Don’t worry, it’s all Greek to me as well, but if you would like to pronounce how to say good morning try saying Kalimera, (Ka-lee-ME-ra)! Learning a few Greek words can change your experience in a unique way. When we said hello, good morning, or especially thank you, we saw heads turn towards us with beaming smiles and looks of appreciation. This is definitely a place where your extra effort to learn some of the language will be appreciated.
Now after learning a few words (and praying you will say them right) you took Uber or a taxi to get to your hotel and paid the taxi fare of €40 (even though the taxi sign said €38 from the airport but you didn’t declare the price before the ride), and you are unpacking in your hotel. That’s when you realize that your bathroom is across the hall and not in your room, unless you asked for a room with a private bathroom.
Welcome to Athens, Greece my friend! You are not going to let all of these little things get to you however because you have a whole city to explore!
You planned it right so that you now have 3 whole days to spend in the city! Gretel and I are going to tell you our experience, what we suggest, and how to make the most out of your trip!
DAY 1: RUINS & THE ACROPOLIS
When going to a new place we usually like to know the lay of the land before spending time shopping or going to museums. Try getting your hands on a map as soon as possible, these are made for tourists and will help you plan your days efficiently. A physical copy is always good to have in case your phone dies/doesn’t get service or WI-FI/falls in the toilet.
There are a few ruins scattered throughout the city and to fully explore them some will cost you a few Euro, so figure out which ones you would like to visit. Some ruins you can pretty much see everything without examining every detail. One place you do want to head though and is worth the Euro is the Acropolis.
Now the Acropolis is the rock that contains the Parthenon and actually many other cool sights as it is one big park that is well worth exploring, but hold on my friend! While walking up to the Acropolis gates you should make a stop at Aeropagous Hill where you can take some awesome selfies of you and Athens!Ok! Now that you got your bragging rights in and made everyone on social media wishing they were you, it’s finally time to see the reason you probably came to Athens in the first place. Before you even get to the Parthenon you are welcomed by another looming building that looks like it could be it but comparing it with your Greek travel guide you don’t think so.
This instead is the Propylaea, which is the gateway to see the other buildings. This structure welcomes you to access the top of the hill and going through it makes you feel like an honored guest, just a guest that was a few thousand years late!
Before entering however if you took a quick look to your right you would see the Temple of Athena Nike (and no you are not going to see a bunch of check marks of the clothing company around the site).
After walking through you only expect to see the Parthenon and all of its glory, but then you realize it shares the hill top with a few other buildings, but they can wait of course.
Once we saw it we walked up to it right away. The columns, the detail, the historic significance, the…construction? Turns out, there is a lot of it.
But hey if it keeps this an awesome building in place and from becoming more of a ruin, we are all for it!
Not all of the structure is being supported, so some of the best pictures is from the sides or from the back. All around you there are a lot of the pillars and stone slabs leaning all around, some even have designs on them!
CAUTION: There was a lot of small holes in the ground so make sure you are also watching where you are walking! It rained the previous week and there was puddles everywhere that we had to avoid.
The next structure to see is pretty cool although it is much smaller. This was the Erechtheion and actually has six pillars shaped like women called caryatids.
Unfortunately, the pillars of the women were on the other side of the building and shorter than the rest of the pillars, but they were just as cool if not cooler.
We went in November during the off season and it was pretty crowded so we couldn’t even imagine what it was like during peak season. After taking all of our pictures we were ready to leave the hill top, but not leave the park. There are a few other sights to see and we had to go see the theaters. The much larger one (see featured image) was rebuilt to be used as a concert for us modern folks but it did not take away about how awesome the structure was. The next theater was a lot smaller and was not restored, but what was cool about this one was that we could actually sit down and pretend we were watching the show (the show being a sleeping stray dog soaking in the sunlight).
After an awesome day of exploring it was time to get some grub. Thankfully we found a place on the way back from to hotel and sat down to eat some delicious gyros at a place simply called Pita Bar. These were Kyle’s favorite food in Greece, as almost everything that we ate felt healthy and was very tasty.
Since you will be walking a lot please remember to stay hydrated and possibly carry a few snacks in your pocket if you are subject to get hangry.
IMPORTANT: Remember that this is a city, and that people will recognize you as a tourist, especially con-men. While in Monstiraki Square (which leads up to Acropolis) were these men offering people a free bracelet. If you accept, they will be kind and offer to tie it around your wrist and will ask you friendly questions. However, while tying it around your wrist they will start asking/demanding for donations. As they have your wrist you are in a difficult situation and may not easily let go. They shouldn’t hurt you, but will try to intimidate you. We saw people accepting the offer and had their wrists held, and we heard the questions, but left before we could hear anything else. This is a link referring to the scam: Click here!
The general rule of thumb: Do not take free things from anyone when traveling as it could be very costly in the end, and do not let strangers approach/ touch you.
After avoiding people and sleeping in, it was time to go to the museum!
