Athens

The perfect weekend getaway: Athens

The perfect getaway: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

I think since the Global Financial Crisis, Greece and Athens has gotten a bit of a bad reputation (or at least among my friends it has). So I was completely surprised by how much I loved our time in Athens. The Greek people are some of the kindest and most wonderful humans I have ever been lucky enough to meet, and Athens is home to so many incredible things to see and do. 

Friday afternoon

If you’re going to be staying in Athens you may as well stay somewhere with an amazing view of the Acropolis. And the Plaka Hotel is perfect for that. It’s nice, affordable and has a really great rooftop view of the Acropolis.

Once you’re settled in I suggest heading upstairs to the rooftop bar for a pre-dinner drink and the aforementioned view of the Acropolis. Then it’s time to head out for dinner at Efcharis; a fantastic restaurant with live music, enthusiastic helpings (seriously I thought I was going to die after our first meal there) and really friendly staff. If you’re lucky you might even get to experience their home brewed raki (I’m not certain it’s called raki in all of Greece but that’s what they called it on Crete).

This is also a good time to warn you - the smoking laws in Greece are pretty much non existent. Throughout Europe the laws are a lot more lax than they are in Australia but it was at it’s most blase in Greece. So if the weather is clement definitely sit outside if you don’t want to marinate in smoke.

Saturday

It’s time for a day of adventure! My personal recommendation is the breakfast buffet at the hotel (because if it’s not obvious from all of my perfect weekend articles so far I really approve of hotels where the breakfast is included). But if that’s not your speed there are some super cute bakeries right near by and Greek pastries are fantastic.

The perfect getaway: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

After breakfast it’s time to go to the Acropolis! You can buy a ticket that includes a lot of different sites around Athens; the Acropolis, the north and south side of the Acropolis (which is also very cool), Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Olympieion and Lykeion. You probably can’t get all these sites in over a weekend but it’s always good to have all these locations up your sleeve.

The best place to start is the Agora; which was the centre of life in ancient Athens. It has been allowed to return to nature which really just adds to the atmosphere. It’s a beautiful place and it’s really hard even when you see it to imagine the scale of it - trying to imagine it at it’s height, with Socrates lecturing and the market bustling.

After the Agora it’s really easy to head straight up to the Acropolis. Although there is a lot to see on the Acropolis, one thing to look out for is the Erechtheion, in high school my classics teacher spoke highly of the beauty of the columns (which are Greek maidens) because it is able to support the roof without making the women's neck look stocky.

The perfect getaway: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

After a morning of adventure it’s time for a lunch stop and then it’s time to hit up the Acropolis Museum. This museum is very unique; it’s built over an archaeological site and rather than cover this up the floor is glass to allow visitors to see the dig in action.

In addition the top floor is dedicated to a scale replica of the frescoes that surround the Parthenon (the largest temple on the Acropolis) which allows you to get up close with the incredible carvings.

Around now I imagine you’ll need to head back to hotel to relax before heading out for dinner. The street where Efcharis is also has a lot of other delicious dinner options; and they’re always happy to spruik their restaurant as the best which helps (or hinders - depending on your preference) you to pick a good place.

Sunday

First thing after breakfast it’s time to head to the National Archaeological Museum. In general the Acropolis Museum is more interesting but the one thing you shouldn’t miss in the National Museum is the Antikythera mechanism. It’s housed in its own permanent exhibition and is considered the first “computer” that was used in the second century BCE to calculate various astronomical phenomena. It’s incredible to see something so ancient that holds up to our understanding of science today.

After marvelling at one of the true wonders of the ancient world it’s worth trying to take in some of the remaining sights on your Acropolis pass; I liked Hadrian’s Library and the Olympieion (which is pictured below). They’re dotted all over the city so it’s a nice way to soak up some more of Athens; plus gives you lots of chances to stop in at various bakeries for snacks. It’s the perfect way to wind down your trip in Athens

The perfect weekend getaway // Athens

Travel Guide: Athens

Mike and I went to Greece with really no expectations - a lot of our friends who had been admitted they didn't like it - so we really went in thinking if nothing else, we could just hang out in our hotel room and relax.

