Athens Travel Guide

One of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is a gritty metropolitan mecca rich with culture, history and magic. If you plan on traveling to Greece, it is a must for your itinerary.

I fell in love with Athens years before I ever set foot on its soil. An avid fan of Greek mythology since junior high and a theater geek in university, Athens was always high on my bucket list. Of course, when one thinks of Greece, the stunning cliff view, blue topped roofs and white washed walls of the buildings in Santorini come to mind. After all, it is a mind-blowing island. Santorini holds a special place in my heart and my boyfriend and I did travel there after Athens. But if you are going all the way to Greece, the capital city should be top on your list.

Athens is home to the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, a must-see for any travel enthusiast and history buff. The history of ancient civilizations and the birthplace of democracy, theater and philosophy is juxtaposed with bustling modern cafes, shops, markets and bars. There really is something for everyone in this city.

My boyfriend and I spent three full days in Athens, enough time for its charm and spirit to woo us, while leaving us with plenty of days on our two-week vacation to island hop.

What to see

Acropolis: The Acropolis of Athens is one of the world’s historical marvels. It’s a complex of ancient structures built on a hill, consisting of the Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike and other wonders. The Parthenon and the other main buildings were built in the fifth century, giving you a glimpse of the marvels of early human ingenuity. It was the crown jewel of my trip to Athens. If you’re heading there in the summer months, it’s best to get there early or close to sunset because of the heat and crowds of tourists. The site closes at 8 pm. I got there about 8 am and there was a line already forming. Take a hat, bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen.

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The Acropolis in Athens. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

You have to pay a small admission fee to get in and you can also get a tour guide if you want, but my boyfriend and I decided to wander around by ourselves, which many other people were doing.

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Me at Theatre of Dionysus, Acropolis, considered the world’s first theatre.

I think it took us about two or two and a half hours to tour the site, inclusive of taking lots of breaks to drink water, sit down and also snap photos.

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There are lots of places to get amazing city views of Athens as well.

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Athens skyline. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Acropolis Museum: Across the street from the Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum. The entryway to the museum has a transparent floor and underneath you can see excavation of an underground ancient city. The museum has several collections, including marble statues from the 7th century, BC, and other early periods. It’s best to fit in a view of this museum after touring the Acropolis. It was not my favorite museum that I have visited, but the statues are beautiful and it definitely worth a visit.

National Archaeological Museum: This museum was founded in the 19th century and, according to its website, houses antiquities from all over Greece. It is also the largest archaeological museum in Greece. Here you will find lots of artifacts and statues, as well as an exhibit dedicated to Ancient Egyptian culture. I also ate lunch here before my boyfriend and I toured the museum (there is a nice restaurant on the grounds) and was able to get a delicious grilled veggie sandwich and fries.

Monastiraki: Monastiraki is a flea market neighborhood in Athens filled with lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. You can spend hours roaming around this area, just soaking up the sights. Have a beer at one of the many cafes, sit outside and people watch, then wander around for a bit, picking up gifts for yourself or loved ones back home.

What to Eat

If you are vegan like me or just trying to eat more plant-based foods, Greece got your back girl. While most restaurant menus are filled with meat, seafood and cheese dishes, nearly everywhere I went I found a vegan option or something that could be made vegan with the removal of cheese or yogurt. Also everyone spoke English, so even though I did memorize a few words, I didn’t have to embarrass myself with mispronunciation and just asked if things had yogurt/cheese and if so, could they be removed. At some places a few things like stuffed vine leaves and falafel came with a side of yogurt, so be sure to stress you don’t want it.

Avocados: A dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurant that was so good, I ate there two of my three days in Athens! It’s a cozy, quirky little place with outdoor/indoor seating as well as an upstairs area where you can sit on cushions on the floor. My first time there, I had the Avocado’s Burger without cheese.

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Veggie burger at Avocado in Athens. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

It was massive and I wasn’t sure if I could finish it, but I did and went into a food coma after! It was honestly one of, if not the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. It’s served with a side of sweet potato chips and at first I was disappointed it did not come with fries, but after struggling to finish this beast I was happy I didn’t have them. The chips were light, not greasy and a perfect complement to the veggie burger.

On our last day, we had dinner there. I had the Life’s a Rainbow stir-fry with tofu added (a small extra cost but worth it) and the Raw Chocolate Tart for dessert. Both were delicious, especially the tart which was decadent.

Local taverns: There are lots of little restaurants around Athens to get some vegan friendly food. Near my Airbnb I had a dish called ‘large beans’ according to the menu and Greek salad, no feta cheese, which funnily enough had no lettuce unlike the Greek salads I get at home. I also ate a lot of stuffed vine leaves with rice, spinach pies and falafel.

