I’ll be landing in Athens around 9 AM and have another flight at 8:30 PM next day. What can I do during that time in terms of exploring, sightseeing, etc while on a layover in Athens? I don’t want to do too much so I have to rush, but also don’t want to be bored and sit around at the airport.

You can generally “do” Athens in two days. Granted, there are lots of ruins and archaeological sites, which can tend to blur together in memory, but they collectively give you a great perspective on history.

LAYOVER IN ATHENS

We visited last October, which was a perfect time to visit. It wasn’t peak tourist season, the weather was terrific, and the crowds were sparse (as far as crowds go). The food was great and the prices are very inexpensive relative to the rest of western Europe.

Cheap Flights to Athens

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Berlin

17.01.2018

12.02.2018

Tickets from 62

Kiev

01.08.2018

09.08.2018

Tickets from 69

Tel Aviv-Yafo

20.10.2017

17.11.2017

Tickets from 98

Manchester

29.01.2018

08.02.2018

Tickets from 130

Moscow

08.11.2017

08.11.2017

Tickets from 141

Saint Petersburg

13.04.2018

19.04.2018

Tickets from 165

Kharkiv

09.01.2018

12.01.2018

Tickets from 211

Tbilisi

17.11.2017

01.12.2017

Tickets from 214

Yerevan

05.11.2017

14.11.2017

Tickets from 245

Kazan

31.05.2018

08.06.2018

Tickets from 275

Krasnodar

16.03.2018

21.03.2018

Tickets from 314

Milan

23.09.2017

25.09.2017

Tickets from 329

Rostov

11.12.2017

17.12.2017

Tickets from 355

Novosibirsk

01.03.2018

21.03.2018

Tickets from 363

Perm

10.10.2017

22.10.2017

Tickets from 370

New York

18.10.2017

23.11.2017

Tickets from 405

Almaty

27.10.2017

03.11.2017

Tickets from 409

Chicago

02.11.2017

27.11.2017

Tickets from 532

Washington

17.10.2017

04.11.2017

Tickets from 624

Abuja

19.10.2017

30.11.2017

Tickets from 653

Houston

16.10.2017

23.10.2017

Tickets from 682

Montreal

06.11.2017

16.11.2017

Tickets from 693

San Jose

13.10.2017

20.10.2017

Tickets from 707

San Francisco

07.11.2017

15.11.2017

Tickets from 738

Philadelphia

19.10.2017

25.10.2017

Tickets from 768

Greenville

01.11.2017

09.11.2017

Tickets from 847

Atlanta

29.12.2017

03.01.2018

Tickets from 978

Pittsburgh

01.08.2018

23.08.2018

Tickets from 1 160

 

Outside of the Acropolis area in the center of Athens, I liked the National Archaeological Museum since they have the frescoes and artifacts recovered from the the city of Akrotiri (destroyed by volcano circa 1645–1600 BC) on the island of Santorini that we had previously visited.

We took a walking food tour of Athens which I’d highly recommend. Our guide took us off the beaten path to neighborhoods not generally frequented by tourists, and we had some terrific food.

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square is quite a sight to see — some may dismiss it as “goofy,” but I found it stirring to see the centuries of tradition being maintained in such an elaborate ritual by the Presidential Guard. On Sundays at 11 am, there is a much more elaborate ceremony with a parade.

It’s easy to get into Athens from the airport via the train or bus.

First, there is a bag storage place at the airport, so you can store any bags you don’t want to carry into the city with you. (Any checked luggage with your airline won’t usually need to be collected since the layover in Athens is under 24 hours.)

The train station right at the airport will take you to Athens, so you can quickly get into the city and back to the airport. The Suburban line goes to the Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station), and Metro line 3 also stops at the airport. Either way, you need a separate airport ticket (€ 18 round-trip), and then you can get a 24-hour metro ticket to get around in Athens. The Metro is fast clean, reliable, and convenient.

The Acropolis (where the Parthenon is) and the new Acropolis Museum are on many bucket lists. I’d go straight to the Acropolis and then afterwards go the the Acropolis Museum. Rick Steves has a nice free audioguide to the Acropolis, which I recommend. The earlier in the day you get to the Acropolis the better — it can get busy later in the day.

The streets around the Acropolis are a bit touristy, but you can walk and hang out at cafes and check out the shops in the neighborhood, the Plaka District. If you want to check out more museums and archaeological sites, there are plenty to choose from in walking distance: the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Kerameikos Cemetery, and the Panathenaic Stadium were some of my favorites.

Monastiraki is also a nice neighborhood if you want someplace else to check out for food and shopping. There is a big Metro station there, as well.

Finally, there is an Athens City Pass (by Turbopass) that includes transportation to/from the airport, on the Metro, and admission to certain attractions, and it might make sense to buy it — you can then skip ticket lines at attractions and don’t have to worry about having the “right” ticket on the trains, etc.