Surprising Athens, Who Knew!

Jun 25, 2024 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith

Returning to Athens after 20 years was like opening a treasure chest brimming with exciting discoveries. The city revealed itself as more than just a gateway to the islands—it became a highlight of my Greek adventure.

In my five days there, I found a clean, well-patrolled, and lively atmosphere full of history, charm, and vast venues for tasty food and thirst-quenching libations.

I devoted one full day just to hotel inspections to to see the latest offerings. The current top hotels in the city were on the list, some established and some new ones. Universally, pricing here is attractively below comparable properties in London and Paris. I saw a range of hotels with this firsthand knowledge back to our leisure advisors. Firsthand inspections are the best way to advise our clients as we don’t go by scripts on a computer screen.

The Dolli, The Grand Bretagne, The King George, The NJV Athens Plaza, the three Athens Electra properties, The Divani Palace Acropolis, and the Herodion are inspected and documented. This is the best way to find the best fit for our clients.

The next phase was to experience the best of historical Athens. I have seen the Acropolis before, but not like I did this time. I decided on a completely private tour with just me and the guide for four hours between the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.

What a difference! Yes, there were crowds around, but this special intimacy and exclusivity at this most important world historical site was well worth it. Any question answered and at my pace. I learned so much. It was a fascinating morning.

The Acropolis Museum is modern and dramatic. The precious artifacts tied to the nearby Acropolis are best seen together. The new twist is the opening of the underground area which was part of ancient Athens 500 BC. That can be part of the master ticket.

Another day I did a half day small group tour to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. The drive itself was scenic and much of it along the coast. It was well worth the time.

One of the hidden treasures of Athens is the Greece National Archaeological Museum. It is not in the center of touristic Athens and the building is traditional and not dramatic in design.

The 20-minute taxi ride was well worth it for what awaited inside the museum: a rich collection of Ancient Greek artifacts dating back to 2500 BC or earlier. Elaborate gold cups, Greek statues, and unique works of art, which served as the illustrations of their time, are on display. The exhibits celebrate the life of the elite in every way. Among the highlights are a huge carved statue of a young boy on a horse, a stylized statue that could easily fit in a modern art museum today, and numerous marble representations of Ancient Greek bodies.

This museum alone merits three to four hours of your limited time in Athens. It’s a shame that so many visitors never get to see it.

Of course there needs to be time to explore casual Athens including the famous Plaka full of charm and shopping opportunities. There are many scenic opportunities in the city to experience. Many streets are now pedestrian friendly with so many side walk cafes. Day or evening , I always saw security around and felt comfortable.

The small downside is the unpredictably of ancient Athens sidewalks. Cobblestones, tiles, marble, concrete, asphalt, and wood in unpredictable mixes means you need to watch where you walk. However, you get used to it.

Of course traveling in March has its advantages weather wise. Summer months can be very hot. Planning for that means a still enjoyable at least three night stay in Athens. This will contribute to a successful Greek adventure to explore Athens and the Greek Islands together.

Let TravelStore show you how professional planning can enhance and enrich your time in Greece.

—Hilton Smith