After a truly memorable two weeks in Florence, Ben and I packed up for another time and headed further south to the beautiful city of Athens, Greece.
Athens was always a city at the top of my “have to visit” list – the immense history of the city itself was enough for me! I didn’t expect to fall in love with the scenery and gorgeous people as much as I did! I went in with no preconceptions at all over what to expect, because I really had no idea. I have visited Greece before, but only islands and Athens was already so different from that in many ways.
We stayed in a beautiful homey apartment near the up-and-coming Koukaki neighbourhood – an area with an abundance of cosy restaurants and quaint cobbled streets decorated with aromatic orange trees. The Koukaki neighbourhood is just south of the Acropolis hill and only a 15-minute walk to the Acropolis itself and a 20-25 minute walk to the main city centre further north of the Acropolis.
To get to the Acropolis, we walked through a valley with an abundance of olive trees, below Philopappos Hill (Hill of the Muses) and it gave us the most beautiful views and sunsets!
Our Athens Bucket List Experience: Visiting The Acropolis
One of the main things Ben and I wanted to see when we were in Athens was to visit the stunning historic Acropolis which towers over the city of Athens. One of mine and Ben’s favourite topics to learn about is mythology and mythological history and Athens had LOTS of this!
We walked to the Acropolis Hill in the early morning of our first Saturday and it was already so busy! We first visited the phenomenal Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a Roman stone theatre that dates all the way back to 161 AD! It was primarily used as a music concert venue and had a capacity of 5,000 people. It was sadly destroyed in 267 AD but was restored in the 1950’s using Pentelic marble, and is now the main venue for the Athens Festival which features many national and international performances and runs yearly from May to October.
After spending some time wandering around the odeon, Ben and I made our way further up to the very top of the Acropolis where we were encompassed by centuries of Greek history. It was a feeling I cannot describe fully…I was in complete awe.
We entered the main Acropolis through the Propylaea, a monumental gateway that dates back to 437 BC. Past the Propylaea, we entered the centre of the Acropolis with stunning views over the city of Athens. Featured at the top of the Acropolis Hill were the Erechtheion, an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon which dates back to 421 BC in addition to the temple of Athena Nike which dates back to 420 BC and was where citizens worshipped the goddess Athena in hopes of winning the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans.
One of the main parts of the Acropolis that Ben and I were dying to see was the Parthenon. Similarly to the other sites on the Acropolis, the Parthenon is a former temple to the goddess Athena and dates back to 447 BC. Construction of the temple began during the peak of Athenian power and is regarded as the most important surviving building of Ancient Greece and is seen as an enduring symbol of Athenian democracy, Western civilisation and Ancient Greece itself.
Similar to the other temple of the Acropolis, the Parthenon was viewed as a celebration of victory over the Persian invaders and are thankful gifts to the Gods for providing them with the strength to conquer and win over opponents.
Our Athenian Food Discoveries
It is true to suggest that many tourists visiting the city of Athens come to see the incredible archaeology, ancient architecture and historical artifacts. Though they are phenomenal, they aren’t the only aspects of Athens that are drenched in history!
Walking down from the Acropolis, you enter winding streets on an almost vertical tilt. You pass brightly coloured houses and breathe in the succulent aromas of Mediterranean cuisine. Ben and I stopped many times to take in the delicious food and gorgeous surroundings. We tried souvlaki, gyros, Greek meatballs, tzatziki and lots of different cheeses! We were often accompanied by a variety of feline friends who wrapped themselves around our ankles as we sat outside, our tables drinking in the sunshine.
We also jumped at the chance to try kourou pies from an Athenian bakery just off of the main shopping square, called Ariston Bakery. Kourou pies are shortcrust pastry pies often shaped in a semi-circle which is then stuffed with salty feta cheese! It was so delicious that we had to try to make it ourselves…more on that later! Despite me loving the feta cheese (the more the better!), Ben isn’t too keen on cheese that isn’t melted, so he went for a sausage pie and after having a bite, I can confidently say that it was also super delicious!
City Street Wanderings
Athens is the perfect city for afternoon strolls and romantic evening walks. The bustling markets selling traditional Greek jewellery with blue opal (their national stone), colourful patterned rugs and crisp white Greek tunics. It’s difficult to not get immersed in the culture, and let’s be honest – why would you not want to?
If the city streets become overwhelming you can step further out to the quieter edges of Athens, where you will find more greenery, olive trees and the beautiful nature of Greece. Ben and I firmly decided that Athens is definitely a city we would want to revisit – we didn’t manage to visit every single one of the monuments (there are so many!) and we would love more opportunities to wander through the Athenian market streets.
Our Athenian Cooking Class with CookinAthens
Following our current tradition of taking part in a cooking class in each country we visit, Ben and I took part in a fantastic private cooking class in the historic centre of Athens. We don’t often have the opportunity to eat a lot of Mediterranean food, as it is quite few and far between where we live back home – pizza or Chinese food is usually our go-to! Therefore, it was amazing to be in a country where we could eat delicious Greek food all day, EVERY DAY if we wanted!
Some of our favourite meals in Athens were the delicious courses we cooked with Marilena in our Airbnb cooking experience, CookinAthens! Marilena made us feel completely at home in her huge kitchen, which had stunning views of the Acropolis, all lit up and glowing in the evening darkness. We made Greek salad, fresh tzatziki, pastitsio (Greek lasagna), revani cake and last but CERTAINLY not least – kourou pies!
It was such a great and DELICIOUS experience – we would highly recommend Marilena’s class whenever you visit Athens and we have included the links to the experience as well as the recipes learned down below!
Ben and I had a truly unforgettable experience in beautiful Athens and we can’t wait to return and experience even more of what the historic city has to offer!
Next, we head to gorgeous Albania, a city steeped in political history, and we are looking forward to visiting somewhere unlike anywhere we have been before!