Hello, I am back!! I know it has been a while. I have to confess, I find lockdowns mentally challenging. Without the prospect of future travel to look forward to, some days have been pretty desperate. However, spring is upon us. The vaccine roll out progresses faster than originally envisaged and we can now enjoy a beer or wine in a beer garden. Sadly, it looks like international travel will not be feasible in the first half of the year. Indeed, Prof Kamlesh Khunti, a member of Sage recently said “I don’t think people should be planning on summer holidays abroad until next year.” (Source: Guardian). That does not however, prevent us from dreaming so here’s 5 things to see in a whirlwind 48 hours in Athens.
48 hours in Athens
Fear not if you only have a few days in Athens. This is ample time to see the principle sights which are concentrated in a relatively small area. You will be able to feast in Greek tavernas, indulge in a cocktail of architectural delights, and try to achieve your own athletic feat in the Panathenaic Stadium.
If you have only 48 hours in Athens, this itinerary will help you make the most of your fleeting visit.
1. Morning at the Acropolis
Rise early and head to the Acropolis. The site opens at 8am and in summer crowds gather early so it pays to arrive for opening time. I also advise you avoid the queues and book tickets online. The other benefit of rising earlier, is that there are many sites scattered across the slopes of the Acropolis. Your visit requires a climb up to the key sites and if you leave it until the sweltering heat of mid-day you will likely regret it.
Tickets cost €20 per adult or €10 in low season but it pays to check the latest ticket prices. If you are a history buff opt for the combined ticket for €30. It includes the Acropolis and Slopes, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School. We opted for the former however and spent a few hours wandering the site, admiring both the stunning architecture and fabulous city views.
The Acropolis is truly an incredible sight. It is mind boggling to believe that construction of many of the monuments took place over over 7,000 years ago!!!
The Parthenon Temple is the star attraction on the site. Its lofty columns rise from the rocky outcrop, glistening in the sunshine. How they managed to build this temple in less than ten years without the benefit of modern tools is incomprehensible. The base of the Parthenon is about the size of half a football field. 46 outer columns tower originally towered 34 feet high to hold the elaborate friezes and tiled roof. Gazing up at the intricate decorations adorning the top of the columns, I felt moved to tears. The soft honey hues of the stone contrast dramatically with the deep blue sky peeping through the ruins.
Around the Parthenon giant slabs of marble litter the outcrop providing makeshift seats for weary tourists. Remarkably well preserved smaller temples dot the plateau and hillside. The Temple of Nike Athena and the Propyla are particularly impressive with the marble enticing you to touch it. The whole site feels spiritual, as though endowed with special powers. I certainly felt mesmerised by its beauty.
For a comprehensive discussion around the building techniques of workmen who constructed the Parthenon, visit this article from the Smithsonian.
2. Afternoon on Filopappou Hill
Once you leave the Acropolis, walk along the cobbles of the Dionysiou Areopagitou. This ancient road snakes around the base of the Acropolis and offers spectacular views. It is awash with entertainers and small stalls selling tourist trinkets. It leads to Akamados Road which circles the base of Filopappou Hill and from here you can follow one of a number of woodland pathways which climb to a promontory that overlooks the Acropolis. As you rise, the scent of cypress trees drifts on the breeze and birds tweet but it feels a world away from the city. More a wilderness oasis than a city park.
The climb rewards you with more splendid views of the city and the Acropolis. You can observe the ongoing works on the Parthenon and other temples as workmen engage in a constant battle to preserve this monument for future generations.
Inevitably, there are lots of areas that you can frequent for dinner. However the views of the Acropolis by night are beautiful so head to the intersection of Dionysiou Areopagitou and Agia Marina. Here, rooftop bars offer prime views over the Acropolis and you can sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun set over the ancient site.
3. Morning: Plaka and Anafiotika
Follow the signs from the Acropolis to descend to Roman Agora, another smaller temple site. From there, you can stroll the quaint little tourist shops of labyrinthian Plaka and Anafiotika. Endless tavernas, coffee shops and boutiques are nestled in tiny alleyways and doorways. Chatter spills into the road from bustling restaurants where waiters entice you to stop and linger. We soon find out why as one restaurant owner talks of an 80% drop in business since the onset of the pandemic. He charms us with a free carafe of wine and encourages us to submit a Trip Adviser review.
This area is brimming with vibrant streets, colourful villas with elaborate rusting iron balconies and homes. It is like a citrus orchard in shades of lemon and orange with cute coffee shops tucked into corners disgorging mouthwatering scents of fressh coffee and bread. Tiny cocktail bars decorated in quirky décor with chintzy flowered cushions and floating bird cages could persuade you to indulge as can the numerous ice cream parlours.
4. National Garden
Once you have gorged on ice cream, coffees and other appetising offerings, head to the National Garden and the Temple Of Zeus. Although this temple is included in the Acropolis package, you can easily see all the ruins without buying a ticket. Simply wander the roads of Athanasiou, Ardittou and Vasillissis Olgas Avenue where you can peer through the ironwork and marvel to your heart’s content.
5. Afternoon: Panathenaic Stadium
Another of my favourite destinations in the city, is the Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first Olympic Games. It is still remarkably well preserved (it dates back to the 4th century BC) and has a running track and a podium for you o create your very own moment of glory.
The honey-coloured terraces rise steeply from the stadium and the stands hold over 68,000 people. It was used again in the 2004 Olympic games even it hosted the archery event and the marathon finale.
So, there you have it. A whirlwind 48 hours in Athens.
Have your say
Perhaps you have been to Athens and have some other suggestions for amazing things to see in 48 hours in Athens. Feel free to enlighten us below.