This year, we decided to return to an Ikos resort in Greece after our honeymoon at Ikos Dassia in Corfu last year. This time, however, we weren’t flying from another European country so the flights ended up being quite tricky to arrange! To make it easier, we decided we’d take our long-haul flight to Athens and spend a day there before moving on to Kos.
Because it’s such a big overseas flight when coming from the US, I always try to make the most of it and take every opportunity to see new places, even if we don’t have a lot of time there. I think it’s a great way to get a feel for an area and decide if it’s somewhere you’d like to return for a longer stay.
While I’m sure there are tons more to see in Athens and so much more delicious Greek food to eat, I felt like we were able to fit in a lot of the sights in our short amount of time there. Even while suffering from extreme jet lag!
Getting to Greece is no easy feat from the Midwest USA. Many of the flights had several layovers and long stops. The ones without as many were often double the price.
Ultimately, I decided we’d make the most of our time overseas by picking flights with overnight layovers so we’d have the opportunity to explore a new city. We had a short stopover in Atlanta, before flying right to Athens. On our return flight, we’d have an overnight layover in Amsterdam.
We chose Delta Airlines for our flight. A change from our recent Aer Lingus flights abroad. It was my first time flying through Delta and it was an enjoyable experience for a long flight. The cabins were clean and comfortable, with a meal, breakfast item, and wine/other complimentary beverages. Our seats were close to the bathroom and I enjoyed being able to see when they were occupied.
Chris, however, had a rough time falling asleep which also kept me from sleeping well. This resulted in major jet lag upon arriving in Athens. Luckily, on the return flight, the third person in our row was able to move to emergency exit seating, leaving Chris and me with more room to relax.
I had no complaints about Athens airport. I felt like they moved everyone through customs and security quickly and efficiently. Quick and efficient is all you can hope for in an airport — I’ve experienced plenty that were neither, including returning to my own country.
I’m an odd duck who LOVES public transportation when traveling. It’s not as commonplace or efficient back in the States, aside from some major cities, and I love not having to rely on getting a vehicle if I want to explore.
We took the train from Athens Airport into the city center via the Blue Line. We did have to wait around 15 minutes for the train to arrive but it was easy to find from the arrivals terminal. Tickets cost 9 euros one way and are easily purchased from a kiosk or at the ticket counter. The train ride was around 40 minutes. We got off at the Monistiraki stop, which was close to our accommodation and right in the city center.
Other than getting to the city center from the airport, we were able to walk to everything else we did in Athens. It’s a walkable area, with many of the major sights clustered nearby. While some parts may look a little rough around the edges with graffiti and closed-up shops, I never once felt unsafe walking around and found the combination of this with the quintessential outdoor restaurant seating and historical sights to be part of Athens’ charm. I loved walking around and taking it all in.
A PLACE TO REST…
On a whim, I switched the original accommodation I booked to a place called 14 Reasons Why. My main motivator was that it seemed more accessible to the train station. If you’ve ever traveled to a European city, you know that it’s ideal to haul your luggage for as short of a distance as possible, thanks to cobblestones, hills, and busy sidewalks.
14 Reasons Why was about a 5-minute walk from the train station and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. When you enter the hotel, you find yourself in the main lobby/dining area. The hotel had an eclectic, trendy vibe with neon lights, monkey light fixtures, and quirky decor. One of the benches for their tables was a giant clothing pin!
Reception took care of us quickly, despite our early arrival. An elevator was available to take our luggage to our room — another plus, as there have been plenty of times when I’ve had to carry heavy luggage up a flight or two of stairs.
Our room was exactly what we needed for a one-night stay. The bed was comfortable (perfect for our 12-hour jet lag sleep after exploring). It was spacious and clean, toiletries were provided, and it had the same eclectic and fun feel as the lobby.
WHAT WE DID
I was excited to explore the historical sites in Athens. I know Europeans like to joke that Americans always lose their shit over things like castles and historical sites, but I think that’s because seeing things with so much history is such a rarity for us. The US is new in the grand scheme of things, and we don’t exactly value the historic homes and places we do have as a society.
