The magical city worshipped by gods and people
Key parts of the ancient city can be covered within 4 days, but a couple more days wouldn’t hurt.
There are 2 affordable ways to travel into the heart of the city (Syntagma), via the metro or the airport bus. The journey time is similar.
I arrived on a Sunday evening and the stores were closed. Don't worry, you can usually find a couple of students selling mobile data cards by the steps at Syntagma metro exit. My mobile carrier was Vodafone. Make sure you ask for unlimited data and check before you leave (if you can!). I had to top up an additional €6 because I ran out of data towards the end of my journey.
1) Cinque Wine Bar and Deli
Highly recommended! Make reservations - It is a small, intimate place. A couple who have extensive knowledge of their Greek wines runs the shop. Extremely hospitable service. I had a mini 'wine' education from the lady and over-ordered for one.
Flight of white wines: €12
Eggplant Appetiser: €4
Mini Cheese Platter: €8
Cinque Wine Deli Bar
Athens 15 Agatharchou, 10554 Athens
Tel: +30 2155017854
2) Tylixto Gyros
100% will recommend this greek wrap place. It is right in the middle of Aiolou, the walking food street. There's almost always a queue. The only downside is the lack of seating space, but good gyros are hard to come by.
Aiolou 19, Athens 105 51 Greece
(Nearest Station: Monastiraki Metro)
If you like salads and greek salads, this is the place to go. A fellow traveller brought me here and we had this greek salad with a whole slab of feta cheese on it, some bar food and hookah as well.
Miaouli 22, Athina 105 54 Greece
Other F&B recommendations (I did not try them but it was recommended by my guide)
Oinoscent Wine Bar
45-47, Voulis Street | Syntagma Plaka, Athens 10558, Greece
+30 21 0322 9374
To Paradosiako (Evgenia) - Traditional greek restaurant
44A Voulis Plaka, Athens Greece
+30 21 0321 4121
1) Do a city walking tour
The trick to cover important parts of the city in 2 - 3 hours. Martin, my extremely knowledgable guide from Canada (also a a full-time chef) took us around the Ancient Agora sites and shared with us the history of Athens, down to the details of the Greek Gods. You can give a tip if you want to at the end of the tour but no obligations.
Sign up at Athens Free Walking Tour
2) The Acropolis and the Ancient Sites
Buy the multi-site pass for €30 to get entry to the Acropolis (Parthenon, Erechthion, North and South Slopes, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theatre of Dionysus) plus other archaeological sites - Temple of Zeus, Hadrian's Library, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Keramikos Cemetery and Lyceum of Aristotle.
If you only want to see the Acropolis, the ticket is €20 during the summer and €10 during the winter. Other sites will cost around an average of €4 - €8 so if you do the math the multi-site pass is more worth it, unless... (see my next point)
During the winter season (1st November - 31 March), all tickets are reduced by 50%. There is no discount for the multi-site pass. During this time, buy the individual tickets at each ancient site and you save €5.
If your trip to Athens coincides with the designated open days, all visitors will have free access to all archaeological sites, monuments and museums: 6 March, 18 April, 18 May, last weekend of September, 28 October, first Sunday of each month from 1st November to 31st March. Just go VERY early if you want to take advantage of this.
Moving on to the ticketing part - there are two ways to purchase tickets now, online (in advance) or at the ticket office. This only allows you to skip the queue at the ticket office, but you still have to queue to enter the sites; so if you hate lines, purchase the skip-the-line ticket or take a guided tour. Offical online ticketing site *Make sure you select the correct date when buying your tickets online. Triple-check it as there are no refunds.
Go to the Acropolis early. I woke up at 6 am that morning, watched the sunrise on Philoppapos Hill (Thanks to Martin for recommending a great sunrise spot), and then waltzed right in at 8 am. I saw soldiers doing their morning march down the Parthenon. It's worth it to be able to soak in the sights without people all over.
3) Mount Lycabettus
One of the best sunsets in Athens recommended to me by a hostel mate.
Take the metro to Evangelismos, follow the signs to Ploutarhou Street. It’s a slightly steep walk with steps to the Teleferik (or Funicular). There are 2 options once you reach here, either continue the hike up to the top of the hill(apparently it takes less than an hour) or pay to take the tram.
Tram: €7.50 (Return trip); €5 for one way
4) Other tips
The walking tour covered a lot of places that I wouldn't have ventured on my own. I explored Plaka and the local markets as well. On Sunday morning, you can go to Syntagma Square at 11 am and watch the official changing of the guards. or opt for a day trip to Temple of Poseidon, Sounion or the beach areas (take the tram from Syntagma) - read here for more
Polykleitou 11, Athina 105 51, Greece
+30 21 5555 9334
Central location, clean, convenient and 300m from Monastiraki Square. A great starting point if your main objective is to get to Acropolis early. Female and Male Dorms are on separate levels.
In the next article: A day trip to Kalambaka (Central Greece) to visit the Meteora Monasteries, the real-life inspiration for the Eyrie Kingdom in Game of Thrones.
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