When anyone mentions a holiday to Greece, most people would think of turquoise seas, quaint white-washed buildings, sandy beaches and bronzed Greek Gods. Ok, I made the last part up, I’ve been to the Greek Isands and the main word I’d use to describe most men there is….hairy. So, here are my must-do’s if you ever find yourself in Athens, Greece’s capital city, and there’s not a hairy Greek in sight!
If you want a real site to behold, make sure you visit the Panatheniac Stadium, which held the first ever Olympic Games. Run round the track (ok walk and then run the bit at the end) and imagine yourself winning that gold medal in front of 50,000 people cheering you on. You’ll get some odd looks, but it feels great…promise.
The Changing Of The Guard
Takes place at the Parliment Buidling in Syntagma Square at 11am each morning and you need to see this. Yes it’s an important military exercise, yes its part of immersing yourself in Greek culture, but above all that…..the walk they do is EPIC!
Visiting Athens without seeing the Acropolis would be like visiting McDonalds and ordering a salad. It’s a bit of a climb, but the views across Athens on the way up are well worth it.
I was fascinated by the history of this ancient site, particularly the stories of Greek mythology. English history seems so dull in comparison to a chap called Zeus, who decided to eat his pregnant wife, and as a result, suffered a bit of a headache when his skull split open and his fully grown daughter Athena popped out in full battle armour.
If you want to learn even more tall tales to impress your friends, the Acropolis museum, located a 5 minute walk up the road is well worth a visit after you’ve seen the Acropolis itself.
Just opposite the entrance to the Acropolis is the start of the walk up to Areopagus Hill. The views at the top are absolutely stunning, not just of the Acropolis, but of Athens itself which stretches as far as the eye can see and makes a fantastic photo.
Situated in the shadow of the Acropolis, the quaint ‘Old Town’ district of Plaka is the place to spend the majority of your time. Wander the pretty little streets, have a bite to eat or drink in one of the many cafes and restaurants, visit the flea market in Monastiriki Square, explore the maze of white-washed little houses and browse the many souvenir shops. And when I say maze, I mean it – we kept the waiter at one particular bar entertained as we walked past around 10 times in the space of half an hour!
The jewel in Athens crown, Plaka is like a beautiful village within a city, and the place to go if you haven’t got time to visit the Greek islands.
Food and Drink
Once you’ve explored, one of the best things to do is relax sample some of Athens cuisine. I love mediterranean food so there was plenty on offer, I could eat mousakka, olives, pasta and greek salad all day long….and pretty much did.
My top tip would be to experience dining against the stunning backdrop of the Acropolis, which is easy to do as lots of hotels in Athens have rooftop bars and restaurants. We went to the top of the Plaka Hotel for a glass of wine and some nibbles and were given blankets to sit under whilst we admired the view. From fine dining to a quick snack, there’s a huge choice of rooftop dining options.
For something a bit more authentic head into the allyways of Plaka which are lined with cafes and restaurants. My favourite was The Old Tavern of Psaras, located off the beaten track in a magically quaint little area called Erechtheos overlooking the whole city, indoor and outdoor dining, stunning views and gorgeous food – you can’t go wrong with this place.
And once you’ve eaten there one night, there are plenty of other options for breakfast lunch and dinner throughout the rest of your stay.
This area is also perfect for passing a sunny afternoon with a drink and a good book at one of the many cafes. You absolutely MUST try a strawberry hot chocolate and a white hot chocolate whilst watching the world go by – absolute bliss and the perfect end to an Athens city break.