After over 8 months in Asia and the last 2 and a half of them in India, I decided it was time to head back to Europe. I managed to find flights from New Delhi to Athens for £250 which was too good an opportunity to pass up, I’d always wanted to go to Athens because of its rich, still present history and fantastic ancient ruins. I booked my flights through Etihad Airways and the price included meals on each of my 3 flights, with stopovers in Mumbai and Abu Dhabi and 30kg of baggage. The travel time was around 16 hours and the most I had to wait in an airport was only 2 hours, which could have been interesting if any of my flights were delayed. From Athens airport to the city you have a choice of the Metro or the X95 bus. The Metro costs €10, taking 40 minutes and the bus €6 taking around 50 minutes, both leaving you at Syntagma Square, the so called heart of Athens. I had booked 5 nights in Hotel Dioskouros a short walk from Syntagma Square and was very pleased with my choice. A dorm room is €10 a night and a private room, which I had for 2 nights to recover from India is €15 a night. This was the cheapest I could find and was well worth the money as breakfast was included and it was slap bang in the middle of all the sights. After a couple of days relaxing and recovering from the madness of India I set out to explore Athens. In order to see the main sights of Athens: The Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrians Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos and Aristotle’s Lykeion you can purchase a ticket package, valid for 5 days for €30. However if you are visiting between October and April the entrance price to all the main sights is halved, but the package ticket isn’t. Basically if you are exploring during the winter it is not worth buying the combined ticket as its cheaper to buy an individual ticket for each attraction. The Acropolis was fantastic, an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop towering over the city. The entrance fee of €10, in the winter months, includes the remains of several other ancient buildings including the Parthenon, the Old Temple of Athena, the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, the Erechtheion and many more. It’s nice to take a couple of hours walking around, taking photos and exploring all around the base of the rock its located on, which rises 150 metres over Athens.
The sights of the Roman Agora and Hadrians Library can be viewed from the outside. You can pay the €2 entrance fee to get close and personal to the ruins but I personally didn’t feel like it was worth it. There is a walkway round the outside of both attractions where you can easily take some photos of the ruins. Inside the grounds it does give you some more information, but you really have to use your imagination to picture what used to be there. The Ancient Agora however is well worth the €4 entrance fee as it includes 28 separate sights, including the Temple of Hephaistos which is the best preserved temple of its kind left in Greece, situated on top of the Agoraios Kolonos Hill. The ticket price also includes the Museum of the Athenian Agora, housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos. The ground floor exhibition displays a view on the public life of Athenian citizens with the exhibits coming from the excavations of public buildings.
The following day I explored the other half of the city, losing a morning strolling through the National Garden, taking in the calm surroundings. The Olympieion of Zeus is situated through the south side of the the park but I didn’t pay the €2 to enter the grounds. Again you can get a fantastic view by walking around the outside of the area and its only worth going in if you wish to get really close. I then walked over to The Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the 1896 Olympic Games. I paid for the €5 entry for this, as it includes an audio guide and I was very interested in the history of the stadium. It turns out the site has been used since 330B.C. as a sporting arena but the building you see today was started in 1894, ready for the 1896 Olympics. It holds 68000 people and you can really feel the history of this ancient site and imagine the ecstasy when the Greek, Spyros Louis won the Marathon Race, the most popular contest, entering the stadium to the roars of 68000 Greeks.
Athens is a fantastic city and I really enjoyed my time in the Greek capital. It is worth taking a day exploring the streets and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. Every other building seems to be a coffee shop, cafe or restaurant and there are competitively priced Greek Tavernas, serving local food all over the place. It is a city I would definitely recommend, especially in the winter months where it is no where near as crowded, everything is cheaper and its a nice 16 degrees during the day. This brings an end to my time in Athens and I am now off to the beautiful island of Santorini.