Every day hundreds of cruise-ship passengers come into the Greek city of Athens to explore it in one day. While it isn’t possible to acquaint oneself fully with a city in twenty-four hours, the layout of Athens makes it seem somewhat feasible. Our favourite one day itinerary includes an introduction to staggeringly beautiful ruins, labyrinthine cobble-stoned alleys, and rustic food at local Greek taverns.
Cruise ships dock at the port of Pireus for the city of Athens. Turn left on exiting the terminal. The nearest metro station is a comfortable 15-minute walk away. Take Metro Line 1 from the port of Pireus to Monastiraki station (7 stops). Tickets cost less than $1. Besides being the cheapest means of transport, the Metro is also the perfect place to sample Greek street culture (most trains are laden with graffiti and street art) and famous Greek conviviality that is a trademark of holidays to Greece.
Exploring Athens In One Day
Athens is a huge city. Don’t try to ‘do’ everything or cross everything off a checklist. Instead, stick to the Monastiraki area for a fruitful day of exploration.
Begin at the magnificent ruins of The Acropolis. The Acropolis needs no introduction. An ancient city located on top of a cliff, it is one of the most visited Heritage sites in the world. Winding pedestrianized streets lead tourists to the complex. It is best to visit The Acropolis early in the morning because it involves an uphill walk and can get very hot.
The complex houses a number of historically significant buildings. Most of the main buildings, including The Partheon, were built by Pericles in fifth century BC to commemorate the achievements of Athenians. Our favourites include the Theater of Dionysious and the Theater of Herod Atticus. Once upon a time, they were used for gatherings and gladiator fights. These days both amphitheaters are used for concerts, ballet performances, and cultural programmes.
Prepare to be stunned once you are there. Nothing can prepare you for the grandeur of The Acropolis. That’s what we love about travel – no number of books or photos can compensate for seeing The Acropolis in person. The sight of The Partheon perched atop a cliff is so luscious it makes the heart ache. It is easy to spend hours exploring the ruins or just absorbing the atmosphere.
Gazing at Greek ruins is one of life’s more exquisite pleasures. The melancholic grandeur of the crumbling Acropolis against the surrounding landscape of modern-day Athens is second to none.
What after the ruins?
Crowds throng the Acropolis and are bound to get to you after a while. Fortunately, there is no shortage of areas to escape to.
Plaka is the historic heart of Athens. A tiny village within the city of Athens, it is nestled under The Acropolis. The labyrinthine streets of Plaka are full of musicians, florists, independent boutiques, and cafes. Its cobble-stoned alley ways have surprises around each corner. Scout the shops for souvenirs – you will find everything from the weird to the wonderful on offer. Sample the t-shirt below 😉
If you’re in the mood for some serious shopping, head to the Athens Flea Market at Avissynias Square – here you will find everything from trinkets and jewellery to spices and fresh fruits at competitive rates.
This district is also home to some amazing street art. Avoid the crowds by escaping to little by-lanes – flower-laden houses will give way to intricate and nuanced street art. It is easy to spend a long time gazing at some of the art works on offer.
When it comes to eating, we would suggest steering clear of over-priced dining options in the Plaka. The bougainvillea-laden streets of the Plaka are full of restaurants and cafes selling bog-standard Greek food. Cross the road at the Avissynias Square and head into the less-touristy section of the market. Here the streets are full of tiny taverns, ouzerias, and hole-in-the-wall eateries that specialise in Greek meze (small dishes). The décor at these places might be minimalistic but the food is delectable – expect little portions of succulent sea-food, juicy olives, salads, and locally-produced cheese. Sip on ouzo (an anise-flavoured aperitif) or hima (house wine) as you watch old men whiling away lazy afternoons by playing cards.
If nibbling on meze leaves you hungry, try Gyros – the Greek version of the Doner Kebab. This one comes with crisp shavings of meat, sliced tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki rolled into pita bread. As if that weren’t enough, the roll is then topped with chips (or fries as the Americans like to call ’em). Gyros is the ultimate comfort food – nom, nom, nom!
Have you been to Athens? What part of the city would you include in a one day itinerary of Athens? 🙂