Athens, a guide of the best highlights and top sites to see.
A city often overlooked and thought of as a stop over to get to the islands. On the contrary, Athens is a cosmopolitan destination worthy of as many days as you can spare. I recently spent 7 days in Athens and would have gladly taken more. You will keep yourself busy with world class museums, shopping, ancient ruins to explore, roof top bars with that famous Acropolis view, beautiful city streets, clean beaches with sparkling waters, and nightlife that will keep your blood pumping all night long.
Here are my top finds:
Best View of the Acropolis
Yes, at the Acropolis, and yes, you must go. Unless you see it for yourself, it’s hard to imagine the scale, shear size, color and light of this 5th century BC citadel. All the photo op spots will keep you busy finding the right viewpoint, waiting for light to be just… right. Also, the walk up to the Acropolis is filled with archeological finds, lookouts, trees, and informational signs detailing much of the history. A few tips: go early (best light/ lighter crowds), consider booking a guide, buy the “combo” ticket (online is best) so you can also see Ancient Agora (keep reading), and arrive to the western gate at the Propylaea. This western entrance is bound to make an impression on you as you enter the gate and climb the intimidating stairs. You will feel the presence of the gods, obedient and humbled as intended, I am sure.
Athens Gate Hotel
Book a table for dinner on the roof top with the eastern Acropolis View. The food is great & the view is one of the very best. Come sunset the glow of these ancient ruins could be that moment to remember always. The summers breeze pairs well with white Greek wine, another must try in Greece, as well as the memorable baked cheese and mandarin appetizer.
Hotel Grande Bretangne
A fabulous roof top bar with high-end cocktails where the stage in literally set for you to take that instagramable moment. The bar staff was even nice enough to help us out when we struggled with our selfie. This is also likely Athens best hotel if your into 5 star hotels.
The Museum Of The Acropolis
The cafe at the top serves great frappe and lunch, seating is in or outdoor both have a panoramic view to the Acropolis. Plus, this is a must see museum in Athens if you are remotely interested in these ancient ruins. A budget friendly pick, tickets to this museum are a bargain at around $5.
What to Buy
The street vendors and shops along the neighborhoods Monastiraki and Plaka sell great gifts to come home with, I like the string evil eye bracelets, Korres lotion & body products, honey from Crete, decorative purses, and if space permits, wine. My favorite Athens high end jeweler is Ilias Lalaounis, a museum of her life’s work is also in central Athens if buying a piece is out of the question. http://www.iliaslalaounis.eu/portfolio/
Best Beach Spot
Yes, in Athens there are beautiful, clear, unpolluted water to swim in. We choose the famed beach club, Astir Beach. It is part of the Astir Palace Hotel and was the summer play ground for Sinatra, Jackie O’ and more. For around $45 you will get a beach chair, umbrella, shower facility (with hair dryers) and access to their restaurants and bars. Is is worth the price? Yes, we made a whole day of it, we showered there and went out in the party town of Glifada after. The cove on the other side is free, and just as beautiful if you don’t need the shower facility.
Ancient Agora of Athens
The Ancient Agora ruins and the beautiful foliaged walking grounds have many paths to explore (look for the bench on the hill top) and a museum of ancient artifacts. This beautiful site can easily take much of the day and can be bought as part of a combo tickets to the Acropolis which is valid for several days.
The Benaki Museum
A former family mansion of the Benaki Family houses art and artifacts of Greek history. A beautiful collection of paintings, costumes, jewelry and pottery. The cafe on the top floor has beautiful view of the National Gardens and serves excellent cappuccino & frappe. https://www.benaki.gr/index.asp?lang=en
A neighborhood on the outskirts of Athens and is a great place to cafe away the day and is nighttime hotspot. Beaches near by are also great for swimming, try Casablanca Bay or my favorite beach, mentioned above.
Dinner in Plaka
Numerous tavernas serve delicious traditional Greek cuisine. Try: Horta, souvlaki, moussaka, fresh fish and the cedar/pine like aperitif Mastika, although Raki will surely find you first. The fresh fruit is somehow more delicious here and makes a perfect desert. Greece is family, Greece is food.
Changing of the Guard
Each Sunday at 11am this full ceremony draws huge crowds to see the changing of the guard in front of The Monument of The Unknown Solider. Arrive early. Alternatively, the guards do change out every day at noon and can be seen marching back and forth displaying their fancy foot work, stomps and all. Their military uniform are impressive especially high summer in 92 degrees of sweltering heat. Keeping yourself hydrated is key and easy to do with the best tap water in all of Europe, seriously. Athens is amazing. #amazingathens