5 Days in Athens
Our trip to Athens came as a complete surprise... well, at least for me! I literally did not know I was heading there till about 4 hours before the flight! Yet, this trip was not impromptu to its master mind orchestrator, this trip was carefully planned and manicured with the most inclusive itinerary imaginable. Fernando had been planning this trip in secret for 3 months! Researching the best places to eat at, drink at and become engaged at. So yes, this is a love story and also a kick ass 5 days in Athens itinerary. I can't take credit for planning this trip, this was all Fernando... I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I know it's cliche but I do feel like I'm marrying my best friend! Without further ado, here's Fernando's guide to the most perfect 5 days in Athens with an extra added day trip...
Athens came as a complete surprise. I had no time to plan, day dream or even learn about this place I was about to visit. I was swept off my feet and taken on a magic carpet ride where culture, tradition and orange trees ruled everyday life. This blog is written by a traveler that unexpectedly arrived here and curated by a sneaky, playful, romantic boyfriend looking to declare his love overlooking the most scenic sights of ruins, history and drama. We hope you enjoy our journey, it was a trip I will definitely never forget. Welcome to Athens!
Metaxourgeio-- Where we stayed and our favorite neighborhood in Athens! Now, full disclaimer -- this neighborhood, although perfect for us, might not be perfect for everyone. It feels a bit grimy, unsafe and way too local... I'm pretty sure we bumped into a couple of brothels just wandering the streets! But with that said, if you take away the look ( which as New Yorkers we were completely digging ), If you take away the dark alleys with empty streets, if you take away the "sketchy" looking late night crowds and instead of going by visuals go by facts, we were always safe and never had any problems whatsoever with anyone! Truth is we found
Metaxourgeio to be quite charming. Not a lot of places have a full decked out graffiti wall surrounded by blossoming orange trees! This neighborhood was not as busy as the rest and had amazing restaurants, bars and night clubs. It definitely deserves at least a night visit on your trip to Athens.
This is where our trip began post landing.
We arrived in Athens at 4:10pm and every time we arrive in a new country past 3pm, we know we're starting our trip with a bar hopping/ nightlife late day. Lucky for us, all the cool cafes and restaurants were about a 10 min walk from our hotel...
Day 1 ( Half Day ) Metaxourgeio & Kerameikos --
More than a half day full of activities and site seeing, this is an early evening / late night half day full of bar hopping, dinner, dancing and late night snacking. Athens has so many cool looking neighborhoods filled with cute little cafés that turn into bars at night! Breakfast at 8am, then drinks at 8pm in the same spot? Totally doable in some locations. Throughout our itinerary, we'll explore a few neighborhoods, some will be touristy while others will have a more local vibe but they will all offer amazing foods, drinks and ambiance.
Let's start with two neighborhoods that are within walking distance from each other-- Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos. Our early evening started at 6pm visiting the charming Avid Square in Metaxourgeio. This Square is full of trendy cafes making bar hopping in Athens very easy, convenient and a must! This is the perfect place to start your night specially after a long flight since its a bit more quiet, secluded, local yet still very trendy! Walk the square and grab a drink or two before dinner. In this square you'll find plenty of bars to choose from. We decided to grab a couple of drinks at Blue Parrot ( Open from 9am-2am-- see, I wasn't kidding about grabbing breakfast and late night drinks at the same spot!). We loved the ambiance and our bartender made us amazing cocktails! Later on we learned he had won a major competition for crafting cocktails and was sponsored by coke to come to NYC and check out some of our best bars and speakeasies... small world!
*Note: When visiting more local neighborhoods, the names of bars and restaurants will be in greek. See above--this is "Blue Parrot". Something to keep in mind, specially if you don't speak the language. Simply type the name in english on google maps or use google translate, we never got lost after we realized we needed to stop looking for english names.
8pm-- Dinner at Seychelles
Located in the same square, about a 2 min walk from "Blue Parrot" find this super popular and local restaurant. Food was amazing! We each tried their local house wine ( red / white ) and although I'm a red wine drinker, the white was out of this world! Their menu is seasonal and constantly changing. We recommend making a reservation as this place sometimes tends to get packed!
9:45pm-- Afrikana Jazz Club
About an 8 min walk from Seychelles restaurant is Afrikana Jazz Club. This was one of our favorite nights in Athens. The live jazz music is truly impressive! Head here after dinner and let the tunes carry you away... Check out their Facebook page for updates on performances and times. Afrikana is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Open Tuesdays 7:30pm- 12am and Wednesday to Saturday 7:30pm-3am. Cover charges may apply depending on who is playing, still totally worth it!
