Athens was made for history lovers. It is Europe’s oldest capital city, has one of the 12 wonders of the ancient world, and a museum boasting the largest collection of ancient sculptures and Greek architecture. But what is there to do in Athens with kids? Depending on the amount of time you have, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Use this to help plan your Athens itinerary if you have one to three days.
How to plan a trip to Athens with kids
Arrival at Athens Airport
If you are visiting Greece from the United States, odds are you will fly through the Athens airport at least once. It is a very easy airport to navigate, and some airlines offer special check-in lines for families.The Athens airport (ATH) is approximately 30-45 minutes from the popular tourist area, Plaka. This is where you will find most of the must see attractions in Athens.
Currently, visitors to Greece must either submit their vaccination record or a negative PCR test taken within the last 72 hours (ages 5 and older). You are also required to complete a PLF (Passenger Locator Form) at least 24 hours before entering Greece. A QR code will be sent to you via email the day before travel. This QR code needs to be presented when entering the country. Only one PLF needs to be completed for each family.
Transportation in Athens
Since we are a family of 5, we needed two taxis in Athens every time we went anywhere (this is a COVID regulation and may change later). The metro was also an option, but we spent most of our time walking everywhere. If you stay somewhere central like Plaka, you can walk to everything.
If you need a reliable transfer service in Athens, I highly recommend Stavros: +30 697 490 6763 or go to his website, Geo Mediterra (he also offers tours). He drove us from the airport to the city multiple times (upon arrival and departure). Taxi rates are set by the government and currently the cost is 35 Euros from the airport to the city center.
What to do in Athens with Kids
Prior to our visit, I had heard mixed reviews on Athens with kids. Many people recommend only visiting for a short stopover, and others recommend 4-5 days. We only planned for two days and felt it was plenty. Athens might have historical highlights, but it is still a very large city. With over 600,000 residents, it did not feel charming, but busy and chaotic at times. If you love big cities, you will love Athens. If you prefer the beach, stop in Athens briefly and then catch a flight to one of the islands.
Mythology Tour of Athens
We booked a tour with Alternative Athens called Athens Highlights Mythology Tour. We looked at other tours, but found that this one was relatively short (half day) and covered the mythology aspect of Athens’ historical sites. I’m a huge Greek mythology geek and my kids loved the Percy Jackson books, so I knew this was the right tour for us.
Our tour started early in the morning (definitely a good idea to head out before the crowds and the heat), meeting our guide at Olympian Zeus Temple. All of the guests received audio guides, purchased combo entrance tickets for the sites (it’s 30 Euros/adult, reduced rates for children), and after quick introductions we set off. **Note: this tour involved a lot of walking and climbing up the hill to the Acropolis. If anyone has mobility issues or difficulty climbing or walking long distances, this might not be the right tour.**
The Temple of Olympic Zeus is not much to look at since it is the ruins of the original building (and currently under construction). What is impressive here is the view of the Acropolis high above the city.
We strolled through the Plaka neighborhood and then started our ascent towards the Acropolis. Along the way we learned about the different Greek gods and goddesses and their roles in Greek culture.
The combo ticket gives admission to the Acropolis complex. As you make your way to the top of the hill are some unique historical ruins along the way, including the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a Roman theatre dating to the 2nd century AD. Our guide was very good about pointing out significant ruins and sharing their stories and ties to Greek Mythology.
After the climb, we arrived at the dramatic entrance to the Acropolis, the Propylaia. There are no words to describe the massive columns, steps, and gateway. We all took a minute to sit and soak up the view of the city below.
Adjacent to this is the Temple of Athena Nike and passing through the gates we headed for the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Old Temple of Athena, and the sacred olive tree of the Pandroseion. Our guide shared the history of Athens, the building of the Acropolis, and the mythology behind these famous structures. We took a break from the tour at this point and explored the ruins on our own for a bit.
From the Acropolis we headed to the Ancient Agora of Athens (also on the combo admission ticket), the center for politics, commerce, and gatherings in ancient Athens. It is said many of the great minds of Ancient Greece would congregate in the Agora, including Sophocles and Socrates.
Our tour with Alternative Athens was just over four hours and worth every minute. The kids were engaged and our guide was an amazing story teller. If you have limited time to explore Athens, this is the tour for you.
