25 Free Things to Do in Athens
From museums, ancient sights to local performances, there are many free things to do in Athens to suit any type of traveler.
Free Things to Do in Athens
No matter what your budget is during your travels in Greece, it’s always great to know what you can do for free!
Here’s my list of 25 free things to do in Athens.
1) Watch the Changing of the Guard
One of the top free things to do in Athens is watch the changing of the guard. Known as evzones, they are the military elite of Greece. They are the tallest and most handsome men chosen to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The traditional uniform is a sight in itself: hand embroidered vests, traditional skirts and crimson pom-pom tipped shoes. The evzones also march in a unique way too, swiftly and stiffly swaying their arms and legs.
Living in the center of Athens, I pass them often as they march en route to or from their post near the president’s house to the parliament building. The changing of the guard ceremony takes place on the hour in front of the parliament in Syntagma Square.
Tip: On Sundays at 11 a.m., a whole troupe of the evzones march in parade like form to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
2) Free Days at the Archaeological Sites
There is something about being on site at these truly fascinating ancient places in my city such as the Acropolis, the Agora of Athens, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman Forum and the Theater of Dionysus.
You can fit them in your holiday and save money by considering the 30-euro multipass or the Athens City Pass. Since this article is about free stuff, I can attest to the fact it is possible to also admire many of them in passing or from afar. Views of the Acropolis built higher than anything else in its vicinity can be admired from many vantage points.
The great news is that it you happen to be in Athens on special admission days, the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Kerameikos and Roman Agora are free.
These free visit days are typically holidays here which include the dates of March 6th, April 18th, May 18th (International Museums Day), June 5th and October 28th. Double check at www.odysseus.culture.gr
3) Free Admission to the Museums of Athens
Another one of the free things to do in Athens is to visit the free museums or take advantage of free admission days at other museums.
- Check out my earlier post for the details: Free Museums in Athens.
4) Underground Museums: The Athens Metro
A treasure trove of antiquities discovered under Athens when the subway system was being expanded. That led to these “underground museums.” You can check them out in several central metro stations: Acropolis, Syntagma, Acropolis and Evangelismos.
Other metro stops further outside of the city center have permanent displays of beautiful modern artwork incorporated in the design.
The archaeological displays are freely accessible daily from 5 a.m. to midnight.
5) See an Important Greek Artist’s Studio
If you love art, check out the work space of the famous Greek artist Yannis Pappas (1913-2005). The artist’s family lived in this building until the 1960s and today the space exhibits Pappas’ sculptures and paintings.
- Anakreontos 38, Zografou 157 72; +30 210 7773946; Website
6) Visit the Impressive Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
This new addition to Athens, changed the face of it in many ways. From culture, arts to community, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is of one of the most impressive eco-minded architectural feats to be built recently. Stop by the SNFCC Visitor’s Center to see what free programs may be going on.
Otherwise, you can stroll the 170,000-acre park and get up close to the impressive architectural design of starchitect Renzo Piano. There’s a fantastic playground (fun for adults too) and a man made river. Browse the state-of-the-art public library with a two million book capacity and perhaps take in a gallery exhibition.
For more information, check out my earlier post: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center: Arts and More.
7) Walk to the Best View of Athens
Not only can it be a great free workout, you also get to admire the metropolis from some amazing vantage points.
Check out my earlier post: Walk to the Best Views of Athens
8) Enjoy the National Gardens
Another one of the great free things to do in Athens is enjoy the National Gardens, a lush green refuge that is sits in the heart of the city center. There are lovely flowered lanes, Roman baths, playgrounds, duck ponds and quaint peaceful gardens. The main entrance is on Amalias Avenue, next to the parliament.
I love the story behind the making of the National Gardens, commissioned as the royal gardens for Queen Amalia. She designed and managed the building of Greece’s first European park. You can read more about it here: Discover Neoclassical Athens Tour.
9) Stroll Unique Neighborhoods
Picture yourself walking through cobbled lanes of one of the oldest neighborhoods in the world. Athens has several right in its core, informally called Old Athens. Walking through them all is one of the top free things to do in Athens. They include Monastiraki, Acropolis, Thiseo and Plaka. There are some beautiful houses and a tangle of distinct architecture to admire.
