One Day In Athens
I’d been looking forward to travelling to Greece again for a while and this was one of my most memorable trips. Our trip to Zakynthos in 2016 had been my favourite so far so I was excited to see what more Greece had to offer. Having learned ancient Greek history in school and heard fascinating myths, I couldn't wait to see authentic Greece and how a family there lived. It was my first time in the mainland and the beginning of a 10 day adventure. Being reunited with a university friend that I had not seen in years also added to my excitement.
I arrived in Athens in the early hours of July. My bus dropped me off by the famous Syntagma Square in Athens, which is also a public transport hub. Prior to arrival, I had concerns regarding Athen’s safety at night time. I heard mixed reviews and even emailed the hostel asking if it was safe for me to walk from Syntagma Square to the hostel. ‘Yes it is’ they replied. The walk itself wasn’t bad, there were some takeaways that were still open and a number of homeless people on the streets but they were asleep and nobody bothered me.
I booked to stay in Pella Inn hostel located in the centre which was a 15 minute walk to the Acropolis. The reviews were good and it was close to where I wanted to be the next morning (unsure of where to stay in Athens? check out this hotel directory list). The amazing views from the rooftop bar also drew my attention! I didn’t arrive until past midnight and I was slightly unlucky during my stay. Staying in an 8 bed dorm was hit and miss. This time it was definitely a miss due to being woken up several times throughout the night by travellers arriving later than me.
I was up by around 5.30am as I had planned to meet my friend at 7am outside the Acropolis which opened at 8am. Despite a lack of sleep, my walk to the Acropolis was a pleasant one, it was quiet, warm and the city had not woken up yet. Athens is a city full of ancient ruins and street art/graffiti. I remember thinking that I’ve never seen a city with so much street art/graffiti before. Almost every building had some form of spray paint and I read that this is linked to the high unemployment rates. Technically it is illegal but I read that as there’s so much of it the police don’t have time to get involved. I was quite fascinated. If I had more time here I would definitely go on a street art tour (if there was one) or just explore the street art myself. We decided to meet early to beat the crowds and I do recommend getting there as early as possible.
Built in the 6th century BC on the foot of the Acropolis is the Theatre of Dionysos. This is the first theatre in the world dedicated to Dionysos Eleuthereus, the god of wine and theatre. The theatre can sit up to 17,000 people and it hosted a number of important Greek plays.
On the south west slope of the Acropolis is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built in the Roman times by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife. This is still used as a theatre today. Enjoy great views of the city from here.
The Acropolis sits on a hill 156 metres above sea level. You can see the Acropolis from most parts of Athens. It is made up of several monuments being the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea. These buildings were damaged several times during history and it is still currently being restored. Parts of the monuments were sectioned off and there were a couple of small cranes but this was subtle. I loved the beautiful marble temples and Greek architecture. It really was a special place. To fully appreciate the site I recommend spending a few hours there. It does get really hot during the summer and the temperature was well above 30 degrees so remember to top up your sunscreen. It was good that we were up early as when we were leaving, crowds started pouring in.
The Acropolis Museum
We then headed to the Acropolis Museum afterwards to view the exhibitions and to learn Greek history. The museum was pretty big, it totals 25,000 square meters so I recommend at least 2 hours there. It was also nice to be indoors after being in the sun for so long. The museum is clean, modern and very informative. My friend also had great knowledge of Greek history so exploring the museum with her was great fun.
Moments away from the Acropolis museum is Plaka, an area filled with restaurants and souvenir shops. It is the oldest district in Athens, also known as the ‘God’s district’. The narrow cobble-stoned streets has an island/village feel to it. It reminded me of Zankynthos town. The area was very commercialised as it was full of tourists but it was still a nice area to wander around in. We shopped around the souvenir shops and I managed to pick up a few souvenirs from here. We asked one shopkeeper for restaurant recommendations and he recommended Byzantino Taverna down the road which was a good choice for my first proper meal in Greece!
We took the underground to Monastiraki which is an area well known for the ruins of Hadrian’s library and it’s flea market. I was pretty tired by this point so I didn’t check out the flea market but we did take a look at the ruins of Hadrian’s library. It’s worth a visit if you’re passing by but no need to spend loads of time here. The library was damaged during the Herulian invasion and then repaired although it became disused and has not been well preserved since.
Pella Inn Rooftop
Our last stop in Athens was the roof-top bar in my hostel. I told my friend that the rooftop view was supposed to be beautiful. I had read loads of reviews prior to booking my accommodation and the views were well rated by many travellers. I was quite right. There was only us at the bar and we enjoyed the beautiful views from above. This was a great way to end a busy day in Athens.
Then to my surprise I opened my backpack to find that my mini side bag was gone. ‘I swear it was in there!’ I said to my friend. We checked everywhere but nothing. This was the awful moment when I realised I had been pickpocketed. It must have happened when we were in the underground. It all makes sense now, I was tired, not paying attention to my surroundings and my friend had even warned me about pickpockets prior to my arrival in Greece. Luckily I had my phone with me but worst of all, my passport was gone. How on earth was I going to return to the UK? I immediately rang the British Consulate who cancelled my passport and advised that I apply for an emergency passport. Thank god I have travel insurance to cover me I thought. I knew that this was just the beginning of a very stressful process and travel plans will need to change. Despite the stressful moment I still tried to look forward to the next part of my journey. A 5 hour ride to Kompoti, Arta.