After visiting a number of European countries, all of them start to look pretty much the same right? Fortunately, that doesn’t apply to Athens. Athens is indeed a European country but it feels like it has been ‘spiced’ with many Middle Eastern colours and aromas.
Due to its geographical position, as well as the occupation from the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years, have left Athens with a variety of cultural influences on landmarks and on it’s inhabitants.
Athens besides the many archaeological sites has numerous beautiful seaside places where you can swim in the sea or just drink a cup of Greek coffee (like the locals do) and enjoy the views. Make sure you have more than one day to visit and explore all the hidden gems of the city.
Best place to start your day tour of Athens is the Metro station of Acropolis. It is advisable to be there early in the morning to have a head start, as more tourists will be visiting later on and it will get crowded. Also you must remember that the Greek sun in the summer is really strong so make sure that you apply sun cream often and always have a bottle of water with you.
Walk the beautiful street of Dionysiou Areopageitou and buy yourself a ticket (20 Euros per person which applies for all the archaeological sites of Athens for 4 days). I could fill in at least ten pages with the facts and the history of Acropolis but this is neither the place nor the time to do so.
Always remember to support the campaign for returning the STOLEN artefacts of Parthenon, which are now located in the British Museum in London back to Greece, where they belong to.
So enjoy the beauty of Acropolis standing for more than 2000 years and wonder around it. Make sure you exit not from the typical exit, but from a downhill exit next to a small wooden kiosk that you will come across as you climb up the stairs. This way you will be able to see more sites and ancient constructions as well as an additional theatre.
Once you exit the site of Acropolis head the opposite way to the new museum of Acropolis, a construction that Greeks are really proud of since it was literally built upon ancient buildings but without causing any destruction to them. You will be able to see parts of them as you move though the Acropolis museum.
Exiting the museum of Acropolis and head left the same road you followed to go to Acropolis. Enjoy the weather and feel free to buy from the street vendors’ traditional artifacts and souvenirs which are actually in much better prices than the shops. Always try to support the local economy which really needs your help, especially these days!!!
Once you meet the first cafeterias’ with their tables outside you can go for a coffee to the roof gardens and admire the views of Acropolis.
Once you catch your breath continue and enter the ancient Agora from the small exit in front of the cafeterias with the same ticket that you bought in Acropolis. There are three must see places there among the many:
• The ancient temple that really looks like Acropolis.
• The old church with the unique pictures that were saved during the occupation from the Ottoman Empire (check out the Saints and Angels that their faces were removed by the occupants).
• The small museum which shows aspects of everyday life in Athens.
Exit the site from the main entrance and you are in Monastiraki area.
Warning!!!: As all the main tourist attractions around the world, the same rules apply in this area. Keep your bag zippers closed, leave no bags unattended and beware of your personal belongings in general. Pick pocketing is not a very common thing but not a very rare as well. Kindly decline any offers for sunglasses, perfumes or mobile phones since they will be 90 percent end in monkey business.
Shop around this area, you can find really good prices in leather and gold or buy some souvenirs for your friends back home. (Make sure you buy a hat for the rest of your vacations in Greece since the Greek sun is very strong. The area is ideal for taking pictures of locals restoring old furniture and buying antiques.
Hungry? I would suggest you head to the restaurant of Savvas with the amazing roof garden. It serves traditional Greek cuisine and the quality of the food is always very good, and of course you can stare (guess what???) Acropolis!
From there you can head to the Athens central meat & fish market called “Varvakios” to take some photos. Avoid it if you don’t have a strong stomach, watching hanged meats and the heavy smells might not be for everyone! The whole area is really popular for buying traditional products.
Head back to Ermou street (if you don’t know which one it is, simply ask an Athenian. The majority of the Greeks speak English and usually are very helpful with tourists.
Ermou street is the road with all the big brand names stores and you can always buy designer clothes or anything else you might need. Head up towards Syntagma square. On your way visit the small church (Kapnikarea) in the middle of the street.
It is estimated that the church was built some time in the 11th century, perhaps around 1050. As it was common with the early Christian churches, this was built over an ancient Greek pagan temple dedicated to the worship of a goddess, possibly Athena or Demeter. You can walk into it and light a small candle like Orthodox people do.
Reaching Syntagma square you will see the Greek parliament and the national guards called Efzones. They wear their traditional skirt (which has 400 foldings, one for each year of occupation under the Ottoman Empire).
Take some photos and walk until the national Library and Academy. Two amazing buildings built like the ancient Greek ones. Once you are done continue on to the Omonoia street where you need to ask the way to the National Museum which is just five minutes by foot.
The National Museum even though it is last on the list, it is for me the most important sight of Athens. Make sure you do not miss it. It hosts an amazing collection of masterpieces of art of the ancient Greece.
Statues more than 5000 years old, jewels of the Macedonian family of Alexander, and the famous Machine of Antikythera.
That is a full a day tour of Athens, where you can cover all the main tourist attractions.
If you feel that your feet can still do some extra walk, you can always add one of the following sights to your tour. Plaka, Kallimarmaron, the National Garden, Zapeio, Likavitos and Glyfada area.
But my suggestion is to visit those places another day so you can take your time and enjoy them like they deserve to.
About the author
Spyros Skouris the author of the article “A full day tour of Athens” can help you arrange your dream vacations on your visit to Athens in Greece.
He also owns an apartment in Athens which is available to rent on Airbnb.