Athens – The Modern and Ancient
Athens, the central hub for visitors coming and going in Greece and a fantastic destination all on it’s own. It reminded me somewhat of Rome, Italy, with her history and the many ancient ruins and artifacts. Athens though, felt much more intimate to me; a smaller city, that I could freely explore and feel at home in a short two-night stay.
We had two nights to spend in Athens, and chose a hotel (the Titania) that was located within the downtown Athens area. Nearly everything you could desire to see in the city is easily accessed by foot or an easy to navigate, subway infrastructure. The Titania had a beautiful nighttime view of the acropolis from their rooftop restaurant, which made it an easy choice for me.
With so much rich history to explore and learn about, we opted for a half-day guided tour the day after we arrived. Our guide met us in the local subway station and along with a small group we followed her through the historical Plaka neighborhood to the Acropolis. She was incredibly informative as we toured the Acropolis and surrounding Plaka area. There are so many ruins and ancient structures that have unique significance that I would not have fully appreciated without her guidance. Following the educational portion of our tour, she led us through a cultural tour with various food tastings. We enjoyed freshly prepared spanakopita, melt in your mouth home-made Greek donuts with honey, Loukoumades, and a traditional Greek coffee, which is traditionally boiled in a tall, narrow pot known as a briki. We were too full to enjoy the final stop of chicken gyros, so we opted to come back to those later on in the day. I would highly recommend planning at least a partial day guided tour for your trip to Athens, I found myself learning so much more and gaining new experiences that I likely would have overlooked had I tried to experience it all on my own.
In addition to the Acropolis and Plaka neighborhood, there are several other sites around the city you will want to make sure you see. The Olympic stadium (modern day), the Temple of Olympian Zeus (ancient ruins), and the Athens National Garden (just a short walk from the Syntagma metro station), are all interesting sights and worth your time to explore.
I would be remised if I failed to share more details about one of my favorite things in Athens… the food! In addition to those tasty snacks and treats we enjoyed on our tour, we of course had to seek out some great local restaurants. My absolute favorite was Cave of Acropolis. We really stumbled upon it by accident while out exploring; it was in the Plaka neighborhood, up on a little hill, with an absolutely stunning backdrop of the Acropolis. It had a small neighborhood feel with a gregarious wait staff and every bit of food was delicious. The second dinner spot we found, credit to Rick Steve’s Greece guide book, was Xenios Zeus. It was tucked away down a quiet street near the Plaka neighborhood, overlooking Athen’s rooftops. It proved to have equally delicious food and outstanding service.
Now for a quick lunch stop, our absolute favorite food item was a Souvlaki Gyro. The Souvlaki is meat grilled on a skewer, and then they serve it either on a plate or wrapped in pita bread as a sandwich (we always opted for the pita bread). It is generally served in the pita with lettuce, tomato, onion and of course tzatziki sauce. We found the best place to find this was on Souvlaki Row near the Monastiraki Square; more specifically, we decided that Savvas was the #1 place to be.
Last but not least, let me tell you about my “do not miss” drink, the Café Freddo. I will preface by saying, Starbucks has tried to make their own version of this (in fact it was shortly after we came home that they started advertising it), it is NOT the same and not nearly as good. The Café Freddo is a chilled espresso beverage with a thick layer of frothy cream on top. We most enjoyed the version of this made by Coffee Island. In their version, that decadent top layer of cream was sweetened. It made for the best treat/dessert I have ever had in a coffee drink.
If you are ready to pack your bags to explore this incredible city, shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – OR – feel free to call/text me at 770.845.1823. Have a fantastic day!