Welcome to the first of my four-part Greek Eat+Stay+Play series – 2 Days in Athens! I’m working on guides for the islands of Mykonos, Naxos, and Santorini as well. Greece has so much to offer. I’m not sure why it took us so long to finally get there, but I’m so glad we went. Most of our trip was in the islands, but we did stay a night on either end in Athens, which is why this guide is only for a 2 day stay. At the end is a downloadable pdf of my links and resources, perfect for your travel folio.
I’m not entirely sure what our expectations of Athens were, but whatever they were it was not what we thought. Athens is definitely a city to add to your travel bucket list. It’s beautiful. Period. There is this incredible juxtaposition of ancient and modern married with this incredibly cool vibe. It has an energy and you feel it when you talk to local residents or while people watching over your frappé (more on this delicious beverage phenomenon in a later guide).
Our trip was booked through a company called Fantasy Travel. If you do your research you’ll find they are a top-rated company offering a variety of travel packages and tours. This was quite out of the norm for us, as we typically do all of the planning on our own. Aside from the knowledge of their reliability, what we liked about booking through Fantasy Travel was that everything was taken care of ahead of time, most importantly all of our transfers. This meant not having to worry about airport pick-ups, transfers to hotels, and ferries between the islands. All we really had to do was book our flights and Fantasy Travel provided us with some options to help us build a travel package that met our desires. I cannot say enough positive things about this company. They are incredibly professional and organized, and they handled every detail perfectly.
Arrival in Athens
Upon arrival in Athens we were greeted promptly and escorted to a Mercedes sedan for transfer to Central Hotel, located in the historic Pláka neighborhood. This is a great area with many shops and cafés and an easy walk to the Acropolis. Our room had an Acropolis view, something guaranteed by Fantasy Travel, although we didn’t spend much time in it. After a long flight we were ready for lunch, so we went to an area known as “souvlaki row” and had kebabs at Thanasis. You can sit outside under the awning and take in the passersby. The food and service are both quite good. A great stop for a casual lunch.
Next, we strolled through the Pláka and visited several of the shops on our way to the Acropolis. During our stay Athens was experiencing a heatwave of 110 degrees, so if you’re traveling during the summer months bring a water bottle. We’ve been using our Swell bottles for a few months now and really like them for their durability and ability to keep liquids cold.
Due to the heatwave, the entrance to the Acropolis itself was actually closed. This was probably a good thing as there is very little if any shade once you are up there, but we were disappointed. There was no way to know of the early closure ahead of time. But, we could still access the Areopagus or “Mars Hill” as it’s also called. Areopagus is derived from Areios Pagos, “Aries Hill,” the Greek version of Mars. This large rocky boulder is the site where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians and where you can get incredible views of the Acropolis. I recommend wearing appropriate footwear as the surface of the rock is quite slippery.
Our next stop was the Roman Forum, sometimes called the “Roman Agora.” Here you’ll see the Tower of the Winds, built in the first century B.C. Make sure to note the carved reliefs around its circumference. Walk a short way to Agora Square and take in the ruins of the Library of Hadrian, destroyed in the third century A.D. The nearby Ancient Agora was once a gathering place for Athenian civilization, a very much “see and be seen” place for ancient Athens (“Love those sandals, Athena!”).
You’ll more than likely work up an appetite or at least a thirst at this point. We found a small café called Off White Café Bar, that I would recommend. Grab a table outside and enjoy a plate of hummus and a Mythos beer while enjoying a sunset view of the Library of Hadrian.
On our way back to the hotel we took a stroll through the flea market, but just know that it is very crowded with tourists.
At the top of the Central Hotel is a rooftop terrace bar called Thea, where you can have dinner or cocktails. The view of the Acropolis is one of the best in the city. At night the Acropolis is completely lit up and makes an impressive contrast to the darker city below. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to enjoy Thea and drinks are well priced. A glass of house wine or rosé will cost you around €5-6. But as an experienced traveler, please at least order food or drink first and then take your pictures. It’s just the decent thing to do.
I’m going to go ahead and share what we did on the back end of our trip, when we returned to Athens after our time in the islands. Most of the day was consumed by a ferry transfer from Santorini but we had dinner in Athens at a place called Athinaikon, an Athens institution since 1932. The food and service are excellent, as are the fried zucchini flowers stuffed with feta cheese. You can thank me later. 😉
The second day of our trip took us to Mykonos by ferry. I will have a complete Eat+Stay+Play guide to Mykonos up on the blog soon! I would love to hear about your experience in Athens. Where are your favorite spots and things to see/do?
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