Many travellers arrive in Athens and jump straight on a ferry with the sandy beaches and blue skies of the Greek Islands in their sights, but this capital city definitely deserves some of your time. Even if you only have a day, you can get a great taste of Athens at the beginning, or end, of your Greece adventure, and the bonus is that it can all be explored on foot.Begin your day with a relaxing stroll through the 15 acres of the Athens National Gardens, freddo cappuccino in hand, soaking up the peaceful atmosphere to prepare yourself for the day ahead. Enjoy the scattering of ancient monuments and statues, hundreds of species of flora and fauna, the Botanical Museum and ducks floating by on the many lakes, before exiting the gardens past the Greek Parliament building towards Syntagma Square. This is the central square of Athens, and the perfect point to begin to delve into the attractions of the city.Get your retail therapy in by wandering down Ermou Street, the main commercial strip of the city. Even if you don’t want to shop, it’s a great spot for people watching, and checking out the incredible architecture. Experience a local flea market by continuing to Monastiraki (Μοναστηράκι), where you’ll find old cars being used as sale stands – completely covered in second-hand goods with knick-knacks piled high. Grab yourself a bargain before heading back towards Monastiraki Square for lunch. Depending on your budget, grab a €2 take-away gyros (we’d highly recommend Savvas) and take a seat anywhere in the square, or settle in at one of the many restaurants in the area, you won’t have a problem finding one with a menu full of delicious Greek delights.After you’ve soaked up the atmosphere in this bustling area, continue towards the neighbourhood of Plaka, the oldest area of Athens with a charming feel to it. There are two main streets that intersect, Kydathineon and Adrianou, which are considered the centre of Plaka, however it is definitely worth exploring the small streets either side. You may be overwhelmed by the plethora of tacky souvenir shops, however the atmosphere and history of this area is the real attraction. Be sure to make a stop in at Giasemi for afternoon tea, a quirky little cafe with all sorts of treats that you can enjoy sitting on the steps outside.Plaka sits in the shadow of the Acropolis, and this beautiful historical site is your next stop. Check the opening hours and allow yourself two to three hours to fully enjoy your experience here. Late afternoon is a magical time to be wandering through the ruins, so we’d highly recommend timing your day around this. There’s two options for tickets – a multi-site or just the Acropolis. If you are opting for a multi-site ticket you may want to reverse this day and visit the other sites throughout the rest of the itinerary. Once you’ve soaked up the incredible history and made it to the Parthenon, complete your day by watching the sunset over Athens from the Areopagus, a large marble rock viewing point – you can’t miss it! If you like to take things at a slower pace, this itinerary can definitely be split over two days – make sure you visit Lycabettus hill for an incredible sunset view on your second night!
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