You heard it right! Last month I got the call from crew scheduling I had been DYING for, and I got to work to Athens (one of the most senior of trips). Since I unwillingly spent my first day catching up on sleep, I had to make up for lost time. Below I account how I took on this great city in under 3 hours!
To begin I should be straightforward and say that I naturally woke up at 3:00am. Flight attendants are certainly not immune to the strains of jet lag. I had to be downstairs at 10:00am to fly back to New York, so to make this layover count, I would have to act fast.
First, I was staying at a hotel in the Kolonaki neighborhood of Athens, which is fairly central. From the airport, you can get to this area via metro train (M3>M2 to be exact).
I made my way outside as the sun rose at 6:30am. Even though Athens is notoriously hot in the summers, it was lovely walking around so early in the day. I’m big at walking when I travel for peak immersion, so I first made way the National Garden. The area is canopied with trees, and makes a lovely walk. On the way I passed by a few joggers, several ponds and plenty of beautiful flowers. One thing that stood out was these bright green birds (pictured below) that would disappear into the trees with their color.
The paths were winding, and I had to reference my map several times to make sure I was still moving south. It was a great start to the day, such a refresh for the soul. I walked across a street to the Zappeion, which is a beautiful yellow building that functions as an event space and conference center. As I walked around, I noticed a small green ball on the ground in front of me. Always curious, I bent down to pick it up, and realized it was a small lime! The side of this building is lined with lime trees that have a citrus aroma, so I picked a few for later on.
I continued south, and directly across the street rested the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Visiting hours don’t start until 8:00am in the summer, so I was disappointed when I couldn’t get a clear view outside the fence right away. However, once I continued around the corner to the north west side of the temple, I was able to get this clear shot and take in the magnificence. Right next to this stands the Arch of Hadrian as well, a Roman triumphal arch.
After a few minutes of letting my childhood obsession with Greek mythology simmer, I made my way past the arch across the street and toward the Acropolis. This ancient temple monument is the most notable tourist spot for Athens, and definitely a must no matter how short your visit.
Still grateful for the cool breeze, I made my way up the hill to the entrance. The timing worked perfectly to arrive at 8:00am when they opened. Although I was there early, I still had to stand in a line of about 30 people to get my ticket (€20, €10 with a student ID). I would definitely recommend on any trip you take to Athens to get to the Acropolis first thing in the morning. I was there for only about 45 minutes, and by the time I left it had already started getting crowded.
With good reason. My first stop to the right after you enter was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which is an astounding stone theater (still used today!). If you look up to the green hill top behind it, you can also see the Monument of Philopappos standing tall, dedicated to a prince from the Kingdom of Commagene.
After taking this in, I continued to the left through the Propylaea, or the gateway entrance to the Acropolis.
Straight ahead standing boldly was the infamous Parthenon. This ancient temple was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of war and patron to Athens. This spot is the the star of the show, and a worthy justification for the trek. Insert jaw drop, followed by a photo op.
Directly north of the Parthenon is the Erechtheion, another iconic temple. This one is characteristically represented by its 6 caryatid pillars (marble statues of female warriors on the right).
But beyond these ancient structures, the best part of the Acropolis is the view. From every direction you can see all corners of the city, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. I may only have 3 hours to spare then, but I’ll certainly be back for more.
A couple added notes on the Acropolis: Wear comfortable shoes that have a grip (the stone is slippery in spots), and ask for the lift if you have trouble walking up and down a lot of steps!
Making your way out of the Acropolis is a lot easier with the tread downhill. With time for only one more stop, I made my way to Plaka, a popular historical neighborhood in Athens. It was so quaint with it’s small winding passages and shops, many of which were just opening for the day. I wandered around for a bit (wishing I had more time!), and stopped by a souvenir shop before I caught a ride back (only about €3 for 3km in an Uber).
30 minutes later, I was dressed and ready to fly back to the States. I will admit that it was a tired flight home, but if I can take on Athens in a few hours and work back, you can certainly take advantage of your layover too! Here’s to more adventures, no matter how short!