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  • Janis Nunez

Greece Part 1: Athens, Corinth Canal, and Ancient Nemea

Updated: Jul 1, 2023


Our family traveled to Greece in June. Definitely dress for the heat and keep water with you since you will be doing a lot of walking and exploring. We were in awe of the beauty of this country as well as the incredible food. It's really one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. We spent three days in Athens, stopped at the Corinth Canal, Ancient Nemea, a winery in Nemea, Ancient Mycenae, and then spent three days in Nafplio.


BEFORE YOU GO


ADAPTER: You will need an adapter for your electronics. I got these on amazon: ADAPTER. If your items do not have Worldwide Voltage, you will also need a converter. I give tips on my Planning Your Vacation blog post.


PHONE: Contact your cell phone provider to see what is included. T-Mobile gives unlimited data and texting, but charges $0.25 per minute for calls. I have read other companies require you to get a European SIM card to use your phone, so just contact your provider to find out before you leave.


INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE: If you plan on renting a car in Greece, you will need an international driver's license. You cannot rent a car without it. Contact AAA to get one before you leave. It costs around $20, and then just keep it with your passport. Whatever you do, DO NOT FORGET IT. They will not accept a copy of it, even from AAA. They have to have the original document.


I mention this because my husband forgot his at home. We were still able to do most of what we wanted to do, including get to our second Airbnb in Nafplio with sightseeing along the way. A hired driver for the day costs around €300. Worth every penny if you plan to explore. You can also take a bus for much cheaper and go with the tour guides to and from Athens to different destinations, but we like to explore on our own without the crowds.


CONTACT YOUR BANK AND CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: It's important to let the bank know when you will be out of town so that you won't have any problems withdrawing your money when you get to your destination. Also notify your credit card company of the travel dates.


AUDIO TOURS: We enjoy exploring on our own, so we always look for audio tours that we can do on our own to get information about what we are seeing. We use Rick Steve's travel books and download the audio tours he provides. He has several walking tours as well with printable maps that are very helpful. Download them before you go. RICK'S AUDIO TOURS FOR EUROPE.


WHERE TO STAY: This really depends on your plans. We tend to book places for our family through Airbnb. We have had some really amazing places to stay over the years. I always book with a Superhost and read the comments people have provided. Depending on if we will be using the metro, car or walking on foot also has an impact on where we stay.


Athens: In Athens we decided on a place right in the middle of it all. It's nice to walk out the door and have everything in walking distance. We chose a one-bedroom apartment with a foldout sofa bed for the boys. Extremely convenient to getting everywhere on foot. The kitchen was tiny, but we really only used it to keep water bottles cold. You can drink the water from the faucet in Athens. So, refill if you need to. But honestly, they only charge 50 cents for water everywhere you go, so if you don't feel like lugging it you don't need to.



I also like to see if there are places to eat within walking distance of where we are staying. A grocery store is always helpful, but a nice cafe is also nice to do a quick grab and go before you start your day. We were lucky that this apartment was above a bakery, and also had several restaurant options just outside our door.


There is a price for convenience sometimes though. You may be near a bar that has loud customers or music. For this reason we always take ear plugs. Let's be honest, sometimes you need them for your own family's snoring. Either way, take them just in case. We had one night here where the music was loud, but it seemed to only bother me.


Nafplio: Our second Airbnb was in Nafplio. We chose to stay just outside the old town (about a 10–15-minute walk) and absolutely loved our place. It was located right next to a small grocery store as well, so we could pick up any necessities along the way. We also had a view of two of the castles from our balconies, along with a sea view. This place was three levels and amazing.



Many times, when we stay at Airbnbs the host provides some food in the kitchen, or other items you may need for the area. Many provide local maps. This place provided a full pantry and cases of water; as well as a homemade cheesecake and freshly squeezed lemon juice bottled for fresh lemonade. If you are weary toward trying Airbnb, do your research and give it a try. We have stayed at some amazing places. If you try it, you can use my link for a discount Airbnb.


WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT ATHENS AIRPORT


CURRENCY: I always take money out at a local ATM. I find this the easiest, and there are always ATMs scattered throughout the airport and neighborhoods. Be sure you contact your bank before you leave with your travel dates, so that you don't have any issues withdrawing your money.


TRANSPORTATION: You can either rent a car, take the metro, or grab a cab to get from the airport to the city center. You do not need a car in Athens. You can use the metro if you plan to venture to areas outside of the city, and there are buses that take tourists to other destinations frequently.


We chose to take a cab from the airport to our Airbnb when we discovered we weren't able to rent a car. It cost us €40. Our Airbnb host was able to arrange this for us so that we didn't have to figure it out. If you do rent a car, you will need to find a parking garage to store it if your Airbnb does not have free parking. I believe most garages were €20/day. Also, Greece does not use Uber, so if you request an Uber, you will get a taxi. Just FYI.


ONE MORE THING: In Greece you cannot throw any paper into the toilet, this includes toilet paper. All paper goes into the provided garbage can near the toilet. Just a heads up before you get there and freak out.


SIGHTSEEING


Day 1: When we got to our Airbnb it was prior to check-in, but she allowed us to drop off our luggage so that we could go out and start to explore Athens. We stayed very close to Syntagma Square and started there. The first thing we noticed was the marble streets, steps and walkways. You definitely want to have shoes with some traction. I wore my usual sketchers joy slip-on walking shoes like I have on all of our trips that we plan to walk a lot, and I was sliding. Also, leave your heels at home. With the cobblestone streets I cannot tell you the number of young girls trying to walk on them and not succeeding.



You definitely want to explore the old neighborhood Anafiotika within Athens. The small pathways and homes built within the mountain are still used today by locals. It's amazing to walk through those tiny streets and head to the top of the neighborhood where you will see the church and get a beautiful view of Mount Lycabettus.



