Travel Guide: Athens, Greece – A Step Back In Time!
Hey Jetsetters! Are you ready to explore Athens, Greece with me?! No trip to Greece is complete without visiting Athens! It is must stop when visiting Greece and also unavoidable too since to get to and from other islands, you sometimes have to make a stop in Athens. To learn about how to travel between Greek islands, you can check out my post here. I share all my tips, tricks and what you need to know when visiting the Greek islands. In this post, I will discuss what all you need to know about visiting Athens, where we stayed, the famous spots and where to eat some amazing food with a great view!
There are 3 different ways to get to Greece! The one thing you have to remember is that Athens will always be your home base. To get to some of the islands for other countries or other islands, you will see that there are usually stops in Athens before you hit your final destination. For an example, there were no direct flights from Zakynthos to Santorini and we had to stop in Athens first. For more information on Greek Island hopping, check out my full post here. The main obvious to get to Greece is by plane. I love using Skyscanner to look for all my flights within Europe. It tends to pick up a lot more airlines than Priceline or Orbitz. The Skyscanner app is also very helpful. The airline that flew on to get from Amsterdam to Greece was Transavia! This flight was quite cheap and only 3 hours. I believe we paid $68 for a one way flight. With a lot of these airlines, you get a better deal if you pay for your luggage when you book your trip. For more tips on flying internationally, check out my post here! Other ways to get to Greece is by ferry from another country such as Italy or by cruise ship. I would only come by ferry is I had a very long extended vacation and time was not an issue. Other than that flights are pretty cheap.
Hotel: The Zillers Athens Hotel
Our hotel that we stayed out was one of our most favorite in Greece! We stayed at The Zillers Athens Hotel! You can check out my full hotel review with video on my blog post here! The location of the hotel was perfect in the heart of Athens. You did not need a car because everything was walkable or if you need to go far, you are just a 7min walk to the Monastiraki metro station. The décor at The Zillers is so amazing! You really do feel you are getting a luxury treatment! Some of the rooms have a small balcony to enjoy the view of the square. The best feature is the rooftop garden bar that has the perfect view of the Acropolis even at night. For breakfast, the bar is only for the guests and then it opens up to the public. The crowd is very classy so it is definitely not a club feel when you have drinks or dinner up there. You should definitely check it you even if you are not staying at the hotel.
Visiting the Acropolis
So obviously visiting the Acropolis was the highlight of our visit to Athens!! It was quite surreal especially because we got to see the spots where the apostles walked and Paul spoke – WOW! One of the reason why I love traveling is all the history that is still preserved in other countries. Yes, the US has some history, but when something gets old, we tear it down. We only have museums of artifacts and pieces of our history. But to see a temple and structures that has been preserved for hundreds or thousands of years is quite amazing! So first and foremost – what is “the Acropolis”? Many mistakenly think “the Acropolis” is the structure with all the columns. But that is actually not the case. That structure is actually called the Parthenon. It is an easy misunderstanding because on postcards of Athens they say “Acropolis” with that Parthenon somewhere in the background. Acropolis is a city built on top of the hill. It is at the highest point so pretty much no matter where you are in Athens, you can always see it. It is beautiful during the day time and even more at night when it is all lit up. There are a couple of places we ate at with amazing views of this place that I discuss too. Our first evening at sunset, we hiked to the Areopagus Hill where Paul spoke (Acts 17:22) and got a great view of the Acropolis and Athens. It was so beautiful! Many people were there enjoying the view & sunset.
If you want to visit the Acropolis (you’re crazy if you don’t), I suggest for you to go first thing in the morning before the sun comes out. There is absolutely NO SHADE what-so-ever when visiting there. We went in late May and the sun was strong. It was so hot. Definitely bring a hat, water, sunglasses and something to fan yourself with. Plus you will see the line already begins in the morning so get there early. The way we visited the Acropolis is visiting the Acropolis Museum on one day and then the Acropolis on another day. We actually bought a multi-site visit where we paid 30 euros which gained you access to the Acropolis, museums (Not the Acropolis Museum) and other famous sites that can be found in different parts of Athens such as the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora. The ticket is valid for five consecutive days. We bought ours at the gate. I think it is worth it. When visiting the Acropolis museum, it was nice that it was indoors with A/C. It looks very new but it was opened in 2009. Tickets are not expensive. I think we paid like 5 euros. There is a lot to see and learn at the museum. I love the sculptures especially of faces! Hadrian is one of my favorite and they have a bit of mix of Greek & Roman art too but of course Greek related. We went with my best friend from Rome who met us there. She is full of knowledge and explained a lot of stuff to us which was very helpful because we did not book a tour. At museum you are not allowed to take photos.
Before you actually get to the famous sites of the Acropolis, there are some other amazing sites to see along the hike to the main area. Below the Acropolis is the theater of Herod Atticus referred as Odeon of Herodes Atticus built by the Romans in 161 AD. This outdoor theatre was used many years ago, but is still today for classical concerts, ballet, and other performances during the summertime. On the tour, you cannot actually go down there and be within the crescent, but it is nice to see and photograph. If you want to save money and not book a tour or if you are one of those that are not a fan of guided tours (like me), check out Rick Steve’s free downloadable tours. He has a lot free downloadable audio tours for many cities and countries. Or check out these apps too which some are GPS guided. My friend and I took some photos at the first set of columns you will come up to which is the Parthenon Temple steps. It gets pretty crowded here with so many people taking pictures. They do not allow to climb up the rocks to get a better shot without people in the shot but people try. I cannot confirm nor deny that we tried to do the same. 🙂 Also the Greeks have an awareness of social media and they want all photos to be “respectful”. We actually got stopped and the lady asked us to delete a couple of photos because we took a photo where my husband flexed his muscles like “Hercules” and I had my olive leaf metal gold headband from H&M just how the Greeks wore back in the day. She said “no funny pictures” and asked us to delete. Our other photos was fine but they did not like that one. Oh well – note to self. Lol
Seeing the actual Parthenon was sooo cool! I had my Bible scriptures set and read them while in front of it to get my mind set –being in the moment. The Bible book of Acts chapter 17 & 18 are the verses that relates to Paul’s visit to Athens. My most favorite building that I was most interested in was the Erecthion Temple! This is on the most sacred site of the Acropolis where Poseidon and Athena had their contest over who would be the Patron of the city. I love the way this was built with the 6 columns of women holding up the ceiling. This part of the temple was the Porch of the Caryatids. I wish with these sites you can go in the inside but everything is roped off. But you can still take to some good photos that are close up like of the Pandroseion that you will see below.
