Walking Tours of Athens: Self-Guided

Café in Psiri district, Athens

We present here three walking tours of Athens. They are free for your enjoyment, and you may use them on your phone or tablet as you walk through the most important ancient ruins and the historic center of Athens.

You may walk each one separately, or you may combine them for one day-long tour.

Map of the Walking Tours

Open the tour map in a new window

Tour 1: The Historic Center

If you have an afternoon to spend around Athens, a walk around Monastiraki and Plaka is a pleasant experience. Best time to start would be around 7:30 or 8:00 PM, after the sun has journeyed close or beyond the horizon line and the daylight heat begins subsiding.

The total distance of this walk is about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles). Follow the BLUE line on our map.

This is a leisurely walk to do some shopping, to observe the street life, and to enjoy a good meal whenever it seems appropriate. There are plenty of places to do all that in every corner.

Power walking is not out of the question but these–mostly pedestrian–streets are more conducive to a leisurely stroll than an exercise session.

If you are in need of a restroom you can use any cafeteria along the way, You can often walk right through to the restroom without asking.

Some of these restrooms are in the basement where their glass floor reveals ancient ruins below the modern building (MOMA restaurant in Adrianou street is one of them).

Syntagma Square

Start at Syntagma square where you can spend some time people-watching. Many tourists venture across the busy street to feed the pigeons and to watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the Parliament.

The most adventurous one take their souvenir photo standing next to the immovable statuette guards, especially those who find the traditional military uniform noteworthy.

The presidential guards sport a bayonet-fixed rifle, pom-pom shoes, stockings, and a pleated mini skirt. You might think that military people have a funky sense of fashion, and that’s probably true.

However, the outfit was developed for agility in the mountainous terrain of Greece. It gave Greek independence fighters a slight mobility edge in ambush fighting. You have to give them credit for donning the mini skirt more than a century before it scandalized puritans in the 1960’s.

You might want to linger around the square and catch the elaborate changing of the guard choreography (another funky military attempt at art it seems). Or you may go for a leisurely walk in the extensive National Gardens behind the Parliament building. But if you’ve been in other parks in Europe or in the US, it will not be very interesting or quiet.

Ermou Street Toward Monastiraki

From Syntagma square, take Ermou west towards Monastiraki. To find Ermou, stand in front of the fountain in the middle of the Syntagma square keeping the Parliament to your back. The street right in front of you is Ermou.

Most of the shops sell fashion items, apparel, and electronics, but soon the street will take you to the ancient church of Panagia Kapnikarea.

Mitropoleos Street

Make a left onto Mitropoleos street, and enjoy a leisurely walk flanked by restaurants most of which offer gyros and grilled meats. Mitropoleos quickly will bring you to Mitropoleos square where you will be confronted with the stately Cathedral (Mitropolis) of Athens.

Mitropoleos Square

While the Athens Cathedral is large and imposing, it’s not the most important church in the square.

Right next to the large cathedral, don’t miss the beautiful and historic Agios Eleftherios church.

What the little structure lacks in size, makes up with beautiful proportions, elegant silhouette, and decorative details. Look closely and you will see many marble stones embedded in it’s red brick  walls.

Most of these marble fragments came from the Acropolis at a time (a few hundred years ago) when the local authorities considered the ancient monument to be just a convenient quarry of building material.

The restaurants on Mitropoleos square are on the expensive side of life, but having a beverage here might not be a bad idea if you are tired.

Pandrosou Street

From the front of the little church of Agios Eleftherios (with the church on your back) walk straight to Pandrosou to enjoy a purely “touristy” experience though all the little souvenir shops and the wandering visitors.

This is a pedestrian only street, lined with open-frond shops, that sell everything from cheap kitsch, to t-shirts, to quality gold jewelry, handicrafts, to leather and fur products.

Monastiraki Square

It will only take a few pleasant blocks to bring you back to lively Monastiraki square. This is where the metro station spills the passengers, and this is the crossroad where six busy commercial streets converge.

Ifaistou Street

Cross the square, and continue onward to Ifaistou thrift shops.

This is a popular shopping place for locals and tourists alike. The open-front shops spill their wares onto the street and it seems as if everything is easily attainable and cheap.

It’s not easy counting “blocks” in these pedestrian streets, but about five blocks ahead, make a left on Kinetou street to reach Andrianou in front of the archaeological site of the Agora.

Andrianou Street

Make a right on Andrianou and survey the restaurants and cafés lining the street, and enjoy the ancient ruins of the Agora on your left.

You are now walking on the oldest continuously used road of Athens that dates to the Classical era and beyond. This makes it about 2500 years old.

