That statement was very true for me when it came to visiting Athens- It was better the second time around! It took me two visits within a five year span to Greece’s capital to appreciate the beautiful chaos of this city. The heart of Athens is not like laid back Mykonos or Santorini but a very busy capital that can often feel dusty and crowded. To be honest, it was not what I envisioned on my first visit to Greece in 2014.
I had come to Greece as part of a month long Euro trip with my then 18 year old daughter. We stopped in Athens to visit several important archeological sites before we went on to Mykonos and Santorini. Now to be fair, in 2014 when we arrived in Greece, the country was going through an economical transition of changing over to Euros. With that said, in 2014 no one in Athens was accepting credit cards (They do take CCs now) and the city felt stressful and chaotic. There were so many cars, crowds and smog that we were happy to dip out after a couple of days and on to the smaller islands.
Fast forward to Fall of 2019, I came back to Athens and it started to grow on me. There were still a lot of cars, crazy driving, a ton of people and felt dusty as that did not change. The difference was the energy of the city, it felt very different. Plus this time around I did not feel stressed out and walked casually through the neighborhoods. I visited the Archeological Museum, bought some nice jewelry pieces from local artists and fine dined it with Greek wine pairing. I started to feel the city as more than the tourist sites, which are amazing on their own, but as a eclectic capital with layers of history and filled with friendly, proud people.
Athens is a metropolis of ancient and modern buildings, of taxis and tour buses, of traditional cuisine and upscale dining. It is like any other big city and once you immerse yourself in her, walk the streets and meet locals; you will start feeling the soul of the city.
The only way to understand and feel Athens is to visit Greece’s capital. Take a few days to see the tourist sites. Then another day or two to walk the neighborhoods and feel the pulse of the city.
What to see and do in Athens, Greece
I have recommended Hop On Hop Off Buses to many people and in different cities. For some, riding a flashy big red double decker bus feels too touristy. Just put down your “Explorer’s Ego” and realize that these buses are one of the best ways to get around in certain cities.
If you plan it right, you can visit all the major tourist attractions at your own pace. You just Hop on and Hop Off at attraction stops, plus you get a layout of the city and an audio-guided tour.
The archaeology museum in Athens is home to the largest collection of Ancient Greek masterpieces, artwork and sculptures in the world. If you plan on visiting only one museum in Greece, I recommend the National Archaeology Museum- the best of the best!
The Acropolis and Museum – A UNESO World Heritage Site
Located strategically on top of a hill for all of Athens to see, The Acropolis is the largest of its type in all of Greece. Built and dedicated to Goddess Athena, there are various structures that make up The Acropolis. Walking to The Acropolis and looking up at the columns of the Parthenon, one can appreciate the love and worship of the Ancient Greeks towards their Goddess Athena.
The Acropolis Museum – Visiting the Acropolis Museum should be done at the end of your visit, in my opinion. Depending on the time of year, being inside the museum will be more comforting in the hotter afternoon hours. This museum is the other half of the Acropolis archaeological sight and will round out your visit. There is a marvelous collection of Acropolis artifacts to tie it all together, as well as a transparent floor with an open archaeological site. Please visit the Acropolis Museum’s official website for current information.
* Please wear sturdy shoes with good traction. The grounds of the Acropolis are marble and very slippery. I was walking very slowly around the Parthenon with my sandals as I had slipped a couple of times.
Whether you walk, take public transportation or drive around Athens you will see a fusion of the ancient and the modern. For Europeans this is typical but for us Americans it is fascinating. Seeing layers of different civilizations intertwine in Athens, is one reason I mentioned to walk around the city. It gives you a feel of how a country should respect and evolve around its ancient origins.
Two words! GREEK. FOOD. These two words are not to be mistaken for “Mediterranean Food”, the phrase a lot of people like to use in order to identify cuisine from this region. We do not mean any harm by it but each country and region has their own way of cooking and take pride in creating their dishes. Having GREEK FOOD in Greece is a wonderful and different experience than what is tailored to another country’s tastes. If you do anything in Greece- eat GREEK FOOD!
Fine Dining – Aleria Restaurant
I believe in the art of fine dining and wine pairing. This may not be on everyone’s list but for those who like to level up and indulge in the experience of dining, I always recommend it while traveling. I have without regret, experienced upscale dining in many countries. For myself, it is as important as going to a museum or visiting famous tourist attractions. No matter where you decide to have your dining experience- remember to dress well, eat well and drink well – Make it special!
On my most recent visit to Athens , I dined at Aleria Restaurant with the additional Greek wine pairing. Afterwards I visited with owner Nikiforos and talked cuisine, one of my favorite subjects. Such a delightful young gentleman and a lovely dining experience!
Plaka District and Athens Flea Market
Although the Plaka District and Athens Flea Market are very different from each other, both are worth checking out if you are looking to do some shopping. Both are walking distance from each other and offer restaurants if you get hungry while shopping.
Plaka is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Athens as it has so many layers. Yes, it is considered touristy with many souvenir stores, cafes and visitors but it is also filled with life. Plaka’s heart has been beating for thousands of years and it has that life energy of a city that keeps it alive. Throughout Athens evolution of different civilizations, eras and wars this neighborhood still remains strong and full of people. Plaka is a wonderful and safe section of the city to spend a day to shop, eat and people watch.
Day trip to Delphi
If you are looking to get out of the city and want to visit the ‘Center of the Universe’, a day trip to Delphi is worth the time investment. Delphi is located on the side of a rockface in-between a mountainous valley. The drive to Delphi is stunning and leads to one of Ancient Greece’s most important sites- The Center of the Universe and home to the important oracle, Apollo’s mouthpiece.
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property
👉🏻 Featured cover photo courtesy of Pexel