I just returned from an absolutely amazing week long family vacation in Athens, Greece. I went with my parents, husband and the two babes. My dad lived in Greece for quite some time in his younger years and we were able to meet up with a childhood friend who showed us around a little. Although Greece seems to be on everyone’s bucket lists, I’ve found mixed reviews on Athens. My guess is that those who wouldn’t return, only visited the well known attractions (ie. Acropolis) and didn’t venture out. I would suggest that if staying longer than a few days, to rent a car as there is so much to see in nearby areas. Otherwise, the surrounding neighborhoods provide plenty of charm!
Where We Stayed:
We found a lovely 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath apartment in the Thissio neighborhood (check out my post on How to Book Airbnb Like a Pro). There was free parking, we were less than a block from a grocery store, walking distance to the pedestrian area with awesome views, restaurants and bars and the Acropolis was about a 10 minute walk away. I would be happy to share the apartment information, just leave me a request in the comment section below!
What We Did:
- Sounion – About 69 kilometers away (an hour an a half drive) from Athens, Cape Sounion houses ruins and is the southernmost tip of the Attica Peninsula in Greece, overlooking the Aegean Sea. It was an easy walk around the grounds and we stayed for approximately an hour. There was almost no shade so be sure to pack the sunscreen and hats for the kiddos!
- Acropolis – There are quite a few steps to get to the top and I believe they’re all made out of marble. It was a fairly easy walk for the kids but we had to make sure to hold hands as the steps were very slippery and unfortunately, we saw a few people prove our theory. Besides the amazing ruins, the views were absolutely stunning. You could see all of Athens and I think that’s where I fell in love with the city.
- Acropolis Museum – My parents attending this outing alone as my kids were in desperate need for naps but they have relayed that it was absolutely beautiful and well thought out inside. We did visit the exterior on the way to dinner one night and the floors are all made of glass so you can see the ongoing excavation beneath you. Just that portion was enough to keep us in awe.
- Corinth – There are too many beaches to count in Greece and on our way to see the ruins in Korinthos, we decided to stop at a beach. We grabbed a table right next to the water and found ourselves enjoying the cocktails and lunch so much, we stayed all day and never made it to the ruins.
- Happy Train – This cute little train takes you to all the sites and through the windy, narrow streets of Athens neighborhoods. The ride takes about an hour and the only place to “hop on/off” is at the Acropolis. We decided to remain on the train for the entire ride as our children fell asleep about halfway through but we had a wonderful, relaxing time.
- Hellenic Parliament: Changing of the Guards – This occurs every hour, on the hour and I highly suggest reading up on the history of these guards. It’s amazing to watch and even more amazing to know the story behind it all.
- Plaka Neighborhood – One of the neighborhoods that the Happy Train took us through was Plaka. It was quite charming, had a ton of shops and restaurants and decided to make it a destination for one of the days we were staying in Athens. If you’re the type to explore your surroundings, check out these other neighborhoods: Syntagma, Monastiraki, Acropolis, Thissio and Gazi.
- Monastiraki Square – The square is full of cafes, restaurants and shops and at night, you may be able to catch a street performer or two.
How We Saved Money:
- Car Rental. We knew beforehand that we wanted to do a lot of wandering around so our choices were either public transit or renting a car. We planned on going to Sounion and found it cheaper (along with being able to go at our own tempo) to rent a car for the week than to go on a tour bus which made our decision easy.
- Stay. We stayed at an Airbnb location instead of booking through a local hotel. Besides paying less, we were able to experience being residents instead of tourists and had a living room, kitchen and washing machine. When you’re traveling with kids in tow, it’s always nice to be able to put them to bed while you unwind from the day in a different room which isn’t always possible in a hotel.
- Airfare. First, check out my post on 6 tips to flying on a budget. We flew Ryan Air and because we stayed at an apartment with a washing machine, we didn’t need to pack as many clothes. Just make sure that you read the fine print (ex. if you do not print out your boarding pass beforehand, you’ll be charged an arm and a leg at check-in. Many times, the fee is much more than the actual cost of the plane ticket).
What I wish we had time for:
Although I don’t feel like we missed out on anything, I would have loved to visit the Acropolis museum but you have to know your kids’ limits and I’m glad we stayed home. We also decided to only go to 2 beaches as we were headed to Crete from Athens but I would have loved to explore more. Greece seems to have something new and amazing around every corner and although I can’t list specific places I would have loved to have seen, I would love to have another week even if I spent the entire time enjoying mojitos and souvlaki or moussaka at a street side cafe. If you’re one for views when eating (I mean, who isn’t?), check out this post on the Best Rooftop Bars in Athens!
What I would have done differently:
I must say, I wouldn’t have changed a thing this trip. Everything was within walking distance from our apartment so we really didn’t need a stroller for the kids and I’m quite happy with every place we were able to experience.
I would love to know if you’ve visited Athens and what you’ve done. Did I miss anything?