Athens

Athens, Greece: the busting metropolis with the Acropolis

In thorough planning of our 10 days in Greece, our agenda allotted for just 1 day in Athens — but having inquired of my well-traveled friends, they all advised that one day in Athens was perfectly fine.

Late afternoon, we arrived into the Athens International Airport and hopped on the X95 bus taking us to Syntagma — Athens City Center, for €5 each (way better than a taxi!). Our initial impression of Athens was, “This is it?” A city that stands out in my mind, has been mentioned countless times in history books and referred back to as a pivotal place in Greek history, is now in a dilapidated state of urban development and depression. We had imagined a city of ubiquitous ruins that harkened back to the times of the Ancient Greeks, possibly with gladiator type sandals and Greek salad sold at every corner. (Yes, at the same booth).

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This initial reaction was quickly counterbalanced by what we found next: a bright and airy hotel with a view of the Acropolis at night, the Parthenon illuminated in the midnight sky. THIS, this is what we were imagining! After strolling through the city, we arrived to the Fresh Hotel in the early evening and were greeted by a wonderfully smiley staff and modern-chic rooms with views of the city from the balcony. Exhausted from a day of traveling, we opted for the rooftop bar/restaurant in lieu of going out for a meal. And for us, this was perfect.

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Wine sloshed in our glasses as we toasted to our first night in Greece and feasted on a plate of grilled octopus, fresh and zesty salads and a leg of lamb, so juicy it was falling off the bone. The Fresh Hotel provided the perfect atmosphere for a night in – to get acclimated and adjusted in this foreign city where English words weren’t so commonplace. Knowing others that had traveled to Greece, Athens in particular– they had warned that it was difficult for them to navigate and get around as English was not readily available and all the signs were, well, in Greek. However (this was 20-something years ago) we didn’t find this to be a problem as everywhere we turned, it seemed like someone spoke English and was happy to help.

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With a beautiful view of one of the glowing monuments from the rooftop bar, my mom and I questioned, “Okay.. So is that the Parthenon or the Acropolis or something completely different?” Having studied Art History, I felt like I should’ve known the answer but I just kinda nodded my head and took a big gulp of red wine as I googled that very question.

Looking through images, the two of them looked exactly the same.. So I searched “What’s the difference between the Acropolis and the Parthenon?” To my chagrin, the answer came up that the Parthenon is the actual building — a temple dedicated to Athena, built in 447 BC — while the Acropolis is the actual hill and means ‘high city’.

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The next morning, we enjoyed the breakfast spread at Fresh Hotel, complete with an OJ press, creating fresh glasses right on the spot. I’m a fan.

Booking tickets for a ferry to Mykonos later that afternoon, we arranged a taxi with the concierge and left our luggage with them so we could go explore the city.

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Intending to make our way to the Parthenon, we got a bit sidetracked by the sounds and sights of the bustling Athens marketplace and decided that with the few hours we had left in Athens, we’d rather immerse ourselves in the flavor of the streets instead of a crowd of tourists. And we were so glad that we did!

A sound-byte of a group of musicians:

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(Traditional carved wooden relics….. Couldn’t stop laughing after I spotted these bottle openers!)

The Athens Flea Market is brimming with eccentric jewelry shops, leather boutiques hosting an array of Grecian sandals (and well priced, too! Most around €20 – €30) and busking musicians looking for a quick buck. Winding our way through the small shops of painted pottery and evil eyes, we ended up at the Ancient Agora. Dazzled by the sights, and finally finding what we had imagined when coming to Athens, we nodded in agreement that one day in Athens was definitely doable as we headed back to our hotel to catch the taxi. Though there is definitely more we would’ve liked to see, I think a day/day and a half in Athens is perfectly adequate and a good jumping off point when setting out to explore Greece.

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Dress by Free People 

Hat Brixton

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Fresh Hotel

About 15 minute walk from the City Center, but even closer to a bustling marketplace, the Athens Flea Market and hip-urban neighborhoods filled with locals and cute cafés

Feel: Stylish, urban, modern chic with colorful accents and white walls

Price: €100 ~ €130

LOVED the rooftop bar/restaurant (there’s a pool up there too!)

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