Planning a trip to Greece is not an easy task, especially around August. It’s probably the busiest and most expensive time to go. However, travelling from Budapest, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
It can be pretty overwhelming to find the perfect place to stay in Athens. After some research, we decided to stay at the Royal Olympic Hotel. The hotel has a great location – just a short walk to the Acropolis and it’s very close (like +- 30 meters ) to the Tram line. Another reason we chose it was because of its beautiful rooftop bar which has views of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill. It’s a bit pricey but totally worth it compared to some of the places they have in the city. Airbnb is an option as well, but I was looking for something a little more luxurious!
I stayed in Athens for about 2 full days and that was more than enough for me. Athens is very hot that time of year. It was like walking fully-clothed in a sauna! In future, I’d rather explore Athens during their Autumn or Spring months. Cooler weather makes exploring ruin sites much more bearable.
Nevertheless, there are my top things to do in Athens:
1. Visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus
This was the first site I visited and it was amazing seeing the temple dedicated to Zeus, the King of the Olympian Gods. This temple was built in 6th Century BC so it’s pretty surreal witnessing its existence. Apart from taking photos around this temple, there is not much else to do at this site. It will take you about 10 minutes to take photos and then you can move on to the next bit of history.
2. Visit the Parthenon and surrounds
The Parthenon is an extremely popular site and is always full of tourists. Entry will set you back about EUR 20. If you’re planning to explore Athens some more, you may want to purchase the EUR 30 multi-ticket that’s valid for 5 days and allows entry into a few other sites. Read more about the multi-ticket here. Do note that besides the onsite museums of the Ancient Agora and the Kerameikos cemetery, none of the museums are included in the multi-ticket. But, again the entry fees to these museums isn’t too expensive – for example, the Acropolis Museum entry is only €5.
Upon seeing the snaking queues of people waiting to get into the Parthenon, we decided to wait till the late afternoon to visit it. I am so glad we did! We walked from our hotel to the site and I quite enjoyed walking pass all the local shops on the way. When we arrived at the entrance of the Parthenon, there was no queue and it was very quick to get in. Be warned that the Parthenon is on a hill and it’s a bit of a walk getting to the top – I can’t imagine walking up there during midday.
The temples are beautiful and the view of Athens from the top of this hill is breathtaking. There are parts of the ground leading up to the temple that is extremely slippery and you can easily fall, so be sure to wear shoes with tread.
The Parthenon closes at 7pm and not a minute after. Be sure to allow yourself at least an hour and half to explore. As we left, a friend of mine led us to a little hill just around the corner from the entrance where large groups of people were sitting and waiting for the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful and that was by far my favorite part! (That part is free)
3. Visit Ancient Agora
This was included in the ticket we purchased and we decided to check it out. It was a good decision as it’s so very pretty! There are remains of many ancient temples, but it is the exceptionally well-preserved Temple of Hephaistos that catches everyone’s eye. The reason it is has survived so well is because it became a church in the 7th century AD. There are great views over the Agora to the Acropolis from the temple. The museum inside has air-conditioning which was great for touring without heat stroke! I did notice many stray dogs roaming around in this area and it broke my heart! The location of this museum is perfectly located around the beautiful neighbourhood of Plaka and Monastiraki Square.
4. Stroll the paved streets of Plaka and Monastiraki Square
Also known as the ‘neighbourhood of the gods‘, Plaka is the oldest neighbourhood in Athens. Walking on its paved narrow streets, you kinda get the feeling that you’re travelling back in time. The beautiful neo-classical style of the houses, the architecture, the well-kept gardens and the beauty and atmosphere of the neighbourhood are enchanting. Monastiraki square is a great place to shop and shop some more! I got a great deal on a pair of Birkenstocks 🙂 These walks were probably my most enjoyable time in Athens.
5. Enjoy the Street Food!
When in Greece you must try the following:
Athens Tips and Tricks
- It’s much cheaper to buy day passes than hourly ones for the metros (trams)
- Wear shoes that have soles that grip! With most of the ruins being marble, you can easily slip!
- Dinner is the main meal of the day, so be prepared for really late dinners! Greeks are not really that big on breakfast!
- Be careful of pickpocketers (we were targeted but fortunately had nothing stolen thanks to fellow tourists who alerted us). If you are carrying a backpack then I would recommend locking it or tying the straps together.
- Always wear sunblock!
Just remember that life begins at the end of your comfort zone….:)
If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below!