Thursday, December 15, 2016

Athens, Greece in 72 Hours

I seriously think I could spend forever in Athens and never get tired of it. It’s definitely up there as far as the best cities I’ve ever been to. Old and new, colorful and bright… Amazing. Athens is one of those cities that you can constantly explore. I felt like every time I turned the corner I saw a new ruin or a new view of the Acropolis. I’m a giant (art) history nerd so Athens was extra incredible for me and will be for you if you’re like that too! 

I had three full days in Athens, which was plenty of time to hit the major landmarks and not feel like I missed anything. That being said, Athens could definitely be spread out to last longer than 3 days, but if you’re planning a long vacation to Greece I would definitely try to hit up some islands while you’re there!

The best part about Athens, is that they love students. With a U.S. student I.D., you get discounts on almost everything, and with a European Union student I.D. you get in for free! I used my Austrian I.D., and therefore had so much extra money to spend on food. (I ate my way through Athens and even if you’re on a strict budget I promise that you will too.) If you aren’t a student, there’s a 4 monument pass (Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Zeus and Hephaestus).

Let's go!

DAY ONE:


Wake up bright and early and aim to get to the Acropolis right when it opens (I believe it’s 9:00 AM in the “winter season” and 8:00 in the summer), I promise that you will not regret this. I wasn’t sure what season I was in because I was on the cusp of daylight’s saving and tourist season, so I got there around 8:30. Y’all. I had nobody in my pictures. It was incredible. I took advantage of that and walked around the park and took about 500 pictures of every angle of every building up there before I went back and read the information boards and stopped to actually recognize what I was seeing. No regrets at all. My pictures look amazing, but it was also nice that there were already other people up there to take pictures for me! (Even though I went with the selfies I had already taken anyway.) I spent about two hours up there before leaving and by the time I made my way to the exit, there were swarms of tour groups trying to get in. Seriously, go early and skip the crowd.

After the Acropolis, go to the Acropolis Museum across the street. Since you ate breakfast so early, a cool (and relatively reasonably priced) place to go is the café on top of the museum. I’m normally against this, but it looks over the Acropolis and is so beautiful when it’s nice outside! I would recommend the loukomadres (donuts with cinnamon and honey), but if those are out (and they start to run out closer to actual lunch time) you also can’t go wrong with the bread and homemade marmalade and apple jelly. Once you’re full of this wonderful food, enjoy the museum! I spent so much time just wandering around and looking at the extreme detail of all of the figures. (I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out how much these things weighed, because there’s no way they’re light.)

I was still pretty full from the Acropolis café, so I decided to do more sight seeing and headed to the Temple of Zeus. If you’re hungry, there are tons of kebab stands along the sides of the street, and the 2 slouvaki is so delicious and definitely fills you up for the price! I got into the Temple of Zeus for free (praise!), but if you’re not a student and opted not to buy the pass, I don’t know if I would recommend paying the full ticket price. Unlike the Acropolis, I spent about 15 minutes walking around the temple. It’s all in ruins now (duh), so the only thing to do is make a circle around the columns.


The next stop was definitely one of my favorites: the first Olympic stadium… Ever. (I won’t lie, I teared up.) Unfortunately, I didn’t get in free with my student I.D., but I did get a discount which made admission €1,20. Worth it. (I believe the regular price is about €5, and the audio guide is a little bit more. I opted not to get the Audio pass and just read the information from the brochure. The coolest part of this museum was the actual museum place. It wasn’t much of a museum, but in the building they have all of the posters from all modern Olympic games (beginning in 1886), and the torches used in each place. I definitely had a moment when I saw the Atlanta poster proudly displayed!

After the Olympic stadium, make your way through the park back to the Eramous street. I chose a random side street to go down for lunch, and I don’t think you can go wrong. Greek food is amazing everywhere you go in Greece.

By about 3:00 in the afternoon, I was so exhausted so I headed back to my hostel to get some rest. This is prime nap opportunity before hitting all of the rooftop bars that Athens is famous for! I would recommend “A for Athens” which is right by Monatrisaki Square, but get there early so you can sit outside! The view of the Acropolis from the roof is incredible!


DAY TWO:

Sleep in this morning, and then spend the late morning and early afternoon walking around Erasmous street and Monastiraki Square. Get some slouvaki while you're at it! 


Once you're done exploring and shopping, begin to walk toward Mount Lycabettus. You can see the mountain from almost everywhere in Athens, and let me tell you... it is a HIKE. It's long and steep at some points, but it's worth it when you get to the top. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to rest at the top before heading back down.


Head back down and go toward Syntagma Square. When I visited Athens they were in the middle of the whole "we have no money and don't want help from anyone" phase, so it was really lively and full of protests. I'm not sure what it's like most of the time but definitely a historical site nonetheless! 

At night, go back up to the Acropolis to watch the sunset. You will not be the only one with this idea, so go early. I went up there and took a book. Once I found my spot I read a little and people watched and got ready. It was really crowded and at times it didn't seem to be worth it... but it ended up being one of those sunsets that everyone clapped for when it was done. 

DAY THREE:

My last day in Athens was a relaxing one. I took the subway to the ocean and walked around a little bit, looking at all of the yachts and cruise ships that were stopped there.


Then I rode back into Athens and shopped some more before getting a good night's sleep before my early flight.

This would be a great day to see anything you feel like you missed: Hadrian's Library, the National Archaeological Museum, wandering around the University, or taking another hike up to the hill where supposedly democracy started. There is no shortage of museums and archeological sites to see, plus tons of great shopping and even better food.

Greece is amazing! The country, the food and the people are all so lovely. Definitely a must-see country at some point! Stay tuned for my Santorini guide, and for more European tips and tricks.

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