Arriving in Athens
My first feeling in Athens was amazement. My husband and I stopped overnight before sailing across to The Greek Islands. The essential reason was leaving our luggage in safe keeping at our Hotel, to island hop with minimal baggage. We had only a few hours to venture across the road, get a taste of the busy market place, eat dinner, and then climb to the Roof Top Bar of our Hotel, to be mesmerized as the sun was sinking over the Parthenon, atop the Acropolis. We could not wait to get back for our 4 night stay to search the ruins in this amazing city.
Getting to Athens
Athens Airport is approximately 45 – 60 minutes by Taxi to Plaka Old Town.
Piraeus Port is only 20-30 minutes from Athens Old Town by Taxi. We had pre booked all our transfers but learned it is unnecessary as there were plenty of Taxi’s waiting to pick up passengers and it’s cheaper. We found the drivers pleasant and helpful, especially the driver who took the initiative to help us when our transfer didn’t show up. We were so grateful.
Staying in Athens Plaka District
I highly recommend the Plaka Hotel in the Old Plaka District of Athens. You are in the vicinity of all the sights, ruins and market place. Our room with a balcony captivated the hive of activity below, and the sound of accordion from the traditional band playing on the corner was entertaining. Reception was always at your disposal. Friendliness of staff and their assistance during our stay was of very high standards. Nothing was too much trouble. Every morning during a delicious buffet breakfast we would be greeted, asked our plans for the day, and given assistance with planning where to go and how to get there. That was a really special touch. If you are leaving exceptionally early in the morning, don’t worry, breakfast is still catered for. Tea and coffee making facilities with biscuits were on offer until 6pm. The roof top bar opened, and you could relax with a drink, while the evening lights settled over Athens highlighting the Acropolis. A jug of cold cucumber water, was always on the bar in the dining room ready to quench your thirst. Deliciously refreshing! A display of pamphlets and maps at your fingertips and a set of scales in the foyer to weight check your luggage, brilliant! They sell postage stamps and conveniently post your mail. We loved the old elevator, it really was a novelty. Alternately, taking the spiral staircase was a great form of exercise.
What to See in Athens
The Plaka Hotel is in 10 minutes walking distance of all the main sights and Monuments, our three days were filled to the brim. With so much to see and do, this ancient city will excite and intrigue. During October when we were visiting, the crowds had dwindled and so had the sweltering heat. If you tire of walking hop on the little green train that loops around the sites or ride regal style on a horse drawn carriage. We were also lucky enough to be there during long weekend celebrations, crowds of locals were walking a marathon on Saturday and entry was free to the monuments. What a bonus! We were surrounded by cure for breast cancer supporters as we continued through the Park, pink and green balloons filled the sky.
Archaeological Sites and Ancients Ruins
1. The Acropolis – The magnitude of this site is awesome. The pillars of the Panthenon reach sky wards and the goddesses still display their regal stance, just as they had thousands of years ago. Sweep in the magnificent views over Athens from here.
2. Hadrians Arch and the Temple of Zeus – Walk through Hadrians Arch, witness a moment of stepping back through time.
3. Parliament House and Changing of the guard in Syntagma Square – The elegantly dressed guards were eye catching as they marched slowly and deliberately taking each step in synchronicity and ease, their minds totally focused on the job. You can take a photo standing beside a guard for a memorable memento.
4. Panatheanic Stadium – You can pay an entry fee and have a photo standing on the podium just like the first modern Olympian in 1896. Or view the entire stadium from the gates as we did.
5. Museum of Athenian Agora – Housed in restored ancient shops the bronze artefacts, trinkets, gold jewellery, earthenware, and even a child’s bones buried with personal treasures from this ancient civilisation were remarkable and so well preserved. Soaring marble pillars hold this magnificent building to extreme height. Portrait statues of prominent aristocrats and goddesses still so perfectly formed grace the halls of this amazing architecture.
6. “Herodium” Odeum of Herodes Atticus – Walk through the ruins of classical houses and Roman Baths. Imagine these ancient people going about their daily business, as you walk the same roads. The drainage and pipes were just as modern as they are today.
7. Theatre of Dionissos Kalim – This luxurious ancient theatre still stands well preserved. Notice where the royalty sat in lavishly carved seats in the arena, some even have pee holes.
8. Temple of Hephaestus – This awe inspiring temple stands proudly within the Ancient Agora complex.
9. National Garden – From Parliament House take a lovely stroll through the sun dappled, leafy arbour tunnel in these beautiful gardens, winding your way along the path to Hadrians Arch.
10. Canellopoulos Museum – featuring art, terracotta pottery, bronze figurines, vases, lamps and Venetian coins from different periods such as Roman and Neothelic and religious relics dating back to 1583 just to name a few. You really should visit to see for yourself.
Walk The Medieval Way along The Wall of Hypapanti to the Ruins of the Church of St Nicolaos (Serapheim). We stumbled across the 6,000 year old Holy church of Nicholas Ragkava in fantastic condition and so beautifully different. You will find lavish churches as you search these astonishing ancient streets. There is one just up the road from Plaka Hotel but beware, the woman sent me out because I was wearing shorts, and you cannot take photo’s inside. Please note that I was welcomed into all other churches and encouraged to take photos and they didn’t mind what you wore.
Shops and Market Place
Spoilt for choice, by visiting at the end of the season you can pick up some great bargains. Prices were drastically reduced at many of the stores. Some stores had clear acrylic floors displaying ruins beneath, which surprised me on my first encounter when stepping into a change room. Souvenirs were plentiful. We bought some lovely statues of gods and goddesses to add a dose of ancient mythology to our home.
If you explore the streets you will find markets with unusual trinkets and souvenirs along the roadside. We love an intricate handmade sandalwood and clear quartz dragon pipe that we purchased. You will stumble across ruins in every nook and cranny. The Flea Market where locals sell Antiques and preloved possessions was really interesting to rummage through. Be prepared to be amazed by this wonderland of bygone eras.
Where to Eat
1. We dined in open air restaurants garden style with candles and coloured lights. Restaurateurs shared shop kitchens and set up side by side in the middle of the road. We enjoyed delicious traditional Greek Moussaka and stuffed vegetables. We were given complimentary glasses of Ouzo and Moscato.
2. I tried The Best Falafels in Athens at “Off White” cafe bar restaurant and they definitely were the moist and tastiest I’d ever had. The decor was invitingly different with a gallery downstairs.
3. On Street Stalls you will find food such as barbequed corn on the cob.
4. Greek Gyros and Souvlaki is plentiful. You will find it everywhere.
5. Food was affordable and delicious.
The Greek People – We found most of the Greek people we encountered very friendly, helpful, cheerful and hospitable.
Friendly Felines – Be prepared to discover a multitude of street living cats in Athens. Sharing a meal with these furry felines came naturally to us. They are well treated by locals and remember in ancient times cats were very auspicious.
© Kerrie Ireland – All Rights Reserved