Athens is the capital of Greece and is known for its rich history, with the main highlight the Acropolis. But Athens has more to offer beside the culture life, it has a high social life and beaches in the area. I visited Athens for just one day and two nights, enough to see the highlights and feel the Greek vibe! I walked all by myself and didn’t have a guide. The highlights are close to each other and this route has a mix of everything. See below the tips and inspirations for a complete walking route with the real Athens experience.
Tip: The taxi fares from the airport to Athens center are fixed, even with the Uber, 38 EUR and 54 EUR at night.
Tip: Buy a ticket for 30 EUR to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum and six other sites.
Tip: Bring some water with you, the heat and wind will make you thirsty.
1. The Acropolis
The main tourist attraction in Athens is the ancient site of The Acropolis. Acropolis means ‘high city’ in Greek and that is exactly what it is. The 150 meter high citadel with the main building the Parthenon can be seen from everywhere in Athens. At night the Acropolis is illuminated and gives an almost magical feeling.
The history of the Acropolis goes way back, to even 4000-3000 BC. It went under several battles with the Persians, Venetians and natural challenges like earthquakes and nowadays the pollution is affecting the Acropolis. The Acropolis became a World Heritage site in 1987, which resulted in restoration programs and valuable sculptures are moved to the Acropolis Museum.
The marble Parthenon is the prominent monument of the Acropolis, which is dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the goddess embodying the power and prestige of Athens. Other temples located here are the Temple of Athena Nike, Temple of Poseidon and the Porch of the Caryatids with the recognizable women. You keep looking at all the amazing sculptures and buildings.
Tip: Visit the Acropolis very early in the morning or later at night, this to avoid the crowds. Opening times are from 8 AM to 8 PM.
2. Acropolis Museum
Next stop on the route is the Acropolis Museum, perfect to cool off after the hot and windy Acropolis. This impressive museum is at the foot of the Acropolis on the southern slope; signs will guide you or follow the crowd. If you enter the museum you walk over a glass floor, with below the ruins of an ancient Athenian neighborhood.
The museum has a lot of amazing statues of marble that were originally found at the Acropolis. Among them the beautiful statues of women in draped clothing and braids.
You will definitely enjoy the stunning statues and reminds you how life was like back in those days. On the second floor parts of the Parthenon are shown. From this floor you have an amazing view on the Acropolis through the window. Entrance fee is 10 EUR (during the Summer season) and is part of the 30 EUR all in ticket of the Acropolis.
3. Temple of Olympian Zeus
When walking down from the Museum you will find a lot of restaurants and bars. Here you can drink your coffee or have lunch. Don’t expect it to be cheap, this is the most touristic place to eat; the neighborhood Plaka. I went for a Greek yoghurt, since I had the biggest breakfast. Strolling down you can walk underneath the arch of Hadrian.
Walk further with on the right hand side the Temple of Olympian Zeus. You can enter the site, by paying 6 EUR separately or with 30 EUR all in ticket. This formal colossal temple was dedicated to Olympian Zeus; head of the Olympians gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC and became the biggest temple in the ancient world with 104 colossal columns of 17 meters high. Only a couple of them are left on this green field in the city center of Athens.
4. National & Zappeio Gardens
Next part of the walk is through a park, time to relax a bit on a bench in the shadow and drink some water. Here you see the local Greeks enjoying the park and catch up with each other. The highlight in these parks is the Zappeio Hall which is used as a conference center nowadays. This historical park has native and exotic plants and when I visited the place a local book market was going on. Perfect place to chill after a hot and sunny day and if you are looking for animals, check the ponds for turtles and ducks.
5. Hellenic Parliament
In the Old Royal Palace the Hellenic Parliament is located, overlooking the Syntagma Square in Athens. In front of the building a tomb of the Unknown Soldier are guarded by the Presidential Guards (Evzones). The Evzones guard the place 24 hours per day all year round and they change guard every hour on the hour which is a nice ceremony to see. Evzones are wearing a traditional uniform, which evolved from the clothes worn by the klephts. During my visit the Evzones where traditional walking from one side of the monument to the other in the full heat of the day!
Tip: A special changing of the guards will take place every Sunday at 11 AM.
Crossing the Syntagma Square you walk strait into the shopping district of Athens. At Ermou street you will find the popular shops like H&M, Mango, Zara, Sephora and so on. My feet were killing me by now and wanted to relax a bit before dinner. That is why I ordered a Uber, which in Athens means a regulated normal taxi but order it via the Uber app, to my hotel.
6. Going local in Koukaki
Most of the tourist go to Plaka, which is the busy and popular neighborhood in Athens. I love to go off the tourist traps. Today that didn’t work that well, but seeing the highlights in Athens you need to follow the main stream. I booked my hotel Neratzia Rooms in the Koukaki neighborhood, this is less touristic and close to all the hot spots. I really recommend you to stay at Neratzia Rooms. The rooms are clean, stylish and affordable and the main big plus is the breakfast that is served at the Neratzia Café Bristro next door and served by the friendly Popi.
Only 50 meters from the hotel the lively street Geor. Olimpiou/Olympian is located. This is really going local!!
Everybody was drinking a Freddo Coffee and getting together in this popular street. I walked up and down to get a good feeling and ended up drinking my first local Freddo Cappuccino at Yubaba and had dinner at Little Venice (Hikpή Bεvεtίa). In Greece the mezze are popular, these are the Greek tapas. Nice to taste all the different kind of Greek flavors! Perfect for my first Greek dinner!!