The Acropolis Museum
After a visit to the Acropolis, don’t miss a chance to see one of the most important museums in the world. Everything within the museum was found at the archaeological site of the Acropolis and the exhibits are fascinating. Kids will love the family programming in the summer, and don’t forget to pick up “family backpacks” at guest relations. These offer trails through the museum for the kids to follow. It’s the perfect scavenger hunt. There’s also a LEGO Acropolis built of 120,000 bricks that shouldn’t be missed!
Stroll through Plaka neighborhood
This Athens neighborhood has charming cafés and tavernas, tree lined cobblestone streets, and shopping. Most children won’t love the shopping part, but they can enjoy playing in the squares and pedestrian only streets.
Syntagma Square Changing of the Guard
Syntagma Square is located in the heart of the city and most days is perfect for people watching and letting the kids burn off some energy. On one side of the square is the Parliament building where visitors can take tours and learn about the history of the Hellenic Parliament.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier you can watch the changing of the guards every day. On Sundays, the guards where traditional uniforms of the Greek freedom fighters from the 19th century. It’s definitely worth a quick visit to watch the precision of their movements.
The National Garden
Next to Syntagma Square is the National Garden of Athens. It’s 38 acres of fountains, ponds, and stunning plants and flowers. The garden is a surprising oasis of calm in the middle of the noisy and chaotic city.
This was the location for the first Olympic Games in the 4th century BC. During the Roman occupation, the stadium fell into disrepair and most of its materials were removed to build other structures in the city.
In 1895 a renovation began with private funding, and the goal was to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The project was a success and today the stadium seats 50,000 spectators and is the finish line of the annual Athens Marathon.
Hellenic Children’s Museum
If you need some indoor play time for kids, head to the Hellenic Children’s Museum. It’s filled with hands-on activities, games, and play areas. Best for children ages 12 and under.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
This museum is easiest to reach via metro (Omonia or Victoria station) or taxi as it isn’t close to the other main attractions. There are collections from various civilizations, including the Egyptians, Cycladic, and Mycenaean. Older kids can appreciate the historical aspect, but might eventually have statue and artifact fatigue.
Where to Stay in Athens with kids
If you are staying longer than a couple of nights, consider a vacation rental in Athens. They come in all shapes and sizes. Centrally located neighborhoods include Plaka, Kolonaki, Syntagma, Koukaki, and Monastiraki.
For family friendly hotels in Athens consider:
If you need a traditional “American style” hotel, Hilton Athens fits the bill. The property has the largest outdoor pool in the city center, restaurants, and a spa. There’s even a Pilates studio and fitness center. Some rooms have Acropolis views from a distance and some rooms on the higher floors have views of the sea. Located in the Illissia neighborhood, suites can sleep up to 4 people (2 adults and 2 children).
Ava Hotel and Suites
Located in the Plaka neighborhood, Ava Hotel and Suites has suites that can sleep up to 4 people. Charming boutique hotel and suites have fully equipped kitchenettes and views of Plaka or the Acropolis.
Electra Palace Hotel
Also in the Plaka district is the Electra Palace Hotel. The 5 star property is walking distance from many of the city’s main attractions. There’s a roof top pool, a restaurant with views of the Acropolis (and some rooms as well). There are suites suitable for families and babysitting is available as well.
Hotel Grande Bretagne
This 5 star landmark hotel has been in the heart of Athens since 1874. Hotel Grande Bretagne is a Marriott property, and rooms have views of the Acropolis, Syntagma Square, Lycabettus Hill, or the Olympic Stadium. Interconnecting rooms allow families to stay together. Child care is available and there are two swimming pools!
St George Lycabettus
Close to the Kolonaki neighborhood on the slopes of Lycabettus Hill, St George Lycabettus is a family friendly hotel has a roof top pool and stunning views of Athens. There’s a movie theater for the kids and a playroom they will enjoy as well. There are large connecting rooms so families can stay together.
Coco-Mat Hotel Athens
Located in Kolonaki, Coco-Mat Hotel is a stunning boutique property is close to major tourist attractions. Some rooms can accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 children. There’s a roof top garden and terrace with stunning city views, and they claim to have the best sleeping experience in Athens!
After visiting Athens with kids, we can easily say it was not our favorite destination in Greece, but we are glad we visited for a couple of days to enjoy what the city has to offer.