12am-- MoMix (8pm-3am)
A 5 min walk from Afrikana is MoMix bar. This molecular mixology bar is definitely a must! "Do it for the gram" but IG aside, drinks were really interesting and cool looking! You get to see how they make them and its absolutely a chemists work of art! We didn't care much for the potion mix assortment glass, the potions all ranged from super sour to super sweet shots, but the full cocktails on the video were super yummy!
1:45am-- Late night snacking at Elvis (12pm-3am)
This spot is perfect for some after drinking snacking or even a mid- day small bite! Find Elvis a 6 min walk from MoMix bar and indulge in a souvlaki ( popular greek fast food that consists of small pieces of grilled meat and or vegetables in a skewer ). Best part? It's super affordable! We paid 1.35 euros for high quality meat with a side bread ( french fries are also available ), it was seriously so delicious! The meat tender and juicy, the bread freshly baked!
2:30am-- Head over to Kerameio for some serious dancing and perhaps live music!
This is our last stop for the night. Open from 8am ( another possible breakfast spot the next morning? ) to 5am. This spot is super local and full of energy, the dance floor was never empty! Great cocktails and on some nights live jazz or blues. When we went there was a DJ so the party was definitely on! This spot is a 1 min walk from Elvis... you're welcome!
4am-- Time to go, but before you do, have some bread at Bread Factory.
I love finding inexpensive spots that are open 24 hours and can provide a good snack, on the go breakfast, late night out drinking hung over bites etc. Well, this was the spot that did all of that for us in Athens-- The Bread Factory with over 250+ freshly baked breads daily!This is a chain and you can find them all over Athens. This one is just a 10 min walk from Kerameio and also right outside our hotel so it was perfect! We're sleeping in and starting our day a bit late tomorrow, so instead of heading to a sit-down cafe for breakfast, we're grabbing some snacks here before starting our full day of site seeing.
Day 2-- Be a tourist in Athens
Today we'll explore all the major tourist spots. Starting with "The Changing of the Guard" -- I have to be honest about this one... It totally happened by accident. I mean, we knew about the changing of the guard but having experienced it in other European cities before ( like Rome for example ) we thought it would be the same kinda thing, so we said " been there, done that, let's skip it" and boy were we wrong! We happened to be passing by the Presidential Mansion ( where the changing of the guard happens ) at exactly the right time! We were walking down a side street and saw one of them pass us heading towards the tomb of the unknown soldier. The uniform and technique he executed to walk over was so entrawlling we had to follow him and witness this changing of the guard phenomenon for ourselves, after all we were already there! I have to say this was such a beautifully, choreographed live art / movement piece. At least that's how it felt to me. I saw ballet, martial arts, respect, discipline and love, all happening to honor the tomb of the unknown soldier (which is guarded 24 hours / 365 days ) If you're in Athens believe me, this is a must!!! and it's free #wheninathens
Right across the street you'll find the entrance to Syntagma Square. Stroll around, buy a coffee and people watch.
After, head over to the National Gardens in Athens. On Thursdays this garden is open till midnight and free to the public. Boasting of over 500 different kinds of plants, bushes and trees from all over the world. Strolling around you find many different species of birds, hedgehogs, turtles, ducks and even bats! This garden also features a number of ancient ruins, arches and ponds making it a very unique and pleasant leisure walk. The park itself is small and can be completely walked in 30 min or so but what this place lacks in size it definitely makes up in culture, be sure not to miss it!
It is impossible to walk the streets of Athens and not see a minimum of 10 orange trees per block! It's insanely beautiful! 🍊 Could be a street full of graffiti and urban decay yet there you'll see an orange tree beautifying the whole scene, adding a sense of pureness and life... I held a fallen orange and it's scent was so powerful, the oils derived from this fruit stayed through the entire day keeping my hand company. I must confess, I regret not eating one after reading they're extremely sour... for I love tangy fruits! Next time I'm in Greece!
Now it's time to go ruin hopping and check out some of Athens most iconic spots... If you're planning on visiting some of the most popular sites in Athens I recommend buying the Athens Multi Site Pass for €30 -- this pass grants you access to many attractions within 5 consecutive days! A great way to save $$ #wheninathens #moneysavingtips Buy this pass at the first location you're wanting to explore. Tip: Don't choose the acropolis first, lines are insane there to get this pass!
Here is a list of the sites that are included with your pass:
* The Archaeological site of Lykeion
* Temple of the Olympian Zeus One of the largest temples ever built in the ancient world and yes, those columns are massive! I felt so tiny standing next to them. This is a must visit in our opinion.
* Hadrian's Arch ( actually free and outside the Temple of Zeus ) This Arch frames one of Athens busiest streets and it's so photogenic! I loved the contrast of this beautiful ruin arch and the modern "everyday life" world on the other side.
