One day in Athens
Yes, I made it. I walked through all main Athens’ attractions within a day. Of course, I had to give up on something, but still, very little if you consider what I managed to visit. A first recommendation is to wear comfortable shoes, possibly trekking ones. Do not underestimate this, because you would have to walk the whole day, even uphill, and you do not want to destroy your knees and feet. Honestly, I don’t recommend this program to someone who is not used to walk at all, or who has zero stamina, but I will let you judge. Here we go!
I spent the previous night in a hostel in the city center, between the central market and Monastiraki square. I was on my way at 8 am, with a backpack full of food and water (don’t forget!), to collect the ticket for the Acropolis, that I booked in advance, with the supplement to skip the line. This is a hint to avoid long queuing at the entrance of the site. The cost of the ticket was 24 € (20 € the ticket + 4 € to skip the line) and a posteriori I must say it was totally worth. This ticket allows you to visit the Acropolis, but not the related museum. Skipping the acropolis museum was the biggest sacrifice I had to do.
The travel agency where I collected the ticket is located nearby the Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which I could admire from outside the gate. I take this occasion to mention that gates surround most of ancient sites in Athens, and to visit them you need to pay a ticket. It is not a matter of money, because tickets are cheap (between 4 and 6 €), but simply it is possible to see everything from outside. I felt it didn’t really matter to me to walk closer to the ruins. Of course, it was different for the Acropolis, which you can see up high from different locations in the city, but it is nothing compared to being up there.
I was at the Acropolis South-East entrance at 8:30 am. It turned out that I didn’t need to buy the “skip the line” option, because no one was queuing. That was quite surprising, but maybe it was because that’s the secondary entrance. You discover the Acropolis step by step. You walk up the path, through many ancient ruins, skirting the majestic stony wall of the hill. Don’t be on a hurry to reach the top: you are at the heart of the Greek culture and architecture. Taste every moment of that unforgettable journey.
It is difficult to describe what I felt once I was on the top. After crossing the Propylaea, the Parthenon appeared in front of me, together with the Erechtheion and the amazing view of the city. Take all the time you need up there, and print those moments in your mind. I recommend visiting all the slopes of the hill. New panoramas appear, and new perspectives of the Acropolis too.
I exited the site from the West gate (which is the main one), and it was easy to reach the Aeropagus hill, from which you can admire the Acropolis from the Propylaea side. I continued my visit towards Philopappos Hill. Here you can see some ruins, among which there are the homonymous monument and Socrates’ prison, and another beautiful view of the city with the sea.
Then I headed towards Lycabettus mount. I walked along Dimokritou, which led me straight in front of the mount. Here you have two choices: either you follow the road, which climbs relatively gently, or you can do like me, and climb through the vegetation, which is full of mountain-like paths. The latter way is quite steep, but much faster to reach the top at 273 meters above the sea. This is the highest point in Athens. I just let you imagine the panorama you can see, from any direction. The observation point towards the city is always crowded, so not very enjoyable, but during the way up there are other places from where you can admire, in peace and surrounded by nature, the entire city below you.
I walked back to the city centre, where I had lunch, before heading towards Sintagma Square, where the Ellenic Parliament is located. I walked through the National Garden for a while, waiting for 2 pm to see the changing of the guard in front of the Parliament. It is very peculiar, and I recommend it.
Then I moved south, to the Zappeion and the Panathenaic Stadium, before heading back to the Acropolis. The neighbourhood adjacent to its north side is called Anafiotika, which is part of the old historical area known as Plaka. This is the most peculiar neighbourhood in Athens. I am sure you’ve already seen those tiny, “stairy”, white streets with coloured flowers on some brochure. Well, in Anafiotika you’re gonna walk through them. Take some time to walk through all those streets. Get lost there for a while.
Then I decided to take some rest: I took the tram and I went to the sea. It takes 20-30 mins from the city center, and there are a couple of stops – Edem is the closest one, but I went to Elliniko – where beaches are nice and free to everyone.
I went back to the city center for dinner, but before eating, I visited three more buildings that are adjacent to each other: Athens’ Academy, the central building of the University and the National Greek Library.
A night walk to see from downtown the lighted Acropolis completed my day.
I visited the Central Market on the following morning, because on Sunday (my tourism day) it was closed. The market is the best place to feel vibration of the city. There are dozens of stall selling of fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. There are also many peddlers and small shops of spices, olives (yes, just olives of many kinds!) and frippery.
So, this was my visit to Athens. I wish I had longer time to spend there, because I really wanted to visit some museums too, but I am happy with what I managed to see.