After almost a year without travelling, this trip was well and truly needed. We had originally planned on just going to Kiev so that we could visit Chernobyl but decided to go to Athens to celebrate Jamie’s 21st birthday (as he is a big fan of Greek mythology). As we were already over at Jamie’s in Northern Ireland, we decided to check out the price of flights from Dublin and found some for a great price – itinerary to follow!
So, on the 11th of June, we took a midnight bus from Derry to Dublin to catch our flight a 5am. At the time, the early morning did not appeal to me, but it gave us an extra afternoon to explore Athens (although we did end up just eating lots of food and passing out).
I didn’t know what to expect from Athens. I also didn’t know what to expect from our Air BnB. We had booked it so many months in advance and before exam time that I was starting doubt whether we had actually organised somewhere to stay. Not to worry, on the drive to the airport, our host contacted us so we had a nosey. There was one major claim: “Great view of the Acropolis”. We laughed at how unlikely this was, thinking it was just a ploy to lure us into booking. But we were wrong. Our little loft apartment had a stunning view of the Acropolis, especially when it was all lit up at night, it made us so excited to get out and go exploring.
We had done a significant amount of research about Athens in comparison to other places we have been and I had nailed down how we could get to all the attractions spending as little money as possible.
So on our first day, we set off to explore the Acropolis, a massive temple complex at the top of a rather large hill. As someone who’s not the best at climbing, the view of the acropolis above us in the distance was quite daunting. However, the walk was surprisingly easy and entirely worth it! Here, we went to the ticket office and opted for a combi ticket which granted us access to various landmarks across the city over a 5 day period. This was supposed to be 30 euros for adults and 15 euros for students but for some reason, the lovely lady at the ticket desk saw that we were from Scotland and gave us them for free!
Whilst we were in Athens, we wanted to visit the Meteora which is situated near Kalabaka, a small town in the centre of mainland Greece, approximately 4 hours from Athens by train. When we were looking up tours, we discovered we could stay overnight in Kalabaka and do a sunset tour and hiking tour the following morning.
This was completely worth it to see the beautiful monasteries of meteora situated on top of large pieces of conglomerate rock which had been carved out of the landscape as a result of upward movement of the seabed back in the Paleogene period. As someone with a keen interest in geology and geography, I was fascinated by the contrast between the rocks and the flat plains surrounding them. I think this has topped my list of favourite ‘landmarks’ simply for how serene and beautiful it was.
I was feeling a little under the weather the next morning and certainly not in the mood to be going on a four hour hike so I told Jamie to go on without me whilst I caught up on some sleep. As glad as I was for that sleep, I did have a slight feeling of regret when Jamie informed me that they drove to the top of the hills and walked down (and they got to see wild tortoises!!!). But sometimes you need to listen to your body and know when to take a break. So I spent the day trying some traditional Greek cuisine – specifically Gyros (which were amazing) – to fill up for the 4 hour train journey back to Athens.
That evening we discovered an amazing pizza place called Crust which sold individual slices of pizza. I think the cashier almost had a heart attack when we asked her for two whole pizzas – no judgement please. We took it back to our air bnb and chilled for the rest of the night…
Until 4am… when we discovered a swarm of ants surrounding our bed and feasting on a can of coca-cola. Lesson learned, don’t leave anything on the floor.
So the next day was rough as we were both extremely tired but we were both eager to visit all the sites before our combi tickets ran out. We only had a few sites left to see so we decided to visit the Ancient Agora of Athens as this was close to our air bnb and was surrounded by green space. This landmark was my favourite in Athens because there are so many little trails you can follow and end up in places where there are no other people around. Plus, I saw lots of wild tortoises so it made me very happy!
The Ancient Agora sits beside the Monastiraki Flea Market, the place to buy all your souvenirs in Athens! This means that there are restaurants everywhere so we went to a lovely Italian restaurant called Moma and had such a lovely meal looking out over the site of the Agora whilst the sun was setting.
We spent the evening hunting for various souvenirs (I wanted an iron on patch for my rucksack and Jamie wanted a specific statue of Atlas) and enjoying the vibrant streets of Athens at night. We also visited Syntagma Square and had a few cocktails.
The following day, we were keen to visit the National Gardens as we had heard about how beautiful they were. I won’t lie though, I’m not sure I understood all the hype. It was lovely to have a wander round in the cool shadow of the trees but, I think I preferred the Ancient Agora. There were also some small enclosures in the gardens, one of which had loads of turtles squished into it. This made me so sad and to make things worse, one of the baby turtles had been eaten alive by the older ones.
We also visited Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch before deciding we wouldn’t go to the final destination on our combi ticket as it was too far away from where we were. I don’t feel that we missed out though, I would happily come back to Athens again as there is just so much to see and do!
That evening, we were wandering around the streets of Psyri (a lovely neighbourhood in Athens) and we came across this beautiful building decorated with flowers and wacky objects and a full size dragon on the roof! It was a Mary Poppins themed restaurant and I had to visit! It took a bit of convincing but eventually Jamie agreed and I got the best pavlova and strawberry daiquiri of my life (purely because of the setting).
On our final day, we relaxed in a lovely shopping mall cafe with a view overlooking the whole of Athens then decided on a whim to climb Mount Lycabettus for sunset. I’m sure the walk up to the top of the tallest mountain in Athens was lovely but I left Jamie to it and took the funicular railway to the top (which was lots of fun). Then, to end our last night in Athens we went to the amazing restaurant Frankie and ate whatever we could afford by this point.
Top 5 Things to Do
- Meteora Monasteries tour
- Visit the Ancient Agora of Athens
- Visit the Acropolis of Athens
- Climb Mount Lycabettus
- Explore Psyri
Top 5 Things to Eat and Drink