PIRAEUS, GREECE (28 SEP 2015)
FREE AND EASY ATHENS IN 1 DAY
One day after leaving Kuşadası, Peace Boat arrived at Piraeus! Wait, isn’t this about Athens? Where is Piraeus?
About 10 km from Athens, Piraeus has been the port of Athens since classical times. It is the biggest port in Greece and one of the busiest in the Mediterranean. Most cruise ships will docked at Piraeus and tourists will head to Athens, the heart of Classical Greece and birthplace of Western civilization.
We booked a private tour and guide so we could conveniently visit the highlights of Athens in comfort. Unfortunately, we waited for about an hour at the port and the private guide did not appear. I guess it was a blessing in disguise because we saved money as we explored a “free and easy” Athens leisurely without paying for a guide.
Our first stop of the day was the Acropolis. It was quite easy to get to the ancient citadel from the port. We walked for about 20 minutes to the metro station (some people took a bus). Then we took the metro for about 20 minutes to Akropoli station (with a transfer at Omonia station). It was a short walk to Acropolis from the station.
In less than an hour, we arrived at one of the most recognizable historical monuments in the world – the Acropolis. Obviously we were not the only ones excited and willing to pay 20 euros to visit the “Sacred Rock” of Athen as we were greeted by long lines at the ticketing booth.
The word Acropolis comes from the Greek word “akron” (ἄκρον) which means highest point and “polis” (πόλις) which means city. A symbol of the city, the Acropolis the apotheosis of ancient Greek architecture. The Acropolis site is crowned with masterpieces of Greek Classical art and architecture like the Parthenon. The iconic temple was dedicated to Goddess Athena, who is the patron deity of the city.
I was in “awe” of the Parthenon as well as the floods of people trying to get the perfect shot of themselves and whatever is left standing of the ancient Greek building.
We spent almost half a day in Acropolis and saw other monuments like the Erechtheion, Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion).
After a nice lunch and lots of wine at the cosy tavern in Plaka, we explored the Temple of Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium. Constructed in the 4th century BC, Panathenaic Stadium hosted many important events like first modern Olympics in 1896 and Athens Olympics Games in 2004. It costs 3 euros to enter the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
We ended our day in Athens with a 200 metres running competition and a gelato reward before heading back to Peace Boat. It is amazing how we could just simply walk to so many historical sites around the Acropolis area in Athens.
Some people asked me if it is dangerous travelling in Greece because of its debt crisis. Since I visited only the tourist spots like Santorini and Athens, my experiences in Greece were rather “sanitized” and “sheltered”. When I was researching about the Panathenaic Stadium, I found photographs of abandoned venues of the Athens Olympics 2004. In recent years, some of the venues are given a new life and used to house refugees. While I enjoy watching the Olympics games, I can’t help but wonder how much money and resources are wasted for the past and future quadrennial mega sporting event.
- Acropolis can take a half a day easily if you like to explore most of the sites. Visit in the early morning to beat the crowds (many big tour groups).
- If you arrive early, the line for the tickets will be shorter. We queued for about 15-20 mins for our tickets. Tickets are sold at the two gates to the Acropolis. If you reach the site via metro, the ticket booth is across from the Acropolis Museum. If you walk to the Acropolis from Monastiraki or Thesion metro stations, the e ticket booth is at the end of your walk right next to the gift shop.
- Tickets to the Acropolis cost 12 Euro each and allow entrance to all the major monuments of Athens that you can visit on foot. The ticket is valid for entry in: Ancient Agora, South slope of the Acropolis (Theater of Dionysos), North slope of the Acropolis, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Hadrian’s Library.
- Wear good shoes as the grounds are vast and you will walk a lot!
- Apply sunblock, wear sunglasses/hat and bring a bottle of water as the grounds are not sheltered.