Beautiful, historic Athens

Nick and I have been in Greece for the past few weeks, and our itinerary involved visiting Athens, driving around the Peloponnese region, doing part of the Menalon Trail, and then island-hopping from Mykonos, to Naxos, and then Santorini. When it came to Athens, I honestly didn’t know what to expect other than be met with a lot of history, evident from old ruins, and some good food. I think we definitely came away with a good and varied experience of different towns in Greece.

Hello, Greece!

After we had a two-day stopover in Dubai, we arrived in Athens. The day we arrived, it was my birthday. I don’t care too much for celebrating but one thing we were definitely going to do on that day was meet my friend Pauline while she was on her travels (and working). I hadn’t seen her since 2019, and we were actually going to see each other in 2020 before the pandemic paused all travel.

After being welcomed into our Airbnb by our host, we explored the town and found a place to have coffee.

In general, Greece was very welcoming and we had no trouble navigating the places we visited as a tourist. People don’t expect you to learn Greek, and most Greek people know at least some English, and enough to communicate, but a few words to say “thank you” and “hello” can be helpful. We weren’t entirely sure about when tipping is prevalent, but it seemed that larger establishments or places more popular with tourists had the option for a tip, and smaller eateries didn’t ask at all.

Meeting Pauline again 🫶🏻

In the evening we had dinner with Pauline at a tavern, and shared a bunch of meat and salad, Greek style. As I’m writing this, I am – funnily enough – not really sick of Greek food yet. A lot of the meat has been great quality and delicious, and the portion sizes are so large that I feel satisfied.

A plate of Greek food including meat, pita bread and vegetables
Thank goodness we were sharing this platter!

We went to a bar that Pauline recommended, which was close to where she was staying. It was a rooftop bar with incredible views of the Acropolis. We watched the sun set and had a couple of drinks, introducing Pauline to some cocktails she might like.

A selfie of two Asian women with dark hair, Georgie and Pauline. They are both wearing black tops and smiling.
First selfie! Yes!
The Acropolis in Athens seen from a rooftop bar at dusk. There are some apartment building balconies in the foreground.
A pretty view
Three tropical cocktails in blue, pink, and yellow colours, on a concrete surface at a rooftop bar in the same setting as the previous photo
Pauline loved the blue one with blue curaçao. Mine was the pink one and Nick’s was the yellow one!

First full day: Food tour

On our first full day we did a food tour that we booked previously. We’d invited Pauline along and had a little hiccup because we bought our tickets separately and she almost missed out, but emailed the company ( and they opened up a couple more spots. The food tour was well organised and involved sampling a wide range of local meat, snacks, dishes, drinks and delicacies. We learned a bit about why this food is important to Greek culture, and definitely left feeling very full. There was more than enough food.

Georgie and Pauline, two Asian women with dark hair and sunglasses on top of their heads, holding paper bags with bakery items. One woman is wearing a white and black floral dress and the other is wearing a black and white checkered top with pink shorts.
Too excited already. Pauline was hungry.
A small, narrow shopfront with a window of homemade pies. The sign above the shop reads “Harry’s Kitchen”. A woman is serving up samples of Greek pies made from filo pastry on a small wooden table.
This photo was taken by Nick; he took a better photo of this pie shop than I did. We all visited this place multiple times during our stay

I don’t have all the photos of all the food, but that just goes to show how much we were enjoying it!

Two cardboard boxes of lukumades, Greek dough balls topped with sweet syrup and nuts.
Georgie and Pauline, in the same outfits as a previous photo, holding small toothpicks with a lukumades on each. They are smiling and the shop behind them has a red sign reading “Lukumades”.
The smile on our faces says it all!
Pauline smiling and enjoying taking a bite into a piece of lukumades.
Pauline was still hungry and ate a bunch.
A window with some different Greek cheeses on display, many in block form, and a couple in open pots resembling crumbled feta cheese
We sampled a bunch of different cheeses
The inside of an olive and olive oil shop with clear plastic domes covering various types of olives. Wooden shelves on the wall hold some olive oil products.
An opportunity to buy olive oil
The entrance to a undercover meat market. Some butchers are handling meat, and there are some motorcycles parked in front of the market.
We stopped at a place inside the market that had some hearty traditional Greek cuisine
A square of orange pie with an orange slice on top.
Nick fell in love with these orange pies!
Greek coffee, served in a small metal cup with a long handle, alongside a cup and saucer, and a glass of water with a spoon of sticky white gum in it
I loved the mastika (the sweet gum in the water)
Georgie, wearing the same outfit as an earlier photo, smiling with her sunglasses over her eyes and her head cocked to one side. Her hands are in her pockets and her pink shorts match the Alice-in-Wonderland themed decor in the cafe behind her. There are some other people near her.
A candid that Pauline took of me

Later, Nick and I visited another of the historic sites that were included in our combo ticket, the Temple of Zeus. Unfortunately much of it was covered in scaffolding, so it wasn’t that impressive.

