Bestie @jen.on.tour and I recently enjoyed a mini break to the Greek Capital, Athens. We had a brilliant trip and it was super convenient (and cheap) to visit from Bristol, so here are some of my (our!) recommendations…
Flights from Bristol are very reasonable, depending on the time of year. We booked in October (so five months in advance) leaving on a Friday afternoon and returning Monday evening, and the flights cost £75. Yes you could probably find cheaper from a less convenient airport, but this was ideal for us!
The airport is a 40 minutes metro ride from the city centre, with the metro leaving every thirty minutes. We purchased the €22 Tourist Card, which covered our return trip into the city on the metro and three days travel on metro, buses and trams. Financially this worked best for us as it covered our whole trip and also made it easy as we never had to worry about purchasing tickets!
As you can imagine there is a vast variety of choice of where to stay in Athens, which can be a bit mind boggling! We weren’t fixed on our budget and had considered splashing out on an apartment with a hot tub/view, and we also saw some fantastic looking hotels.
We eventually booked a more ‘basic’ apartment that some girlfriends had recently stayed in. It wasn’t ‘luxury’, but it was very clean, had everything we could possibly need (including hair dryer, fizz glasses for Jen and extra loo roll #essentials) but most importantly for us it was ideally located. It was on the main line from the airport, so super easy to get to, and also to travel anywhere else from, plus a bus stop moments away. There were also a variety of restaurants and bars we could walk to in the area, very handy when we had been sightseeing all day and wanted to eat local. Bonus – cost was incredibly reasonable! We paid £110 for three nights, for the two of us, aka only £55 each. Bargainous! If you’d like to check it out for yourself, linky is here.
Things to Do
We only had three nights and we took it at a pretty leisurely pace (if you class 17,000 steps a day as leisurely) but there was lots to see and do. We probably could have packed in more, but we did what we fancied (and what my calves would allow!) Here are some of our highlights:
Of course a trip to Athens would have been incomplete if we hadn’t taken a trip up to the Acropolis of Athens! Seen from all over the city, high up on a hill, it can look quite a daunting climb, but despite expecting the worst, the walk up was very doable. There is a metro stop just down the hill (handily titled, Acropolis) with a couple of coffee shops filled with locals nearby if you need to grab some breakfast before starting your journey upwards as we did.
As March is classed as ‘winter’ we received half price entry, paying only €10 each. During the summer (1st April to 31st Oct) you’ll pay €20 or also have the option of paying €30 for a combined package which in addition includes Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Hadrian’s Library (pictured below), Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of the Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, and the South Slope of Acropolis.
I had assumed ‘The Acropolis’ referred to the main building that is visible, but that’s the Pantheon – a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, which is unfortunately currently undergoing extensive renovations and so covered in scaffolding. It was however still very impressive! There are also a number of other beautiful ruins en route to the Patheon.
Despite being low season it was busy when we visited, so as with most tourist attractions I’d recommend getting there early to try to avoid the crowds. It’s also pretty exposed, so take sufficient water/snacks/sun hat and wear comfy/supportive shoes!
On reflection we perhaps should have made the most of the joint pass for all of the attractions (it’s valid for five days) and I’d also liked to have visited the Acropolis museum which we were told is excellent, even for those who aren’t museum fans! But we were short on time the day we visited, so I’ll save those for next time.
Aegina Day Trip
Ever the optimists, Jen and I were hopeful of nice weather and so wanted to visit a Greek island while in Athens. There are a number only a short hop from the city including Hydra, Spetses, Agistri, and Poros to name a few that are a max of three hours away. But one of the closest to visit, should you chose to take the ‘fast boat’ i.e. The Flying Dolphin is Aegina, which only takes 40 minutes and costs €14 each way. (There is also a slower boat, which takes 1hr 10 and costs €10 each way).
It’s a convenient trip to make, with boats leaving regularly from Piraeus which is not only the largest port in Athens but carrying around 20 million passengers, also makes it one of the busiest in the world. The port is very easy to get to via public transport (we took the metro) and tickets can be bought there on the day. The Ferry Hopper website is a great resource for checking times.
