How do you plan your flight? If your flight to the final destination is not direct, do you plan a short connection or prefer a long jetlag that would give you a chance to get out of the airport and walk in a city before your next flight? I do prefer the second option, especially if that is a new city for me. It’s always nice to use the chance and see new places. I did this on my trip to Rio de Janeiro and had a luck to see Rome for 2 days (never enough so have to come back!) and on other trips as well. This time too, when I was planning my trip to Munich, I chose a flight back home with Aegean Airlines which had almost 12h stop in Athens, a place where I always wanted to be. Still it was very short time to see a city, but let me show you all that I could manage to do there in a short day trip. Let’s go 🙂
So what we do when we need to get off the airport for a sightseeing but we have hand luggage with us (that’s usually a case for budget travelers)? Yes, we need to find a place to leave our luggage and go light. In every airport and central stations there is such storage, where you can leave your small or big luggage for several hours or even days. In Athens airport look for Care4bag office. Here you can wrap your luggage or leave it as much as you need. Of course every hour is in count as well as the size of your luggage. Here you can see the price-list before you plan your visit. You need to be ready how much you’ll need to pay when collect your items, no? Super service, super needed 😀
How to get from Athens Airport to city center:
So we are ready now to discover the city but first need to get there 😀
For budget travelers the best option is to take a bus or a train/metro. The cost for bus transfer is 6€ for adults and must be purchased at the ticket kiosk in the bus departure area just outside the airport. Good part is that it’s cheap and run 24/7, but take in mind that usually you may need to wait around 20 minutes and it will take 55 min to reach city center.
Metro is more faster (40 minutes to reach the city) but also more expensive (still affordable). The one way ticket costs 10€ but if you order round ticket, you will pay only 18€. Take in mind that Metro operates from 06:30 – 23:35 and departs every 30 minutes at exact time.
I prefer metro, so bought a round-trip ticket from the ticket kiosk at the airport ad looked for signs. They showed me the way where I had to cross the street, ascend one level via escalator, and cross over the pedestrian bridge. The metro station was in 10-15 minute walk from the arrival gate. From here Metro Line 3 with direction to “Aghia Marina” goes to Athens city center with several stops. The closest metro station to Acropolis, where I was planning to go first, were Monastiraki or Syntagma, but the best option was Acropolis station.
From the Acropolis metro station to the ticket kiosk of Acropolis was only few minutes walk. You can’t get lost as there are direction signs showing the way. However, take right once you exit metro, walk until the crossroad and turn left. Few more meters and here you are!
It was mid of May, quite sunny and warm day. Now queue for the tickets, just few people. Ticket for the archaeological site of the Acropolis and its Slopes costed 20€. I bought the ticket and started my tour in this archaeological area. But if you’re planning to stay in Athens for more than a day and have in mind to visit more archaeological sites and museums, then I’d advise you to buy a special ticket, which costs 30€, but allow you to visit (Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of the Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis) more sites and is valid for 5 days!
There were some parts of monuments on the right side, such as a seat reserved to the chief priest and its decorations, statues and reliefs portraying Silenus, who was a companion of the god of wine Dionysus in Greek mythology and some other examples of ancient monuments.
But the tour to the main sites was starting on the left and the first main site was the Dionysus sanctuary and theater. I’m not sure if that was allowed, but there were some people walking on small arena and sitting places of this theater. This is considered to have been the first theater in the world dating from the 6th century B.C and the birthplace of drama with tiered performance space seating around 15,000 people, where festivals held in spring with songs, dances and worship to the God of wine.
But there was another theater built here, quite impressive, huge Odeon of Herodes Attica. It was the third Odeon constructed in ancient Athens, built between 160-174 A.C. Here mainly musical festivals were happening, and the arena could host up to 5,000 spectators. There was no entrance to get in and walk in this place, but people were all around, trying to find the best place for a better view. It was awesome feeling to stand here and imagine the spirit of ancient times.
Little by little I was going up on the Acropolis Hill. Before reaching the Propylaea, which was the Ancient principal entryway to the Acropolis built c. 432 BCE with white marble Doric columns, there was the Temple of Athena Nike on the right side. This was an Ancient Ionic temple depicting goddess Athena with 4 monolithic columns & decorated marble slabs. Few more steps up and Parthenon is in the view!
Huge temple ruins were surrounded with tourists all over the world. There were groups with a guide telling them a story of this archaeological site, couples, small groups and solo travelers like me. It was quite interesting to listen some parts of the story guides tell to their groups. Why not? 🙂
The temple was dedicated to Athena Parthenos (virgin) and was built between 447 and 438 B.C. It was richly decorated with sculptures which were destroyed during the years. Survived parts are exhibited in Acropolis Museum. The columns of Parthenon are still under reconstruction.
