This is my third trip to Greece in less than one year. I first visited on May 14, 2021, the very day Greece opened to tourists. Here are a few highlights worth noting for your trip to Greece.
The powerful and mythical images of Zeus and Hercules fired up the imaginations of the ancient Greeks when this stadium was built. Commissioned by the Athenian statesman Lykourgos in about 330 BC, it hosted what was called the Panathenaic Games. The facility was abandoned, however, by the 4th century AD, only to be dug up in 1869. By 1896, the place was given a total marble makeover and hosted the first modern Olympic Games, in the tradition of the games held in the time of Lykourgos. In more recent times, the venue has served as a facility for other minor sporting events. Famous musicians like Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan and Black Sabbath also performed their masterpieces in this cultural site. Very inspiring to know this is where the Olympics started.
The Acropolis (of course)
This flat-topped rock near Athens is like a time capsule taking you back to the 500s B.C. The main entrance to this site takes you to the Propylaea, an impressive colonnaded entryway flanked by marble buildings. The nearby Temple of Athena Nike was once dedicated to the Greek goddess of war, wisdom and handicrafts. It was given a facelift back in 2000 and is now in a condition that would have made the goddess smile had she really existed. After passing by this place, go to the complex where the temple called Erechtheion is and you will get to see the caryatids. These sculptures of beautifully dressed women serve as columns that support a big porch. It is a great walk from Plaka up to the Acropolis, slightly uphill, passing by some interesting places.
If Athena were real, she would be smiling down from the multiple column ruins of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to her. Many people flock to see this religious site dedicated to Athens’ goddess of war and handicrafts. Many businesses offer half-day tours of this magnificent structure along with nearby landmarks like the Dionysos theatre, Sanctuary of Asclepios (god of healing), a temple called Erechtheion and the Acropolis Museum. The museum features Greek-made statues, decrees of the Public Assembly of Athens and other artifacts dating back from the Hellenistic and ancient Roman times. You can do the “Cliff Notes” version like me, or spend the entire day here.
Monastiraki Flea Market
This market in Athens is a treasure trove of items that will make you remember this ancient Greek capital. Majority of the shops in this area caters to tourists so you can be sure you’ll find some interesting and notable souvenirs. Handbags, gadgets, musical instruments, artwork depicting Santorini, antiques, furniture and books are only some of the wonderful things you can find in this merchants’ paradise. Located at the heart of the city, you can almost see the thinkers Plato and Aristotle walking by to feed their curiosity for things more material than metaphysical. Mostly junk but interesting if you go just once!
Nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis, Pláka is one of the oldest and most scenic parts of Athens. The Pláka and Anafiotika neighborhoods are also home to historic structures such as the Tower of the Winds and the 18th-century Doorway of the Medrese. Even a stroll down the streets in the lovely Anafiotika neighborhood will give you a glimpse of unique Cycladic houses, which are painted a brilliant white and covered with bougainvillea. Needless to say, Plaka is my favorite neighborhood, and I spend most of my time here.
Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square
Changing of the guards ceremony at Syntagma Square is a must to watch for the travelers to Athens. Behind the Greek parliament building, Presidential guards march to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every Sunday at 11 am for the official changing of guards. It is a treat to watch the Presidential Guards who are known as Evzones marching in their special white uniforms every Sunday. The unofficial changing of guards takes place every hour daily. I have seen the changing of the guard in many places, East Berlin, Buckingham, Kremlin, but this is the strangest and perhaps most entertaining of all. I won’t tell you why, you just need to see it for yourself!!!
Come early to watch the produce and fish being unloaded. There are a ton of Greek specialties, like olives, halloumi, and feta for sale here. It’s one of my favorite places to wander, people watch, and sample the local delicacies. It’s open every day of the week except Sunday, from early morning until late afternoon (it gets very crowded around lunchtime so arrive early). If you have an appetite, stop at Diporto to eat. The restaurant has no menu so they serve whatever they cook for the day. The owners barely speak English but the food is excellent! I always visit the fresh markets in every city I visit! And this one is the most fun. I bought a fish and some locals grilled it for me in their apartment!
But it is the people here who make Athens and Greece special. Apart from being adopted by my three Greek brothers, the friendliness of Greeks is most welcoming and memorable. I told you how some locals grilled my fish for me and invited me to dine in their apartment. And my friend Kostas in Santorini who arranged a special wine tasting excursion for me. Don’t forget my bottomless carafe of wine at Liondi each evening. I have yet to mention the food!
Leaning the Metro system is easy, and can be used for the airport, as well as tourist sites and the port in Piraeus. Mastering a Greek menu is relatively easy compared to Russia, Poland, or Japan. And in May and October, the weather is great and fewer tourists abound.
Such an amazing area we saw. Great images.