If you’re travelling to Athens on a tight budget, we’ve got good news: this city is extremely friendly to anyone looking to spend less cash. From free walking tours and festivals, to secret swimming spots and pop-up parties, here’s 25 fantastic things to see and do in the city that won’t cost a cent.
1. Get the inside track on Athens’ up-and-coming neighbourhoods, street food, and architecture on a free walking tour. Sign up to explore This is Athens with a Local.
2. Stroll along Dionysiou Areopagitou, the paved promenade that runs alongside the Acropolis. Surrounded by monuments and archaeological sites, it’s like walking straight back in time to ancient Athens.
3. Catch the sunset from the Pnyx, the hilltop clearing where the Athenian assembly gathered in the earliest days of democracy. The Parthenon views through the pine trees are sensational.
4. Book a free tour (in English) of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre and learn the backstory behind the sustainable design of this new Athens landmark. Browse the collections at the National Library of Greece, join in a free outdoor session of yoga, tai chi, Pilates or aerobics, or enjoy one of the free concerts, outdoor movie screenings and exhibitions hosted at the centre.
5. Take sanctuary from the urban hustle in Athens’ gardens and green spaces. Hike up Lycabettus or Philopappou Hill, or catch your breath (and maybe a picnic) in the National Gardens.
6. Channel the Olympic spirit at the futuristic Athens Olympic Sports Complex in Maroussi, designed by Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Walk, run or cycle for free around the premises surrounding the stadium and stroll through the highly Instagramable Wall of Nations.
7. Watch skaters ace their routines at Athens' first digitally-designed skate bowl, Latraac, in Keramikos, where a cool tribe of artists and musicians congregate for all-day breakfasts every weekend.
8. Go jogging around the marble Kallimarmaro stadium, home to the first modern Olympics.
9. Go classic on a 2.5 hour overview of Athens’ 2,500-year history on an Athens Free Walking Tour. If you’re more of a night owl, prowl the streets after hours on a free Athens night walking tour.
10. Snap the famous Evzones, Greece’s Presidential Guard, in action. The changing of the guard takes place every hour outside Parliament on Syntagma Square. You’ll also find the silent, stationary guards on sentry duty outside the Presidential Mansion on Herodou Attikou Street.
11. Admire Greek art through the ages every Thursday, when the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture offers free admission. On Sundays, you can view traditional Greek costumes free of charge at the National Historical and Ethnological Museum, housed in Greece’s former parliament building.
12. Head to Psirri, Keramikos, and Exarchia to admire the murals that have made Athens the street art capital of Europe.
13. There’s free art everywhere in Athens—even on public transport. At various stations on the Athens Metro network, you can admire everything from contemporary sculpture to ancient artefacts. Explore edgy underground art spaces, take a gallery walk in Thissio, or check out art foundation TAF inside a 19th century Ottoman dwelling in Monastiraki.
14. Wander among the meandering alleys and whitewashed cottages of Anafiotika and imagine you’re on a Greek island. Your Instagram will catch fire.
15. Enjoy Athens nightlife like a local, by hunting down a pop-up party where entrance is free. Romantso is a creative incubator that hosts frequent DJ sets and live events. Follow Needless, Street Outdoors, Diskotekken and Athens Drunks Crew on social media to keep track of their free parties at surprise locations.
16. Tag along on a free monthly tour of the massive machinery that once powered the city at the Industrial Gas Museum (it’s in Greek, but fun for everyone). It’s inside Technopolis, the former gasworks that’s now a cultural landmark. On weekends, there are often free festivals, workshops, and gigs too.
17. Spend next to nothing on locally produced crafts and street eats at the monthly Meet Market, which takes place at Technopolis and other venues across Athens.
18. Immerse yourself in fragrant Greek flora at the 460-acre Diomedes Botanical Garden in the western suburb of Haidari.
19. Dive into the brilliant blue waters at one of the many beaches of the Athens Riviera from April until late October. All you need is your bus fare and some loose change for refreshments.
20. On the first Sunday of each month from November 1 to March 31, all archaeological sites in Athens are free (yes, even the Parthenon). In 2020, you can get free entrance to the antiquities on these days, too:
- 06/03—Melina Mercouri Remembrance Day
- 18/04—International Day For Monuments and Sites
- 18/05—International Museum Day
- 05/06—World Environment Day
- 27/09—World Tourism Day
- the last weekend in September—European Heritage Days
- 28/10- Oxi Day
21. Take a culture crawl of free Athenian museums such as the Museum of Greek Folk Instruments, the Hellenic Children’s Museum, and the Greek Film Archive & Museum of Cinematography, a peephole into Greece’s cinema heritage. Or snap up tickets to a free monthly concert at the newly revamped Olympia Municipal Music Theatre Maria Callas, on stately Akadimias Street (tickets are available for on-site pick-up the day before; you can check out the schedule on viva.gr).
22. Light a candle in one of the glorious Byzantine chapels dotted around the city.
23. Work out under the Athenian sunshine on the free exercise machines at Fokianos Sports Park in Zappeion Gardens. The basketball court and football field are free too, but you’ll need to reserve your slot.
24. Walk 10 minutes from Keramikos metro station to Serafio, an 18-acre sports complex where you can access three open-air basketball courts, a 5x5 football court, tennis court and indoor gym for free.
25. Venture 30 minutes from downtown Athens to Mount Ymittos to discover the enchanting hiking trails and Byzantine monastery hidden on its forested slopes.