I just loved Athens!!! I grew up obsessed with Greek mythology and gods and goddesses and their stories and it was finally time to go see the land of Athena and Zeus and Poseidon and Apollo and Dionysus and…
So I picked my bags to leave on Friday and ran to the airport and arrived there around midnight. The first shock was that trains don’t run from airport after 11:30 or 12 at night despite flights landing there till late but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits and took the bus to the city which took about 50 minutes to drop me at Syntagma square which is in the heart of Athens and then came Uber to my rescue. I picked up some KFC (I loved it because they did the chicken crispy way unlike the typical European sludgy-oily chicken full of salt and dropping oil).
I got a place near Syggrou Fix station which was farther than I thought but the apartment was right outside the station and very nice. I got it through airbnb. The host was very friendly and didn’t mind me waking him up at 2am. The Greek hospitality began…
Thessio –> Pnyx Hill –> Panathenaic Stadium –> Hadrian’s Arch & Temple of Zeus –> Acropolic Museum –> Acropolis –> Mount Lycabettus
Next morning I woke up to join my Walking tour group near Thiseio station. I got the 5 day pass which costs €9 because a day pass for 2 days was more expensive.
I would recommend this Free Walking Tour and book well in advance because they are generally booked especially during summer season. The guide was very informative and she deserved a medal for summing up Greek and Athenian history in 2 and a half hours so beautifully.
We covered Pnyx hill which is the oldest parliament in the world and served as the place where ancient Athenians debated matters of state.
You can see the Acropolis from Pnyx hill and a grand and beautiful view of Athens . I loved it because the guide kind of pointed out every famous place and I developed a sense of direction that helped me in the next 2 days.
The walk took us next to Acropolis to Ancient Agora to Hadrians Arch to Zeus’s temple to the square before Panathenaic stadium and there we ended the tour.. By this time we were super hungry and I left with Sandra for a restaurant that our tour guide suggested for good Athenian style homemade quality food. I met Sandra during the tour and we stuck together because she was travelling solo just like me and we had the same amount of time in Athens and of course because she was interesting and friendly.
I don’t remember the name of restaurant unfortunately but I’ll never forget the lunch we had with meatballs, a dish made with spicy tomatoes, olive oil and feta cheese and Cretan salad which is a must try in Athens or Crete. The owner of restaurant came to say hello and we ended up doing shots of sour cherry liquor he made himself, super friendly man, the Greek hospitality continued…
The food was more than enough and roughly €19 each; peanuts!! Rubbing our tummies, in need of some walk we decided to go to panathenaic stadium first which was a short walk away. The tickets were not very expensive but Athens can be super cheap if you’re a EU student as Sandra got in free pretty much everywhere whereas I had to pay €5 for the stadium.
For other monuments and locations you’d be better off buying a group ticket that gets you access to 8 locations and costs €30 and saves €10 and standing in the queues.
The stadium was a different feeling and it felt like an honour to visit the place so intimately connected to the history of Olympics. It felt even stronger because we went at the time of Rio olympics 2016. This is the only stadium in the world that is not round or oval and is fully made of marble, talk about being rich..
We got the audio guides that were semi useful but half way through we got a bit bored and through the tunnel went to the little museum that has the posters for each olympics games as well as the torches, don’t miss it out..
The tiredness started catching up to us and we decided to be lazy with some dessert and headed to the Acropolis museum which was very close. On the way we paid a quick visit to the Temple of Zeus. I have been obsessed with Zeus since forever; the god of Thunder, the king of gods… I could sit there and imagine him walking around in the beautiful temple which even in this condition was absolutely magnificent. The wear and tear and fire couldn’t take away the thunder…
Next stop was Acropolis museum which has a beautiful entrance where you can see the ancient ruins under your feet and it actually does make you feel interested in what’s inside and if you’re interested in history you could spend the whole day inside and not get enough of it but slightly lazy by now we headed to the last floor to see the special part of museum. The last floor is slightly different because it uses the same dimensions as the pantheon and is at an angle from the building and the artefacts inside do give you an idea about what it looked like in its glory…
We headed to the cafeteria and some ice cream and ice coffee turned the hot summer evening into a beautiful one. You can see the Acropolis from the terrace and it just makes you feel so blessed that you’re sitting at the feet of this magnificent structure that hosted names like Socrates, Alexander the Great, Plato and countless others that shaped who we are today…
The last stop for the day was Acropolis for which you need to climb up the hill. The first point was Dionysus theatre followed by another amphitheatre and finally you get to the entrance of Acropolis, the great Acropolis!!! It is beautifully grand and mind you very slippery, centuries of walking on marble has polished it very well so wear some shoes with good grip.
