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Athens, the capital city of Greece, is a place steeped in history and culture. It holds a special place in my heart because it is the first city I ever visited in Europe! From the ancient ruins of the Acropolis to the bustling streets of Plaka, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city full of art, culture, history, and (most importantly) delicious food. If you have 3 days in Athens, you have come to the right place! This article will give you the ultimate itinerary for your trip.
Is Athens Safe?
Athens is generally a safe city but has a high crime rate. I recommend sticking to well-lit and well-populated tourist areas. However, highly-crowded sites, such as the Acropolis and Plaka, can attract pickpockets and purse snatchers. Keep your valuables close and be aware of your surroundings.
I recommend buying an anti-theft purse before your visit. Public transportation is generally safe, but it’s best to avoid traveling alone late at night, especially as a solo female traveler. Exercise the same precaution that you would while traveling to any major city. I felt very safe during my time in Athens, but I made sure to stay in areas that were well-known tourist spots.
How to Get Around?
It is easy to get around Athens! The excellent metro system will take you close to all the major attractions. Just head to one of the machines at the metro station and buy a ticket. Even though you are only in Athens for 3 days, recommend getting the 5-day pass for approximately $8. It will cover your stay, and you don’t have to worry about how many trips you take.
You can also get the 3-day tourist pass for $20 from the airport. It covers all forms of public transportation, including the metro, trolleys, busses, trams, etc. However, this pass is not necessary. Athens is a very walkable city, and using the metro combined with walking is how I got around. If the public transportation options fail, Ubers are cheap, so you will always be able to get around.
Day 1: All about the Ruins!
Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
Starting off your 3 days in Athens is a visit to the Acropolis. The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most iconic landmarks in Athens. It is a hilltop citadel that dates back to the 5th century BC. It is home to some of the most famous ancient ruins in the world. The centerpiece of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
Pro Tip: There are two entrances into the Acropolis: the main entrance in the west and the Dionysus Theater entrance in the southeast. Go to the Dionysus Theater entrance, which is less crowded and will help you beat the rush to the Parthenon! Head straight to the Parthenon first and then circle back to explore the other ruins, such as the Erechtheion (“Porch of the Maidens”) and the Dionysus Theater.
I recommend buying this digital ticket on Get Your Guide and arriving before opening so you can avoid the crowds. If you use other ticketing sites, you may have to pick up a physical copy near the Acropolis, which is a hassle and a waste of time. This ticket will also give you access to the other ruins you will visit later in the day!
After visiting the Acropolis, head to the Acropolis Museum located nearby. The museum houses over 4000 artifacts found on the rock of the Acropolis and its slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. You can see the Parthenon frieze, the Caryatids, and other famous ancient Greek art and architecture work. Just be aware that the museum is closed on Mondays.
After exploring the Acropolis, take a walk through Plaka, the historic neighborhood at the foot of the Acropolis. This charming area includes narrow streets, traditional Greek tavernas, and souvenir shops. Hop into any one of its restaurants for classic Greek fare, such as Souvlaki, Moussaka, and Dolmades. Plaka is also a great place to shop for souvenirs, with a wide variety of shops selling traditional Greek pottery, jewelry, clothing, and more.
Finally, check out the Ancient Agora, the city’s marketplace. This marketplace is where the citizens of ancient Athens would gather to buy and sell goods or discuss politics. The Agora is home to several ancient ruins, including the Temple of Hephaestus, the best-preserved ancient Greek temple in the city. I enjoyed the Temple of Hephaestus more than the Parthenon because it was striking and well-preserved. On the other hand, the construction blocked the Parthenon from almost every angle. It was also much less crowded at the Ancient Agora, and easier to get beautiful photos of the ruins!
Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, and Panathenaic Stadium
If you have time left over after visiting the Ancient Agora, consider visiting the Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, or the Panathenaic Stadium. The Temple of Zeus was dedicated to the king of the gods and was one of the largest temples in the ancient world, completed in 456 BC. Hadrian’s Arch commemorates the visit of Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 121 and serves as a symbolic entrance to the city. The Panathenaic Stadium was the site of the ancient Olympic Games and hosted athletic events in the Panathenaic Games. It was built in 330 BC and renovated in 140 AD by Herodes Atticus.
Don’t fret if you don’t have the time to visit either of these. With only 3 days in Athens, it is important to prioritize. The best ruins are at the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. The other ruins are interesting, but I would have been fine leaving them off my itinerary.
Day 2: Day Trip to Meteora!
The second day will take you out of Athens, but trust me when I say that a trip to Meteora is worth it. Meteora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of a complex of monasteries located in central Greece near Kalambaka. The monasteries are perched on top of tall rock formations that rise from the plain and are only accessible by foot or climbing hundreds of steps.
The monasteries were built between the 11th and 16th centuries by monks seeking solitude and a monastic place away from the secular world. Only six of the original twenty-four monasteries remain, and monks still inhabit them. Visitors can tour the monasteries and admire their architecture, paintings, and other works of art. The surrounding landscape is also breathtaking. It is a unique and fascinating place that combines history, spirituality, and natural beauty.
I highly recommend booking a tour on Get Your Guide. You will take a train to Kalambaka at 8:00 a.m. and return to Athens in the evening. The tour group will take care of everything including your train tickets there and back, give you a fantastic tour of the rock formations and monasteries, and give you time in Kalambaka to eat and do some shopping. This activity will take the whole day, and there will be climbing, so I recommend comfortable shoes. You also have to cover your knees, but the monasteries provide skirts and trousers for a small fee if you do not have anything suitable.
For another stunning day trip from Athens, don’t forget to check out this guide for Nafplio, Greece!
Day 3: Views, Food, and Shopping!
Walking Food Tour
No trip to Greece is complete without partaking in the food culture. With only 3 days in Athens, you want to get the best of the food! Greece is known for its delicious Mediterranean cuisine, so start the day off with a walking food tour with a local. Come with an empty stomach as you get a taste of everything from souvlaki to pastries and desserts like loukoumades. The tour starts at 10 a.m. and takes approximately 4 hours. There are also fantastic options for my fellow vegetarian or vegan friends!
After the food tour, take a stroll through Monastiraki Flea Market, one of the most popular markets in Athens. You can find everything from traditional Greek souvenirs to vintage clothing and antiques. It is worth looking at even if you are not a big shopper! The atmosphere is lovely. Pop into any cafe or market for fresh fruit juice and look at the different shops for souvenirs for your friends, family, and yourself!
In the afternoon, head to Lycabettus Hill before sunset. Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in the city and offers panoramic views of Athens and the Aegean Sea. The hill is a popular spot for hiking and picnicking, and a tiny chapel dedicated to St. George sits on the summit. The sunset from this viewpoint is breathtaking but get there a little early since it can get crowded. You can take a funicular up, which costs approximately $5. There is also a restaurant and bar at the top, so you can have some food and drinks while soaking in the view.
After taking in the view, you can either end your night or continue it by exploring the Athens bar scene. I was exhausted, so I turned in for the night after visiting Lycabettus Hill, but this might be a fun option if you are with friends or family. However, I would only recommend going out late at night as a solo female traveler if you go with multiple people from a hostel. Even then, you should use your best judgment.
I compiled this 3 days in Athens itinerary with my favorite activities from my time in Athens, and I hope you enjoy them, too! For more European destination guides, visit my page here! For tips on living your best solo travel life, click here!
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