As we only had 24 hours, we hit the ground running after we arrived, heading straight for one of the most well-known sites in Athens. If you plan on a visit, I recommend getting a culture pass so you have access to the majority of the sites all in one ticket.
The Acropolis is one of the most complete Ancient Greek monumental complexes today and was certainly one of the top things on my list to see. So much so that I made sure to book tickets in advance, as I’d heard that Greece was starting to put a cap on daily visitors now that Tourism was at an all-time high.
When we first stepped into Monastiraki Square, the view of the Acropolis from below was iconic. There’s no better word for it. It dominates the scene, sitting perched atop the hill, reminding you of the city’s past.
The Acropolis was a 20-minute walk from our hotel. When we arrived, there was a long line at the entrance but it moved quickly. I’ll be honest, I was put off by the crowds of people at first and it was the one downside of the experience. It made me worried that Chris was NOT going to enjoy himself. Crowds of people tend to make him pretty cranky…
Luckily, it was more manageable when we got to the top after the more narrow walkways spread out.(Although the number of influencers taking photo after photo in souvenir “Greek” dresses in front of the sites did make me a bit sad at the world.)
The Acropolis consists of the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, and the temple of Athena Nike.
The most dominating is by far the Parthenon, a temple built on the Acropolis around 447 BC. Today, it is accessorized with scaffolding as it undergoes restoration and is missing chunks of its structure but felt no less impressive. The mere scale, symmetry, and detail of it make you wonder how it was possible so long ago.
My second favorite building on the Acropolis was the Erechtheum. I’m always amazed by sculptures, so the porch adorned with six figures drew me in. In its prime, it would have been a sight to see with decorative marble. Beside this building was also where the sacred olive tree stood. An olive tree still stands there today but has been replanted several times after being destroyed by attacks on the city by the Persians. This version was replanted after World War II.
We were also able to see the Odeon from above, but the small pathway was so crowded that we didn’t stand there for long. Some musicians were practicing in there while we were watching. What a cool place to play!
In the heart of Athens, you’ll find the archaeological site of the remains of Hadrian’s Library. In its prime, it would have housed reading rooms, learning areas, gardens, and a pond as a place of academic study.
Though mostly in ruins today, some Roman walls still surround the area, as well as some columns and sections of mosaic flooring. I loved seeing the sections of surviving flooring, as it helped you visualize how things once were.
This area was easier to leisurely explore than the Acropolis, as it was less crowded and only a few other groups were walking around the area. We did, however, encounter another pair of influencers dressed to the nines and twerking in front of a column…*cue endless eye rolls*
The Ancient Agora was one of my favorite historical sites to explore during our time in Athens. It is within the city center and an easy walking distance from most central locations. The Agora is more spread out than the Acropolis and is significantly less crowded. Chris and I were able to take our time roaming around without feeling like we needed to move out of the way to let others take it all in.
The Agora served as a meeting ground, a place for socialization, business, and performances Back in the day, you may have even stumbled upon Socrates sharing his ideas. It was centered around the Panathenaic Way, a road running through the center of Athens.
The most noticeable structures here are the Temple of Hephaestus and the Stoa of Attalos.
The Temple of Hephaestus
We visited the temple first and it’s easy to see why it stands out. It is incredibly well preserved and feels like a mini Parthenon on its little hill in the Agora. It’s certainly less crowded, giving you more time to admire the craftsmanship that went into it.
From there, we wandered while pointing out the remnants of residential walls, mosaic floors, and doorways, imagining what each room may have been in the home. It was a beautiful and quiet area, so we found ourselves taking our time – despite the jet lag beginning to rear its head. We also so the resident tortoise of the area hanging out and munching on some vegetation.
The Stoa of Attalos
We finished off our time in this spot at the Stoa of Attalos, which now houses a museum. In its heyday, you’d find a meeting place full of shops (almost like a mall) up until it was destroyed. It wasn’t restored until the 50s but retained a lot of its charm with the long rows of columns and open-air setup. There’s even a great view of the Temple of Hephaestus from the top level.
