Athens is a very vibrant and multifaceted city with over 3.000 years of history. There are many things to do and see and you can do so on a budget as it is a very reasonably priced city. There are even a lot of things that you enjoy for free.
- Do a free tour with a local
- Watch the change of the guards
- National Gardens
- Historic Centre
- Street Art
- Free admission days on Archaeological Sites
- Enjoy the view from the Hills of Athens
- Flea markets
- Museum of popular instruments
- Free walking tour
Here is my list of how to enjoy the city of Athens for free:
- Book a free tour with a local
This is Athens has a great program where you get in touch with locals and depending on your needs and interests you arrange with them a free tour. Whether you are a history buff, a foodie, a shopping enthusiast or an outdoor enthusiast you are bound to find a tour that suits you and get to discover the great city of Athens through the eyes of a local.
- Watch the change of the guards
One of the most popular and interesting things to do while in Athens is to watch the change of the guards. The ceremony takes place every hour in front of the Parliament at Syntagma square. There you will see the guards called Evzones wearing traditional customs standing guard in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier. Every Sunday morning at 11 a.m. there is a big group of Evzones, accompanied by a band marching down Vassilis Sofias avenue until the tomb of the unknown soldier. It is a ceremony worth seeing if you are visiting on a Sunday.
- Have a picnic at the National Gardens
Located behind of the Parliament building the National Gardens are an oasis in the heart of the city. They were designed by Queen Amalia and were completed in 1840. It is home to many plants and animals. Inside the garden you will also find a small lake with ducks, ponds with fish, a playground for the children, the botanical museum, a small zoo, a children’s library and a coffee shop. Also spread inside the park are monuments of antiquity and the busts of important Greek personalities like poets and politicians. So grab a souvlaki or a sandwich from a nearby shop and relax at the National Gardens.
- Stroll through the historic centre
Starting from Hadrian’s Arch you can stroll the streets of Plaka and admire a lot of archaeological sites as you pass by, see the beautiful neoclassical buildings, explore a couple of historical churches on the way and finally don’t forget to visit Anafiotika. An area at the foothill of the Acropolis that looks like an island.
- Admire the street art
During the last couple of years, the streets of Athens have been filled with some amazing pieces of Street Art. You can find some interesting pieces at the streets around Monastiraki square and Psyri square at the very centre of the city.
- Visit all the archaeological sites in free admission days
There are some days that some of the most important archaeological sites and museums of the city like the Acropolis have free admission. These days are the first Sunday of each month from November till March, the 6th of March, the 18th of April, the 18th of May, the 5th of June, the last weekend of September and the 28th of October. Also there is free admission to young people under the age of 18.
- Climb the hills of Athens
For the most astounding views of the city, you can head in one of the two hills near the centre of Athens. Filopappou Hill also called the hill of the Muses has an incredible view of the whole city that stretches to the Saronic Gulf. The view of the Acropolis is pretty spectacular from there too. At the top of the hill, you will find the Filopappos Monument built in 115 AD in honour of the town’s benefactor Julius Antiochus Filopappos. As you climb the hill don’t forget to check the beautiful church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbadiaris with the incredible frescoes. Another hill that provides great views of the city is Lycabettus Hill. You can reach it by taking the path from Loukianou Street. At the top of the hill, you will find the chapel of Agios Georgios and a cafe.
- Visit one of the many flea markets
Visiting one of Athens flea markets is a must. Some great options include Monastiraki flea market located next to Monastiraki metro station with many shops selling from souvenirs, traditional products, antiques to clothing and old books. Nearby you will also find Athens central market called Varvakios that sell fruits, meat and fish. At the surrounding streets you can find shops selling from olives to spices and herbs.
- Museum of popular instruments
The museum of Popular Instruments is located at the Lassanis mansion in Plaka next to the Roman Agora. It hosts a collection of about 1.200 musical instruments dating from the 18th century. What is very interesting is that the visitor can listen to the sound produced by each type of instrument. For more information click here.
- Take a free walking tour
There is a free walking tour of Athens that covers the city’s main attractions like the Parliament, the Kalimarmaro stadium, the Roman and the Greek Agora, the Monastiraki markets etc. For more information, you can click here
Where to stay in Athens, Greece
Here are my picks for the best accommodations in Athens, Greece:
Budget Hotels in Athens
Here are my suggestions on budget accommodation in Athens (please avoid staying in areas like Metaxourgio, Omonia, Patission, Larissis Train Station and Vathis Square although they are cheaper).
Attalos Hotel offers air-conditioned rooms with free wi-fi just 100m away from Monastiraki square.
Evripides Hotel is located near Monastiraki square, close to all the city’s attractions. It offers air-conditioned rooms with free – wi-fi.
Mid-Range Hotels in Athens
Titania Hotel is centrally located 5 minutes on foot from Syntagma Hotel. It offers renovated air-conditioned room with free wi-fi and great views of the Acropolis from its rooftop terrace.
Best Western Amazon Hotel is centrally located between Syntagma square and Plaka. It offers air-conditioned room sand free wi-fi.
Boutique Hotels in Athens
Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel is located in a restored neoclassical building close to the Acropolis Museum. It offers charming rooms with free Wi-Fi and eco-friendly mattresses.
Fresh Hotel offers stylish rooms with free Wi-Fi access at the heart of Athens. The rooftop bar offers amazing views of the Acropolis.
5 Star Hotels in Athens
Hilton Athens offers luxurious rooms and suites, the biggest swimming in Athens and a great rooftop bar with Acropolis views.
St George Lycabettus Hotel is located in upmarket Kolonaki square and offers spacious rooms with breathtaking views of the Acropolis. It is also a very family friendly hotel.
Have you been to Athens? Have you done any of the above? Do you have any other suggestions?
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