When people think about Athens, they immediately think, “Okay, I just need to do one day jam packed with every single historic site there is in Athens and then I’ll hop on my flight to Santorini and be on my merry way”. I then ask those types of people how they liked Athens and the response is “eh it was okay, not for me.” Well of course it was just okay, you ninny. All you did was play tourist and check items off your list. Don’t get me wrong, the historic sites of Athens are breathtakingly amazing. To stand on the Acropolis knowing that you are witnessing thousands of years of history, is a truly awe-inspiring moment. But, that’s not all that Athens has to offer and it would be a shame to leave the city without seeing the rest!
So what are the best things to do in Athens besides visiting the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the temple of Zeus, and all the other historic sites? What a great question! (Yes, yes I forced you to ask it but trust me you’ll be glad I did).
Do a Walking Tour
Normally, I’m not a huge tour person BUT walking tours are an exception. I love a good walking tour. Since I’m a nerd, I always stay right next to the tour guide so I don’t miss a word. Seriously, I’ve pushed my way past some people who tried to beat me to the front. And yes, I was that kid who liked to be at the front of the classroom. Anyways, I digress.
So, why should you do a walking tour of Athens? There are almost too many reasons to list but I will do my best:
- The guides are extremely knowledgeable so you can ask them for their input during or after the tour. Be sure to ask them for restaurant recs (ding ding ding!)
- You learn about the history of the city in a fun and often humorous way
- You get your bearings of the city. This is why I generally recommend doing the walking tours on the first day. You’ll understand the layout of the city and get a fantastic overview. Just make a mental note of where you’d like to come back to spend more time
- You always learn some sort of local secret. Guides love to show you their favorite spot or tell you a fact that isn’t commonly known
- Did I mention it’s free? You should of course, leave a tip. But the guides leave it up to you to decide how much the tour is worth. I love that concept! Can you imagine going to watch a movie and then after it’s done, deciding how much you want to pay based off of how your experience was?
Here’s a link to the tour we did (and loved!)
Check out the Rooftop Bars
Okay, why didn’t anyone tell me that Athens is home to some of the most incredible rooftop bars? Thank god I’m resourceful and stumbled upon them myself or else I would have been pissed. But seriously, if you love rooftop bars (and who doesn’t?) then you will fall head over heels in love for Athens. And the reason why is this: where else in the world can you sit at a rooftop bar and have a gorgeous view of a historical structure that is thousands of years old? That’s right, all of the rooftop bars have a direct view of the lit up Parthenon. You can literally be sipping some Greek wine or a fancy cocktail and enjoying some house music WHILE seeing the Parthenon. Is no one else freaking out? Because I most certainly was. Besides the awesome view, the rooftop bars all seemed to have a different yet equally awesome eclectic vibe (yes, we went to three of them in two nights and I encourage you to do the same).
The three bars we went to (and loved): A is for Athens, Couleur Locale, and Athens Gate Hotel
Eat Greek Food at a Place That Isn’t a Tourist Trap
If you’ve been to almost any part of Europe, you’ve seen those people standing outside the restaurant trying to get people to come into the restaurant. They practically shove you inside and promise you their first born if you so much as stop and glance at the menu. It’s no different in Greece and as much as I understand being hangry and wanting to eat at the first place you set your eyes on, I encourage you to do a bit of research. Because I’m obsessed with food, I see each meal in a different country as a finite resource and I can’t waste a single precious one on a bland overpriced meal. Like I said, obsessed. Do some research, check out trip advisor, ask your concierge, or better yet, ask a local for a recommendation and sit back because oh boy, Greek food is out of this world delicious.
Oh oops, you’re waiting for a restaurant rec aren’t you? Check out Oineas it’s both reasonably priced and has some fantastic authentic Greek food!
Besides the fact that Plaka is a fun word to say (I don’t know why I enjoy saying it so much. Just go with it), it’s an awesome area to just spend a couple of hours exploring. You’ll come across little shops, cafes, and restaurants. The best part about Plaka is that it’s fun day or night. At night, you’ll often hear live music coming from the restaurants. One thing about Athens: they have awesome bars. And you’ll find no shortage of them in Plaka. Be sure to make a stop by Brettos even if it’s just to see the vibrant wall full of liquor bottles.
Get Lost in Anafiotika
This is technically considered part of Plaka but it’s got a completely different vibe. This is a scenic tiny neighborhood that is reminiscent of a Greek island. That by the way, is no coincidence, as the first houses were built by workers from the island of Anafi (yes, I learned that on my walking tour). Ditch the map and just explore the area. You’ll find incredible houses, plenty of scenic places for a great photo op, and an overall calming feeling.
Shop on Ermou
Ermou is quite the street. We made the mistake of going on Black Friday which was alarming to say the least. It appears that Greeks take their Black Friday shopping just as seriously as Americans. But if you go on a normal day, you will fall in love with this street. There are so many stores to shop at and you can stock your suitcase full of the latest fashion before you head back home.
I swear in just typing this post, I fell even more in love with Athens. I truly cannot wait to go back.
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