There is without a doubt that Athens is the historical capital of Europe. Full of history and character, you can spend countless of hours visiting the historical architecture and marveling at ancient buildings. The stories that have been told and passed on to many generations of Greek gods and goddesses, like Zeus and Aphrodite, paints the picture of the way you see Athens and all of its fascination.
When my travel partner and I landed in Athens, we took the bus to the city center. It was pretty confusing to read the bus stops since I didn’t know how to read Greek (all I knew was the Greek alphabet but that didn’t help). So, we used common sense and tried to match the words found in our Google Maps directions to our destinations on the bus. We also found other tourists to ask for help, but they were just as confused as we were.
Be sure to stay in or near the city center of Athens, if possible, as everything is nearby. After I arrived in the city center, we were a bit lost so we flagged down a taxi driver and he dropped us off in front of our hotel. Unfortunately, our hotel is now out of business so the name isn’t even worth mentioning.
Tip: Purchase your ticket for the Acropolis at the main ticket office. It allows you to visit the Acropolis (Parthenon and the Erechtheion) along with many other historical sites for €30.
Sights to Visit
When planning a trip to the capital of Greece, Athens, the Acropolis should undoubtedly be on the top of your sightseeing list, as it is the most visited attraction. If not, it is very difficult to miss when you are in the city. This must-visit ancient citadel, Acropolis, is in the middle of the city and can be seen from almost anywhere in Athens.
As the Acropolis sits on top of a hill, you will be able to see a piece of history from anywhere you plan to be. If you are staying in the city center, you can easily walk to the Acropolis without needing any form of transportation. Once you get to the base of the Acropolis, it will require a short hike through dirt, gravel, and some stone steps before you actually reach the top. Be sure to bring a lot of water as climbing to the summit can make you sweat, especially with the hot summer sun rays shine upon you. As soon as you reach the top of the Acropolis, the Parthenon and Erechtheion greet you along with the crowds of tourists eager to capture a picture.
If you only intend on visiting the Acropolis, there is an entrance fee of €20 and can be purchased at the main ticket office.
Within the Acropolis stands the most iconic and recognized ancient landmark of Athens, The Parthenon, also known as Athena’s temple. As you gaze at the panoramic Acropolis, you see a part of history before your eyes instead of reading about it from a book. It is truly phenomenal to be able to see the Parthenon as it sits on top of a hill from almost anywhere around the city center. The Parthenon overlooks the city from the highest point and the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking.
It is no wonder that the temple is dedicated to Athena as she is an important goddess of many things: wisdom, courage, war, inspiration, civilization… etc. Throughout Athens, you’ll be able to see how much ancient Greece adored their Greek gods and mythology.
Standing on the north side of the Acropolis is the Erectrhleon, a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. This temple looks miniature when it stands next to the Parthenon but compared to the Parthenon, it is still mostly intact. When studying the temple, the attribute that stands out the most is the Porch of the Caryatids, which looks like six females gracefully holding up the roof with their heads.
Temple of Olympian Zeus (Zeus’s Temple)
The temple of Zeus was considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It is amazing to see how tall the Greeks made the pillars that still stand today, even though the statue of Zeus is no longer there. These pillars were the largest in Greece with columns measuring roughly 17 Meters (55.77 Feet). You can imagine that when the temple was first completed it was truly massive.
You can catch the Hadrian’s Arch when you visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus, as it is only a few steps away. There is no admission fee that you need to pay and will not take much of your time as it is a quick stop to take a swift picture of the triumphal arch. It is nice to see one of the monuments, as it stands on the edge of the archaeological site.
Theatre of Dionysus
On our way to the Acropolis, we stopped by the Theatre of Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of wine and theatre (among other things), so I understand why this theater is dedicated to him. As you take a look around the Theatre of Dionysus, all you see are the remains of an ancient stadium.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Next to the Theatre of Dionysus stands the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Similar in the design of the Theatre of Dionysus, this theater is partially completed and still functional today. Certain times of the year, you can actually see operas and plays at this ancient theater. So be sure to go when a full cast is on stage so you can enjoy the open air theater as the people of ancient times did.
As we continued on our walking tour through Athens, we visited Hadrian’s Library. There wasn’t much left of Hadrian’s Library but you can picture how big it was when it was still standing. You can walk around and see the stones that once was a three-story library, housing books and a place for study.