If you are into street art, there's tons in Athens. Some are amazing and some just look like ugly graffiti tags. Unfortunately, they are usually mixed together, so you take in the good with the bad. My husband loves it, so we always have some shots to share.



Tons of locals and tourists head to Mars Hill to watch the sunset. It's got great views and is an easy climb up the stairs. It will be crowded, but the panoramic views are so worth it. You can get a good photo of the Acropolis, Mount Lycabettus, Ancient Agora, and the beautiful city of Athens from here. Definitely a must do in Athens.



Find a great spot to share plates for dinner with live music. We stopped at a restaurant on our way home from Mars Hill in Plaka and enjoyed our evening. The food, the music, the atmosphere, and the drinks were all part of an amazing first day.


Day 2: We started our day at Fresko Yogurt Bar and enjoyed an espresso with a classic Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. So delicious. Then it was off to the Arch of Hadrian and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. At the temple entrance we purchased Athens Combo tickets (€30/person). These tickets get you into a number of sites and are good for 5 days.


Many museums and attractions are free for anyone under 18, so although you don't have to pay you need to let them know so your child has a physical ticket to get into the sites. Another tip that I read online was to go to a less crowded attraction to purchase the combo tickets so you don't have to wait in the huge line at the Acropolis. There was no line when we went, so it saved us time for sure.


The Temple of Olympian Zeus is an amazing area to see. It is right next to the Arch of Hadrian, and across from the yogurt place. We took some amazing shots there. And most places you go in Athens you are able to see the Acropolis, so you can get a good shot of it from anywhere.


There is a place to fill up your water bottle before you head to the top of the Acropolis. We had the passes to get in, but you do still have to wait in line to get it scanned. It didn't take long. There are a LOT of people here, but once you get in and walk around you can get a good look and take some great photos. It's breathtaking. We also used our Rick Steves audio tour here to get more information about the buildings. At the bottom when you leave there is a concession stand to get a frozen lemonade or another drink, and we appreciated this on such a hot day.



To cool off we stopped at the Acropolis Museum. You cannot use your pass here, but it's definitely worth a stop. You get a chance to see what it all looked like and see some of the pieces up close from the Acropolis. Adult tickets cost €10, and those under 18 or are students get a reduced ticket at €5. We paid €30 for 2 adults, 18 and 14 year old.



Stop in the museum cafe. The view is unbelievable. We got some water and espresso before heading off to our next site.



My son found this amazing gyro place close to our apartment. Delicious, fast and only €1.90! It's just off of the pedestrian walkway in Plaka. It's called O Gyros pou Girevis. They have more then gyros, but honestly it's the cheapest meal you're going to get anywhere. And tasty! With hungry boys it's always nice to find a place like this!



Next, we stopped at the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds (included in the combo ticket). It's a quick stop and you can go into the tower to have a look around.



Our next stop was the Ancient Agora (included in the combo ticket). Beautiful grounds to walk. You can use the Rick Steves audio tour to learn more about what went on here. Absolutely stunning. There is a church in the back that you can go into as well as a museum.



Then on to dinner and dessert. Our boys loved trying various gyros all over the city. Who am I kidding, my husband and I were hooked as well. Then we went to get Lucumades and ice cream for dessert. I got the traditional Lucumades with honey and walnuts. There are several kinds to try and I regret not going back to try more. The photo is taken AFTER we ate the top layer of treats! You can definitely share this dessert.



Be sure to go and explore all of the sites at night. The lighted ruins take on a whole new vibe and it's just stunning. Not to mention the summer heat is less intense without the sun beating on you. There are tons of people out and about in the evening so don't miss out on the nightlife.



Day 3: We slept in a little and then headed to the Central Market to look around and explore the surrounding area. The central market has fresh fish and all sorts of other animals skinned and ready for purchase. It's definitely an experience. There is a cafe inside of the market to get a bite, but really the stench of the place is a bit of a turn off. We chose to walk around the area and look at the shops selling vegetables, spices, nuts, dried fruit, and delicious meats and cheese.



Right around the corner is Mokka, where they do coffee the traditional way. When we asked what the difference was between Turkish and Greek coffee, he told us it just depends on where you are...Turkey or Greece. Hilarious. Basically they put the grounds in the copper vessels and add water, then heat in hot sand. You pour it into your cup and wait for the grounds to settle to the bottom. It's an acquired taste, I think. We liked the experience, but stuck to espressos the rest of the trip.



We headed over for lunch at Lefteris o Politis for the spicy souvlaki. What a treat! We loved it and it's right around the corner from the Central Market.



And then over to Stani for dessert, which is well known for its sheep milk yogurt. We got an espresso, chocolate cake and yogurt. There is definitely a different flavor to this yogurt, but I do love the honey and nut topping.



After that we headed over to the National Gardens. There are lots of paths to walk through and even some animals you can feed in the center. There is also a cafe in the center. It's a beautiful walk, and a must do when in Athens.



We walked out one end of the gardens to where the guards are standing at attention. It's a cool thing to see if you happen to miss the changing of the guards at Syntagma Square.



My husband is always on the lookout for local beer, if it's craft beer it's even better. This Brewery was a great find on our way back to the apartment. You will be surprised at how a street can look like there's not much going on and then turn into lots of cafes and restaurants.


Back at the Airbnb we let the kids hang out in the air conditioning and grabbed a table downstairs at one of the restaurants for a drink and some adult time. My husband got a Greek sparkling white, and I got a prosecco. Ever since visiting Italy I've been hooked. So refreshing on a hot day.



We walked a ton that day. Boys wanted to finish the day with some bubble waffle cones and ice cream. So nice to grab and go, so you can continue to explore the city at night. This place was called Kayak. I believe its an ice cream chain there.