City Guide: 48 Hours in Athens
In this city guide we show you how to get the most out of 48 hours in Athens. We attempt to teach you a little history, make recommendations for food, and provide transportation and lodging tips. All of this is delivered in an easy-to-read hourly itinerary. Our goal is to take the pain of planning out of your life so you can enjoy your 48 hours in Athens.
All About Athens
Athens is a city that is rich in history and is known to many as the birthplace of democracy. It rivals Rome in stunning architecture and historical relevance. If you’ve ever read the Iliad, Odyssey, or drooled over Gerard Butler ‘s amazing six pack in 300 then you know the ancient Greeks were no joke. They fended off one of the greatest empires known to man when they defeated the Persians and shortly(ish) thereafter Alexander the Great helped spread Greek culture all over the world.
Walking around a city with this much history makes for an overwhelming number of landmarks to visit. We are going to narrow them down to the must-sees since you only have 48 hours in Athens and there is no way to see everything. Not only do you have a ton of sites to see but you’ve also got a ton of flavors to taste. Don’t let the amazing architecture distract you from the gyros, yogurt, seafood, or olives. You better be prepared for a jam-packed 48 hours in Athens.
48 Hours in Athens: Day 1 Highlights
Athens Walking Tours Food Tour: 9:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Kick off your 48 hours in Athens by eating your way through the city on a guided food tour from Athens Walking Tours. This tour last three and a half hours and is full of fun facts and local flavors. While on the tour you can expect an itinerary similar to the one laid out below.
Street Vendor – Koulouri Corner
Zouridakis Cretan Store
Next you will stop at a Cretan supermarket called Zouridakis where you can enjoy all things Crete. We were served a platter of delicious snacks and spreads, most of which were derived from olives.
Loukoumades are the Greek version of donuts and they are delicious. In Athens there are two donut shops who battle it out for bragging rights of being the best donut shop around. Krinos and Lukumades. On your tour you can expect to visit one of them and our guide chose Krinos to enjoy their famous honey glazed Loukoumades.
While you’re on your sugar high you’ll take a stroll through Athens’ central market called Varvakios Agora. If you get queasy at the sight of things like skinned animal heads, you might want to close your eyes for this part of the tour.
Fruit and Vegetable Market
On the other end of the meat and fish market you will find the fruit and vegetable market (one of our favorite stops on the tour). Here you will see a rainbow of colors and just about every fruit imaginable. You’ll sample some sesame crusted almonds that are out of this world and you should absolutely buy some if you’re not allergic. Plenty of these fruits and veggies travel well and make for a great afternoon snack while exploring Greece and many of its islands. So, don’t be afraid to shop around!
Walking just a few blocks puts you in front of one of the quaintest, cutest restaurants you can imagine. You will sample tzatziki, zucchini balls, baked feta and more.
This herb market is filled with the wonderful aromas of citrus, cinnamon, and hand made soaps. Your guide will take you on a sensory journey consisting of their favorite Greek herbs and spices. Be sure to watch your head as you duck and dive around the rows of hanging dried peppers and natural sponges.
Bougatsadiko serves up some of the best Bougatsa in town, according to our tour guide. For those of you wondering what Bougatsa is, it’s essentially a phyllo dough pie stuffed with just about anything. The tour sampled the spinach and custard varieties and both were phenomenal.
Grill House Psiri
On your last stop you get to enjoy the food that Greece is probably best known for – The Gyro. You will likely sit outside and enjoy the great weather but be sure to pop your head in to see the magnificent chunk of meat working its way around the rotisserie.
Athens Walking Tours Acropolis Museum and Acropolis: 4:00 – 7:30 PM
Acropolis Museum Tour
In order to make the most of your 48 hours in Athens we recommend taking an afternoon and evening tour of the Acropolis Museum and Acropolis with Athens Walking Tours. You will meet your guide right at the base of the AthensWas Hotel, outside of the Fresko Yogurt Bar. From there its just a short walk over the Acropolis Museum.
The Acropolis Museum is a stunning piece of modern architecture that is built right on top of ancient ruins. As you wait in line to enter you stand on glass floors and can gaze into the remains of ancient homes and meeting spaces below. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and will walk you through the entire history of the Acropolis. You will learn how it was once used to defend the city from invasion and how it transformed into a place of worship for the Greek Gods.
After learning most of the Acropolis’ history in an air conditioned environment its time to head to the top of the Acropolis. You will stop by the Theater of Dionysus as well as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus along the way up, which offer a nice break during the steep climb.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (below) still hosts modern day concerts, so check out the events happening inside for a once in a lifetime experience.
After seeing the theaters you will experience the Temple of Athena Nike, The Erechtheion, and (obviously) the Parthenon. Once atop the Acropolis be sure to check out the view from the overlook point near the flag pole (city landscape below).
Crowds begin to die down in the afternoon, leaving you with the opportunity for some really great photos. Add in the sunset hues bouncing of the marble structures and it’s one beautiful scene.
Being able to watch the sunset over the city is just another benefit of doing the Acropolis tours in the afternoon instead of the morning.
You will notice we use Athens Walking Tours for nearly every tour in Greece. We are not affiliates, we just really enjoyed our experience AND they offer a discount if you book more than one tour with them! Also, be sure to bring cash because the entrance fees are not included in their tours. They do, however, purchase the tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line.
