After three years of stop due to the pandemic, I’m just back home after a week spent with my team in a retreat meetup. This time I’m happy to share some tips about what to see and where to eat in Athens, Greece.
Due to visa issues (my team counts people mainly from Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and Africa), half of the team attended the meetup online: we had scheduled sessions of work and games that happened virtually, so the folks who couldn’t come to Athens had time to stay with us, talk about work-related stuff, and have fun too. It was a bummer they couldn’t make it, so next year we’ll be looking for a country that would make visa steps easier for everyone.
What to see in Athens – top five things to see in one or two days in Athens.
Here are my top five picks you must see in Athens. If you have one or two days, you can comfortably visit them all.
- Acropolis and Pantheon
- Agoras (Ancient Agora + museum, and Roman Agora)
- Temple of Zeus
- Panathinaikos stadium
- Mount Lycabettus
Mention of honour to the Plaka, which is a short, picturesque staircase between the Acropolis and the Agoras, where many restaurants are located. If you stop there at meals time, you’ll probably end up eating on the actual stairs (but with chairs and tables, see below in the food section).
You can visit a good number of sites by purchasing a 5-days ticket. I used it across three days as we alternated the city sightseeing with work.
Acropolis and Pantheon
There is not more to add about it: this is where the Western civilization started, and it felt unreal to me to be there. It took me a good thirty minutes to stop feeling overwhelmed while strolling around these majestic ruins.
If you want to avoid the crowd and have the best experience possible, make sure you arrived at the gates at 8am sharp, when the site opens in summer/early autumn time. By the time we were leaving – 10am – the site was overwhelmingly crowded.
Ancient Agora + museum, and Roman Agora
While the Roman Agora is a bit anticlimatic (it’s small and quick to visit), I was enchanted by the Ancient Agora. It’s a large well-maintained site, designed to be visited as you’re walking in a park. The museum isn’t big and can be visited in 20/30 minutes, but the entire site can take you more than an hour.
While we were moving from one Agora to the other, we also checked out Hadrian library – it takes about half an hour for a thorough visit.
Temple of Zeus
This site is on your way to the Panathinaikos stadium – keep in mind that all the major point of interests are close to each other anyway. If you do like me – Temple of Zeus first, then Panathinaikos stadium on day one, and the Acropolis on day two – this is a great appetizer for what’s coming next.
The gallery below includes also other places I visited, like the Hadrian Arch, the Parliament building, one of the most important Hortodox churches of the city, and an old telephone exchange machine that was sitting outside the breakfast room at my hotel.
When I was a child, my dream was to win the Olympic Games. When I was a teenager I cried for joy when I saw Stefano Baldini winning the Athens 2004 Olympic marathon by entering the legendary Panathinaikos stadium when everything started. I stepped onto that same soil and track, eventually. This magical place has been in my bucket list since I have memories of the Olympics.
As we could not visit the track due to an even being sorted out, I asked the person at the ticket kiosk if it was worth the visit anyway. They nodded, simply saying that “I can give you the ticket discounted by 50% and you can also visit a little museum inside the stadium”.
A little musem, they said. 😱
The didn’t say that the small room at the end of a dark tunnel made of rocks had the most emotional surprise for me. All the Olympic torches – from every edition of the Summer and winter Olympic games – were hanging on the room’s wall. I could not image it for the life of me, and lost my breath for a few moments when I did realise that. I normally don’t like surprises as it’s difficult to surprise me, but hell if this is going to be one of the most incredible memories of my life.
This is the tallest of Athens’ seven hills. From its top you can see the whole Athens, and the view stretches across to the sea and deep into the mountains of the Peloponnese. Only Deric, Emily and I dared to climb the mountain by feet after having lunch at la Plaka, and it was worth all the efforts! We have been blessed with a windy sunny afternoon, and we had a great time together. If there is something that bonds a team, that is breaking a sweat together.
Where to eat in Athens – top four places
We had a mix of eating out and at the Airbnb where I also cooked tagliatelle and ragù for the entire team. They seemed to like it!
These are my top five places where to eat in Athens (in a random order):
It’s located 30 minutes far from the city centre, in one of the “hip” neighbour of the city. I had the best meal overall in Athens. My main was a sea bass fillet with fava puree, one of the best fish I’ve ever had.
Fresko Yogurt Bar
It’s located behind Hadrian Arch, on the way to the Acropolys. There’s a lot of topping choices and yogurt. I had a big bowl of 2% greek yogurt topped with a mix of berries. Delicious!
This restaurant is located about 20 minutes from the city centre; it’s not very big so it’s better to book for dinner. The cuisine is typical of Krete Island, which is slightly different from the rest of the country. The service was very slow but the food was good overall.
The Greco’s Project
This is a small chain located in the city centre. It looks like the typical place where a tourist would eat, so I was initially skeptical, but it turned out to be a great place where to dine. Prices are honest and the food is good. You can’t go wrong with a lamb souvlaki!
Geros tou Moria
This is the typical tourist trap, but I found the good in it. Among the many restaurants located along la Plaka staircase, I followed my nose and picked Geros Tou Moria. I suggested my team to stick with the traditional Greek food and skip anything else, and it turned out to be a good advice. The Moussaka I ate was legit and delicious, and the gyros and souvlaki were made fresh and excellent as well.
Some selfies for you
I could not wrap up this post about what to eat and what to see in Athens without a series of unwanted selfies.