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The best free things to do in Athens

Two guards march towards the camera with their left legs kicked high; another guard has his back to the camera. All are wearing beige uniform with red caps and are armed with large rifles

Soaking up the sights in Athens doesn’t have to break the bank. Even with its huge number of top-flight, world-class sights, the Greek capital is a very reasonably priced city, an ideal European bargain destination.

While entry fees to top-tier sights can add up – entry to the Acropolis costs €20, and getting into the Acropolis Museum will run you another €10 – you won’t find yourself shut out even if you’re counting every euro. In fact, there are plenty of ways to experience this historic city without spending a cent.

Here are some of the best ways to discover Athens for free.

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The changing of the guard at Athens’ Plateia Syntagmatos (Syntagma Sq) is free to watch © Adrienne Pitts / Lonely Planet

1. Syntagma Square

Get your bearings in the de facto city center, in front of Athens’ Parliament building on lively Plateia Syntagmatos (aka Syntagma Sq, or “constitution square”). The plaza’s broad stairs provide an excellent informal vantage point for people watching. Keep your camera ready because this is where the iconic evzones (guards) kick up their traditional pom-pom-ed toes every hour in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Planning tip: If your schedule allows, come by on Sunday at 11am, when a whole platoon with a marching band makes the trip from the Presidential Guard barracks to the tomb. Also peek in on the quiet backstreet of Iridou Attikou, where the evzones go through their rituals 24/7, even when no one’s watching.

Two children run in the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece
If you are organized and active, you can register for a free morning jog at Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium © Fernando Vazquez Miras / Getty Images

2. Ancient sites

Most Athens visitors will likely pony up for a €30 combination ticket to the Acropolis, covering the citadel and six other top Athens sites. Yet if you’re on a strict budget, you can get an eyeful of these ruins without spending a penny. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is easy to admire from just over the fence. Right next to it is Hadrian’s Arch, a great Roman landmark now looming over a major avenue. In Monastiraki, the Tower of the Winds sits adjacent to the site fence – in fact, the view is better from here, as you’re closer to eye level with the beautiful bas-relief decorations.

The Panathenaic Stadium is another landmark you can see easily from the outside. If you’re feeling very active and…

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