Shore Excursion and Port Reviews
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece
Language and Currency
What is Athens Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
A valid passport is required but no visa is required for stays under 90 days.
The Parthenon Seen From a Restaurant Window
The official language of Greece is Greek, but some English is spoken in the tourist areas. Greece has accepted the euro as its formal currency, however you may still see some Greek drachma being traded. US dollars are accepted in the tourist areas, as are major credit cards. The best way to obtain money is from an ATM where you will get the best exchange rate.
Athens, Greece as Seen From the Acropolis
Athens is a big, crowded and bustling city choked with traffic and too many people. While Athens does offer some wonderful sights and dining experiences, it is not exactly user friendly.
A Bustling City and Rich History Make Athens Completely Unique
Athens enjoys a classic Mediterranean weather pattern, but be aware that in the summer months, it can get downright hot. Be sure to bring something cool to wear when tromping through the Acropolis and the Plaka. Winters are simply wonderful and resemble California's San Diego climate.
Docked in Piraeus, Greece
Your ship will dock in the Port of Piraeus roughly seven miles from Athens and about 30 minutes from Athen's International airport. It is an easy walk into Piraeus from the cruise ship terminal. It is about a 20 minute walk to the train station where one can take a direct train to the foot of the Acropolis in the hart of the Plaka district. Click Here for complete details on how to do it.
Shopping in the Plaka
Piraeus offers some shopping (especially the open air market) but most folks head to the Plaka District for excellent shopping opportunities of interest to visitors. Note however, that most of the shops in Athens close for afternoon siesta around 1 to 2 pm and do not reopen until 5:30 pm or so. Most of the shops are also closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan your shopping times to accommodate this reality.
Athen's Myriad Shopping Opportunities
There are a ton of local products worth considering. Olive oil and local olives are superb, look for local carpets of exceptional quality, designer clothes and leather products (especially shoes) ouzo (the local alcoholic beverage of choice) makes an excellent purchase. In the Plaka, you will find everything under the sun including a very vibrant antique market. Be aware that Greece has a VAT of 17% that is added to all purchases.
The Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
Of course, the main attraction in Athens is the Acropolis. There is a 12 euro fee to gain entrance into the Acropolis and it is well worth it. You can easily spend several hours wandering around the various sites (and the museum) and still leave without seeing everything. The Parthenon is over 2,400 years old and still stands proud and tall to be seen from every vantage point in Athens. It is truly remarkable
Another of the major buildings that reside on the Acropolis is the Erechtheion. This structure dates back centuries. While the 6 ladies that currently serve as pillars are reproductions, you can see 5 of the six original ladies in the Acropolis museum that is also located on the Acropolis behind the Parthenon a few meters away.
Theatre of Dionysos with Athens in the Background
As you work your way up to the entrance of the Acropolis, you pass the stunning Theater of Dionysos. One can't help but be in awe of this ancient masterpiece.
The Marble Walkway Leading into the Acropolis
As you gain entrance into the Acropolis, I was stunned at the beauty of the marble walkway that transports tens of thousands of tourists every day into the Acropolis. It is simply beautiful and to think how old it is.
Entering the Plaka District.
Just down from the Acropolis is the Plaka District. This area is made up of pedestrian streets that wander this way and that and offer excellent shopping and dining opportunities. A visit to the Plaka is almost a given after a visit to the Acropolis. Relaxing in one of the sidewalk cafes enjoying a local dish and some ouzo is a great way to spend the lunch hour. Click Here for a thorough report on how to do the Acropolis and Plaka district on your own by using the train from Piraeus. This is by far the easiest and best way to go.
The Entrance to Athen's Flea Market
In addition to the Acropolis and the Plaka District, Athens offers numerous museums and other important archeological sites.
The Panathenaicon Stadium
The site of the first Olympiad, The Panathenaicon Stadium still stands and is also well worth a visit. One can view the Acropolis and Parthenon from this site and imagine the awe spectators must have felt when participating in the games.
The Temple of the Olympian Zeus
Between the Plaka district on the Panathenaicon Stadium, several ruins and attractions are located. The Temple of the Olympian Zeus and the area surrounding it are fascinating and well worth a visit. One can walk the area from the Plaka with ease.
When you leave the Plaka area, look for Hadrains Arch. From here you can see the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the other attractions in Athens. Be cautious with the traffic though. It can be trecherous.
Given you will probably only have one day in Athens, these are probably the sights you will want to visit. There are numerous other adventures available. A great beach is only 45 minutes away and a visit to the ancient section of Corinth is well worth the time it takes to get there. Exploring the Corinth Canal is also very interesting.
Here are a few hints to make your visit to Athens an enjoyable one.
Be very wary of pickpockets in Piraeus around the train station and other public transportation. Also be wary in and around the museums in Athens. Do not carry anything you cannot afford to lose. Women, do not carry a purse that would be easy to snatch.
Either book a ship's shore excursion, arrange for a private tour well in advance of arrival on the Internet and check references carefully, or plan on using public transportation (train or buses) to get to the Plaka District and the Acropolis. Public transportation is inexpensive and very dependable.
DO NOT get off the ship and plan to negotiate for a taxi to take you on a tour. While you may luck out and find a good driver, my personal experience and the experience of those in groups I have had in Athens is terrible. They clearly view you as prey to steal from and will do so pretending to be your friend. Here are some of the scams being pulled on tourists
You agree to a fare in advance. When it is time to pay, the driver will loudly and aggressively insist that the fare was per person, not a total fare. They will demand payment, or else.
When it is time to return to the port, the driver will stop prior to arriving at the port to collect payment claiming that they cannot accept payment at the port. They will then palm money and claim loudly and aggressively that you have underpaid them. They will demand payment, or else.
If allowed to suggest a restaurant for lunch, they will take you to a restaurant that is overpriced and you will be served course after course. When the bill comes, there is no protesting it. Of course, the taxi driver is in for 20 or 30% of the total bill.
Finally, if you do end up being had by a taxi driver, my advice is to enjoy the experience and remember the story to share with another. The last thing you want to do in a foreign land is get involved in a confrontation that may lead in a direction that you would later regret.
The Erechtheion With Athens in the Distance
Yes, I would say a visit to the Acropolis followed by a lingering lunch in the Plaka is a "don't miss" experience.
I know that there are some excellent restaurants in the Plaka District and also in the small harbor in Piraeus, but I have yet to discover them personally. Be sure to see the menu with prices before you sit down
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