The moment we arrived in Athens we were surprised with the culture and helpfulness of the people. Before we made it to our hotel from the airport, we had already witnessed strangers helping tourists that needed directions, young people giving their seats on the train to the elderly and a man who rushed over to help us find our hotel when we pulled out our map. In other European countries these people would often expect a tip for their help but the Greek people are just happy to help you and chat.
We pretty much only had a day and a half in Athens, which ended up being enough time to see the main sites as they are all quite central to the city centre. We managed to walk between them and weren’t too tired by the end of the day! So here’s our version of how best to spend one day in Athens.
Starting off your day at the Acropolis means you can beat the heat and crowds. There is a small uphill walk to the entry, which will cost 12 euro per person to get in. The Acropolis is built on a rocky ridge that gives 360 degree views of Athens. Parts of the structure date back to its building in the 5th century BC! There are preservation works going on at the acropolis and you’ll notice that sections of the marble columns are white while others are yellow. The yellowed sections are old while the white sections are the newer repaired parts. Be careful as you walk as the ground is uneven and some surfaces are slippery bare marble rock, worn down from thousands of visitors over the years. Take a look at the view to the north, there is a distant hill that appears to have a bald patch – this is where they excavated the marble to bring over and build the Acropolis.
Back at the entrance, turn right to walk to Mars Hill – take the ancient or the modern steps to the top of the bare marble hill to get another great view of Athens. It’s also known as Areopagus Hill and once served as the High Court of Appeal in Athens. This hill is also well-known as the place where Paul first preached to the Greeks, which is commemorated in a plaque in ancient Greek on the wall. You can even read the story in the bible in Acts chapter 17. One high-profile Greek became a believer at this time and paved the way for many others to convert.
On your way back down Mars Hill, turn left to continue down the path away from the Acropolis and find yourself at the beginning of the Plaka area, Athens’ most historical neighbourhood. Get lost among the picturesque cobblestone streets but don’t miss the two main streets, Adrianou and Navarchou Nikodimou. It’s a great place to do some window-shopping and to stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants. But save the souvenir buying for later at your next stop…
After lunch continue down Adrianou towards the famous Monastiraki Flea Markets. Here, gifts and souvenirs are much cheaper and there are some unique treasures to be found! The flea markets lie to the left and right of Monastiraki Square, which is where the subway station lies. Find a bargain in the flea markets and shop until your heart’s content for souvenirs, jewellery, leather products, clothing and more. Most of the markets are actually little shopfronts more than stalls, but make sure you wander far enough to see the real ‘flea’ side of the market, where antiques and old furniture is sprawled out along the pavement.
Top off your day with a walk down Ermou Street, which also backs onto Monastiraki Square. Here you will find bigger chain style shopping and soon realise it’s the place to be. There’s lots of laneways off this street that are also worth looking at. Ermou Street ends at Syntagma Square, the central square of Athens.