Athens was the first stop in a three week visit to Greece with our kids.
We travelled at the end of May, and the weather was great.
Most people plan 2-3 days to see everything in Athens.
We spent 6…
Here’s how it went:
It is super easy to get around in Athens.
There is a ton of tourist infrastructure, and a lot of English (signs and speakers).
Also, a lot of the main sights are clustered around the Acropolis and can be walked between.
If you want or need to take the Metro anywhere, it is very clearly marked, and very easy to navigate.
Taxis were super easy to find in a large circumference around the Acropolis and the driver’s we had spoke good or enough English.
We booked an Airbnb that was close to the Akropoli metro station so when our flight landed, we followed signs to the metro, bought airport transfer tickets (and regular Metro tickets for exploring later) and we were off.
The metro ride took an hour and one easily navigable transfer.
It wasn’t terrible.
When we finally checked into our Airbnb, it was great.
Two bedrooms in a stellar location with cats roaming freely in the courtyard.
We visited the ‘super’ market across the street from our place for snacks and breakfast supplies, had a quick dinner at a tavern a block from our place, and hit the hay.
I would have liked to climb the Acropolis right away on the second day.
But I also wanted to go early, before the crowds and the heat, and I just couldn’t bring myself to wake up my kids that early, after a long day of travel the day previously.
So, we woke up when we woke up, had some coffee and breakfast, slathered on the sunscreen and were off.
My husbands top priority in Athens (after the Acropolis) was the Panathenian Stadium (constructed entirely of marble, it was built in 330 BC, and redone in 1896 to hold the first ever modern Olympic Games).
It was easily within walking distance from our place.
On the way, we stopped to see Hadrian’s Arch and walk around the grounds at the Temple to Olympian Zeus.
It was extremely boring for our kids until they got to run at the stadium.
Even then. It was a lot of walking and looking at stuff they had no interest in.
Luckily, right across the street from the stadium, the Zappeion Gardens started.
We ducked in and got lost in semi-wilderness for a while.
I’m pretty sure this was my kids’ favourite thing we did in Athens.
These gardens turn into the National Gardens and neither one is all that manicured.
There is a playground, a duck pond, a zoo (but not really), a little cafe, and stone water troughs running through that my son couldn’t get enough of playing in.
It was cool under the cover of the vegetation, so we took our sweet time walking around and playing, took a break for lemonade and lunch at the cafe, and meandered some more.
It was a super relaxing and fun way to spend an afternoon.
When we finally made our way out of the gardens, we were right next to the Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
By chance, the Evzones performing the changing of the guard ceremony (which they do every half hour), so we snapped a few pics.
My kids ran after the pigeons, causing them to all fly around and annoy people, and then we hopped on the Metro back to Acropoli station to find some dinner near our Airbnb.
This is when jet lag hit us.
Our kids were both up at like 3am, raring to go.
Eventually they fell back asleep and we let them sleep in.
So, no Acropolis on this day either.
When everyone got up, we had coffee and breakfast at our place and took a relaxing stroll to the Acropolis Museum.
I love museums, so I’m a little biased.
But I love museums for the exact reason this one was so awesome.
It gave so much context to the ruins of the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Museum sits at the bottom of the Acropolis.
The walk through the museum mimics the walk up the the real Acropolis (which you can see through the floor to ceiling windows on all the floors of the museum).
The top floor is dedicated to the Parthenon, and is built to mirror (the angle is even the same) the Parthenon you can see in real life.
All the artifacts are laid out as they would have been on the Parthenon.
It’s really well done, and if you can convince your kids to go, it is a must.
The information desk can give you a little family treasure hunt package.
Also, don’t miss the LEGO replica of the Acropolis on the second floor.
Oh, and the cafe on the second floor serves good food actually, with clear views of the Acropolis.
The rest of the day we sampled as much gelato as we could (lemon sorbet is for sure the BEST) and walked around on the Grand Promenade and random streets of Athens, window shopping and lallygagging.
We all got up bright and early and headed to the Acropolis.
We entered off the Grand Promenade, right before the Acropolis Museum.
It was essentially empty.
The climb was doable for my kids, and afforded awesome views of Athens and the two theatres (Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Theatre of Dionysus).
