Athens, Greece, was a port of call on our 12-day Mediterranean Cruise. Here is what we did with (unfortunately) just one day in Athens.
I must say, I was a little nervous about this port for many reasons: 1) it was our first port on our cruise in a foreign country 2) recent political/economical unrest 3) pick-pocketers 4) taking the metro and 5) the heat, but it turned out to be the most wonderful day!
We were planning to share a cab with Jenn and Nish from the port to the metro station. There were tons of cabs right outside the cruise terminal trying to sell us on all-day tours. We decided we’d be willing to skip the metro and go straight to Acropolis for €20, when we came across a driver who said he would do that. He started to tell us for €10 more per person he’d take us all over Athens and get us back to the ship on time. At first, we almost passed on his offer, but then decided it wasn’t such a bad deal and in fact, it turned out to be an incredible deal!
For €20 per person (including the €5 back to the port) from 7 AM to 2:30 PM, we had a personal tour guide in Athens who took us to places we wouldn’t have seen if we tried to navigate the city on our own.
Of course, our first stop was the Acropolis.We beat the crowds for sure! They started showing up in hordes as we were making our descent.
We entered the Acropolis through Propylaea, where after a few minutes what appeared to be teen/young adults in military training came down the stairs with guns and all.
Fascinating, but a little scary.
We also saw the Theatre of Herodes, the Parthenon, and Erecthum (with the ‘Porch of the Maidens’; pictured below).
Mike, our taxi driver, came back an hour and a half after dropping us off, just as he said he would, and took us to Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus.
He stopped on the way and picked us up some Fanta and beers – no charge!
This guy was awesome!
Next, he took us to Syntagma Square (Constitution Square) just in time for the changing of the guard.
Those guys wear unique outfits with poofs on their shoes and they march in a very interesting fashion (think Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks).
Next, Mike drove us up to Mount Lycabettus, which provided us with incredible panoramic views of Athens.
Then it was off to Panathenaiko Stadium (the only stadium in the world built completely from marble).
Finally, it was time for lunch! Mike dropped us off near the Plaka and Monastiraki Square.
We grabbed a traditional Greek lunch, consisting of feta and pita bread, kebabs and other local cuisine.
Of course we had to try some ouzo (a potent licorice flavored liqueur). We drank it straight and it was strong! Mike informed us later that we were supposed to mix it with ice and water; we just told him we were trying to be hard-core!
After lunch, we wandered through the Athens Flea Market and Plaka. We bought a beautifully painted ceramic bowl as our souvenir from Athens, along with our traditional magnet.
By this time, we had seen everything we wanted to see in Athens. Our experience with Mike was nothing but pleasant and we couldn’t believe the deal we got with him! Shame on us for being skeptical and thinking he was out to take advantage of us. He genuinely wanted to show us around the city and give us a little culture. (One funny thing I must mention: Although we trusted Mike and believed he was a genuinely nice guy, we had one scary moment where he stopped the car, turned off the engine and used the key to open the glove box., and I thought “oh god, this is it… Mr. Nice Guy is no more, he’s going to pull out a gun and demand all of our money”, but no… he was just reaching into the glove box for connector cable because he wanted to play us a video of his band on his phone and play the music through the speakers of the car; he’s the drummer in a band! We all breathed a sigh of relief and rocked out to his music all the way back to our ship.)
Our last stop before the cruise terminal was the most amazing sweet shop ever!
We loaded up on baklava (honey soaked pastries) and watched and drooled as the workers made pastries right in front of our eyes.
Mike assured us that they were the best baklava in all of Athens. (We devoured them when we got back on the boat and they were incredible, as was our entire day in Athens!)
Thank you Mike!
Want to keep exploring?
You can check out the other Mediterranean cruise ports we visited on our 12 day adventure!