Nick, a white man with dark hair, standing in front of a big stone arch monument. He is wearing a white long sleeved shirt and beige shorts.
Hadrian’s arch
Some tall pillars of ancient ruins, spaced apart from each other. One group of the pillars is covered in some scaffolding.
The Temple of Zeus, some of which was unfortunately covered in scaffolding

National garden and Panathenaic Stadium

We walked to the famous Panathenaic Stadium and spent some time checking out the museum there, that was dedicated to Olympic torches and promotional posters dating back to the very early years of the Olympics.

An ancient stadium, seen from the back of the stadium in the middle. There are some people in the performance area, and very few people in the seating areas
You can’t not be amazed by this stadium. An incredible piece of history.
A selfie of Georgie and Nick, both smiling and wearing sunglasses. Behind them is a stone wall.
Taking a little break in the shade

From there, we walked to the national garden. It was a nice break from the sun as it was quite shady. There are a few interesting things in the garden like some ancient ruins, a children’s playground, and an area dedicated to botanicals.

Small turtles swimming in a blue pond with some rocks around the edges.
Cute turtles 🐢
Georgie, wearing the same outfit as many previous photos, standing on a path with an archway over it. The top of the arch has a lot of green vines and leaves growing on it.
A pathway in the park

New favourite bar: Contrabando

Later that night we met up with Pauline for dinner in the neighbourhood of Psiri, which was one of the neighbourhoods that the food guide shared with us on the tour. While Nick and I were waiting for Pauline, we walked past a bar called Contrabando, that became out new favourite place. The drinks were great, the vibe was awesome, and the DJ was actually playing good music!

Three tropical cocktails on a table, in orange, red, and yellow shades. Two of the cocktail glasses are tall and one is small. There are some people in the bar in the background
Yamas! (That’s “cheers” in Greek) 🍹
Georgie and Nick, wearing the same clothes as in previous photos. They have their arms around each other and are smiling. Behind them is a colourful framed painting, and the wallpaper is teal.
Pauline took this lovely photo of me and Nick 🫶🏻
Georgie and Pauline, also wearing the same clothes as in previous photos. They are both holding cocktails and smiling. The background is in a similar setting to the previous photo.
Honestly, what a great background in this bar ✨

Pauline and I tried to request “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston, and the DJ nodded and said “later”, but after a while, it was getting late and we decided to leave. We were waiting for him to play it! He must have just forgot, or by “later”, he really meant much, much later. The other highlight of our night was one of the bartenders really getting into the groove and dancing to a couple of the songs. He was a very good dancer! When we cheered him on, he gave us some free shots. 😎

An early start to see the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum

On our second day we started early so that we could see the Acropolis and avoid the heat. The summer days in Europe are long, with the sun being out for 14 hours of the day and only usually setting after 8:00pm, and the morning gets hot quickly. Unfortunately a lot of the Parthenon and Acropolis has some restoration and preservation work going on, so it’s more than likely you will see a crane, or scaffolding, or people doing work to help preserve the area for visitors.

A small ancient ampitheatre, with equipment set up for an orchestra at the bottom. In the distance is the city of Athens.
Events are still held here!
The Parthenon in Athens, an ancient building with pillars and a roof. There are people around the area observing the site. The sky is a clear blue colour.
From up close, you can see more of the scaffolding and the work being done to it, but you can still capture it without these details if you are further away.

We went to the Acropolis museum which gave us more insight into the archaeological ruins, and it’s also built on top of some of the foundations of what was discovered. You can exit the museum and go to a different entrance to actually see some of those foundations, and you can watch a video with more detail which plays on a screen in that part of the site.

An area of the foundation of ancient ruins, with a museum raised and built on top of it. An open area with a glass barrier above the ruined foundations overlooks it.
The ruins under the Acropolis Museum
A view looking down the area around a train line, with the train tracks on the left, heading into the distance, an area with some ancient ruins in the middle, and a raised pedestrianised area on the right.
Ruins right next to the train line. It’s incredible that this city has these pieces of history amongst what is modern.

The ancient Agora and Hadrian’s library

Athens’ summer heat was really getting to us at this point, so we were feeling quite tired, but made sure we visited the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora (which was much smaller). Hadrian’s library was nearby so we had a look at that too.

An open area dotted with ancient ruins and many trees, with a large hill in the distance to the right that has more ruins on it. The sky is blue but streaked with clouds.
A lovely shot with the Acropolis in it
An ancient ruins site with four pillars joined at the top, and some smaller ruins of building foundations around it.
Hadrian’s library

We stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It wasn’t anything too special, as the area was mostly full of tourists, but it had a nice indoor setting.

Exploring Exarcheia

Nick and I had heard of a neighbourhood called Exarcheia, which was apparently “where all the cool kids are”. We had a coffee on its outskirts, at a rather fancy looking coffee spot called Kolor. We spent some time exploring its streets and even ended up visiting it the next day again with Pauline.

