The Top 8 Free Things To Do In Athens
Athens is the largest city as well as the capital of Greece. It is a famous place thought to be the birthplace of the western world because it is one of the world’s oldest cities dating back over 3,400 years. In Europe, Athens is the third oldest known city behind Argos and Larissa making it one of the most popular cities for tourists and historians.
Just a few miles from the Bay of Phaleron and the Aegean Sea, the famous port of Piraeus is the largest in Europe as well as the second-largest in the world. The population of Athens is only about 664 thousand, which is lower than you would expect in such a bustling city. However, Athens is a tourist town and is constantly full of visitors from all over.
Visiting a new city can be overwhelming, especially when you are trying not to overspend. Sure, you can see places with a cheap entrance fee, like the Acropolis. Luckily, there are a variety of free things to do in Athens from artwork to zoos and everything in between. Whether you want to hang out in the park or check out some stellar artwork, you can find all that and more in Athens for free. Not quite sure where to begin? Drop your bags at one of our Athens luggage storage lockers to lighten the load. Then, take one or more of these ideas and run with it!
One of the other free things to do in Athens is to visit the National Gardens. It was previously known as the Royal Garden, and it has almost 40 acres of free park space to enjoy. It is located right behind the Athens Greek Parliament Building, which is also something free to do. This magnificent garden was started by Queen Amalia in 1838 when she and her gardener, Schmidt planted more than 500 species.
The gorgeous garden in the Greek capital of Athens also has a variety of animals that include turtles, ducks, and peacocks. Although many of the imported plants did not survive Athens’ weather, other botanists planted more native flora and imported plants that would withstand the harsh dry conditions of Athens.
Besides thousands of flowers, greenery, and trees, you can also see the monument to Lord Byron, a statue of Ioannis Varvakis (or Ivan Varvatsi), several ponds full of ducks and turtles, as well as many antiquities. In addition, there is a small zoo and a café where you can grab some food (and maybe feed the ducks).
Not as old or historic as the National Gardens but quite a bit larger, the Diomedes Botanical Museum is one of the best free things to do in Athens. Opened in 1975, this stunning place boasts 1,460 acres with over 2,500 species. Some of these include bellflowers, Fritillaria lilies, orchids, and cyclamen. It is totally free and even has several ponds with lily pads and an open-air classroom for special teachings.
Although many of the major museums in Athens charge a small fee, there are still some that do not charge at all. For example, one of the free things to do in Athens is to see all sorts of great Greek musical instruments for free at the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments. Also, check out more than 3,500 types of flora at no charge at the Athens Botanical Museum (Botanical Garden of National and Kapodistrian Uni of Athens).
The Center of Folk Art and Tradition is a fun free museum where you can learn all sorts of new things and you can see some cool trains at the Railway Museum for no fee. The National History Museum of Maroussi is another one of the free things to do in Athens, and the G. Gounaropoulos Museum is a free art museum.
Other Athens museums are free on certain days and times. For example, the Benaki Museum is free every Thursday, the Athens National Historical and Ethnological Museum is free on Sundays, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art is free on Thursday evenings.
On certain special days in the Greek capital of Athens, almost all of the major museums like the Acropolis Museum and Athens Tower of the Winds are free. These include March 6th for Melina Mercouri Day, April 18th to celebrate International Monument Day, May 18th for International Museums Day, and June 5th in tribute to World Environment Day.
Also known as Lycabettus Hill, Mount Lycabettus is the highest point in Athens at 909 feet high. And it is also one of the free things to do in Athens. Until 1832, the hill (or mountain) held the name of Aghesmos and there are many theories on why it was changed. The most popular one is that it was the home of wolves and Lycos is “wolves” in Greek.
Because of how steep it is, Lycabettus Hill has not been found to have many traces of human life on it. All of the antiquities related to the hill were found in the lower quarries and a tank near the entrance. The tank was part of an ancient Athens aqueduct built in the second century AD and can be seen in the Kolonaki district.
Don’t miss the Church of Agion Isidoron (St. Isidores) on the western side from the 1400s and the underground facility from the 1940s. Recently, an outdoor theater has been built near the top where free concerts and other performances are held. Some of the performers that have played there in Athens include Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, and Ray Charles to name a few. No doubt after this climb, you've built up an appetite. Hop on over to our guide on Athens street food and get your fill!
Athens Central Market, also known as Dimotiki Agora or Varvakeios, is a free activity in Athens that you can enjoy all day and into the night. Located on Athinas Street near Omonia Square, it is the most popular shopping area in the city. They are open every day except for Sunday and admission is free. However, it is hard to keep from spending money on some of the delicious food or interesting items for sale.
