5 Reasons To Visit Athens
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Hi, my name is Toni Reid, and I love to travel, and I want to inspire others to do the same despite having a 9-5. You can travel around Greece for a fraction of the price you can get in other countries in Europe. People from around the world travel to Greece for its famous islands, the history, and their avid nightlife scene. I’m no history buff, a traveler who adores laying on the beach endlessly, nor can I stay up late enough to enjoy all of what the nightlife has to offer. I’d describe myself as an eclectic traveler with an affinity for the typical tourist activities with a heavy dose of cultural experiences.
In a word, the food was “incredible” I don’t think I had a single bad meal during my 7-days in the country. Most of my meals were served with the freshest Greek salads with slabs of feta cheese on top. Eating an authentic Greek salad in Greece has made it so that I don’t think I can enjoy it again outside of the country. In addition to the entre', my salad was served with fresh bread, virgin olive oil, and the olives were served with the richest moussakas (minus the meat). Like many European countries, Greece is a meat lover country. Still, I don’t eat anything other than fish and chicken, and the Greeks did not disappoint me. I had many dishes with fish and chicken, coupled with the freshest vegetables and fruits.
Practically everything I ate in Greece was the best version I’ve ever tasted of that dish. To all the foodies out there looking for a vacation that will satisfy their hunger for quality and value, you can’t go wrong with Greece.
The Olympic Stadium
When I visited the Old Olympic Stadium - Panathenaic grounds, it conjured up great happiness. It opened in 6th century BC, the only stadium in the world made of all marble, and the host of the first modern games. I am reminded of this significance whenever I see the torch passed at the Olympic games today! I made it my mission to trot around the stadium, and I said trot vs. running because I had on my peplos dress and afterward I took a seat on the queen’s throne. Finally recovered from the trot and high temperatures, I climbed up 29 flights of stairs to get a view. At the top, I got a unique glimpse of the Acropolis, which was delightful. On one side, there’s a view of the Acropolis, and the other is Mt Lycabettus Hill, then there’s the perfect sunset from this spot. A small fee is required to enter with the option to explore on your own or listen to an audio guide that comes with your ticket. The stadium also hosts regular summer concerts and the annual Authentic Athens marathon, or you can join the daily runs every morning from 7:30 - 9 AM.
Diomedes Botanic Garden - The Garden of Amalia
The garden has more than 500 species of plants and trees, free to enter, and it has seven entry points. I entered the side with the iconic 25-foot Washingtonia palm tree on Vasilissis Amalias Avenue. It was the perfect location to rest my mind and catch my breath from the city as I enjoyed a tasty “koulouri Thessalonikis” bread ring. Only a few steps from Syntagma metro station, the location for regular outdoor classrooms is where I enjoyed some people watching. Students were sitting in a circle on the grass with books and paper and having discussions. Through my research in advance, I discovered the garden was created in the 4th century BC by Aristotle’s student, Theophrastos, the founding father of botany. Wow! My own two feet took me to the origins of environmental protection.
The Athenian Acropolis
Let me get the bad news out of the way. There’s a steep climb to the top, and the temperature can be sweltering. The entry or the Propylaea to the Acropolis is at the top of the hill. Because most of the path is made of marble, it is essential to note the ground can be slippery. The good news is it encompasses a cluster of other ancient ruins like Nike Athens and Pinacotheca. On a clear day, you can see the port of Piraeus, so the view from the top is extraordinary. The Acropolis provides a perfect 360-degree view of the entire city and a great location to get your bearings on the town. Go stand by the Greek flag pole, and you will see the streets of Plaka and Lysikratous, the Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Despite your thoughts about touristy activities, a visit to the rocky site is a must-do to get an understanding of the uniqueness of this ancient destination. If you’re lucky, you can witness the Greek Presidential Guard (Evzones) raising or lowing the flag complete with a marching band and the playing of the national anthem.
Leaving The Acropolis, I took a long slow walk to ensure I didn’t overheat to the quaint neighborhood called Plaka. It’s a carless giant pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants. Plaka is one of the oldest in the city, and I found a seat amongst the crowds at an outdoor cafe named Anafiotika. I ordered a Freddo cappuccino, engaged with some Greeks, and reflected on my extraordinary time in Athens. If you’re interested in some homemade cocktails, check out “The Clumsies” bar.
Did I see or do anything outside of the usual touristy things? An authentic Passa Hammam bath at The Polis Hammamy, is non-touristy, right? Quick uncomfortable experience, but when in Rome, right? I was inspired by my visit to the ancient bath ruin that’s in the middle of the street in Greece. Doing things outside of the normal is subjective, isn’t it? It really depends on your purpose for traveling, and again, I am an eclectic traveler with an affinity for the typical tourist’s activities. Two hours away from Athens are the stunning Greek islands. I invite you to read my blog on the five reasons to Island Hop in Greece, where I did do some beach and club hopping.