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5 days is not enough

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Athens is absolutely, positively amazing; there is so much to see and experience from ancient ruins to day-to-day activities of the citizens. Going on foot is the very best way to take it all in; walk whenever you can. Our base of operation was the Marriott Ledra which has the best views from the roof top deck of the Acropolis at night (all lit up). Walking out the hotel door and turning right, nearly daily we walked 45 minutes up to the heart of Athens, which, for us, was Syntagma Square (home of the Parliament building). On the walk up, we'd pass the ruins near an underground train excavation, now preserved as a peer-over-the-side of the railing to glipse into the Roman baths from times past. So much history lies just below the surface and much has been preserved everywhere in Athens. On our walk up, we'd often go sit in the park (National Garden?) along the way and watch the troops of young military cadets practicing their formation drills. We came to find out that military service is required of all young men (we did not know that). How hard they practice, their footsteps heavy and echoing in the park. The military barracks is very close by. Such young men; the world can only hope they never have to be called into service. Later, the traditionally garbed Evzone Guards gracefully go through their "changing of the guard" routine in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The rhythmic, high stepping, leg rotating, shoe dragging ritual is awe inspiring. Near the Parliament building (down Embassy row), suspenseful James Bond-type intrigues are going on; men with walkie-talkies communicating about how "they got them" (who?!?) and police wagons and SWAT vehicles with many soldiers (well-armed) hanging around those transport vans. This is part of the daily life in Athens. Embassy Row, by itself, is most impressive; who would guess so many countries have a presence there? A favorite adventure of ours in Athens was taking the tram (funicular) up to the highest point in Athens, up the Lykavittos Hill (from where we actually looked down on the Acropolis!) and having a great lunch break at the restaurant at the top. There's not too much space at the top of the hill but there is a telescope for great views. All of Athens lies down there and the massive size of the urban area is enthralling sight. Interesting note: that pale peach colored dressing on the sandwiches served in Greece - it is mayo and catsup! Who would have guessed? Now it is our favorite deli sandwich dressing at home. We thank our waitress on the "Hill" for that piece of news. At the top of the "Hill" is a small church, "Church of St. George of the Rock." You absolutely must go inside and experience that special Eastern Orthodox translation the Greek have given to Christianity. In other churches we passed along our walks, we'd see young folks coming out of church after paying their respects and, seeing us peering in, would invite us in to see their places of worship. Greece is mostly Christian (the mosques were, in times long past, converted to churches), whereas in Turkey, it is just the opposite. Not too much in terms of cultural sharing or melding going on there between the two cultures and countries (or so we are told by the locals). When we got tired and didn't fancy the long walk back to our hotel, there is a shuttle bus the hotel runs (free) and it is easy to catch it at convenient points throughout the city (hotel gives the info out). Traffic, in general, is as bad in Athens as it can possibly get anywhere on the planet. Motorcycles and Motor scooters weave crazily through traffic and even mount the sidewalks to get ahead. All the more to not have a rental car here. It rivaled Istanbul which we thought was the worst we'd seen so far. When we finally exhausted all the local sights (Arch of Hadrian, the Plaka shopping district and near-by flea market, the Acropolis, etc., and of course all the museums); we contacted Viator Tours and found wonderful day trips to magical places (Temple of Poseidon, the resort-like sea-side, and the Temple of the Oracle of Delphi, and Corinth) which will round out the Athens visit perfectly. Corinth is the biblical location that Paul (Jesus' disciple) landed by ship and from where he preached. We walked the streets he walked down, saw the remnants of the buildings, and signs of early Christianity. The city was razed by the Romans but enough has been pulled from the rock heap to remind visitors that a very historically significant event took place in Corinth. Almost every single shop has a free walking map/guide to Athen's most famous attractions. Whole tour books are written on Athens alone. An entire day can be spent at many locations to do the attractions justice. Keep in mind that, with the austerity measures, the museums and public attractions have gone through a reduction in hours with most things closing up at about 3 p.m. We were rounded up (like herding cats) as the many guards came through the Agora grounds blowing loud whistles and announcing that we all had to leave. Do consider the multi-park/museum pass; it will pay for itself many times over. Athens was all the more special because we were walking, witnessing economic and political demonstrations (peaceful but big and these do shut down the city's entire traffic flow), and feeling like we were part of the fabric of this really huge city. We read the political slogans, saw the grafitti, and window-shopped past the stores selling ancient religious memorabilia. The new and the old, juxtaposed, but under a rapidly changing environment for all. Unemployment is very high, young people have few prospects and older folks have nearly none, and intolerance for newly arriving immigrants is sadly lacking. Never once did we feel unsafe and we would go back again and again. There is still so much left unseen. Most people speak fairly good English and it is easy to get around. Perhaps we felt somewhat "unwelcome" by some of the flea market merchants but it still was an enjoyable experience. Never miss an opportunity to talk to the locals. Our favorite conversation with the taxi driver to the airport asked him who had the best olive oil: the Greeks or the Italians. He laughed and said they were the same people and began telling his story of how the people had the same origins. Our add-on trip came at the end of a small-ship cruise to the Greek Islands and places in Turkey. Athens is special; leave enough time to see it all. Honestly, 3 days is not enough and 5 days is pushing it. We could easily spend a week or more in the heart of Athens!

