I'm so excited for this post today you guys! A few months back, the beautiful ladies over at The Sophisticato and I chatted about doing a guest post on one another's blog and we came up with this brilliant idea of "Trading Places". We wanted to give our readers (especially our local ones!) a taste of somewhere exciting and new, and decided on "quick and dirty" tour guide of each of our cities! These guides include places to eat and experiences to be had, within 48 hours. My guide of Boulder, Colorado will be coming soon as a guest post, so stay tuned for an announcement on that as well!
But today, we are presenting how to experience the ever so beautiful Athens, Greece in 48 hours, written by Kathy at The Sophiscato - Take it away Kathy!
Although Greece is NOT a place to have to rush through, there are times when you need to be able to squeeze in as much sightseeing and enjoyment as possible-especially when you are travelling and on a limited time frame. Exploring the sights, sounds and flavors of Athens is truly an amazing experience. There is so much to see, so many different areas of the city center that have their own unique style and vibe. There is also so much variety. If you are like most first time visitors to Athens you feel as if you HAVE to go to the obligatory historical sites like The Acropolis and The Parthenon, The Acropolis Museum, and The Temple of Olympian Zeus. While all of these are HUGELY important and definitely awe-inspiring sights I would be remiss not to give you some other options here.
Depending on what you truly enjoy doing you can really spend your 48 hours in Athens any which way you like but take it from me - I am a Greek-American girl born and raised in New York who is now an ex-pat living here in Athens since March of this year and I can tell you a thing or to that your average tour guide won’t!!!! Read on for your 48 Hour Tour of Athens that will have you changing your return flight home in no time!!!
Day One - You arrive at Athens El Venizelos Airport a bit weary but ready to divide and conquer-you only have 48 precious hours in this magical city so you need to make them all count! You also need to sleep a little so you have even less time for stomping around town! Check into The Sofitel Athens right across from the airport and take a two hour nap. That’s all I’m giving you-2 hours. Today you are going to the obligatory sites and you will be out all day long.
Since the city center is very crowded and parking is hard to come by the best mode of transport is to take the Metro from the Athens Airport. It gives you a direct line right into Kentro as the Greeks call it (AKA city center), it is super cheap, and there are no headaches. It’s also remarkably clean, not like the subways back home in NYC! From Athens Airport the trains run every 30 minutes into the city center. For our intents and purposes, we are getting off at the Makriani-Acropolis stop. Here you literally come up from underground and you are right at the foot of The Acropolis.
First Stop: The Acropolis and The Parthenon- you just cannot come to Athens and NOT climb to the top to see this amazing relic of history. It is an absolute MUST!!! The views of Athens from the top are simply stunning and you have this feeling that you are walking on the same ground as so many historical figures have walked on before you. There are amazing photo opportunities so ensure you bring your camera and or phone to snap some selfies!!!
A few tips for you to ensure that you enjoy your day:
- Temperatures can be very hot during the summer months so I recommend early morning tours for the climb to the top or later on in the evening.
- Bring water, lots of it and wear light colored, loose fitting clothing.
- Sneakers or shoes with support are a must as you will be climbing up a ton of steps and you need to have sure footing!
Next Stop: The Acropolis Museum. Even if you aren’t a history buff The Acropolis Museum has so much to offer and so many different exhibits. There are permanent exhibitions that are always on display and open to the public and there are also temporary installations and exhibits that really depend on what time of year you are visiting in. It is highly recommended to purchase your tickets in advance which you can conveniently do so online. You can purchase up to 10 tickets online in advance which is great if you are travelling in a group or if you are travelling with family members/friends, etc. You can even choose your time slot so you have a specific time that your adventure at the museum begins-and the best part is there is no time limit on how long you are permitted to stay at any one exhibit. You can stay as long as you wish!!!
Shopping: Finally before retiring to an amazing dinner you must tour the bustling streets/flea markets of Monastiraki. I will give you fair warning here…this area of Athens is extremely busy and in the summer months packed with tourists and exhibitors/shop owners hawking their products/stores to those passing by. There are also street performers, pickpockets and various others milling around with the intent of hustling you out of a few euros. You need to be alert at all times and have your negotiating skills on point. The shop owners are definitely master negotiators when it comes to prices and making deals!
