TWENTY-TWO MUST-DO THINGS IN ATHENS
I present to you 22 of my most memorable experiences, you have to sample on your visit to Athens…
1. BE IN AWE OF THE ACROPOLIS
You have literally not come all this was to miss-out the star attraction. Get yourself up that hill and amongst the ancient Greek ruins of the Parthenon and Erecthion. You will be blown away by the pillars and if like us you want some background knowledge and history on the Acropolis be sure to hire a guide from Athens Insiders. Chrisiis, our guide gave us the complete archaeological low-down on the site on a two hour tour.
2. GET YOUR CULTURE VULTURE FIX AT THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM
I would recommend going to the Acropolis first and then paying the museum a visit so you are familiar with the structure of the site. It opened its doors in 2009 and is a modern tempered glass encased building, in relation to its surroundings but the locals are very proud of the heritage and artefacts it houses and showcases and definitely is one of the Athens hit list!
3. HIKE PHILOPAPPHOS HILL
Opposite the ticket office (just to the right of the car park) to the Acropolis is a steep path, which if you carry on, will take you up to the Philopapphos Monument but also the most spectacular but peaceful of the Acropolis. In my Opinion, this is the most beautiful panoramic view of the Parthenon you’ll ever see and with the added bonus of hardly anyone there. I would suggest walking right to the top but there are view points en route.
4. CLIMB THE ROCKS AT MARS HILL
Another place to get a fantastic view of the rest of the city as well as the ancient Greek ruins, is to walk along the periphery of the gates opposite the ticket offices and follow the road to a bunch of rocks named Mars Hill. It’s pretty easy to locate if you’ve already been to the Acropolis, you will have seen it from the entrance or just ask the friendly locals.
5. MIANDER THE OLD TOWN STREETS OF THE PLAKA
A city break is complete only if you walk, smell and feel the old town of a city and Plaka, is that old part of town in Athens. It’s beautiful cobbled streets, ancient architecture, sun-trapped Piazzas, quaint restaurants and the odd Greek folk band definitely gives it a charming appeal. Here is where you will find the main shopping street of Andrianou, where you can pick up souvenirs, gelato (yes that’s actually a thing in Athens, how wrong was I!) and shop some pretty leather sandals in the cute boutiques. Oh and there’s some pretty fabulous restaurants and bars around too! The Plaka is Athens’ oldest commercial district.
6. GET LOST IN ANAFIOTIKA
Oh my, my heart just went crazy when we ventured into Anafiotika. A neighbourhood, which resembles the Greek Islands just a stones throw from the Acropolis! No way I hear you say! Yes way! The story goes that workers from the Greek islands were brought to Athens under the rule of King Otto in the 1840s. They were supposed to work on building the kings palace and came from the island of Anafi. These carpenters and labourers built themselves these quaint houses on the steep hills surrounding the Acropolis. Think white washed walls, peeling paint, potted plants, beautiful coloured doors and window shutters and the views of Athens are just on point!
7. TAKE A GASTRONOMIC TOUR OF THE FLAVOURS OF ATHENS
I thoroughly recommend a Tastes of Athens walking tour via Athens Insiders. Not only will you be accompanied by a chef but you’ll be taken to all the local authentic foodie stops and learn about the real cuisine of the land with a truly personal touch.
8. VISIT ONE OF THE ROOF-TOP FINE DINING RESTAURANTS
Athens has many fine dining venues which have the added bonus of roof-top restaurants with panoramic views of the mighty Acropolis! I’ve tried out a few and my favourites are located at the Herodian Hotel, the Grande Bretagne hotel and the Intercontinental Athens.
9. SPLASH OUT ON ONE OF ATHENS’ MICHELIN STAR RESTAURANTS
If you are in Athens for a truly special occasion or fancy having an elegant foodie night out then there are a choice of two Michelin restaurants. I visited Spondi and sampled the menu on Valentines night. I can vouch that the atmosphere, service and star attraction of the food are out of this world. Mind and taste buds blown quite literally! This is a place worth splashing out on in my humble opinion!
10. TAKE SOME TIME OUT OF THE CITY AND VISIT THE TEMPLE OF POSEIDON AT CAPE SOUNION
As much as I have to admit to being a city dweller, I do like some time away and Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon seemed a great option. We booked via Getaways Greece and opted for the 4.5 hour trip to the countryside. It was supposed to be a small group tout however there was a cancellation so it soon became a private tour at no extra cost. The journey is about an hours travelling time each way and you are given ample free time at The temple of Poseidon (Temple of Sea) with amazing views of the coastline. Our guide Spyros was very knowledgeable and attentive and took us for a coffee afterwards to a small coffee shop on the coast. A very relaxing few hours spent in beautiful surroundings with a local.
