A year ago when we found out we'd be living in Germany for a few years--my mind started wandering at all the places we could visit. At the top of my list was Greece. I knew I wanted to make Greece a special trip for our 7th anniversary.
Late April seemed to be the perfect time to visit Greece, right before the start to tourist season in May and the temperatures have just started to warm up.
We boarded our early Ryan Air flight to Athens and landed right before lunch time. We took the metro from the airport all the way into the city center (about a 45 min ride) to meet up with our Airbnb host and drop off our bags. Our Airbnb was located in the Plaka neighborhood, right by the Acropolis and a 5 min walk from the closest metro station.
We found a simple spot to dine for lunch and then immediately hit the city for sight-seeing! After lunch, we walked over to The Poet Sandalmaker, right off of Monastiraki Square, to get a pair of sandals made. You step into the shop and are surrounded by a wall of sandal designs to choose from. Once you choose a design, the sandal maker starts fitting the sandals custom to your feet. I love getting souvenirs from our travels that you can use on a daily basis and remember the memories--this was the perfect souvenir!
Every hour, the guards change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and we quickly made our way to witness the ceremonial changing of the guards. Each part of their uniform is said to have some significance to the country's history, all the way down to the number of pleats in the uniform. The guards are wearing full wool uniforms and perform this meticulously choreographed routine that is truly remarkable.
We were a little too late in the day to capture all the glory of the Central Market--all the meat and fish were sold for the day. But we made all of Ara's olive dreams come true by sampling and purchasing some fresh olives from a vendor at the market.
That evening we took the scenic route on foot to dinner and strolled past the Acropolis as the sun was going down. Athens really comes alive at night and it was interesting to see all the vendors setting up their goods for the evening crowds. We dined at Athiri, and had some amazing Greek dishes with a modern twist. The dining space was set in a beautiful open air garden but didn't lend well to photographing, so there's no evidence of how delicious and beautiful the dinner was.
Our apartment was within a stone's throw from an amazing little coffee shop, The Coffee Dive--we started our morning there and soon learned about the amazing Greek coffee specialty, freddo cappuccino (espresso over ice with whipped milk foam floating on top). It was such a delicious treat to have and beat the warmer temperatures.
We started our morning meeting Effie Perperi for a tour of the Acropolis and the Acropolis Muesuem. Several of our friends had done the private tour with Effie, who is highly regarded by Rick Steves, and said it was a must-do for Athens. Effie showed us all around the Acropolis sights, taking time to stop and give so much background history and really made the scene come alive. We were so glad we decided to do this private tour as we learned so much more than we could have ever imagined. If you're planning on heading to Athens, book with Effie (effieperperi at gmail dot com).
After our full morning (and part of the afternoon) at the Acropolis, we made our way to lunch at Taverna Saita. Our friends had recommended this place to us and it did not disappoint. We had the most delicious greek salad I've ever eaten--the tomatoes were sooo fresh!
Since our bodies were refueled, we decided on some more sight-seeing that afternoon and pack in as much as we could during our short Athens stay. We walked over to the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics was held in 1896. Sadly, it was too hot for a full victory lap but we did take our turn standing on the podium!
There are several great rooftop bars right off Monastiraki Square. So before dinner we found ourselves at A is for Athens to take in our last sunset in Athens. We ended up having a pretty interesting conversation while we enjoyed our cocktails with a sweet lady from South Korea who was in town for business. The view was top notch as well--perfect spot overlooking the hustle and bustle of the square and the Acropolis.
For dinner, we headed to Tzitzikas kai Mermigas for some traditional (and very affordable!) Greek food. Our friends had recommended this spot for the great tasting menu, 7 courses for $20 per person. We had quite the sampling of dishes and a shot of ouzo, a traditional Mediterranean aperitif to start the meal.
We loved our two full days in Athens and would highly recommend seeing the beautiful and historic city. Our next stop on our Greek adventure was an island hop away to Santorini!