We walked around and enjoyed the view of Athens from the top and took loads of pictures. Again the audio guides were sort of helpful but then we got a bit bored. The Pantheon is under refurbishment and you are not allowed to go in but you can have a good sense of its glory from outside, even after its destruction in the war of 1821.
We left Acropolis and headed to the small hill on the right, outside the entrance of Acropolis and joined others to watch the beautiful sunset over Athens.
We’d got really tired by now and headed home to grab some food on the way and rest for next day..
But rest was put on hold because a friend of mine called and I went with him to Mount Lycabettus. We drove up but you have the option to go by cable car as well. The stairs up got quite narrow at a few points but finally when we got up there the night time views of Athens were simply stunning, a day very well spent indeed…
Syntagma Square –> Ermou –> Monasteraki –> Roman Agora –> Hadrian’s Library –> Ancient Agora (Stoa of Attalos & Temple of Hiphestus) –> Plaka –> Gazi
A good night sleep and the fact that I was in Athens woke me up absolutely fresh and I headed to Syntagma square to meet Sandra to continue our adventure. The changing of guards takes place every hour but there was a special ceremony that day and we got to see a whole lot of guards parading around, the uniforms were slightly funny but the ceremony was very poised, not a bad start of day eh!
I wanted to buy a SIM card for Greece and looked everywhere for a Cosmote office but because it was a Sunday everything was closed, I just ended up using my roaming instead which was still not too bad. We got some coffee from a small cafe and walked down to Monasteraki station from the main shopping street Ermou. It was a fun little walk but most of the shops were closed.
We arrived at the Roman Agora and Hadrians library to start our tour and while it was still there, it was not half as impressive as the ancient agora which we walked by yesterday as part of our tour and the combo let us in so we spent about half an hour there and then walked to the ancient Agora.
I’m going to be honest, my heart started thumping in my chest because of excitement, I was going to enter the place where Socrates and Plato and Aristotle formulated their ideas and where Socrates drank that poisoned chalice… We entered and headed to to stoa of Attalos which was rebuilt not so long ago and we went to both floors and museum to get the feel of the place but honestly I felt elated by standing in the window of upper floor looking at the temple of Hiphestus which still stands high and mighty amongst the ruins almost mocking the other structures; “Look at the tribute you paid to the god of blacksmiths, the only one standing, the only one standing with its head high!”.
Finally we walked to the temple and as we walked it felt like the temple grew on us, I almost forgot to take any pictures. If you want to see what pantheon looked like in its glory, picture the temple of Hisphestus on a much larger scale.
The ancient agora is a treat and you need to walk around after looking at the architectural models to get the real feel of the place…
It was almost time for lunch and we headed to Plaka, the small old district in Athens with its beautiful cafes and restaurants, seating arrangements on the steps and colourful houses full of vibrant flowers. The food was slightly expensive here (DUH!) but still quite cheap and delicious and don’t forget the views around with pleasant chatter around you.
Sandra left for Petros and I had some time to kill before running to the airport for my flight to Santorini so I headed to Gazi; the gay district.
Gazi used to be quite run down but the recent gentrification has brought a lot of improvement to the area with a lot of bars, clubs, trendy cafes and restaurants opening their doors to the hip gays of Athens.
Some of the cafes are stunningly beautiful and very chic. I sat in a cafe and met a guy through Grindr who joined me for coffee and shisha. The conversation was quite broken since his English was at the same level as my Greek but pleasant company nonetheless.
Finally we moved to the rooftop area with some pleasant breeze and the sun setting on Athens, I just remember the story behind Poseidon and Athena fighting over Athens to be the patron of the city and I just chuckled to myself that perhaps they should bring Angela Merkel and Francoise Hollande to come watch the sunsets in Greece and that might melt their hearts, it certainly melted mine and I got a bit sad because I was leaving but then I thought of the beaches and sunsets of Santorini and picked up my bag to go to the airport.
The metro line that goes to the airport runs every 30 minutes so be careful and plan your journey otherwise you might have to sit at the platform for a lot of time that you could be spending in Athens or missing your flight so you could see some more Athens again 😉 (win win situation?)