I was in Athens during late November 2012, on my way back from visiting my parents near Thessaloniki and Serres in the North of Greece. The overnight train was pretty cheap and relatively clean and quiet. I arrived at Athens Larissa central station at 5am and had several hours to kill before my evening flight back to Edinburgh. I waited at the station till daylight (around 7.30am) before walking to the centre, but I wouldn’t recommend their toilets. There were a lot of smokers on the platform, but none in the waiting room.
The walk from the station to the very central Omonia (harmony) Square took about 30min through a pretty built-up area. But, as it was Sunday morning, the traffic was quite light. The square is surrounded by a mixture of old, preserved buildings and a few modern ones, some of which are hotels. The traffic can be quite dense, but it’s a great central point to other parts of Athens. I opted to head in the direction of Monastiraki for its famous flea market, which also leads to the ancient centre of Athens and to Acropolis.
The walk to the flea market took me past the civic centre (Thimarhion), opposite which is a newly excavated antiquities area from the 3/4th century AD and some of the most beautiful old buidings in Athens, currently occupied by the central bank.
The flea market itself is a chaotic, colourful experience and you can buy almost anything, from tradtitional furniture and clothes to rare records and cigarette lighters. It can get quite busy, so watch out for pickpockets.
At market’s end is the beginning of the Antiquities region, with places like the old Roman Agora (market) and the 132 AD Hadrian’s Library forming the foot of the hill on top of which sits the Acropolis and the Senate (Arios Pagos).
The walk up to the Acropolis is pretty steep but relatively short and there is an almost circular walk after the scenic tavernas and before the ancient ruins near the top. Place names like Theory Street make you realize where today’s civilised thinking, philosophy and dialectic originated.
Coming down the Acropolis hill, there is a wide boulevard with baskers vying for your attention, leading to the new fantastic Acropolis Museum. This ultra-modern building houses an incredible selection of antiquities and is a must-visit.
At the end of this boulevard you cross a busy road to the double-sided Hadrian’s Arch, built during early AD as a thanks to this preserver of Athenian antiquities during the Roman occupation
The walk veers left and after about 1km you cross the road (and the urban railway tracks) to the Zappeion building, currently a conference centre. On the day I visited, there were public displays by army cadets and a brass band played everything, ranging from military marches to versions of Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’.
The walk took me from the left of the front of the building, through a park and onto a busy road that lead to Syntagma Square, where I was able to watch the change of the guard that takes place every hour.
There was free wifi at the square’s park, as well as the underground entrance to the Athens Metro leading to the airport.
The walk had taken me just over 5 hours. I had been lucky that it was a lovely and warm autumn Sunday, meaning little traffic, no disruption from demonstrations and generally a pretty relaxed and chilled out atmosphere.
Read our tips on things to do in Athens.
Athens makes a good short break destination in Spring or Autumn when it’s not too hot. I searched for budget airlines which had direct flights from Edinburgh to Athens; I flew with easyJet which cost £125 return. You can find two star hotels in Athens, which have pretty good guest ratings, for as little as £25 a night for a double room including breakfast. Click here to find cheapest prices at hotels in Athens on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.