Must-do’s and see’s in Athens: Exploring the city by Happy Train and Free Walking Tour

Archaeological finds are not just found on the Acropolis Hill or the exclusive Ancient Agora. It is literally scattered all across the city of Athens. And so, I continued getting to know the city by boarding “the happiest hop on, hop off train” ever – the Athens Happy Train! I also booked a “free” walking tour in the afternoon, so I have all morning to roam around. The Happy Train basically passes by the important sites and tourist attractions. For 6 euros, you can enjoy a 60-minute hop on, hop off experience. I never really do hop-on, hop-off’s when travelling, but it was super hot in Athens in summer that you just want to relax a bit, sit and enjoy the sites, and avoid the long walks. Find more information about the Happy Train here.

The green Happy Train
The green Happy Train
The red Happy Train
The red Happy Train

Here are some of the sites you can visit while aboard the Happy Train:

  • The Hellenic Parliament and Constitution Square – Located at the central square, Syntagma, the Parliament building is venue to democratic procedures, e.g. elections and law-making, amongst the 300 members elected for a 4-year term. Here you can watch the changing of the guards called “the Evzones”, which means “well-dressed”.
The Hellenic Parliament
The Hellenic Parliament
  • The Monument of Unknown Soldier – At the bottom of a high wall at the Parliament is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, representing a dying Greek soldier.
  • The Presidential Palace – A three-story neoclassical mansion designed by the German architect, Ernst Ziller, the Palace is the official residence of the President of the Hellenic Republic.
  • The Panathenaic Stadium – Also called the Kallimarmaro Stadium, the Panathenaic stadium was a small valley, restored by Herodes Atticus between 140-144 AD. Today, it is the finishing point of modern marathon races held in October. It was also the venue for the first ever Olympic Games of the modern era.
  • The Zappeion Hall  – The hall is another neoclassical building with Corinthian portico, holding both public and private conferences and exhibitions.
  • The Temple of Zeus and the Hadrian Arch – Also known as the Olympieion, the temple is dedicated to the King of Olympian Gods, Zeus. Two inscriptions are found on the arch, one saying “This is Athens, city of Theseus”, and another “This is the city of Hadrian, not of Theseus”.  Funny, eh?
Hadrian's Library, created in 132 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian
Hadrian’s Library, created in 132 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian
  • The Hill of Acropolis – From the train, the hill of Acropolis is clearly visible. Here, I recommend that visitors get off and explore the hill of foot, like what I did in the previous posts. 😉
  • The New Acropolis Museum – Built in 2009, the New Acropolis Museum houses about 4,000 artefacts from the ancient hill of the Acropolis.
The New Acropolis Museum
The New Acropolis Museum
The New Acropolis Museum
The New Acropolis Museum

Where to catch the train? One can easily spot it at Syntagma Square, on Ermous street. It starts every 40 minutes. Click the link above to view the train route, ticket prices, etc. 😉

All aboard the Happy Train
All aboard the Happy Train
Had a very pricey little meal after the train ride. I regret stopping by to eat!
Had a very pricey little meal of souvlaki after the train ride. I regret stopping by to eat! The photo looks good though. 😛

For a more up close tour, you can join a “free” walking tour, but you have to book early. Send an email to: info@athensfreewalkingtour.com for participation. The tour is free, but tips at the end is highly encouraged. I went to Monastiraki Square, a busy flea market neighborhood, and to the Youth Hostel, where the meet-up was. Extra precaution is needed in the square, as pickpockets and scammers abound. There was one guy who forcefully tied a bracelet around my wrist, telling me compliments and inviting me to a reggae concert. He, then, asked for money. When I told him I don’t have any, he took off the bracelet. But he followed me again, nagging me to help him by buying the bracelet, and so, I just gave him some coins and he gave me the self-made bracelet. 😛

Monastiraki Square
Monastiraki Square
The Church of the Pantanassa, the Monastiraki ("little monastery") that gave the square its name.
The Church of the Pantanassa, the Monastiraki (“little monastery”) that gave the square its name.
One of the shopping alleys from the Monastiraki square
One of the shopping alleys from the Monastiraki square

The tour, guided by Maria, passed by the main sites and attractions around the city, including those listed above and off to the Areopagus Hill and the Acropolis. Not wanting to climb up the hill for the second time that day, I decided to wander off the path and enjoy some treats at a wonderful cafe instead!

The walking tour
The walking tour
Ruins of the Romaiki Agora
Ruins of the Romaiki Agora

Now, the restaurant. MOMA rest&cafe is situated on Adrianou street and offers salads, pasta, pizza, burgers and steaks, seafoods and desserts! It is one of the best restaurants I went to in Athens, I guess. I really liked the glass-floored bathrooms where you can see archaeological excavations! That really gave an ancient feels! 😉 The tour guide told us that if the authorities found out that your house lies on top of a potential archaeological site, they can instruct you to move out. They’re serious like that.

The glass-floor in the bathroom
The glass-floor in the bathroom
Loving life at MOMA rest & cafe in Athens
Loving life at MOMA rest & cafe in Athens

Athens has lots to offer and I really enjoyed exploring the city! I felt very lucky to have trodded on its streets and experience the archaeological sites in actuality, the amazing things I only saw on postcards and books before. The trip doesn’t end here though. I also managed to visit the National Archaeological Museum, which would later become one of my favorite museums, and a local beach resort. More about Athens in the next entries.. Cheers! ❤

Monastiraki Square
Monastiraki Square
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