Out of the many places in the world I’ve been to recently, Greece has been at the top of my favorites. I left from the Beijing airport mid January and spontaneously decided to spend five days in Athens, which ended up being the perfect amount of time to spend there. A lot of the monuments and landmarks in the city are mostly within walking distance of each other, so you could probably see the whole city in 3 days and also be able to visit some of the country’s astonishing islands.
It was around 6am when i arrived in Athens from Beijing, so it was perfect timing to catch the sunrise on the 45 minute drive from the airport to my hotel (Royal Olympic Hotel Athens). On the drive there, you pass by many pastel colored buildings overlooking the highway. As you start entering the city, don’t be taken aback at first by the graffiti left on buildings, Despite this, the city is a fairly clean place.
The Royal Olympic is directly in the city centre and right in front of the ancient world wonder, The Temple of Zeus, and only a short walk from The National Garden, The Acropolis Museum and The Olympic Stadium, which made the rooftop lounge perfect for an excellent panoramic view of the sites. This location being part of the Great Hotels of The World Luxury Collection, it was to no surprise it was stylishly decorated with incredible service.
As early in the morning as it was when I arrived, I went to go explore the rest of the city as soon as I had checked in. The national gardens make for a great morning walk and is easy to get (happily) lost in. You will find yourself surrounded by an african rain forest, roman ruins and even stumble upon a miniature zoo, all in the middle of the city.
Exploring the historical Plaka neighborhood, you will find many local restaurants, shops and other eateries. One of the things you will notice about the city is the large amount of wild cats! Who are surprisingly very friendly. I say if the animals are friendly, the people must be pretty good too.
As you walk through this area, you may happen upon the scenic tiny neighborhood of Anafiotika, which lies on the Northeastern side of the Acropolis hill. The little cubic white homes are reminiscent of the architecture you might find on one of the Greek Islands. This picture perfect village was originally built by carpenters from the island of Anafi in the 1840’s!
Above this neighborhood is the famous ancient world wonder, The Parthenon, sitting on top of the Acropolis hill. A short walk from the Plaka will take you up to this magnificent place. In the off season, the ticket price is around 12 euros and 20 euros in the summer months. After walking up the staircase of the hill you will be led into the main area of the sanctuary. the impressive temple was dedicated to he goddess Athena and completed construction in 438 BC, still standing to this day. On the walk down from the hill, you can also take a visit to The Theatre of Dionysus.
Before visiting the Parthenon, I recommend stopping by the Acropolis museum on the way there. The museum contains many of the original artifacts found on the hill, and you can also see the ruins the museum was built on top of from the glass floor entrance of the building!
You may also notice another limestone hill in the middle of the city- Mount Lycabettus. It is the tallest in the city at 300 meters above sea level. But don’t be too daunted by its height to avoid climbing it! You could take a taxi or a cable car to the top, but we decided to take the task of walking all the way to the top. Surprisingly the walk took no more than 25 minutes. I highly recommend it as it is such a beautiful panoramic view of Athens.
January ended up being the perfect time to visit as there were a lot less tourists out than usual and the weather was pretty much perfect. Greece’s rich history and natural beauty left me absolutely mesmerized, and i would definitely go back!
Planning to visit Greece? Let me know about your experience below.
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