Wildflowers were in bloom all over the ruins leading up the hill, and the vegetation was super green and showy.
The walk up was breathtaking.
Once we reached the top, it was as spectacular and covered in scaffolding as everyone says. Haha.
Oh, and really hot.
At 9 a.m. in May.
No but seriously; It’s pretty cool up there.
The logistics of the building and the quarrying and moving of the pentelic marble is awe inspiring in itself.
Then you layer on the significant culture and history that is symbolized by the Parthenon and the Acropolis.
So much of our modern life originated in Greece.
Not to mention the myths and traditions that almost everyone still knows or learns today.
Anyway, it was cool.
We spent about 20 minutes talking pictures and convincing our kids it was important and then headed back down.
At this point, the crowds were thick, and the walk down was hot and sweaty.
My kids were also completely done.
We took the short walk back to our Airbnb, grabbed lunch, gelato, and our swimsuits, and decided to hop in a cab for a short ride down to Lake Vouliagmeni.
It did not disappoint.
Beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, good pizza, and a lake for us to play in for 4 hours.
Another great way to spend the afternoon in Athens.
There is so much to see in Athens.
And it is really slow going with our kids.
By this point, we were starting to lose steam.
In retrospect, a cooking class or food tour would have made a great morning.
We took the metro to Monastiraki square, got some gelato (of course), walked through the streets, browsed in all the little shops and bought some trinkets.
Then we meandered over to the Ancient Agora.
The Agora itself is pretty much all in foundation only ruins, scattered between trees and wildflowers, except for the Temple of Hephaestus (5th C. BC) .
It was really cool thinking of this place being the heart of economics, democracy, and philosophical discourse for a thousand years, hosting people like St. Paul and Socrates.
But it didn’t hold my kids’ interest at all.
The rest of the day didn’t either.
I had really wanted to see the Plaka neighbourhood, beneath the Acropolis, so we ventured there next.
I can see how this neighbourhood would be really fun in summer, with the cute little cafes, all the seating on the stairs, and lots going on.
This day it was almost empty.
Honestly, none of us were in the mood for more sightseeing.
And since we had seen all of our top priority things (and were not inclined to coordinate anything else), we headed to the beach at Vouliagmeni (essentially across the street from the lake)
It was the first beach of our holiday and entirely what we needed.
We built sandcastles, drank lemonade, lounged by the water, ordered lunch AND dinner to our lounge chairs (which you need to pay for but is totally worth it), swam and floated in the sea, and had a great, super chill day.
We tried a lot of different food in Athens;
We bought ingredients at markets and made our own meals.
We ordered from beach side cafes and restaurants.
We ate at tavernas and one more expensive restaurant.
There is a lot of food that even young kids will likely eat in Athens.
Grilled chicken and pork, french fries, tomatoes, cucumbers, pizza, fruit salads, yogurt…
Even hamburgers if you really need them.
This is for sure one travel destination where you won’t have to worry about what your kids will eat.
This is not the itinerary I would have chosen, but sometimes you just need to be flexible.
It worked out great.
Like I said above, the only thing I might have changed was to sacrifice one or two days in Athens to pay for a food or cooking tour.
Otherwise, our time there was perfect.
Athens is a super cool city.
So packed full of myth, and history, and culture.
And totally chill about it.
There was so much more to see in and around Athens that we didn’t even touch (Kerameikos Cemetery, the National Archaeological Museum, Marathon, Delphi, Mount Olympus…), but I’m not convinced seeing those sights would have made our trip better.
Obviously this is super subjective, but we had such a good time taking it slow.
We bought fruit from the same fruit stand every morning.
We knew which restaurants (and gelato vendors) were better (and more fun) than the others.
The neighbourhood around our Airbnb and the Acropolis started feeling familiar to us and our kids were afforded way more freedom.
My kids became friends with the tenant that owned all the cats in our courtyard.
We settled into a bit of a routine.
And we cultivated an appreciated and admiration for one of the founding cities of Western culture.
For us, this is everything we had hoped Athens would be about.
Up next, Meteora.
Have you been to Athens? With Kids?
What do you love about it?