Day One

  • Acropolis Area & Monastiraki

Orient yourself by walking a loop around Athens' core. Start with an early-morning climb to the glorious Acropolis, going to the east entrance early, to beat the crowds and the heat. Then wind your way down the far side of the hill, passing by the Roman Agora with its unusual Tower of the Winds and exploring the Ancient Agora, the centre of ancient Athens' civic life.

Wander around Plaka, either on back streets for photo ops, or along Adrianou for shopping. Eventually you'll complete the circle, passing by the east Acropolis entrance. From there, head to the Acropolis Museum and its masterpieces from the Parthenon. Coffee break at the museum cafe. Close to sundown, join the crowds strolling on the pedestrian strip of Dionysiou Areopagitou, and walk up Filopappou Hill if there's still light.

See an outdoor movie at Thission cinema or, in cooler weather, stroll down the pedestrian street of Iraklidon to any of the bars or cafes here. Or head back to Plaka and have a drink at Brettos and check the music at Stamatopoulos.

Day Two

  • Syntagma & Kolonaki

Watch the evzones (guards) strut their pom-pom-toed stuff during the changing of the guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Plateia Syntagmatos. Then head down the street to the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture for its extensive collections tracing Greek culture over millennia.

Stroll south through the gardens of the Byzantine & Christian Museum (or, if your timing on Syntagma was bad, down Irodou Attikou, where more evzones stand guard), winding up at the old Panathenaic Stadium. Pass by the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. Then hop a trolleybus north to the National Archaeological Museum, and wander over to Exarhia for a meal. If you'd prefer not to rush before closing, wander up to the nearby Athens' First Cemetery.

Bar-crawl around these neighbourhoods, starting perhaps on Plateia Agia Irini. But it's also entirely possible to spend a whole evening in a multi-use space like Six d.o.g.s. If you need some snacks to keep going, you'll find plenty of options, both savoury and sweet, on Athinaidos.

Day Three

  • Monastiraki & Psyrri

If you didn't make it to the National Archaeological Museum yesterday, head there first. Or start at the Athens Central Market, just south of Omonia, and the surrounding streets. Stock up on food and drink to take home. (You did leave room in your suitcase for a tin of this year's olive oil, right?)

Make your way to Kolonaki for high-end window-shopping or people-watching at its trendy cafes, with an optional dip into more museums: Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine & Christian Museum are both excellent. Around sundown, either walk up to the top of Lykavittos Hill, or take the funicular. However you get there, it's a great place for a sunset view and a drink at the cafe.

Have a cocktail at one of the excellent bars in the downtown area; some are hidden in the back of shopping arcades. If you prefer a more casual scene, of beers instead of mixed drinks, head toward Exarhia instead.

Day Four

  • Keramikos

Take the morning to immerse yourself in the Kerameikos archaeological site, with its Street of Tombs and small museum full of tender masterpieces of sculpture. Then meander over to Museum of Islamic Art for its superb collection spanning centuries. If you're footsore from archaeological sites, revive with a steam bath at Hammam.

Take a long walk or quick cab ride to 138 Pireos St, for a shot of modern and contemporary art – but check the exhibition schedule online first, to see which of the rotating shows appeals. The cafe here is very nice for coffee – or cross the road into Petralona. You can work your way back uphill, to the Thisio promenade around sundown.

Explore music venues in this area – there might be a DJ at Gazarte or Bios, or a jazz band at Afrikana. And there's almost always a traditional Greek group playing at Steki Pinoklis.