Our second full day in Athens began at a leisurely pace. Having had a very busy day of sightseeing, and a late night (thanks to some delayed sleep phase and odd jet lag finally catching up with us), we didn’t really start our day until about noon.
Our only two real goals for the day were to visit the Olympic stadium, and complete the widely recommended sunset hike up Mount Lycabettus. Thankfully, the two aren’t very far apart, and we were able to navigate somewhat easily from one to the other by foot… we initially had planned on grabbing an Uber to take us through town, but after an unexpected road closure, some kind of police activity, and being dumped by our Uber driver, we decided to just go for it.
Deciding to wing it despite our tired feet from the previous day, was one of the best things we did. The neighborhood around Mount Lycabettus was very different from where we had been spending our time, and we had the opportunity to duck into a mini-mart for some much needed snacks (and “souvenir” Greek chocolate bars for later).
I am a bit ashamed to admit that when planning the trip, the Panathenaic Stadium hadn’t even been on my radar… it wasn’t until the end of our first full day in Athens when Rabbit suggested it as a must-do, that I had an “a-ha” moment and added it to the list.
I am so glad that we made it!! Especially in an Olympic year (though this year is the winter games), it was incredible to be where it all began. Rabbit took to the stairs of the stadium as a personal challenge- which are far bigger than what I think we would normally think of for stadium seats- but you could see that there was something invigorating about doing it there. We also took turns running short sprints on the track in the middle – we didn’t win any medals, but it was a very memorable experience!!
After a few bumps in transportation, and our little side-trip for snacks, we made it to Mount Lycabettus!! Unlike my planning for the stadium, this hike was one of my must-do’s from the minute I began planning. All of the blogs and stories I read in preparation, along with the guidebook I purchased, simply stated the sunset hike as something that had to be done, and I was in.
The entrance to the trail doesn’t have much marking, but thankfully, Google Maps had saved the day and brought us right to one of the paths. Faced with the choice of dirt/rock trail vs. stairs, we opted for the trail initially… don’t be fooled! This isn’t the leisurely, romantic stroll you may have been thinking- though it truly was one of the best things we did during our trip!! (There is a lift on the opposite side of the hill for those who aren’t able to hike, or if you’re not on the kind of date that it’s ok to break a sweat).
Several times along the way, we had to stop and look around… the views from the trail seemed somewhat even more remarkable than those from the Acropolis, and just got more and more beautiful as the sun got lower in the sky.
At the top of the mountain, there is a small bell tower, a chapel, and a restaurant (near the lift entrance). After catching the beginning of the sunset, we grabbed a table at the restaurant for a late-lunch/early dinner (the Greek salad was delicious!!) and continued enjoyment of one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen.
As the sun was going down, we started our descent, and ended up finding a different side-trail than the one we came up on, which took us through some different streets in Kolonaki. The neighborhood was very pretty, had a younger crowd, and had some very good-looking restaurants… however, we both agreed that it seemed too much like a neighborhood we could stumble upon in New York or Philadelphia (near home), and found our way back to the area around Parliament and Monastiraki.
Here, we checked another to-do list item off our lists, and grabbed a souvlaki from one of the small cafes that opened into the street. We were able to sit outside and share our second dinner and enjoy more people watching! The souvlaki was delicious, and it was a great way to wind down the evening.
We called it a night pretty early in preparation for our early morning flight, and busy day planned the next day in Istanbul!