Destination: Athens

May 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm 1 comment

Athens is the gateway to Greece.  Although it’s not the best of Greece in my opinion, it’s still a must-see.  I agree with Rick Steves – see the main sites here and get out.  We had what amounted to just half a day in Athens on our cruise, so I’ll share with you what I learned from that perspective. 

My husband, me, Ami (of Elizabeth Anne Designs), Ami’s husband in front of the Parthenon.

Getting There
The cruise ships dock in Piraeus, so you can’t just step off the ship and see the Acropolis.  There are a few options:

1. Ship’s tour. I’m not generally a big fan of taking tours with groups of 50, so this was not for me.  If you’re not terribly mobile, a coach tour might be the way to go.  If you’re more active but don’t feel comfortable doing everything on your own, you might want to…

2. Get your own driver.  Since we didn’t do this, I cannot personally vouch for any particular driver.  I have, however, heard good things about Spiros and AthensByTaxi.  Be advised – unless you are otherwise explicitly advised, you are booking a driver and not a guide.  In order to guide people through the historical sites in Greece, people have to obtain a special license after much studying.  Accordingly, they’re going to charge a lot more.

3. DIY: This is the option we chose – we walked, rode the subway, and then walked. 

  • We walked to the Piraeus subway station from the ship (about 15-20 minutes). If you want to do this, head for the road right in front of the ship.  Take a left (so that the water is on your left).  The road will veer right after a little bit, so make sure to stick with it.  If you’re still on the left side of the road when you come to the train station, you’ll take the pedestrian bridge across the street.  That bridge a good landmark to know that you’re getting close.  In the alternative, you can grab a cab to the station.  Don’t let them talk you into taxi-ing all the way in though – it’s supposedly very pricey and you can’t count on getting a standard rate. 
  • Buy your metro tickets and make sure to validate them before getting on a train.  You’ll have no worries about which train to take as they’re all going in the same direction; Piraeus is the end of the line.  You can take the green line in to Monastiraki and walk from there, or switch to the red at Omonia and go to Acropoli.  We just stopped at Monastiraki.  You’re going to have to hike up that hill one way or another!

My mom and aunt in front of the Temple of Athena Nike.

What to See/Do
Acropolis.  The Acropolis of Athens is really THE thing to do in Athens.  This monument, which dates back to at least the 6th century BC, was formally proclaimed as the pre-eminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on 26 March 2007.  Be advised that this place is not for those who are particularly fragile.  The stones are incredibly slick even when dry, so be sure to wear shoes with traction and be careful.  Also, there’s not really any shade and can get ridiculously hot in the summer.  If you have the option, come super early or super late so you don’t sweat to death.  We were there at about noon in mid-June, and it was HOT HOT HOT.  If it’s open while you’re visiting (it wasn’t when we were there), you should also check out the new Acropolis Museum.  The official page for the Acropolis is here and provides current hours and admission.  Check out a bit more info here.  Read about the Elgin Marbles drama here.

My aunt, Ami, me, and my mom with parasols purchased just after leaving the Acropolis.  These were incredibly handy throughout the trip.

National Archeological Museum. This is “considered one of the great museums in the world and contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity worldwide.”  (-Wiki)  “Its abundant collections, with more than 20,000 exhibits, provide a panorama of Greek civilization from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity.” (-Official website)  We did not have time to do this, but I think it’s definitely worth a visit if you do have time.  Visitor information may be found here.

Ancient Agora. The agora was the city’s marketplace and civic center and one of the most important parts of ancient Athens.  We just checked it out while walking past, and that was pretty good.  We enjoyed seeing the cats hanging out inside.  Find current visitor information here.

Plaka.  This is the shopping district for tourists.  You’ll find all manner of souvenirs in the area, and the Hard Rock Cafe is here too (we don’t eat there; we just collect drum sticks).  Be advised – if you go to the shops recommended by the ship, you are likely to overpay and may even be lied to.  We visited a rug shop just down the street from the ship recommended rug shop, and we found a gorgeous rug at a fairly reasonable price (similar quality rugs may be found for less in the US if you know where to shop, but you can also pay a lot more if you don’t have those places nearby).  The store owner also gave us a quick lesson in how to spot real handmade versus machine-made rugs.   We went a few stores down to the recommended shop, and they tried to tell us that a machine-made rug was handmade!  And they were charging as though it were a handmade one.

Lycabettus Hill.  You can take a funicular to this hill, which is the highest point in the city.  I imagine you’ll be rewarded with a very fine view, but we just admired it from the Acropolis.

The hill as seen from the Acropolis.

Eat and drink!  Greek cuisine is fairly diverse, so you’re sure to find something you like if you try enough.  If you’re a beer drinker, wash down that yummy food with a Mythos or 2 while you’re in Athens.  I love it and wish I could find it without having to go to a Greek restaurant when I want to dream of Greece.  Also, look for gelato.  Even though it’s a traditionally Italian treat, you can find it at just about any tourist destination in Europe.  We enjoyed some while strolling through the Plaka. 

My aunt, my mom, and I toasting, “To Greece!”

Here are a few more of our pics.


Entry filed under: CenturyClub, Cruisin', Destinations, Europe.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. tun hotels  |  May 31, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    nice post, keep writing thanks for sharing


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