Ancient Agora of Athens
While on the mission to go to all of the ancient cities that were still available (to get our money’s worth), we wandered around Ancient Agora of Athens. This was a central place in ancient Greece for the gathering of people and marketplace. Currently, the area is filled with stone piles throughout the site as there wasn’t much preservation. However, in prior centuries, the Agora played a significant role in Athens as it was where the Greeks would go to socialize with others.
Temple of Hephaestus
The most preserved structure remains on top of a hill near the Ancient Agora of Athens. You can see the temple and all its glory up on this hill. This temple doesn’t compare to the Parthenon in size but it shows how great the city once was. The temple rests tall and mighty and it displays how a temple in ancient Greece would look like if they were still around. It has a central area that is used for worship and is surrounded by columns throughout the temple. There is an entrance fee needed for this place but it was included in the all-day pass.
The Roman Agora was a graveyard of columns. The only thing that really still stands is the Tower of the Winds. There were not many ruins and rubble around this site but it was a nice stop before heading to other areas. This location has plenty of standing columns but none were full sized, aside from the gate Athena Archegetis located at the entrance of the site.
Head over to Monastiraki for Athen’s Flea Market and Vintage Market. Here you can do some shopping, whether it be for yourself or a souvenir to bring back home.
Mount Lycabettus (Λυκαβηττός)
For views of the city, go to Mount Lycabettus to observe the buildings below. Also, you can watch the sunset from the top and the city lights at night.
Wander around Psirri in the daytime to find a colorful, vibrant neighborhood with street art everywhere. Restaurants, cafes, and bars make Psirri a lively area at night, as well. However, it should be noted that the food in Psyrri is not a good representation of authentic Greek food.
Another great place to enjoy some nightlife options, frequented by locals.
Food to Eat
Fagopoti (Ταβέρνα Το Φαγοπότι)
We checked into our hotel pretty late and we were starving so we asked the front desk staff to recommend a place for us to eat nearby since we did not want to bother traveling anywhere far. We were recommended Fagopoti, which was a short walk down a dark street. There were seats inside, which felt like it was too hot, and outside on the patio in front. It felt a bit sketchy at first but I’m glad we made our way here because our dinner was pretty good. It felt like an authentic home cooked meal, and I was happy with the food I received. I got a lamb dish with tomatoes, which was recommended and very tender. My friend’s dish was a meat dish with fries. Both were good and at a fair price.
During the start of our busy day, we needed to grab something quick to eat. We asked the hotel concierge where we could get pizza and they pointed us to this restaurant. Why we asked for pizza in Greece? You better ask my traveling partner for the answer to that question because looking back on it, that was a strange decision.
It was only a short walk from our hotel. There were no one in sight and no English menu available. However, the employees were friendly and helped us decide what to order. We waited for a while and ordered it to-go to take back to the hotel. I can’t quite remember how the pizza and pasta we ordered tasted but probably what you could imagine eating Italian food in Greece. The food was okay but nothing to write home about.
MUST GET falafels here, they are very good! You can get a small for yourself or a large size to share, or if you are very hungry. Either way, it was very filling, crispy, and delicious. Make sure you make a stop here for a snack or for lunch!
When you visit Greece, GYROS are a MUST! But 2 Euro gyros?! Sign me up! Here you can pick up a quick gyro as you see the electric rotisserie out in front. I was too full from the previous meal that I only grabbed a Gyro Pita (beef) just to have a taste. It was pretty tasty and plus the price made it taste even better. Affordable and appetizing, Bairaktaris is recommended.
Just right across the way from Bairaktaris lies O Thanasis, which I am told is the rival. Try a gyro from both Bairaktaris and O Thanasis and you determine which is the winner!
Fresko Yogurt Bar
If you like Greek yogurt, try it at Fresko! Fresko is recognized to have one of the best yogurts in Athens.
I did not know what I was presuming when I tried this place. I already do not like Greek Yogurt, never have, but I thought it would be different in Greece. Wrong. I, still, am not a fan of Greek yogurt. I think it takes a type of person to enjoy it and I am not that person. If you are that person, give Fresko a try! As for me, I wasted a few dollars but I got a picture out of it!
- Tzitzika Kai O Merminga
- Chocolat Royal for Breakfast
- Drink a Mythos!
- Order a Greek Mac at McDonald’s (or step into McDonald’s to see what’s different!)
Well, that’s all I have for now. I did not spend much time as I hoped in Athens and it was my first big international trip by myself so I wasn’t very good at planning then. If you have any suggestions that I should add to my list, please let me know in the comments below.