11. IMMERSE YOURSELF INTO THE CAFÉ CULTURE
Café culture is pretty immense in Athens and its also pretty cool to grab a freddo (cold Coffee) and sit and people watch for hours just sipping on that one drink! My favourite coffee shops are all revealed in my casual dining post but for people watching head to Avissinia, Tailor made and Spollati.
12. CHECK OUT THE BUSY VIBE OF SYNTAGMA SQUARE
The square is the most famous in Athens and as well as being home to a fountain located centrally, you have the start of the major High street version of the shopping street in Athens. Additionally here you will find the Hotel Grand Bretagne, The King George and The NJV Plaza. If you know your hotel brands then these are pretty famous and the crème de la crème of hotels. Also you will see many koulouri stands. Syntagma Square is pretty lively and what better place than to people watch with a koulouri in hand?!
13. VISIT THE PANATHENAIC STADIUM
Greece being the birth place of the Olympic Games so it only seems fitting if you have some time to spare to go and pay the centrally located stadium visit and appreciate the vastness of the originally all marble structure. It was original built in sixth century BC for the Panathenaic Games but has been extended over the years to accommodate a capacity of 45,000.
14. SAMPLE THE TRADITIONAL GREEK BREAKFAST PRETZEL CALLED KOULOURI
Now, the Greeks aren’t the biggest breakfast eaters but they do like to indulge in a mid-morning snack in the form of Koulouris (Greek version of the Pretzel). There are stands all over the city and they come with a variety of toppings and ingredients but the original variety is just fine for me! There actually is a Pretzel bakery in Psiri that is open 24/7 as recommend by locals!
15. HUNT FOR BARGAINS AROUND MONASTERIKI FLEA MARKET
The market is located just off Monasteriki Square, and consists of eclectic and eccentric stores selling anything from leather goods such as shoes, belts and bags to food items, plants, clothing and general bric a brac. My absolute favourite was the antiques stalls towards the end of the market where I could probably spend a whole day! You can also put your haggling skills to the test here should you wish!
16. NOSH ON THE LOCAL SPECIALITIES OF SOUVLAKI AND SPINACH PIE, GREEK FETA, OLIVES, BAKLAVA AND THAT EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!
If you’ve read my foodie posts, you will know Athens is a hub for food lovers. Grab a Souvlaki (the Greek version of a Kebab, and salad in a pitta) from one of the many authentic Souvlaki shops you see or try the Spinach Pie at one of the many cafés or delis situated around the city.
17. WANDER THE COBBLE STONED STREETS AND DISCOVER OLD GREEK ARCHWAYS AND COLUMNS
Athens is an ancient town of stone pillars, columns and archways. It’s totally incredible to think that these were built back in a time with none of the modern machinery used today to move materials. Check out the Temple of Olympian Zeus and The Archway of Hadrian, which are centrally located.
19. WITNESS THE UNIQUE CHANGING OF THE GUARD CEREMONY AT THE OLD PARLIAMENT
Just on the other side of Syntagma square is the head of all matters political in Greece. Here stands the grand parliament Building, which was the former King’s Palace from 1840 to 1936 but now it’s a closely guarded hive of politics and you are able to watch an interesting changing of the guard’s ceremony on the hour.
20. GO AND CHAT TO THE LOCALS AND GO BY THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE SPOTS
The locals in Athens are ever so friendly and helpful so spark up a conversation with them. Many of them actually speak English too irrespective of age and they are really the best people to ask for authentic recommendations and suggestions or even which angles in the city give you the best photo opportunities!
21. CHECK OUT THE CITY’S STREET ART SCENE
The street spaces in Athens really do not belong to anyone so they can be claimed by the very creative and talented street artists who have covered these neighbourhoods in various murials and international art styles. Some hand painted, whilst others spray painted over disused bus depots and apartment blocks. It’s worth checking out. You can even book street art tours via the Greek tourist board.
22. LISTEN TO SOME TRADITIONAL GREEK MUSIC ON THE STREETS OF PLAKA
Walk the pretty old town streets of Plaka and make sure you stop off and listen to the many street entertainers that are out and about! You’ll see the crowds forming and there’s most certainly a reason why!
There you have it, my comprehensive Athens list of must-dos! feel free to let me know if the comments what would be on your must-do Athens list!