You didn’t think we left Greece without seeing Athens, did you? The historical sites of Greece’s capital city were the last destination of our trip and was well worth the wait. We budgeted a full 4 days in Athens, giving us all the time we needed to check our boxes of tourist sites, as well as to do a little exploring off the beaten path. Athens actually reminded me so much of Manhattan, in that there are lush, beautiful parks, quaint cafes, and historical monuments around every corner. However, also akin to Manhattan, you’ll find areas that are a little unkempt, and frankly, a little smelly. But have no fear! The city’s affordable taxi service makes it easy to get from your hotel in the middle of the city to cafes lining the water at sunset for a mere 10€.
One of the things that surprised me the most about Athens was the amount of orange trees that were everywhere in full growth! I’m still not certain what the explanation is for that, but it was a fun sight to see.
Some of the locals explained to us that even though they live just steps away from places people travel thousands of miles to see, they themselves have never ventured up to places like the Parthenon (which is absolutely crazy to me). We took a hike up to the Acropolis one day, and though it was fascinating, I’d say one visit was plenty! Even for the off-season, it was still completely crowded and fairly expensive (around 30€ per person) to buy a ticket to enter. (Do keep in mind that they accept student ID’s from anywhere for a small discount!)
Because the Acropolis is about 2,500 years old, it was in need of a bit of a facelift. Unfortunately, we had to look past a good deal of construction covering the front face of the Parthenon that made up for some of the destruction it had seen over the years.
Everyone will tell you that you should do all of your shopping in Athens, as opposed to any other places you might visit in Greece, and it’s absolutely true! Its markets are fantastic for both food and souvenirs, and if I remember correctly, most of the souvenirs on the islands are sourced out of Athens anyway, so these are a bit closer to being authentic.
One thing we made time for on the more historical end was to watch the changing of the guards at the site of Athens’ Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a very precise sort of routine that large crowds gather to see every hour, and we were fortunate to see it on a day when the Minister of Defense of Poland came to visit!
Athens is so rich in both history, culture, and cuisine that it was the perfect way to wrap our trip up. (Of course, after eating our body weight in bread and olive oil!)