Although my children were on a school holiday during the time, I did not take them with me to Athens (much to their disappointment) for a travel conference. Instead, the children got sent off to their grandparents for a long weekend.
My husband and I decided the political situation in Athens was tenuous and we did not want our children anywhere near any rioting. I remember the news coverage of the Greek man who set himself on fire in the middle of a square because his financial situation was so dire. It was an impossible scenario to forget.
In retrospect, I wish I had taken my children because they would have really enjoyed a weekend city break to Athens. Here’s why:
Children love to clamber over rocks. At the Acropolis, there are plenty of rocks to climb and a giant hill to boot. My children love to read the traditional Greek myths and the Percy Jackson books are also a firm favourite. Visiting the Acropolis would make it all very real for them.
2. Easy Transportation
There are these cute toy trains going around the centre of Athens. How could any child not want to ride on this train?
The actually city transportation is really easy, fast and cheap as well. You can also take public transportation to the nearby beaches. As shown by our trip to Venice, any city with public transportation and a beach is bound to be a hit with my children.
3. Great Food
Greek food is very family-friendly in my opinion. Even my fussy eater would be happy with simple yet delicious grilled meat and vegetables.
4. Great Museums
Athens has a lot of interesting museums. My absolute favourite was the Acropolis Museum. Not only are the works of art beautiful but also the museum itself. On the ground floor of the museum, there are clear floor panels which lets you see through to the archeological digs. There is also a children’s activity trail to keep the young ones occupied.
Another museum I enjoyed was the Folk Art Museum. It is small and so good for limited attention spans! On display are examples of Greek folk costumes, masks, shadow puppets and traditional toys.
5. Syntagma Square and the National Gardens
Syntagma Square in front of the Houses of Parliament is great for people watching. Between the buskers and the skateboarders, there is plenty to keep young ones occupied. Nearby Syntagma Square, there are the National Gardens. Along with the shaded paths and random ancient ruins, you have lots of ducks, cats and turtles. The gardens are huge and perfect for a good run-around.
Did I see any anti-austerity protests? Yes, I did. This group was protesting in front of the Greek Parliament. The protesters were a relatively calm bunch. Moreover, there was at least 3 riot police for every protestor. Frankly, I’ve felt more threatened on a Friday night in Islington.
The Mayor of Athens has spoken about how difficult the drop in tourism has been for his city. Many financially strapped Greeks rely on tourist money into the country, such as the taxi drivers and the hoteliers. This money trickles down into other parts of the population – the suppliers of food or hotel linen for example. The Mayor wanted to emphasise that his city and his country was safe, hospitable and friendly. From my experience, I would agree with him.