Athens Travel Guide
Athens was one of the most incredible trips we have ever taken. Like most European cities, you go there having high expectations that are very hard to meet. Athens was one of the few cities that didn’t just meet mine, but exceeded it.
Athens combines incredible history with the beauty that comes with just about anywhere in Greece. It fuzes ancient structures with a modern approach that is simply awe-inducing. Great food, a booming city and amazing people, that is Athens.
I had been to Greece (Corfu to be exact) once before – about four years ago – when I studied abroad for a semester. But as I’ve learned, each one of the Greek Isles is completely different. Corfu certainly has a more “party” prone atmosphere while Athens has a bit more sophistication and believes in keeping their past in the forefront of their city.
We went in October for a week and the weather was absolutely beautiful, even warm. We had one beach day. I would say the perfect amount of time is 3 or 4 days (in Athens alone) or 6 days to allow for excursions outside of Athens. Unless you are an extreme history buff and want to explore the city in extreme detail, then I would say a week.
Recommendation: I would recommend planning a 2 week trip to go to Greece and arrange for days spent in Athens, Santorini and the surrounding islands. You can get very inexpensive flights and ferries.
HERE IS MY MUST-DO CHECKLIST:
- Acropolis, The Parthenon and The Acropolis Museum. Go early!
- Explore the neighborhood of Plaka
- Hike up Mount Lycabettus (good workout and better view)
- If you are able to, see a show at the Herod Atticus Odeon (an ancient amphitheater with plays)
- Dine like a local in the Karaiskaki Street (A-mazing food and a great atmosphere)
- Get to-go food and have a picnic in the national park (so pretty!)
- Get a tour by a local via This Is My Athens (it’s free! see more details here)
- Have a dinner in the sky (if you are there form late April – September)
- Panathenic Stadium (location of first modern-day Olympics)
- Go to Lake Vouliagmeni (about 20 minutes outside Athens)
- Take a day trip and explore the “Athens Riviera” also known as The Saronic Gulf (about 25 minutes away)
- Take a day trip to Sounion (preferably at sunset) to see The Temple of Posidon
WHERE TO STAY:
I can not recommend Air BNB enough! I love that you get an authentic experience of what life of a local is like. We stayed in the cutest one (picture above) and the hosts were absolutely incredible. We had a mishap at an ATM where it sucked our card in (talk about panic!) and my host was calling everyone and managed to get our card back to us within the hour. We are so grateful! The apartment was absolutely stunning and had great WIFI and two balconies. It was also very affordable and in a great neighborhood where locals lived and it was easy to walk everywhere. Ours was $48 per night.
DAY 1: ACROPOLIS, ACROPOLIS MUSEUM AND THE PARTHENON
This is one of the only sites I’ve been that has left me at a complete loss for words. If you are foregoing a tour (like we did), I recommend reading all about it on your flight so you can truly take in what is around you. It is like standing at the steps of history itself, absolutely incredible.
TIP: Wear flats and go early! Greece (like most of Europe) has fresh-squeezed orange juice everywhere that is so good.
Like I mentioned, it was pretty warm. I wore a shirtdress, vintage Chanel belt and cognac sandals.
DAY 2: CAPE SOUNION AND TEMPLE OF POSIDON
The drive alone is worth this trip. Our tour guide was incredible and was really open and honest about Greek life (including details about how it has changed since becoming part of the E.U. which was fascinating to me). Please plan this at sunset, it is so incredibly beautiful.
DAY 3: DAY TRIP TO HYDRA, POROS AND EGINA
Zach and I both agree that this was the highlight of our trip. We booked this via TripAdvisor (as we do a lot of our activities, both foreign and domestic, but especially in countries where english isn’t the primary language). We got on a ferry right at sunrise and came back at sunset. We were served coffee on the way there (photo below) and got to experience three different islands all in the same day. One thing I would do differently is actually stay one island for a day or two (probably Hydra).
The pictures you see above and below are the island of Hydra. What makes it so special is that there are no cars on the island. They only use donkeys! It is so peaceful and quiet. If you want to recreate Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, this is your place.
Next was the island of Poros (shown above and below). It was a beautiful place with stunning views from the tower. But Hydra and Egina were certainly my favorite/
Finally, was the island of Egina. We were only there for about two hours (not pictured), but we had an incredible seaside dinner and we rented a scooter! You basically hand them your ID and pay them and you are off (unlike the US).
WHAT TO WEAR/PACK:
If you have followed me for a while, you will know I never check a bag and I get some weird thrill out of only using a carry on and creating many outfits. The weather was supposed to be coats but ended up being shorts weather. Wear flats! You do a ton of walking in this city and its definitely a street-style jeans-and-T-shirt wearing kind of place. Bring light layers if going in the shoulder seasons (bonus: they pack well)
WHAT TO EAT:
I think the biggest surprise of the entire trip was how difficult it was for me to eat. I eat a 95% vegan diet + some shellfish and tuna. Last time I was in Greece, it was extremely easy for me to eat. More emphasis on olive oil = happy vegan. But in Athens, I was really shocked at what an emphasis they have on cheese and meat. Luckily for me, I found some refuge. Here is what I ate:
- Grilled veggies (pictured above)
- Veggie burgers
- Fresh juice
- Vegan gelato (yes, there is a spot!)
- Greek salad
What you can’t miss is the Loukoumades from a place called Lukumadez (SO GOOD!). I have had them once in the U.S. but the authentic thing is dangerously good. I would have the ones with Nutella and pralines (totally cheated and worth it). We are guilty of having them multiple days in a row.
Greece is one of my favorite countries in the whole world! We have so many adventures planned for 2018 (many of them domestic, buying our land and building our warehouse/loft in Charleston, SC!)
As always, thank you for reading.
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