Things to do in 3 days in Athens, Greece

Sunday, April 1, 2018

If you think about a place where the Western civilization started, Greece, but most of all Athens, is the place that played a major role in building those values that then the Roman Empire, clearly influenced by the Greek civilization, then spread across the entire Europe some centuries later.

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Here you can find my 3-day itinerary of this beautiful and ancient city. Enjoy it!
Just to understand the importance of the city for the Western civilization but also for the entire world, Athens is known to be the birthplace of the democracy, a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, with the centre of Plato's academy and Aristotle's lyceum. It was a powerful city-state in the past and now it is the centre of the economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece.

This is a sample of itinerary that will lead you through the ancient Athens and also part of the modern Athens.

Day 1
Taking into consideration that this is probably your day of arrival and that it takes mininum half an hour to reach the city centre by taxi, the time during the first day could be quite limited. In our case, the hotel was not that far from Syntagma square and the Cathedral, so we started from the Cathedral

1) Mitropolis - Athens Cathedral 
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The interior of the cathedral (Mitropolis) reminds someway the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna with its Byzantine revival style. The church was built in 1842 and the marble of 72 demolished churches was used to build the cathedral. 

and the little Mitropolis Church (Agios Eleftherios)
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This little and precious church of course matches the philosophy of this blog: a small and nice jewel among the higher buildings. It is another Byzantine style church, built around the 15th Century. 

2) Acropolis Museum  
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The Acropolis Museum is an archaelogical museum that shows mostly the findings of the archaelogical site of the Acropolis of Athens. The museum was founded in 2003 and opened to the public in 2009. It takes around 2h to visit and the ticket costs approx. 5 Euros. 

Particularly interesting features are for sure the statues from the Parthenon, the statue of Athena and most of all the Caryatides (that you can see in the pic above), female figures used to sustain a temple or other buildings.

Do not miss also the incredible sight of the Acropolis!

Day 2: 

3) Roman Agora
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The original agora was modified and changed by a series of Roman building, starting with a large concert hall called Odeon of Agrippa, built around 15 BC. The Roman Agora shows intersting buildings like the Tower of Winds, the temple of the Emperor Adriano and the ruins of the ancient forum.

Keep an eye on the opening times: from 10am to 3pm! The ticket costs 6 Euros (reduced 3 Euros).

4) Ancient Agora:
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The Ancient Agora is the best-known example of ancient Greek agora and was a large square where social and religious activities, commerce, outdoor theatrical performances and athletic contests were held. In other words, it was the heart of the ancient city.

It is really an interesting place displaying the ruins of the old commercial area, the Stoa of Attalos (on this pic, where now there is a museum, and the Temple of Hephaestus (Hephestion), that you can see on the first pic of this post.

The visit lasted a couple of hours and the ticket costs around 8 Euros (4 reduced).

5) Monastiraki
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The district of Monastiraki is an interesting district with many interesting shops ( in particular there is an area where to buy souvenirs), restaurants, fancy places where to eat street food and other Greek specialties.

6) National Garden and Zappeio
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The National Garden and the Zappeio display the Hadrian's Arch, the Temple of Olympian Zeus (as you see in the pic above), the Zappeio and also the Parliament.

7) Panathenaic Stadium "Kallimarmaro"
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Here you are in front of an historical stadium: the Panathenaic Stadium, literally Stadium of all the Athenians or Kallimarmaro, "beautiful marble", the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. This stadium was first built by Lykourgos in 330 BC for the Panathenaic Games and then modified by Herodes Atticus during the Roman occupation.

It hosted the opening and closing of the first Olympic games in 1896 and then used again as Olympic venue in 2004. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame is given to the host nation. The cost to visit the stadium is 5 Euros.

8) Syntagma Square and the Parliament
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At the north-western limit of the National Garden, you can find the heart of Athens, that is Syntagma square, the heart of modern Athens from both an historical and social point of view and from a commercial and political factor.

9) Omonia

Any person in Athens won't recommend you to walk in this district. Located at the northern side of Syntagma, it has the reputation to be not so safe and plenty of drug takers. However, despite its clear state of decay, it has some parts where there are nice restaurants and also nightlife. If you take some safety precautions, this district is going to be a nice discovery.

Day 3
10) Acropolis of Athens
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This site does not need any presentation: it is an ancient citadel located upon a rocky hill and it is the most famous monumental area in Greece and hosts the symbol of Greece in the world: the world famous temple called Parthenon. The first fortification was built in 13 Century BC but it was Perikles to give it the most important monuments that we can see now.

Other important landmarks are: the theatre of Dionisius, the Herodeon, the monumental gate Erechtheion, the Propylaea,  and the sanctuary of Zeus Polieus. It was inserted into the list of Unesco World Heritage sites since "is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times".

I will write a specific post about this monumental complex. The price is 20 Euros per person and it takes approximately 2-3 hours to visit it. Due to its importance, there will be many visitors so get ready to be in queue.

10) Mount Lycabettus

The Mount Lycabettus is a Cretaceous limestone hill in Athens and the highest point where to enjoy the landscape of the entire city. You can have a 360 degrees view over the city and it has on his top the Agii Isidori, a little white Orthodox church.

You can climb it (it takes 15-20 minutes to reach the top) or pay 7,5 Euros per person and take the Lycabettus Funicular. I recommend to take it if you had walked a lot, but really it does not take a lot to climb it.

