Here we are one month after returning from our honeymoon in Greece and I am finally getting around to tell you guys about it! As you know, life has been a tad bit crazy for us with our cross-country move last month, but I was able to go through and edit all of our honeymoon photos this weekend so I feel much more caught up.
I brought my DSLR camera with us on our honeymoon, but I ended up leaving it in the room for the majority of our vacation for two reasons. #1: It was really hot in Greece in September, and lugging a heavy camera around just wasn’t very comfortable. And #2: I consciously tried to be fully present throughout our honeymoon, and sometimes spending time setting up the “perfect” shot prevents you from doing that, you know? It was a lot easier to keep my iPhone in my small cross-body purse and pull it out quickly if I wanted to capture something. So that was my long way of explaining why the majority of the photos that I’m going to share from our honeymoon actually came from my phone (although I am wishing the iPhone X was out at that time…have you seen that picture quality!?).
You may want to know: how did we select Greece as our honeymoon destination? Travis and I both always wanted to go to Greece, so we considered it along with Southern Italy for our honeymoon. We wanted a honeymoon that included delicious food and wine (duh!), and a mix of sightseeing and beaches. In the end, we selected Greece because we found a ridiculous flight deal that we could not pass up. Normally, Travis and I spend a long time researching our future vacation destinations, but when we were alerted to the flight deal, we ended up booking our flights to Greece that same night! It was pretty spontaneous and out of the norm for us, but with roundtrip flights to and from Athens for less than $500 per person, we knew we’d have a good amount of flexibility in our budget for hotels, activities, and meals.
Per the suggestion of a few of our friends, we only spent two days at the beginning of our trip in Athens, and allocated our remaining time to the Greek islands. To keep things organized (and to prevent this from being 50,000 words), I’ve decided to break up my honeymoon recap into three posts: Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. So in today’s post I’ll share highlights from our brief time in Athens including where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate. If you’re also planning a honeymoon in Athens (or Mykonos and Santorini) I hope you’ll find these posts helpful, and feel free to reach out to me with additional questions.
Where We Stayed:
We stayed at the Amalia Hotel in Syntagma Square for three nights. We booked the hotel because it is located right in the heart of Athens, and it’s walkable from all of the main tourist sites and many fantastic restaurants. We were welcomed to our room with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and fruit platter, which was very appreciated after a long day of traveling. The hotel and guests rooms are modest in appearance, but very comfortable. We had no problem falling asleep in our queen-sized bed at night and greatly enjoyed the view of the National Garden from our balcony.
Like most hotels in Greece, the Amalia offers a complimentary breakfast buffet. Given that the breakfast was included in the room rate, our expectations of it were fairly low, but we ended up being pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. There were so many different selections of bread, eggs, breakfast pastries, cereals, jams, and more. It was so helpful to be able to fill up with a hearty breakfast and plenty of coffee before sightseeing both days.
If you’re looking for a well-located and reasonably priced hotel in Athens, I highly recommend the Amalia Hotel. All of the activities and restaurants that I mention below were walkable from the hotel, and the only time we took a cab was to travel to and from the Athens airport.
What We Did:
The Panathenaic Stadium is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Athens. It was built in 330 B.C. for the Panathenaic games, and it is the only stadium in the world made entirely out of marble! It was refurbished in the late 1800’s and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896!
We loved climbing our way to the very top of the stadium because the view looking down was incredible. Make sure to take the free audio guide tour because there aren’t many signs within the stadium, so the audio guide explains everything you see along the way. If you’re feeling up for it, you can even run a lap or two around the track (seriously, you can!).
Pro tip: Wear shoes with good traction and be EXTRA careful if you’re visiting after a rainfall. The marble steps are extremely slippery, and I took a tumble down some steps even wearing sneakers.
The Acropolis is an ancient fortified area located on top of a rocky hill in Athens. It contains many historically significant buildings, the most famous of which is the Parthenon. Visiting the Acropolis was a must-do on our list, and it was amazing to finally see it in person. I tried to remember everything I could from my 7th grade ancient history lessons, but I honestly wished that I’d done a little refresher before visiting. There are many guided tours available, which we likely would have done if we had more time.
Depending on what time of year you go, the Acropolis can get very hot, so make sure you wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Also, you’ll be walking up rocky, steep hills throughout your tour, so I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to wear sneakers or hiking shoes.
Our hotel was located just a short three minute walk away from the National Garden, so we spent our second morning wandering through its beautiful maze-like twists and turns. You really can’t take a wrong turn in the National Garden because every corner has something new to explore, and there are so many amazing photo-ops. There is even a small zoo inside, which is great if you’re traveling with kids.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus was an ancient Greek Temple dedicated to Zeus. Construction of the temple began in 470 BCE and what we are standing in front of in the photo above still exists today. You really have to visit in person to understand how incredible (and enormous!!) this temple is. Our Acropolis tickets included entrance to this site, but I’d say you don’t need more than 20 minutes here.
Where We Ate:
Ergon was an adorable outdoor café located down the street from our hotel, and the meal we had there our first night really hit the spot after 14+ hours of traveling! We devoured every slice of bread in that bread basket with a variety of Greek dips, and we shared a small grilled whole fish for our entrée. The flavors were simple, yet totally authentic.
Mono was one of our favorite meals of our entire honeymoon. When we made our 7PM reservation, we felt lucky to get a good time slot considering how popular we’d heard the restaurant was. It turns out that NO ONE in Athens eats as “early” as 7PM, so we had the place to ourselves for our whole meal. Needless to say, we had fantastic service given that we were their only customers, ha!
For our meal we shared an amazing Peloponnesian white wine, a Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, homemade croutons and balsamic, and moussaka for our entrée. We were very impressed by both dishes, and no bite was left untouched.
Avocado is a vegetarian café located right outside of Syntagma Square. The menu has an emphasis on clean, healthy, plant-based dishes, and reminded me of something I would see in Los Angeles. Travis and I shared a fresh-pressed green juice, (a giant serving of) avocado hummus and pita, and a salad. The menu is pretty extensive, so if we were staying longer I would have liked to try more of it.
We went to Athinaikon on our last night in Athens, after window shopping at the hundreds of stores in Syntagma Square. For our meal we shared a whole fish, grilled vegetables and the house white wine. One thing we noticed throughout our time in Greece is that the house wine at most restaurants is very good! It’s served in a carafe and usually offered in a 500ml portion, which is about 2/3 a full bottle of wine. It’s a great option if you don’t want a full bottle and don’t want to spend a lot of money. For the most part, we found that a 500ml carafe of house wine was only around 5 to 6 euros (about $7 USD)!