- Miniskleous Street in Plaka is a great stop for a photo.
- Anafiotika is a whitewashed neighborhood within Plaka that resembles a Cycladic island village.
- A Tale of Two Neighboring Neighborhoods – Looking to explore more? For a tale of two neighborhoods, situated right next to each other, head from upmarket Kolonaki to gritty Exarheia. First, go window shop in Kolonaki where all the chic luxury boutiques and fancy cafes and restaurants are and then find yourself in the alternative, hip and anarchist Exarheia in no time.
10) Walk This Way: Pedestrian Ways of Athens
Athens isn’t known for having the best modern city plan. I wish there were more pedestrian walkways and normal sidewalks everywhere. However, there are two nice long and wide pedestrian only sidewalks in the city center you can take a walk on.
Dionysiou Areopagitou: This is a popular place for a stroll, right under the shadow of the Acropolis. Many street musicians play here, sometimes there are exhibitions. It’s a lovely place to walk.
Ermou Street: This pedestrian-only street off Syntagma Square shouldn’t be missed if shopping is among your travel objectives. It has always been Athens’ busiest shopping street and is packed with mid-range clothing, accessory and shoe shops.
Tip: From Ermou Street, be sure to turn onto Aiolou Street to reach lovely St. Irene Square, the newest regentrified pocket of Athens where cafes, restaurants are housed in refurbished neoclassical buildings around a historic church.
11) Visit the Olympic Stadiums
I know there are a lot of Olympics fans out there. For you guys, one of the neat free things to do in Athens would be to spend time at the two modern Olympic stadiums. One was built for the 1904 Olympic Games and one was built for the 2004 Olympic Games, each event took place in Athens.
The Panathenaic Stadium is located right near the National Gardens. You can pay an entrance fee to roam inside but it is just as easily admired from outside. The stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1904 and it is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
Take the green Athens metro line to Eirini station for a free visit to the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, an impressive modern structure in a city known for ancient landmarks. It was designed by one of the world’s greatest architects, Santiago Calatrava. First unveiled for the 2004 summer games in Athens, his futuristic style is expressed in an intricate network of steel pipes and glass. Like other Athenians, I love taking walks here from time to time.
12) A Neoclassical Walk to the Athenian Trilogy
Taking an urban walk among some of the most impressive neoclassical Greek architecture in Athens is another one of the best free things to do in Athens. Walk down Panepistimeou Street to take photos of what is known as the Athenian Trilogy: Athens University, Academy of Athens and National Library of Greece.
13) Surround Yourself with Street Art
The districts of Exarheia, Psirri, Metaxourgeio, Thiseio and Gazi are an open-air tour of the fantastic street art that has changed the city’s public skin especially over the past few years – art that has many calling Athens the “New Berlin.” Taking a closer look at Athens’ street art is definitely one of the top free things to do in Athens these days.
Tip: Sarri Street in Psirri is part of block called the “Art Block” by locals – it is rampant with some very fine street art. Note that areas with best street art can be dodgy, including Psirri. For a paid but wonderful tour with a local guide at your side – so you can focus on the art – check out the Alternative Athens Street Tour.
14) Photograph Fantastic Public Sculptures
Another one of the top free things to do in Athens is check out the fantastic public sculptures.
Made with glass and appearing as if in motion, The Runner sculpture, known as Dromeas, by Costas Varotsos is one of the most loved public sculptures. Located in front of the Hilton on Vasilisis Sofias.
In front of the War Museum, on Vasilisis Sofias, take a closer look at the sculpture The Civilians Fighting in Crete by Manolis Tzompanakis.
In front of the Panathenaic Stadium, check out the perfection of the Discus Thrower by Kostas Dimitriadis.
In Klafthmonos Square, The Memorial of National Reconciliation by Vassilis Doropoulos is another favorite in the city.
The fantastic modern sculpture Icarus, the son of Daedalus who dared to fly too near the sun on wings of feathers and wax according to Greek mythology, can be found in Karaiskaki Square.