11) Plaka
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A pitoresque district with typical houses and roofs, Plaka is the old historical neighborhood in Athens and has narrow streets and neoclassical architecture. It has a nice atmosphere with nice shops and restaurants. Really recommended a walk over there.

Travel tips:

  • How to get to the city centre from/to the airport: 
    • Metro Line 3: it takes approximately 40 min to reach the station Syntagma
    • Bus: the line X95 connects the airport to the station Syntagma (around 60 minutes) for 6 Euros
    • Taxi: the fastest and most expensive way - it takes 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic and the fixed rate is 38 Euros. However, during the night there is an extra fee.
  • Best time to visit Athens: from March to May/June and from September to November due to the nice temperatures. During the summer it is really hot so you could not enjoy to visit the monuments like the Acropolis without protection from the sun.
  • How many days do i need to visit Athens?: The ideal length of stay is for sure 3 days
  • Where to stay: I would definitely recommend the districts of Plaka and Monastiraki - you can reach  any monument and places to visit on foot.
  • Off the beaten path Athens and unusual places to see and do: the pitoresque district of Anafiotika, where you feel like in an island with lazy cats around and charming atmosphere; from the Mets district you can access to the park behind the Panathenaic stadium and get in...for free and have a nice and alternative view over the old stadium.
  • Surroundings: for sure the port of Piraeus is the ideal location for your trips to the islands. If you want to visit really close landmarks close to Athens you can go to the Unesco World Heritage Site Monastery of Dafn√¨ (at only 10 km from the city), the Kaisariane Monastery with the serene Forest Park at 8 km, the archaeological site of Eleusi with its Eleusinian mysteries at 21 km, and the Mount Parnis at 12km. If you want to visit the famous place of the battle, you can visit of course Marathon and its lake.
  • Safety: beware of the Athens street or scam bar! Watch out because there are men around that even if you think you are smart or clever can friendly and politely ask you where are you from and try to help you. Then they ask you if you want to follow them into the bar where they work and find sort of night club where women approach you and ask for drinks. The bill will be really expensive and you will have to pay immediately or you could get surrounded by people who threaten you. Please read some reports here.
  • Despite that, Greek people are really friendly and in the restaurants you can get desserts or licoors for free. In my travel I have never seen such restaurant owners that give you for free more than one shot of ouzo or self-produced licoor.
  • They love to eat and stay outside and in the restaurant they can smoke. Regarding the cuisine, Greek food is delicious and is based mainly on meat. If you are vegan or vegeterian, I am sorry to say...this is not the ideal place for you. :-)
Where to eat and go out:
  • Street food: recommended the Falafellas, where to eat fantastic falafels in the Monastiraki district. The place has always lines since the falafel are delicious.
  • Mediterranean/ Greek cuisine: Restaurant Atitamos in the district Omonia. We spent in three people 48 Euros in total and I would recommend the Feta Atitamos and delicious meet.
  • Greek cuisine: restaurant Maiandros in Monastiraki. A bit more touristic and with prices on average higher than the restaurants we tried. Normally we spent around 50 Euros in 3: here the bill was 71, but I have to recommend the delicious moussaka. The area is more crowdy and there was a band singing traditional Greek music,
  • Wanna go to the oldest distillery in Athens? Well you cannot miss the Brettos Bar in Plaka.
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    You can try all the spirits you want (me the Ouzo Gold 42%) and smoke cigars.
  • Another beautiful bar that was close to the hotel with small tables and nice chairs is for sure the Heterocliton Wine Bar, not far from Syntagma square.

Where to sleep in Athens: the best areas are for sure Plaka, Monastiraki and Syntagma.
  • Budget accomodation: If you prefer the old good hostel and the dormitory, BedBox Hostel is one of the best in town. Located at just 300 meters from Monastiraki Square. Breakfast not included and prices from 18 Euros per person per night.
  • If you opt for a small hotel - Tempi Hotel is located in a quiet and pedestrian area close to Monastiraki. Some rooms have the view of the Acropolis and the flea market. It is particularly indicated for couples: prices from 53 Euros per double room per night.
  • Mid-range budget: the place where we stayed - Athens La Strada, offers single or triple rooms. It is located close to Syntagma and Monastiraki (300 m and 200m) in the heart of Athens with top breakfast and view of the Acropolis. Prices from 170 Euros per double/triple room per night.
  • Luxury accomodation: the Hotel Grande Bretagne, close to Syntagma and the Parliament, with some balconies with views to the Acropolis, is for sure a top luxurious hotel you should choose. Big restaurant, great spa, indoor and outdoor swimmingpool, you can choose rooms without breakfast from 453 Euros per double room per night and 530 Euros with breakfast included per night.
  • If you prefer the apartment, for the same price another great choice is Aldis Plaka Mansion by K&K, 1 minute walk from Anafiotika and 200 m from the Acropolis.
Have fun and enjoy this beautiful and ancient city!

5 commenti:

Madeline said...

Great tips! I hope I will travel Greece one day.

Marco Zannin said...

Thanks a lot Madeline! I recommend you to spend a long weekend in Athens

Jossus Travelpics said...

I spend 3 days in Athens last year. There´s so much to see, my favourites were the Anafiotika neighbourhood and National Archaeological Museum.
Omonia wasn´t that bad. I stayed there and I felt safe even as a solo female traveller.

Marco Zannin said...

Definitely...the more you explore the more you discover. Unfortunately i could not get to the museum but i will when i comr back. Thanks for your experience as solo traveller

Katherine Mills said...

Being in Athens is exciting and it is great to view historical places in the city and enjoy them.
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