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How to Spend An Awesome First Day in Athens

How to spend an awesome first day in Athens

Athens: Famous for its perfect weather, cheap local foods and ancient sites. 

the odeon of herodes atticus

Thanks to a House Sitting job, we lived in Athens rent free for five weeks in return for looking after a gorgeous dog and cat. 

parthenon greece

With the sun almost always shining, and historical artefacts around every corner, it's hard not to have an awesome first day in Athens, but to make sure you definitely do, we've written a post on how to spend an awesome first day in Athens:

Visit the markets in Athens

athens markets

First things first, get up early and head over to one of Athens' markets. This will immerse you almost immediately into a more 'foreign' culture and whet your wanderlust appetite. Be warned though, these markets are filled with fresh fish and meat - which means whole sharks, pigs' feet, skinned lambs and cows' heads which don't have skins but still have eyes and tongues. It is pretty overwhelming if you're not used to it, especially as the venders shout at you for your attention. Personally I found it exciting, but could imagine that this is one of those places that turns meat lovers into vegans. 

No matter if that's not your thing, they also have markets teeming with spices, nuts, fruits and all manner of exotic foods. The smells and the sounds are enchanting.

We visited a market that was on Athinas Street, just a 5 minute walk from Monastiraki Tube Station, and this is actually a great starting place to see the other main sights in Athens: 

Walk up to the Acropolis from Monastiraki

acropolis monastiraki greece

We approached the Acropolis from two directions - first we walked to it from Acropolis Tube Station (which takes about five minutes) and on another day from Monastiraki Tube Station. The second option takes about 30 minutes, but feels even longer as the sun is hot and the hill is steep, but it's still 100% the better option (in our opinion). Firstly, you get some awesome views on the way up, and secondly you have those 30 minutes to get truly excited to see Ancient Greece!!

If you are indeed approaching from Monastiraki, make sure you don't go straight into the Acropolis at the paying entrance, carry on a little further for epic views of Athens on one side and the Acropolis on the other:

acropolis greece

I especially liked seeing the Stoa of Attalos from above. 

After you've enjoyed the view, double back on yourself and make your way to the top of the Acropolis: 

Visit the Parthenon

parthenon greece

The Parthenon is the Eiffel Tower, or the Brandenburger Tor of Athens (i.e. the iconic piece). This is the one that you will see on all the postcards and struggle to get an original photo of for your Instagram:

parthenon athens
This is our attempt
The slightly confusing thing is that the Parthenon is located on the Acropolis. Which is basically a hill filled with lots of ancientness. You have to pay to get into the Acropolis (and thus see Parthenon up close). We think this is definitely worth it, because you don't just get to see the Parthenon you also get to see:

  • The Erechtheion
  • The Herodeon
  • The Theatre of Dionysus
  • The Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus
  • The Propylaea
  • Ancient Agora
  • Hadrian's Library
  • Kerameikos Archaeological Site
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus

Which isn't bad for €12. 

It was a shame that there was work being done on the Parthenon (which isn't scheduled to be finished any time soon apparently). However, it was still an incredible sight and it's amazing that it was completed in 432 BC!!! It has been used as a treasury, a Christian church and a mosque. Despite the heat and scaffolding there were plenty of tourists here: 

athens tourists

We were prepared for the Parthenon to impress us but we weren't prepared to:

Enjoy the view of Athens from the Acropolis

amazing view athens

Having done very little research before we went to the Acropolis, you won't be surprised that we were surprised that it's on a hill. The Greeks definitely knew how to build when they built the Acropolis, because the view of Athens is incredible (though has obviously changed astronomically since they built it):

beautiful view athens

Here is a small rant about the employees of the Acropolis which you may or may not want to skip, depending on how you feel about petty rants: 

[In Athens we found almost every single Greek person that we met was welcoming, friendly and kind. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the two employees we came across in the Acropolis. They were pretty rude, here are the examples:

1. I was eating a sandwich. There are no signs that say you can't eat and, as I mentioned before, we'd done little to no research on the Acropolis.  An employee came over to me and said 
'You are NOT allowed to eat in here, this is a museum NOT a park'. And waited until I put my sandwich away, then stood near and glared at me. Fair enough it's not allowed, fair enough you're proud of the Acropolis, but he could have just politely said 'You're not allowed to eat in here'.  No need to bring the park into it. Also, a museum is defined as building which the Acropolis is not. Douche. 

2. I was sitting with my legs over the side of the wall where there was admittedly a 30 ft drop on the other side. Again though there were no signs that said I couldn't AND loads of other people were doing it too. A different employee charged over to me 'You are NOT allowed to do this, if you fell it would be really bad for publicity'.. Again, fair enough it's not allowed, but you could have politely said 'You're not allowed to do that'. No need to reveal the fact that for you the worst thing about me falling would be bad publicity, not my death itself.

