I lived in Athens for six months. Even writing that sentence, I still find it hard to believe. I hadn’t planned on going there. On my first trip to Greece, in November 2016, I missed my flight to Crete. After a moment of panic, I decided to check out the capital city before taking another flight to my original destination. Stepping into the airport in Greece was like stepping into another world; in a way, I was. This was the first time I had seen the Greek language and I immediately thought that it would be impossible for me to learn. Fast forward a few months, and I can understand basic sentences! Over the last year, I’ve learnt basics in 6 different languages before my trips and Greek was the hardest one to learn. Luckily, after living in Athens for a couple months, Duolingo came out with a Greek course.
It was a bit of a scary journey to my hostel because the bus driver decided to kick everyone off way before the last stop. I got half-assed directions from the driver, and my phone was about to die. It was +30℃ and I couldn’t believe it, it was still raging hot outside when in my city in Canada, it was already snowing! I had to walk for a solid two hours before I gave up. I tried asking as many people as possible for directions, but my Greek was non-existent. I eventually sided on getting a taxi. As soon as I got to my hostel I collapsed on my bed and started checking out what I could do in the city. I knew a few of the major attractions, but the first thing I knew I had to see:
The Acropolis of Athens – Ακρόπολη Αθηνών or Ἀκρόπολις
Acropolis in Greek literally means “the highest point of the town”. The citadel is on top of a huge limestone rock where the for thousands of years people lived inside of its caves. The first time I was in the area, I spent about five hours on the first day and four hours the next, when I only had three days in the city. I didn’t do much research before going, so I immersed myself into the forest and the caves surrounding the massive rock, and I read every single sign that I came across. When something so old is still standing, I can’t help but become completely in awe with the history and the culture behind it. It’s easy to get lost in the area if you have no destination and you’re aimlessly wandering around, so I used maps.me and pinned every important location that I had already seen just in case I had forgotten in the blazing heat.
When I finally got to the top of the Acropolis, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There are only a few of the temples that are still upright, but they’re still breathtaking. I walked around a few times, reading everything possible, and I spent about two hours there.
And of course, if you’re a nerd or really interested in Greek history, there’s always the Acropolis Museum, only a few hundred metres away! I spent between five and six hours there.
Areopagus – Άρειος Πάγος
While walking around the base of the Acropolis, there’s another rock with a prime view of the city and an amazing view of the Acropolis. Some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Athens were up here. But be careful, because the rocks can be really slippery!
Syntagma Square – Πλατεία Συντάγματος
I was here for the first time in November but I only realized in January that this square is one of the most central places in Athens. The tramway runs along the coast and then straight here. There’s also a big metro station, and a lot of the major buses stop here. From this square, it’s possible to navigate your way around the old town of Athens. I liked to think of it as my starting point for each adventure in the city, even after going there for months. To one side, you can find the Hellenic Parliament building and on the other side; the best known shopping street called Ermou or Οδός Ερμού.
Monastiraki – Μοναστηράκι
Another major district in the centre, connected by Οδός Ερμού. Monastiraki is a flea market neighbourhood and I’ve found some of my favourite trinkets and juice bars here. From book stores to weapon stores, you can find almost anything you need in this area and always for a good price.
Mount Lycabettus – Λυκαβηττός
I’ve been told that there’s a sort of tramway to get to the top of the limestone hill, but I still think the best way to experience it is by walking up. It’s only a 20-30 minute walk up, depending on your speed and if you get lost, like I had a couple times because the paths aren’t clear. The last time I went up in a rainstorm when my best friend was visiting me. We both got completely drenched and my phone broke but the view was worth it when we reached the top. If you’re reaallly lazy, it’s under four euros to take a taxi from Syntagma Square to the top!
The Temple of Olympian Zeus or Ναός του Ολυμπίου Διός
Just a short walk from Syntagma Square and you’re at another half-standing temple that is a must see in Athens. And if you’re a student, don’t forget your university card because you can gain free access or discounted prices into the majority of the paid monuments. Or, you can be like me and go see all of the sites in the off-season (November-April) where the prices are substantially lower or completely free.
The National Garden or Εθνικός Κήπος
Adjacent to Syntagma Square is a large public park. I’ve came here for refuge on some extremely hot days, because my flat didn’t have air conditioning. The leafy greens can make you forget that you’re inside of a bustling city and will cool you down!
Last but not least; the beaches. Greece has some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Unfortunately in the summer months they can be really packed and dirty. So if you’re looking to go to an island for something more secluded during those peak times and not as far away as the others, this site can help you find the cheapest ferries to some of the closer Greek islands.
Now I know that I haven’t covered everything, but these are the places I would have liked to seen on my first three day trip to Athens. I’m definitely not finished writing about this place, so stay tuned for more!