After a couple of years of limited travel due to the pandemic, passports are being renewed, and dream vacations are once again becoming a reality as people start to plan their summer 2022 vacations--with Greece being on the top of many lists.
There is nothing as magical as a summer in Greece. Always a popular travel destination, Greece saw a massive increase in tourism again in 2021, after being hit hard during the pandemic. Those who weren't able to get to Greece this summer can start to plan their perfect trip for next summer--starting in Athens, the capital of Greece.
One of the oldest cities in the world, and the birthplace of democracy, Athens is a great place to begin exploring before visiting the islands or continuing your journey through mainland Greece, because it offers so much for every type of traveller--a great mix of ancient sites, museums, dining options, sightseeing, and shopping, surrounded by the sea.
If you have less than a week in Athens, here are a few neighborhoods and sights you should make time to visit:
One of the most well-known and popular tourists neighborhood in Athens is Plaka, also known as 'the neighborhood of the Gods.' This is a top attraction because of the picturesque streets, restaurants, shops, and of course, the historic landmarks. Although crowded, especially during the summer months of July and August, it is a great place to begin exploring because you'll get to walk through the ancient, cobblestone streets, shop for souvenirs in Monastiraki, and visit the Acropolis. Take time while you're in Plaka to walk through Hadrian's Arch to visit the Temple of Zeus--one of the largest temples in Greece. Another breathtaking site is the Temple of Hephaestus, which is the best preserved Doric temple in Greece.
The Acropolis is the ‘crown jewel of Athens’, and a sight to behold. One of the most important ancient sites in the world dating back to 5000-4000 BC, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Acropolis soars above the city of Athens. Of course, the main attraction is the Parthenon, the large, majestic marble temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena. It’s best to explore the Acropolis early in the morning, to avoid midday crowds and the summer heat. Tickets can be purchased once you arrive.
The Acropolis Museum opened its doors in 2009, and has become one of the world’s most important museums, showcasing the surviving treasures--sculptures, statues, jewellery, ceramics, art—from the Acropolis. The museum itself is stunning to see, and the Acropolis is always visible through the floor to ceiling windows throughout the museum. As you enter, you’ll walk over a glass floor which reveals the ruins of an ancient Athenian neighbourhood, uncovered during the construction of the museum.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is another important museum to visit during your time in Athens. This museum is dedicated to ancient Greek art, showcasing a vast collection of sculptures, marble and bronze statues, and jewelry. It’s interesting to see, as you walk through the historic museum, the evolution of ancient Greek culture through the many galleries over the three floors.
If you have limited time in Greece, visiting the Athens Riviera is a great way to get a glimpse of the island life without leaving the mainland. 30 minutes from downtown Athens, the Athens Riviera looks a lot like the French Riviera, hence, the name. It is a beautiful coastline full of blue-flag beaches on the Aegean Sea, sea-side restaurants, and five-star resorts like the Four Seasons. You can also visit the neighborhoods of Vouliagmeni and Glyfada, to enjoy some of the finest seaside dining, beaches, and shopping, in an upscale surrounding.
Temple of Poseidon
The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion is one of the most beautiful sites to see in Greece, especially at sunset. Homer referred to Cape Sounion as “the sacred cape of the Athenians.” I envisioned I would be alone with my family when we visited, but of course, it was full of tourists and their camera gear—but it was still worth it. This temple was built in 440 BC, perched 60 meters above the Aegean sea, at the southernmost tip of Attica. Rich in history, this Doric temple is devoted to Poseidon, the Olympian God of the sea, and offers spectacular views of the Aegean Sea. You can buy your tickets once you arrive, but make sure you give yourself enough time to get there, because last entry is 20 minutes before sunset.
Dining is a simple thing in Athens, because no matter where you go, and no matter where you’re exploring, you will always find a delicious restaurant or small taverna offering classic Greek and Mediterranean food. It’s almost impossible to eat a bad meal in Greece, Athens being no exception. If you’re looking for something different—after you’ve indulged your taste for Greek cuisine—head to Athénée, a trendy Athenian landmark that’s been around for over 80 years. It’s a great place to stop for lunch after shopping around the upscale neighborhood of Kolonaki, and it’s perfect to people watch, and maybe catch a glimpse of a celebrity as this is where many athletes, actors, and singers go to dine. Athénée has an extensive menu but is most known for its sushi bar.