HOWEVER, saying all this I'm sure if I had to work around annoying tourists all day every day who were trying to destroy the statues with sandwiches and fall off walls AND it was in the sun all day, I think I would be grumpy too. So no worries Acropolis employees I won't hold it against you. ]

Anyway, aside from the awesome Parthenon and the awesome view of Athens, there are still other parts of the Acropolis to enjoy:

The Erechtheion

the erechtheion

The Erechtheion was dedicated to the two best Greek Gods - Athena and Poseidon. Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom and Poseidon is the God of the Sea. According to our good friend over at Aspect Of Style these two Gods fought to become the patron of Athens. The Athenians were allowed to decide: Poseidon gave them salt water and Athena gave them an olive tree. The Athenians went (correctly) for the olive tree and that's why Athens is called Athens :) 

After you've finished exploring the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea, head down the other side of the Acropolis to see: 

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

odeon of herodes atticus

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus dates back to 161AD (but was restored in 1950). It's incredible that something that old is around today, and not only around but still being used: it's the main venue of the Athen's Festival. 

After you've checked this out you can keep going down the hill, exiting the Acropolis by going past the Theatre of Dionysus. 

Next, you can walk down Dionysiou Areopagitou Lane towards Hadrian's Arch. If you do, you'll walk past Acropolis Museum (not included in your Acropolis ticket) and you'll also walk past the best Greek Yoghurt shop - Fresko Yogurt Bar. Yes it was touristy, but it was without a doubt the best Greek Yoghurt we had in Greece, and indeed in the whole world! 

Temple of Olympian Zeus

temple of olympian zeus

Next we'd recommend going to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, we found that this was a lot less crowded than the Acropolis, but no less impressive. 

Again we tried to get an original shot for our Instagram and these were our favourites:

temple of olympian zeus athens
temple of olympian zeus greece

It's also cool that you can see the Acropolis from here:

stunning view of acropolis

Now this was enough for us to fill up a whole awesome day in Athens, but if you're more active you might also fit in the Kerameikos Archaeological Site, Ancient Agora, Hellenic Parliament and so much more that Athens has to offer. 

Other important information:

Food and drink in Greece

greek yoghurt athens

There are some foods and drinks that you have to try out in Athens: Gyros, tatsiki, fresh fish, feta (φέτα), Greek yoghurt, moustalevria etc. The food in Greece truly is delicious, but we were pretty surprised to find that the food was not as cheap as we expected. The food definitely isn't as cheap as Italy or Portugal. Or at least that's what we found - maybe we were looking in the wrong places. 

We did find that it was impossible to find substandard food in Greece - no cheapy value products, everything tasted amazing.

In terms of drinks, we found the fresh orange juice to be some of the best we've ever had, and the coffee to be some of the worst. The orange juice is squeezed in front of you and is served with plenty of ice. The coffee is strangely thin until right at the bottom where it's weirdly thick (like the cheap hot chocolates you can get from a machine). Some people become addicted to Greek coffee when they come to Athens, we did not. 
greek alcohol

As for alcohol, Greek beer is fine, Greek wine is not good and Greek Ouzo is the best! This is just our opinion of course, we didn't try every single Greek wine or beer and are of course biased towards German beer and Italian wine, but it might not just be us - there is a reason Greece is famous for its Ouzo, not for its wines and beers. Just saying. 

(Out of all the Greek wines, the one in the above photo is probably the worst, but has the coolest cover.)

Accommodation in Greece

We were lucky enough to be House Sitting in Greece, which meant that our accommodation was provided for us in return for looking after these two beauties:
house sitting greece
We found our House Sit through Trusted House Sitters so do check them out. 

Getting around Athens

The tube in Athens is one of our absolute most favourites in Europe. It is so clean and so well organised! We arrived to Greece in Athens airport where there are free (and awesome) guides and maps of Greece (brought to you by GreekGuide.com). We found these really useful, especially the tube map so definitely pick a couple of those bad boys up. 

All in all, Athens has already made it into our hearts as one of our favourite European cities, we honestly believe it would be near impossible to spend an un-awesome first day in Athens.

view of athens
Athens, we love you thissssss much

For more on Greece check out the Ultimate Guide to Athens!

AND if you're going to Santoini check out Top 7 things to do in Santorini, Greece!

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy our other posts about spending 24 hours in a European capital city:

How to spend 24 hours in AWESOME Tallinn
What to do if you're in Dublin for 24 hours
Is one day enough for sightseeing in Paris
How to spend a day in Amsterdam (on a budget)

Thank you for reading, we'd love to connect with you on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook

Have you been to Athens? Was your first day awesome? Let us know in the comments below! 

This post is written in association with HolidayMe. 

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We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same!


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