Growing up, I read all the Greek mythology books I could get my hands on about the Trojan War, the Odyssey, and any other book that detailed all the infighting among the gods – overthrowing their parents (the Titans), the romance, the jealousy, the revenge. It was like a soap opera set in historical times.
So being in Athens and visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus (above) and the Parthenon (below) and Acropolis was like visiting the set of Hogwarts for today’s Harry Potter fans. We spent two full days in Athens before heading out to Santorini, and we packed it in.
We did a self-guided walking tour on the first day from our Lonely Planet book that took us to Syntagma Square (conveniently right outside our hotel), the Presidential Mansion where we saw the Changing of the Guards (looked just like something out of the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks), the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, Panathenaic Stadium (where the first Olympics took place), the Roman Agora and Tower of the Winds, Hadrian’s Library (above), the Acropolis and Parthenon, and the Acropolis Museum. The Acropolis Museum is a godsend on a hot day.
Many of the sites are unfortunately very exposed. I have not yet mastered wearing a hat to protect myself from the sun as it only seems to make me sweatier and hotter. How do those women look so chic and cool in their hats? My favorite part of the day was actually walking through Plaka with its pedestrian streets and buildings that provide shade. There were so many cute restaurants and shops. I didn’t even care that it was touristy. Walking from Plaka to the Acropolis, we passed by so many cute white and pastel-colored houses with bright flowers. It was like we were already on the Greek Isles.
The weather in Athens was severely warm for me during the day, but at night, it was very pleasant. Our lovely hotel, The Grande Bretagne, had an open bar/restaurant with a view of the Acropolis and we had very good martinis up there to start and end our trip, as well as a delicious dinner another night.
On our second day, we took it much slower. We got coffee at a local cafe, ate some Greek pastries for breakfast, had souvlaki at Kostas (I highly recommend it!), and then strolled through a shopping district to take a funicular up to Mount Lycabettus. This was sooo not worth it. It cost roughly 14 euros to take the funicular up and back and once you’re up there, you get a view of Athens sprawl. Others have recommended going up at twilight and that might be more worth it. Otherwise, I couldn’t imagine hiking up there on a hot day or spending that much money on the funicular again. I found the little church up there more interesting than the view.
We then spent the rest of the day lounging at the hotel pool – drinking cocktails and reading, practicing for what it would be like once we got to Santorini. Stay tuned for the next post…