You can sit and have a meal here, or you can save it for a memorable dinner later in view of the ancient ruins. As you walk, fen off the waiters with a polite smile when they invite you to sit at their own restaurant every few steps.

Soon you will find the street becoming wider and splitting in front of the Thesion metro station. Somehow this feels like you reached an end, and your first impulse might be to turn back and walk through Adrianou again.

Pouliopoulou Street

But if you are up for a longer stroll, continue to your left through Ilia Pouliopoulou street, lined with hand-made jewelry and other artisan kiosks.

Within minutes, you will find yourself on a wider pedestrian street called Apostolou Pavlou.

Apostolou Parlou Street

The coffee shops that flank Apostolou Pavlou street are frequented mostly by Greeks and they offer good views of the Acropolis. It’s a good place to have a drink.

If you continue your walk, soon you will find yourself in smaller and smaller crowds as you move toward the Acropolis entrance.

Dionysiou Areopagitou

The road will split right at the path that takes you up to the Acropolis, and you should take the wide path to your left (not the one up the hill) called Dionysiou Areopagitou.

Within five blocks you will reach the imposing Acropolis Museum and a host of street vendors and performers in front of it.

If you are up for it, or if you are looking for some shelter from the heat, consider a visit to the Acropolis museum before continuing. At the very least, walk down the wide staircase toward its entrance and enjoy the view of the ancient ruins under its foundation. If you are lucky, you will also see the archaeologists working below your feet.

Vyronos Street

Make a left after the museum onto Vyronos street. Here you are in Plaka district and winding old streets again.

Make a right on Lysikratous, and then a quick left onto Andrianou street.

Adrianou Street

Adrianou street is packed with shops and restaurants, similar to Pandrosou, and it will take you back to Monastiraki square where you can hop on the metro back to your hotel.

Tour 2: Ancient Athens

This tour would take a good part of a day with stops at museums for lunch, and rest.

The total distance of this walk is about 5-7 kilometers (4.5 miles).

Follow the ORANGE line on our map and with the exception of the actual Acropolis visit, this walk takes place over relatively flat land. It would be best to start this walk around 8:00 AM.

If you have extra time at the end, or if you want to continue the tour a second day, follow the GREEN line on the map. More about the extension (Tour 2.1) later.

Start at the Acropolis Metro station  and walk half a block with the Acropolis museum on your left.

It might be a good idea to buy two small bottles of water from the food shops across from the Acropolis Metro station and to have breakfast there (if you haven’ had it at the hotel), or buy a cheese pie to eat as you walk.

Turn left on Dionysiou Areopagitou street. We’ll reserve the Acropolis Museum visit for later in the day when its air conditioned rooms would be a welcome relief from the mid-day sun, so head for the Acropolis itself now that the sun is still low on the horizon.

Acropolis

On your right hand side you will see the entrance to the Acropolis Archaeological site.

Buy your Tickets to the Ancient Sites

The ticket you buy at the Acropolis costs 12 Euro and will allow you entry to all the archaeological sites we’ll visit in this tour: Acropolis, Agora and it’s museum, Kerameikos and its museum, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, and the Olympeion.

Pay for your ticket and walk up the foot path that takes you through the Theatre of Dionysus. This is one of the most important theaters in Greece, and the place where Theatre reached it’s zenith in Ancient Athens.

It is in ruinous state, with most of the cavea stones missing, but some of the front row VIP seats and the orchestra are still preserved.

Continue walking toward the Acropolis entrance, and soon you will be at the back wall of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus with its tall arches.

The Odeon is a later, Roman era addition. In contrast with theaters, odeons were roofed, and hosted mainly musical performances.

From there walk up the precarious footpath and the Propylaea to enter the Acropolis. You will be asked to check your backpacks and bulky items at the small building nearby.

You will see that this is the main entrance and ticket booth to the Acropolis (you don’t have to buy a ticket again), and there is a gift shop, and benches to rest under the trees.

If your water bottles are empty, you should be able to buy water in this area, and enjoy a short rest in the shade.

As tempting as it might seem, don’t spend spend too much time here because our tour just started. The more you wait, the larger the crowds at the top of the Acropolis become.

The orange tour line on our map suggests a walking path around the Parthenon, but feel free to walk around and enjoy the ancient ruins as you please.

On the Acropolis itself you can find a water fountain (good place to refill your water bottles) and toilets at the southeast end of the rock. But shade and other amenities are not available until you exit the archaeological site.

It would take at the very least about half-hour to walk around the monuments of the Acropolis and to take in the city view form above.

Exit the Acropolis and head west towards the Areios Pagos, the bare rock to the right, above the Agora. Ascend the rock through the stairs for good views of the Acropolis and the Agora below, and for some excellent “selfie” opportunities.