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover
  • Thrifty Traveler
  • Like a Local

15 Places

1 City Tip

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Map

15 Places

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Erechtheion

Ancient Ruins, Monuments & Statues

Mount Lycabettus

Lookouts

National Archaeological Museum

Art Museums, History Museums

Parthenon

Ancient Ruins, Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Herod Atticus Odeon

Historic Sites, Theaters

Plaka

Neighborhoods

Acropolis

Ancient Ruins

Acropolis Museum

Specialty Museums

Ancient Agora of Athens

Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Monastiraki

Neighborhoods

Hellenic Parliament

Government Buildings, Historic Sites

Temple of Hephaestus

Ancient Ruins, Sacred & Religious Sites

Panathenaic Stadium

Arenas & Stadiums

on_the_go_98765's City Tips

  • Do not miss an opportunity to look at things from the perspective of the citizens of Athens; always walk when you can (you won't miss as much that way) and stay curious.
  • Save
    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    The Evzone Guards are (for me) the main attraction. Every hour, the formal "changing of the guard" presentation takes place. These soldiers are the elite of the military, perfect physical specimens wardrobed in the period-piece skirted outfits (with pom poms on their toes!) and, oh my, my ... how they can twirl those legs (at the knee) in physically impossible rotations! The footwork incorporates a fantastic foot-dragging accent beat. You can easily see why these guys are heart throbs for the young women. But the real seriousness of the event really has everything to do with the tragic situation they honor ... the brave soldier who lies, unkown, and who historically has given his all for his people (a story told the world over).

