After our three week stint travelling around Turkey, we flew to Athens with the intention of staying for 5 weeks.
We hadn’t originally planned on staying for as long as that, but about two weeks before leaving Turkey, we were lucky enough to land a house-sitting gig for a month in the city – more about that later on.
So with that, we flew into Athens and did the house-sitting gig for the month and then I spent another week in the city while Florence went back home to Ireland for a family celebration.
Some quick info about Athens…
The city is more than 3,000 years old and it was at the Acropolis where its first settlers based themselves. Over the next few thousand years, Athens went through various stages of decline and glory.
It wasn’t until 1834 that the city became the nations capital – mostly due to its rich history and prime location.
Athens has an excellent transport infrastructure with a metro, tram, and railway line, all of which makes it very easy and affordable to travel around the city. Taxis are also reasonable and all of them use a meter (or at least they’re meant to use a meter).
We arrived into the city in mid-March and our goal for the first week was to get acquainted with our surroundings. We figured the best way to do this was to take a tour with the reputable Opa Taxi and Tours company.
They offer half day, full day and unique tours around Athens. We chose the half day option and our driver/guide was Mr.Takis who was not only extremely professional and knowledgable at his job, he was also a nice genuine guy.
And for us that means much more than a guide who knows the information but can’t connect with people.
During our half day tour we visited the Acropolis, the temple of Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Roman Agora and Mount Lycabettus. I’ll talk more about these below.
A company like Opa Taxi is unique in the sense that it caters for all kinds of visitors to the city, regardless of what time period they have to spend exploring the sites.
These guys are especially beneficial to short-term visitors as their services incorporate both a taxi and tour service. So just because you’ve only got a few hours in the city doesn’t mean you can’t see the highlights of beautiful Athens.
These guys will pick you up from the airport in one of their comfy air-conditioned and Wi-Fi enabled vehicles, and they’ll drive you and your luggage around the city and give you an awesome guided tour in the meantime.
Once you’ve seen all you want to see, they will happily drop you at your hotel or back to the airport to catch your next flight.
Sounds great, right?
We think so and we’re left wondering why there isn’t a service like this in all major cities around the world.
5 sites to visit in Athens
There’s obviously a lot more than just five sites to check out in the city, but these are the top five that we wanted to visit.
I’m going to keep things snappy and won’t go into the history or highlights of these sites too much, as I’m hoping a few photos will do the place justice.
1. The Acropolis
Acropolis is a Greek term, and it typically refers to a high area in the centre of a city. This area usually acts as the focal point of the city for all of its religious, cultural, and civil activities.
The buildings at the Acropolis were built back at the end of the 5th century BC, and their architecture has had a huge influence on the western world ever since.
There are various temples built at the Acropolis that are dedicated to the Patroness of the city – Goddess Athena.
Shamefully, we didn’t remember too much about the importance of the Acropolis from our school years…but it was spectacular to see it in person.
2. Temple of Zeus
The “Olympieion” aka the Temple of Zeus is situated smack bang in the center of the city and the Acropolis can be seen from it towards the southeast.
The temple was initially constructed in the 6th century, but due to some reason it wasn’t finished until 131 AD – about 700 hundred years later!
3. The roman Agora
Also called the Roman or ancient forum of Athens, these impressive structures were built in the late 1st century BC and were governed by Julius Caesar and Augustus (the emperor).
Probably the most impressive site at the Agora is the tower of the winds. This is a weather vane, a clock, sundial and compass.
The monument is very well preserved.
4. Mount Lycabettus
This hill is a major hotspot for tourists, as it gives cracking vistas of the whole city.
The hill is 300 meters above sea level and a 19th century chapel is built at one of the two peaks.
There are many myths and legends regarding the hill. One such story is that the hill was a base for wolves (which is Lycos in Greek).
5. The Panathenaic Stadium
This was probably our favourite site of the five – if just for aesthetic reasons alone. 🙂
This stadium was the venue for the first Olympic games of the modern era back in 1896. Its history however, goes way back…
The location of the Panathenaic stadium was originally a valley between two hills. Sometime between 330 – 329 BC it was transformed into a stadium by Lykoourgos for the “Panathinea”, which were athletic festivals held in ancient Athens.
The stadium had a seating capacity of somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 people.
It looked seriously impressive and we could have spent the entire day there taking photos and just chilling on the steps taking in all the history.
House sitting in Athens
As I mentioned above, the reason why we stayed for so long in Athens was due to a house sitting arrangement that we secured while we were travelling in Turkey.
If you don’t know what house sitting is, then check out this guide that we put together a few years ago – House sitting guide
Our house sit was located in an area of the city called Glyfada and it was a lovely 2 bedroom apartment that we were looking after, along with two extremely fun cats called Figaro and Pandora!
We’d an amazing time during the house sit and it gave us plenty of time to catch up with work and recharge.
We were a short taxi ride away from the metro which brought us into the center of the city whenever we wanted to explore.
The owner of the apartment was a lovely woman from the UK who made the house sit experience a piece of cake as everything we needed to know was provided for us in terms of contact numbers, maps etc. and she was very easy going and chilled out.
Even though it was our first time taking care of cats during a house sit, these two rascals were so easy to mind. We had a lot of fun with them over the course of the month and felt quite sad when the time came to say goodbye.
Athens is pretty cool and despite its crumpling economy, it’s a very vibrant and upbeat city.
After five weeks there, we definitely saw enough of it to make up our minds about whether it would be a city we’d return to or not.
We both agreed that unless there was a specific reason for returning, we wouldn’t see the need to go back for now.
There’s plenty to do and see there, but we just didn’t connect with it like we have done with other cities.
The people are friendly in general, but like any city, you’re going to get a few who aren’t.
Prices aren’t cheap and if you’re on a tight budget then it may prove a little difficult to keep within your limits.
If you’re looking for a more detailed article outlining specific things to do and see while you’re in the city, then I suggest you check out this guide by Kiersten over at TheBlondeAbroad.com.
Athens – ticked off our list!