* Kerameicos: This area was once occupied by potters. Also the oldest and largest attic cemetery is here.
* Roman Agora
* Hadrian's Library
*Museum of Ancient Agora from here you can get great views of the acropolis. This was an old market place and well preserved temples can be found there.
*The Acropolis You can hike all the way to the top and visit the north and south slope as well with your ticket. The Acropolis is of course the main attraction from the pass, therefore ALWAYS packed! I recommend arriving early or near closing time. We went 45 min before closing time and it was completely empty! Now, we were also visiting during low season
(January). We saw the most spectacular sunsets and had the entire place to ourselves!
You can find the Acropolis Museum a short walk from the Acropolis. Tickets to this museum are not included in your pass but I highly recommend visiting anyways. We saw so many original statues and learned so much more about greek history. This was a very classical, beautiful, yet modern museum that is still going through an excavation process. In fact, most of Athens is! They keep constantly finding new hidden ruins beneath regular streets... Athens, you're a real treasure!
We did not visit all the places on this list, instead we chose the ones that appealed to us the most, but you totally can. Make a full day out of it or split it in two/ three depending on wait time!
After Have Dinner at Tavern Klimataria
Named after the plant klimataria ( wine tree ) have dinner at one of the oldest taverns in the center of Athens! Open since 1927, this cozy tavern offers authentic greeks cuisine, house wine aged in the barrels that surround the restaurant ( delicious... get the red!) and on some nights live greek folk music. All dishes at this spot are cooked with authentic extra virgin olive oil, giving all the meals and undeniable exquisite flavor! We loved every moment of our dining experience here, surrounded by lush plants hanging everywhere and barrels of wine... too many to count! Definitely coming back!
Day 3 -- Don't rush it!
Start your day by continuing where you left off yesterday and taking full advantage of your multi site pass. Chances are, you still have a lot of site seeing to do depending on the time you started, season when traveling and how fast you move from location to location. Don't rush things since there's no re-entry once you use your pass for the same site. So, make sure to get your fill in and absorb every inch of history, beauty and views that are in front of you, take it all in baby!
Our advice is whenever possible WALK every where! That's what we did and found so many random places that were very beautiful and unique to Athens. Take this church for example (left pic) we found this tiny church on a random street corner! I couldn't stop taking photos, I found it so charming! It's moments like this that I love traveling with no plans or agendas and simply looking around and getting lost...
Take half a day or a full day to do all this and modify this itinerary to fit YOU as a traveler.
Day 4 -- or 3 if you took advantage of your multi pass on a single day... go you!
Eccentrics bars, Shopping and Art!
Start your day having breakfast at Spiti Mass-- Who doesn't love having breakfast in bed?? Well, we found the cutest café in Athens serving... You've guessed it! Breakfast in bed!! You may have to get out of bed to come eat here, but the decor of this cute little spot is an apartment style setting! Instead of rows of tables you get lounge chairs, table stands, couches and even a bed! How unique is that!?! Want to know the best thing about this place? it's hot chocolate and cappuccino! A must try!
Right across Spiti Mas find a few antique shops. Browse around and shop for a bit...
After, make your way to the neighborhood of Psirri and stop at Melissinos Art --
"The Poet Sandal Maker" for some unique, trendy and well made sandals.
Stavros ( the shoe designer / maker) is a poet and his designs are influenced by Greek Mythology-- how cool is that?! He basically modified what ancient Greeks used to wear and made practical sandals with a modern twist for us to fashionably enjoy today! Many Goddess like celebrities have bought his designs including Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Kennedy. His small shop is now managed by his son Pantelis who is also a poet, playwright and costume designer. All these bold, unique and comfortable ( I love every time I see that word in the shoe description lol ) sandals are hand made using genuine leather, will last a lifetime or two!
Psirri is home to many art galleries and workshops, so be sure to stroll around and check out a few of them! This area is also great for shopping, the Monastiraki flea market is near by! Roam around this area and shop for souvenirs, jewelry and art to take home.
Time to visit Santa for some cookies and milk-- or hot wine!!
