Athens in a Day
Twenty-four hours in a new city is overwhelming as is, but when you've traveled 10 hours to spend such little time before heading right back, you wanna make the most of it.
Now, I'm no expert. I've been to Athens a grand total of two times. The first time was a surprise...I got it on my line while being on call. It was my first month out of training and all the senior mamas on that flight told me to be grateful, because I was never going to see this trip again. First off- rude. Secondly, GUESS WHO WAS WRONG?
Below is a general outline on how to spend your precious day in Athena. (I like saying Athena in my head because that's how it's pronounced in Greek and also Athena is this badass warrior Goddess who was born from Zeus's head when he had a headache and she popped out fully grown in armor and that image makes me extremely happy.) Enjoy my lovelies!
First thing's first: Getting Around
If you're staying downtown, the best thing to do is walk to Syntagma Square. It is the central square of Athens. Here, you'll find a plethora of tour buses, taxis, and a train station. It's called options, henny. Now, the first time I went to Athena, a junior non-reving flight attendant and his mom graciously invited me to come hang out with them. They planned on taking one of those hop-on hop-off buses. Normally I would NEV-ER. But that day I was doing whatever they were doing and just happy that I wasn't alone. The good thing about the buses is that you can make your own tour and not worry about transportation. We hit the Acropolis, Panathenaic Stadium (highly recommend, the first Olympic Games were held here and it's made entirely from marble!), and Temple of Olympian Zeus. I'm sure we could have seen more, but I was just rolling with the punches that day.
As far as the other modes of transportation goes, I personally haven't used the Metro in Athens, but it's there!! The train is always a reliable and cost-effective way of getting around. I've only used a taxi to go to or from my hotel and the square. And my second layover I just walked everywhere.
Honestly, it doesn't matter if you take the bus, the train, a taxi, drive yourself, walk, or take a boat- JUST GET OUT!!! Don't sleep. See and eat as much as possible. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the worlddddd. So much history, so many views. You're lucky to be there, take advantage of it!
If you only choose one site to see, let it be this. You cannot come to Athens without visiting the Acropolis. You just can't. It's the crown jewel of the city, and perhaps the most important architectural structure in all of Greece. It holds the tangible remnants of the first democracy ever. On the Acropolis complex you will find the famous Parthenon, loads of temples, and a museum that will explain just exactly what it is you're looking at. Oh and, gorgeous views like the one above.
When you're done at the Acropolis, saunter down and explore Plaka, Athens' oldest neighorhood. It's saaaaahhhh cute and very picturesque. The windy streets are lined with local vendors selling crafts and jewelry and the narrow alleys are filled with shops. Fuschia-colored flowers hang in bunches overhead the adorable little restaurants and bars. It's a tourist area that doesn't feel like one, maybe because it's so beautiful.
Please eat here. The food is so, so good. I'm convinced Greeks can't do anything wrong. The only restaurant I can vouch for is Dia Tafta. Check out my "ATH" story up on my Instagram highlights reel for more mouth-watering pics. At dinner they had a man playing Greek melodies on his guitar while another sang. Very vibey. What I loved most is that the restaurant has it's own gift shop attached, where you can actually buy the oils and spices used in the dishes served there.
They also carry lotions, soaps and other sweet-smelling products as well as Greek liquor. "Ouzu", a strong, licorice-like drink is the most famous, but oh mah gawd, please try Tentura. It tastes like cinnamon and honey. Someone at the shop will let you taste-test all the liquor they sell, so take them up on that offer, because they have a good selection! A Greek speaker native to Athens took me here, and that's all the validation I need.
And please shop in Plaka. What are you doing in Zara? Get out of there. This is not the time nor place. In Plaka, you'll find loads of leather goods, sandals, sculptures, jewelry, rugs, etc. It's fun, even if you're just window shopping.
After dinner in Plaka I suggest walking back to Syntagma Square. Right across from it is the Hellenic Parliament, which looks beautiful as the sun sets. In front there are two guards that don't move, speak, or make eye contact, much like the Queen's Guard in England. They guard The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, which is a memorial dedicated to every live lost in any battle or war. Everyday at the top of every hour they do a changing of the guards. The best time to catch this is on Sunday at 11:00- I hear they go all out.
For a nightcap, head to any of Athena's beautiful hotel rooftops for an amazing view of the Acropolis at night. Something about overlooking the city while I'm in Europe, drinking, and eating those free snacks that come with your drink, makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus it's a great way to get sleepy. Not sleeping when you land, walking all day, and drinking is a sure fire way to make sure you get some proper shut-eye despite the time difference. Might as well take in one last pretty view.
I hope Athens is as magical to you as it is to me! And btw, one last tip: get some Moussaka and fresh squeezed juice at the airport! Easily the best airport food I've ever had :)