Tip: For a low-key outing, head to the First Cemetery of Athens to admire fine Greek sculpture. The peaceful cemetery is the resting place of many famous Greeks and a quiet place to walk around. Tombstones and mausoleums are lavish.
15) Check Out Athens’ Contemporary Art
The Greek capital has a very energetic contemporary and modern art scene, a fantastic phenomenon even as the country goes through economic hardships.
There are many free and fantastic galleries to check out including:
- Metaxourgeio: Rebecca Camhi Gallery, Breeder Gallery
- Kolonaki: DepotGallery, Medusa, The Pulse and CAN Gallery
- Psirri: Sarri 12 and Qbox Gallery
- Monastiraki: The Art Foundation (TAF)
16) Explore the Markets
Athens Central Market
Known as the Central Market, Dimotiki Agora or Varvakios Agora, this historic covered food market is an experience for the senses in every way. Sellers shout out, whistle and holler. There’s all kinds of bargaining, crowds of shoppers and smells from fish, meat and spices surround you. Experiencing this lively place is one of the best free things to do in Athens.
Tip: If you don’t like the look of animal carcasses, it is not the market for you. Also, don’t wear your favorite pretty shoes, the market floor may be wet.
Just around the corner from the Central Market is Evripidou Street which is known for small box-like shops that sell all kinds of Greek herbs and spices as well as other spices from around the globe.
The owners of these shops, in the business for decades, know everything that can cure what ails you, too! Definitely one of the top free things to do in Athens for foodies.
Neighborhood Farmers Markets
We locals call it the laiki, which means the people’s market. Each district of Athens plays host to one, once a week. Traffic is cleared so sellers can offer fresh fruit, vegetables and local products. The prices are just great too.
The markets open up around to 8 a.m. and things start to wind down by 2 to 3 p.m. Here are two central ones you can check out:
Exarcheia: Saturday on Kallidromiou Street
Kolonaki: Fridays Xenokratous Street
Monastiraki Flea Market
The Monastiraki Flea Market is great for people watching and a look at the dizzying sample of goods including souvenirs, clothes, shoes, jewelry, food products to leather goods. The main shopping areas are Pandrossou and Ifaistou streets. You’ll also find a section closer to Ermou Street that is dedicated to antiques and bric-a-brac.
Tip: On Sunday morning, by Avissinias Square, there’s an outdoor flea market where some of the most interesting and random things can be found.
A more “hidden” market taking place at the same time is the Gypsy Market just a few kilometers away from the Monastiraki Flea Market. It’s where locals, who love the funky antique finds, head to and bargain for it all with gypsy peddlers.
It takes place on Sundays. The Gypsy Market is spread out on tables and blankets in an open-air area surrounded by the walls of an abandoned warehouse.
Tip: Please note, the gypsies don’t like their pictures taken so watch where you aim your camera. Also, watch your wallet and valuables.
- 94 Iera Odos, Sunday from 7:00 – 16:00
17) Visit Historic Churches
Another one of the free things to do in Athens is to visit the historic churches dot the city landscape, each one telling a story from its era and time. Many were built on top of ancient temples which makes them even more unique. Admire the architecture. Some have incredible wall paintings and icons.
I would recommend the little 11th-century Kapnikarea Church that sits on a crossroads of modern shops Ermou Street. Other recommendations are the Athens Metropolitan Church and St. Eleftherios on Mitropoleos and St. Irene in Plateia Agia Irini in Monstiraki.
A fantastic church that’s free to visit sits on an unsuspecting corner in Plaka, the 19th century Metohi of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
It has a picturesque courtyard and ancient marble statues and a beautiful 17th-century church built on an ancient temple dedicated to Aphrodite.
Known as the seat of the Exarchia of the Holy Sepulcher, this is the first place that the Holy Light arrives each year from Jerusalem.
- Erechtheos 18, Plaka 105 56; +30 21 0322 5810
18) Enjoy Free Performances, Theater and Events
Adore theater? One of the free things to do in Athens is take in a free-of-charge local performance at the Embros Theater. Housed in what used to be a newspaper factory, local theater groups self-manage it and host the free events. Enjoy a play and check out the artwork.