Christmas in Spring? Sure, why not! Imagine a multi floor café so decked out (and when I say decked out I mean it, even the ceiling is filled with decorations!) that you feel you've entered another universe where Candyland is to the left, Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory to the right and you find yourself somewhere in between... That somewhere is Little Kook. The inner kid in me was running up and down stair cases, entering rooms filled with the spirit of Christmas, awaiting for Santa Clause to show up at anytime! What makes this location even crazier is that they change the whole theme of the restaurant every 6 months, so when you visit it might not be christmas themed anymore, but it'll surely be fully decked out! I highly recommend having some tea and cookies at this spot, specially if traveling with kids! Everytime we visit Athens, we now have to make it a point to visit and see what the new theme is! Believe me, pictures don't do this café any justice, it's one of those places you have to see in person. If you guys visit, share a pic in a comment! Would love to see the new decor <3
This general area is full of little bars, restaurants and cafes, find one or a couple and have an early dinner and some cocktails. We truly loved the general vibe of this area. After, you can visit the neighborhood of Plaka, super touristy but cool to check out! For Nightlife we recommend going back to Psyrri and Monastiraki or visit Gazi. Everything is within walking distance, max of 20 min. Taking taxis is also an option, just make sure to ask for the meter.
Day 5-- or 4 if you're keeping up with us and traveling during low season #nolines
Visiting posh neighborhoods, upscale restaurants and hidden places...
Today we're keeping things classy so be sure to dress for the part. Nothing crazy but casual/nice is recommended for some of the spot we'll be eating at. Start your morning with an upscale breakfast at Tudor Hall -- this hotel has amazing views of the acropolis and is known to have really delicious food. Be sure to make it on time, they're open for breakfast from 6:30am-11am and they're very strict on timing! Unfortunately for us we woke up late and missed the entry deadline, if that happens to you as well ( sometimes we like to sleep in, specially when on vacay ), right across this hotel is Syntagma Square so you can head there for a lovely breakfast and people watching. This square is also famous for protests and rallies, one was actually happening later that evening, so keep an eye out and have your belongings safe. I would recommend avoiding the area completely if you see something happening. When we went for breakfast however, everything was calm as can be.
After walk over to The Benaki Museum
This privately owned family mansion turned museum is filled with greek historical culture in a neoclassical style building. From the first moment we walked in we felt intrigued and wanted to see more. The layout of this museum is organized by floors and different time periods, making the walk through uncomplicated and a true beauty to the eye.
Time to visit and stroll around the posh neighborhood of Kolonaki. This is the perfect spot for some upscale shopping from international and local greek designers. You'll find plenty of boutique like shops, art galleries, trendy bars and opulent cafe shops.
After that leisure stroll, find the base of Lycabettus Hill and hike to the highest point in Athens. This moderate hike ( cable cart available! ) will offer breathtaking views, overlooking the entire city of Athens and it's free!!
...and this is where it all happened! As the sun began to set, Fernando was impatiently pacing back and forth, looking around and waiting for people to clear the space. He was acting different, his tone of voice was more high pitched than usual, his pace of steps more determined and sharp, then he turned around and said "Do me a favor and put this on" as he took the ring out of his inside coat pocket. I, with a sassy grin on my face said "You're not going to kneel?!" and nervously accidentally flicked the ring that after fell to the grown and started rolling down the hill we we're at... we both rushed to save the ring. The ring was safe and I said Yes! The truth is Fernando has been feeling sick during this entire trip. He had a stomach virus from day 1 that only partially faded towards the end of our trip. So he later said " I was afraid of what might have happened if I kneeled down ( stomach issues ), but I wanted to prove to you I can plan trips, so we can keep on planning more together" awwww see, I told you this was a love story!
I don't expect you to get engaged during your trip to Athens ( for all my readers looking to propose to your special someone, this is a great spot! This view and moment were everything!).
After admiring the city views of Athens, head over to Orizontes-- This upscale restaurant is located at the top of Lycabettus Hill, overlooking the acropolis. You can dine outdoors on their cliff side terrance (when the weather is warm) for some serious fairytale views.
We're ending our night with a speakeasy! After dinner and taking those views in, take the train cart down and make your way to the street side. From there hail a cab (make sure to ask for the meter to be on in order to avoid getting charged extra!), as this speakeasy is about a 20 min drive away. Now, this is a legit speakeasy, meaning it's a little hard to find and not a lot of people know about it. We went around in circles trying to find the place and everything just looked so...abandoned! It also didn't help the fact that it was raining really hard and it was super dark. We recommend giving the name of this spot "Treno Sto Rouf" to your driver, you'll see a lot of train tracks, just get off and find this spot by foot. Look for the bright headlight on a steam locomotive behind roof station. There you'll find a sign saying "Wagon Bar" and that's the spot! This is a speakeasy style connecting old train cars that have been converted into a restaurant, bar, cafe, music club and theater!
Have an extra day in Athens and need something to do? Definitely an Epic day trip from Athens is visiting Delphi! We got to see the "center of the world" according to Zeus, walk though the archeological site and see original ruins kept inside the museum for preservation. Here are some highlights of our day trip!
This ends our time in Athens! Stay tuned as we explore the Greek Island for our Honeymoon, It's only fitting <3 .... 'till next time!