Athens is a dynamic city full of intriguing street art, eclectic neighborhoods, and an awesome nightlife scene. It can be crowded and full of travelers wanting to see the famous ancient ruins, but you can definitely explore it on a budget or even for free. Below you will find some of the best things to do in Athens – totally free.
1. A walk in Anafiotika and Plaka
In 1841, King Otto I encouraged workers to come and help transform Athens as the new capital of independent Greece. Consequently, carpenters and builders from the Cycladic islands came. They were located just below the Acropolis, hastily erecting houses that resemble the architecture of the Cyclades. A walk in Anafiotika gives you the feeling of an island in the center of Athens.
2. Visit the Pnyx and the Philopappos hill
The Pnyx was the official meeting place of the Athenian democratic assembly. Sit on the hillside auditorium facing the speaker’s platform, where the ancient Athenians created democracy or “rule by the people”. In reality, we refer as Filopappos the three main hills in the area that are connected with a link of paths. Take a leisurely walk and reach its full height of 147 meters. Atop the hill of the Nymphs, one can find the first Observatory of Athens, and from that vantage point, a full view of the Acropolis awaits.
3. Admire the ancient ruins
Although the most famous ancient sites, like the Acropolis, are accessible only with a ticket, there are plenty of others that can be seen for free. Moreover, you can admire archaeological wonders in some metro stations, visit the Aristotle’s Lyceum or the famous Turkish Baths. Of course, you can gaze at the Acropolis from all over town. Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium are all easy to observe as you wander the streets.
4. Explore the Athenian Riviera
The southern part of Attica is known as the Athenian Riviera. There, amazing views of the Saronic Gulf await. The most important thing is to try to keep your eyes peeled for beautiful hidden beaches within the countless caves. Ultimately, you will find the perfect one tailored to your taste to enjoy swimming.
5. Explore Athens’ intriguing street art
An excessive amount of graffiti coats almost every available surface through the city. In the era of economic crisis and the huge unemployment rate, Athens’ street art exploded. Obviously, most of them are political, but you will also find some masterpieces riddled with storytelling. Some even suggest that Athens is “a little paradise for the graffiti artists right now”. Watch this short film about graffiti in Athens here.
6. Enjoy classic films on open-air cinemas
Although you can enjoy your movie in one of the numerous open-air cinemas in Athens, you can find open-air screenings through the city for free. You can enjoy a movie on a terrace, park or near the sea. Athens Open Air Film Festival is running every summer and occasionally some self-organized summer movie nights happen through the city. Don’t worry about the language, most of the movies just display Greek subtitles.
7. Watch the sunset on Cape Sounion
The Cape Sounion is approximately 70 km from the city of Athens, but no-one will ever regret visiting it. On the peak of Cape Sounion, a temple dedicated to the God of Sea is perched in a very strategic location. The inspiring Temple of Poseidon is overlooking the Aegean Sea while standing as a beacon for travelers. Nevertheless, the place is famous for the amazing sunsets one can watch.
8. Spend some time at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a complex in the bay of Phaliron in Athens which includes the new facilities of the National Library of Greece and the National Opera, as well as the Stavros Niarchos Park. It was completed in 2016, it was donated to the Greek state in 2017 and it is beautiful. Additionally, they organize a lot of events like concerts, exhibitions and movie screenings for free, almost every day. Check their website for more here.
9. Relax at the Environmental Awareness Park Antonis Tritsis
This park constitutes the largest green zone in all of Attica and it is located at Ilion, the western edge of urban Athens. It has six lakes that help promote and preserve the park’s rich biodiversity. Grab an ice tea from the small cafes inside the park, walk along the lakes or even go horse riding. In addition, one can catch a workshop about environmental education. Of course, don’t forget to bring some food and have a picnic in the park.
10. Take advantage of free walking tours and free admission to museums
From time to time, all museums and sights give free admission on certain days of the month. In addition, most museums are free to enter for people under 18, students, and seniors/retirees. There are a lot of tour groups, that will show you around Athens for free!