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    Tips
    • Opportunities for up close and personal photos with these gorgeous soldiers is a popular option for the visitors (between the formal hourly proceedings). No touching (darn!)
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #42 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Watch the crowds 09/09/2018
    • 20 Minutes Well Spent 09/08/2018
    • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    Address:
    Leoforos Vasilissis Amalias
    Syntagma Square
    Athens 100 28
    Greece
  • Save
    Erechtheion
    Ancient Ruins, Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    Pre-dating the Parthenon, the Mycenaean civilization (from almost 1,000 years ago) flourished and this palace once stood, intact. Today, the remains are evidence that a 2-story edifice once graced this landscape. The caryatids (maidens which are the support pieces) form a part of the Erechtheion.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • Not too far from the Parthenon, and within the entrance gates for the Acropolis.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Part of the Acropolis 09/13/2018
    • Well preserved "ruins" 09/09/2018
    • Erechtheion
    Phone:
    +30 21 0321 4172
    Other:
  • Save
    Mount Lycabettus
    Lookouts
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    This is a high-in-the-sky small piece of real estate with views of a sea of humanity but still it is a really pleasant little vista on top of an incredibly small "hill" . This is where one finds oneself up on top of the "Hill" (aka Mt. Lycabettus). Do plan on eating there at the cafe. The sandwiches and beer are super!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • If you don't go inside the small St. george chruch there, you will be missing so much of the experience one comes to Athens to experience. Eastern Orthodox artwork is amazing.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #27 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Poor signage, but great views 09/18/2018
    • Up the road 09/17/2018
    • Mount Lycabettus
    Other:
  • Save
    National Archaeological Museum
    Art Museums, History Museums
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    This is a must-see and must-do for everyone who comes to Athens. Travel in time via the sculptures which represented the people as far back as 7,000 B.C. The museum has many spectacular exhibits but don't overlook visiting the "fighting Gaul" which serves as a reminder of the fighting spirit of these (considered to be) savage peoples. In one's free time, do an internet search for the "Dying Gaul" for a sensitive portrayal of these primitive peoples. This is an excellent introduction to historical Greece through ceramics and sculpture. Most rooms are on the first floor and are numbered.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Plan on spending time here; you will need it to read all the info blurbs on the pieces you see and also to take time to actually see the pieces!
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #24 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Highly impressed 09/20/2018
    • Old for the New 09/20/2018
    • National Archaeological Museum
    Address:
    Patision 44
    Athens 106 82
    Greece
    Phone:
    +30 21 3214 4800
    Hours:
    Mon
    1:00 PM - 8:00 PM
    Tue - Thu
    8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
    Fri
    9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
    Sat - Sun
    8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Parthenon
    Ancient Ruins, Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    This treasure is what people come to Athens to see. Although in ruins, it still dominates the city of Athens like nothing else can. Sitting high on a hill (but not so high as one other "Hill" aka Lykavittos), much of Athens looks up at this monument ... now and as it always has. This "treasure" for us, was visually a feast of exquisite frieze panels which, fortunately, the visitor can see up close in the mueum which is home to the originals (copies are outside where the elements cannot damage them further). War scenes are depicted and if a visitor does not take time to appreciate the realism in those scenes, then another return trip is required! Facial expressions, arms raised in battle, horses falling, the whole of the war scene unfolds right there in front of the spectator. The muses, holding up the roof (so to speak), are finely crafted and most memorable.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The evening views from Marriott's Ledra Hotel (upper roof top dining area) are truly and absolutely spectacular.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing 09/20/2018
    • A Must- See 09/20/2018
    • Parthenon
    Address:
    Acropolis
    Top of Dionyssiou Areopagitou
    Athens 105 58
    Greece
    Phone:
    +30 21 0321 4172
    Other:
  • Save
    Herod Atticus Odeon
    Historic Sites, Theaters
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    When we were there on our trip, an orchestra was rehearing for an upcoming performance. What a setting! The accoustics were amazing and how memorable it would be to experience a concert in this setting, just a short distance from the Parthenon.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • See if you can attend a concert here. Scout for tickets.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #17 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Hidden gem with a lot of events! 09/11/2018
    • Staggering 09/10/2018
    • Herod Atticus Odeon
    Address:
    Dionissiou Areopagitou
    Athens
    Greece
    Phone:
    +30 21 0324 1807
    Other:
  • Save
    Plaka
    Neighborhoods
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    "Plaka" means shopping (and eating), for anyone who visits Athens. Great fun little restaurants, many shopping opportunities, and such an inviting and welcoming environment. It is pretty close to the flea market (which you may want to pass on visiting unless you really want someone's old trash) and a real destination unto itself.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Thrifty Traveler
    Tips
    • Try to schedule a lunch stop here and do some people-watching.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Crazy busy, some good restaurants 09/21/2018
    • Great place for dinner time 09/20/2018
    • Plaka
    Phone:
    +30 21 0321 2256
    Other:
  • Save
    Acropolis
    Ancient Ruins
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    Home to the Parthenon, this is a highly elevated hill in the city of Athens. This is an all-day event, if one does it right. Wear very good walking shoes and pack binoculars.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • No way will you avoid crowds. Be sure to save time for the museum (a must-see place).
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Not as busy as expected! 09/21/2018
    • Nice view - really busy 09/21/2018
    • Acropolis
    Phone:
    +30 21 0321 4172
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Acropolis Museum
    Specialty Museums
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    Three floors high, this modern building (built in about 2009) showcases pieces from the Acropolis. The 6 female figurines (caryatids) which seem to hold up the Erechtheion Temple's roof are located here; a bit worse for the effects of 50 years of air pollution. A portion of the Parthenon Fireze is here; it depicts a celebration procession with an amazing collection of people and animals caught up in the moment (and preserved for all time).

