28.07.2015

ATHENS TRIP

ATHENS TRIP, Melih Bildiren | 28.07.2015

When I went to Athens, the capital of Greece, I saw a nice but ordinary city just like Izmir, not an old city of ancient ruins like Rome. Athens, loved by many tourists for its historical traces dating back to Ancient Greek civilization, evoked a very familiar feeling for me with its houses with wide balconies, green gardens, amazing climate, and people that resemble ours.

Turkish Airlines offers 3 flights a day between Istanbul and Athens. The flight takes less than 1.5 hours, meaning you barely even have time to finish your meal before you land. 

When you get to Athens, you are welcomed by a small airport and usually amazing weather. You can get to the center of the city by subway, bus, or taxi from the airport. The bus or subway take approximately 1.5 hours and cost around 8 EUR. Taxis, meanwhile, offer a fixed fare of 35 EUR.

Other than getting to and from the airport, you really do not need to use any other sort of transportation; the city has a small city and you can get around almost anywhere within 10 minutes’ walk. If you prefer, there is a subway system or you can take a taxi instead. Taxi fares are cheap in Athens; however, if some cab drivers sense you are a tourist, they may not turn on the meter and try to charge you a higher fare. My advice is to always check if the meter is running or not.

The area around the Acropolis is the most convenient place to stay on a short visit to Athens. I stayed at Airotel Parthenon, right next to the Acropolis Museum and only a 10 minute walk from all the major attractions.

If you are in a hurry, you can see Athens in just 1 day; however, my advice would be to spend at least 2 days there if you intend to see the museums as well.

Places you must see in Athens:

  • The Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
  • Monastiraki
  • Plaka
  • Syntagma Square (Parliament Building)
  • Ermou Street
  • Panathenaic Stadium

The Acropolis: Tourists from around the world visiting Athens first want to see the center of Ancient Athens and the symbol of the city, the Acropolis. The most famous monument on the hill is the Parthenon Temple. The Temple of Athena Nike, Erechtheion and the entrance gate Propylaia are the other important monuments to see in the Acropolis.

The walk up to the Acropolis can be a little strenuous, and this may bother some, especially in hot weather. However, if you’re willing to make the climb you'll get a spectacular 360-degree view of Athens from the top of the hill. At the southern entrance of the Acropolis, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus ancient theater is another significant attraction.

Monastiraki Square: This square is thought of as the heart of Athens. However significant it is as a location, it is surprisingly small. When I went there, I had to check the map a couple of times to make sure I was at the right place. :) It is not so much a square, rather a little gap between the buildings. But its popularity is inversely proportional to its size; the square is generally packed and you can see a variety of street performances, and young people enjoying frappes at the many cafes. Served in tall slim glasses, Frappe is an iced coffee that is very popular in Greece.

Right on the upper side of Monastiraki square (the Acropolis side), there is a street full of lovely restaurants. I cannot recall the name of it, but we had something to eat at Kuzina. Tables on the terrace will offer you a view of the Acropolis as you eat, and are highly in demand.

Plaka: Situated near the Acropolis, this district has cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops on its narrow streets. It is usually very crowded at night, but the lively and joyful atmosphere is worth sampling. I recommend that you have dinner here one night.

Syntagma Square: This is one of the 2 most famous squares in Athens. However, just like Monastiraki, its size belies its importance and attraction. The Parliament Building is located here. Do not miss the changing of the guard performed by the soldiers in front of the building.

Ermou Street: This street is situated between Monastiraki and Syntagma squares, and is famous for its boutiques containing many luxury brands.

Panathenaic Stadium: I believe that this is the most important work of art of the city. The stadium dates back to before the Christian era and is the first place to have hosted athletics-like tournaments as well as the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The entrance fee is 3 EUR.

Other than those places mentioned above, you will see other historical ruins around Monastiraki and the Acropolis. Aside from the historical importance and ancient artifacts, this is a city of great food and teeming with life.

I would recommend that you include Athens, a city full of joy with its history, culture, people, food, and everything else, to your vacation plans.

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