After Meteora, it was off to Athens! I was super excited during the entire train ride there since it’s high up on my list of places to see in Europe. After all those years of school learning about Ancient Greece and Greek art, it’s hard not to be excited about going somewhere so fascinating and with so much history.
It’s interesting seeing Athens for the first time, because it’s ancient and modern at the same time. There’s the iconic Acropolis and all of the ancient ruins, but there’s also tons of trendy restaurants, bars and shops (some areas were even downright hipster).
It’s a city that mixes the new and old that’s not uncommon in European capitals, but it felt extra special in Athens. After all, the city is known as the cradle of western civilization and in modern times, it’s known as the historical capital of Europe.
Speaking of ancient, the Acropolis dates back to the 5th BC, the famous Golden Age of Perils. To be clear, the Acropolis is the hill that overlooks Athens, and the Parthenon is the famous temple on that hill. The word Acropolis, means “the highest point in the city” in Greek.
I admit, it was a bit embarrassing that I got all those names confused, especially when it came to the name of the temple…Parthenon is what’s in Athens vs the Pantheon, which is in Rome. Hey, to be fair, high school history class was years back!
Athens was in fact built around the Acropolis and is without a doubt, the most visited attraction in Athens.
If you want to be fancy, it’s official name is the “Acropolis of Athens”. It’s, of course, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Parthenon was built in 447 BC to honour the goddess Athena Parthenos, the patron of Athens to thank her for protecting the city during the Persian Wars. The other buildings on the Acropolis are: the Propylaea, the Erechteion and the Temple of Athena Nike.
Unfortunately, the Parthenon is still in the process of being restored so it’s impossible to take a picture of the temple without any scaffolding.
If you’re in Athens at night, remember to look up!
The Parthenon is lit up at night and can be seen from different points in the city. The sight of it is both amazing and surreal and bonus, from afar, it’s hard to see any scaffolding!
Syntagma Square is at the heart of the city, which comprises of the square and surrounding streets and buildings. The most famous is the old Royal Palace, which is now the Greek Parliament building.
The city’s historic centre consists of a 3 km pedestrian zone that is tree-lined, which is the largest in Europe. In doing so, it helps to make the city centre more walkable to reduce the number of cars in the city centre. For someone who hates driving, that’s my kind of city! And of course, all efforts to help reduce our carbon footprint is important since climate change is real, despite what some ignorant politicians may believe.
The National Gardens is behind the Parliament building and is a great place to chill and escape from the busy city life. When we were there though, one guy had a flock of pigeons on him and tried to get us to feed them. It felt like that scene from one of the Home Alone sequels.
Henry Miller wrote about the garden in 1939:
“It remains in my memory like no other park I have known. It is the quintessence of a park, the thing one feels sometimes in looking at a canvas or dreaming of a place one would like to be in and never finds.”
One of the places we ate at in Athens was a restaurant called In Town. They had this fun “couples” option where you get to sample a bunch of different Greek dishes.
The food, especially the moussaka was amazing, but the portions were a bit small.
We always discovered loukoumades which is a sweet pastry made of fried dough that has honey syrup poured over, or are filled with things like chocolate.
One place that I can’t pronounce called LUKUMΑΔΕΣ got us pretty addicted to them! You can buy a box of them for I think around 4 euros. I’d definitely recommend sharing a box since they’re really filling.
Have you guys been to Athens? Have you tried loukoumades?