We found Athens to be fun and lively and the Greek people are some of the nicest, kindest and sweetest people we have ever met. I have such fond memories of our time in Athens and I encourage everyone to visit if you can.

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

What to visit?

Acropolis

The day we went up to the Acropolis it was rainy and freezing cold but it was still so incredible to make the trek up to the top. My favourite part was the Erechtheion, in high school my classics teacher spoke highly of the beauty of the columns (which are Greek maidens) because it is able to support the roof without making the women's neck look stocky. I was able to admire the originals up close in the Acropolis Museum and I can absolutely understand why he found them so captivating. 

The rain did put us off a little because some areas felt a little dangerous with how slippery it was, so I would love to go back when it's sunny.

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

Athenian Agora

The Agora was the centre of all life in Athens - much like the Forum in Rome. Unlike the Forum though the Agora has been allowed to return to nature - which in many ways just makes it more beautiful; all the trees and bushes slowly enveloping the birth place of democracy and philosophy. We went to the agora on the same day as the Acropolis and because it was cold and wet we had the place almost to ourselves. It was so peaceful - and I feel so lucky to have experienced it the way we did. Although there are downsides to travelling over winter - there is also something to be said for having the Athenian Agora to yourself!

Acropolis Museum

This museum is frankly pure genius. As well as telling the tale of Athenian history it also houses the originals of all of the frescos and many of the statues of the Acropolis. Not content with that - they have replicated the main temple of the Acropolis to scale inside the museum, to ensure you get the full impact of the frescos as they appear on top of the mountain. The floor on the bottom level is see through to allow you to see the archaeological dig that is occurring under the museum.

National Archaeological Museum

Honestly, by the time we made it here we were a bit over museums so I didn't feel like I really enjoyed it the way I enjoyed the Acropolis Museum. By far the most incredible thng to see was the Antikythera mechanism. It's considered the "first computer" and for a history nerd like me it has always been a source of fascination. It didn't occur to me that it would be housed in the museum - but I was so excited once I realised it was. It's so much smaller than I imagined, but also 20 times more intricate. Truly, it is an incredible thing to see.

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

 Where to eat

First let me say, food in Athens is amazing. . Now I'm not talking fancy food here - everywhere we ate made simple and incredibly hearty food. On top of this the Greek hospitality came out in spades. Everywhere we went people were so friendly and keen to help you have a good time. Free bread (normally with tapenade) and water (unheard of in Italy) was the norm. Plus on multiple occasions they would bring out an after dinner shot (I know it's called raki on Crete - and we took to calling it raki in Athens and they knew what we meant). It ranged in flavour/strength from paint stripper to warm cinnamon spice and it was such a fun way to end the night.

A word of warning - although Greece follows the same smoking regulations as the rest of the EU they take a pretty...liberal approach to them. Essentially if you aren't a smoker and you don't want to marinate in cigarette smoke I do encourage you to sit outside (weather permitting of course).

Efcharis

This was definitely our favourite restaurant in Athens - the portions were hearty and so insanely delicious - and to top it off - crazy affordable. They also have a fantastic drinks range - I recommend Mythos beer or sangria. I think my favourite thing about Efcharis was the atmosphere. Like most Athenian restaurants they had a spruiker out the front encouraging people to come in - and we really enjoyed watching him work his magic.

They also had live music playing, on our last night in Greece we went there and sat inside. Traditional Greek music was playing and the table behind us, bolstered by liquid courage, got up and started to dance. In the restaurant. During peak service. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me - and it really captures in my head the verve and vibrancy that we experienced in Greece.

Where to stay

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

Plaka Hotel

I definitey recommend the Plaka hotel - it's right in the middle of the tourist part of the city but it's also very affordable (always a plus side). The beds are comfy, the bathroom clean and pleasant, breakfast is included and the staff insanely nice and helpful. If this isn't enough to sway you to stay here, the only other thing I can add is the above photo was taken from the rooftop bar of our hotel. And if having an evening wine whilst looking out over the Acropolis isn't enough to convince you - I doubt anything would.