Travelling through Europe and have a stopover in Greece? Sarah Merchant tells you what to do if you only have 12 hours to visit Athens.
Stop-overs can sometimes be quite a boon, especially if they happen to be in a city as rich with culture and history as Athens. One of the oldest and largest cities in Greece, Athens is where all the fun lies. So ladies, if you have a stop over here, strap on your bag, carry your maps and step out of the airport for some gala time with your girl friends.
The transport system in Athens is very efficient and cheap consisting of metro, buses, trams and subways. But if exploration is on your mind, you will probably not need them as all the tourist places here are at a walkable distance from each other. Hello savings!
What To Do?
1) History Trail
Starting with the highest point in Greece, the Acropolis(45-60 mins away from the airport by cab) can be seen from anywhere in the city. The ticket to the Acropolis is a combo ticket, allowing visitors to enter other sites too! Here, visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus, dedicated to the God of Greek mythology, this monument stands proud in its colossal ruins.
To get an idea of what these temples actually looked like in the hey days, head to the Temple of Hephaestus, regarded as one of the best preserved ancient Greek Temples.
And if you’ve ever wondered what the Odeon movie cinema was named after, your answer lies in the Greek open air theater, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. To this day, concerts, beauty pageants and other shows are regularly held here. You can also visit the Mars Hill (Areopagus), where the apostle Paul preached in the first century.
But leaving all this aside, the highlight of your trip to the Acropolis has to be the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the daughter of Zeus. This temple serves as a crown to the great Acropolis and houses a number of sculptures and statues. However, the statue of Athena, once gracing the halls looking upon its visitors is missing but a replica can be see at the National Archaeology Museum.
2) Shopping, Culture & Food
By the time you come out of the Greek history induced daze, 4 hours would have passed. But luckily, everything is located at walkable distance. So head towards Plaka (10-15 mins walking distance from the Acropolis), and stroll through lanes filled with lovely traditional homes, and shops that sell everything from olive oil, to Greek artifacts and jewellery. Trust us girls, you will love this! And if you are a fan of local cuisine, the promenade takes you to Monastiriki Square, where you can indulge in some local favourites. For a more elaborate food affair, make your way towards Athens Central Market(10 mins walking distance from Plaka), before heading back to the airport.
PS: You can also visit the National Archaeology Museum after your visit to the central market for a glimpse at the replica of the now missing Athena’s statue.
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3) Local Life
If you wish to spend time watching Athenian life, visit Syntagma Square, that is 15 mins away from the Central Market (walking) and 30mins away from the airport(by cab). The square often has demonstrations, debates, and everything a traveller would need within a short radius: hotels, shops, a metro station, internet cafés and banks. Syntagma square is an agora, or marketplace, which once was, and still is, the center of all political, commercial, social and administrative activities. Walk around the square, which is surrounded by lush green trees and quite a few monuments. Here, you can watch the locals, drink a frappe, eat some mousakka and just watch the Athenians go about their with daily business.
Before You Go
Greece Visa for Indians
Greece operates as part of the Schengen group of countries, so Indian passport holders require a Schengen visa for Greece. It is processed in Delhi and can take up to 15 working days, so apply for your visa well in advance.
The official language here is Greek, and except for in the cities, not everyone speaks English. Other popular languages here are French, Spanish and Italian.
Best time To Visit Athens
High Season: April to October
Low Season: November to March
Some Tips For Women Travellers
Beware of strangers who ask you out for a drink or a lunch date. They may seem friendly but stay away. There are two types of taxis, public and private. At the airport, you will always encounter the public taxis but once in central Athens there will be a mix of both. The private taxis have a fixed fare and are expensive. When you hear the word “limousine”, expect a sedan. Mind your wallet and phone, as pick pocketing is common in crowded streets. Do now stretch your palm and open your 5 fingers (moutza), it’s considered offensive. And last, but not the least, Greeks are fast drivers, so watch where you walk. Enjoy!
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