We had a lovely afternoon there – taking in a number of the small beaches, beach bars, stopping for a late lazy lunch and finally visiting the Temple of Apollo, which at only €2 was well worth a visit for the stunning views alone. We walked quite a bit but when the heat became too much taxis were cheap and plentiful, and the friendly locals of the island were more than happy to call for them for us.
For lunch we stopped at To Dromaki as it had beautiful tables on the beach with a fab view. We did wonder after sitting down had we stepped into a tourist trap, but it turns out we’d accidentally stopped in the number one restaurant on the island (according to TripAdvisor anyway!) Prices were incredibly reasonable, service was great, and our food was delicious – I had a humongous Greek salad and Jen thoroughly enjoyed her pistachio pesto pasta, with pistachios being a delicacy on the island.
Last but by no means least of our Athens highlights was the Classic Food Tour which Jen and I did, hosted by Anna of Athens Food on Foot. I found this accidentally through those joyful little squares over on Insta, and we were so glad we did – we had a brilliant time! Founder Anna took us on a walking tour of the city, taking in some of the less touristic areas and visiting authentic Greek establishments frequented by true Athenians (well, and Jamie Oliver at one of the stops!) to try some Greek specialities.
Group sizes are restricted to ten, and this allows a more personal feel where everyone gets involved, you get to know your guide and the other participants, and it generally feels less like a formal tour, more like hanging out sharing great food with a group of friends. We would never have found the places Anna took us to without her assistance, nor would I have been brave enough to order some of the dishes we tried – which was one of the pleasures of the experience!
For example “loukoumades”, which are a Greek ancestor of the doughnut. Generally served as a breakfast item, they are soaked in a honey syrup and served with Greek yogurt covered in more honey (which is said to represent ‘the sweet life’) and topped with nuts (which represent fertility). I’m not a huge fan of sweet (non chocolate) food stuffs, and would never order anything with greek yoghurt or honey as a rule – but these were delicious! And I may (definitely) have had seconds.
I don’t want to spoil the whole tour for you (the surprise of what comes next is half the fun!) but here are a selection of my favourite images I took of our wanderings and foodie stops. The ‘Classic’ tour runs daily (Mon – Sat) lasting around four hours and costs €59 but is currently on special offer at €52. If you have specific dietary requirements it’s worth noting there are other tours available, including a veggie option! That said I had a few dietary requirements and Anna was happy to point out what I could/couldn’t eat, so just let her know in advance.
Jen and I love food, and we love travel, but shockingly this was our first ever food tour! Anna set the standard incredibly high and we’re now keen to do another – so do let me know if you have any recommendations.
Eating & Drinking
It’s my intention to do proper reviews of some of the places we visited while there, but in the meantime, here are a couple of our favourite stops for drink or something to eat.
DaVinci Artisan Gelato
It’s not cheap (€4 for a ‘regular’ containing two flavours, extra if you want a fancy cone) but it was so delicious we went twice. That Nutella flavour 🤤 It’s also very centrally located! Link here.
We went for sunset drinks but ended up staying for dinner! Again very central, a little worried it would be all style and no substance due to the location/view but we both enjoyed our meals. Link here.
L’Arrêt Du Temps
Found this after our original choice was closed, French bistro/cafe style serving very tasty pizza (random, I know!?) and had a cosy atmosphere with enough customers to create ambience even on a Sunday night. Link here.
Local to our apartment but happened to be number 14 on TripAdvisor for Athens. Very friendly service, with a free soup and dessert. Tasty meatballs! Link here.
Recommended by the ladies of Athens Food on Foot, we wanted somewhere with a view for an afternoon aperitivo. This place most definitely had the views (if you were lucky to get a decent seat), but the service was a little slow and there was a slight wait for seats. Link here.
Thanks for reading!
I hope that all proves really helpful if you’re planning a trip, or maybe inspires you to go! We really enjoyed, and there was lots more that we could have seen if we’d stepped up the pace/had longer. I’d also really like to explore more of Greece, so hopefully I can go back at some point. So if you do have any other tips or suggestions for Athens/Greece please do comment or drop me an email!