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.

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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.