Bars & Restaurants
Greeks know how to throw down when it comes to food. Their portions are HUGE! Some things are family style like the first place we ate at for lunch. While walking in Monastriaki, we came across a restaurant called Eyxapie also known as Efcharis that looked interesting from the outside because it looks like there was an inner courtyard. As with any Europe country, they have waiter waiving people down to come and eat. Usually that can be a sign that not a lot of people eat there and they are trying to grab clients. We passed it once and we said we would come back. Sometimes we don’t but this time we did and we decided to eat there. It was a great choice!! The food was AMAZING and so much meat! A whole plate of meat. My husband and I split our order which was good because it was just enough. The one thing I can tell you is that the Greeks are not good when it comes to cocktails. I gave them 3 chances and the just stuck with water, soda and wine. The cocktail I had was lukewarm. It was a called a fruit punch. In America, that is a red berry flavored drink. Nope. This was a mix of bananas, kiwi and other fruit that did not include red berries at all. They blended it all together and then popped 2 ice cubes. It was disgusting. Why not blend everything with the ice cubes. When he asked what was wrong, he was offended that I didn’t like it. He asked what is wrong with it… it is good? I said I did not like the taste. He took it away but did not take it off the bill. I just let it go.
Dinner was a real treat! Our Greek friends took us to this beautiful restaurant called Anafiotika Athens Restaurant. It is located in the area of Athens called Anafiotika. This area reminded me of Rome Italy where they have little streets of restaurants with outdoor seating. People walking around and even sitting on the steps too. This restaurant had both indoor and outdoor dining and a rooftop. I love rooftops and every single trip we go on, you know I will find a rooftop bar or restaurant, which is why I chose the hotel we stayed at too! It had an AMAZING view of the Acropolis that was fully lit. It was quite nice! The weather was great and their kebabs were THE BEST we had in all of Greece! The beef and the lamb were our favorite and nothing beats their tzatziki sauce! Now having real Greek tzatziki, our version here in America is a JOKE. It taste nothing like the original. They also have live music there too. Anafiotika Athens Restaurant is definitely place you should eat at least once for dinner.
Now as far as bars in Athens there are plenty and it is truly a city that never sleeps. We had an early flight out of Athens. It was 5am and there was a street about 2 a minute drive behind our hotel that was full of bars and it was PACKED…at 5am. Playing music and talking. I was confused because it seemed like it was 9pm. However our hotel we stayed at was known for their rooftop bar that was open to the public called Zillers Rooftop Garden. Check out my review & video here! The drinks were good and the view was to die for. I actually never had alcohol at this place because I was addicted to their “welcome cocktail” that they give to each guest. It was a citrus grapefruit drink that was soo good! I ordered me a glass or two everyday of our stay.
There was another bar that our Greek friends took us too that was a little further away from the main area of Athens. It was about a 30 minute drive from our hotel in the area called Petroupoli. This is where we discovered Scherzo The Bar! Scherzo The Bar was actually part of Apolis. The best way to describe it was a 3 bars in one- lounge, bar and dining. Scherzo is actually an Italian word for joke but this place was no joke. The music was perfect & upbeat, the lighting was perfect too and the VIEW….speechless. As far away as we were we still had an amazing view of the Acropolis. Like I said the Acropolis can be seen from anywhere. Check out the photos below that you can find on the restaurants website. This is one place I definitely would love to visit again.
Shopping in Athens
Athens is definitely a place where you can shop and find traditional Greek products and clothing. Plaka is famous street not far from our hotel that has lots of places to shop and buy souvenirs. It is a very chic clean area of Athens! No cars goes through there but just walking. The first thing that was on my list of items was their olive oil soap. Our hotel had the best smelling ones made out of oil olive and I bought a lot for souvenirs for friends and family. They are also known for their volcano/lava soap. Read about the Greek beauty products to purchase in my review here. I bought olive oil, clothing and their famous Mastic. Mexicans have tequila, Italians have wine and the Greeks have Mastic. It’s one of those things you either like it or you don’t. I liked it! I noticed it depends on the brand you get. It’s a Greek liquor that kind of has a sweet herbal taste. You should definitely try it out.
Monastriaki is full of restaurants and stores. This area has more of a flee market type feel in some parts but you should definitely visit. For high end shopping and recognizable brands you would shop at Ermou Street which is directly behind our hotel as well. We only got to spend about 30 minutes there right before we left. I wished we would have had more time but I know we will visit Greece again!
So I hope this travel guide has helped you! One thing that we did not have time to do was any side trips from Athens. There are a lot available that you can check out here with amazing deals & sales! I wanted to see Hydra which you need a ferry to go visit. There are also others parts of Athens in the mountain areas that is worth seeing too! If you have visited Athens or have questions, please leave me a comment below! Kalispera!