My recent trip to Athens revealed a city different from the one I remembered, as I have not been in Athens since 2002 (before the Olympic Games). The economic crisis might be obvious in many aspects of the city but it has also made the city less pretentious. Athens is now city that actually calls you to visit it, to stroll on its alleys and its ancient monuments and to have a real taste of Greece.
In Athens even if you have two days or a full week there are always plenty of things to do.
Try to choose a hotel at the city centre, so you do not have to spend time travelling. If you are not able to find a central hotel the metro and the buses can easily take you to the centre of the city. It’s an inexpensive, safe and reliable way to move around.
Parthenon and Acropolis Museum
We are starting our walk from Acropolis and the Parthenon of course. Not easy to climb the, so called, Holly Hill of Athens. However, Parthenon, Erechtheion and the history of the area will pay you back. Tickets cost 20 euros and they are valid for the archaeological site of the Acropolis and its Slopes. Tickets are available only at the ticket office on site. There are special package tickets for those who want to visit other monuments as well. Check here for more details.
After the visit to Acropolis, there is only one way to complete the history tour. A visit to the Museum of Acropolis. The new Acropolis Museum has a total area of 25,000 square meters, with exhibition space of over 14,000 square meters, ten times more than that of the old museum on the Hill of the Acropolis. The new Museum offers all the amenities expected in an international museum of the 21st century. Ticket prices and opening times here.
Places to get around
Plaka is the oldest district in Athens (the so-called “Gods’ district”) with outstanding scenery. The moment you start walking on its paved narrow lanes you get the feeling that you’ve travelled back in time. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of the houses with neoclassic colors, the architecture, the well preserved gardens, the elegance and the atmosphere of the whole area. If you decide to walk around the area, make sure you have a map, because Plaka is like a labyrinth and you will probably get lost in its lanes.
Another area worth a visit is Anafiotika. It is a beautiful island village on the foot of Acropolis Rock! It was constructed in the middle of the 19th century when builders came to Athens from the Aegean island of Anafi, hence the name.
For inexpensive treasures pay a visit to Monastiraki, with the big Flea Market. It is one of the most typical areas in “old” Athens full of narrow lanes and small buildings, representing the Ottoman and Byzantine influence on the city. In the open-air stands and in the small shops, located on central streets, you can buy everything: shoes, clothes, old and new furniture, old books and magazines, souvenirs, jewellery, hats, bronze items, new and second hand records and cd’s, traditional Greek music instruments (bouzouki, cymbal etc).
The “Parliament” Square
Or Syntagma Square is where the Greek Parliament is, as well as the monument of the “Unknown Soldier”. One might find interesting the fact that the guards (they are called “Tsolias” or “Evzonas”) of the monument have to stay still and not to talk or move for an hour. Every hour the guards change by making a parade and demonstration in front of the monuments.
Generally, the shops in Athens city centre are not expensive. From clothes, shoes, jewellery, even souvenirs, you can find everything by browsing around. Of course, there are the big international brands, but I always, find more attractive to visit local shops when I visit an area.
What to eat
Greek food is simply amazing and Athens has so many places to eat, suitable for every taste and every budget. Do not forget to try Greek yeeros (gyros), a wrap with pork meat in it, chips and tzatziki. The meat, the pastries, the feta cheese, the salads are only few options. Do not be afraid to experiment.
When to go
Summer can be really hot in the capital city, so, unless you combine the visit to Athens with a visit to Greek islands, try to avoid a summer visit. Spring is a very good period as the temperature is not high but the weather is good. Even in autumn and winter sun will shine and it won’t be too cold.
How to go
Athens is easily approachable from many airports around Europe. Low cost airlines serve the city and you can usually find a very good deal. Normally, during summer, Easter and Christmas prices are higher.
Athens has a very good transport system. You can get around by using the metro, the buses, the tram or the train. You can find here more information about tickets and travel cards. Even taxis are not expensive and if you do not carry cash with you, you can ask for a taxi which accepts cards.