Sometimes when we travel, we only have a day to get to know a place. Maybe we have a layover between flights and don't want to sit around the airport. Maybe we've arrived to pick up a cruise the next day. Maybe we're driving through on our way somewhere else.
Whatever the reason, how does one get the most out of such a short period of time? In Athens Greece, take the Sunshine Express, a bright and shiny blue and white miniature train-on-wheels that escorts you in and around the historic center of Athens.
Arrive early so you'll have time to wander the streets and byways of the Plaka on your own first. Situated at the base of the Acropolis, the Plaka is the oldest section of Athens; most of the streets are free of automobiles, extremely walkable, and full of shops and boutiques, locals and tourists, cafés and bars, street vendors, and a fascinatingly vibrant ambiance.
When you're ready, board your train at the corner of Aiolou and Adrianou Streets at the edge of Agora Square - entryway to the fabulous Plaka. Your five Euro, 40 minute narrated tour will guide you through Athens' commercial and Plaka areas, past Russian and Anglican churches, ancient monuments like Hadrian's Arch (or Gate) and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and up the hill toward the most famous of all ancient Greek structures, the Acropolis.
The Acropolis is an ancient fortress built to protect the city from invaders that sits atop a rocky outcrop overlooking Athens. It contains the ruins of venerable Greek buildings, most notably, the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the maiden goddess, Athena. Disembark your train here to spend some time exploring the ruins of the Acropolis and learn about Grecian ancient history and today's restoration efforts.
Besides the Parthenon, ancient buildings that inhabit the Acropolis include the Propylaea - entrance to the Acropolis; the Erechtheion - a temple dedicated to Athena Polias and Poseidon Erechtheus; and the Temple of Athena Nike, goddess of victory in war and wisdom.
While atop the Acropolis, be sure to enjoy the stunning views of both modern and ancient Athens - the Plaka, Lykavittos Hill, Parliament Building, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple Hephaisteion, and the overall vision of Athens laid out at your very feet.
When you're finished exploring, re-board the Sunshine Express for the return trip to your starting point. By now you'll be ready for some sustenance. Agora Square is perfect! It's a beautifully green and shady landscaped park, surrounded by Greek restaurants, taverns, and cafés, and filled with delightful outdoor seating and tables.
Pick a restaurant or tavern that looks like it has more locals than tourists, make friendly conversation with your waiter and ask for suggestions, dine in the υπαίθριους χώρους (open air) on authentic and delicious Greek cuisine, and enjoy your view of the Acropolis towering above.