Long dominated by the omnipresent Parthenon, Athens mingles its classical past with a budding art scene and bustling markets. You'll spend nine 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

  • Get a tour of 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 Guided Acropolis Visit Athens
Day 3 Architecture of Athens Tour Athens
Day 4 Visit Kallimarmaro, Ancient Cooking Class Athens
Day 5 Archaeological Site of Eleusis Athens
Day 6 Epidaurus Theater Experience Athens
Day 7 Mycenae and Nafplio Athens
Day 8 Visit Delphi Athens
Day 9 Depart Athens  

Day 1: Arrive in Athens

Sunset over the Plaka, old town of Athens
Sunset over the Plaka, old town of Athens

Welcome to  Greece! The mythology of this spectacular country precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with vibrant nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. This is Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. 

Upon arrival, start out easy and visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, one of the world's first meteorological sites, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at local shops and cafés. If you under-packed, find your perfect missing piece of clothing or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

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

Day 2: Guided Acropolis Visit

Today you'll get to experience the mighty Acropolis—ruins of the iconic 5th-century BC complex located on the rocky hilltop overlooking the city. Take a guided tour of the entire settlement with an English-speaking professional guide who will share the stories of the country's most famous monument. In addition to the iconic Parthenon, dedicated to the city's patron goddess Athena, you'll view and learn about the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the most sacred temple of Erechtheion, all located on the sacred rock of the Acropolis.

Complement your tour with a trip to the nearby modern Acropolis Museum. Many of the more delicate statues and other artifacts originally found at the Acropolis have been moved here, but you can imagine them in their previous home as you explore the exhibits. Complete your visit with a stop in its cafe for either lunch or a relaxed snack and coffee.

Stop to explore the Anafiotika neighborhood on the northeast side of the hill before you leave. The oldest neighborhood in the city, Anafiotika's classic white geometric architecture echoes the motifs of the Cyclades in this tranquil urban oasis.

Day 3: The Architecture of Athens Tour

Hadrian's Arch
Hadrian's Arch

With centuries of history piled on top of each other, Athenian architecture deserves an experience of its own. Set out after breakfast with your private guide to discover the secrets of the modern architecture rubbing shoulders with neoclassical construction and the iconic Athenian two-storied houses, adorned with tiny geranium-bearing balconies

Not only will you learn about Neo-Classical, Modern, Post-Modern and contemporary architecture, this half-day walking tour also visits the city's best panoramic vantage points where you can see views of urban sprawl—both old and new.  

Suggestion: Once you've completed your tour, visit Hadrian's Arch, the gateway to the city. Made of Pentelic marble, this archway has been standing for nearly 2000 years.

Spend your evening in the posh Plaka district, where outdoor tables line the streets. Diners feast on Greek favorites such as the classic horiatiki salad, souvlaki, lamb dishes, and more. Go mezze-style to try them all.

Day 4: 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 5: 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 6: Epidaurus Theater Experience

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're in 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 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. View a play that could have been performed on the ancient stage and see where its actions may have taken place.

Day 7: Mycenae and Nafplio

The Lion Gate at Mycenae
The Lion Gate at Mycenae

Start the day early with a 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 8: Visit Delphi

Temple ruins
Temple ruins

Today, you'll seek out the oracle on an ancient trail from the slopes of Mount Parnassus to the village 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 9: Depart Athens

Ruins of the Roman agora alongside an open-air restaurant
Ruins of the Roman agora alongside an open-air restaurant

It's time to say goodbye to Greece! After your final breakfast in Athens, you'll be picked up and transferred to the airport for your return trip home.

Map

Map of Best of Athens & Ancient Greece - 9 Days
Map of Best of Athens & Ancient Greece - 9 Days