48 Hours in Athens: Day 2 Highlights
Panathenic Stadium: 8:00 – 9:00 AM
When in Athens, do as the Olympians did…or something like that. Get your butt out of bed early and go for a jog around the Panathenic Stadium. If you’re really feeling adventurous there are enough stairs to run stadiums and break a serious sweat. The Panathenic Stadium is about a five minute jog from the AthensWas hotel so it’s a pretty quick adventure.
The Panathenic Stadium was reconstructed in order for Athens to host the first of the modern Olympic games in 1896. According to http://www.panathenaicstadium.gr/ it was also home to the archery event and it was the finish line in the 2004 Olympic games. Put yourself into the shoes of the triumphant athletes and stand on the blocks for an amazing picture with Acropolis sprawling in the background.
Temple of Olympian Zeus 9:00 – 9:30 AM
On your sweat drenched walk back to the hotel be sure to cross the street and check out the Temple of Olympian Zeus. As you walk closer try to imagine all 104 columns standing tall and proud alongside to the 15 that are still upright. Stroll around and inspect the remains of some of the fallen columns and marvel in the size and detail. No matter how many times we look at the architectural treasures of Ancient Greece and Rome we are always awestruck by the engineering and craftsmanship.
The Plaka and Plaka Stairs – 10:30 – 11:30 AM
After heading back to the AthensWas Hotel, grabbing a quick breakfast, and showering you should be able to get to The Plaka by around 10:30 AM. The Plaka is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Athens and most of the streets are closed to automobile traffic. It is, however, a bit of a tourist trap with every trinket related to Greece or Athens that one could imagine. The restaurants all have employees out front trying to convince you to stop in and try their food. Hint: beware of those restaurants. We do recommend stopping by the Plaka Stairs and grabbing a coffee at one of the many outdoor tables and taking in one of the most picturesque spots in the oldest area of Athens.
Ancient Agora of Athens 12:00 – 1:00 PM
The agora was to the ancient Greek’s what the forum was to the ancient Romans (kind of). It has had many uses over time though, most notably, it was the gathering place for commercial and political activity. Though the majority of the land is taken up by crumpled remains it is fun to imagine the founding peoples of democracy gathering here to discuss politics and shop around.
Temple of Hephaestus 1:00 – 1:30 PM
While you’re at the Ancient Agora make sure to snap some photos and walk around the Temple of Hephaestus. This temple is one of the best preserved sites that we have ever seen. It is truly amazing to witness how proudly this monument still stands after 2500 years. Its breathtaking columns are visible from just about anywhere in the Agora, so we dare you to get some creative photos.
Cooking Class 5:00 – 9:00 PM
This was the first time doing a cooking class while abroad and we’ve got to say…it was awesome! Go for the Athens Cooking Lessons and Dinner with Athens Walking Tours. There is no better way to learn local cuisine and culinary traditions than to actually cook with locals. Your class takes place at a restaurant named Diavlos Taverna near the Agora. They will actually do the cooking while your class takes care of the chopping, cutting, seasoning, etc. During your class you will learn how to make tzatziki, zucchini balls, Greek salad, dolmas (grape leaves), and so much more. On top of learning to cook you should enjoy your glass of wine and expect to make friends with the others in your class.
48 Hours in Athens: Lodging
We recommend staying at AthensWas hotel. They were running a deal on Chase Ultimate Rewards’ website that gave us a great rate. The hotel was incredibly clean and modern and offered a cozy bed to sleep on. Head upstairs to get a panoramic view of the acropolis and enjoy a hand crafted cocktail. The prices at the restaurant were a little too high for our liking so we decided to venture out for our dinners. We did, however, enjoy the complimentary breakfast downstairs.
As far as location goes, AthensWas couldn’t be better. It is a five minute walk to the Acropolis museum and, from there, just a few more minutes up to the Acropolis. One of the best yogurt spots in Athens also happens to be located next door and we had our fair share. Expect to walk about 5-15 minutes to destinations not at the Acropolis. This includes things like the Plaka, Ancient Agora, and many of our recommended landmarks above.
48 Hours in Athens: Transportation
A Note on Taxis
Transportation was probably our least favorite part of the Athens experience. Uber was kicked out, leaving you playing the taxi game any time you don’t feel like walking. Taxi drivers WILL try to rip you off. From the airport to downtown it should be a flat rate of 38 Euro, however, most cab drivers will try to charge you for loading bags in and out of the car. One driver tried charging us 50 Euro (12 Euro to load bags!? No Way). There are a few ways to limit this madness. The first is to download the Beat Taxi App. This basically turns taxis into Ubers, allowing you to pay the correct amount with a credit card. The second option is, when coming to and from the airport, make sure you have exact change, which makes the negotiation much easier.
Now that we’ve made the taxi situation perfectly clear, let’s talk timing. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get from the airport to downtown Athens. After your initial commute to the AthensWas hotel you shouldn’t need to take a taxi unless you are really tired. In our experience it took about the same time to walk places as it did to taxi since the streets were tiny and congested, rendering cars essentially useless. In order to get the most of your 48 hours in Athens, we do not recommend renting a car. That said, if you plan to extend your trip and spend some time outside of Athens then it may be worth considering.
That’s all. Don’t forget to share!
If you loved this 48 hours in Athens city guide then please don’t forget to share it with your friends. If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the spots mentioned above please feel free to reach out to us. To see more of our city guides you can check out our Towns page.