When someone thinks of Athens, chances are that the Acropolis is the first thing that comes to mind. The Acropolis is fascinating with many of the remains there dating back to more than 2,500 years ago. The earliest artifacts found there date as far back as the 6th Millennium BCE. Walking around Athens with the omnipresent towering presence of Acropolis almost feels surreal sometimes. Walking around the collection of ancient ruins at the Acropolis is a definite must-do in Athens. We spent around 2-3 hours exploring the many ruins and enjoying the beautiful 360-degree views of Athens. Information on the Acropolis and the other ancient ruins in Athens is plentiful on the web so I won’t be writing about them.
Instead, I will focus this blog on the other things we did in Athens, some known, some not so well-known. As a quick list, these are:
- Monastiraki Square and around
- A short hike to Mount Likavittos for gorgeous views of Athens
- Nancy’s Sweet Home and Meliartos for delicious Greek pastries
- Walking around Plaka and Anafiotika
- Change of guards at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier
- Walking down Ermou Street
- Food at Kostas and Bairaktaris
- Stunning sunset at the Olympic Stadium
- Ouzo, Tsipouro, and over 50 liqueurs at Brettos
- Cocktails at the rooftop bars of 360° Cocktail Bar and A For Athens while enjoying a view of a lit-up Acropolis at night
This walking route (link) takes in all the places mentioned above except Mount Likavittos and the Olympic Stadium.
1. Monastiraki Square (map): The buzzing central square of Athens city centre, with a great view of the Acropolis, many places to eat excellent Greek food and many shops to explore at the Monastiraki Flea Market
2. Mount Likavittos (map): Mount Likavittos is a hill overlooking Athens and probably one of the best vantage points for views over Athens. Wikipedia and Google Maps mention a funicular railway and a cable car to get to the top but we could find no signs of either. It’s a little over a kilometre walk to the top with a 100m elevation gain. The 360° views are amazing and the top can get quite crowded, especially around sunset. However, there’s sufficient vantage points on the path getting to the top to just sit and soak in a beautiful sunset. There’s a café at the top too, though a little expensive (~€6 for a juice/beer).
3. Greek Pastries at Nancy’s Sweet Home (map) and Meliartos (map): Both places have very nice traditional greek and other desserts. Meliartos also has savoury stuff while Nancy’s has only sweet. My favourites were Galaktaboureko, Baklava, Kataifi, and Kotopita. A double greek coffee (no sugar) goes perfectly with the sweet desserts.
4. Plaka (map) and Anafiotika (map): We really enjoyed exploring the narrow streets and winding paths around Plaka and Anafiotika neighbourhoods. Plaka is colourful, while Anafiotika has narrow, winding, paths climbing up to some more beautiful view of Athens.
5. Monument of the Unknown Soldier (map): Sculpted between 1930 and 1932, this cenotaph is a war memorial dedicated to Greek soldiers killed in war. The highlight of this visit is to watch the guards, dressed in traditional Greek ceremonial military uniforms, stand absolutely still. The change of guards that happens on the hour every hour is fascinating to watch as well, especially their unique style of marching, and the perfect coordination even with their backs to each other.
6. Ermou Street: For a bit of shopping, window shopping, or people watching, the pedestrianised section of Ermou Street from Meliartos (map) to Syntagma Square (map) is quite nice The Flying Tiger store was a lot of fun for our kids, and for me too 🙂
7. Food at Kostas (map) and Bairaktaris (map): Bairaktaris is easy to find, right next to Monastiraki Square. They have a large menu with many greek dishes. We especially liked the Stuffed Chillies, and the Fried Eggplant, apart from the Souvlaki.
Kostas is a very small place, popular with locals, that only has two types of souvlakis (beef and pork) served with onions, tomatoes, tzatziki sauce and a spicy sauce, either inside a pita or as a salad. You can also just get the meat on skewers, which was perfect for our kids. They only have a few tables and stools to sit outside on the street. The actual shop is a few metres walk from where Google Maps takes you. In the map below, go to where the map says Hellas Group.
8. Sunset at the Olympic Stadium (map): The pictures below will do more justice than me trying to describe the sensational sunset at the Olympic Stadium. There was a metro strike the day we went so we took a taxi. The taxi dropped us at what seemed like the main gate of the stadium. From there we had to walk to the place (map) to get the pictures below. It was very difficult finding a taxi back as not many come to the stadium, and the taxis don’t stop on the main road outside the stadium. The best option would be to call an Uber, or walk to this mall (map) and wait for a taxi there.
9. Brettos (map): Brettos is apparently the oldest distillery in Athens. The most striking thing about the bar is the wall to wall display of colourful bottles of the more than 50 liqueurs that they make. They are best known for their Ouzos (going from single distilled (~40% alc.) to quadruple distilled (~52% alc.).
10. Rooftop Cocktails: 360 Cocktail Bar and A For Athens are on two sides of Monastiraki Square and provide an excellent view of the Acropolis. It is especially eye-cathing in the night. A For Athens is an enclosed bar with a slightly fancier dining ambience and some very nice cocktails, while 360 is more casual, is open-air (with many gas canopy heaters for cold nights), and more standard drinks. I would probably have a couple of cocktails at A For Athens, and then hang out at 360 over a couple of beers, if I were in Athens again.