Athens

Athens

Our Athens Itinerary Through The Lens

by Ana arzaf | Published on July 19, 2017

Day 1

Breakfast @ Athens Gate Hotel


What could possibly said about Athens that has not been said, experienced or even read about? It is a magical city, It’s like going back in time in this place. But first if you are skirmish about a little history lesson look away now.

Coffee with a view from a Greece hotel

We arrived in the ancient city of Athens on in March 2015. Surprisingly, the weather was lovely most of the time, quite warm and sunny!

The Athens Gate Hotel was an excellent choice: service is top, location is superb and the rooftop is just unbelievable: exclusive 360 view to the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus. We can happily recommend it not only for breakfast & accommodation but if you do not choose this hotel, you should definitely come for a drink in the evening at the rooftop, the view is more than worth it! Full disclosure, Athens Gate hotel are not asking us to promote them, we are just amazed by the location and hospitality on offer by this guys.

Monastiraki Square


busy square at all times

CIf you you’ve never tried a free walking tour, tried it on your next holiday. What is it? well, same things as any other tour really except you need a comfy shoe because you are going to be walking a lot and it worth it if you want to see the real hidden Athens. This was the first time we book a free walking tour ourselves and we did not know what to expect. The truth is, we loved it! it is the perfect way to walk around the city (usually with a local) and get to see not only the landmarks but also tips on where to go for a drink, where to eat and hidden gems that may not be obvious to you! we booked with and had a very satisfactory experience.

Since our hotel location was convenient walking distance, we arrived at the meeting point in less than 10 minutes. Maria (our Athenian tour guide) was knowledgeable and made it very interesting. If you would rather do it on your own, here is what you can see in 3 hours!

Plaka neighbourhood


Plaka neighbourhood, the oldest neighbourhood in Athens. Full of tourist shops, cafeterias, restaurants… a little pricey, but food is not bad to be in a popular area. Our tour guide mentioned that this used to be the place to party but the government banned loud music in the 70s and the neighbourhood started changing.

We started our tour in Monastiraki Square which is not only one of the main attractions but also the perfect district to start exploring Athens. As a flea market, we found lots of shops, coffees, souvenir shops and restaurants, many of which, serving delicious traditional Greek food. We bought olives and oregano to bring back to London but you also have plenty of other choices to choose from.

A visit to The Cathedral (Mitrópoli). It is a landmark of the city, used for important weddings and funerals. It was built in the XIX century when Athens became the capital, it is the largest modern church in Athens where two martins of the Ottoman empire were buried

The Cathedral


A visit to The Cathedral (Mitrópoli). It is a landmark of the city, used for important weddings and funerals. It was built in the XIX century when Athens became the capital, it is the largest modern church in Athens where two martins of the Ottoman empire were buried

Syntagma Square


We then make our way to another landmark which we encounter several more times: Syntagma Square. Syntagma = Constitution Square is the place where people gather to celebrate, protest or mourn. In fact, if there is a protest against the authority, it is quite likely it happens here. At the top of Syntagma is former King’s Palace, today, the Greek Parliament. If you go at the right time you can see the Evzones, the elite soldiers who guard the Palace, similar to the Buckingham Palace Royal Guard.

National Garden


And just behind Syntagma Square, it is the King’s Garden, now National Garden. You just feel the sensation of a King wandering in the peacefulness of this garden, enjoying the flora and fauna, including duck and turtles!

located at the end of the national gardens

Zappeion Palace and its gardens


the stunning symmetry of the athenian most relevant place for events and exhibitions

On our way back to the hotel we passed by the Zappeion Palace used to host official events and exhibitions. It has been particularly linked to the Olympics although the use has varied. If, like Ana, you like symmetry, visit the interior of this building.

Panathenaic Stadium


Our last stop of the morning was the Panathenaic Stadium, closely connected to the modern olympic games. His uniqueness relies on the fact that it is the only stadium in the world that it is completely built of marble! if you are an olympics fan, this is a must as this was the stadium where the olympic flame ceremony takes place!

Acropolis Museum


After an exhausting morning, we went back to the hotel for some rest and had lunch around the hotel area before we headed to the Acropolis Museum in the afternoon.What can you find here? the Acropolis Museum was founded to gather and exhibit the findings of the Acropolis. If you feel there is a substantial part that is missing, you will find it in the British Museum, in London, but that is another story for another time.

the original caryatids kept in the acropolis museum

Day 2

The Acropolis


The Acropolis is amazing! You really have to be here to appreciate it. It is surely one of the greatest architectural master pies in the world. An ambitious project put into effect by Pericles, completely transformed the city.

