One day? That’s almost a sacrilege in a country where siga, siga (slowly, slowly) is a well-meaning mantra to enjoy life at a reasonable pace. So, even though you have only a single day to explore one of the richest, most intriguing places on earth, do slow down a bit when you can and appreciate everything that’s unfolding around you.
1. The Acropolis
Fortunately for those with limited time, many of the most important sights in the sprawling capital are fairly concentrated, and you needn't venture too far from the Acropolis (plus, summer hours keep most monuments and museums open late). This ancient marvel is probably within walking distance of your hotel—maybe even within sight of it. The ascent through the Beule Gate and up a well-worn path is stirring, and what lies beyond is even more so: The ruins of the perfectly proportioned Parthenon and surrounding temples, summoning up the glory of classical Greece.
2. The Acropolis Museum
When you descend, continue the ancient spell with a walk through the Acropolis Museum. Here the sculptures and statuary that once adorned the Acropolis temples are on display, including the magnificent Parthenon Frieze. Beside the frieze's original panels are stark white plaster casts of panels taken—stolen, most Greeks would say—to England, where they've been on view as the "Elgin Marbles" in London's British Museum for more than two centuries.
3. Grand Promenade
Next, stroll along this pedestrian-only boulevard, made of cobblestone and marble, which skirts the Acropolis Hill. You’ll get a glimpse of the Theater of Dionysus, where the latest dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides once filled audiences with pity and dread.
Follow Adrianou (Hadrian) Street to the colorful Plaka neighborhood, where a maze of narrow medieval lanes twist and turn through ancient sites, Byzantine churches, offbeat museums, and 19th-century homes. Numerous restaurants and cafes can also be found in this pedestrian-friendly district that's rich in history and romance.
5. Ancient Agora
End your day by strolling around the evocative ruins of what was once the business and political hub of ancient Athens. Find a shady spot by the 5th-century-B.C. Temple of Hephaistos and Athena, sit awhile, and imagine the Agora teeming with merchants, legislators, and philosophers—including Socrates, who drank his fatal cup of hemlock in a prison at the southwest corner.
6. Platanos Taverna
For dinner, grab a table beneath a shady plane tree at this long-time favorite, which has been serving up Greek favorites since 1932. Try the lamb in egg lemon sauce—the meat is tender, the sauce unforgettable.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.