It’s almost time to leave Stuttgart, so I enjoyed a week and a half of holidays we had in the middle of our classes to go to Greece for a few days as a couple. On the agenda: 4 days in Athens and 8 days in Crete! I will very soon write an article about my stay in this Greek island but spoiler : I enjoyed it SO MUCH.
But for now, let’s focus on Athens, capital and biggest city of Greece, with more than 650,000 inhabitants (outside urban areas). Athens is a perfect city if you like to walk and to stroll through streets and gardens, but also if you are more interested in museums and historical and archeological monuments. After spending 4 days in Athens, I’ve prepared an itinerary for you not to miss anything about this city that has so much to offer!
My plane only landed in the early afternoon so the first day wasn’t full but I had still start to explore the city a little bit! It’s really easy to reach the city center from the airport, either by bus (for 6 euros) or metro (10 euros), and it will take you about an hour. On site, the metro-bus-tramway transport ticket costs 4 euros for one day. The transport network is really well developed and allows you to go wherever you want in the city.
We’ve decided to stay in an Airbnb to live as much as possible close to the inhabitants and to cook after going to the market. Many accommodations exist at very reasonable prices so I really recommend this solution if you’re planning to stay a few days in Athens! Our Airbnb was located in the Attiki district, a popular but charming district. We enjoyed the late afternoon to walk around and get lost in the streets. Interesting fact about Athens : a lot of street (specially the main streets and avenues) are bordered by trees so that the sidewalks are in the shade, which is not a problem when it’s 31 degrees without wind!
In the course of the streets, we discovered Saint-Panteleimon’s church and what I can tell you is that Greeks are very good at building churches! We also took a walk in Pedion Areos Park, one of the largest public parks in the city. A breath of fresh air in the middle of the city! We then returned to our Airbnb to rest in order to start the first real day of our stay.
We started this day with a must-see in Athens: the Monastiraki Square and its market where you can find fruit stands at very competitive prices. 1kg of strawberries at 1.20 euros, unbeatable for such tasty strawberries! We then walked to reach the first archeological monument on our way: the Ancient Agora of Athens. The site is very large and impressive, and its museum is also interesting if you want to observe some statues and ancient objects found on the site.
THE great deal of this stay was a pass at 30 euros (or free for students) which allowed us to visit the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Roman Agora, Kerameikos site, Lykeion site, Hadrien’s Library, the temple of Zeus and the Acropolis. We strongly recommend you to take this pass sold each of these sites to be able to see them all at a lower cost, since the Acropolis alone already costs 20 euros and each other site about 4 euros. This will also save you having to wait in line each time to buy your ticket.
After the Ancient Agora, we went to Hadrien’s Library nearby. Feel free to walk the streets so alive and full of history when you go from one site to another, you won’t regret it! All sites are generally located in the hyper-center of Athens, so you can do everything by walking. Therefore we walked to the Kerameikos district (literally “ceramic” in English), the former potter’s district. Don’t forget you cap/hat and you sunscreen, as the sun is very strong and the archeological sites are not shaded!
At the end of the afternoon, we finally headed for THE most visited site in Athens: the Acropolis. If you can, go to the Acropolis from the opening at 8am to avoid heat and tourists, or at the end of the afternoon to avoid tourist groups like those on cruises, who usually do the tours early in the morning. But overall, there are still people there. The Acropolis is clearly worth the visit and we didn’t regret visiting it because this place is full of history and really impressive. The view is also breathtaking, and you will be able to appreciate the size of the city that you may not necessarily suspect. It takes about 1 hour to visit the Acropolis. We’ve decided not to do the Acropolis Museum, but count 10 euros in full price if you want to do it.
Another highlight of Athens is the Pláka district, located below the Acropolis. It is the oldest district of the city, which has now become THE place to go out in the evening, have dinner and take a drink. Once again, take a stroll through the streets, get lost, and discover the small district of Anafiótika, a district in a district, with white houses and small alleys similar to the landscapes of the Greek islands. Don’t forget to look at the walls around you, you could see street art works that are worth it! Pláka is certainly my favorite district of Athens (not very original I know), and I recommend it a thousand times!
