When we decided to go to Greece, I dreamed of white-washed villas, blue domed churches, and laying on the beach. On the other hand, Mike dreamed of ancient buildings with stories of Greek gods and goddesses. We decided to spend a few days in Athens to get the best of both worlds.
When: I'm not going to lie, Greece is HOT. We were there at the end of May and got lucky with it being between 75 and 80 degrees. Right after we left, temperatures spiked to the mid-90s. I highly recommend going during the shoulder season - you'll avoid crazier crowds, avoid the heat, and likely save some money too!
Getting Around: From the airport, we took the Metro to Monastiraki station. Stelios, our host, picked us up from there and guided us back to the apartment. It was super easy and definitely the cheapest way to get to the main part of town from the airport. From the where we stayed in Monastiraki, everything we wanted to see/do was within a 30 minute walk. We didn't use buses, metro, or uber while we were in Athens because it was so easy to just walk - but be sure to pack comfortable shoes! There is SO MUCH to see - I don't think I've ever walked so many steps (22,000+) in one day!
Day 1: Explore the Main Sights
Day 2: Day Trip to Delphi
Day 3: Hidden Gems of Athens
Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Vouliagmeni & Sunset at Cape Sounion
Day 1: Explore the Main Sights After getting settled in our Airbnb, we decide to head right to bed so we could wake up and spend the whole day exploring Athens. First up was the Acropolis - we got her as it opened and really felt like we beat the crowds. By the time we were leaving, there were a lot of tour groups and wayyyy more people entering.
There are two ticket options for entering the Acropolis... you can purchase the ticket only into the Acropolis, or a combination ticket that includes six other sites (Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian's Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Aristotle's School, and Kerameikos). We opted for the combo ticket - it's valid for five days from the start and you can visit each site once. I'm so glad we did this because we were the some of the only people at a few of them! Pro tip: you can purchase the combination ticket at ANY of the included sites and then use it to skip the ticket lines at the Acropolis (and any of the other sites if there's a line)!
Day 2: Day Trip to Delphi We hired a drive through George's Taxi to head north to the villages of Livadeia & Arachova, after lunch, we visited Delphi. Mike had been looking forward to this day of our trip for so long and it did not disappoint. Delphi is an ancient religious sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo; it's nestled high in the mountains and photos just don't give it enough justice. Our guide was so friendly, made many stops for photos, and made a great lunch recommendation. We loved being on our own schedule instead of part of a big motorcoach group.
Day 3: Hidden Gems of Athens After seeing a lot of the historical sights on our first day in Athens, we decided to spend a day exploring the lesser-known sights and the different neighborhoods. My favorite neighborhood, pictured below on the left, was Anafiotika. It's a small area of the Plaka neighborhood, tucked below the Acropolis and felt like a different city completely.
Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Vouliagmeni & Sunset at Cape Sounion We loved our private tour experience with George's Taxi but had also heard wonderful things about PK Travel, so we decided to use them for our other day trip from Athens. You can also rent a car in Greece, but we just didn't want the added responsibility or liability. Today's day trip took us south to relax at Lake Vouliagmeni and see the epic sunset from the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. It included a wonderful drive along the coast and a stop to eat. The sunset here, with all the islands off in the distance is truly remarkable - and rivals the famous sunsets in Santorini.
Where to Stay: My philosophy when traveling is to find an affordable option that's in a central, easy to access location. The reality is that I tend to spend very little time in my hotel room because I prefer to be out exploring. We stayed at this Airbnb and it was the PERFECT location (in the Monastiraki neighborhood) for us to explore the city and eat lots of gelato! We loved staying in this area of town and would definitely stay there again. There are a lot of lovely, independent hotels in the area as well - I'd look in the Monastiraki, Plaka, or Psyri neighborhoods first! If you're looking for something more "grand" to spice up your stay, our tour guide told us that a lot of celebrities stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne when they visit.
Where to Eat: There is no shortage of delicious food in Athens.