That being said, aside from the requisite tacky tourist shops, if you really take the time to walk the winding pathways you can find some really authentic shops with items that are made in Greece, by Greeks and that will make much better gifts and souvenirs than the tacky Greek mug or key chains that seem to be everywhere in Monastiraki. You can find handmade sandals, beautiful paintings of ancient ruins and sculptures, olive oil products, and just about anything and everything in between.
Tip: Ensure you have small bills on you if you are paying with cash!!! Coins, and everything up to a 20-euro bill are highly recommended. The shop owners don’t like breaking the 50 euro bills!!! (It’s a Greek thing)
Dinner: By now you should be feeling a bit exhausted from the climbing, from the heat and from the sheer exhilaration of talking in all of the sites, the culture, and the history of these hallowed grounds. Time to recharge with an authentic Greek meal and of course some adult beverages after your first full day of sightseeing and touring.
One of the best spots to dine in Athens and for me one of the most romantic and surreal rooftops, is none other than Kuzina right at the foot of The Acropolis in the Thiseio Area of Athens. Renowned chef Aris Tsanaklidis puts a modern spin on authentic Greek dishes with such flavorful twists and turns it will make you want to try just about everything on the menu. Kuzina offers an extensive wine list, top shelf liquor choices as well as beautifully crafted cocktails that will quench your thirst after your long day touring the city. My favorite place to dine is on the rooftop terrace. Seeing The Acropolis all lit up at night after climbing it during the day time is the perfect way to end your first day in the magical city of Athens.
Day Two - Now that you have seen the most important tourist spots in Athens, day two on your 48 hour tour is all about relaxing and seeing the more cosmopolitan side of Athens and The Athenian Riviera.
First stop: The Astir Beach Complex in the beautiful beachside suburb of Vouliagmeni. I would recommend a 10AM arrival to ensure that you secure a sunbed and umbrella. Astir Beach is a beautiful beach area complete with water sports, beach volleyball courts, restaurants, amazing sunbeds and chairs and push button service for the ultimate relaxation and pampering at the beach. You literally can push a button for service right from your sunbed!
The one caveat to all of this is that it doesn’t come cheap! The adult entrance fee to this property is 28 euros on the weekends and 18 euros during the week-but as the old adage goes you truly do get what you pay for. If you are here in Athens on vacation it is worth it to see for one day. You can rent jet ski’s, go on banana boats, paddle board, play volleyball, really whatever it is that you like to do. I like to make my days at Astir an all day event but because we want to pack in as much as we can on this 48 hour tour of Athens, let’s move on to another spot that you HAVE to see!
Next Stop: Limni Vouliagmenis aka Lake Vouliagmenis. This is a hidden gem of a spot that is literally a 10-minute ride by taxi from The Astir Beach. The Lake is a natural paradise that is made of huge rock formations, thermal waters and underwater caves and tunnels. The lake was formed after the roof of a cave fell due to water erosion and truly is a site to see. You can swim in the cool waters, explore the crags and caves and enjoy a beautiful lunch at the café. The lake is a ranked by Greece’s Committee for the Protection of Natural Thermal Resources and officially recognized as a naturally occurring thermal spring. You will feel like a new person after spending a few hours here!! For all of you nature buffs this is definitely something that you will appreciate!!!!
Dinner: For the final stop of the day we are heading back towards The Astir Beach Complex to go to one of the BEST seafood restaurants on The Athenian Riviera, Ithaki. This restaurant is perched on a small cliff overlooking Astir Beach. Serving modern Mediterranean fare and the freshest caught fish around, Ithaki has served the likes of Athina Onassis, Bill Clinton, Sean Connery, and Leonardo DiCaprio just to name a few.
They have also had the pleasure of serving me, yes I know I am SUCH a celebrity!!! All kidding aside, Ithaki is truly a place to see on the famed Athenian Riviera and rightly so. The restaurant is beautifully appointed, with a baby grand piano in the lobby playing soothing classic music, the menu is creative but classic at the same time and always fresh, and the service is top notch. After enjoying your beach day, and your rejuvenation at the thermal springs, this is the ultimate ending to your last day in Athens. You will LOVE it!!!!
I hope you enjoyed your 48 Hours in Athens recommendations! Next time plan to stay a while longer!!!
Kathy is one-half of The Sophisticato, based in Greece, where she brings a European vibe to the lifestyle blog. She is a fashion aficionado, world traveler, voracious risk taker, and blunt to a fault. Connect with her below!