Disclaimer: I grew up in Athens so some of the things that we did and saw are more from the eyes of a somewhat local than they are from the eyes of a tourist. I believe that if you’re in Athens for 2 days, you can take in a lot of what the city has to offer – especially in terms of its history.
We were in Athens for 2 and a half days and we were able to see a lot of the main touristic spots as well as take a little walk down memory lane for me. If you read the blog post Planning a 3 week European Honeymoon, it explains a little bit more why this city means so much to me.
The main core of Athens is all within a walking distance of each other so if you give yourself a full day, you are able to see a lot.
1. Change of the Guards at the Parliament
There are guards that protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial that is located at the Parliament building in Athens. These guards are called Evzones and they were an elite infantry of the Greek Army however now they are part of the Presidential Guards. Their uniforms represents the uniforms of the guards that fought against the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
While standing at their post, the guards are not allowed to move or show any expression in the face. Their shifts are about an hour long and at the top of the hour, there is a ceremonial change as the new guards take their place.
This is quite the ceremony to see daily however on Sundays at 11am in the morning, this is where you have the official ceremony for the change of the guards. There is a parade that happens and the guards are accompanied by a marching band.
I would say make sure you look at the Calendar of Athens before going cause if there is an event before the parliament – like there was when we got there – the official ceremony might be smaller.
This happens at Syntagma Square in Athens. The best way to get there is via the metro. There is a station that is called Syntagma, once you get off the train station – the Parliament building will be behind you.
You are able to watch the Guards march from their garrison to the Parliament building. To do so, you will have to walk behind the Parliament building(circled in red on the map below) and turn right on Irodou Attikou to the where it says presidential guard.
2. Walk through the National Garden
This is a public park that is located right next to the Parliament building. It is about 38 acres of land that contains various plants that are native to Greece as well as some beautiful walking paths, fountains, and playgrounds for kids. It is between the Parliament building and the Presidential mansion while also being a walking distance to the Panathenaic Stadium – more on that below.
3. See the Panathenaic Stadium aka Kallimarmaro
The Panathenaic stadium, also known as Kallimarmaro (meaning beautiful marble) is a multi purpose stadium that was also the sight of the first modern Olympic Games. Today it is used as the end of the Athens Classic Marathon, it is the last venue where the Olympic flame handover ceremony happens, and it was used for some events in the 2004 Olympics. If you are a fan of sports and/or the Olympics are we are – getting to run on the make shift track they have or walk up the marble steps to the top the stadium were quite the feat. At the end, you can take pictures on the podium that have been set in the middle of the stadium.
We had to buy tickets to get in – they were € 5/person
4. The Acropolis Museum
After a stop for lunch, we made our way to the Acropolis museum. Before getting to Athens, we bought a package that included tickets to the Acropolis Museum, the Agora, Hadrian’s Library, and of course the Acropolis. This was through GetYouGuide.com – we had 5 days to see each of the archaeological sites that we wanted to after the ticket had been activated. We bought their audioguide as well but were were less than impressed with it as the directions where very unclear. If you would like a guide – I’d recommend joining a group or getting a private one
Now back to what you’re actually here for, the Acropolis museum is a great place to see all the artifacts that were found around Athens whether it was while they were building the subway system or actual archaeological sites. You get to find out about the building of the Parthenon and the traditions of ancient Greeks. If you are a fan of ancient history – this is definitely a stop before going to see the Parthenon. You’ll understand so much more about how to look at the building and its purpose in relation to the city of Athens and Greece in general.
It was quite the busy day as we also made time for dinner with family but in total we walked about 30,000 steps that day – which didn’t feel like it as there was so much more to see.
That’s why we spent the second day exploring the rest.