One of the highlights of our trip was running around the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, the first modern Olympic stadium. The marble arena is located on the site of an ancient stadium. It hosted the 1896 Olympics after its excavation in 1869 and more recently was the finish line for the marathon in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
For those running the Athens Marathon, you’ll also finish in this iconic stadium. This made me want to add the race to my bucket list, despite the fact that I’ve been told that it’s a rather hot and hilly race!
Did you know that the word stadium comes from the Ancient Greek measure of length. A ‘station’ is approximately 185 metres, the equivalent to the length of a track (the track at the Panathenaic Stadium is not the usual shape of a track with a 204m straightaway with very sharp turns. This was perfect for the 200m sprint that was the key race of the ancient olympics. Old tracks actually used to be 1/3 mile.
Open to runners for ‘morning jogging’ between 7.30-9am (although some websites say it’s 7am, so worth a try!) I’ve seen on some websites that you have to fill out a health and safety form but we didn’t need one. Find out more here.
Cost: I had assumed, wrongly, that it would be free for runners to clock up some laps on the track before it opens to the public. Luckily I had put some euros in my pocket. It was 5 euros each for entrance to the stadium and the mini museum. There’s an audio tour guide that is included within the price if you fancy listening after your workout (although I was SUPER sweaty so not sure how enjoyable that would have been!).
When I’d originally looked at tours of Athens, I suggested booking a running tour. This was quickly vetoed by Tom sadly, but he did agree to a bike tour. We booked the half day tour with Athens By Bike, and we both loved it. Athens is pretty hilly but we stuck mostly to flat routes so it’s suitable for all levels (there were kids on our tour), and it actually felt much cooler cycling around in the 30*+ degree heat than walking. I wore sports kit mostly because I knew it was sweat wicking but that was probably unnecessary (*sings ‘Activewear’ in head*).
The highlight of the trip was our knowledgable tour guide – if you do book a bike tour, I’d recommend trying to cycle close to the front to hear everything they’re saying. We stopped a number of times to learn more about individual buildings, districts and culture but there were also tidbits along the way. In total we covered about 9 miles in 3 hours, so it was definitely leisurely cycling.
We didn’t go to the Acropolis as part of the tour, instead opting to go in the evening when it was a little cooler and slightly less chaotic at the top. The hike to the Acropolis is a workout in itself although I was fine in my Birkenstocks, it was a little slippery on some of the rocks/marble so sturdier shoes would have been better.
The Acropolis museum is vast (and very well air-conditioned) however, we both felt that it was a little overpriced at 10 euros each. Although I like history, the museum was a little too much for me and I wish we’d saved our money. However, the 20 euro entrance to the Acropolis itself is well worth it. I think you can also buy passes that give you entrance to multiple historic sites that will save you money, children under 18 are free, and students are 10 euro (wish I’d brought my student card to make the most of it before I graduate!).
Another favourite activity was admiring the sunset from the top of Lycabettus Hill, at just under 1000ft, this is the tallest of the seven hills in/around Athens. We had booked dinner at the restaurant on the top (expensive but delicious) but if I’d had more time, and it wasn’t quite so hot, I’d have walked up the hill for a drink instead. Alongside the restaurant is a coffee shop if you fancy a mid-morning stroll up, or better yet, go for sunrise to beat the heat of the day! Alternatively you could get the cable car up and walk back down, although I’m not sure that’s as satisfying! Bring water, the hike is takes between 30-90 mins depending on your level of fitness and can get quite steep in parts so not one to wear your Birkenstocks for!
For those asking about the rest of our Greek trip, we took the ferry from Athens to the island of Spetses (we stayed at Hotel Spetses which I can highly recommend as good value), where one of Tom’s friends was getting married. I loved Spetses, where we hired a quad bike to take us around the island. It was charming and not as busy as I’d expected the Greek islands to be during the height of summer (apparently a lot of the Greek’s go to Spetses for their hols). We spent four nights on Spetses before getting a 30 minute ferry to Hydra (we stayed at Hotel Leto, a little overpriced in my opinion). The beaches on both Hydra are mostly pebble and require a boat from the port – we enjoyed our day at Four Seasons resort (randomly not part of the famous chain) as well as dinner’s at Sunset Bar and The Yacht Club. Sunset and sunrise over Hydra was gorgeous, as were the charming shops and narrow cobbled streets that make up the town. With no cars or motorised vehicles, be prepared to drag your suitcase to your hotel if you stay, or hitch a ride on a pony!
I would LOVE to go back to Greece and explore the more famous islands of Santorini and Paxi, but those will have to wait for another summer.
Have you ever been to Greece? Is it on your bucket list? Before this trip, I’d only ever been to Malia for a holiday with friends when I was 18 and it was not the most cultural of holidays!