How To Spend 24 Hours In Athens

21 October 2014
Read Time: 1.8 mins

If you think Athens is just an entrée to sun-splashed Santorini, you may want to reconsider. In the past few years, the dusty Greek capital – famous as much for around-the-clock crowds as archaeological grandeur – has come into its own. A wave of cultural energy intent on championing the new alongside the old is changing the status quo. Here’s how you can take on Athens in just one day.

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Morning

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Breakfast In The Pláka

Unfolding across the northern slopes of the Acropolis and featuring a maze of streets lined with shoe-box tavernas, alfresco coffee shops and crumbling Neoclassical buildings, the Pláka should star in any Athens itinerary. Head to Adrianou Street and stake out a marble-topped sidewalk table at Diodos – an eatery known for heart-starting Greek espressos and striking Acropolis panoramas.

Once you’re done, swap the touristy shops that dot the neighbourhood for the Tower of the Winds. This time and meteorological station was, according to some, built by Macedonian astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus himself. You should also check out the Museum of Popular Music – a fascinating collection of musical instruments housed in a 19th Century Athens mansion.

 Make the most of your day in Athens

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Morning – Afternoon

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A Leafy Retreat

Home to towering Cypress trees, shaded walking trails and 15,000 native plant species, the National Gardens are the perfect antidote to the city's bustle.Make sure you take in the monuments to Greek poets such as Dionysios and Aristotelis before unwinding in the manicured grounds that circle the Zappeion – a neoclassical building that hosts visiting dignitaries. The gardens, which border several historic neighbourhoods as well as Syntagma Square, offer a tranquil way to cut across the city centre.

Make a Date With History

Spanning four kilometres and covering sites such as the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Kerameikos Cemetery, the Unification of Archaeological Sites walkway might be the world’s most pedestrian-friendly history lesson.

Make sure you set aside a few hours to explore the New Acropolis Museum. The glass and concrete structure was designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and plays host to the recently restored Caryatid statues – a set of female figures that crowned the Acropolis for 2,500 years.

 The incredible Acropolis

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Evening

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An Acropolis Sunset

There’s a reason why watching the sun turn the sky pink from the Acropolis is the stuff of travel dreams. The Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, which are perched on a rocky outcrop that juts 150 metres above sea level, are recognised as Ancient Greece’s architectural high points.

If you’re a first-time visitor, head for the Parthenon. The sprawling structure, which is supported by 46 Doric columns, was constructed in 447 BC as a tribute to the goddess Athena.

Feast Under The Stars

Athens has no shortage of good rooftops, but the starlit terrace at Strofi – an elegant 1970s eatery that pairs Acropolis views with a modern take on taverna dishes – could have been lifted from a vintage James Bond film.

Savouring lamb wrapped in vine leaves, tomatoes stuffed with grapes and pine nuts, alongside a glass of white from the mountainous vineyards of Aigio will surely end your Athens sojourn on a high note.

Neha Kale

Neha Kale is a writer and editor covering arts, design and culture at large. For Neha, a one-way ticket to London sparked incurable wanderlust and a decade of memorable trips – from exploring street art in San Francisco and sailing down the Nile to mapping galleries in New York and getting lost in the backstreets of Paris.