Thank you so much for returning to my blog despite my absence!
I will be doing separate travel blogs on each of my holiday destinations during my vacation in Greece! I travelled to Athens by a plane and then from Athens I went on ferries to ‘island-hop’ and explore some of Greece’s most beautiful and popular islands. I went to Naxos Island, which is great for families as it boasts numerous beaches and activities, and I also visited Santorini which is a renowned island for its stunning views and blue-domed churches.
You can read more about my experiences on the islands in my separate travel blogs which will be released soon or you can read about them in my blog which I wrote recently on ‘Instagram VS Reality’ where my views on Santorini are presented, due to my own perception of the island as well as what I had been expecting through photos on my home page on Instagram. If you are interested in reading this blog packed with information on: extreme tourism, climate change and the influence of social media then please click here.
My holiday started in Athens and I found that the break was a liberating experience for me and my family after not having been abroad in a year. I was fortunate enough to visit Athens and to also experience island-hopping first-hand by travelling ferry rides to Naxos Island and the famous Santorini. If you choose to read my travel blogs on each of the separate places I visited, I will be sharing my own experiences and opinions of them as well as some helpful tips for you. I was amazed by Athens, as I had never been to Greece before and it was not as I had expected. Bustling streets which are crammed with tourists and locals alike while wondering through the mazes of shops and flocking at ice cream doors. There were also so many more motorbikes than I had expected, which are popular with Greek citizens and tourists. But it was the sunsets and incredible views from my hotel which I was blown away by, and especially those of the Acropolis.
Although Athens was not as I had anticipated, as any big city is, surrounded by the safe enclosed valleys, secluding Athens from any other areas apart from rural land, the urban sprawl was not too surprising. The tourist attractions however, were mind-blowing and I was amazed by how early you have to get there to the Acropolis in the morning! I arrived in the Athens airport tired and hungry, my flight had been late in the evening and I had only eaten a sandwich for dinner. However, once the plane landed I was welcomed into Greece with an astonishingly radiant sunset and the humid heat. It was quite strange and contrasting to England as I stepped off the plane and was embraced by the summer evening heat and the glow of the sunset as the sun vanished behind the immense valleys. It was light still and the heat was quite surprising for me as in the UK the air is usually cool and it is not that sunny.
As I had never been to Greece before, I had never anticipated how disparate the climate would be from the UK and as it was almost 10 at night in Athens local time I had expected it would be dark already. However, I was in luck and the welcoming arrival off the plane was only the start of the sunshine and heat that was in store for my family. With 0% chance of rain according to my weather app throughout the duration of my holiday, Greece quickly became a firm favourite of mine, as so many holidays are ruined by disastrous storms or rain. I could only look back on the trip with happy memories.
As for me and for many others I am sure, weather has a huge impact on your impression of a place or your experiences, not only does it have an effect on your mood but it also can spoil holiday plans, meaning you may not be able to do the day trips you had arranged or the tourist attractions you had envisions of seeing for yourself.
For the first two days I spent in Athens, I stayed in the Electra Palace Hotel, an aimable and welcoming hotel which was suited for all my family’s needs. It was hard not to enjoy our time there due to the hospitable service, friendliness and efficiency of the staff. They acted professionally and we found that the hotel had a personal touch to its services. The amenities were incredible, such as the pools and the rooftop bar. The hotel was in the heart of the city and was a few blocks away from many of the main tourist attractions in Athens. I was impressed by the view of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar and despite the hotel being 5 ***** I thought the prices were justified by the stay that we had there, it was very enjoyable and the perfect hotel to stay in at Athens if you are ever planning a trip and want a small-scale hotel to stay in. We felt really safe there as we were surrounded by pleasant staff, who were all Greek, and predominantly most guests were too, as it was a secure set-up. How could I forget the complimentary breakfast! If you are early in the morning then you can receive any juices you desire or pastries, fruit salads, yoghurts, toast and even omelettes or scrambled eggs! The breakfasts are held in the rooftop bar where you can enjoy and admire the view of the Acropolis. The breakfasts saved my family a lot of money as by eating as much food as we wanted, we could then ensure that our lunch would onlybe minimal, such as sharing a few salads between us.
After my stay in Athens, my family and I departed from the docks to visit the islands. However, after four days in Santorini, we embarked on our 8 hour long ferry journey back to Athens. (A bit stupid really since Santorini has an airport and friends of ours had used the airport to go back and fro to London, as it flies internationally!) It would have been much more sensible to have booked flights from Santorini back home, as the ferry journeys overall equated to 16 hours of our time.
Despite this, I was glad I got to experience island-hopping by doing it traditionally! Once back in Athens, my family and I had arranged to stay in the Hilton. It was a large and luxurious hotel to stay in for our final day in Greece and after arriving there from an exhausting journey we were excited to go swimming in the 25 metre pool which the hotel boasts. It is the largest pool in Athens and it had appealed to us because of that. However, it was not that simple. On our arrival we received orange juice from a member of hotel staff but then realised it was because the computer check-in system was down. We were less than impressed, despite this, 20 minutes later it was working again. The pool was packed when we finally got there as we realised that it was open to the public. And when we wanted to go inside the Spa to discover the indoor pool we were frustrated that our cards did not work on the doors. The hotel was modernised and built differently to the Electra Palace.
