Athens, Greece was a welcome relief from the buzzing metropolis of Rome. When we arrived, we walked about a mile and half to our very cute studio apartment Airbnb. On the way, we got a glimpse of the outskirts of the city. Not totally surprisingly due to the recent financial crisis, it felt a little empty and run down.
When we dropped off our stuff at the apartment, we were very excited to get out into the city and explore! The first place we visited was the Panathenaic Stadium, which held the first modern Olympics! It was an incredible sight – it’s built entirely from marble! We did an audio tour, explored the stadium steps, ducked through the archway where the Olympian athletes ran out onto the field, and perused a gallery where they keep each year’s torch!
Then, we found our way over to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It looked so interesting and grand in photos, but when we were there in person, it was very… empty. There disappointingly weren’t any information panels, so Alaina pulled up some history on a travel app she downloaded which helped make the experience more enjoyable.
A little before the sun set, we took a stroll through The National Gardens. We stumbled upon a Russian festival, and there was a puppet show happening in the park! We had never seen a real handpuppet show, and it was so adorable to see the kids screaming with joy when the puppets chased each other around and hit each other on the head!
On our way out of the National Gardens, we passed by the Parliament building and were treated with seeing the Evzones, or the Presidential Guard, in all their ceremonial uniformed glory. We got touristy photos with them, but they were taken on Alaina’s phone which was later stolen! More about that later in a separate post.
We ended the night with a stroll through Plaka in search of our dinner. It was one of our favorite parts of Athens – the cobbled streets lined with small business owners and string lights hanging overhead. We drank wine and ate lamb at a rooftop restaurant at the base of Acropolis and it was magical.
The next morning, we had to go back to Plaka to visit by day. We had breakfast at the cutest cafe, Γιασεμί: Yiasemi, and had Greek coffee for the first time! After feuling up for the day, we headed over to the big sight – Acropolis.
The worst time to visit Acropolis is midday when the sun is high and hot — and that’s when we had to visit due to time constraints. We missed out on seeing the gorgeous sunset light, but we did have plenty of time to visit each of the sites and read about their history. The view of the city was spectacular, as well – we could see 360 degrees around!
I was very excited to see the The Odeon of Herodes Atticus! The theatre is 1,800 years old and it still holds weekly performances.
After sweating our butts off in the heat, we decided to cool down with some ice cream. This is when Alaina had her phone stolen from right in front of her. After a cold beer to calm our nerves and filing the police report, we decided head up Filopappou Hill, or Hill of the Muses, to watch the sunset and look out over Athens at night.
Our night ended spectacularly with an amazing bottle of wine and dinner at Dionysos Zonar’s, and our table overlooked Acropolis lit up at night.
On our last day in Athens, we had to get gyros! We shopped down Ermou Street to buy Alaina a watch for her phoneless travel, and got our gyros at the Monastiraki Flea Market. Alaina had to leave in the afternoon to catch her plane to Paris. It would be her first time traveling solo, and I teared up a bit leaving her at the subway. She would be alone in Paris without a phone, and I would be leaving to travel solo in Egpyt the next day. Talk about trepidation.
Once Alaina departed, I had time to visit the museums of Athens! Luckily for me, my French student ID or just showing up with my backpack worked almost everywhere in Athens, so I got the student free admission! First, I walked to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, which had all of their ancient relics displayed beautifully. I could have spent hours upon hours there, but I had to get to the Acropolis Museum before it closed!
I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the Acropolis Museum, but the Parthenon Gallery was one of the most memorable parts of Athens. They had an entire room set up to replicate the Parthenon ruins as they were in their full glory. The museum placed the artifacts that belonged to the Parthenon in the approximate places where they believe they belonged. The room was encased in glass walls, and I got to see a panoramic sunset/nighttime view of the city.
The very last event in Athens was a movie at Cine Paris, a rooftop theatre venue. It was an American movie, but with a beer in hand, it was a relaxing way to end my trip in Europe and gear up for Africa.
If you go to Athens and want ideas and cost for a backpacker-mid level budget, here’s what we spent and where we went in two and half days:
Airbnb: Three nights for $27 a night, split by the two of us.
Food & Wine: €40 a day x 2.5 days = $106 (food in Athens is cheap, so you can eat REALLY well on €40 a day.
Public Transit & Taxi: ~€26 ($28)
Panathinaikon Stadium – €5, open until 7pm, audio tour included
Temple of Olympian Zeus – €6? 8am-8pm, seasonal
Hadrian’s Arch – free
National Gardens – free
Viewing the National Guard at Parliament – free
Syntagma Square – free
Plaka shopping district – free
Acropolis – adult €20, student €10, 8am-8pm, seasonal, includes sites such as Parthenon, Erechtheion, Odeon, Theatre of Dionysos
Filopappou Hill (Socrates Prison, etc) – free
Ermou Street – free
Monastiraki Flea Market – free
Acropolis Museum – adult €5, students free
National Archaeological Museum – adult €7, 8am-8pm seasonal (free the day I went)
Cine Paris: €6?
Sites we didn’t have time for:
Ancient Agora – €4 / Agora Museum – free
Keramikos (cemetery) – adult/child incl museum €2/free
Mount Lycabettus – free
Total cost: $205 pp for two and a half days and three nights in Athens.