Dear Diary, Welcome to Athens, Greece! Athens has a mix of breathtaking views, history, shopping and a variety of entertainment that travelers must explore. I am challenging you to check out my favorite things to do while in Athens.
1-ACROPOLIS: If you’re visiting Athens, you’re probably visiting Acropolis and a few other major historical sites. There is an Athens City Pass that allows you to visit a few historical sites including Acropolis (Parthenon & Temple of Athena), Hadrian’s Library, Museum of Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Lykeion, Olympieio.
City passes are €30 and good for 5 consecutive days, and cannot be used more than once! Ticket collectors will rip off your ticket as you enter each site.
It is common for most tourists to only visit Acropolis, which is only €20 and Temple of Zeus €6, so unless you plan on visiting any of the other sites, save 4 euros and do not buy a city pass.
You will see other smaller historical sites on the way to the top of Acropolis. Wear comfortable shoes, the walk uphill is steep and slippery. Once you make it to the top, Parthenon and the Temple of Athena are directly across from each other; and of course you’ll see everyone gathered around the infamous flag for the perfect selfie.
For a smaller crowd, we were told it was better to visit later than early in the morning. Anxious, we went at 1pm and thought that was the worse decision ever, while we were walking up. There were people everywhere and there was a line to walk up the stairs to get in. By the time we left around 3:00, there was no line at all and we regretted not waiting. Choose your timing wisely!
2-TEMPLE OF ZEUS: About a 10-minute walk from Acropolis site is the Temple of Zeus. It is €6 to enter and this site is also included in the city pass. (It’s best to spend 26€ separately for Acropolis and Temple of Zeus instead of a city pass if these are the only two sites of interest). We arrived at 1pm and it was so empty! I am so glad I didn’t have to fight people to get out my photo. (Just kidding, who does that? lol)
3-PANATHENAIC STADIUM: known as the Modern Olympic Stadium is a 3-minute walk from the Temple of Zeus. It was only €3 to enter, and keep in mind, this site is not included in the city pass. There are free audible walking tours available on site that will guide you as you walk around the stadium. I recommend paying the 3 Euros and take a moment to walk around the entire stadium. The stadium was pretty empty as most tourist stayed outside of the gates to take pictures. Keep in mind; they are continuously snapping photos as you are on the Olympic podium trying to get the perfect shot. Yeah it’s literally like a photo shoot with dozens of cameras pointing at you so stay ready you never know who’s Facebook album you’ll end up in. You get to sit in the marble seats and feel like you’re in command & walk down the hall where the greatest athletes entered into the arena. They were so great I just can’t name any of them -oops lol.
But anyhow, don’t forget to sign the guest book as you enter or exit!
It was interesting to see all the signatures from people all around the world.
Gates open 8:00am-7:00 pm
4-CLIMB LYCABETTUS HILL: For €5 grab a taxi or Uber and take a ride to Lycabettus hill to watch the sunset. Once you arrive you will have to walk up a steep walkway and a ton of stairs to make it to the top. If you prefer not to walk up the hill, you can take the cable car for €7 round trip. (Save money and take the stairs, it’s not that bad plus you need to work off all the vacation food). Watching sunsets in Greece are intense! There is no entry fee to getting to the top of the hill, which means get there early to get a great view. There’s usually a ton of foreigners running around snapping selfies and aiming their fancy cameras right in your face. Just stand back and enjoy the moment. There is a restaurant, Orizontes, at the top of the hill where you can have a nice meal or drinks with the stunning view of Athens.
5-PLAKA DISTRICT & MONASTIRAKI SQUARE: Both of these districts are known for shopping food and more shopping. Plaka is one of Athens oldest neighborhoods and is located right in front of the Parliament and if you continue to walk you will run into Monastiraki, which is known as a one of the top flea markets in Athens. Monastiraki is more popular at night because you get amazing views of Acropolis lit up and nightlife. Beyond shopping, you will find tons of restaurants nearby, local homes and lots of street art (especially graffiti walls which everyone knows is my favorite thing ever). I called this the ultimate tourist area where we all the travelers come to hang out and people watch.
Syntagma square, Plaka and Monastiraki are essentially in the same area if you just continue to walk.
6-CHANGING OF THE GUARDS: (Free activity) if you are near the Syntagma train station, take a moment to follow the crowd at the Parliament. You can watch the changing of the guards 24 hours a day here. We arrived at 8:25 pm and at 8:30 they started their routine. This lasted for a few minutes (you can watch a clip on my Instagram page) but you must go to see for yourself! It is a bigger deal on Sundays, as the guards wear more elaborate uniforms and have an official ceremony. It was interesting to sit back and watch people take pictures and try to tell horrible jokes to men wearing skirts & pom pom shoes as if they were going to laugh.
7-PARTY: After a long day, go back to take a nap (you’re going to need it) and around 11:30 get ready to hit the town. Most locals say they don’t go out until 12:30 because that’s when every one gets off work. We went to an area called Giza (walking distance from the Parliament and syntagma square) and this was just a strip of different bars/clubs/restaurants etc. Basically it’s like a Las Vegas strip. Being that we were there in mid October (off season) it was pretty dead. Our Uber driver told us 90% of places were closing the weekend we arrived.
8-A FOR ATHENS is a cocktail bar is located on the 6th floor of the A for Athens hotel in the Monastiraki square. It is highly recommended that you make reservations to visit because getting a table as soon as you walk in is not ideal. A bit pricey, but this bar is amongst one of the top bars to visit in Athens, as it looks over Monastiraki square and Acropolis from a distance. Grab a glass of wine and be in awe of the view. It is best to visit at night for the night views or early in the morning for a healthy breakfast.
9-Feed a stray cat: If you are a cat lover, Greece is the place for you! Greece may seem picture perfect but some how, we all manage to get photos without cats photo bombing. There are stray cats everywhere you turn. I am not a fan of having a staring contest with random cats while I’m eating but let me tell you, it went down in Athens. You can’t help but to drop a piece of food or start naming cats like my friend did.
If you are visiting Athens,
-Don’t forget to pack a universal charger!
-Keep in mind all taxi drivers DOUBLE prices after 11:59P.M.
Do yourself a favor and download the Uber app using my code anisab344ue for $5 off your first 4 rides. As long as you have universal service or wi-fi, Uber was less expensive than all taxi rides!
-If a waiter brings you anything to the table without you asking, ask them if it’s complimentary or on the house! They will charge you just like a hotel will charge you for eating candy they provide in the refrigerator. This includes the bottle of water or bread they provide.
-Always ask your taxi driver how much before you get in the cab. Somehow prices tend to change when you arrive to your destination. Or worse, they will drop you off at a place nowhere near your destination—yeah that happened to us!
-Check the weather! If you are visiting in October, it is freezing early in the morning and late at night but hot throughout the day so pack layers.