Beginning or ending a cruise in a beautiful city like Athens, Greece, can be very rewarding even with only 24 hours of time. If you plan ahead and make a few reservations, you can experience the best of Athens' culture and history.
For my journey, I planned to arrive in Athens two days before embarking on the Greek Isles cruise onboard the beautiful Azamara Journey. This afforded one day to recover from jet lag and the second day for exploring. I stayed at a hotel within a five-minute walk of the Acropolis, which helped me make the best use of my limited time in the city. Many of the top-rated "must see" attractions are located in this central, historic area.
In summer months, it’s recommended to start with the Acropolis early in the morning before the weather becomes too hot. A good pair of sneakers is preferred to flip-flops or dress shoes since many of the walking surfaces have been polished smooth and slippery from hundreds of thousands of shuffling tourists’ shoes. Be sure to bring water, or purchase it from the vending machine just inside the gate. Once you purchase your entrance ticket you'll begin walking uphill past some neat artifacts before arriving at The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an outdoor amphitheater that is still in operation for live performances. Yanni performed here most recently.
Go another 120 to 150 steps further to reach the top. The climb is strenuous, but not outside the ability of a person in reasonably good physical condition. Once atop the Acropolis, the Parthenon is the primary structure, built between 450-421 B.C. Here are breathtaking 360-degree views of Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece with a population of 4.5 million.
After descending, the modern and new Acropolis Museum is nearby on the pedestrian promenade, which provides a rich history to the construction of ancient Greek civilization. The origins and history of Greek mythology and gods are also richly explored here.
Eat lunch at an outdoor cafe in one of the quaint squares along the narrow pedestrian shopping streets. I ordered a traditional Greek salad, delicious beef gyros, and an iced coffee to cool off from the hike. There are lots of street musicians to serenade you, but be wary as they each would like a few Euros donation and the stream of them are constant so you could find it rather expensive if you should decide to "tip" them all.
The balance of your evening is best utilized walking through the various shopping streets near Syntagma Square or the Plaka neighborhood near the Acropolis. There are picturesque churches and historical ruins of temples.
To complete your evening as sunset nears, I highly recommend Strofi Restaurant for dinner. It was recommended by our hotel as a wonderful outdoor rooftop dining choice with a perfect evening view of the Acropolis. The food is authentic Greek cuisine, with excellent service and moderate prices. Do reserve ahead of time because this restaurant has only 8-10 limited tables with this amazing view from the roof terrace.
With over 3,500 years of recorded history, Athens is considered the cradle of Western Civilization. It’s known for having given birth to the foundation of democracy, the first center for arts, science, astronomy, and philosophy, as well as great thinkers and scholars. I found Athens to be quaint, clean, safe to walk at night, and home to friendly people. A taste of Athens can be experienced in a day for sure, but I would welcome an opportunity to return in the future.
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