Greece - Archeology in Athens & Sunsets in Santorini
Greece is the ideal destination when you’re looking for a good mix of everything: romance, nightlife, culture, history, and beaches. For us, it was the perfect destination for our honeymoon (#3). We were lucky enough to spend 10 days in the two most iconic cities - 4 days in Athens and 4 days in Santorini. In Athens you can fill your days with museums, archeology, and mythology, but save some energy because the nightlife thrives 7 days a week with rooftop bars, trendy lounges, and laidback house music. A short flight away, you arrive in picturesque Santorini, a dream destination, with beaches, warm weather, beautiful architecture, and cliffside hotels and restaurants. Watching the sunset across the sea is a must. Whatever your vacation vibe is, Greece has you covered.
Full of history, culture, food, wine, stray cats, and rooftop bars Athens is a treasure trove of experiences. Best known for its signature landmark, the Acropolis, there is always something to keep you busy in this archeological city.
Things we did
Acropolis of Athens - On the city's highest hilltop, you’ll find this UNESCO World Heritage site. The Acropolis now contains the ruins of several buildings that were once a place of worship where temples were built to glorify the gods.
Parthenon - the grandest (and most recognizable) monument of the Acropolis is the former temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena.
Erechtheion - named after the demi-god Erechtheus, the mythical Athenian king, was constructed to house the wooden statue of Athena (yep! another temple for Athena). Athena is the patroness (a.k.a. guardian or protector) of Athens.
Propylaea - monument gateway to the Acropolis of Athens.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus - open-air stone theater still used today for musical events of all kinds!
Acropolis Museum - If you haven’t had enough of the Acropolis itself, I would highly recommend you visit this museum. It gives so much more in depth information about how and why the Acropolis was built. It also has an entire floor dedicated to the Parthenon Frieze (upper row of the structure that is for decoration). The Parthenon Frieze tells the tale of the Great Panathenaia (ancient festival to honor Athena) and is made up of beautifully sculpted horsemen, chariots, animals, gods and goddesses.
Ancient Agora of Athens - Once considered the “city center” (think “downtown”) which housed the market, temples, and where meetings were held for politics and fun! There are a number of really cool buildings/ruins to check out. Plus, it provides you with the most realistic idea of what it might’ve been like walking through ancient Athens. Not to be missed!
Stoa of Attalos - large two-story portico-style building that has a varied history of usage from marketplace, to classrooms, and now a museum for the Ancient Agora.
Temple of Hephaestus - built to worship Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods. Beautiful temple, one of the few we saw that was almost entirely intact.
Hadrian’s Library - ruins of an ancient library dedicated to the emperor Hadrian. Great for a quick pit stop after lunch. Not a ton to see but worth the visit if you’re in the area.
National Archeological Museum - Need more history? We had some extra time on our last day in Athens, after returning from Santorini, and decided to check out this museum. Dive deeper into the history of Athens (I’m talking like cavemen/early humans) and view sculptures, jewelry, art, tools, and so much more collected over millions of years.
Feed/pet the feral cats! - you definitely won't miss all the adorable stray cats that wander around the city. Known as “community cats” these Grecian felines are given food and water and live in peace with their neighbors.
Where we stayed
We were lucky to stay in two different areas in Athens. For the first part of our trip we stayed in the Plaka neighborhood, also known as “Old town”. Cobblestone streets, authentic Greek restaurants with names that you can’t pronounce, souvenir shops, and walking distance to the Acropolis and most other sites. If you plan to stay in Athens for only a short time, I would suggest this neighborhood to get the most of your trip. While we were here, we walked everywhere!
Electra Palace Hotel - really nice hotel that’s walking distance to everything, rooftop breakfast included - the views of the Acropolis and the city were incredible! There was a small rooftop pool but if you’re not there early, it’ll be too crowded.
Since we had a roundtrip flight out of Athens, we returned to the city for one more day. We decided to switch it up and stay in a different neighborhood called Monastiraki. This area gave me more of a San Francisco vibe with modern shops, taxis, and more diverse food options. It was a little too crowded and a little too loud for my liking but worth checking out to experience the variety of Athens.
A for Athens - rooms were decent and comfortable but the highlight of this hotel was the rooftop restaurant. It was the cherry on top having our farewell cocktail overlooking the city lights of Athens.
One of the things we were pleasantly surprised to find out was that Athens has a busy nightlife. From rooftop bars, to late-night restaurants, and of course DJs and lounges. If drinking or vibing to good house music is up your alley, visiting of these bars is a must:
TAF - The Art Foundation is a multipurpose cultural space but doubles as a bar in the Monastiraki district. An open roof lets you see the stars while greenery/trees cover the walls and inner space. Deep house and disco music play on the speakers. This place is SUPER cool with a laid back/chill vibe. The bartender was also so friendly! He gave us a round of shots, which he gladly took with us.
