1 Day in Athens, Greece: Places to Stay, Eat, and See

My husband and I just returned from a week long trip in Greece. I blogged about our experience in Santorini, but I want to write a separate post for Athens for a few different reasons, mostly because the trip wasn’t as packed full as Santorini. We spent 5 days on the island, and unfortunately we were only able to spend 1 day in Athens, a choice I now regret. We’ll get into that. We’ll get into it all.

So Athens, huh? I feel this is the most important thing I need to say: while researching our trip, pretty much everyone and their mama said that you should spend one full day in Athens, two days MAX. I heard that it was gritty and dirty and not as worthwhile as all the individual islands. For reference, I read a lot of travel blogs and I am apart of a group on Facebook full of world travelers. 

My husband and I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, when we checked into our hotel in Athens I spoke with the front desk staff and they told me that Athens was a city you need to spend five days exploring, MINIMUM. But listen, I get it. You have the person who embraces a big city for what it is (more congestion, more crime, more hustle and bustle….) and the person who prefers a slower paced, more luxurious vacation.

But Athens isn’t just a city, ya’ll. It is a city full of history! According to classicist Humphrey Kito

Ancient Athens had a totally new conception of what human life was for, and showed for the first time what the human mind was for.

Democracy, Science, Philosophy… all things founded in Athens. I mean listen, I could go on all day with a history lesson but that’s not what you’re here for.

Soooo yea, we only had roughly 9 hours to spend in Athens and we packed it full. 30,000 steps worth, fyi. If we had to do it again, we would choose to spend 3-4 days there. Bottom line, we loved our time in Santorini. Truly. That being said, we loved Athens so much that I almost want to say our one day in Athens was better than our five days in Santorini. Each was special in their own way but let’s talk Athens, shall we?

These are my recommendations for one quick day in Athens, Greece:

Stay

We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Athens and we could not have been any more pleased with this hotel! We would only be spending one night in their establishment and yet the staff treated us as if we’d be staying there for a week.

As soon as we arrived we were notified that we had been upgraded to an executive suite. Now listen, I have stayed in a lot of hotels and this was easily one of the nicest. It was clean and spacious with a spectacular view of the city, but more importantly the location was perfect! The front desk provided us with a map of Athens and showed us all of the places we should visit as well as the best way to get there. The hotel was conveniently located near the metro, less than 30 seconds to be more specific. A two minute ride on the metro will take you to all of the main attractions. Neither my husband nor I had ever taken a metro so that was a fun experience on its own, but it couldn’t have been any easier!

Wyndham Hotel Athens

Explore

  • Syntagma

Get to this neighborhood and everything else is within walking distance; Restaurants a plenty, gift shops, and all the history you can handle.

  • Plaka

Plaka is to Athens as Oia is to Santorini. This little village is bursting with personality. Cute little buildings, walkways to explore, delicious food, and shopping… all can be found in Plaka. It’s one of the oldest villages in Athens making it full of history and authentic Greek life. The hotel staff told us if we were only able to visit one place locally, Plaka should be it.

Graffiti Athens

Must See

  • Parthenon (Acropolis)

I wish I could properly express just how incredible it is to stand next to a building of this size with so much history. I’m not an idiot so I know not to touch, but I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to. Truly, I can’t explain it. It was one thing to think about how massive in size it is, but another thing entirely to think about what all has gone down there. If I had to recommend one thing to do before you leave Athens, it would be to visit the Parthenon and appreciate it in all its glory.

This is going to sound really uncool of me but when you visit, get your “instagram snap” and then allow yourself to fully embrace the experience. There were so many people that seemed so focused on getting the perfect shot “for the gram.” That’s cool, we did it too, but I encourage you to take your time reading all of the plaques so you can take in the experience it in its entirety.

There are some other incredible buildings to explore on site as well!

Acropolis Surroundings

Acropolis

Parthenon Athens The Blissful Elefante

Acropolis Columns

Athenian Arena

  • Temple de Zeus

Another historical landmark with so much history. This temple is one of the largest ever built in the ancient world and when you stand next to the columns, the size is overwhelmingly evident. Not only is it large in size, the stonework is magnificent!

As we were walking the grounds we couldn’t help but think of how neat it would be to bring the children and experience it with them while enjoying a nice picnic lunch!

Temple de Zeus The blissful Elefante

Temple de Zeus The blissful Elefante

Temple de Zeus Columns

  • Acropolis Museum 

For most people, a museum is far from exciting. If you aren’t into that kind of thing, maybe skip this. If you are, it’s a must see! This museum is top of the line. Simply put, it’s exquisite! Beautifully modern and full of history, the museum provides you with more facts than your brain can process.  It was built on top of the ruins of an ancient Athenian neighborhood, so as you are walking around you can look down through the glass bottom to see the ancient foundations.

As an added bonus, they have archaeologist at the ready to answer any questions you have.

Acropolis Museum Athens Greece

Acropolis Museum Athens Greece

Acropolis Museum Athens Greece

Eat

  • Melilotos

Melilotos came highly recommended on the GuidePal app, filed under “Top 10 Eats in Athens.” It is described as a “Grandma-style, all day Greek taverna.” So basically, truly authentic Greek food aka what my husband and I travel for! I had a quinoa lentil salad and after a week of eating mostly pasta my taste buds were in Heaven!

Melilotos Athens

  • Vegan Beat

Plant based options are becoming easily accessible all throughout Greece, and Vegan Beat is one of many restaurants making it happen. From salads, to burgers, to dessert… you can’t go wrong at Vegan Beat! If you visit on a day when they are serving the Chili Chocolate Mousse, you have to get it! HAVE TO! It’s a velvety, chocolatey mousse with a slight spicy kick, topped with coconut flakes. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

  • Bread Factory

I almost want to say if you go nowhere else to eat, go to the Bread Factory. The Bread Factory is open 24/7 and I cannot even begin to express the variety of desserts this bakery/cafe has! In fact, it’s pretty overwhelming. Conveniently located directly next to our hotel, my husband and I made a quick trip to grab some food before heading to bed for an early flight. We sat down, drinking coffee, watching the city move around us, and then proceeded to get a meal and dessert for the room!

Bread Factory Athens

_ _ _ _ _

If we could do the trip again I would extend our stay and visit the places outside of your typical tourists route. The cities by the water look stunning in photos and I’m truly heartbroken that we weren’t able to experience that. But the more you know, right? Hopefully my ignorance makes for a better trip for you!

Now I have to ask, are you an Athens kinda gal/pal or are you Santorini all day, every day?

I need to know, k? Thanks for reading!

xx Tara

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