When we found out we were expecting baby girl #2 we knew we wanted to take one last vacation as a family of 3 before she arrived. We quickly landed on Greece as our babymoon destination – beautiful islands, history, delicious food and affordable! Greece also has a reputation for being extremely accommodating to families. How can you beat that?
However, when we started telling people we had booked a trip to Greece for our “babymoon” everyone was quick to serve up a whole bunch of conflicting advice on how we should spend our time. To some, Santorini is overrated. To others, it was not to be missed! Many people said Athens wasn’t worth our time and others said it was an historical gem to be explored for days on end! To say we were a bit confused on how to split our time is an understatement. But after scouring countless blogs, travel sites and consulting other families who have traveled to Greece, we chose to split our time between Athens, Paros, Naxos and Santorini. Keep reading below for our top tips for each location.
Athens (4 days)
As fans of Greek history and architecture we decided to spend 4 days in Athens and in retrospect we could have spent much longer there. We honestly can’t wait to go back. But 4 days gave us enough time to see the “main” attractions, eat our fill of tasty Greek treats and get to know the city. Here are our Athens must-dos:
- Explore the Acropolis: Your visit to the Acropolis, and its star attraction the Parthenon, will likely be hot, crowded and absolutely breathtaking! This one is a no-brainer and is obviously at the top of the list for anyone exploring Athens for the first time. That said, hot and crowded attractions can also be a recipe for disaster when traveling with little people so we compiled a list of survival tips for visiting the Acropolis with a toddler.
- Visit the Ancient Agora: The Ancient Agora was the heart of ancient Athens and with lots of green space and ruins speckled throughout the grounds, its a great attraction to visit with kids.
- Watch the Changing of the Guard: Take the metro to Syntagma Square and the Hellenic Parliament and watch the Evzones, dressed in their unusual uniforms, complete the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This ceremony is quite unlike any other changing of the guard ceremony we have been to and is guaranteed to delight all ages!
- Burn some energy at Temple of Zeus: Visit the impressive temple honouring the “Olympian Zeus” featuring massive columns that seem to defy both gravity and logic (especially when you consider construction began in 6th century BC). There is lots of open space for the littles to safely run around and burn off some energy.
- Run some laps at the Panathenaic Stadium: This site has been used for races since 330BC, was host to the first modern Olympics in 1896, is the only stadium in the world made entirely of marble and, since its literally made for running around, is the perfect attraction to bring your kids to.
- Stroll through Monastiraki: If you are hungry, want to do some shopping or just want to people watch – this neighbourhood is for you! Located near the Ancient Agora and the Acropolis, take a stroll before or after your visit. Make sure to stop by DaVinci Gelato for a delicious treat!
Tips for Parents:
- Athens has an extremely well connected metro system with elevators at nearly every station so cut down your travel time between sites and take the metro.
- Visit the Ancient Agora in the evening when the heat and crowds dissipate and can have the whole place (mostly) to yourselves.
- Nearly all travel blogs recommend wearing your little one during your visit to the Acropolis but none mention the onsite free and secure “stroller check” area. So feel free to bring your stroller to the Acropolis along with your baby carrier so you don’t need to carry your little one all day in the hot Greek heat or walk at a snails pace from your hotel and back again.
- While many restaurants don’t have a dedicated kids menu, most kiddos will be well fed by the “chicken or pork stick” which usually come with rice and pita and cost less than 2 euros. We found this also to be the case on the Greek Islands.
- To save some money we decided to stay near the Petralona subway station in a modern 1 bedroom apartment. The hosts were extremely helpful and while the apartment was away from the hustle and bustle of touristy Athens, the Acropolis is still reachable on foot. If you decide to stay in this neighbourhood, make sure to eat at Best Grill – it was honestly one of the best (and most affordable) meals of our trip!
Paros – 3 nights
With its authentic Cycladic style (think blue-trimmed whitewashed buildings) and sleepy vibe, Paros is the perfect introduction to Greek Island life for families. It’s not nearly as crowded as some of the other Greek Islands, has huge pedestrian only areas to explore and is just about as cute as can be. Here are our top picks for your stay in Paros:
- Stay in Parikia Town for easy access to the port and a labyrinth of pedestrian-only cobbled pathways and gorgeous whitewashed buildings. Paros is all about lazy days spent slowly eating and drinking your way through delicious bakeries and coffee shops, discovering tiny churches around every corner, and strolling along the boardwalk by the sea. Save for the odd scooter bringing a shop owner to work for the day, you won’t see many cars in Parikia Town, so it was safe to let kiddos explore.
