A-Z of My Favourite Holiday Destinations: Athens

I’ve been inspired by Victoria Hislop‘s current project on Twitter – She’s tweeting an A-Z of her favourite places in Greece. Many places I’ve been to, many I haven’t.

In need of something positive to post online (instead of spending all my downtime wishing we could just get back to normal), I’ve decided to put together my own A to Z based on my own travel experiences, with photos and other interesting information, memories etc.

First one: A = Athens

The Greek Parliament overlooking Syntagma Square
The Greek Parliament overlooking Syntagma Square

After many years holidaying in the Greek islands, I first went to Athens in 2014. Just a few weeks after finishing university I was in need of a break so I put all my savings in to a 6-week long holiday in Greece.

The first week was spent in Greece’s capital. It was the first week in July and temperatures were high. I’d done tonnes of research online, looking at where to go and where to stay. I’d seen warnings online about pick-pockets targeting tourists on the Metro and got hold of a money belt which is worn under my shirt to keep my valuables in.

I was a little nervous arriving in Athens at first – A big city I’ve never been to before, on my own. I was staying in the cheapest hotel I could find which was in a working class district, Metaxourgio. Off-centre and a little bit off the beaten track, it’s not somewhere most tourists stay…but I found somewhere to stay on a main road opposite the railway station, and really enjoyed it.

The view from my hotel room

This trip was really the first time I’d been abroad totally independently – No tour operator, no parents, no school/college lecturers organising me. I just had a print out of my itinerary, my laptop, phone, a radio, external hard drive, camera and a suitcase full of clothes.

Very quickly I started to really like Athens. I used the underground a lot to travel about. I use the underground less so these days as I know where things are and it is easier to go on foot – or if I’m staying outside the centre I drive. (Yes, I do drive in Athens).

I made sure over the course of my week there to visit all the usual sights: The Acropolis and the Parthenon, the National Gardens, the Plaka (tourist district), Syntagma Square. I saw a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and visited the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium. I walked up Lykavittos Hill, and went to the flea market at Monastiraki

On a couple of days I took the opportunity to go to the beach, one day I went to Porto Rafti on the Eastern coast of Attica; later in the week I went to Glyfada, the coastal district in South East Athens, where I managed to find a quiet beach just a short walk away from the tram stop (and just over the road from a hotel I stay in when I am in Athens with the car).

If you normally enjoy Greek beach holidays but would like a short city break, Athens is easy and cheap to get to, and beaches are never far away both on public transport or by car if you’re confident (or mad enough) to be driving anywhere near the Greek capital. (The closest I’ve driven to the centre of Athens is within a mile).

Athens has loads to offer and even now I still discover new places of interest – new things to see and do, new places to stay – as well as continuing to enjoy all the main highlights which I visit over and over again.

This area of Glyfada Beach is even quieter now the restaurant next to it has closed down and access to cars blocked off – but there is free parking on the road behind so I still come here with the car when I’m in the area and need an escape from the city.
A concert to cebrate the union of the Eptanisa with Greece – The Eptanisa are the seven Ionian islands (Kerkyra (Corfu), Paxoi (Paxos), Lefkada (Lefkas), Ithaka, Kefalonia, Zakynthos (Zante) and Kythira).
The Acropolis
A bit of a tourist trap in the Plaka, but I did enjoy this restaurant.

My first week in Athens in 2014 became the start of a trip which I branded my Grand Tour of Greecethe blog I wrote at the time is still up online to have a look at.

Hoping to be back in Athens later in the year – If this virus decides to leave us all alone!!

FH.

Fred Hart

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