I am a notoriously travel book-averse traveler. I like to arrive at a place, and blissfully figure out the details of a place on the fly. Maybe I’m stubborn, but I really like to learn as I go, in terms of traveling.
But not everyone is like me. Many people like to prepare in advance. Many of those wonderfully prepared people reach out to me to find out what to do when they come to Athens. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I like to do and see in Athens.
This is not an exhaustive list of what you should do if you travel to Athens; in fact, this are just a few things I like to do that I think are worthwhile if you are in town for a short visit. These are all the things that don’t involve old white marble. In Athens, do go to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, amaze yourself at the Temple of Zeus in the middle of modern, noisy traffic. Do walk through Plaka and Monastiraki. When you finish these must-do activities and want to do something outside of the regular tourist-y things, here are some of my favorite places to go and things to do in and around Athens:
- See a Movie! In the summer, Greek outdoor cinemas are awesome, and a great way to stave off jet lag and relax. You can catch a movie (start times are usually 9pm and 11pm) at either Thissio cinema (ranked number one in the world by CNN) or Cine-Paris. There are many, so ask around where you are staying if you are not in the center. http://cine-thisio.gr/; and http://www.cineparis.gr/cine_uk.php
- Swim in a Lake! Athens has many beaches, of varying degrees of cleanliness. For something a little different, and slightly off the beaten track, there is lovely swimming at Voulagmenis lake: http://www.limnivouliagmenis.gr/en/
My girls love this place, and the scenery is spectacular. They have little fish that give you an all natural “fish spa,” so if that creeps you out, you should probably not swim there. (Btw, there are fish spas all over Greece!!)
- Run a lap! Check out the Panathenaic Stadium, built for the 1896 Olympics (the first modern Olympics), with a rarity in Greece: a great audio tour. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panathenaic_Stadium
- Get high! For some cool sightseeing, take a taxi to Lyccabettus. It’s a hill that’s higher than the acropolis, with amazing views. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Lycabettus There’s a small church at the top and a nice restaurant and coffee shop. The restaurant prices are expensive but the food is pretty good. I like to go to see the moon rise and the sun set and have appetizers, and ouzo. There are nice walks up the hill, but be warned that it gets really hot in the summer. And, skip the funicular. It’s expensive, doesn’t run very often, and is enclosed. There’s simply no point to taking it up the hill. If you find yourself at the funicular entrance, take a walk up the hill, and enjoy an amazing view of Athens.
- Get cultured! The “new” Acropolis museum is quite nice (and air-conditioned!!) but it’s a whole lot of white marble, so kids may find it less than enthralling. They have a cafe with good food and local, organic (!?!) beer. There is an excellent kids’ program that will keep the kids occupied but it might also have them moving quickly through the museum: http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/content/day-acropolis-museum
Whatever you do, come to Athens and enjoy the mix of ancient and modern lives!!