How to explore this Greek paradise whose history dates back thousands of years
In a city with a deep, illustrious, and enduring history such as Athens, figuring out what to do proves to be quite a formidable task. But it is this same deeply embedded history that makes Athens a place where you’ll never have a dull moment. Sure, most travelers know to see staple, must-see landmarks such as the Parthenon, but there are dozens of other awe-inducing spectacles around this beautiful city that are just as important to catch during your time in the Greek capital. We created a 3-day itinerary to make sure you get the absolute most from your stay in Athens.
Before we get started, it’s important to know where to stay so you don’t find yourself too far from what you want to see.
The Acropolis (a UNESCO World Heritage Site,) is the most popular attraction in Greece, and henceforth where to begin your tour. The Parthenon alone is worth the journey up but there are several other temples and ruins for you to embark on and experience their thousands of years’ worth of historical wonder. One of these temples is the Erechtheion; a temple devoted to the mythical king of Athens, Erechtheus. If you’d like more background information regarding the Acropolis and the sights therein, it’s worth your time to venture over to the beautifully designed Acropolis Museum before visiting the Acropolis itself. Located about a 15 minute walk from the museum is the Ancient Agora. This archaeological site is a retrospective view into where Ancient Greek society gathered for assemblies, markets, or just a general meeting place.
After your day taking in the Acropolis, the museum, and the Ancient Agora, make your way down to Plaka, a wonderfully vibrant and eye-catching neighborhood full of shops and restaurants for you to try out some authentic Greek cuisine. Plaka is closed to cars, making it a delightful stroll to take in one of Athens’ most popular areas.
Your second day in Athens should be a day trip to gorgeous Hydra Island. With islands such as Mykonos and Santorini seemingly stealing all the spotlight, the benefit of Hydra Island is that it’s only a two hour ferry ride from Piraeus, a city a little over 7 miles (12 kilometers) from the Athens city center. Once you arrive in Hydra, you’ll be more than happy you decided to make the trip. Travelers can bask in the sun as you stroll through ancient winding streets that play host to several cafes and restaurants. For a quiet experience alongside one of Hydra’s most beautiful beaches, take a water taxi to Vlychos Beach. Here you can find quaint taverns and restaurants to enjoy a drink, local food, or to merely take in the beautiful pebbled beach below. For a more lively experience, visit Kaminia Beach, which has several restaurants and cafes that serve lunch or drinks—all in a beautiful setting. Several museums are also in Hydra like the Historical Archives Museum, which is a fantastic place to learn about the more recent history of the island (relatively recent, as in 1708-1865, it is Greece we’re talking about.)
Back within the city limits, on day 3 there is still so much more to see and do. Starting in Syntagma Square, the Changing of the Guard is a fascinating microcosm of modern Greek tradition and history. The first changing is at 8 AM but if you’re late there is one at the top of every hour.
Now that you’re in the square, you’ll be in front of the gorgeous Greek Parliament building. If you’re in Athens during the months of June, July, or September, you can take a free tour of what was King Otto’s former residence.
Next to the square are the National Gardens which provide a nice stroll through centuries-old trees and greenery. This path will lead you to a massive structure that is the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The stadium was initially constructed a little bit earlier… in 4th century B.C., but has obviously been restored during more modern times.
From the stadium you can take a 10-minute taxi ride to the National Museum of Archaeology. Given the country’s expansive, and at some times unfathomable scope of history, it makes sense that this is the largest museum in Greece. It’s that same scope of history that also makes this one of the most fascinating museums in the entire world, featuring artifacts dating all the way back to 6000 B.C. And given its size you could obviously spend as much time as you conceivably want to traverse its halls and take in the magical history of Greece.
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