What can you say about Athens that has not already been said? We have been everywhere, from museums to squares, beautiful parks and botanical gardens, churches, and all the other historic buildings. The local police station as well. While I was wandering around with my head in the clouds, someone skilful took my wallet (with 180 euros and almost all my documents inside), so that was my opportunity to visit the local police which, fortunately, was not far from the Acropolis. Obviously, my first piece of advice before you go and explore the cradle of European civilization is: Be careful with your stuff, because pickpocketing has become a popular job in Athens. Of course, they never found my wallet, but it didn’t break our spirit. Straight from the police station, we climbed the Acropolis.Acropolis
At the top of the hill are the Hellenistic temples dedicated to the goddess Athena. At the foot of the hill are the Greek agora and the amphitheatre from the Roman times.
Everywhere there are guards showing how much they love and appreciate their ruins because they don’t allow anyone to touch anything. Of course, the children found a way to “crack in the system” with their curious touching of those monumental pillars.
It is astonishing that people built these magnificent buildings on top of that hill 2,500 years ago without any technology. If you are not impressed by all these ruins, you will be by the incredible view. From that height, you can see the whole city.
Temple of Zeus
About 500 meters from the Acropolis is the impressive Temple of Zeus. All that is left of that giant building is 16 pillars and also some ruins in the surrounding gardens. It makes you wonder how they constructed such huge buildings in those days?! If you are tiny, I have good news; you don’t need to buy a ticket. Just climb through the fence. Take a photo and quickly get out!
Monastiraki and Plaka
Monastiraki is part of the city below the Acropolis, known for its shops and bazaar where people are selling everything; even trophies. This is good news! If your kids are not talented at sports and you have lost hope they will ever win Wimbledon, they do not have to worry; you can buy it for them! A competitive spirit is not healthy anyway.
One of the most authentic shops in Monastiraki is “Melissinos poet Sandal Maker” where you can find unique sandals, customized to your foot size for a reasonable price. This is where Jackie O, Sophia Loren and more got their sandals back in the day.
It is full of small streets, tavernas with traditional food, cozy cafes, and shops where you can buy ceramics and funny books for children about Odyssey’s adventures.
The city has two main city squares – Omonia and Syntagma. We have heard that Omonia is not safe for tourists because of the crime, so we didn’t go to check if it was true.
Syntagma square is the heart of Athens, with its Parliament building and luxurious hotels. There is a statue there of some sportsman who inspired girls to imitate him.
Syntagma square looks onto a magnificent botanical park with more than twenty thousand different plants. There is a pool with turtles and a playground for children so this is a real oasis for the feet of tired parents.
The National Archaeological Museum is a must see as it takes you through the whole history of the archaeology of Greece. This is a huge museum so it might take you 2 or 3 hours if you want to see all the exhibits: sculptures, ceramics, jewellery, or archaeology stuff. The kid’s favourite exhibit was the huge statue of Poseidon; the one that was found in the ocean. It reminded them of Triton, the father of the Little Mermaid. The only question is, where did he lose his trident?
I must say that I couldn’t totally relax because I was afraid that the kids would break something expensive, for example, the ancient Greek pottery (like a giant ceramic vase). It is a sad fact that many of the most valuable parts of the Acropolis and the Parthenon are not in Greece today. They were taken to England, France, and other countries and Greek authorities have been trying to restore their national treasure for years but unfortunately with no success.
The museums are not dead serious places as it is generally considered. The funniest thing in the museum was comical masks which inspired the kids to make silly faces.
The home of the first modern Olympic games looks impressive, but I don’t know if it is worth the fee to enter. You can see it easily without entering. Built in marble in the 4th century BC, it has been restored twice and can seat 70,000 spectators.
The ancient games were held at this stadium every 4 years, and the prize for the winner of a particular discipline was an amphora with 36 litres of olive oil. If one person won in all disciplines, he could win as many as 144 amphorae of top-quality olive oil. Who would compete for olive oil today?? Imagine the news: Ronaldo or Luka Modric, the best world football players, winning 200 amphorae of oil!
A juice shop to-go, with extremely low prices for drinks and snacks! The idea of creating this store and the way it functions bloomed within the financial crisis and relies on the notion of ‘helping each other’. Loving Family reminds us that within the crisis, we should support each other and be one of this large family in order to survive together. The prices of this store are incredibly low and the products are top quality. We had a large freshly-squeezed orange juice for only 50 cents. The address is Akadimias 97, Athens.
Healthy Bites is a cozy place to eat plates of delicious vegan food in the heart of the city. Food is served quick because it is already cooked, so if you like healthy vegan food but also don’t want to waste time, this place is a good choice. They offer vegan versions of Greek traditional food. We had a delicious moussaka and burgers. After that, we were ready to join the big protest that was going on in the street that day. The address: Panepistimiou 25, Athens 10564, Greece. When you are already there, you can just cross the street and visit a Greek trilogy: National Library – University – Academy of Athens. Since the children have asked philosophy questions from the moment they started to speak, they had to meet the biggest philosophers of all times; Socrates and Plato.
Protests on a daily basis
The Greeks often go out into the street and protest against the government, they do not give up. Our kids were also protesting because everybody wanted one ice cream ball for themselves instead of sharing. We had to answer their demands because after all, children are pillars of this society.
Half an hour drive from the city centre, you can find decent beaches. Maybe one of the best for the children is Voula beach, with shallow, clear water and umbrellas. It also has clean toilets, free wifi, chairs, and a bar. Here is a list of the best beaches nearby Athens.
Wellness day at Vouliagmeni Lake
We spent all day at this amazing natural mineral spring lake. Entrance is 12 euros each, but worth it. Vouliagmeni Lake is situated in an idyllic landscape set against a high rocky backdrop, about 45 minutes drive from the city.
The Lake’s water gushes from springs 50 to 100 meters deep and has a temperature ranging from 22 to 29 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It is full of natural minerals so it has healing properties for many ailments. The water is clear, warm and refreshing. There are plenty of sunbeds and nice decking but you need to come earlier because it is also very popular among locals. You have everything you need to spend all day in that oasis: there are clean bathrooms, open showers (no shampoo!), lockers and a cafe/restaurant.
The lake is the natural home of the small fish called Garra Rufa, also known as Doctor Fish or Spa Fish. It is a unique method of skin-peeling and a queasy experience. The kids also had fun letting the fishes nibble the dead skin on their feet.