3 Fun Things to Do in Athens besides the Acropolis
You know you’re looking at a picture of Athens when the Acropolis is in view. Many people associate Athens with the Acropolis but don’t know what else there is to do in this sprawling city. Here are 3 things not to miss on your visit.
1 – The changing of the guard at the Hellenic Parliament
If you read my 3 tips for visiting Athens, you already know that I recommend staying near Syntagma square, the central square in Athens. Overlooking the square is the Hellenic Parliament in the Old Royal Palace building. The palace was built in 1843 and has housed the Hellenic parliament since 1934.
The changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Parliament happens daily, every hour on the hour. The guards are members of the elite Evzones unit, a light infantry unit of the Hellenic army. The Presidential Guard is purely ceremonial and provides guards for the Presidential Mansion and the Parliament building. It also provides personnel for the raising and lowering of the Greek flag at the Acropolis and for parades. The guards are required to be completely motionless and at attention when they are not switching position. For this reason, there is always an Evzone in military fatigues nearby ensuring that nobody approaches or harasses the guards.
Their uniforms are quite unique. The red fez with a long silk tassel is a farion. The long tunic, a doulamas, has summer and winter versions. The winter one is blue and the summer one is light khaki, as seen in the photos. The clogs with the pompons are tsarouchia. The white woolen stockings and the black garters complete the look. Their changing ceremony is much more elaborate than the one the Bulgarian guards do in front of the Bulgarian presidency. It’s a lot of fun to watch and it’s free!
2 – Al fresco rooftop dining
Athens boasts more outdoor rooftop bars and restaurants than anywhere else I’ve ever been. To find one, simply look for street-level advertisements on the buildings themselves as you stroll. Personally, we enjoyed the rooftop at the Hotel Grande Bretagne where we overlooked Syntagma Square and had view of the Acropolis. The Grande Bretagne is less than a mile from the Acropolis but you can definitely find places much closer to it than that.
3 – Sunset at Cape Sounion
Cape Sounion is about 90 minutes south of Athens. We rented a car and drove out ourselves but I don’t recommend this option for anyone but the most confident drivers. Consider booking a tour through Get Your guide instead.
We gave ourselves plenty of time to make the drive, making sure we took the route by the coast.
We visited in mid-May – not quite high season yet – so many of the restaurants along the way were not yet open. We did find this adorable little spot though, and we were the only people there!
If you don’t want to stop along the way, there is a small snack-bar at the cape. We spent about an hour there. Beware that the site closes promptly just after sunset.