If I had only 24 hours to spend in a city, any city in the world, I’d choose Athens. My husband and I first visited Athens, Greece, in 2005 during our pre-children years. This was the time in our lives that traveling for 10 days with only a backpack seemed more like a grand adventure rather than potential disaster. If I had another 24 hours to spend in this city rich with cultural treasures and historic artifacts, I wouldn’t change much of what we already did but would savor it even more!
With only 24 hours to spare for this dream trip, the metro system would be my mode of transportation. I would download a map or pickup one from the ticket center. Be prepared to see many acient artifacts at different subway stops. When the tunnels we dug for the summer 2014 olympics, the project was stopped repeatedly because of all of the historically significant finds so they used this to make mini museums throughout the metro system. In my 24 hours in Athens, I would spend lots of time stopping and checking out all the artifacts(plus it is free with the paid tickets for the metro).
While at the ticket center just outside the airport, I would purchase the tourist ticket valid for 3 days in all public transport including one return to Athens Airport: 24.00 € (as of the date of the original publication of this article). Even though this is valid for 3 days of travel the cost of the ticket into and returning to the airport is either 10 or 18 euros so this seems like a better deal. If there is a strike on public transportation services while you are visiting, then be sure to have plenty of emergency money to pay for taxi fees to and from the airport. In 2005, this actually happened on our last day in Athens and luckily we had just enough money for a taxi to the airport and a bag of chips to survive off of for the long trip back to the US!
Sites to See
Now that transportation is all settled, my first stop would have to be the Acropolis! What is seeing Athens without seeing the Acropolis? Madness, I say! On the way to the Acropolis, I’d stop at a bakery for breakfast to east on my walk there. Buying tickets and seeing the Acropolis would definitely take at least 2 hours if you are a history buff and enjoy reading all the plaques.
On the way to Ancient Agora, I’d stop at Mars Hill, aka Areopagus. This is where Paul spoke about Greek idolatry found in Acts 17:16–34. The Ancient Agora tour would be interesting to see the ruins of the ancient shopping center and museum with artifacts including daily items found at the historic dump. Yep, the dump. Lots can be told about a civilization by what they have thrown away.
After a bite to eat for lunch, I’d head to the National Gardens to see statues and flora & fawna. It’s a nice place to stroll through to wind down from the hustle and bustle of Athens. There are many beautiful things to enjoy here.
Next stop would be the National Archaeological Museum. What an amazing treasure trove! Get ready to discover gold, precious stones, and even more precious artifacts dating back thousands and thousands of years. When we visited over a decade ago, the lines to get in were long and only a certain amount of people were allowed in at a time per each exhibit hall. The crowd size was wild! The wait was well worth it though, and it was fascinating to see so many amazing things.
If there was enough time left in the day, I’d do some shopping. I love the open air shops and the crowded packed stoas(covered streets) and the atmosphere in the shopping areas. Ok, and I do love shopping! That’s another reason why Athens is a great place to visit – bargains! You can find the same things here that costs much more in New York, or Paris, or London. To learn more about shopping in Athens, check out this great article on Athens Guide.
Places to Eat
With all of the walking and site seeing, my appetite for delicious Greek cuisine would be at an all time high! There are so many delicious cafes to visit all around the promenade of the Acropolis. You really can’t go wrong with just picking one, choosing some open air seating, and ordering up a traditional dish.
Here’s a list of well known Greek dishes to choose from when you have 24 hours in Athens:
- Moussaka – Lamb-Eggplant Casserole and on almost all menus.
- Dolmades – grape leaves rolled around a mixture of ground meat and rice, simmered in a rich tomato broth.
- Greek Salad – in Athens is nothing like what is called Greek salad in the US. Expect tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green bell peppers, delicious feta cheese, giant olives(watch out for seeds), and olive-y with basalmic-ish dressing. Delish!
- Tzatziki – yogurt with cucumber and garlic puree, used as a dip. Served with warm pita bread.
- Gyros – made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie wrapped in flatbread with cucumber, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce. If you are in Athens or anywhere in Greece, gyros is a must!
- Baklava – phyllo pastry layers filled with nuts and drenched in honey. Perfect for dessert or a snack.
Most cafes and restaurants will have these choices on their menus. If I just had 24 hours in Athens, I’d try each of these foods and enjoy every second of it!
Where to Stay
There are a plethara of hotels to choose from in Athens. For only 24 hours in Athens, I would want to stay somewhere very close to the Acropolis and lots of the other site seeing locations. I also like saving money. There’s several hotels that fit this bill. When we were backpacking through Greece, we did make reservations and stayed at hotels in Athens before heading to the port for island hopping. One of the hotels we checked out years ago was Hotel Novotel Athenes and if we went back this would be a great place to stay! Check out this roof top lounge area…
Beautiful right? This is just a little sliver of the beauty, awe, and satisfaction in seeing cultural history that spans thousands and thousands of years. Twenty-four hours in this amazing city just isn’t enough!
If you had 24 hours and could spend it in any city or town in the world, where would you choose to go?
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