Changing of the guards at the Parliament building in Athens — Photo courtesy of Nelly Paraskevopoulou
If you have traveled from far away to visit Athens and you only have a few hours at your disposal, then make a point to visit the most essential spots with the aid of these half-day itinerary ideas.
Ancient Greek Architecture
Be sure to include a visit to the famous Acropolis of Athens, perched on a rocky hill in the center of the ancient city. The walk is uphill and can be tiring, especially on a hot summer day. But if you start early in the morning, it will be easier.
Dedicated to the goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens - Athena - the temple of the Parthenon is a superb example of ancient Greek architecture and harmony. It's considered one of the most beautiful ancient monuments in the world. The Erechteion, the smaller temples, the overall atmosphere and the breathtaking view remain indelible in the memory of all those who visit this sacred place.
After visiting the Acropolis, you can cross the street and see the Acropolis Museum, where many of the unique statues and sculptures are kept. This short visit should nonetheless give you an in-depth experience of ancient Greek culture.
If ancient history is not at the top of your list, you can see modern Athens by taking the hop-on, hop-off bus with Athens City Sightseeing, which takes you on a guided tour of Athens with 27 stops.
Monastiraki Square — Photo courtesy of Nelly Paraskevopoulou
Another option would be to visit the neighborhood of Plaka on foot, starting from Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street and following the quaint alleys through this beautiful district, until you reach Syntagma Square. Here, you can watch the changing of the guards outside the Parliament or stop by Monastiraki, where you can visit the enchanting flea market with its many interesting shops.
If you are staying close to Syntagma or in the area of Plaka, you can wander down to Monastiraki and visit also the area of Psyrri with secondhand bookshops and traditional artisans.
Museum-Hopping or Relaxation
In half a day, you would also have enough time to visit a couple of museums, such as the National Archaeological Museum on Patission Street, with ancient treasures from all over Greece; Benaki Museum, opposite the National Garden; the Museum of Cycladic Art very close by; and the Byzantine Museum on the other side of Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, located in the neighborhood of Kolonaki.
If you prefer to stay in the historical center, you can visit the museums closer by: the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum close to the Acropolis, the Museum of Greek Folk Art in Plaka and the Pottery Museum in Psyrri.
For an even more relaxing itinerary, you can visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus and then cross over to the Zappion and the National Garden, where the cool trees and natural environment will make you feel rested and restored.