Afterward, walk northwest on Theonas road to find the entrance to the Agora of Athens. Enter the site with the same ticket you purchased when you entered the Acropolis.

The Ancient Agora of Athens

The Agora (meaning “marketplace”) was the heart of Ancient Athens, and the place of exchanging goods and ideas.

You will be walking on a historic dirt path that in Classical antiquity was the sacred Panathenaic Way.

On a low hill, diagonally to your left you will see the Hephaisteion temple, so follow the footpaths to it and return later to the Agora Museum.

You can probably be finished with the museum visit in about fifteen or twenty minutes, and when you are done follow the orange line on our map to exit on Adrianou street (this portion of tour: about 45min).

Kerameikos

Here you’ll have the option to skip the Kerameikos portion of this tour if you want to shave about one hour off this tour.

Kerameikos is a major Archaeological site since it encloses the defensive walls and the cemetery of Classical Athens. But given the other sites and museums included here, it’s not a “must-see” venue if you only have a casual interest in ancient Greece.

Having said that, if you enjoy ancient ruins and museums, and especially if the main thrust of your visit to Greece is to study the ancient culture, follow the orange line to the west.

When you reach the Thesion Metro (HSAP) station turn to the right, and follow the fence toward the archaeological site entrance.

There is a restroom and a water fountain at the Museum entrance if you need them. Once again, leave the museum next to the entrance for last.

Once finished with your Kerameikos walking tour, head back toward Thesion Metro station again.

Here you will have the option of hopping on the train to reach the next stop: Monastiraki station which is closer to our next Archaeological site.

Another option would be to use the Metro from Thesion to get back to the Acropolis museum by skipping Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora.

But if you still have the time, the next part of this tour would take you through good city walking territory, and coincides with parts of our sightseeing tour of Monastiraki, so we recommend following our tour on foot.

Monastiraki and lunch

If you started the tour early in the morning, you are probably ready for lunch just about now, and you should be in the right place.

As you walk through Adrianou street pick one of the outdoor restaurants next to the Agora ancient ruins to have your lunch and a drink, then keep walking east until you reach our next archaeological site.

It might be a good idea to use the restaurant restroom facilities (some restrooms have glass floors where you can see ancient excavations below the modern building) before you head to our next two sites.

Buy bottled water at the kiosks right across from the Hadrian’s Library site as soon as you get there.

Hadrian’s Library and Roman Agora (or Forum)

Both of these ancient sites can be visited in about half an hour.

Both Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora are later additions to the city. They were built by the Romans about 400 years after the Parthenon and the Hephaisteion. For perspective, the Ottoman mosque adjacent to the library was built more than 1500 years later.

The library was built by the philhellene Roman emperor Hadrian in 132 CE to house papyrus books and to revitalize the already declining intellectual centrality of post-Classical Athens.

In it’s grounds, you will see the foundation outlines of later Byzantine churches that were built on the library’s ruins between 500 and 1200 CE. Again for perspective, that’s over a millennium after the Parthenon was built.

The Roman Agora was built after the Roman empire established rule over Greece to differentiate their market from the ancient Athenian one. It was built on the site of an earlier Hellenistic center.

In the Roman Agora, you will find the Tower of Winds. It’s an octagonal marble building that stands intact since the 2nd century BCE.

The building alternated functions over the next two millennia, but it was originally built to house a water clock and to act as a weather vane. The relief statues that surround the top of the tower depict the eight wind directions.

Toward the Acropolis Museum

It would take you about 15 or 20 minutes to reach the Acropolis Museum from the Roman Agora.

If you follow our orange map line, the next twenty minutes will take you through a pleasant, flat, and “touristy” part of town.

If you don’t want to walk through other wandering tourists, you can walk back to Monastiraki station to ride the Metro to the Acropolis Museum, or you can walk up the district of Plaka for less crowded sightseeing through the residential area.

If you choose this latter option, keep in mind that the walk uphill is steep. Even if you are lost in the meandering streets, keep the Acropolis to your right and you’ll eventually end up at the Acropolis museum.

Continuing with our tour, you will be walking through Adrianou street – the oldest continuously used road of Athens that dates to the Classical era and beyond.

When you reach Lysikratous street turn to your right toward the Monument of Lysicrates, and then left (it’s easier walking down through the park where the monument is rather than walking on the busy street traffic).

The Monument of Lysicrates was financed by a wealthy citizen of Ancient Athens who also sponsored musical performances at the Theatre of Dionysus you saw earlier at the Acropolis. Lysicrates built it to commemorate his sponsored performance’s winning first price in 335/334 BCE.

The Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum is a fitting exclamation mark for this walking tour.

