Athens: Experience and Advice

Good evening everyone. I know it’s been a while, but I hope you’re all doing well.

In this post, I will be talking about my personal experience exploring Athens last summer. We visited Greece last July (details here), and spent about a day and a half in the city of Athens at the beginning of the trip, as well as a day at the end of the trip on a day trip to the Temple of Poseidon.

Hope you enjoy!

General Layout of Athens

Athens is a sprawling city. It generally consists of narrow streets with squares and historical landmarks and temples spread around. While you may think this means that it is easy to get lost, in reality, depending on where you are, you will probably either be able to see the Acropolis or Mount Lycabettus (the highest point in Athens, and where the featured image is taken). By looking at the landmark, you will be able to tell which direction you are walking in, what part of the city you are in, and even your relative height to the rest of the city.

The biggest and busiest square of Athens (and where the government parliament is located) is Syntagma Square. This is one of (if not the) main center of Athens, and is also where most of the public gatherings including protests take place.

A couple of other big squares include Monastiraki and Omonia Square, both near where we stayed. There are many, many smaller squares as well.

Our Experience

As mentioned above, we stayed near Omonia Square. When we first arrived, while waiting for our room, we walked down to Monastiraki Square, and went through the meat market to see what it was like. As stinky and disgusting as it smelled and looked, in my opinion, as someone who does eat non-vegetarian food every once in a while, it is a good experience to see where that food is actually coming from.

Central meat market in Athens. Photo by Herbert Ortner, Wikimedia Commons

In Monastiraki, we had lunch, and then came back to the room. After relaxing for a bit, we went to Syntagma Square.

Parliament in Syntagma Square. Photo by JD Lasica, Flickr
Back of Parliament building.

From there, we walked to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus.

View from the Temple of Zeus. As mentioned earlier, you can see the Parthenon from nearly all parts of the city.

We then went to the Panathenaic Stadium, an all-marble stadium which hosted the first modern Olympic games in 1896. (Yes, I ran a lap of the track. 🙂)

A better view of the stadium than the ones in my own photos above. Photo by Badseed, Wikimedia Commons

Finally, for the sunset, we went to the top of Lycabettus Hill. The view was gorgeous, but there were a lot of tourists.

The next day, we had an Acropolis tour booked. Our tour guide was amazing, and gave us a great idea and insight on all of the sites that we saw.

My one warning about going to the Acropolis, however, is that while it is the must-go site in Athens, there is a lot of climbing involved, and also that it is extremely hot. If you have physical disabilities or medical conditions, it is probably not a good idea to go to the top.

Also, there is currently a restoration project going on to fix the Parthenon. The stock photo below was taken in 2015, and more has been completed now.

Photo by Kristoffer Trolle, Flickr

We then went to the Acropolis Museum with the guide, which was the only museum we visited in Athens. It was very interesting and recommended, although I have heard that if you get the chance, the National Archaeological Museum is better.

We then visited the Athenian Agora, which is another must-do in Athens.

Map of the Athenian Agora
Aerial view of the Stoa of Attalos, one of the many parts of the Ancient Agora. Photo by A. Savin, Wikimedia Commons

After this, we walked around a bit. One piece of advice is to avoid anyone giving out bracelets, necklaces, and the like. They are especially present in Monastiraki Square but are all over the city, and they are likely scamming you.

Monastiraki Square. Photo by Maksym Kozlenko, Wikimedia Commons

One of the the things that Athens is known for is its street art, which definitely did not disappoint. I will not post any pictures, as they will not accurately describe how the art looked in context to the city; instead, you will have to go and see for yourself! 🙂

After this, we got something to eat, headed back to the hotel for a quick shower (we managed to get a room for just the afternoon), and got on a subway to Piraeus to catch our ferry (more on that in the next post!). Even though I am not as obsessed with trains as I was 10 years ago, I love trying the metro at least once in any country that I visit that has one, since it really gives you a chance to interact with the locals. The ride itself was efficient and cheaper than a cab. The one disadvantage was that it was underground for about half the ride, but the part near Piraeus which we hadn’t yet visited was overground.

The above is all that we did on our first day and a half. At the end of the trip, after our day trip (which I will talk about in a separate post), we had an evening in the city, and decided to spend it seeing an opera at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It was a great show and an amazing atmosphere. One piece of advice I will give which the tour guide gave us as well is to sit as high up as possible. While this may seem counterintuitive, it allowed us to enjoy the nice breeze and be in a less crowded area (which is going to be especially important to some after international travel restarts), making the show a lot more enjoyable.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus Panorama, Daytime View. Photo by AndVor, Wikimedia Commons
The Odeon at night, shortly before our show.

Overall, Athens is definitely not a place to skip, as many Greek visitors seem to do. However, it is not necessary to spend too much time in the city. I felt that the amount of time we spent there was perfect: a day and a half at the beginning of the trip to explore the city before going to the islands, and a day at the end in which we went on a day trip to another part of the mainland.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next post!

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