Ancient Athens was recognized as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. Current day Athens is still thriving as the capital of Greece, boasting over 3 million inhabitants. While major urban sprawl has enveloped the city, Athens has been able to  preserve many monuments from its mighty past. We have created some highlights of the best of the best for your journey to Athens.

What to See

The Ancient Acropolis is the essential attraction in Athens.  The trail to the Acropolis winds past a few monuments worth spending some time viewing,  like the Theatre of Dionysus and Odeon to Herodes Atticus. While walking the plateau of the Acropolis, many seek out the perfect view or photo of the Parthenon, Propylaea, or Erechtheum. Revel in the history of those landmarks, but take a few moments to soak in the 360 view of Athens and try to imagine what it must have been like to be a resident 2500 years ago. 

Acropolis Museum – The museum goes hand in hand with a visit to the Acropolis. The museum is located at the base of the mountain.  Walking towards the entrance, look down and see excavated ruins which transport you back to the “Time of Pericles”, when Athens was at its peak.  It should be noted this museum is loaded with artifacts from Ancient Greece. We recommend you set aside two hours to view the exhibits at a leisurely pace.

National Archeaolgy Museum – This museum holds many treasured pieces from Ancient Greece. Thousands of exhibits await those wanting to see the best Greek arts and humanity had to offer from the country’s glorious past. There is so much to see and this museum it is hard to absorb so much history, so we recommend a few options for your visit. First, scope out the website and research the artifacts you really want to see and visit them first, then casually stroll through the rest of the collection. Second, view it all, but set aside at least three hours for your museum trip. Lastly, make two trips to the museum, spending an hour and a half there each time.

The Plaka Neighborhood is the oldest in Athens, and is the hub for traditional Greek food, clothing and souvenirs. While there, visit the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library, or Moastiraki Flea Market.

Central Athens Markets – One of the largest fruit, meat, and spice markets in Europe, it is a cornucopia of seemingly endless booths of fish mongers, butchers, produce sellers, bakers, and spice merchants who call this home.

Temple of Zeus – Taking some 638 years to complete, this temple was the largest in Greece. While most of the structure is in ruin, 16 original column still exist, and it is worth visiting to view the temple with the Acropolis in the background. 

Changing of Guard Syntagma Square – This ceremony takes place every hour in the square located in front of Greek Parliament building. The crowds gather 15 minutes prior and there is plenty of space for travelers to view, photograph, and take video of the event. I found myself being mesmorized by the guard’s shoes. Material on each shoe reminds me of the balls locating on stocking hats from the 70’s and ‘80s. 

Where to Stay

Plaka Hotel – Situated in the oldest district of Plaka, this hotel is central to many attractions in the city. From the rooftop bar, take in an unobstructed spectacular view of the Acropolis. The hotel has standard rooms and suites, and we recommend reserving a room with the Acropolis view. Guests often migrate to the rooftop to meet others, have some wine, and take in the Acropolis, complete with a starry moonlit backdrop.

What to Eat

O Thanassis – Right in the heart of the Plaka is the best Greek restaurant in Athens. Locals and tourists flock to this destination to consume succulent Gyros, Souvlaki, Kebabs, Greek Salads, Taziki sauce, and fries. Their Greek pitas are the best you will ever eat. Walking by, the smell of gyro meat on a spit stops you in your tracks. These Greek classics are enjoyed by everyone because this restaurant offers exceptional quality, and an affordable price. That combination is hard to find in the touristy parts of any city. 

Stani 1931– One visit to Stani and you realize that stuff you have been eating labeled “Greek Yogurt”, is not close to the real thing. This fixture in Athens has been in business since 1931. In the 1960’s, Athens had almost 1600 of these dairy bars dotted throughout the city.  Like many of Athen’s ancient monuments, Stani stands alone as the remaining tribute to the once proud tradition of yogurt and milk bars. The best item on their menu is a healthy slab of Greek yogurt, drizzled with honey and topped with walnuts. Stani is what greek yogurt dreams are made of.

Heteroclito – Whether you are in the Plaka for shopping, or to wander  its historic streets,  a great place to people watch and enjoy a glass of wine is Heteroclito. This cosy wine bar is tucked into an excellent corner location, with generous outside seating. The bar offers an extensive list of mostly Greek wines, but pours varieties from all over Europe.

Tzitzikas & Mermigas Superbly crafted meals are packed into the menu of this eatery, but the best dish to try is their Moussaka. You’re welcome!

Athens for Foodies – Food tours are a great way to see and taste the history and culture of a country or city. This particular tour will take your taste buds on a savory journey as you consume traditional Greek dishes.

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