Reading about Athens didn't excite me, but I needed to be in Santorini for a hen do and the tickets via Athens were significantly cheaper. I knew I would enjoy the history so I decided it might be nice to check Athens out. I can tell you in confidence that it was much more than just nice. I only had two nights there. I wanted to see the main sights, but at a leisurely base. I really enjoyed what I got to see and do. My favourite was speaking to the locals and hearing their stories. It is really worth visiting! Here are eight things I loved doing to get you started when you visit!
Trip Budget for two days including flight (RyanAir) + hotel + food: 150GBP
1- Hike up to Mighty Acropolis
This was my main reason to visit Athens. I know it's the most touristy bit, but it was fantastic and much better than I thought. Finding the entrance was a little tricky but with the help of google maps, the signs and the locals I found it. Students enter for free (with a student card) and I loved that. I spent about two hours and a half there. I started with the main monuments then down to the theatre and the South slope, which took me right to the North slope. Everything is marked and there are posters near each main part with relevant information. When I went midday, it was heaving with people and the March sun was getting hot, but there was shade and lots of breeze.
Tip: bring water with you. There is a drinking water fountain there as well so you can top up.
2- Visit the Olympic park
Another monument worth visiting is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It's just at the bottom of the hill. I took the photo below from Acropolis because I spotted it from there. I got closer after hours to get better photos from the fence after the visitors left. It's a lovely walk and it's very close to the Museum.
3- Shop around the old town
The picture below does not show you how crowded the area is because I took it at midday, but old town and specifically Plaka are extremely crowded, full of tourists and you have to be very careful from pickpocket -ers. It is not the cheapest area to shop, but there are a few nice places to see.
4- Spot the cool graffiti
Walking around Athens, I couldn't help noticing lots of creative graffiti. I am not sure who the artists are, but just looking around at them was fun.
5- Roam the town with a local!
This is an initiative by the tourism board. I read about it in a blog and it sounded interesting. I signed up via the official website, "This Is My Athens". I was paired up with my awesome local, Magi. I wasn't sure what to expect. We met up in the evening right after I landed and dropped my luggage. It was really fun! I loved hanging out with someone from the area, who knew the history and the cool hidden spots I didn't read about in the guide books.
6- Try some phenomenal Vegan/ Vegetrian food
Magi, from the pic above, took me to Avocado, an amazing vegetarian restaurant. This is not totally Greek, but I would go there again if I am ever back in Athens. Their recipes are inventive and delicious. Portions are massive, so one order is more than enough!
7- Watch the change of the guard
This was not even planned, but I passed by the parliament and saw a crowed so I joined in! It was fun for ten minutes, but it gets a little long after that. If you are in the area check it, but I wouldn't make it a priority.
8- Chill at a cafe in the afternoon and friend the table next to you!
True story. After my epic walk/hike up and down Acropolis and the historic centre of Plaka, I needed to sit down with a good cup of tea. Luckily, there is a cafe culture in Greece. The weather was just right so I sat outside for two hours and got chatting to the table next to me until it started getting dark.
Note on Transportation: You can get the day pass for €4.50 and that allows you to use the buses, trolleys and metros. It's cheap, but be prepared for the very crowded carriages. I felt like a sardine in a tin.
Tips for Muslim Travellers in Athens:
Hijab: I wore my turban with a light scarf around my neck. I didn't get any uncomfortable looks or strange treatments. People were very kind and chatty. I made about four friends in two days. I also wasn't the only hijabi. There were few Arab tourists and residents who wore the hijab too.
Halal: I haven't looked into this because I was only there for two days and I ate in the same vegan/vegetarian restaurant mentioned above!