Return flights: £87.47 (Easyjet)
Accommodation: £37 Fivos Hotel (Booking.com)
Summary and Highlights:
- Try going to places in the low season, it’s a lot quieter and sites can be cheaper
- Research transfer options before you arrive at the airport
- Check if there are combo tickets or price discounts at sites and attractions
- Acropolis of Athens
- Temple of the Olympian Zeus
- Ancient Agora
- Panathenaic Stadium
- Acropolis Museum
- Monastiraki Square
- Syntagma Square and changing of the guard
I’ve been trying to get to Athens for a couple of years now and it’s proved difficult to get cheap flights direct so I jumped at the chance when I found return with Easyjet for under £100. It’s a 4-hour flight so I considered that a good bargain, even if I did break the £100 holiday rule. My original accommodation also messaged me about a week before I was going to say they had a burst water pipe and would be closed for several weeks. Where they had transferred me to was probably in a better location and I got my own bathroom too.
For saying that Athens is home to 7 million people (about half of the population of Greece), all of the main sites are in close proximity to each other and can be done in a day or two. I was pretty drained when I arrived after travelling a lot of the day and the airport is a bit of a way out of the city. The options to the city are mainly the metro or the bus, which I tried both and would definitely recommend the metro. It’s slightly more expensive but the journey is a lot more pleasant as Greeks drive all over the shop. Discounts are available for students and concessions so I managed to get half-price travel on both the bus and metro.
The area I stayed in was minutes from Monastiraki Square, which is the main meeting place in Athens filled with vendors, shops and a flea market. After a quick nap, I headed out to do a free evening tour as I’d read that Athens at night is as much a must see as during the day. It was a good way to get my bearings too, rather than just heading out in the morning with no sense of orientation.
Naturally, the highlight of every Athens trip is the Acropolis. I was up at the crack of dawn the next day to get up there for opening at 8am. I would advise going early to avoid crowds and also get good pictures. During the winter season, the entrance price is reduced to €10 (usually €20) and there are several groups of people eligible for reduced or free entry. Students from EU countries and children under 18 get FREE entry (good job I went before 29th March). Additionally, students from non-EU countries or citizens over 65 from EU countries get half price entry. There is also the option for a combo ticket for €30 which gives entry to the Acropolis and several other archaeological sites
My recommendations for sites to visit alongside the Acropolis would be the Acropolis museum, which is right next door to the Acropolis and features several archaeological artefacts from the original site. The Temple of the Olympian Zeus and the Ancient Agora are primarily ruins, however, gives you the great feel of how ancient Athens would’ve been. Of course, a walking tour is also a must do which although doesn’t access these sites, gives a good overview of them with the history of Athens and Greece. Plus the guides know great spots for food (I only had one Gyro whilst there but wish I’d had more).
My final morning I headed out early again to the Panathenaic Stadium – the home of the modern Olympics. Although it is a reconstruction, it is still the only stadium in the world to be made entirely of marble. Plus there is a small museum which has every Olympic torch since 1896, posters for the games plus some cool artefacts like the parabolic mirror used by the High Priestess to light the flame in Olympia and one of the petals from the flame at the 2012 London Olympics.
A final must-see is the changing of the guard at Syntagma square – home of the Greek parliament. These once royal guards, now presidential guards stand guard in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier and change on the hour, every hour. It’s hard to describe really what happens, as you need to see it for yourself (it’s on Youtube too). Sunday’s at 11 are meant to be quite the spectacle, which I had to miss as I needed to get to the airport for my flight.
I’m still working on learning all of the Greek gods’ names but hopefully, I’ll know them all by the next time I go to Greece.