I've had the luck to spent two and a half weeks living in Athens for an internship at a preschool. It was amazing! This was definitely the highlight of my 4 years of studying. I was a little frightful that the good reputation that Greece has got with me would be spoiled by visiting such a big city instead of those relaxed islands. But I was wrong, Athens is great! There isn't really a capital in the world that I can compare with it. Want to find out why? Keep on reading.
This amazing rooftop terrace belonged to us for 2 and a half weeks. The terrace had a 360° view overlooking Athens. And even in the shower you could see the Acropolis! And that for just 35€ a night for 2 persons, there isn't really a hotel that can beat that, isn't it? As soon as we saw the pictures we knew we wanted to go to Athens for our internship and stay at this apartment. And so it happened. The internship was great, but just spending time overlooking Athens was even better! And really have the time to explore the city was so nice. Most of the time you just have a couple of days in a city, but we had luck of spending multiple weeks here. We stayed in the neighborhood Exarcheia, which doesn't have the best reputation. If you Google it, you find that Exarcheia is famous as a home for Greek anarchists. But when you actually go there it's really just a hip place with lots of graffiti, local restaurant and a lots of local people. I must admit I had to get used to it a bit because it looked somehow scary, old and dirty. But I just wasn't really used to graffiti, and I must say that I miss it there now. Be sure to signup for Airbnb and get $39 travel credit on your first booking and rent this amazing place. If you want to know what apartment on Airbnb this is, send me a message.
The Acropolis is one of most famous buildings worldwide. This is really a must visit when you're in Athens. The most well known building is called the Parthenon. The construction was completed 432 BC! The word Acropolis means 'highest point of the city' in Greek. This is correct because the Acropolis gives an amazing view over all of Athens and when the sky is clear you can even see some islands! The Acropolis contains multiple remains of ancient buildings. In the Acropolis museum there are nearly 4000 findings from the archaeological site of the Acropolis presented.
Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. It's a neighborhood full of narrow streets, shops, taverns and cafe's. It doesn't feel like a big city because the buildings are old and there is not much traffic. You can buy fresh fruit from market stalls. Look at the huge amount of grapes! It's next to the Acropolis so I visited both on the same day. You can definitely do your shopping here, buy jewelry or get a souvenir for your friends. For a fun night out you can go to Cine Paris, which is an outdoor movie theater. It's on the roof of the building, and you'll also have a great view of the Acropolis.
The central square of Athens is Syntagma Square. Here you can find the famous Evzones (presidential guards) in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Hellenic Parliament. Every hour you can witness the changing of guards ceremony.
Syntagma square is close to a lot of famous attractions like the Acropolis, the Plaka, Monastiraki square and a lot of shopping streets. Along the square there are several hotels located. You can also find Metro lines 2 and 3 here.
You can go to this beach by taking tram 5 from Syntagma square. Just buy a day ticket for a few euros. It's approximately a 45 minute tram ride. It will cost you some euros to access the beach, but you get a sunbed to lounge on all day. There are small pebbles, but with sandals that's no problem.
This beach is just a very little bit further than Glyfada beach, but it's free to visit and very relaxing. I visited in October and it was really empty. There are small pebbles so take something like sandals with you. There can be a little bit of trash, but that's because it was low season I think. I was just very happy to visit a beach when staying in Athens. There are much prettier beaches in Greece, but when staying in Athens, this is a great choice to cool down and relax a bit. The beach is South of Athens and can easily be reached by tram or metro. Be sure to buy a day ticket. There is also a shower and lot's of restaurants that are open until late.
Votsalakia beach is located in Pireaus, very close to where the cruise ships arrive. This beach can also easily be visited from Athens by taking metro M1, and getting off at Faliro station. It's a clean beach and there are lots of restaurants. There even is a swimming pool. I heard it can be crowded in the summer, but in October it was very quit. This beach is ideal when you're staying in Athens or when you're on a day trip from a cruise ship and want some time to spend on the beach. It's the closest beach from the harbor and the center of Pireaus.
There are so many restaurants in Athens, and so many good ones. But there is one place where I ate the best Gyros I've ever tasted. It's located in the neighborhood Exarcheia on Themistokleous 66. The name of the place is Ο Κάββουρας. Look out for a sign of a crab just outside the door, picture at the right. For just €2,50 you get a fresh baked pita Gyros with fries and tzatziki. And yum, it's so delicious! I would go back to Athens just for this. There are a lot of locals here, no tourists.
If you have a few days left to do some day trips or weekend getaways there's a lot to do not far from Athens. You can easily rent a car and drive around he east of the Peloponnese. There are a lot of historical attractions, beaches, beautiful nature and small towns to visit. This is a route can be done in 1 day. You will see the Corinth Canal, Mycenae, the romantic city of Nafplion and the ancient small city Epidauros. The whole route will take you about 4 and a half hours so you'll have enough time to spent time at the different places.
The Corinth canal dates back to 1893 and connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf. The canal is 6.4 kilometer long and 21.4 meters wide. It's too small for most modern ships and in fact it failed to attract a lot of traffic. But still it's interesting to see. Nowadays it's mainly used for tourist traffic and you can sail through it.
Mycenae is an ancient city. Here you can really see a lot of history. On top of the hill you have beautiful views over Argolis (see the pic below) and the Saronic Gulf. Here was also the palace located. You can find remains of palaces, the Tomb of Agamemnon (Treasury of Atreus), fountains, ramparts and the Lion's gate. For history lovers, this is a must visit.
Just 138 kilometers and a lot of beautiful views from Athens you can find the city Nafplio. It's a beautiful, romantic city along the water. You can walk over the Nauplion promenade which is along the sea. It has some terraces and palm trees! And you can see Bourtzi (the fortress in the sea) as well as the Palamidi Castle on top of the rocks. We chose not to visit it because we had the above day trip planned and lots more we wanted to see. We did had time to have some coffee and baklava. If you have time you can also visit a few beaches.
When you're making this day trip in the east of the Peloponnese, Epidaurus is a must visit. It has a beautiful Ancient Theater that is still in a very good condition. It's considered the most perfect theater with regard to acoustics and aesthetics. If you stand in the middle, everyone in the theater can hear you talk without any electronic equipment needed(!). In the summer months there are often shows given, check out the program. The theater will fit 13,000 - 14,000 spectators. The great thing is that you can try it out yourself. In Epidaurus there's much more to visit besides the theater. You can also find the UNESCO Sanctuary of Asklepios here and multiple temples and hospital buildings.
This day trip goes through the Attica region, south of Athens. This day trip is not so long, about 2 and a half hours. You will visit Cape Sounion, the temple of Poseidon, and the Vouliagmeni lake. There's enough time to spend relaxing at some beaches and eating in a tavern.
All the way in the south you can find the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion. From here you have a great view over the Aegean sea. Poseidon was also the god of the sea, so that explains the great view I guess.
When driving north again you'll visit lot's of great beaches. A great beach to stop by is 3. Kape Beach Legraina. After spending some nice and relaxed hours at the beach you can drive further north to wash the salt off of you in lake Vouliagmeni. It means 'Sunken Lake'. The water has a constant temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, so this is something great you can also do in the winter months. It is said that the lake contains various healthy minerals. The lake once was a large cave from which the roof collapsed. The water comes from underwater caves that are to deep to explore.