So, if you read any of my most recent past posts (confusing, huh? You’re welcome) you know that my now husband Anthony and I had an overseas wedding where we spent just under a month traveling around. Before the wedding, we explored the Netherlands and Bruges. Then we proceeded to hitched in Munich Germany (at the Oktoberfest!) and spend some time in the Bavarian countryside with our family and friends. We then honeymooned in Greece and Egypt. Welp, here we are at the third leg of that adventure: Greece.
Admittedly, we didn’t spend nearly as much time in Athens as we probably should have or would have liked. But I was more into island hopping and knowing I’d want to relax for a bit before we traveled onto Egypt. With that being said, our Greece itinerary went: Athens (1 night), Santorini (2 nights), Ios (2 nights) and then back to Athens for one night before we flew to Cairo. So while we technically had two nights in Athens, we really only had one full day to explore. Allora!
What To Do
Obviously, the first thing you think of when you hear Athens is Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon that sits atop it. So no trip (even return trip) is complete without visiting this iconic ancient citadel that towers above the city.
It’s easy to spend half a day admiring this immense rocky outcrop and everything that it has to offer. If you didn’t know, Acropolis Hill is so much more than The Parthenon that steals the show. A few key sites are: the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, and the Erechtheion. Additionally, sitting on the south side of the slopes are the Theater of Dionysus and the Odeon of Heodes Atticus.
The architectural as well as historical significance of these structures are astounding, having withstood everything from vandalism to a massive earthquake and even bombardment. It is the constant reminder of Greece’s impactful and rich history.
My best piece of advice for visiting here is to get your entrance ticket before you go and also get there as early as you can. We arrived at 9am and it was already crowded. I can’t even imagine how it gets mid-day. Oh, and please do yourself a favor: when you reach the top, go past the crowds looking at the Parthenon and turn around, put down your phone and just take in that stunning view of the city below. And then of course snap your picture because you’re going to want to remember that site for years to come.
Self Guided Tour: Athens: Acropolis and Museum Entry Tickets with Audio Tour
Skip the Line Tickets: Acropolis & Museum: Entry Tickets
Most tickets you buy to Acropolis Hill will come with a ticket to the Acropolis Museum as well. Don’t waste it. The artifacts in there are beautiful and easy to get lost in. There is also a restaurant on site where you can dine with a view of the Parthenon.
We went an hour before the museum closed on a Friday and there was hardly anyone else around. It was wonderful! Ever since lucking into that I try to get to museums late to be able to enjoy it (doesn’t always work, but worth a shot!).
Another note is that even though your ticket is for Acropolis Hill and Museum you don’t need to use them on the same day. We went to the Museum the night we got back into Athens and didn’t go to the Hill until the next morning. I liked this a lot so we weren’t locked into something and had to rush for time.
Self Guided Tour: Athens: Acropolis and Museum Entry Tickets with Audio Tour
Skip the Line Tickets: Acropolis & Museum: Entry Tickets
Temple of Olympian Zeus
We walked over here from Acropolis Hill and passed the Arch of Hadrian on the way. What I loved about Athens is that one minute you’d be walking through modern apartment buildings and the next you’re right on top of ancient ruins. It never ceases to amaze me.
Anyway, so it was 6 euros to get into this area. If I remember correctly, the cost also allowed you to get into another monument, but don’t quote me. We didn’t have time to do so if it did.
This temple was dedicated to “Olympian” Zeus in being the head of the Olympian gods, and it definitely felt like it was made for an Olympian god when you’re standing at the base of the monument, looking like a tiny ant in comparison.
Stroll Through Some Neighborhoods
There is no shortage of beautiful neighborhoods to get lost in around Athens. Here are a couple we had time to visit.
We stumbled across this main city square in search of souvlaki and sandals. Luckily we found both. And apparently, on Sunday mornings, in the Avissynias Square, a vintage flea market takes place and is said to be a great spot not just for finding eccentric items but also people watching. Our walk here from Acropolis Hill also lead us past more ancient ruins, including Hadrian’s Library.
Melissinos Art - The Poet Sandalmaker of Athens
Our reason for coming into this neighborhood, like I said was a mission to find this sandal shop. I love finding eccentric places when we travel and happened to read about Stavros Melissionos before we left home. Stavros is an artist, poet and 2nd generation sandalmaker, who’s family opened this authentic leather sandal making shop in 1920. Since then many celebrities have come to have their own customized sandals created here, including The Beatles and Jackie O.
The dedicated website explains it better than I can, so let’s just quote the source:
“His shop remains a crossroad of poetry, art and home of the Ancient Greek craftsmanship of sandal-making. His poetry & craftsmanship have attracted some of the biggest names in art and show-biz including: The Beatles, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Barbra Streisand, Rudolph Nureyev, Anthony Queen (Zorba, the Greek Tycoon), Garry Cooper, Sophia Loren. The designs of Stavros Melissinos Sandals, much like his poetry, are influenced by ancient Greek mythology and history and are based on the footwear of such notables as Socrates, Plato, Periklis and Helen of Troy.”
I loved everything I had read about this concept and knew I wanted to check it out when we got to Athens. I, of course, ended up getting my own pair of hand crafted sandals to take home for 60 euro. But even if you don’t walk out with tailored-to-your-feet greek sandals, you should check out the shop, because it could easily be a lovely, quirky art gallery. Just be mindful of the clients, as space is limited.
