While there are plenty of things to do in Athens, you should not miss checking out the close-by destinations, which are excellent for day trips. The island of Hydra is a lovely choice if you are not looking for a beach destination, while the historic sites at Mycenae, Epidaurus or Sounion are great choices if you want to learn more about the Greek history.
Home to Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Mycenae is one of the most popular day-trips from Athens, especially if you are interested in the Greek history. The site is impressive, featuring the Palace of Agamemnon, the tomb of Clytemnestra and the famous Lion’s Gate.
The site is best visited during spring, when all the wild flowers are in bloom. If you plan to visit it during summer, try to get here as early as possible.
Mycenae is located at about half an hour drive from Nafplion, the first capital of Greece. There are buses connecting Athens to Nafplion and the journey takes about 2.5 hours. From Nafplion, you can catch a local bus to Mycenae.
A short ferry ride away from Piraeus, there’s the Saronic Island of Aegina. The port is busy with different kind of boats coming and going, unloading people and fish. The small island is famous mostly for the ouzeries where you can enjoy (you guessed it!) Ouzo and fish mezedes.
The waterfront is lined with small restaurants, easily recognizable by the octopus frying on the grill. There’s also a lovely beach near-by and an archeological site. Aegina was a major power during the classical period and used to compete with Athens. If history interests you, there’s also a museum right by the archeological site. Other places of interest include the Temple of Aphaia (perched atop a mountain on the way to Agia Marina) and the ruins of Paliohora (just east of Aegina Town).
Close to Aegina Town there’s also Water Park, a paradise for the kids who get to enjoy several interesting rides.
The pedestrian streets are filled with stores where you can buy pretty much anything. If you spot some pistachio, make sure to try it (after all, it grows on the island).
The island is a place where Athenians love to escape the busy city life so try to avoid coming here during the weekend, especially when the weather is nice.
>>more information on Ferries from Athens to Aegina
If you want to experience the island life on the mainland, the busy port of Rafina is your best choice. It’s connected to Athens by road and to some of the islands by ferry . The town is home to a nice beach which gets crowded only during the weekends. There are plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy incredible Greek food, from fried squid to small fried fish.
There are several ways to get to this enchanting city but the easiest for the tourists is taking the bus. Take the metro to Victoria Square and then walk to Areos Park. This is where you catch the bus to Rafina from. Buses leave every half and hour. The drive takes about 40 minutes. Of course, if you prefer to drive, you can rent a car .
Rafina’s port is especially busy during the weekends so, if possible, plan your day trip during the week days.
The modern town of Epidavros is home to one of the most beautiful archeological sites in the entire country: The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus .
During the 3rd and 4th centuries B.C. the theater was the place where Greek tragedies were performed. Today, thanks to its incredible acoustics, it’s the home of a festival every summer.
The small port town of Palea Epidavros is best known for the orange groves. There is a nice square with lovely fish tavernas, where you can enjoy some traditional Greek meals.
Probably the easiest way to get from Athens to Epidavros is via Nafplion.
Perched atop a hill overlooking the sea, the Temple of Poseidon was the first sign of civilization the Athenian sailors saw when they returned home. But visiting the old temple (built in the 5th century BC) is not the only thing to do here.
There are several small beaches in the area and you won’t miss lunch either as there are several incredible restaurants as well.
An easy way to get to Sounion is by bus. The buses leave from Areos Park every 2 hours. If you fancy driving, you can rent a car. And by the way, there are some good tavernas in Anavissos (on the way to Sounion).
For spectacular views, arrange for a sunset trip to Sounion (most travel agencies do have such offers).
Hydra is a lovely island which can be easily reached from Athens. There are ferries departing quite often from Piraeus (Pireas) and the journey takes about 2 hours.
Once arrived on the island, you’ll notice the donkey-taxi waiting for the tourists by the harbor. The reason is simple: there aren’t any motor vehicles on the island!
The tiny harbor is picture perfect, with cafes dotting the waterfront and houses perched on the hill. Out of the Saronic islands Hydra is the most popular but thankfully, it’s the most unspoiled as well. Perhaps the best thing to do if you visit the island for a day is to do some people watching, either from a café or by walking along the streets.
>>more information on Ferries from Athens to Hydra
Looking for a great spa and best beaches at just one hour drive from Athens? Then Vouliagmeni Lake is your best choice. The waters which feed the lake have healing properties.
The town of Vouliagmeni is home to some nice restaurants, where you can sample some of the local fish dishes. Close to the town there are several nice beaches. And, you can also see the ruins of the temple of Apollo.
There are buses running from Athens to this area. But make sure to ask around before you decide which beach to head to. Vouliagmeni beach is the most popular beach near Athens but the entire area between Sounion and Rafina is dotted with sandy beaches.
We all know the story of the Persian defeat at Marathon. Although having an important role in history, Marathon is not an exciting place to visit, but it is a good place to break the routine. The most interesting thing here is the dam which holds the water supplying the capital. It is the only marble dam in the world.
Of course, you can visit the place where the race begun. And there are the burial mound, a plaque and a statue which commemorate the victory.
There’s also a beach in the city and if you get hungry, you can try the restaurants in the near-by town of Oropos. The waterfront is a nice place to enjoy a romantic walk, especially in the evenings.
The easiest way to get to Marathon is via Oropos, located at about 45 min (by bus) from Athens.
Other great day-trips from Athens:
>> Athens Zoo : you can easily spend an entire day looking at the different animals. The zoo is located near Spata airport.
>> Delphi : visit the the Sanctuary of Apollo in what was once considered the center of the world in ancient times. Delphi is located at only 1 hour and a half drive from Athens.
>> Corinth : visit the ruins of the Ancient city of Corinth and the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite.
>> Patras : visit the Castle and other beautiful old buildings.