Named after the goddess of power and wisdom, Athens quickly became one of the most powerful cities in Greece. It is the birthplace of democracy, arts, and some of the most prominent thinkers the world has come to known. Athens is a majestic, strong and pulsating city that brings the past to life. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and get transported back in time. If this is your first time to the ancient city, follow the footsteps of Alexander the Great, Plato, Aristotle, and Chasing Krista to the best sites in Athens.
1. Discover the Acropolis
Athens is one of the most historic places in the world. The ruins found throughout the city will leave you in astonishment. One of the most incredible being: The Acropolis of Athens. The Acropolis proudly stands as a symbol of the city perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. Having survived over 25 centuries of war, invasions, earthquakes, adaptions, and so much more; just walking around the Acropolis will leave in you a daze of wonder.
Tip: Either be one of the first to enter or the last to exit the Acropolis. Do not go midday, it will not only be a million degrees but it will be packed with people. The best time to go is right when the doors open (at 08:00AM) or be among last to leave.
2. Explore Ancient Ruins
The Acropolis is not the only ruin that Athens is known for. The city itself is a historical monument to the rest of the world. With the special ticket, you have the ability to check out six historic sites including the: Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kermeikos, Olympieion (Temple of Zeus), and the Archaeological Site of Lykeion.
Tip: The ‘special ticket’ is €30 and valid for five days after purchase. If you plan on seeing the Acropolis and at least two other sites then the special ticket is for sure worth the price and I personally would highly recommend seeing more than one ancient ruin site.
3. Wander Through the National Library & Academy of Athens
The National Library of Greece was designed by Theophil Hansen, a Danish architect in 1888. He was the architectural mastermind behind three of Athens academic wonders: the Athenian Neoclassical Trilogy of buildings; which includes the National University, the Academy of Athens and the library. All three of these buildings are architectural marvels. Today the library has outgrown its space and is in the process of being relocated to a larger building
Tip: GO INSIDE! Yes, the architecture and outside of the building are gorgeous; but go inside and talk to those working there. Ask them just about anything related to the history of Greece and you will be in awe. Today, since the library is in the process of being relocated you can see transcribers working on old manuscripts and documents centuries old.
4. Be a Champ at the Panathenaic Stadium
The stadium is a classic monument for Greece and the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. Constructed in the 4th century, it was used as a place to celebrate the city of Athens. Since then has gone through a whirlwind of history including reconstruction and abandonment for years. Today it serves as a reminder of the Olympic Games and the idea of celebrating the athletic spirit.
Tip: Even if you don’t want to pay the €5 to go inside the stadium, you can still walk right up to it and peek inside. It is worth it to go inside, but if you are short on time or would rather use that €5 for a gyro, don’t forget to take a peek.
5. Wander the Flea Markets in Monastiraki
Shopping in Athens will leave your wallets empty. The amount of treasures and souvenirs that can be found throughout the city of Athens are enough to decorate an entire house. The Monastriaki Flea Market brings the city to life every Sunday morning, from handmade jewelry to paintings of the city. The clothes sold here range from traditional garb to festive tanks. Essentially, you can buy just about anything inside this flea market.
Tip: Don’t settle on the first item you see, especially if it is related to olives and beauty. Chances are you will find the same product just a block down. Shop around before you get your heart set on buying something.
6. Get Lost in the Streets of Plaka
Plaka is considered to be one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. Personally, I think it is one of the most picturesque and traditional parts of Athens; away from the tourist lines and eager vendors. This part of old Athens is filled with taverns, cobblestoned alleys, and vibrant flowers. it is the perfect place to stop, breathe and spend a moment appreciating the fact that you are in Athens.
Tip: Just chill out here, Athens is a huge city and majority of the time you will be walking around in the scorching heat. Grab a beer, snack on some olives, people watch, just simply enjoy your surroundings.
7. Take a Day Trip (on land)
There are a few day trips you can take from Athens without getting in a boat and leaving the mainland. Delphi the worship site for Apollo (the Greek God of the Sun), located 2-3 hours outside of Athens is the ancient city where the oracle that gave predictions about the future lived. Mycenane, which is about an hour and a half outside of Athens, brings your high school history books to life and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.
Cape Sounion is an hour drive from Athens and found here are where the ruins of the god of the sea: Poseidon, boldly stand. Travelers and tourists flock to this destination at sundown, when the golden rays cast their shadow on the Mediterranean clear blue waters.
8. Take a Day Trip (on water)
If you are looking to escape the mainland and adventure across the Mediterranean blue water; there are a few islands that are in close proximity to Athens. These islands are a popular destination for a daytrip away from exploring Athens. The most popular combination is: Aegina, Hydra and Paros. Aegina is a small island (less than an hour from Athens) that is dedicated to pistachios. Pistachio everything, from ice cream to butter to liquor; if you are a fan of pistachios I can’t recommend this island enough, it is delicious! Find some peace and tranquility on the island of Hydra, famed for its Greek Isle décor and vibrant colors abound. Lastly, get lost on the island of Poros with the picturesque views of that bold blue and white Greek style.
9. Indulge your taste buds
Eat everything. There isn’t really much to say in regard to this; but Greek food is amazing! Everything from the tzatziki, horiatiki salata (Greek salad), cheese saganaki (fried cheese), to the wine and ouzo. Do your taste buds a favor and indulge in everything from the menu.
Tip: Meals in Greece are a social event, you aren’t actually dining to just eat, it meant to be an experience.