Wednesday 20 February 2013

A weekend in Athens

A couple of weeks ago Craig & I flew to Greece for a long weekend in Athens. It's one of those places that has been on my "must-go" list for years - I studied Classical Literature for two years at uni & learned a lot about Greek mythology & traditional culture, so I really really wanted to visit in person! I also have, ahem, recently been hooked on the Percy Jackson books which are all about Greek gods!

The Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora
Athens was only three hours away on a direct flight from Edinburgh (which is amazing, I thought the flight would be much longer!). As you fly in for landing you can see loads of little islands & bright blue sea, and then the huge sprawl of Athens (the city & the urban zone around it has a population of over 4 million people!).

Athens (the big hill in the middle is Mount Lycabettus) 
We stayed in the most amazing hotel, the Athens Gate, which was absolutely perfect. It's in a brilliant location - a five minute walk from the Acropolis, right next to the metro station, across the road from the Temple of Zeus (and tour bus stops!), and has the most amazing view from their rooftop restaurant.

Statues on the Erechtheion (next to the Acropolis)
As we were only there for three nights we decided to not rush about madly trying to see everything & instead picked a few key things to do. There's a couple of bus companies that do tours round the city (the ones you can jump on & off) so we booked tickets for that on our first day - it's an ace way to get your bearings and see as much as possible, when you are fairly short for time!

A wee tip if you are doing the city sightseeing bus tour - don't bother with the Piraeus part, unless you are a big fan of cruise ships!

We visited the Panathenaic Stadium, which was amazing! It is an ancient stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games & is built entirely from white marble. 

When we visited the only other people to be seen were a group of women in traditional dress, walking around very slowly & men in Olympic jackets looking cold. We were trying to work out exactly what was happening (without just staring... it felt like we'd just walked in on some ceremony) & saw them light a torch several times, using the sun & a big metal dish.

Turns out that we had stumbled upon a dress rehearsal for the European Youth Olympic Festival lighting ceremony, which was the next day. So cool! 

After the Olympic group left (we had been slowly wandering round listening to the audio tour), we were given free reign of the stadium - so I couldn't resist posing on the podium (I'm number one!) and Craig ran a lap! 

The other big destination on our trip was the Acropolis & Parthenon - it's such an iconic site and it was amazing to be up close and walk around in such a historic place! Again it was super quiet when we were visiting, so it did feel really special to stand in the middle of such history and look out over Athens.

Just down from the Parthenon is an Ancient Agora, with a big temple in the middle of beautiful ruins & gardens. We sat here for ages and it was my favourite moment of the whole trip. There was a market near by, so we could hear music & chattering voices filter through the trees, but it was so calm and peaceful and quiet! I sketched the temple (annoyingly I only had a ballpoint pen, but I'm quite happy with the outcome!), and just basked in the sunshine.

There had been a bit of trouble in the city at the start of the year, so we were at first a bit cautious about going to places where the locals had been protesting... but we really didn't need to worry! There wasn't a bit of trouble (although there was a lot of angry graffiti) and everyone was so nice and friendly. The whole city had such a relaxed feel to it, and they have the shiniest metro I've seen - even cleaner than Hong Kong's!

Can you tell I'm a bit in love with Athens?

If you are looking for a weekend away I'd definitely recommend it - I want to go back!


  1. All these pictures are gorgeous! Seems like you had a wonderful time! Might have to Pop Greece/Athens on my 'places to visit' list! xxx

  2. I can't believe you can just go for a weekend trip to such an amazing place. All I can get to near here is Sydney... lame.
    what beautiful photos.

    1. Think about all the sunshine you get though!

  3. Beautiful photos! I can't believe you sketched that with a bloody biro, you are good! =) xx

  4. LOVED this post! I studied Classics at uni as part of my joint honours (were you Edinburgh Uni?! In which case- we probs had the same lecturers, ha!) and learned SO MUCH about Athens and was desperate to go. I'd heard a lot of folk saying not to bother, though, and that Athens was a bit manky now and that it really spoiled the grand idea of Ancient Athens. I was GUTTED. But now I'm desperate to go again with this post!! Your photos are so beautiful and I'm so envious looking at what a great time you had! It's really stirred up eager feelings to travel again, wahhhh xxx

    1. Yes, it was Edinburgh Uni! You definitely should - I loved it, & they fly from Edinburgh now so there's no excuse not to! x

  5. Looks fantastic amazing pics.

  6. Looks fantastic amazing pics.

  7. Athens is beautiful! It's on my 'to-go' list too! Beautiful pictures and I like your blog =D

  8. Great post!! I love reading about people's travels!! Athens just looks lovely and you photos were perfect!! Also your drawing is omg! lol I cant believe its ball point pen! Your very talented :)

    Jen xxx

  9. Gorgeous photos!!! Ah, I'd LOVE to go there someday.

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