A Few Astonishing Hours in Athens, Greece – Summer 2019

Posted on Lisa Crawford, Travel September 23, 2019 by Lisa Crawford

A Few Astonishing Hours in Athens, Greece

A quick flight, roughly 40 minutes from Zante and we arrived in Athens.  Unfortunately, due to delayed travel plans, we only got to spend a few hours in the beautiful capital of Greece

I’ve heard so many travel professionals say that Athens is not a place that you need to stay in for more than 2 nights before heading to the islands.

I totally disagree!

Athens Tour

The Hotel Grand Bretagne

This was our second time in Athens, and we decided to stay in the same hotel as we did on our previous visit exactly two years ago.  The Hotel Grand Bretagne, located right in the heart of the city, sits in the middle of the regal Syntagma Square and the Parliament. 

The GM, Tim Ananiadis remembered us from our previous stay, and it was like we were coming back home.  The Bretagne is a mix of old-world elegance and state-of-the-art facilities with only 58 suites making it feel like a boutique hotel.  It is within walking distance of exclusive shopping areas and museums. 

A Few Astonishing Hours in Athens, Greece - Summer 2019 1
Our Gorgeous Night View from our Room

We always choose the Butler/Acropolis view room with unbelievable views. Look at our beautiful night view of the Acropolis.  From our balcony, we also can see the changing of the guards which takes place every hour at the Parliament building in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Photos of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

A little bit of Athens History

Athens, named for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and courage, was once the most powerful city in ancient Greece and the birthplace of democracy, theater, and Western civilization.

The city itself mirrors the fortitude of the goddess herself and the city’s cultural richness and history is evident in its architecture. Travel to Athens is a must for history and archeology buffs! The city’s hillsides and picturesque vistas, and the Athens Riviera will be equally appreciated by all.

Temple of Zeus in Athens Greece
The Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece

The Temple of Olympian Zeus (6th c. B.C.), one of the largest in antiquity and close by Hadrian’s Arch (131 A.D.) form the symbolic entrance to the city.  Although Athens is the world’s ancient capital it is also a modern mix of contemporary cool.

Climb the sacred rock of the Acropolis, majestic, strong and purely white and the site of some of the most important masterpieces of worldwide architecture and art.  The most renowned is the Parthenon which crowns the city and at the top of the hill, you will see the most impressive views of Athens. 

The Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens Greece
The Parthenon in Athens, Greece

On our first visit, we were lucky enough to have Alex, a certified archaeologist as our tour guide. After just a few hours on tour with him and I knew he and his team were going to be added to my preferred list of tour guides. 

His knowledge and studies of artificial remains, geographical landscapes, architectural remains, and biofacts (artifacts that were once living organisms) gave us a better understanding of the past. 

He explained that the Greeks excelled not only in literature, but they also produced some of the world’s greatest art, the first true science, and some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. 

In fact, of all the ancient peoples, it was the Greeks who contributed the most to subsequent civilization in virtually every field of human endeavor.  Even more amazing is that the Greeks were able to do all these things even though they were constantly at war. 

Totally mesmerized by Alex, our private archaeologist, we knew immediately that Athens had much more to offer, and a few days just wouldn’t do it.

The Acropolis Museum

We stopped at the very impressive Acropolis Museum made of steel, glass, and concrete.  It is one of the most important contemporary works of architecture in Athens and home to over 4,000 priceless finds from the Acropolis monuments that represent its history and function as the most important religious center of ancient Athens. 

A Few Astonishing Hours in Athens, Greece - Summer 2019 7
Caryatids at the Acropolis Museum

The Historic Plaka Neighborhood

Travel through a time machine and you’ve arrived at Plaka neighborhood. Plaka, the “core” of the historic center at the eastern side of the Acropolis with narrow labyrinthine streets lined with houses and mansions from the time of the Turkish occupation and the Neoclassical period (19th c). 

Monastiraki, a characteristic area of “old” Athens also with narrow streets and small buildings is where the city’s traditional bazaar (Yousouroum) is held. 

Close to it is the Psyrri area, a traditional neighborhood which has evolved into one of the most important “centers” of the town’s nightlife, with bars, tavernas, ouzeris, and clubs.

Images of the Plaka Neighborhood in Athens

A Stop at Lake Vouliagmeni

Head to Cape Sounion on your way to the Temple of Poseidon and you will follow the beautiful coastal road of the Athenian Riviera with amazing views of the Saronic Gulf.  

Alex suggested a quick stop at Lake Vouliagmeni, a mineral spa that is reported to have many healing properties for such ailments as eczema and dermatological diseases, neuralgia, headaches, disfiguring arthritis, chronic gynecological diseases, lumbago, sciatica, and other problems.

Lake Vouliagmeni Crete Greece
Lake Vouliagmeni

It was also a mysterious place because popular urban mythology said that some American scuba divers from the US Airbase nearby, disappeared while exploring the undersea caves that fed the lake in the late sixties. Then a couple of years ago their bodies were discovered, more than 35 years later!

Temple of Poseidon & Cape Sounion

Continuing we finally made our way to Cape Sounion.  In Sounion, there is a small beach below the temple with two tavernas.

Perfect, a beach, an ancient temple, and 2 tavernas. Only in Greece!

After seeing many temples Poseidon gave us a true taste of classic Greek life and worship.   I’m sorry that we did not get to see it at sunset.  Alex said it is magical. 

Images of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

Athens, so much to see and do and so little time.  The memories of 2017 will live in our hearts and minds until we return with our group in 2020.  And it was time to say good-bye.

lisa crawford

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