- Spend a day at Livadia Beach soaking up the sun and playing in the surf. We spent a fair bit of time researching beaches near Parikia and many are a little rough around the edges, but Livadia Beach is in a calm bay with few waves, is far enough away from the port to not have continuous ferry traffic and has clean sand beaches. You can even rent beach loungers and an umbrella. Definitely family friendly.
- Hop on the bus and take a daytrip to Naoussa. For only a couple of euros you can take the bus, departing every hour, to Naoussa and explore another charming Cycladic village with its own maze of sleepy streets to explore and beaches to enjoy.
Tips for Parents
- With the exception of a few stairs here and there that you will have to navigate, Parikia Town is quite stroller friendly.
- In Parikia Town, tourists and locals alike don’t seem to go out and about until about 9am. So if you want to some photos without anyone in the background, get up a little early and get exploring!
- If you need to burn some energy before dinner, check out the enclosed park in Parikia’s main town square which has play structures that little ones of all ages will enjoy.
Naxos – 4 nights
Naxos was by far the most frequent suggestion for a family friendly Greek Island and it did not disappoint. From its paved sidewalks, calm and sandy beaches and accommodating restaurants, Naxos has everything you need for a perfect family adventure. Keep reading for our must-dos for your visit to Greece’s largest Cycladic island.
- Wander around the labyrinth that is the Old Town. Similar to Paros you will find blue-trimmed and white washed buildings in Naxos. However, Naxos has a much bigger area to explore – more shops, restaurants, chapels and even a castle!
- Venture out to Portara to enjoy the sunset. Even though a freak Mediterranean Hurricane that struck Naxos during our visit prohibited us from being able to do this, our list would not be complete without it. This is by far one of the most popular things to do in Naxos and gives us a good excuse to come back!
- Spend at least one lazy day at St. George beach…but we recommend more than that! Located less than a 15 minute walk from the Old Town and with beach loungers for hire, shallow warm waters, and barely a wave in sight, St. George Beach could not be more perfect for young families. There are a bunch of cafes lining the beach if you get hungry, but we recommend making a pit stop at Naxos Bakery en route from the Old Town to pick up some tasty sandwiches and treats.
- Rent a car and spend a day exploring the rest of the island! With a little advance planning, the island of Naxos can easily be explored in just one day! Our favourite stops included the Kouros of Apollonas (nearly 11m tall unfinished marble statues from 7th century BC) and the Temple of Demeter (beautiful hilltop ruins of a temple-turned-church from 6th century BC).
Tips for Parents
- Do yourself a favour and stay at 3 Wishes Naxos during your visit. You will not regret it. The apartments are beautiful and the hosts are beyond accommodating. From picking us up at the ferry and coordinating our rental car to letting us use their phones to call insurance when a ferry cancellation caused us to miss our return flight back to Canada – they are just the best.
- With the exception of a few stairs here and there in the Old Town, Naxos is very stroller friendly.
Santorini – 3 nights
Santorini was the island for which we received the most conflicting advice. Some people said it wasn’t worth it with a toddler in tow. In fact, many of the cliffside hotels that draw people to Santorini don’t even allow babies. That said, we decided to give the island a go because Santorini is the stuff Greek dreams are made of. Here is our advice based on our visit with a 2 year old!
- Explore the narrow alleyways and iconic blue domes of Oia. People are right when they say that Oia is not particularly kid friendly, it’s crowded, touristy and when you are wandering the alleyways doesn’t feel particularly different than Naxos or Paros. That said, when you emerge from crowded streets and get a good view of that postcard shot of cliffside Oia, it really is worth all the trouble. Even though when we visited those iconic blue domes weren’t blue at all and were awaiting a fresh coat of paint!
- Soak in some sunshine at Kamari Beach. Kamari Beach is one of Santorini’s famed volcanic black sand beaches. The views are beautiful and the kids will enjoy playing in the surf, collecting black stones from the beach and watching the planes take off and land. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after the hustle and bustle of Oia!
- Spend a morning traveling back in time in Ancient Thira. Ancient Thira is an ancient mountaintop capital dating back to the 9th century and not to be missed. The ruins are easy to explore on your own and even if you aren’t interested in the ancient town itself, the nearly 360 degree views alone are worth the bus ticket.
Tips for Parents:
- Do yourself a favour and save some money and sanity and stay in Kamari instead of one of the cliffside villages. Kamari has easily navigable sidewalks, dozens of delicious restaurants and easy access to a beach. You can still explore any of the cliffside villages on a day trip either with a private driver or public bus.
- Save yourself another headache and don’t bring a stroller to Oia. It’s too crowded and there are far too many stairs to make it worth the hassle.
Have we missed anything? What are your favourite kid-friendly spots in Greece?