A Layover in Athens / by Helen Zouvelekis

Countless destinations require a layover that many travelers find frustrating or try to avoid all together. However, my husband and I viewed our stop in Athens as an opportunity to visit a new city on our way to Santorini for our honeymoon. We had just over 24 hours to spare and were determined to squeeze in as much culture and sightseeing as we possibly could before the relaxing week ahead. Here are some tips, tricks, and photos of how we made the best of our short time in Athens.

 Amphitheater on the Way Up to the Acropolis

Amphitheater on the Way Up to the Acropolis

The Subway

Athens is home to a number of unique Metro Stations that second as museums. It is virtually impossible to dig anywhere in the city and not run into ruins—the Metro stations were no exception and they showcase the artifacts found. Take the subway even just for fun to see the incredible cross sections through ancient Greek and Roman roads. Even on the way to a station you are likely to stumble upon some relics or historic structures. My favorite part of the city were the ruins peppered into such unexpected places. We realized that we were completely surrounded by history.

 Metro Station Artifacts

Metro Station Artifacts

 Metro Station Cross Section Through Ancient Roads

Metro Station Cross Section Through Ancient Roads

 Ruins Along the Road (The subway tried to put a vent shaft here and instead found ancient roman baths.)

Ruins Along the Road (The subway tried to put a vent shaft here and instead found ancient roman baths.)

 Mosaic Fragments in a Park

Mosaic Fragments in a Park

The Sights

With so much to see, how could you possibly visit it all? My husband prepared a meandering walking path for us to reach the Acropolis while stopping at several sights along the way. We never said no to seeing something interesting along the route. I decided early on, at the beautiful tiny church across from our hotel, that we would stop and walk through every single church we saw (I have a thing for churches, see my previous blog!). No photos were allowed inside, but these are some seriously gorgeous buildings with intricate brickwork, perfectly stained glass, and luxurious artwork. When we finally arrived at the Acropolis, we were surprised by how much of the city we had explored!

 Ekklisia Agia Dynami Church

Ekklisia Agia Dynami Church

Another Church.jpg

The Acropolis

Our last stop in the daylight was the Acropolis, knowing we would be tired if we had gone there first. One of our tricks was to buy a multi-sight ticket when we visited the Olympic Stadium earlier in the day, which had a much shorter ticket line. As a result, we were able to skip the line at the Acropolis and start walking up immediately. We took our time and stopped to sit in the amphitheater to take in the views. It’s quite the uphill climb! And wow was it worth it. You really can’t go to Athens without visiting the Acropolis, but don’t spend your entire day doing it. There’s so much more to see!

 The Erechtheion - Porch of the Carytids

The Erechtheion - Porch of the Carytids

 Amphitheater and View of the City

Amphitheater and View of the City

 Parthenon Re-Construction.

Parthenon Re-Construction.

 Olympic Stadium Columns

Olympic Stadium Columns

The Nightlife

Forget the bars, ruins look even better under the moonlight! Most cultural sights are formally closed after dark, but you are still able to observe through the fences. There’s still so much to see even if you can’t get in. We strolled around the city casually stopping every now and then for a drink or snack at the outdoor eateries.

 Gate of Athena Archegetis in the Moonlight

Gate of Athena Archegetis in the Moonlight

The Hotel

 Hotel with a View...with Wine!

Hotel with a View...with Wine!

If you’re only there for a night, why not splurge a little on that hotel with a terrace and a view of the Acropolis! We skipped the fancy dinner with a view and took a bottle of local wine back to our picturesque balcony. We sat there for hours listening to the sounds of the city after enjoying a fabulous meal at an unassuming restaurant across the street.

We loved Athens so much that we wished we'd spent less time relaxing in Santorini and more time exploring the city. So, the next time you are considering a layover, look at it as an opportunity to visit a new place. You really can do so much in 24 hours!


 Julia M. Libby

Julia M. Libby