our drinks which we also greatly enjoyed before we managed to knock it on the floor thanks to an off-kilter table. The Place is definitely a quiet oasis for drinks and small bites.

Athens Itinerary: Mini-falafel sliders at The Place by Coco-MatAthens Itinerary: Tropical Spice Cocktail at The Place by Coco-Mat

A Casual Dinner at It

We took an evening walk in Kolonaki and nabbed a table at It for dinner. We enjoyed pasta with chicken and a fresh, crunchy chicken salad with sesame vinaigrette dressing which were absolutely fantastic. Of course, we washed it all down with a glass of Greek white wine. If we lived in Athens, It would become one of our go to places.
Athens Itinerary: Dinner at It in Kolonaki

Grab a Coffee at Samba

Head to Samba for artisanal coffee roasted locally. Order a V60 and sit outside to watch the people go by. Samba features a number of stools with pull out tables surrounding the corner that the shop is on.
Athens Itinerary: V60 coffee from Samba CoffeeAthens Itinerary: Samba Coffee

Coffee and Brunch at The Underdog

On the walk down from the Acropolis, we stopped at The Underdog for artisanal filter coffee accompanied by hummus, mushrooms, and onions on toast. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we also ordered yogurt with peanut butter, chocolate, and banana. The yogurt may seem decadent, but it was positively healthy compared to the giant stack of chocolate pancakes that we saw the kid at the next table eating! Everything was so good! The coffee was expensive (4 EUR), but the food was well priced (5-7 EUR plates).

Athens Itinerary: Brunch at UnderdogAthens Itinerary: Eat Baklava

Baklava to Go

When in Athens, you must eat baklava. Keep an eye out for local bakeries selling baklava and other Greek sweets to go. Baklava is definitely better to takeaway back to your hotel room rather than eating it on the spot. Each piece is soaked in honey and very sticky. If you must eat them on the spot, make sure you have a wetnap! Note that baklava is more dense than it appears. We ordered four big pieces and couldn't finish them all.

A Memorable Dinner at Michelin Starred Hytra

Acropolis views from our table at Hytra Restaurant in Athens

A Michelin-starred meal is the pinnacle of dining on any trip. We treated ourselves to a Michelin Star tasting menu with wine pairings and Acropolis views at Hytra in Athens. The meal was decent value for money, especially compared to other more expensive Michelin-starred restaurants that we've tried in places like Belfast in Northern Ireland, Bilbao in the Basque Country of Spain, Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal, and the Loire Valley in France. At Hytra, we enjoyed 14 courses with 5 glasses of wine for 135 EUR per person. How did the meal play out?

Collage of dishes from the tasting menu at Hytra Michelin Star restaurant in Athens

We started with an elegant consomme and pea tart followed by an onion with rye and bacon which was sweet and earthy. Celeriac with pear smoked in a nest was served with dramatic flair. Next up, the cod with chevril and roe was a very earthy dish with pops of salt from the fish eggs. 

We noshed on Japanese milk bread and potato bread as an interlude before tucking into squid pasta with almond and bergamot followed by langoustine wrapped in basil. I loved the mushrooms, pork belly, and sour cherry.

Where to Eat in Athens: Hazelnut and blueberry sauce served in an onion at HytraWhere to Eat in Athens: Celeriac in a smoked nest at HytraWhere to Eat in Athens: Mini-white chocolate skull for dessert at Hytra

Our next meat course featured chicken breast with chicken skin and smoked chicken thigh served with a hazelnut and blueberry sauce served in an onion. We also got a surprise chicken ball in blueberry glaze to follow.

Dessert included yogurt with a hard sugar top, apple with pecan tumeric and cinnamon, and a tiny chocolate skull.

Take the opportunity to check out the vibe and see the kitchen in action at Hytra on the way to the Ladies Room.

Where to eat on your Athens Itinerary: Hytra

Hytra is on the 6th floor. Head upstairs one floor to the open air rooftop for unfettered views of the Acropolis. It rained the day we dined so the windows were a little dirty for photography. The terrace was the perfect remedy. Hytra is in an unusual location near the top of an arts center. You get absolutely stunning Acropolis views, but plenty of strip joints and Gentlemen's Clubs across the street.

Acropolis Views from the open-air rooftop above Hytra in Athens

Cheers to a great meal with fine views over Athens!

Dinner with Friends at Ella's Greek Cooking

We always appreciate the opportunity to have dinner with friends when we travel. On our final night in Athens, we met up with our travel blogger friends Alex and Bell from Wanderlust Marriage who happened to be in Greece at the same time we were. We met in Dublin and we've hung out in Athens (x2 🥳), Boston, and D.C. over the years. I wonder where in the world we will meet next?  

Where to eat on your Athens itinerary: Collage of dishes from Ella's Greek Cooking in Monstriaki

Alex recommended dinner at Ella's Greek Cooking in Monstriaki. We enjoyed octopus, chickpea salad, gruyere from Crete, and pita to start. Minced meat kebab and pork chops were filling mains.

Our meal included plenty of wine and tsipouro of course! Cheers to this finale to our fantastic trip to Greece!

Summing Up This 4-Day Athens Itinerary

Many people spend just a short time in Athens on a broader tour of the Greek Islands. Planning a 4-day Athens itinerary gives you a chance to see both the popular Ancient Greek tourists attractions, pop into a museum or two, and have plenty of time to just steep in the atmosphere of the city. Don't forget to make time for some unforgettable meals like we did while you are here.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 10 Cool Ideas and Tips To Help You Plan Your 4-Day Athens Itinerary
10 Cool Ideas and Tips To Help You Plan Your 4-Day Athens Itinerary
Get inspiration to plan an Athens itinerary with this helpful travel guide. Discover things to do in Athens on a 4-day trip to Greece.
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