We recently took a family trip to Greece to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. All we wanted was a beach, amazing food, and a relaxed environment for everyone to have fun in. So, originally, we planned on just flying straight to an island. The only reason we opted to fly into Athens first was because our seven year old is OBSESSED with greek mythology! It didn’t seem right to skip over the opportunity to experience Athens with him, when we knew it would be some time before we could travel to Greece again (we move from Europe back to the US in two weeks). Even still, we only had one full day to take in the sights, before heading to the gorgeous island of Paros for some much needed R&R.
We arrived at the Athens International Airport late Wednesday evening, and opted to transit into the city by metro, which took about 45 minutes. It was clean, inexpensive, and only crowded for the final few stops of the journey. If you have luggage and children, we recommend having one adult stay near the luggage rack while the other minds the kids. Pickpockets are likely to be on board as the train begins to fill up.
We stayed just a few streets away from the Acropolis in a gorgeous apartment (actually, two apartments, since my sister was with us). We used Booking.com and truly found a gem at a ridiculously affordable price. Score! We regretted not booking for a longer stay, honestly. We were surprised how quiet the building was, and we loved the open atrium for stargazing after the children went to sleep. Since we were traveling with kids, we appreciated being able to relax after-hours in the common area, while our little ones were safely snoozing in our rooms just steps away.
When we woke up Wednesday morning, we strolled to the main restaurant and shopping area surrounding the Acropolis. We popped into Fresko, a greek yogurt bar which way exceeded our expectations! Delicious, inexpensive, and an easy breakfast solution for families. Nearby is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and it is worth the small fee to walk in and marvel at the remaining original 16 columns of the structure, which originally had 104 colossal columns! One of the columns collapsed in 1852 by the force of a fierce wind! I love that it’s still on display.
Everything worth seeing in Athens is relatively close together, so it is possible to take in the city in one day. We compromised seeing everything, since we had four children with us, so we weren’t able to digest all that the city has on offer. Even still, we felt we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture enough to walk away with lasting memories and a greater understanding of greek history and mythology.
As you walk around the city, you’ll see many charming gift shops (like, SO MANY gift shops), so you may wish to hold off on impulse purchases in the first few stores you see. There will almost definitely be another one around the corner, selling the same thing at a better price and possibly even better quality. Lots of olive wood things for the kitchen, handmade leather sandals and bags, olive oils, crepe dresses, and many other beautiful local and regional items.
We truly were blown away by the ruins spread throughout the city, and it seemed to occupy the kids’ attention as we dragged them all over the place on a very hot day! They weren’t complaining about all the walking and uneven pavement, and I think we have the scenery to thank for that!
The Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill, is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis. It is worth climbing up and taking in the scenery and capturing some photos of the Acropolis and the surrounding temples and other ancient buildings. It is steep and, in my opinion, not suitable/safe for small children. I took my very cautious seven year old up, and he was fine. It scares me to even think about having my wild five year old up there!
Helpful things for families:
- An umbrella stroller is wise- You might not need it if your children are good with walking. We brought our umbrella stroller, and we did nap the younger two in it a couple times that day. I would strongly advise against a big stroller, due to the steep pathways and many staircases. We closed ours up and carried it several times.
- A baby carrier is smart for under-twos- I wore our *almost* one year old in a sling much of the time. I think it’s especially important if you are planning on visiting the high points, such as the Acropolis and Mars Hill.
- Visit the Acropolis after 5:00 PM- But keep in mind that it closes at 8:00. We overheard this advice in the Visitor Center (which has clean bathrooms, btw!). The sun is ridiculously hot until around 5:00, and the crowds are intense. Children will appreciate going later in the day, when it’s cooler and there’s more space for them to keep their footing.
- You have to check your stroller to visit the Parthenon- AND you will have to do that at the entrance on the northwest side, not the one at the bottom. We stood in line at the bottom entrance, only to be redirected to the other side. No big deal, but it would have been nice to know in advance.
- Beware of stray dogs and cats- There are stray dogs and cats all over the city. They didn’t bother us, but it is something to keep in mind if you think your children will be trying to pet every single one they see.
- There’s a bit of a garbage problem- Not a huge deal, but you will see random mounds of trash on the corners. Our son kept wanting to pick up litter he saw and throw it away (Boy Scout. Haha!), but there aren’t many waste cans around. It really bothered him!
- Toilet paper flushing is a no-no– Many of the sewage pipes in Greece are small and cannot handle toilet paper, so they get clogged easily. You will see signs in the restrooms asking you to dispose of toilet paper in the small wastebasket next to the toilet. Even seeing the signs, it’s easy to forget out of habit! I thought it would be worth mentioning to give you a heads up!
- You don’t need carseats- Unless you are renting a car and, honestly, you can almost certainly just get them from the rental company if you do. When we rode in taxis, we all just piled in. It’s a different way of doing things! Like I said in the Paros post, good luck getting a cab driver to wait for you to install your carseats.
We loved Athens, and we know you will, too! The city offers something for everyone, and the Athens natives are warm and welcoming to families. We hope you found this post helpful!
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More photos and details about our time in Athens on our Instagram handle @funfamilywanderings