Colour Locale - one of the many rooftop bars that has an in-house DJ playing house music. A lowkey/lounge style venue with a similar laid back crowd. They also serve late-night bites which are a huge plus (we had chicken fingers and fries). A must visit at night! City lights & Acropolis views are unforgettable.
Rey and I LOVE Greek food and on this trip we basically lived on pork souvlaki and chicken skewers. If you’re looking for something that isn’t Greek your best bet is going to be in Monastiraki, however there is a restaurant on almost every corner so you’ll never go hungry.
Athina Tavern - THE BEST pork souvlaki and chicken skewers we had in all of Greece!!
Stamatopoulou Palia Plakiotiki Taverne - live traditional Greek music is playing in this outdoor restaurant every night of the week. Delicious greek entrees are served with your own personal wine jug!!
Ta Giouvetsakia - baked feta - cute outdoor seating in old town
Pink Flamingo Dim Sum - hole-in-the-wall spot that serves Asian tapas. Order at the window and enjoy on one of their tiny sidewalk tables. Our picks: chicken bao and chicken/shrimp shumai accompanied by a hard lemonade (with pink flamingo stir stick of course).
Gypsy Jungle - jungle-themed restaurant with eclectic furniture and faux plants. We had brunch here so it was pretty mellow but at night it transforms into a tapas bar & restaurant.
Madame Phú Man Chú - trendy vietnamese restaurant in an outer part of Athens (~20 min walk from Plaka) but worth the visit! Our order consisted of lemongrass & chili chicken over rice, beef pho, and beef skewers. The cocktails are notable as well.
Cupz Coffee & Bakery - boba & coffee - to satisfy our cravings!
Little Kook - fairytale inspired café with fun desserts, crepes, and cocktails. The outside is decked out with Peter Pan inspired décor and life-sized figurines and the inside is just (if not more) crazy packed with whimsical décor. Walking through the lit-up walkway is worth a visit if you have extra time.
For most people, Santorini is a dream destination and we were no exception. The island is absolutely beautiful! Sunsets, white buildings with blue doors and roofs, and warm beaches make up the perfect setting for a romantic getaway.
Where We Stayed
We discovered that the island is a little deceiving because unfortunately, you can’t have both the famous sunset views over the cliffs AND the beaches in the same place. Anywhere you choose, you’ll have some pros and cons. We decided to stay in Fira, the island center, which is most concentrated with restaurants, bars, and tourists. The hotels here are along the cliff and overlook the caldera (small island with volcanic depression), sunset views from your room are guaranteed.
Porto Fira Suites - An absolute highlight of our entire trip to Greece was our beautiful hotel in Santorini. French doors opened up overlooking the ocean, breakfast was served every morning on our private patio, and the special feature: private jacuzzi!One thing to note is there is no car access so you must walk up and down the cliff side (there are lots of stairs!). However, when it came to our luggage our hotel concierge did all of the heavy lifting - the service is truly incredible -they even made me an iced latte.
I wish I could say more about the restaurants in Santorini but I wasn’t that impressed (yikes!). It could be because we only ate quick meals before we headed out for the day or right before we went home for the night. For the majority of the time, we ate pork souvlaki and chicken skewers.
Lucky’s Souvlakis - to-go gyros & fries spot - great for lunch or a quick dinner
Mr. E - another cliffside restaurant; nice dinner with a side of sunset :)
Restaurant Aris - we had our final lunch overlooking the caldera. Beautiful restaurant along the lower cliffside, near our hotel.
Things we did
One thing to keep in mind is the limited transportation options, making getting around the island a little challenging. We made friends with our airport driver which made getting around easier but still required advance planning.
Hotel staycation – We were lucky to have a private jacuzzi on our patio so we spent a whole day relaxing and enjoying the caldera views.
Kamari Beach - We visited Soul by Splash beach club that provided a covered cabana, free with purchase of food and drinks. The vibe here was laidback and more family friendly. The water is beautiful but the beach is made up of black coarse sand and requires water shoes or sturdy sandals.
Perissa Beach - Our next beach day we switched it up and headed to Wet Stories beach club. This beach club was more trendy, played house music, and had servers in bikinis taking your order. The beach is beautiful but definitely make reservations for a spot near the water. We went without reservation and got chairs near the back of the beach/furthest from the ocean. Walking (running) to the water was a challenge because it was so hot.
Catamaran snorkeling adventure - If you know us, you know that Rey doesn’t know how to swim so you may be wondering why in the heck we would ride a boat into the ocean. Well, we had hoped to enjoy views of the island from the ocean and have fun swimming with the fish in the Mediterranean. The idea was beautiful but the actual experience…not so much. The water was extremely choppy and Rey got very seasick. I guess it’s hit or miss so if you decide to do a catamaran ride, be prepared for the waves!