Welcome to my multi-part review of our summer vacation. We spent 12 days abroad, predominately in Athens and Paris. We did squeeze in about half a day in Amsterdam before heading home. While I’m writing the series, I’m happy to answer any questions you have ahead of time. We traveled in mid-July, so right in the middle of the Athens financial crisis. Here’s most of what I expect to cover, including links to posts I’ve already completed:
- Planning Our Summer Vacation!
- British Airways First and Business Class Lounges at Philadelphia Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Philadelphia to Athens
- A Speed Bump Upon Arrival At Arion
- Arion Guest Room Review
- Arion & Westin Amenities
- Arion Restaurant Reviews
- Flying From Athens To Paris
- Hyatt Regency Etoile Paris
- Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- Disneyland Paris
- A Study of Macaroons
- Various Restaurant Reviews
- Taking The Train From Paris To Amsterdam
- Sheraton Schiphol Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Amsterdam to Philadelphia
When we originally started planning our trip to Athens and Paris, my friend Michael had just been there and noted something along the lines of “you might need a day or two for downtown Athens”. This comment seemed odd to me given how much time we’ve spent wandering around Rome. Let me say, he was right.
We had planned to visit Athens near the beginning of our stay in Greece in case we didn’t get everything done in one day. Our hotel had a shuttle bus that left a couple of times of day to downtown Athens (it also stopped at Glyfada, a small town with shopping and restaurants).
If you only learn one thing from this post, let it be this. Don’t visit the Acropolis between 10am and 2pm during peak travel season.
We arrived just after 10 am (see where this is going?) and got turned around a bit in the wrong direction. We ended up taking “the long way” to the entrance, not really understanding the topography. Since the complex is on a hill, there’s only a few paths to the top. Our wrong turn actually ended up working out great for us, as we stumbled on a side entrance into the complex (green arrow on the map below).
We also ended up off the beaten path for a bit which made for some fun exploring with the kids.
The net result was a much shorter line. While we waited in line about 15 minutes to get tickets there were other people in the line who had been directed there from the main entrance. They had waited 15 minutes in line there but were nowhere near the front. Tickets cost 12 Euro for adults and 6 Euro for children. If you possess a college ID you may be able to get a 6 Euro ticket as well. Technically, it’s supposed to be a college/university ID from Europe but they let us purchase one for Gabby, who’s a college student in the US.
The crowds were immense and the heat was intense. In my effort to take pictures of some of the landmarks without getting pictures of the crowds I didn’t think of the obvious, to snap a picture of the crowds. It was literally heel to toe (or, in military vernacular, nut to butt). While we got some good pictures, it really didn’t feel as special as we imagined.
The sights were fantastic and there’s still plenty of excavation and preservation work to be done. But, even at the Colosseum in Rome where the lines were very long to get in, they did a better job of crowd control.
That being said, if you’re landing at Athens airport, you should take a day to see the Acropolis and Parthenon. Unless you’re a big student/fan of architecture, you can accomplish it in a day. We did not tackle the new Acropolis Museum, so that might take a bit longer.
You’ll want to bring plenty of sunscreen and your own water. While there are a few stores at the entrance, the lines will be long and items were overpriced. There are restrooms available in a couple of different places. If you’re traveling with young children, be prepared for lots of steps. Strollers aren’t going to work (we packed ours up and I carried it over my shoulder). You might have to pick up your kids from time to time as well.
Oh, and don’t go midday during peak seasons!
I’ve got one more post on getting around Athens, then onto some great restaurants near our hotel before heading off to Paris.