On the left side of the Parthenon there is another temple, Erechtheion. This elegant building is called after the mythical king of Athens Erechtheus. The construction had started after 431B.C. and was finished in 406 B.C. Initially the building was built to house sacred spots: The Salt Spring, which appeared when Poseidon struck the rock with his trident during the contest with Athena, the Trident marks and the tombs of Athenian kings of Kekrops and Erechtheus.
Six statues of young woman stand on a 1.77m high podium support the roof of the porch, which was the part of Kekrops’ tomb above the ground. Some parts of this building decorations are also kept in Acropolis Museum.
The whole surrounding area of Erechtheion was closed for a visit, but even from this far we can see its beauty and importance. Surely it has a lot of secrets still kept inside.
Except those temples there were also ruins of other temples available, such as Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus & Temple of Rome and Augustus. But there is also a special viewing point built here, from where you can have a 360 degree panoramic view to whole Athens city. You can enjoy the view to all temples on Acropolis Hill, but if you look carefully, you can also see different historical landmarks all around. I can imagine how beautiful sunsets are seen from here.. Surely need to come back 🙂
Here is also the Acropolis museum, which is almost next to the Acropolis hill. If you decide to visit this museum separately, the standard ticket would cost you 10€ during winter season (from 1 November to 31 March) and 20€ on summer season (from 1 April to 31 October). But if you buy a special ticket, you can freely visit this museum and some more sites for free… ah yes, already told you about this benefit earlier 😉
Unfortunately I didn’t have chance to visit the museum and its archaeological sites due to lack of time, but next time when I have a chance to visit Athens again, I will come back here for sure.. Yes, I love everything ancient )))
I still had some hours before my flight and went to stroll in the city.. I mean in the nearby places, until the next metro station. On my way I’ve reached a garden, which was closed with a gate. It turned out that the entrance is with a ticket. So if I had bought a special ticket instead of a usual one, I could get in a see another historical site here. This was the Olympieon where the main attraction was the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the largest temples in the ancient world. At a time there were 104 massive columns here from which only 16 are standing today. This was all I could see from another side of the gates, but beyond the area of the temple there are also ruins of Roman bath house, various residences, a 5th century basilica, and remnants of the city’s fortification wall. Lucky people were already walking in the area and exploring all around.. Ehh … ))
From here I even didn’t notice to which street I turned, but it appeared to be one of those main touristic walking streets with all local goods, clothes, souvenirs, etc. You could find anything for any taste here, starting from olive soaps and oils till clay made small statues of Greek gods and heroes. This was Plaka district, the main touristic area. Here were several churches built with Byzantine architecture, said to be one of the oldest in the city. Here in Mitropoleos Square there was also the Metropolitan Church of Athens Evangelismos Theotokou, a 19th century cathedral made with Greco-Byzantine & neoclassical architecture.
These narrow streets come one after another until I reached more modern one with luxury shops and more people around. This was Ermou street that lead into Syntagma square. This was a nice area, tree-lined central square with a fountain in the middle and some small cafes around. A lot of people were on park benches enjoying a nice music. There was a young man playing a guitar and singing worldwide famous hits as a professional.
On another side of the square there was Hellenic Parliament building, also built in 1800s with a Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of it.
Right here was the metro station that I needed, Syntagma, which had a direct connection with Athens Airport. I already had my ticket, so didn’t need to buy a new one. But I was amazed with a size and decorations of this station. Its upper floor was all “decorated” with ancient excavation exhibits. So even if you are here like me, and didn’t have time to visit a museum, come to enter this metro station and you will have a small tour in a free museum. I didn’t know this, and was glad I didn’t go back to Acropolis station, but came here as a last stop for today.
Ticket validation is done, train came and I was already on my way to the airport. Another 40 minutes and I was at the airport, picking up my luggage from storage and going to my Gate.
Check-in was already done, boarding completed. I’m inside the airplane, going to find my seat. But then I saw that some has already sat on my place. How come?! Seat next to the window is mine! I asked this young man to take his seat as that was my place, but he looked confused and started to check his boarding pass. And yes, I was right. He took the middle seat, me – mine, and his friend – the aisle one. Usually I’m not much confident to start a discussion with strangers in airplanes, but with these 2 guys we started to talk and almost didn’t stop during whole flight! Somehow it appeared to be very easy to talk with them, like we knew each other for a long time. And that was a beginning of a nice friendship that lasts until now and surely will continue for many years 🙂
Athens was kind to me, with its weather, with low queues, with beautiful views and new friendship. I am happy I’ve chosen this long stopover and could find a lot of positive things from this day.
Thanks for spending this day with me.
See you somewhere else 😉