For the Easter holiday, Cole and I knew we wanted to travel somewhere but decided that we would let the travel gods decide the destination for us. We had listed ourselves on standby for flights to Athens (our first choice), Budapest, and Geneva. We headed to the airport Friday morning and waited to see where we would head to. We got really lucky and got seats on the first flight out which was Athens! We were ecstatic to check out all the ancient ruins and try some traditional Greek food!
We arrived in town around 5 and took the transit into the city. We were staying at the Intercontinental, which was just outside the city center. As we headed up the escalator to street level, the skies opened up on us and we got caught in the worst hailstorms I’ve ever seen. As we tried to run for cover, we quickly realized it was a lost cause as within 30 seconds, we were soaked head to toe including our suitcases. After a torrential downpour that fortunately only lasted 5 minutes, the skies cleared and we trekked the remainder of the way to the hotel. We couldn’t help but laugh as we walked into the lobby of this beautiful hotel looking like wet dogs.
After drying off, we walked towards the Parthenon and had dinner at, The Old Tavern of Psaras, a restaurant the concierge had recommended overlooking the Acropolis. The restaurant was very cozy, with live Greek music, delicious food and the best sangria I think I’ve ever had. Plus its sister restaurant next door restaurant had a rooftop that had a beautiful view of the Acropolis lit up. We walked around the streets of the nearby town, Plaka, and enjoyed the beautiful evening now that the earlier rain had passed.
The following morning, we headed down to Hadrian’s Arch, which marked the entrance of the Old city to the new section and was built in A.D. 131! Nearby is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a temple dedicated to, you guessed it Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods. Some of the pillars were destroyed during a barbarian invasion resulting in them falling, but it was really cool to see the individual circular pieces of marble that make up the pillars.
We then headed to the Acropolis to view the Parthenon. Travel tip: the lines to buy tickets into the Acropolis are very, very long and can take up to 2-3 hours just to purchase them. Circumvent this by stopping at one of the other monuments (for instance like we did at the Temple of Zeus) where the lines are only 10-15 minutes and you can buy an all-day pass to visit all the city’s major monuments.
After exploring the ruins, we headed back down to the town and grabbed lunch in a bustling square stopping at one of the places that had an outdoor terrace full of people. We ordered some tzatziki, a couple different gyros and enjoyed the best meal we had in Athens (unfortunately we don’t remember the restaurant name L). It was so good that we had to stop ourselves from going back the following day and instead ventured out to try a different restaurant.
Afterwards, we walked through Central Market, which for us wasn’t too exciting since we are not big fish lovers but it was still quite a sight to see. There were a few other antique markets nearby that we explored. We then walked around the entire bottom of the Acropolis just taking in the sights, the beautiful views and enjoying our newly purchased selfie stick. We stopped in an up and coming neighbourhood nearby our hotel, Koukaki, and had a drink at a trendy bar/restaurant, Fourteen. We freshened up for dinner and then went into the affluent neighbourhood of Kolonaki, grabbing tapas at a place called Minne the Moocher, which had a great vibe and atmosphere.
Before heading to the airport on Sunday, we made the most of the last few hours we had in town. We first saw the changing of the guards, a weekly Sunday ritual that was cool to see but not terribly exciting. We then headed to try a falafel at Falafellas, a small shop which we had passed by the day before that looked amazing but had too long of a line. To our dismay, it was unfortunately closed so we ended up trying The Greco’s project, which focuses on more modern spin to traditional Greek cuisine and was very good.
We really enjoyed Athens – while some parts of the city were a bit more run down than others given the recent economic crisis – the ancient ruins and delicious food more than made up for it. We are already checking flights to Santorini so we can explore the Greek Islands in the future.