You will have to buy a ticket (€ 12) at the entrance since it is not included in the sites you paid for at the Acropolis. But don’t throw away the other ticket because you would need it if you plan to visit the Olympeion later in the tour extension.

The museum is a beautiful, modern, building that houses the artifacts unearthed during excavations at the Acropolis.

It is packed with amazing art from all eras of Ancient Greece, but the highlights are the spectacular exhibits of the Parthenon pediment and frieze sculptures on the third floor, and the Karyatides of the Erechtheion overlooking the main staircase.

Don’t neglect to watch the ten-minute long “History of the Acropolis” movie on the third floor projection area.

Read more about the Acropolis Museum

If you still have time, or if you would like to see more of Ancient Athens another day, continue to the Ancient Athens walking tour extension.

Tour 2.1: Ancient Athens Extension

You should follow this extension if you finished the previous tour early in the day, or you might find some of the following sites closed.

If your tour of Athens above finished after 1:00 pm, you would be better off starting this tour on its own day.

Follow the GREEN color on our map.

This tour extension is designed to take you through the Temple of Zeus at the Olympeion, the Panathenaic Stadium, Zapeio, Syntagma, and the must-see National Archaeological Museum of Athens (check the museum hours to make sure it’s open when you arrive).

As an option (PURPLE line on our map), you can skip the walking of this extension and instead ride the Metro from the Acropolis Station to Victoria to visit the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

From the Acropolis Museum, leaving it on your right hand side, walk down Dionysiou Areopagitou street three blocks and leave the peaceful pedestrian streets behind you.

After carefully crossing the very busy Leoforos Syngrou you will first visit the Olympeion.

The most notable ancient ruins are Hadrian’s Arch facing you next to the busy street, and the imposing columns of the Temple of Zeus.

The Olympeion can be seen in about twenty minutes or half-hour, and you can walk there in about 10 minutes from the Acropolis Museum.

Olympeion

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is the largest in Greece. It’s construction began in the 6th century BCE by Peisistratos in the Athenian Archaic era. It was finally completed 600 years later when Emperor Hadrian dedicated it in 132 CE (Roman Era).

It is worth noting that the Morosini during the Turkish-Venecian war in 1685 (Ottoman Era) unleashed the barrage of mortars that destroyed the Parthenon from this very spot. Something to ponder as you gaze at the Acropolis from the Olympeion.

Panathenaic Stadium

Next head east on Leoforos Vasilissis Olgas toward the Panathenaic Stadium (about 5 min walk).

The stadium is known as Kallimarmaro, meaning “beautiful marble-made”, and what you see today is a third reconstruction on the site where Lykourgos built the original one 330-329 BCE.

It was rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd century CE, and then again in 1895 to host the first modern Olympics a year later. This latest intervention is a faithful reconstruction of the Roman era stadium.

Zappeion

The next part of the walk would take about half an hour through the National Gardens, Zapeio (an exhibition/conference center built in 1874), Syntagma square, and the National Museum.

The walk from Panathinaic Stadium to Syntagma takes 15 minutes.

You may opt for a drink at the elegant (and pricey) café next to Zappeio, or to be lost in the winding footpaths of the gardens, but our goal is to get to the Syntagma Metro station.

Getting to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Option: As an option here,  if you want to continue walking, you may opt to follow our “BLUE” sightseeing walking tour of the historic center of Athens, and take the Metro to the National Museum from the Monastiraki or Acropolis
Metro stations.

Once you reach Syntagma square, spend sometime sightseeing and have a drink or lunch in one of the many cafés and restaurants there. Then head for the Metro station and take the Line 2 train towards Aghios Antonios.

Ride the metro two stations and change trains at Omonia. There take Line 1 towards Kiffisia and get off after one station at Victoria.

Then walk about ten minutes to the museum via Heyden and Patision streets.

National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum (also known as Athens Museum, or National Museum) is a highlight for anyone who wants an introduction to the splendor of ancient Greek Art and anyone who is a scholar of Classical antiquity.

Buy your ticket at the entrance and you will need to check large backpacks (camera bags and purses can remain with you if they are small).

The restrooms, the restaurant, and gift shop can be accessed from the entrance lobby even before you buy a ticket.

In the museum, first walk straight ahead to see artifacts from the stone-age, the Mycenaean, and the Cycladic periods of Greek Art (8000-1000 BCE).

Then walk back to the lobby. Facing the main entrance, turn to your right and start your tour of the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman Eras (1000 BCE – 300 CE).

Don’t miss the second floor exhibition of the Santorini frescoes and the extensive ceramics collection.

The museum visit can be anywhere from a half-hour (rushing through the exhibitions) to two full hours of thorough exploration.

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