Where To Stay

There are so many Airbnb offerings for Athens I was overwhelmed during my search. Many of them were reasonably priced (under 50 euros a night), a much better deal than the hotels I searched. But until this trip, I had never stayed at an Airbnb so I was a bit hesitant. I ended up going with the first option that caught my eye because it was well-priced and I liked the decor. It turned out to be an amazing choice. The place was homey and cute, and looked exactly like the photos online. Our host met us at the apartment, gave us the rundown on everything and some advice. There was also homemade jam and some toast, coffee and tea provided as well. The Airbnb was in Athina and the metro was about a minute’s walk from our front door. There were also lots of small food shops, a coffee shop and a tavern right near our doorstep.

Tips

Don’t bring a lot of cash with you for money exchange. There are lots of ATMS around Athens and the other Greek islands. Changing money at the airport kiosks is expensive. Most restaurants and shops take credit/debit cards as well.

Use the metro. We mistakenly took a taxi to our Airbnb which was in the Kato Petralona area, because the metro would have been a longer (but cheaper) ride and we had never used it. After being overcharged we learned from that mistake. There was a metro stop minutes away from our Airbnb. We had to ask people for help with directions a few times but overall it felt safe and we were able to get where we needed to go. Just be careful and watch your valuables while riding. If you are taking a taxi in Greece, save yourself a headache and get the price upfront.

Good luck in your travels, xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I ate today (vegan)

So it’s hot as Hades’ undercarriage and I’m legit melting. I mean I love summer and all (July baby) but this heat wave is making it hard to live. All I want to do is stay inside with the air-conditioner cranked on high all day. But the unit in my tiny apartment can’t keep up with these demon rays Satan is sending up from hell. Normally I don’t even like a/c and can make do with a stand fan or a ceiling fan, but not this year. Fuck you climate change.

I guess the one benefit of this sweltering heat is it has me craving simple raw foods. I’m not a raw vegan though one day I aspire to live a mostly raw vegan lifestyle. But right now, me and cooked food are like Donald Trump and Twitter, can’t function without it but we definitely need less of it.

For the past few days I have incorporated more raw meals in my life. Smoothies for breakfast and lush salads with homemade dressing and avocado for lunch. Fruit and nuts for snacks. Those were fine in the daytime but after a brutal workday, I wanted rice, potatoes, cooked veggies, maybe some mock meat. Simple things really. I think I ate rawtil4 style for about four days this week including today, which is a real accomplishment. I work in a pretty cold office and I’m there for about ten hours a day sometimes, so the temptation to eat warm foods and sugary coffee is high.

But today, I’m hot, tired and fighting a cold, so I want to eat whatever takes the least amount of time to prepare.

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Breakfast was a kale smoothie with frozen banana and pineapple chunks, Ripple non-dairy milk and a teaspoon of my Vita Mineral super greens powder. I always buy lots of bananas, wait until they get black and speckled then store them in a glass Pyrex dish in the freezer. I was lucky to score a ripe pineapple yesterday, ate half of it and cut the rest into chunks then froze them. Cheaper than buying the frozen fruit from the store and you really can’t have a smoothie without frozen fruit. (Fight me if you don’t agree.)

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Lunch was two mangoes I picked up from the farmer’s market today. They were super sweet, the kind that leaves fiber stuck in your teeth and tasted like heaven. Nothing beats a Bahamian mango, let me tell you. The imported ones in the store can’t compare. The best way to eat a mango is to tear into the skin with your teeth and devour the flesh, letting the juice run down your face and hands. It may not be Instagram pretty, but it’s so satisfying.

I also had a coffee with sugar and non-dairy creamer after waking up from a nap with a headache. For some reason the coffee helped. I’m a coffee addict who normally drinks about three cups during the workweek and one or two on weekends. This week, I think I’ve only had three or four cups of coffee in total. Progress!

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My plating skills are horrible!

Dinner was a vegetable roll and a sweet potato roll from this Japanese restaurant that’s down the street from me. Added a few slices of avocado. I also ate some of my boyfriend’s side of rice with some more avocado (not pictured). Here’s a tip to jazz up vegan sushi, I sprinkle Bragg’s Sea Kelp seasoning to my soy sauce to give it a “fishy” taste. I love the stuff.

I had intentions of cooking for dinner, but as the day wore on, my head cold got worse. Plus, who can say no to sushi? This is no indication of how I eat everyday, trust me I eat more than this but today I’m feeling sick and wanted what was quick and easiest. I’m hoping to go to bed early and wake up early for some yoga. I’ve slacked on my exercise the last few weeks, again, the heat has had me tuckered out and not in the mood for high intensity exercise. But yoga feeds my soul.

How are you coping in this heat?

Peace and light xox