Hmmm, let me think about that. Should you include Athens in your trip to Greece?
YES, YES, YES. Since I have visited Athens, and before as well, so many people told me that you should skip Athens.
I don’t understand why you would skip anywhere that you haven’t been. Why would you miss the opportunity to discover something amazing? Look, I know Athens isn’t the prettiest of cities, and most people wouldn’t spend a lot of time there. But, for me, I am happy to explore with an open mind and see what happens.
Athens is different. But I really liked it, and I am so glad that I didn’t miss it. I’m not saying you need to plan a considerable amount of time there, but I do think you should give it more than a day or two.
I spent three nights in Athens which gave me two full days to explore, and the night of our arrival was spent relaxing with a few glasses of wine at the rooftop bar of our hotel and enjoying the fabulous view of the Acropolis.
Ideally, I would have preferred a few more days. I am a fan of slow travel, and I don’t believe in cramming a lot into a day. I don’t like to rush, and I want the chance to explore opportunities if they arise.
We missed a lot of Athens due to our short time frame. And I would have dearly loved to have taken some days out to visit Delphi and Meteora.
Jet lag was a bit of a killer, so that kept us in more than we would have liked. But more than anything I like to take my time. And I want to have spare time in my itinerary so that I can go back and visit places that I particularly liked.
I can’t say Athens was an absolute favourite destination (but then every destination can’t be), but I’m glad I went, and I would definitely go back.
In this post, I will cover the things I liked the most and you can also get my two-day itinerary to help you plan. And why I don’t think anyone should miss the chance to visit at least for a couple of days, or more if possible. Don’t rush in, see the Acropolis and rush out again.
A lot of people land at the airport and head straight to Piraeus to jump on a ferry to one of the islands. I recommend you spend some time in Athens and get to know it a little. You might be surprised like I was.
Two Days in Athens
We managed to stagger around for an hour or so through the Monastiraki area after arriving just after lunch. We discovered Greek Frappe Coffee. What a delight! Just what we needed to pep us up.
Instead of sightseeing, we opted for an afternoon nap before dinner. We found a restaurant about a five-minute walk from our hotel and enjoyed a nice meal. It was a pleasant walk back, and we topped the evening off enjoying a couple of glasses of wine at our hotel’s rooftop bar that overlooked the Acropolis.
I’m not going to go into the history of the Acropolis, you can read that here.
What I will say is that it is rather incredible to walk in a place that has such a long and rich history. I could have stayed there for hours. Even though it was crowded, it still seemed like I was standing alone, with the wind whistling through the Parthenon and ancient whispers all around.
I know I sound loony, but it really is a place you should experience first hand.
Image courtesy of Pixaby
The Parthenon was so much bigger than I had anticipated, the Parthenon is in a constant state of repair. Defying the ravages of war, time, and the elements, it is beautiful. It’s not hard to let your imagination go here, to imagine life as it was in the 5th century BC.
I was exhausted after walking through the Plaka, up to the Acropolis and down again. We allowed the whole morning, and it was good to be flexible and not have to rush.
We missed the Acropolis Museum. We had every intention of visiting, but by the time we had wound our way up and over the Acropolis, it was hot.
And jet lag was taking its toll again. So instead we opted to head back to our hotel and rest up for a couple of hours before heading back to the Plaka and exploring more.
Half Day Tour to Cape Sounio
After lunch, we were met in the foyer of our hotel by our driver for our private tour to Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon.
It was a five-hour tour that took us out of the city and along the coast enjoying a stop at a beachside café for afternoon tea, including a frappe of course, before heading to the cape as the sun began to dip on the horizon.
It was beautiful. With the wind whistling around the ancient temple perched looking over the ocean, it was the perfect way to end the tour. And a nice reprieve after our morning of walking.
Booking a private tour was fantastic, a little on the pricey side if you are on a strict budget, but for us it was great. We had the flexibility to stop as we pleased r photos, and we had our drivers undivided attention. Not only did he share his knowledge of the Temple of Poseidon and Cape Sounio but of life in Greece itself. Interesting.
A guide of the Temple of Poseidon can be arranged or you can join a tour like this one that includes a private guide.
After our tour, we found a lovely traditional Greek restaurant with views of the city where the food was divine. It was a great way to end the day before casually strolling back to our hotel.
Temple of Poseidon
Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon
It was a leisurely day starting with breakfast in a lovely café close to our hotel before heading out to explore the area.
Is it me or does Athens have a significant amount of shoe shops? I’m not complaining, I actually bought a couple of pairs, but it seemed every second shop was a shoe shop.
Nestled at the bottom of the Acropolis, the Plaka doesn’t feel like you are in a city.
We wiled away the hours strolling around the cobblestone streets, wandering from shop to shop buying souvenirs and jewellery, stopping at a café here and there for a frappe and delicious chocolate baklava. It was a pleasant way to spend the morning.
After lunch, we headed back to Monastiraki and wound our way through the flea market before finding the Poet Sandal Maker. He had been recommended to us by some people, so we thought we should check it out.
A crazy place but I did get a pair of sandals!
We had an early dinner before we called it a night in preparation for our early morning wake up call so that we could get our ferry to Santorini. We left our hotel before sunrise to catch the train to Piraeus. That was an experience in itself. Next time I would organise a private transfer.
Warning about the Metro
We were warned about pickpockets on the metro by the concierge at our hotel. We were leaving early before sunrise to catch the train to Piraeus, and he was most concerned about us.
He was right to be worried! We held tight to our bags, sat with our backs to the wall and watched as a gang circled the car, one at a time coming to sit near us and continually watching us. It was nerve-wracking. And for that reason, next time I would organise a private transfer to the port for peace of mind.
Nothing happened, we lost them at the port, but it was a harrowing journey and not one I would like to repeat.
Before we even got on the train, at the Monastiraki Metro station itself a man supposedly helped me down the stairs with my bag by picking up the end of it. I had a tight hold of the other, and he walked down the stairs with me. There was no struggle at the end, nor did I feel he was trying anything on, so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. But it was a bit of a shock.
Either way, stay focused when travelling on the metro. Don’t let your guard down. Athens is the only place that I have felt uncomfortable using public transport.
It was an enjoyable few days in Athens. If we had pushed ourselves we could have seen more but we preferred to take it easy and not push ourselves. Athens was our first stop in Greece before we travelled to Santorini for a week.
Next time I would like to visit Paros and I would like to spend a little more time in Athens taking in the areas I missed. If you’re heading to Greece, don’t skip Athens. It is worth your time and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
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