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • W had a guide but I think I'd have rather taken my time and read the descriptions on the pieces without being so rushed.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Ok 09/21/2018
    • Simply Stunning! 09/20/2018
    • Acropolis Museum
    Address:
    Dionysiou Areopagitou 15
    Athens 117 42
    Greece
    Phone:
    +91 88002 37808
    Other:
  • Save
    Ancient Agora of Athens
    Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    Ancient Agora is a large geographical area composed mostly of ruins today. It had been the center of Greek life until it was conquered and dstroyed in the 3rd century B.C.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Closing time is about 3 p.m. Plan accordingly or risk being rounded up by the whistle-blowing guards at the end of the day and ushered out. They are very punctual!
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A huge archaeological site in the middle of the city 09/20/2018
    • Nah 09/16/2018
    • Ancient Agora of Athens
    Address:
    24 Adrianou
    Adrianou 24
    Athens 105 55
    Greece
    Phone:
    +30 21 0321 0185
    Other:
  • Save
    Monastiraki
    Neighborhoods
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    Not too far from Ancient Agora, this popular "square" or busy center is home to the flea market (pass that by, not worth the time and effort to look at old, broken junk) and the many stalls of vendors selling everything from foods to souvenirs. Here an be found lots of outdoor dining opportunities at the many restaurants, and this location is also very close to the ruins of Hadrien's Library. A 12th century church and a mosque (now a library) are points of interest.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Lots of crowds here; watch your bags!
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #49 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Very crowded, especially in the square 09/20/2018
    • Run down with energy 09/18/2018
    • Monastiraki
    Phone:
    +30 21 0324 3237
  • Save
    Hellenic Parliament
    Government Buildings, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    The heart of Athens resides here. This is where demonstrations take place, the Evzone guards honor the tomb of the unknown soldier, and from where the government presides. It's an impressive hub of activity with powerful architecture.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Plan on walking around to have the best experience.
    From the community
    Ranked #72 of 346 things to do in Athens
    • Great but just for a short visit 09/16/2018
    • Single visit !! 09/14/2018
    • Hellenic Parliament
    Phone:
    +30 21 0370 7000
    Other:
  • Save
    Temple of Hephaestus
    Ancient Ruins, Sacred & Religious Sites
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    Located in the Ancient Agora section, it is remarkably well-preserved for a building dating back to the 5th century B.C. The Frieze memorializes mythological battles and rape, centaurs, and was a church until the 1800's.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Prbably the best preserved building in Ancient Agora.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazingly preserved 09/20/2018
    • Example of a multi functional place of worship 09/19/2018
    • Temple of Hephaestus
    Address:
    24 Adrianou St.
    Ancient Agora of Athens
    Athens 105 55
    Greece
    Other:
  • Save
    Panathenaic Stadium
    Arenas & Stadiums
    See more photos
    on_the_go_98765 Says:

    About 80,000 spectators can fill this stadium. We can't imagine you'd need a tour of the stadium as all of it is pretty much visually open to passers-by. It did host the 2004 Olympics.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveler
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #33 of 346 things to do in Athens
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Very cool! 09/21/2018
    • Olympic Stadium 09/18/2018
    • Panathenaic Stadium
    Address:
    Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue
    Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue, 999-20
    Athens 999-20
    Greece
    Phone:
    +30 21 0752 2985
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Other:
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