Taking its name from the ancient Greek goddess Athena, Athens is a city with quite the pedigree. According to legend, Athena won the right to name the Greek capital after she trumped Poseidon in a gift-giving contest. The god of the sea offered the residents a never-ending supply of water, which initially thrilled them – until they discovered it was undrinkable due to it being salt-laced seawater. At that stage, Athena probably could’ve offered anything vaguely useful and won, but she opted for a single olive tree, with a promise to fill the land with thousands of them. Athena was pronounced the victor with an overwhelming majority.

These days, Athens is a European cultural force to be reckoned with, featuring a lively nightlife scene, trendy galleries, bars and cinemas, and more than a few fascinating relics spanning the full spectrum of its ancient lifetime. If you want to get a flavor for the delectable Greek capital, log on to BUCKiTDREAM to see if any other travelers have become attuned with Athens, then keep that BUCKiTDREAM planner handy as we take you through the ultimate guide to exploring the ancient Greek capital of Athens.

Wander Through the Ancient Sights The ruins of Agora – the archaic marketplace where famous figures like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates would’ve hung out – used to be the epicenter of Athens’ social scene. Among the excavations, you’ll be guided through temples, market arcades, and even a concert hall, with over five millennia of human history on display for your perusal. The Acropolis is the next architectural marvel to set your sights on, perched atop an olive tree-lined hill overlooking the city. You can take a guided tour up there or ramble up by yourself, but whatever you do, don’t miss the stunning pantheon that sits at the center of the ruins, still remarkably intact despite centuries of wear and tear.

Take a Stroll Through the Diomedes Botanical Gardens Despite the fact that Athens is a large urban sprawl of a city, the local gardens are absolutely beautiful and feel like a green-filled sanctuary within a busy metropolis. Named after the second-best hero in the Greek army, the Diomedes gardens are perfect for a stroll, a picnic, or a relaxing meditation. There are almost nineteen hectares to explore, all intentionally overgrown with over five hundred plant species, all organized by categories.

Get Lost in the Anafiotika Neighborhood Located on the northern slope of Acropolis hill, Anafiotika is a 19th century-era neighborhood that has retained much of its original elegance. The whitewashed walls and copious stray cats evoke an island-esque atmosphere right in the heart of Athens’ bustling center, and with good reason: the masons who built the area heralded from Anafi, an island off Greece’s south-east coast, and wanted to capture a little touch of that island life atmosphere.

Catch a Film Under the Sky Cine Thisio can be found tucked away beneath the looming structure of the Acropolis, and has been installed there since 1935. Open-air cinemas can be found all over the city, but Thisio is one of the oldest and the best and offers a tasty array of Greek traditional treats to enjoy with your flick, as well as traditional staples like popcorn and Coke.

Relax in a Steam Bath Located in the city center is an eight-person traditional bathhouse called Al Hammam. These ancient rituals feature lots of warm marble, a luxurious soak in the tub, optional massages and treatments, and a serving of traditional tea after you’re done. It’s the perfect way to round off a busy day of Athens sightseeing, and a local custom that’s not to be missed.

Hike (or Ride) Up Mount Lycabettus The perfect spot to catch a twilight view of the surprisingly low-rise skyline of Athens, a hike up the dominating Lycabettus can be the perfect way to cap off a day in Athens. Many people opt to walk up the mountain’s slopes, but the best way to see it is actually by a train system known as the Funicular Railway, which leaves from the top of Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki. It looks a bit like an amusement park ride but rewards your daring with stunning Athens views. Lycabettus is a particularly great place to catch a breathtaking view of the Acropolis, which rises distinctively out of the city skyline.

Athens excels at being both a historical wonder and an exciting, modern capital. You can easily mix and match both sides to the Greek city as you see fit on your bucket list adventure here, coming away with some unforgettable experiences and lifelong memories. That’s what a dream trip is all about, right? If you’re keen for more Greek adventures, check out Discovering Parga or The World’s Most Unusual Theatres for more BUCKiTDREAM-approved ideas, then set about planning your own jaunt to the cradle of Western civilization!