Ana on the marble seats of the of earlier temple of the god of wine and drama

One thing to bear in mind though, don’t look too professional if you are taking pictures or recording a video. We warned several times by the staff be we had a tripod and semi-expensive equipment, so we were asked not to record or take picture using the tripod as this falls into the category of professional journalism so you are ok with hand held camera. We tried to enquired further but were not given a full explanation other feedback we presume was maybe because this was a UNESCO protected site, so this would be something to bear in mind, especially as you wouldn’t want to carry a tripod all day if you can’t use it. As long as you don’t look like a professional photographer you are won’t be thrown out.

First thing you encounter on your visit to the complex is the Theatre of Dionysus (God of wine and drama). This is the first theatre built in stone. And I love it! The marble thrones, the amazing acoustic… you feel it, it’s like going back in time. You can even get to experience it fully by seating on one of the marble thrones!

Ana on the marble seats of the of earlier temple of the god of wine and drama
Stunning view of the temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon on a sunny day

Don’t confuse Theatre of Dionysus with the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which is on the other side of the Acropolis. Also built in stone, was renovated last century and has been used to host international artist’s performance such as Maria Calas, Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra or Sting.

Looking for the best spot to see the full theatre
Andrew looking for a place to see next concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Once you passed this two theatres, you will encounter The Propylaea, which is the Entrance to the Acropolis.This is the only building in The Acropolis that is secular, i.e., not dedicated to any deity and therefore it doesn’t contain any decorations, sculptures or other forms of adorning.

Initial view of the Propylaea when approaching the Acropolis
Ana in front of the temple dedicated to Athena

Climbing up the stairs you can also see the small temple Athena Nike on your right hand side. This location was a strategic point of defence back in the day. Perhaps, this is why it was dedicated to the goddess of victory.

And once you pass the entrance, you can see: The Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, protector goddess of the city. It is SO IMPRESSIVE! One can imagine what a magnificent infrastructure this was back in the day. This is the most iconic building not only in Athens but in the whole country. I would go further and say “in the world”. It is a reflection of the rich and flourishing arts of the day.

A visit to The Cathedral (Mitrópoli). It is a landmark of the city, used for important weddings and funerals. It was built in the XIX century when Athens became the capital, it is the largest modern church in Athens where two martins of the Ottoman empire were buried

Ancient history tells us that there used to be a gigantic statue of Athena made of gold and marble. Athena was not only the protector of the city but also the goddess of wisdom and good at war strategy (as you may know, Ares was the god of physical war). According to history, Athena was holding a small statue of Nike, winged goddess of victory. Fun fact, you may know the famous sport brand of the same name uses the symbol of a wing as its logo…

Andrew enjoying views from an exclusive spot by the Parthenon

The Parthenon has suffered transformations, it is been a Byzantine church and a mosque. It suffered tremendously at the end of the XVII century due to the Occupation of Athens by the Ottoman Empire. Later, at the beginning of the XIX century, It is also said Britain also plundered Greece for “Elgin Marbles”. Greece has been seeking international justice to regain it from the British but that a different story for another day. You can still see them in the British Museum in London if you so wish.

Stunning view of the temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon on a sunny day
Andrew looking really small next to the impressive temple of the acropolis

The Erechtheion, dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. The uniqueness of this building relies on its south facade which columns are caryatids (standing female figure serving as a column). Just so you know, the figures you will see today are replicas as the originals were moved to the Acropolis Museum to be protected from the weather.

Areopagus (Mars Hill)


Just next to the Acropolis you can climb up to the Areopagus (Mars Hill), a bare marble rock. Used as the Council of Elders initially, it also served as Homicide Court later. The view of the Acropolis is beautiful from here. It is also worth noticing that acceding to the Bible, apostle Paul gave his famous speech about the identity of “the Unknown God.” here.

Impressive view of the Propylaea and temple of Athena Nike

Drinks @ Plaka neighbourhood


After a long day visiting, we went back to the hotel area to have lunch, relax and do some work having a coffee at the hotel rooftop before we went for Drinks @ Plaka neighbourhood.