Besides the beautiful buildings and cobblestone streets in this neighborhood, I have to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite. What I had read was that this area was charming but when we went through it during the day it just felt like a big tourist trap. There were souvenir shops everywhere you turned and subpar restaurants with staff pestering you to come in. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
Now, with that being said, the bars at night were great. In particular, we loved Bettos, which is said to be the oldest bar in Europe. With liquor bottles lining the walls backlit by colorful mood lighting, it was clearly the place to be, as it was packed. But we enjoyed a couple of drinks and tried the ouzo: a traditional Greek, anise flavored spirit. I did not enjoy it personally, but it’s worth a taste.
And, of course, strolling down the narrow streets at night with some gelato is never a bad idea, no matter how many other tourists are present.
So check it out. I’m glad we did, but I wish we had gone to one of the other neighborhoods, like Koukaki instead. We simply didn’t have enough time for everything, especially with all of the rain on day one.
Take A Private Guided Tour
I’m not a big fan of group tours, but I do enjoy a good private one. And in a city with so much history as Athens, having a knowledgable guide is truly the way to go. I look up some history on places we visit so I can appreciate it, but a guide will know more than I could ever have time to read, and they make it more interesting.
However, we did not opt for a guide in Athens. And I regret it a little. I would try to tune into tid bits I would hear on Acropolis Hill from groups we’d walk past, but it’s not the same. So if you can get your own private tour anywhere, I feel like it would definitely be worth it here (and Egypt, but more on that later). I’ve left a couple options below for you to peruse.
Where To Stay
Since we stayed in Athens at the beginning and end of our time in Greece, I booked us two separate hotels. One was more of a budget option and the second was a bit fanicer, it was our honeymoon after all. And while I loved each hotels for different reasons I am glad that we got to try out both so I can give you, my dear reader, options. Both of these locations are within walking distance to the main attractions, although public transport is also easily available if you need it.
Acropolis View Hotel
The first hotel we stayed in was the Acropolis View Hotel, a three star budget friendly hotel where I figured we would just need a place to rest our heads.
Well this hotel exceeded my expectations. The staff was warm and welcoming from the moment we walked in. The room came with some welcome treats which was super sweet, and had a balcony that looked out to the Acropolis. We enjoyed a couple of cold beers, some olives and took in the stunning architecture.
The hotel also offers a rooftop bar that has even more stunning views of the Acropolis and the area. It sadly was raining the whole time during our brief stay but we would have loved to hang out up there at night and take in the classic Athens view with a few drinks and some good music.
The lobby bar is lovely too though. The bartender was an older gentleman who was extremely friendly and talked to us for a bit before sending us up to our room with some more olives to munch on.
In addition to the great views and warm vibes, this hotel also offers free wifi and free breakfast. Sadly, our flight to Santorini left too early the following morning for us to be able to enjoy the breakfast, but I don’t doubt that it was as good as everything else had been. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again, especially for the price, the next time we visit Athens.
Palladian Home Boutique
Five days later we found ourselves back in Athens for one last night in Greece. I had originally booked us both nights at this hotels but changed our plans (and budget) so many times that I could only justify spending one night. But I’m glad that we had the experience. The hotel is incredibly charming. Once again, I’m taking this clip from their website, because I couldn’t describe any better than how they have:
“Fitted with high ceilings, antique-like furnishings and soft colours…live like a local next to Acropolis Hill. Our lodge is housed in a neoclassic mansion constructed in 1930 in the most historic neighborhood of Plaka.”
And they are not exaggerating. The lodge is gorgeous, the view is incredible, the staff is friendly and breakfast is included. The room we stayed in overlooked the street and we had a partial view of the outdoor theater (and the Acropolis to the left side of course), which was really fun. And as far as accommodations, the room had everything we needed, including a bottle of wine.
For anyone looking for even one night in a fancier hotel I definitely recommend spending it at Palladian Home Boutique.
Where to Eat
We didn’t even get to crack the surface of delicious food in Athens. But given the time crunch, we still manged to eat pretty well. If you’re stuck on where to go, leave it to a local and join a food tour!
Acropolis Museum Restaurant
I mentioned it earlier, but I definitely recommend checking out this restaurant while you are visiting the Acropolis Museum, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. If for nothing else than the view. But the food was delicious too. I got the risotto (I’m a sucker for risotto) and Anthony got the squid ink pasta (which he is a sucker for). The drinks were great too. We didn’t get to eat by the window because we just happened to grab a table in there after we were finished touring the museum, but they do accept same day reservations if you’d like to try for one (just not on Sundays).
This place was recommended to us by the gentleman who picked us up from the airport. They have a sit down restaurant and also a window where you can order from. We opted for the window service. And it did not disappoint. Everything was messy and delicious and eating it on the street while trying to stay out of the rain because there wasn’t a place to sit added to the experience. My mouth is drooling thinking about it now.
Fun fact: I heard the driver say souvlaki and when we ordered it looked like a gyro. And I kept seeing this and not understanding the difference. Well, my friend, the difference between souvlaki and gyro (pronounced YEE-ros) is in how the meat is prepared. Souvlaki is more of a kebab while gyro is shaved meat from a vertical rotisserie. TMYK! They both are too delicious for the intermittent fast I’m on right now *stomach rumbles.*
Finally, Don't Rush
So I know this isn’t a lot, and I’m sure if you wanted (and the weather cooperated) you could easily fit more into a 48 hour itinerary. But for the two days we had in Athens, this was plenty for us to get a taste and know that we’d want to come back in the future.
If you take any of my suggestions please let me know. Or if you have your own I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!
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