25 Jul Exploring the streets of Athens
by Antonella Massimi from Belgium
You know that feeling you have when you can’t shake a place from your head? Like you’ve heard so much about it and you start looking at pictures/tips of travelers and just think to yourself “you know what? I’M GOING”. This is precisely how my friend and I decided to head to Athens and wander its beautiful little streets while enjoying the very hot July weather last summer. To be fair, Greece is always quite hot during the whole year but especially during summer time – so stay hydrated kids! You might need it while visiting the Acropolis under a boiling sun, 35 degrees and literally no place to hide.
So there we were mid-July, flying from Brussels to the beautiful capital of Greece, Athens.
View from the plane by Antonella Massimi
Quite the view isn’t it? We had booked our tickets through Ryanair for the inbound flight and AeganAirlines (we were coming back from Santorini) for the outbound. We were very lucky regarding the prices considering we had booked it the previous month. Both companies took good care of us and the 3 hours flight from Brussels was very pleasant.
Arriving in Athens
You might find different ways to go from the Airport to the city center which is located about 45 km away from the airport but we found the metro very handy. When arriving at the airport, follow the indications to go to the station. It’s a short 5 minutes-walk really, you will then arrive on the main hall of the airport station. I would personally suggest for you to ask directly at the ticket desk for your ticket which will cost you 10 euros. The “M3” will bring you directly to the heart of Athens, which is where our hostel was located. It should be noted that this train runs every 30 minutes and takes about an hour to reach the main metro station –Monastiraki. We therefore had a fairly long trip composed of 16 interminable stops when you are this excited to discover a new city.
Now let me tell you something dear travelers, when stepping out of the Monastiraki station, you will just not believe your eyes. You will arrive at the main square, in the very heart of Athens, the beautiful ‘PlatiaMonastirakiou’.
Platia Monastiraki by Antonella Massimi
I mean, can you actually believe this view? I can’t. This square is simply full of life, utterly vibrant night and day. We had the chance to witness its beauty every day of our stay (3 days) as our hostel – City Circus Athens , was located only 500 meters away in the popular Sarri Street.
The City Circus Hostel is said to be an alternative travelers space for the restless voyager and is actually rated number 1 hostel in Athens – which to be fair is a well-deserved title. The hostel offers private rooms as well as beds in dorms and a restaurant is located adjacent to the hostel. It is also surrounded by little streets full of cafes and restaurants mostly frequented by the locals. Although I have to say that SarriStreet- where you will find this hostel is actually very quiet and there weren’t any sound nuisance during our stay.
What to see
You can pretty much see the whole center in 3 days but here are the must see, like you absolutely HAVE to see those:
- The Acropolis
- Ermou street (shopping street)
- Syntagma Square (my absolute favorite)
- Hellenic Parliament
- The national gardens
- The Plaka Stairs (I lied, this is my favorite place)
- A for Athens’ rooftop by night
But the best I can recommend is to let yourself get lost in the surroundings. That’s what we did and we enjoyed it so much.
If you only have a few days like we did, I would suggest the following itinerary:
As we arrived during midday, we thought we would take it chill and wander around Ermoustreet to discover the main shopping area. We have also discovered in this very street a nice little coffee place called Meliartos, where you can taste an authentic Greek coffee and enjoy local pastries served by their super kind staff. After that, we walked up to the Syntagma Square and it actually turned out to be one of my favorite place. Just sit on the stairs and take it all in. Enjoy the view, observe and relax. This is the best feeling.
Syntagma Square by Antonella Massimi
After that we went to the Hellenic Parliament located at the top of those stairs, where you can actually find the Presidential Guard called “Evzones”. They guard the grave of the Unknown Soldier that represents the common memory of all unknown soldiers killed at war. You might want to know that the changing of the Greek guards occurs every day at the top of the hour. You can take pictures with them as long as it is not selfies which are prohibited (trust me, I be knowing).
We ended up our day watching the sunset and walking around the National Gardens. We also love finding cool dining places just walking around the city and let us guided by our stomachs. I have to say that the prices are extremely reasonable compared to other European Capitals. I have to insist on the fact that we have tasted the best food in Greece; it’s fresh, it’s healthy and good value for your money, always.
Rise and shine is precisely what we did. We were super excited to discover the Acropolis so we woke up early and walked all the way to the archeological site. It’s a 20 to 30 minutes-walk where you can appreciate the landscape and see local merchants selling handmade jewelry or various items representing their beautiful city. When arriving at the top of the site, you will find a massive queue to buy the tickets to access to the Acropolis as you can’t buy them online. The price is €20 per adults, children under 18 (with proof of ID) and students pay €10 for their tickets. Entry to the Acropolis not only gives you access to the Citadel (where you can see the Parthenon and the Erechtheion) but also the North and South slopes, where you will find the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus – amongst other features.
The Acropolis is a must see really, just make sure to go early in the morning to avoid massive crowds and simply take your time to witness the beauty that our ancestors have brought to this world.
Our day went by really fast and we decided to let ourselves guided by our feet. There are so many archeological places to see in the city and so much beauty everywhere. After Acropolis, we ended up going down to wander the streets of the Plaka neighborhood. I guess that’s where I fell in love you guys. It is simply charming, the people are greeting you all smiles, you will see flowers and street art and shops and cute little restaurants. Walking up the Plaka Stairs (mostly frequented by the locals) you will find all types of cafes and restaurants. Our favorite had to be PalioTetradio – located at the very top of the stairs of Plaka, at Mnisikleous Street.They don’t speak much English to be fair but they were extremely friendly and it didn’t stop them from trying to make conversation, the food was also cheap although delicious, the surrounding was beautiful with stairy lights and flowers, and even cats to keep you company!
After this long day of visits and eating our feelings we went for a night out the rooftop bar of the hotel “A for Athens”, which had been recommended by my Greek colleague. Try to go there early and enjoy a drink at the outside terrace, the view of Athens by night is simply astonishing.
You might as well enjoy the city and walk its streets or … try to be adventurous and go to the nearest beach! Yea, yes you read correctly.To do so: catch the tram 5 from Syntagma Square. Let me alert you that the whole ride is pretty slow. It takes up to two hours on working days to go until the end of the line, BUT the whole thig is the travelling – it takes you by the most beautiful seaside spots. The tram stops in lots of places where you can swim like at Marina Floisvouor also in one of the big suburbs of Athens which it is called Glyfada. You might just want take the tram until the very end and reach Voula – another suburb where there is a nice beach there as well. Endless possibilities if you ask me.
That’s it for me kids! I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips and recommendations of this beauty that is Athens. If you’re looking for your next summer holidays location and like me enjoy the best of both worlds aka the city, the culture and even the beach, don’t look any further my friend and book that airplane ticket to Athens.