Day 4

Temple of Olympian Zeus


Last visit to Temple of Olympian Zeus just a few meters away from our hotel. We were lucky enough to see this colossal temple from our hotel room every day!

Dedicated to Olympian Zeus, envisaged to be the greatest temple in the ancient world.

You can capture a superb shot of this temple with the Acropolis in the background!

Hotel room panoramic view of the standing columns

The Temple has been badly damaged over the years and today, you can only see 15 columns standing. With one of them collapsed and lying across the site.

captured of two of the wonders of the greek capital
The lying column stays in a perfect line_ it was kept there when it collapsed
beautiful view of the columns of the temple of zeus

You can tell by the tall columns and the several centuries it took to complete, that this was, no doubt, an ambitious project. There is archaeological evidence indicating that this temple was started in the VI century BC but it wasn’t finished until 131 CE by Emperor Hadrian.

The athenian style of the temples was (and it is still) copied across the globe for all sort of buildings, from government buildings (such as the White House) to finest mansions.

Hill of Pnyx


You may have heard that Athens is the nest of democracy. Well, the Athenian democratic assembly used to meet at the Hill of Pnyx, a rocky hill later used as the sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos was our next stop. You can visit it at any time and it is free of charge. We were advised by the locals, not to visit it at night though!

panoramic of the capital of Greece
Exploring different parts of the HIll of Pnyx

The Prison of Socrates


Within this complex, you can also visit The Prison of Socrates. Have you ever seen movies where the prisons looked dirty, dark and depressing? this is exactly what the prison of Socrates looked like. Socrates, a notable Greek philosopher, thought that his ideas needed to be transmitted orally and therefore he did not leave books or texts we can refer to. Master of Plato and being one of founders of Western philosophy, Socrates questioned the Greek Gods, the Oracle and was critic of the Athenians politics and society. This position offended many. He was imprisoned, found guilty of corrupting the minds of the young athenians and executed by being obliged to drink poison hemlock.

Ana trying to access the jail where the master of Plato was imprisoned

Graffitis – Gazi district


After the intense historic tour visit, time to unwind by visiting another district, this time we ventured into the up and coming modern art area of Graffitis – Gazi district. The pictures speak for themselves:

Designed on a wall at the vibrant neighbourhood of Gazi

Lunch @ ΜΠΑΪΡΑΚΤΑΡΗΣ


Time for Lunch @ ΜΠΑΪΡΑΚΤΑΡΗΣ, a very authentic athenian place. The serve includ oregano on your chips whenever you order a portion! My plate included the calamari but we also tried the greek meatballs on their local tomato sauce: absolutely delicious!

The Sanctuary of Pan


Back to the city centre passing by the Sanctuary of Pan. Dedicate to the semi-god Pan, god of the wild and companion of the nymphs. The cult of Pan in caves, was common during the V century BC.

a place to worship the companion of the nymphs

The Greek and Roman Agoras


A few minutes away from the restaurant, you can see the Greek and Roman Agoras. The Agoras means “assembly”. It used to be the place where free-born citizen would gather to hear announcements of their council or discuss politics. Later, the Agoras became a market place. It was here, in the Agora, where Socrates questioned the current system – you know how it ended…

a place to gather and discuss later converted into a market

Tower of the Winds


Something to look for and worth mentioning in the Roman Agora is the Tower of the Winds. This is a very early example of a clock tower, that was first used as the Bell Tower of a Byzantine church and as a Tekke by the Ottomans.

Hadrian´s library


Hadrian´s library, built under emperor Hadrian and badly damaged over the years, one can appreciate today that this magnificent library was built to impress. In ancient times, libraries had a slightly different use as they have today. They did not only store papyrus and books but also were a place to learn from philosophers of the time.

more than a place to read books

The Temple of Hephaestus


As many buildings in Greece, the library has had different uses, from the original use as a library to a mosque, a bazaar or a prison.

We ended our day and our trip to Athens visiting The Temple of Hephaestus. Dedicated to God Hephaestus, god of fire, craftsmanship and smiths. It still strikes us how well-maintained it was, judge by yourself!

Ana posing at the front side of the temple dedicated to the god of smiths
Ana seating by the columns of the museum of the ancient agora

Andrew hiding behind the dark columns

Time to go back home, hope to come back and explore other ancient cities soon…

Thanks For Reading.

If you find this post helpful, tip to share or have question let me know in the comment below.

-Ana

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