For this third day, we started by visiting the National Gardens of Athens. A breath of fresh air in the middle of town, and it feels great ! I still recommend you to do this visit in the afternoon when it’s hot. We then went to the archeological site of Lykeion. It’s not a site that I recommend because there is nothing particurarly interesting or even impressive to discover. The site is located quite far from the others so don’t waste your time going there, are simply walk through the streets around.
A site that I recommend a thousand times on the contrary: the Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the first modern Olympic Games. This place is clearly worth the visit, but I advise you to go in the morning so as not to die of heat. We were very surprised by the size and height of the stadium. Count 4 euros to access it, but believe me, you won’t be disappointed, and you will even be able to visit the stadium museum with an exhibition of poster of the Olympic Games since their creation.
Another must in Athens is to go for a drink on a rooftop to admire the city at night in a lively setting, often away from tourists. We tried the 360 Rooftop and we really liked it!
We started our last day in Athens by walking around the Exárcheia district, known for its very civic atmosphere where the inhabitants have been managing many things themselves since the crisis. The district is also presented as the cradle of anarchism in Greece and is full of tags and street art works.
The overwhelming heat typical of Athens (35 degrees but felt much higher) finally got the better of us and we decided to take refuge in the Archeological Museum of Athens. I had read on several blogs that it was the most complete museum in the city in terms of archeology, and I can only tell you that this is true! It takes about 2 hours to visit the museum without necessarily stopping at all the works, but plan more if you are a big fan of archeology. Admission is 10 euros or free for students.
With this heat, and since we had done everything we wanted in 3 days, we went home to rest before going out for our last evening and do the last must-see of the city: climb the Areopagus hill and admire the sunset and the city at night. Athens is just as beautiful by day and by night, and I hardly recommend you to take some time to walk through its streets after dark.
What and where to eat in Athens?
In bulk, I give some Greek specialties that you MUST try during your stay: souvlaki (meat on skewers), gyros (kebab meat), grilled feta cheese, ice cream in general (they are big ice cream lovers), espresso or cappuccino Freddo (ice coffee to fall on the ground and so cheap), pitta and koulouri (a sesame covered bread that they eat a lot like here in Germany we eat pretzels).
I also share with you my favorite places in Athens:
- Rozalia: a typical restaurant in the Exárcheua district, in a shaded and charming setting.
- Quick Pitta: the first restaurant we tested in the city center, to be tested if you want to taste several Greek specialties in “small” quantities.
- Yard Restaurant: located near the Acropolis Museum, this restaurant is pretty touristic but remains very good.
- 360 Rooftop Café/Bar: a charming and vegetal rooftop to drink a cocktail or a glass of wine with a view on the Acropolis. You can also eat there if you want.
- Monastiraki Square’s market to buy a lot of fruits and vegetables.
You should also know that the purchasing power is much lower than in some other European countries such as France or Germany, you therefore will be able to eat well for less than 10 euros per person.
If you would like more addresses and the entire list of the places I’ve quoted here, click on this link to access to our Google map that allowed us to find our way during our stay.
- If you can, visit Athens between October and May, and avoid the hottest months or you won’t fully enjoy your stay.
- Don’t forget your hat/cap and you sunscreen if you want to avoid sunburns and sunstroke.
- Take an Airbnb accommodation or an apartment for rent so you can buy your vegetables in the various markets in the city and cook them, there is nothing better!
- If you are a student, think about taking you student card because a lot of monuments and museums are free for you, which is not insignificant.
- Take out your walking shoes because Athens in a city in relief and many sites like the Acropolis are more easily accessible with good shoes.
- Visit as many sites as possible in the morning to avoid tourists but also to avoid heat. Every day, we would end up coming home around 4pm to get in the cool before going out again around 7pm.
I think 3 days are largely necessary to visit Athens if you want to do the main monuments and sites as well as walk a little in the streets of the touristic districts or more popular ones. I had heard that Athens is a city known to be either adored or hated, which I can understand because it remains a very populated city, sometimes dirty in some areas, pretty polluted and made for archeology and history lovers. But despite all this, what I will remember about Athens is the people I found adorable, the mixture of urban planning and archeology, the diversity of cultures, its popular districts that live outside tourism, and of course its history!
See you soon!