The Acropolis is your Athens compass point, its colonnades, and temples visible from almost anywhere in the city. You might even glimpse its splendor from the plane window, the remains of an ancient civilization perched high on the rocks above Greece’s capital. Check into your hotel and check out the rooftop view, the compass point almost within touching distance. Down below the streets twist and turn, and a myriad of sounds creep out from the tavernas and echo upwards, suggesting what’s to come this evening. But once your bags are dropped there is only one place for you today, the centerpiece of a civilization that changed the world in so many ways.
A path ascends, and the ruins start. Beyond the Beule Gate, you will glimpse what lies ahead with polished stone lies along the path, small sculptures sit on the floor, with temples coming gradually into view. Keep ascending, walking slowly in the heat, and take your time as the Acropolis temples and Parthenon rise high above you. It is the ruins of the Parthenon you never forget, so perfectly proportioned, so remarkably preserved. And although busy with tourists, there is enough to the area that you can also find quiet moments to take it all in. There is a chance to escape the heat with a look inside the Acropolis Museum, a place preserving marble and friezes that were rescued from destruction.
Maintain the slow walking pace as you descend, this time amid the cobblestone and marble of Grand Promenade. Skirting Acropolis Hill, you will be led to the Theater of Dionysus before plunging you forward into the 17th and 18th centuries. That is the time when Plaka evolved, and the neighborhood still has a lived-in old-world atmosphere. Boutique stores spill their wares into pedestrianized streets, enticing aromas come from narrow taverna doorways, and street traders call as they walk past. It is energetic and laid-back at the same time, classically Greek, but just completely different from the nearby Acropolis. Your guide will point you in the right direction for a traditional dinner before you take an early night, or stay out and enjoy all that is on offer.