- Rigi Palamidi 2, Psirri; www.embros.gr
Tip: To see what’s going on around town – for free – check out the Art and Life website which specifically lists the free happenings from lectures, exhibits and more.
19) Hang Out with Local Cinephiles
One of the free things to do in Athens is perfect for movie lovers. Catch a free screening of a rare movie almost every day at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Cinema Club.
- IRIS Cultural Events Hall, 15 Ippokratous Street; +30 210 368 8205; Webpage
20) Stroll the Athens Riviera Marinas
The city’s coast is dotted with pedestrian friendly marinas with lovely promenades where you can simply watch people walk by or wait for a glorious sunset over the Aegean Sea. Some of the top marinas to check out include Flisvos and Glyfada. Also around Piraeus check out Microlimano, Pasalimani and Marina Zea.
21) Relax at a Greek Beach
You don’t have to go to a Greek island to experience some of the best beaches in the country. The Athens Riviera is lined with free public beaches known for sparkling turquoise waters and beautiful sand or rocky shores. Going to these state-run beaches is one of the best free things to do in Athens in the summer!
Check out my earlier post for the full details of where to go: 21 Beautiful Free Beaches in Athens.
22) Sunset at Cape Sounio
While you are in the Athens Riviera, make a point of ending your day at Cape Sounio. This is where the Temple of Poseidon is located (small fee to enter) but you can admire the scene just outside of it on the hill and take in one of the best sunsets in the city.
23) Be in Town for the Free Festivals in Athens
Experiencing a local festival is another one of the top things to do in Athens. Here are a few:
- The Athens Film Festival
This festival, dedicated to independent cinema, runs annually from June to September. Check the website for more information: www.en.aiff.gr
- Apokries Greek Carnival
If you are in town in February, the Greek Carnival, called Apokries, typically takes place during this time. Clean Monday is a national holiday, and children head to the city’s highest hills to fill the sky with colorful paper kites. A good spot to head is Filopappou Hill in Thiseo.
- August Moon Festival
August’s full moon is said to be at its brightest, inspiring Athenians to celebrate the beauty of Athens’ fantastic antiquities. Major archaeological monuments and museums are free to the public until 1 a.m.
24) Go Urban Night Biking with Locals
Athens isn’t the most bike friendly European city. So, a local group made biking official – and safe – by organizing Freeday. Biking enthusiasts of all ages gather as a group to take a night ride together around Athens. They start off every Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Asomaton Square, Thiseo. Check out the group’s Freeday Facebook page for more details.
25) Take a Free Tour with Athenian Locals
The This is My Athens Greeters Program runs a free-of-charge service that pairs up local volunteers with curious visitors who want to learn about different aspects of city. I took with a local architect who gave me incredible insight about the architecture, from ancient to modern and the eras in between.
You can check out my experience taking this tour at: Athens Architecture Tour: Ancient to Modern.
Plan Your Trip to Athens
How to Get to Athens
To get to the Athens, many international travelers arrive by air in Athens. You can find the best flight deals here on Vayama.
What to Do in Athens
Athens is my adopted hometown and much of this blog is about that very topic. Check out more posts from nightlife to gastronomy on this blog here. It’s a wonderful city break you should plan at least two to three days for — even up to a week — depending on how much time you have and what you’d love to do.
While this post highlights the free stuff you can do, I highly recommend the Athens City Pass, a discount city card that gains you access to many of the capital’s most loved sights. I reviewed it earlier and featured it on this blog.
If you want to hop to the islands or spend time at one of the many Greek island destinations – you should! Also, check out my Greek islands category for the best places to stay, eat and best things to do. I only recommend places and experiences that I have tried and tested myself.
Where to Eat in Athens
Check out my post, 17 Awesome Greek Food Experiences which also lists where to find these delicious experiences in Athens.
Where to Stay in Athens
A full rundown of places I recommend coming soon.
Free Things to Do in Athens
This sums up my list of the best free things to do in Athens. Let me know if I missed something! Or, let me know if you tried any of the experiences yourself during your travels to Greece. I’d love to hear from you.