If you missed the first in my Greece series, you’ll want to check out my first post that details all you need to know about Greece before you take off to this gorgeous country. It honestly is undoubtably one of my favourite places in the whole wide world so if you haven’t considered going before, you’ll want to at the end of this tour through Athens, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos. First up though: Athens! A lot of people will suggest you skip it altogether or blitz through it in a day but personally, if it’s your first time visiting Greece, I would really suggest spending at least two days there. Yes, it’s not as incredibly picturesque as, say, Santorini…but just to take in the history of the place takes a chunk of time, and that in itself is well worth it. So click through to get my tips on what to see, where to go and where to stay!
What to See
I would strongly suggest you doing the Athens Free Walking Tour your first full day in Athens – we had the lovely Maria take us through the whole city. You just shoot them an email and find out the next walk, which usually begins in Monastiraki (you’ll want to stop and get a pair of sandals from the famous Melissinos Sandals, located right nearby in Psiri near Monastiraki Square). You’ll get to see the whole city this way, from the agoras to the Temple of Zeus. My tip is to buy your ticket to the major sites and attractions from the Temple of Zeus (fewer visitors = a non-existent line most days) which gets you into the aforementioned temple, the Acropolis, the agoras and a few more attractions and then visit the Acropolis the next day. The lines here are massive so do yourself a favour and skip the ticket-buying line.
Another tip is to go on your first day to the Acropolis Museum, which is a separate ticket but so worth it. You’ll be able to put in context everything you’ll see at the Acropolis the next day (and you should definitely get your butt up to the Acropolis first thing in the morning to beat both the crowds and the mid-day heat). The museum is so well-done and is beyond stunning (it’s actually won numerous awards, really a must-visit).
Where to Eat
As we were told early into our trip, there is really only one scale of quality in Greek dining: good to great. Also, I have to be completely honest – neither of us remember many of the places where we actually ate (something we quickly realized at the end of our Athens trip and avowed to change for the rest of the trip, so don’t worry, we have tips for all the islands!). We basically just asked locals every day what they would suggest in different neighbourhoods and ate there. A few general rules of thumb: avoid Monastiraki at night (gets a tad sketchy) and dine in the picturesque Plaka region. Drink as many cappuccino freddos and café frappés as possible. Always, always, always drink the house wine – not only will you save your money, but the house wine is always delicious.
Where to Stay
Hotel Grande Bretagne was honestly the most breathtaking, luxurious and all-around incredible way to start our trip. This hotel is an institution in Athens, overlooking Syntagma Square in all its ivory glory. This 5-star is a true 5-star experience, from the unbelievable complimentary continental breakfast we would indulge in while looking across the city at the Acropolis to the luxurious pool on the bottom floor, complete with a whole collection of complimentary spa experiences (breathe in Cretan herbs in one steam room then move on to the Amethyst room with healing crystal properties). We felt so well taken care of and staying at the Hotel Grande Bretagne truly was a key aspect of us falling in love with Athens.
Other things to know: most places in Athens will take credit cards but best to have some cash for the smaller restaurants and cafes you’ll want to dine at. Have your head on a swivel when walking in traffic as roads are super narrow and cars/scooters here are particularly terrifying. Definitely bring a good pair of shoes because seeing the Acropolis is a key part of visiting Athens and it involves quite a bit of uphill trekking.
And with that, I’m off to enjoy a low-key weekend, which will involve planning my next trip (hint: it’s one of my favourite places and I tend to drink a lot of beer when I’m there)! Happy Friday!