DAY 2: THE NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
From what we have read and have been told the National Archaeological Museum has a little bit of everything! Now we look at things, read what interests us, and move on, so the museum only took us a few hours. If you are going with a friend make sure that you both are on the same page before going in a museum! One may read every little detail while the other may make quick glances at everything and want to leave.
Get a good idea about what you would like to see as well. We went with this museum because it had different time periods of Greece all in one place. If you would like something more specific like the Acropolis or Christianity museums, they have those as well in Athens! It just depends on your preference.
There were some pretty cool statues as some interesting exhibits on display. We were actually surprised to find an ancient Egypt exhibit as well!
This museum is a little out of the way but wort it in our opinion, and was actually closer to our hotel! Now for transportation, we already talked about Uber and taxis (Uber being the much cheaper way to go) but there is another form of transportation to the sights.
Alright wise guy I know walking is a form of transportation but I have something even better, and it involves sitting! You could figure out the metro to visit all of the locations you would like to visit, or you could use the tour buses!
Now we did not do this because we hate ourselves and decided to walk everywhere, but Kyle used one in Dublin, Ireland and it was an easy way to hop on hop off all throughout the day. The sights are pretty close in Athens so it may not be necessary, but you may want to check it out! This is the company Kyle used and did not have any issues with, but you can check them out for yourself HERE!
Take this day to see the rest of the city or other museums as well!
DAY 3: SHOPPING
Now that you saw everything and put your money to good use, it’s now time to buy that trove of gifts everyone had asked you to bring home. Day or night there is going to be shopping, although the later it gets the earlier shops might close. You are going to want to check out two locations; The Monastiraki Flea Market and Plaka.
If you are looking for a t-shirt that you have been meaning to find or a pair of shoes, The Monastiraki Flea Market is the place to look. Now before we go shopping remember one thing: If it does not say Final Price on the store, they may want you to bargain. Bargain? How do I do that? Well I am glad you asked! Normally if both parties feel like they were cheated by the sale then the bargain was successful.
First when you enter a store you may be shown and told the “value” of each item, saying “This is made from gold, sterling silver, and yes this is a silk scarf” even though upon further inspection the tag says 100% cotton. It is a game of street smarts and charisma, but as long as you practice you can get good at it, or at least better than you were! Here’s our experience:
We went into a shop and we really wanted a small statue. The shop keeper told us that it was real bronze and that it was €20. We shook our heads and put it back down, but glanced over to it showing interest. She came over again and said “€18, final offer.” Now here is where it gets interesting and where you can show your profound knowledge on Greek souvenirs, or how good you are at bluffing. If we stayed we should have then devalued the product. “This isn’t bronze, it would be a lot heavier. €18? At the last shop I went to it was €5, why would I pay more here?”
What we ended up doing was looking at more stores to find the item again. The second store we found the statue at €10 but still felt like we could do better, and the 3rd store we got it for €8.75. It is a tricky charismatic game and one that takes practice.
TIP: When you are in a busy street/alley way it is a good idea to keep your bags/purses in front of you. If you value your appearance over your wallet’s safety in public then you could also use a padlock to attach two zippers together. Many times have we been walking through a busy street and then want something from our bag just to realize that the zippers have been moved.
Plaka is another place where you can bargain. There is a lot more space to walk around and it was less crowded when we went, and there was also places to get ice cream!
Besides shopping there is also restaurants around both areas, but before going inside someone may beat you to the chase and greet you at the entrance. Even if you do not want to go in a host may approach you asking if you would like to eat. Do not be alarmed! They only want you to eat at their restaurant and will try to convince you that their place is the best, sometimes offering free glasses of house wine depending on how busy they are.
Unless you had one place in mind our experience is that one place is as good as the next, and these would be for sit down meals. Walking around Athens we found a bakery store called Beneth. Inside they have a very cool layout of bread, desserts, and meals on the go. Often we would have a whole sandwich for €2-€3 each which even filled us up. This is a quick place to grab food on the go. There were many of these and some were smaller and only served as a bakery, but if you can find one that serves food it is nice for breakfast or lunch on the go.
YOU: “Alright GKexplorers, I now know what to do in Athens during the day, but how do I spend my nights?” Look at you with all of the good questions!
You are going to be Socrates or Plato in no time!
Honestly after a long day we just wanted to have a few drinks and relax to prepare for the next day. One of our favorite spots was Pl. Iroon, a little space between buildings with restaurants and bars.
We would recommend going to Monastiraki Square and walking, it is packed with people and driving there would be a nightmare. Don’t worry, it is only about a 5 minute walk! It looks a little sketchy honestly but there is a lot of young people and is mostly crowded. This is where Gretel had the best veggie burger of her life at a restaurant called F.R.I.E.N.D.S (yes, a restaurant based off of the t.v. show), and we chilled at a bar called Beer Time.
Being in this area I have never felt so out of place NOT wearing a leather jacket, but it was a hipsterish part of Athens that was neat.
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