Long dominated by the omnipresent Parthenon, Athens mingles its classical past with a budding art scene and bustling markets. You'll spend eight days exploring this city's many cultural treasures and cool neighborhoods—along with day trips to archaeological sites in nearby Eleusis, Mycenae, and Delphi. See why the epicenter of antiquity and philosophy is well worth a trip today.

Highlights

  • Learn the mythology behind the Acropolis and Athens' best architectural sites with a local guide
  • Spend evenings dining on mezze in the lively neighborhoods of Psyrri and Plaka
  • Take day trips to key archaeological sites and seaport towns in Greece's mainland
  • Break up the sightseeing with a 3-hour ancient cooking class

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Acropolis and Ancient Greek Mythology & Museum Tours Athens
Day 3 Visit Kallimarmaro, Ancient Cooking Class Athens
Day 4 Archaeological Site of Eleusis Athens
Day 5 Epidaurus Theater Experience Day Trip Athens
Day 6 Day Trip to Mycenae and Nafplio Athens
Day 7 Day Trip to Delphi Athens
Day 8 Depart Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

Spend your evening exploring the up-and-coming Pangrati neighborhood or amid the nightlife and mezze of the Psyrri district.

Day 2: Acropolis and Ancient Greek Mythology & Museum Tours

Ancient columns
Ancient columns

Experience the ancient stories surrounding you with today's guided mythology tour. You'll meet your guide and storyteller at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, then head to landmarks around the city including the Acropolis, ancient cemetery at Kerameikos, and the Agora. The myths that founded the city and are featured in its retellings for generations will accompany as you go, with stories of Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Dionysus, and more. Hear both the stories themselves and the historic facts behind them, adding resonance to the archaeological ruins you will visit during this four-hour tour.

Stick with the supervised experience with another guided tour at the Acropolis Museum in the afternoon. Named one of the ten best museums in the world by National Geographic, this modern museum houses a multitude of artifacts removed from the hill of the Acropolis for safekeeping to provide insight into ancient religious practices and daily life. Linger for lunch in the museum's cafe, with views of the artifacts' former hilltop home.

As night falls, you may be able visit the Athens Observatory to learn about the constellations overhead and take a look through the telescope. Its hours vary seasonally and by day of the week.

Day 3: Visit Kallimarmaro, Ancient Cooking Class

The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium

Start off the morning with a trip to the sweeping stands of Kallimarmaro, also known as the Panathenaic Stadium. The grand facility made entirely of marble was constructed in 1896 to host the first modern Olympics and is made entirely out of marble to honor the ancient stadiums.

Once you've been sufficiently inspired to feats of athleticism, you'll move on to feasts of Greek cuisine instead. A resident chef will take you on a journey of discovery into the methods used by the Ancient Greeks to cook their meals. You'll use ingredients available today to reproduce the distinct flavors found in classical dishes over the course of this 3-hour class. And no class is complete without the opportunity to sample the fruits of your labor over dinner (with wine included, of course).

Day 4: Archaeological Site of Eleusis

Part of the ruins
Part of the ruins

Your main activity for today is a visit to archaeological site at Eleusis located just outside of the city of Athens. These ruins were the site of one the most compelling rituals of the ancient world: an initiation ceremony into the cult of Demeter. So little is known about the ritual that it's still referred to as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Explore the site and see what you can find out!

Schedule your guided tour for whenever suits your schedule, whether you prefer to sleep in late or start early, and return to the city for dinner in the evening. Get a taste of the islands at Kriti restaurant, which specializes in Cretan cuisine.

Day 5: Epidaurus Theater Experience Day Trip

The ancient theater at Epidaurus
The ancient theater at Epidaurus

Take the morning to relax and explore the city at your own pace, perhaps lingering over a coffee and Greek yogurt or pastry.

In the afternoon, you'll set out for a full theater experience that will provide you with a thorough understanding of the world of ancient Greek plays. On a guided tour, you'll visit the real-life location where the action of an ancient play took place, before viewing the play itself (with English subtitles, of course) in the third-century BCE theater of Epidaurus, one of the best remaining examples of its type due to the excellent acoustics and aesthetic arrangement. Learn the connection between the works of Aristophanes and the Ancient Cemetery of Keramikos, Aeschylus, and Mycenae, or Electra and the city of Argos with this immersive outing.

After the play, you'll head back to Athens for the evening.

Day 6: Day Trip to Mycenae and Nafplio

The Lion Gate
The Lion Gate

Start the day early with a full day trip back to a true classic. You may recognize Mycenae from its role in Homer's Iliad: It was home to the famous Helen, whose Mycenean husband King Agamemnon led his people to war when she left him for Paris of Troy. See its Cyclopean walls, whose construction method is still a mystery. They got their name due in part to the belief that only the mythical Cyclops would have been strong enough to lift their boulders.

You'll pass through the Lion Gate to enter the ruins of the city, wandering past the tombs of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra and the Treasury of Atreus.

You'll go on to Nafplio, one of the prettiest seaport towns in the Peloponnese peninsula and once believed to have been founded by the son of Poseidon. The town was the first capital of the new Greek state after the war of independence in the 1800s. Take a stroll through the old town, where you'll pass statues honoring significant figures from Nafplio's history, Ottoman fountains, and Venetian architecture along the winding streets, topped off by the Bourtzi Castle in the middle of the harbor. Don't miss the climb up 1,000 steps to see the view from the Palamidi Castle.

Day 7: Day Trip to Delphi

The Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi
The Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi

Today, you'll seek out the oracle during a day trip to the ruins of Delphi, once home to priestesses of Apollo who Ancient Greeks believed could predict the future. Take a guided tour through this sprawling archaeological site, with stops such as the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo, and expansive theater.

Explore the ruins or venture up an ancient footpath once used by worshippers of the god Pan, who started from the temples of Delphi and proceeded to Corycean Grotto for their religious rites, surrounded by the valley of olive trees and views of the Corinthian Gulf and peaks of the Peloponnese on your way. 

Don't skip the neighboring museum, which contains masterpieces such as the Bronze Charioteer and the image of the famous athlete Aghias.

Day 8: Depart Athens

Wave to the city
Wave to the city

Time to say farewell to Greece. Enjoy your final Athenian breakfast before your transfer to the airport.

Map

Map of Best of Athens & Ancient Greece - 8 Days
Map of Best of Athens & Ancient Greece - 8 Days