Travel posts are my favourite! Writing them is like revisiting the amazing places I have been to, again! Athens is one of those places which is not just worth visiting but has been on my travel bucket list for a long time. How long? Since primary school, when I was introduced to Greek mythology! I will be talking about many things – things to do in Athens, hotels to stay in Athens if it safe for travellers- but first, did you read my post on planning a trip to Greece?
Apart from all the tips I have shared in the post, here are a few specific things related to Athens, which you should keep in mind before going there:
- Cash is the king. I am reiterating it because you might not want to end up not drinking the best coffee or having the most popular Gyro!
- Nightlife starts late, and I did not know it before reaching there. If you are a party animal or love to venture out to clubs, you might have to wait till 2 AM for the nightlife to begin! Many clubs offer to pick and drop service from your hotel – book a few hours in advance.
- Public transport – buses and metros are good for tourists. However, prefer taxis at night. Taxis are cheap and easily available. Also, the Beat app is the taxi renting app, and it’s good!
- Tipping for any services(like in restaurants or in salons) is optional, unlike the US where it’s mandatory.
- They say it doesn’t rain in Athens in April. But be prepared. It rained cats and dogs when I was there in April. Also, Athens is generally warm all round the year.
I visited Greece for my honeymoon. Athens was my first stop – because it was convenient to get a direct flight. I flew to Athens from Delhi by Emirates ($350 per person), and it is certainly one of the best airlines I have travelled in. My return was also from Athens (to Hyderabad) by Qatar Airways ($650 per person), and it is the BEST airline I have travelled! The flight time is around 8 hours if non-stop.
Talking about the hotels in Athens, we stayed in NLH – FIX hotel ($120 per night) which is at a great location. Also, I would highly recommend it for its cosy vibes! It is at a walking distance from the major attractions like the Acropolis Museum, the Plaka and of course, the bus stop! Also, you can easily find taxis around and some pretty quaint cafes for quick bites. While returning, we had one night, and we stayed in the Best Western Museum Hotel($75 per night), which is in a shady location but pretty safe! Also, it is located near the Archaeological Museum, which I thought would be my only place-to-visit at the end of the trip. But, no. What did I do on the last day? You will find out!
I grew up watching the cartoon series called Hercules by Disney, and since then, I have read way too much about Greek Mythology. The moment you step into Athens, all those stories and legends will suddenly come to life! And Athens is just the beginning!
The moment we reached our hotel, I was so happy to see the bed. So, here is the thing. If you are going for your honeymoon, right after your wedding, you will spend the first few days lazying around. I slept for eight hours in the flight and then ten hours straight, after arriving in Athens! But that is the good thing about staying in a hotel which is centrally located; we did not have to plan an entire day for touring the temples and sites which I had in mind.
The first morning, we walked towards the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I was impressed by the way they are maintaining and restoring it. It’s massive, and it’s beautiful! For its age, yes, it is still massive. It was built in the 2nd century AD. That is pretty old. However, it was demolished in the Greek invasion on 3rd Century. It was never restored, and it’s material have been used to build various other projects in this city of the Roman empire. What lies today are just a few columns and discs.
Also, it is one of the few structures which is clearly visible from the top of the Acropolis!
In the same complex of the Temple of Zeus, stands tall the Arch of Hadrian. What is super interesting about this arch is that on the one side, it says “This is Athens, the city of Theseus”, who was the mythical founder of Athens and on the other side, it says “This is Athens, the city of Hadrian”. Apparently, this was some border for this city, diving Hadrian’s and Theasus’s Athens!
I really found it amusing that you come across such historically mythical structures while you walk. This complex is exactly in the middle of a busy intersection!
One of the best ways of exploring a city is trying out the Hop on Hop Off buses! And it comes really handy if you have not planned your day and believe in dynamic exploration. Well, we did plan, it’s just that I slept off for a longer time!
But walking around the beautiful streets of ancient Athens is an experience in itself. So, I don’t regret my extended siesta at all!
The bus took us around the city, giving us a detailed description of some of the major attractions of Athens. We stopped at one spot where we explored around a li’l bit and came across this hidden beauty called the lake Vouliagmeni, which has warm seawater. So, yes a backwater lagoon in the middle of the river Athens. I did not know about it. You can read more about it here.
We waited for our bus again, and it came around in about 20 minutes. We went on to our next stop while seeing some beautiful modern Greek architectural building!
Athens : The Custodian of the Oldest Civilization
The next stop was the Acropolis. Though it is a citadel located at an altitude, you will find a lot of constructions here which are of great historical importance. To name a few – the Parthenon, the temple of Athena (which I missed) and the remains of the theatre of Dionysus.
The Acropolis is visible from the city of Athens. At night, the view is even more spectacular!
So, usually, it doesn’t rain in Athens. And the day we decided to hike to Acropolis, it rained cats and dogs.
It got difficult to climb up with time because, even though we had umbrellas, it was very windy and the steps got really slippery. However, everything was worth in the end. First, we reached the theatre of Dionysus. This is said to be the first-ever theatre built in the entire world! Dating back to the fourth century BC, it is said to have a seating capacity of 17,000 – which means it’s acoustic is an architectural genius!
Admiring it and then admiring the whole city of Athens as it is seen from this height, we moved on. Next stood tall this temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, Erechtheion. Now, this was very exciting for me. This was the first time where I saw all those Greek statues instead of the columns – something I have always seen in the books! It’s an absolute delight.
Finally, we arrived at the Parthenon, which is another temple dedicated to Athena. These two temples are about a hundred years older than the theatre. According to the legends, these temples were built in the fifth century BC to thank the gods and goddesses for helping the greeks fight against their Persian invaders. To be honest, my history knowledge beyond christ is pretty limited to the Egyptian culture. This was so new and interesting. I completely dig those stories!
From here you can also view the Philippos monument, which is a tomb dedicated to Philippos who once reigned in Athens.
We had an amazing time here! There is so much to know about the various kinds of the literature of the world – you get to know it only when you travel!
We spent the day admiring the Acropolis and then stopping by to grab some nice coffee.
At night, you can go to Monastiraki. Here you will find the local markets, some beautiful restaurants to enjoy the Acropolis at night – and yes, not to forget, ruins of the banks and libraries of the ancient Greek civilization. But this is not really the place you would want to go alone. Shady and not very tourist-friendly. So, plan ahead with your shopping, drinking and commutation plans.
Nightlife in Athens is good. From great cocktail bars to clubs, it has got a lot to offer. I was completely not in the zone to explore. But if you do or if you have done it, do share your stories!
Also, the Plaka or the market place is the old city of Athens with many family-run tavernas. It is a cute li’l neighbourhood and gives you the whole essence of this wonderful country. Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures.
Athens is a lovely city to explore!
From here, we departed for Mykonos – our next stop – on a superjet. Man, they are really fast!