acoprolis athens in a day

How to Tackle Athens in One Day WITHOUT Breaking the Bank

Ever dreamed of a Greek vacation, but not sure you could squeeze in Athens?

Maybe you’re short on time. Perhaps you are eager to start your Greek island hopping. Maybe you missed your flight from Budapest to Athens, spent the night in the airport, and only ended up with one day in Athens before your next flight. Either way, I found that it’s truly possible to spend one day in this city, take in a lot of sites, and even appreciate a little of the modern day culture. Not to mention save money (especially after having to book another flight last minute).

I had arrived at the hostel (about 10 euro a night) in Athens late at night, in the middle of the Plaka neighborhood. This neighborhood is a historical neighborhood, known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” because it is very close to the Acropolis. It’s a stunning area, and even more convenient if you’re short on time, seeing as it’s within walking distance to several sites.

Exploring Athens

As for my friend and myself, we wanted to absorb as much of Athens as possible. It’s one of the most historical cities- anyone who’s a history geek like myself can imagine how excited I was to be here! I’m also the type of person who reads everything at the museum. I know-it’s a problem. But to walk in the sites where so much history has been made is a pretty awesome feeling. And we wanted to see it all.

athens in a day- st. paul

The rock that St. Paul preached to the Athenians on.

Therefore, we made our game plan: Wake up at 7:00am, walk down to the Acropolis museum (5 euro), and enjoy some wonderful busts, reliefs, etc. from the Acropolis. There’s even a part of the museum where they have excavated and found more ruins under the building! Basically, anywhere in Athens they dig, they find more ruins, which is pretty fascinating.

museum ruins athens in a day

Ruins under the Acropolis Museum.

muesem ruins athens in a day 2

Ruins under the Acropolis Museum.

Walking Tour of Athens

After the museum, we went back to our hostel to catch a free walking tour of the city. You’ll find that most places will offer some sort of walking tour. I recommend to always take it- most of the time it’s cheap, and it lets you see the main sights so you can decide where you’d like to spend more time later. In this case, we got to see:

  • the Olympic Stadium


olympic stadium athens in a day

  • Hadrian’s Wall

  • Syntagma Square (where the Greek Parliament building is)

  • Monastiraki (a lively part of town that has a massive flea market)
  • Plaka neighborhood (where we stayed)
  • Receive information about the Acropolis and Ancient Agora
  • See a few ancient ruins along the way
ancient ruins athens

Ancient ruins are located all over the city.

It’s a great tour, and only a few hours. While it is free, they typically expect tips at the end, so budget about 5 euro for this. It’s well worth it to cover a lot of sights in a limited amount of time.

After that, we headed to the biggest part of Athens, the Acropolis. It’s 12 euro to enter, but includes the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Theatre of Dionysus. It takes about three hours to walk through (so bring plenty of water), and you get to see it all. We even ran into a local Athenian who was showing a friend around and asked him where a good place to eat dinner was.

acropolis athens in a day


lady columns athens

After seeing these in art class, I was pumped to see them in person.

posing with gods athens

Exploring the Ancient Agora and posed among the gods.

A Local Experience

Now this is something I’d recommend doing. Ask the locals! They’re proud of where they live, and are so excited to tell you about it. So ask for their advice! We ended up in a neighborhood that was completely local and had one of the best Greek meals we’ve ever had. It was also a lot cheaper than eating at a place close to where we were staying. We even hung out at a bar a few blocks down full of locals- great for people watching and just sipping on some Greek wine.

lamb meatballs athens

Delicious lamb meatballs with feta.

So there you have it. One day, so much accomplished. We saw the ancient sites of the city, and even got to explore where local Athenians hang out. All around the cost of about 45 euro ($50) total with our food and tours. If you don’t have much time or money, it is possible to explore Athens in one day.

Dionysus in athens

Dionysus theatre in Athens.

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