Top 10 Free Things to Do in Athens, Greece
Visiting Greece, and especially its capital – Athens – is a must for every travel enthusiast since the city indeed has a lot to offer. Athens is a vibrant and lively metropolis that will surely fulfill the expectations of even the most demanding travelers. Everything from archaeological sites, through natural wonders and modern constructions, can be found in Athens. Hence, it is not a surprise that millions of visitors travel to Greece every year. Many of these tourists are traveling on a budget and the capital of Greece welcomes every single one of them. For all of you aiming to visit the Greek capital, we have created a list of places to see for free while staying in Athens.
1. Historic Sites that Are Completely Free
Acropolis is the most famous spot in Athens and there are certain days that you can visit it for free. The free admission days are the following: 6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri), 18 April (International Monuments Day), 18 May (International Museums Day), the last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days), 28 October and every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st.
Besides Acropolis, the entire city is filled with cool historical sites from different periods of time which are completely free for visiting. The Roman and Turkish Baths are cool places to see, as well as numerous small churches and monasteries that can be seen in every corner, like Kapnikarea church in Ermou street. Most of them are centuries old and completely free of any charge.
2. A Few Cool Museums and Other Architectural Landmarks
It should not be a surprise to hear that an ancient city like Athens has numerous awesome museums. But many visitors are not aware that many of them can be visited without paying any money. And the most fun part of the story is that some of those museums are absolutely incredible. For instance, the legendary Aristotle’s Lyceum also known as the Peripatetic School can now be seen without any cost. This is the place where Alexander the Great went to study. Another fabulous place is the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments where you can see more than 1200 various native Greek musical devices, and the Athens Railway Museum where you will be taken back to the steam locomotives of late 1800s.
Walking around Athens, you will also have the opportunity to admire many more cultural and architectural landmarks. My personal favorite is the National Library of Athens which offers free entrance and it is part of the trilogy of the Danish architect Theophil Feiherr von Hansen, which includes the Athens National and Kapodistrian University and the Academy of Athens next to Panepistimio metro station. The National Library has in its possession 4,500 Greek manuscripts and is a must visit for scholars, book lovers and history buffs alike. The library is currently in transition to its new building inside Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, but its old building remains an exceptional example of neoclassical architecture.
3. Visit the National Garden of Athens
Located next to the Parliament Building in Syntagma, the National Garden of Athens is among the greatest free things to do in the capital of Greece. The garden was designed by a German architect in the 19th century, and today it offers an extraordinary variety of trees and plants, ponds with fish and ducks, statues of significant Greek politicians, philosophers and poets, and a small zoo garden. There is also a cafe where you can have some rest, and if you travel with your kids, then the National Garden of Athens is the right place for you as you can join an interactive tour about the Aesop's fables.
4. Take A History Tour Inside Metro Stations
Athens is a huge metropolis, and the best way to roam around it is by using the metro. But using a metro in Athens is definitively a unique experience. Namely, during the digging process, the workers have found various archaeological sites. It happened more than a few times. So the local authorities, together with the metro company, decided to preserve those findings and give the visitors a chance to explore them. And now all the people who come to metro stations such as Acropolis, Syntagma, Panepistimio, and Monastiraki can see traces from the past on the walls completely free of cost.
5. See the Change of the Guards at Syntagma Square
No matter if you are traveling on a budget or not, the Change of the Guards in front of the Parliament is worth seeing. The great news is that this attraction is entirely free and you can see it whenever you have time. All you need to do is visit Syntagma Square and wait for the military unit called Evzones who take turns in guarding the Parliament building. The ceremony is followed by special military steps and positions of their rifles. Evzones wear handmade uniforms and shoes and they are really interesting to watch. And the best time to see an extended ceremony, as well as more evzones, is every Sunday at 11 a.m.
6. Enjoy Athens Architectural Gem, SNFCC
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the new architectural gem of Athens, has been designed in accordance with the principles of sustainability, ecosystems and the alternations of a place that is in constant evolution. It hosts the new building of the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, a park with tall pine and olive trees and an esplanade right next to an artificial canal. Visit the Center on your own pace or on one of its free guided tours.
7. Admire the Quaint Little Houses of Plaka
The central part of the city, next to the Acropolis, is reserved for the oldest and one of the most scenic neighborhoods of Athens, called Plaka. Moving around through narrow streets, most of them marble-paved, you go past buildings of remarkable and uncanny architectural value. At its heart, you will find the two major streets, Kydatheneon and Adrianou, interconnected by picturesque alleys and pathways. Ideal pedestrian routes for walking around, undisturbed by traffic, guide you through the yet to be explored part of Athens; the part that brings together elements of Greek, Roman and Turkish origins.
8. Roam Around at Monastiraki and Psyrri Flea Market
Visiting the biggest and best flea market in Athens is also one of the must activities while in Greece. It is located in the area from Monastiraki Square to the end of Ermou street, and the good thing is that you can visit the market every day. Of course, Sundays are the best time to be here, since more interesting objects are on sale. Anything from stamps, old books, coins, postcards, to clothes, furniture, and decorations can be bought at Monastiraki Flea Market. Psyrri is also an area with lots of second hand shops and little treasures 'up for grabs'. Don't forget to bargain, so you can get the best prices in Athens.
9. Check Out the Nostalgic Streets and Admire the Amazing Murals
The best way to feel the true essence of Athens is to simply roam through some of its streets. You will sense the ancient spirits and witness the true Greek way of life. Plus, you never know what new discovery you will stumble upon. For example, you might think about exploring the Filopappou Hill that is quite close to Acropolis. Many hidden gems are waiting to be seen there. You can take a break in one of the native coffee shops that have a magnificent view of the Acropolis or head to Metaxourgeio and Monastiraki neighborhoods on a graffiti hunt. Athens is such an artistic city with a rich graffiti culture. You will be fascinated by the variety and the high quality of the street murals, being a form of art that you can enjoy totally free of charge!
10. Grab your Camera and Discover the Local Markets
Right next to Monastiraki square you will find the most vibrant part of the city, a year-round food oasis. This is where you will feel the real pulse of the city, among food stalls, coffee shops, open-air markets and well-hidden tavernas. Let your senses guide you; this is a great opportunity to observe, smell, taste and capture some of the best quality ingredients that make the Greek cuisine one of the best in the world! Are you interested in learning more about Greek cuisine? Then join us on our special Get a Taste of Athens food tour!
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What do you enjoy doing the most when exploring a new destination? What's your favorite free activity? Let us know by commenting below!
Words and photographs: Truevoyagers