Monastiraki Flea Market in Monastiraki Square is a market full of awesome special handmade and unique items on Sundays. The Monastiraki Flea Market of Athens is free and will cost you nothing if you just walk around and look at things. You may even be able to get some free food and drink samples. But you will probably end up buying something while you are there.
The Avissinias Square Antique Market is another free shopping spot and is open on weekends. Between Ermou and Ifestou Streets, this Athens market has been going on for more than 100 years and boasts thousands of vintage items. Go early because it is popular with locals as well as tourists, so it is almost always crowded.
Free Beaches and Parks
You cannot visit Athens without seeing some of the city’s stunning parks and beaches. There are plenty you can visit for free. For example, Rizari Park will not cost you a penny and it has walking paths and art installations. Memorial Park in Kolonaki Square is also free with monuments and cafés. Filopappou Hill is another cool park with hiking and ancient structures.
Some of the best beaches in town are free. Votsalakia Kastellas in Piraeus near the Castella marina is nice and peaceful with just the locals hanging out. In Palaio Falyro, Edem Beach is charming and has a tavern by the water. Vouliagmeni Public Beach is just across from the luxurious Astir Beach and will cost you nothing at all.
With black sand and pebbles, Kosmas Beach in Paralia Agios is a spectacular spot with clear turquoise water and absolutely free entrance. Although there are no extras, you will get a quiet and beautiful piece of beach. Not far away, Kalamaki Beach is a nice public spot that has a beach bar, clear water, a lifeguard, and free entrance.
Many of the tours in Athens are “pay what you want” while others are completely free, but you may want to give your guide a tip. One of these is the free walking tour called "The Best of Athens" where you will spend three hours with a local English-speaking guru. See Ancient Athens, the Olympian Zeus Temple, Panathinaikos Stadium, and the Agora of Athens to name a few.
Want to go for a run? Try the 1.5-hour free tour absolutely free with a professional running coach who will guide you to the best spots along a unique trail. Another three-hour tour around Athens will show you the “real face of the city” while you learn about Greek mythology, see the changing of the guard, visit the Parliament Building, and check out the Zappeion.
To see all the major attractions for free in 2.5 hours, Free Tour.com is the one to choose from. This is a private free tour, so it is customized to what you want to see and do. Some of the spots you will visit include Hadrian’s Arch, the Monastiraki Market, Monument of Lysicrates, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Greek Parliament, and Maximou Mansion.
Lots of neighborhoods have unique things about them. See our Athens neighborhood guide here! One of the unique things is fabulous street art. Whether you want to see a masterpiece by a famous Greek artist or an exciting splash of color on the side of a building, Athens is just bursting with different forms of street art to explore and enjoy. For random street art, the most popular spot is what they call the Art Block. It is in Psirri along Sarri Street and has a bunch of vibrant and eclectic artwork all over the area.
If you want to see some sculptures instead, these are also found all over Athens. On Vasilissis Sofias in front of the Hilton, see The Runner (Dromeas) by Costas Varostos. The Statue of Odysseas Elytis is just to the north in a small park by the National Garden. And the famous statue of Artemis is outside the Numismatic Museum of Athens.
In Klafthmonos Square, you can see The Memorial of National Reconciliation by Vassilis Doropoulos and in front of the War Museum, check out The Civilians Fighting in Crete by Manolis Tzompanakis. Also, do not miss the sculpture of Icarus in Karaiskaki Square or the Discus Thrower in front of the stadium done by Kostas Dimitriadis.
See Some Archaeological Sites
There are some things that you just have to see while you are in Athens and since these ancient world sites are free, there is no reason not to. In fact, Hadrian's Gate (Arch of Hadrian) is open 24/7 and will not cost you a cent. It was built in 131 AD for Hadrian (the Roman Emperor) and is made of Pentelic marble. This is the perfect spot for selfies.
In the middle of Athens, you will find Philopappou Hill, which was named after Syrian Prince Philopappos who died in 116 AD. Climb up and see the marble tomb on top, which is a memorial to the prince. Next to this hill, you can climb Pnyx Hill. This is the spot where the Athenians held assemblies at the end of the 6th century.
Tour the Greek Capital with the City Pass
Another tip is to get an Athens City Pass. Just having this pass will get you free entry to many of Athens' attractions. Some of these include the Acropolis Museum, Athens Tower of the Winds, and you even get free entry to certain modes of transportation. That way you can get to even more free activities. And you will save money at many other places in the city.
Seeing that there are so many free things to do in Athens, this may be your least expensive vacation ever! Why bother spending a bunch of money if you don’t have to? With all that money you save, you can buy a ton of souvenirs for your loved ones back home or treat yourself to a fancy meal (or two) at one of the delicious Greek restaurants in Athens.