The museum featured artifacts, ruins, and sculptures from the Agora. Much of it is excellently preserved and it’s worth a look around. It’s not a large museum and won’t take much time away from your itinerary to catch a glimpse of everything it has to offer.
(as a lover of the band, The Kooks, I have to say I love the name of this spot)
Little Kook is a not-so-hidden gem in Athens City Centre, not far from Monastiraki station (and our hotel for that matter). I’d seen this mentioned on several of the Athens pages I’d followed leading up to the trip, so figured we’d track it down and have a walk-through.
It is actually a cafe that goes all out decorating for a particular theme. While we didn’t eat there, the street decor was done up for Halloween, with witches and pumpkins galore! It was such a delight to walk through. What can I say? I love a good theme. It recently had an Alice in Wonderland Theme, and of course, goes all out for Christmas.
If I ever go back to Athens, I hope I’ll have more time to dine there. We only had time for a quick walk-through after our 12-hour jet lag coma before heading to our next destination.
Other than these main points of interest, we spent the rest of our time simply roaming around. The combinations of cafes, street art, and stray cats were all picturesque too. It was time well spent soaking it all up.
When we landed in Athens, we essentially hit the ground running visiting all of the sites that we could. Needless to say, we worked up quite the appetite after a long-haul flight and a day of sightseeing, so we didn’t do a lot of research on where to eat.
Efcharis restaurant was conveniently located across from Hadrian’s Library, so we popped in for our dinner. I thought it might have been a restaurant more geared towards tourists, but I was pleasantly surprised.
It was a large restaurant with tile flooring and stone walls, though most people were seated outside on the patio. We were patio adjacent where we could still people-watch while we ate. I had the chicken souvlaki and the portions were generous.
Don’t get me started on the potatoes, either. I wasn’t sure what kind of potatoes I was getting when the menu said “freshly cut fried potatoes” but they were somewhere uniquely between a french fry and a chip. I’ve never had a potato quite like it, and I’ve had a lot of potatoes! Oh, and they were delicious, by the way.
The restaurant ended up being much more budget-friendly than we’d expect for a restaurant right in the heart of Athens, especially considering we’d had an appetizer, meal, drink, and dessert. It only cost us around $30 in our currency.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive meal in a convenient location, look no further. It certainly hit the spot for us.
14 Reasons Why
Our only other meal in Athens was at our hotel, as our stay included breakfast. Chris and I each got a main dish and shared some pancakes. Everything was delicious with large portion sizes. We also had our first taste of Greek Coffee, Chris with a freddo and myself with a Greek frappe. And so my love affair with European coffee continues.
If you opt to stay at this hotel during your Athens trip, don’t skip the breakfast! It added even more value to our steal of a stay and I wished I wasn’t too full to eat every bite.
We learned about Ancient Greece from as early as elementary school here in the States. But seeing and reading about it in a book is nothing like standing in front of it.
The feeling of standing in a place with a history that is older than you can even imagine is indescribable. It’s surreal imagining all the lives and important moments that took place before you ended up there. I am grateful for the decision to stop here for a day.
Oh Greece, your love and appreciation for cats is a huge contrast to the US. A lot of people here don’t like cats, particularly strays. In Athens, there were cats a plenty, and many of them were friendly. I loved saying hello to them all and appreciated the community effort taken for their care.
Athens had a unique charm right from the start. It is a mixture of history, culture, and rough edges. While some may frown at the street art scattered about such a historic city, I thought it married the historic and the modern— resulting in a singular experience as you explore.
A Whirlwind Stop
Athens was a whirlwind trip for us, but a memorable one. Despite returning to our hotel before 8 pm and crashing for a solid 12 hours, we were able to cram a lot into our short stay. The city is walkable, easy to get to from the airport, and relatively inexpensive compared to other places in Europe.
If you ever have the opportunity to stop in Athens, even if it’s only for a short amount of time, I recommend giving it a go!
Have you been to Athens? What was your favorite part about the city?