The great thing about Athens, and Greek culture in general, is that the day is long. Shops and attractions open early in the morning and, dining and nightlife destinations stay open late. If you just have one day to explore one of the most ancient civilizations in its new modern milieu, get up early and put on comfortable shoes. The following agenda is sure to give you new insight into one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
Morning (8am – 11am)
START YOUR DAY BY VISITING THE ACROPOLIS AND ITS MAIN ATTRACTION, THE PARTHENON. Head back down to the base and spend some time strolling through the largest archeological park. Formally called the Unification of Archaeological Sites, the pedestrian-only pathways and green-topped hills (4.7 km, or 3 miles) at the base of the hill, encompass some of the world’s most significant ancient monuments and sites including The Theatre of Dionysus, The Herodus Atticus Theatre and the Ancient Agora.
Surrounding the park are also some of Athens’ most historic neighborhoods and sites. Head north to Thisio and Psiri, grab a cup of coffee and continue walking southeast stopping to shop in Monastiraki. Just east of the Roman Agora is the charming and historic neighborhood of Plaka. Stop at one of the many tavernas for a quick meal or, instead head to the must-see New Acropolis Museum and grab a quick bite at the popular café.
Tour the city via Double Decker bus (www.city-sightseeing.gr), or hop on hop off the Happy Train (www.athenshappytrain.com) as it takes you from Sintagma Square and through the historic city centre.
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN ATHENS. One metro stop or a quick few minutes walk away, is Sintagma Square, the heart of downtown Athens. The metro station’s main exit opens onto the marble square itself. Across the street is the impressive Greek Parliament and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Take a photo alongside one of the selectively chosen Presidential Guards (evzones or tsoliades) that flank the monument.
Time permitting, take your pick of museums on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue: The Museum of Cylcadic Art, the Benaki Museum or the War Museum are in close proximity and excellent choices, as is the new B&M Theocharakis Foundation for the Fine Arts & Music. Fashionistas drop into nearby Attica the Department Store or browse the gallery of shops along Ermou street just south of Sintagma Square or Voukourestiou Street towards Kolonaki. Need a rest? Head to Valaouritou street or Milioni street for a cup of coffee and urban-professional people watching.
VISIT THE ATTICA COASTLINE. Head back to Sintagma and take the tram or the bus to the Athenian Riviera and Paleo Faliro, the first of the coastal “urban” neighborhoods. Get off at Trocadero station and embark onto the promenades of the mega-yacht Flisvos Marina, for shopping and dining with a backdrop of the Saronic Gulf.
If traveling with children, continue south to Parko Flisvos, one of the largest children’s playgrounds. For shopping and more coastal sightseeing or beach hopping, take the tram further south to the neighborhood of Glyfada and indulge in the ample shopping choices on Ioannou Metaxa and Lazaraki str..
Evening (8pm-10:30 pm)
Upon returning to the centre, enjoy a dinner and/or cocktails with a view of the Acropolis at one the city’s many restaurants.
Late Night (11pm-)
NIGHT OWLS, REVEL IN THE MANY BARS AND CLUBS and find out why many ex-pats from places like New York and London often refer to Athens as the true city that never sleeps. In the winter, head to the bars and clubs in districts: Gazi, Psiri, Kolonaki and Pireos. In the summer: Paleo Faliro, Alimos, Kalamaki, Agios Kosmas, Elliniko, Glyfada, Voula, Varkiza.
We await you on your next visit to explore further what has just been a taste of this vibrant, modern city rich in cultural tradition and heritage.
P.S.! Don’t leave without trying some street food (perfect to keep you going as you sightsee). We like: Koulouri (sesame seed bread), Tyropita (cheese pie) Spanakopita (spinach pie); souvlaki, gyro for lunch; and for a snack: Kastana (roasted chestnuts) in the winter and Kalaboki (grilled corn on the cob) in the summer and autumn.