A wall with some colourful street art with mostly words and bubble lettering, some of which is in Greek.
Expression of self through street art
A view down a laneway in Greece, with concrete spheres painted like red ladybirds in a line down the pavement. The sides of the laneway have apartment buildings with some graffiti, and there is a motorcycle parked in front of one of them.
Cool laneways

We weren’t terribly hungry so we went to a bar and had some wine and a cold cuts and cheese platter, at a place called Warehouse Project.

A top-down view of a meat platter with various meats, some crackers, cheese, and dip.
I think I became obsessed with cold cut platters on this trip

Breakfast at a cafe and the Mount Lycabettus view

We didn’t have too much planned for our third day, but we hadn’t seen the view at Mount Lycabettus, the highest point of Athens. We planned to go there after visiting Zinglee, a breakfast and cocktail bar. But having breakfast, obviously. 😛 Their scrambled eggs were fantastic! I should add – I have really loved the prevalence of open-all-day bars which serve breakfast in the morning or during the day, and are open for drinks at night, but coffee all day – this is the kind of stuff that Australia does wrong. We close many cafes at 2–3 so you can’t get a coffee after that (unless you just want Starbucks).

A table set in a cafe, with a hot coffee, iced coffee, and two small cakes.
Nice spot for a late breakfast

There is a funicular, which from memory costs 8€ per person, so you can avoid walking up. I think you get a different view if you choose to drive, and are actually on another side of the mountain. We chose the funicular, since we weren’t sure how long it might take to walk up, nor did we know how many steps there were. We did walk the way down, though, and walking up seemed like it would have been pretty doable for two fit people. It was really not a terrible amount of steps and there were parts where the path was flat, so it wasn’t all steps.

We got amazing view of not only Athens, but beyond. We could see the sea and the area outside of Athens, for miles and miles.

A landscape of the city of Athens seen from a high vantage point. Many of the buildings are white and light coloured. The sky is a little hazy.
Incredible view of the city

Cafe stop, and the rest of our stay in Athens…

Nick and I went to Exarcheia again and I looked in some of the second-hand clothing shops. Pauline decided to join us as she moved one of her days off, and we stopped at a vegan-friendly cafe and had some coffee and snacks.

A colourful salad with some beets, fruit, and lettuce.
I believe this item on the menu was called a colourful salad, and it is a colourful salad indeed.
A selfie of Georgie and Pauline, Georgie wearing a black studded top and Pauline wearing a purple dress. They are both smiling and Georgie has her arm across the front of her neck as she leans on the table.
Selfies all the time!
Georgie, wearing a black studded crop top and purple shorts, leaning against a cut-out arch in a wall. The wall is painted with colourful street art, and part of it is a green squid. Georgie has an index finger pointed at the squid art.
Vibes 🦑

It was so hot and we didn’t have much else to do – or that we wanted to do in the heat – so we opted to browse a department store in the centre of Athens, which we knew to be air-conditioned. We spent a good while there and killed some time, then split to have a break.
After recharging in our Airbnbs we had dinner at a place that Nick remembered from an earlier day, because we walked past and the smell of the food was delicious. 😆 We all tried some ouzo, but didn’t love it.

A large plate of meat and potatoes with some salad and a tomato on top.
Nope, I did not finish it. Haha.

We went to another bar that had some nice cocktails and Pauline and I got a bit too excited taking a bunch of outrageous selfies.

A selfie of Pauline and Georgie, with their mouths open wide in a happy smile.
Having fun 🫠

As it was our last day in Athens and we were leaving the city the next day, Nick took some photos of Pauline and myself. (We actually did end up meeting Pauline again – more on that later!)

Georgie and Pauline in the same outfits as earlier photos, leaning away from each other and smiling, in the walkway of a shopping centre. Pauline is leaning back with her knees bent and Georgie has one foot out in front of her and her hands in victory/peace signs.
#PAWGIE2022 💜💙
Georgie and Pauline in the same outfits and setting as the previous photo, but in an embrace. Pauline has one foot off the ground with her knee bent.
Bye Pauline 🤗😭

Overall, I loved Athens, and there was so much to see and do, and the people were very friendly. It’s such an interesting city and I can definitely see myself returning in the future.

Stay tuned for the next instalment that begins our drive around the Peloponnese region. 🤩

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Comments on this post

Your posts always make me super hungry. Laying here in bed at nearly 1am and my stomach is growling! 😋

Greece is definitely on my bucket list on all of the places I want to visit. I’ve been to Australia twice but have yet to visit Europe! I mean, it’s practically across the “pond” from my location in the Eastern US!

It made me so happy to see all of the Instagram stories from you and Pauline. Definitely one of the best ways to spend your Birthday. Those cocktails looked incredible! Definitely my type of drink.

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip, even though I follow you on IG and have already seen the highlight reel. 😊

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