Not only was it larger and much less ‘homely’ but it had been ‘Americanised’ which made sense since Hilton is an American hotel chain . We ate our dinner there and liked the burgers and sushi, although expensive, the meals were delicious. Personally, I had preferred my stay in Electra Palace as it was interesting to discover the traditions and understand the culture of Greece through a Greek hotel rather than staying in one where I did not feel like I was in Greece.
TripAdvisor was extremely useful and necessary when we had to decide where we would eat in Athens. There were so many tempting places to eat at and such healthy options. For my family, eating at an authentic Greek restaurant with traditional Greek cuisine was vital. We had our fair share of mediocre Moussakas and Greek salads throughout our holiday, however our favourite restaurant to eat at was called ‘Ergon’ in Athens. A short walk away from our Hotel, the Electra Palace, ‘Ergon’ offered high quality food for good prices and it is must visit for any food enthusiasts, you will not be disappointed! All the ingredients were fresh and beautifully prepared. My Greek salad had been homemade and as for my family’s meals they too looked like premium quality food which had been sourced from small, independent and organic establishments. The ambiance of the restaurant was homely, and the interior of the building was spacious and modern. If you are keen on visiting I would recommend booking as the restaurant is full during the evening and my family and I were fortunate to get a table.
We visited the ‘Avocado’ café twice and it was our favourite lunch spot. The café consisted of all vegetarian-vegan friendly options and the food was delicious! There were a range of international cuisines to choose from and all the ingredients there also appeared to be sourced locally and the meals were homemade. It had a nice set up and it was always busy! A very healthy and popular place to eat, just off the high street.
DAY 1 &2:
We woke up super early in Athens so we could eat our breakfast at the Electra Palace before setting off to explore the National Garden. We were able to explore the gardens and appreciate the tranquillity and peacefulness of the setting due to the fact there were hardly any tourists up so early. As the heat set in a few hours later, the trees and benches provided shelter from the sun and cool places to sit in the shade. We went to visit the Zappeion building which is used for meetings and ceremonies. It was really quiet, but pretty inside! I also found that it was a great photo spot opportunity! Additionally, it was free to walk in and look around, there wasn’t much to do there, but some days they hold exhibitions and events which you can attend.
We continued walking through the park (straight down) and came to a clearing where we found the temple of Olympian Zeus. It was very historical and impressive! It was roped off from the Public and through the bars surrounding the area I could see it quite clearly. It cost money to go and see the monument by entering the enclosed park area and so we decided it wasn’t worth the money! We got great views of the temple pillars from at the top of the Acropolis anyway! However, we made the mistake of not purchasing a ticket which (although it seems expensive) allows you to visit so many of the major tourist attractions! We figured that we would not be going to many of the attractions anyway and so we decided we wouldn’t buy it, but it was SO MUCH BETTER value than paying separately at each museum/ monument. It will save you so much money if you are planning on visiting a lot of the renowned sites as it is an all inclusive ticket which combines some of the attractions.
Later in the day, we visited the Panathenaic Stadium which was the first stadium in the world for the modern Olympic games. The Stadium is the only one across the globe made entirely of marble and in 1896 over 50,000 people went and sat there for the games! The museum is a lot better than most people believe. I am so glad my family bought the entry tickets as it is so much more than just a stadium! The museum includes audio guides to inform you on the history of the stadium, and this enables you to understand what you are looking at. It is extremely Instagram-worthy, with its incredible location, height and historical importance! I loved climbing up the steps, learning about the Olympics, seeing the King and Queen’s seats and even taking photos on the podium! Additionally, there was an interconnecting tunnel which was where the marathon runners would run down to signify the end of their race, onto the track and also where contestants in the Games would appear before their event to be applauded by the crowds. The tunnel was interesting and connected to a room full of all the historic Olympic torches, some dating back decades and decades! It was such an eye-opening museum and stadium which did not cost too much money! I really do recommend it.
The next day we got up really early to visit the Acropolis! The queues were already forming as we ascended on our walk up the hill to get to the ticket offices as we had not already bought our tickets. In hindsight, I wish we had arrived there earlier because we queued for AGES in the summer heat at around 10 in the morning. A lot of people visit the Acropolis/ Athens in Easter or Autumn as it is much cooler and there are hardly any tourists then. When we finally reached the top of the hill, we were amazed by the panoramic views of the city. There was so much to do, to take photos, to explore and view the impressive acropolis (although it was undergoing construction) and to read some of the history about it!
To finish our trip in Athens, we visited the Hellenic parliament which is the democratic building of parliament which represents citizens through an elected body of members of parliament. It was really busy when we arrived and we realised it was because it was the change over of the guards.
Overall, I loved my time in Athens and it was a privilege and pleasure to visit a city I had never been to before which is rich with history! I would really recommend planning a trip if you have never been before, as not only is it amazing to see monuments from before 1100 BC, but also it is great value for money and everything is either affordable or free, making it the best city to visit for a trip on a budget! Thank you for reading this post! If you are interested in reading about my trips to Naxos Island and Santorini Island then you can stay updated by following my Instagram @bethlucyblogs where I will share news on the upcoming blogs and where you can also see more photos from my travels. If you enjoyed reading this post then please share it or comment your own opinions on Greece! (Extra Note: I was not paid, gifted or asked to write reviews on the accommodation or restaurants. I chose to out of choice as I would love to pass on my recommendations. Additionally, the trip was not a ‘press trip’ or paid for me. It was my family summer holiday. This is the same across my whole trip regarding my visits to Naxos and Santorini too.)