Until being encouraged to visit Athens by one of my friends, myself and many others have tended to gloss over this Greek city. With the financial crisis and the refugee crisis, Athens has received quite a battering! However, believe it or not, the city is still thriving and it’s waiting for people like you and me to go explore! Let’s just say I had an absolutely fabulous time and this city ultimately surprised me in the best of ways.
- Stating the obvious, you of course, must go and see the Acropolis. Just walking it’s slopes up to the top where you reach the Parthenon is breathtaking. Trying to get your head around the fact that all of it was constructed during the 5th Century BC! As a sanctuary for Athenians and a place of worship for the goddess Athena, it was not only a place of beauty. Today not all of it remains as a result of the Morean War, but it’s still awe-inspiring and well worth the hike up. However, two important tips! 1. Buy you ticket in advance or buy the 30 Euro ticket that provides you access to all sites, and buy it not at the Acropolis as the lines are huge! 2. Visit the Acropolis early in the morning or late afternoon/evening to avoid all of the tour groups (which to be quite frank, behave terribly and clog up the access points!)
- You must also go see the other Archeological sites, The Agora, The Temple of Zeus, Hadrians Library, the list is endless and for 30 Euros you can buy a ticket that provides you access to all of them. Fortunately, the other sites are nowhere near as busy as the Acropolis and I would thoroughly recommend that you visit the Temple of Hephaestus inside the Agora of Athens, which is one of the best-preserved temples in all of Greece.
- If there is a neighbourhood to hit up, it would be Plaka. It oozes traditional Athens, with many lovely eateries and old streets to walk down. It’s very picturesque and if souvenir shopping is what you need, this is the neighbourhood to see. I will warn though that prices are inflated and it’s not very ‘authentic’. But for a nice walk, and tourist charm it’s pretty fabulous.
THE NICE WALKS
- My first walk in Athens was up Philopappos Hill (actually called Mouseion Hill but less commonly known). The base of the hill was only 5 minutes away from my Airbnb, and it was great. If you use the back entrance it’s pretty much deserted excluding a few locals walking their dogs. The views we received at sunsets were pretty incredible, and hiking at that time of day was much easier with it being cooler. It was also very quiet, which surprised us as the views were stunning, arguably better than the views from Lybetaccus Hill (which gains more attention).
- I would also recommend a walk around Monastiraki and Thissio, both are a little bit cheaper than Plaka and more spacious. Many of the archaeological sites are also located nearby, making it a great spot to grab some Greek food (or ice cream…which is what we did). Monastiraki also houses a market which if that’s your cup of tea you should totally visit!
- I would also encourage you just to wander, we at many points would wander without much thought into where we were going and stumbled across many nice things. Quiet, quaint churches, cats, little boutiques, good eateries, you’ll never know what you’ll discover all by yourself until you just ignore the map and walk where your feet take you.
LOCAL AREAS TO SEE
- If getting away from the touristy areas is your priority then I would recommend the areas of Thissio, Koukaki and Anafiotika.
- Thissio as aforementioned is nearby many archaeological sites but is very much the place where Athenians hang out. Lots of lovely restaurants and little market stands, it’s a nice place to spend an afternoon without crowds of tour groups.
- Koukaki is actually the neighbourhood I stayed in, although it isn’t picturesque like it’s neighbour Plaka, it really wakes up at night. At night every single bar and cafe that was abandoned during the day filled up and people were even gathered in the streets socialising. Not to mention all of the prices and food served in this area was of great quality and extremely cheap. There is also a new art museum that has opened up, it’s certainly an up and coming area. Sigrou-fix is the metro stop you’ll need.
- Anafiotika is an area I, unfortunately, didn’t have time to see, but if you haven’t ever been to the Greek islands, it’s a great way to see the architecture and way of life. It’s actually quite peculiar to find this ‘village’ in the centre of Athens, but I guess that makes it much more interesting! Think you’re stereotypical white washed buildings, cobbled streets and little gardens.
I don’t have many specific recommendations in this department, but one generalisation: Eat local! Of course treating yourself to one meal in Plaka for the atmosphere is a good idea, but try and visit the aforementioned local areas for your meals to keep costs down and to have a more authentic experience of Athens. I would also thoroughly recommend to self-cater to keep costs down and book an apartment/Airbnb with a balcony and dine Al-Fresco! We spent around 1 Euro on a home cooked dinner one night!
When browsing the hotels of Athens, one thing struck me, they were all so expensive despite the fact that many of them lacked character and did not offer much. I do like a nice hotel, but it it’s not good value, it’s a no for me. My friend, fortunately, came across Eleni’s Airbnb! Located in the district of Koukaki, with lots of living space, supermarkets and pharmacies nearby, it was perfect. We were also only 8 minutes walk from the metro and one stop away from the Acropolis! The best part? It cost us £15 per person per night, the equivalent cost of a bed in a hostel! Ultimately it was an absolute bargain and was perfect for us!
If any of you are interested in a budget trip to Athens and staying at Eleni’s place here is the link to it: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/6418409
Here is also a link to get £30 a trip of £55 pounds or more! Which means if you travel to Eleni’s place with a friend for four nights it will cost around £120, but with this link a four-night stay will cost £90, meaning you’ll only pay just over £20 each for four nights accommodation! The link: www.airbnb.co.uk/c/sophiet1487
DAY TRIPS FROM ATHENS
- Delphi is one of the most common day trips. It’s where some of the oldest sanctuary ruins remain, and where an oracale resided. It takes around 2-3 hours to reach. It is quite breathtaking seeing it all in person, much like the archeological sites in Athens.
- However, I would reccomend going to the islands instead. Mainly because the travel time to Delphi is quite lengthy for not much pay-off. Whereas you can take a hydro-foil to the Saronic Islands which take up to 95 minutes! Plus there is just so much more to see with your time, you can combine island hopping with city, which makes for a great break away. I personally reccomned Hydra out of the two islands I visited. Think no vehicles, white washed homes, cobbled streets, clear turqoise waters, it was simply perfect. Here is link to my Hydra blog post and vlog to entice you to visit.
- Can be a very affordable or very expensive trip depending on how you do it, easy to do it both ways.
- For flights, book them with Ryanair but far in advance. Fares can hit £100-£200 return if you leave it late but can be as low as £35 each way (£70 return) if you book in advance and snap up the cheap fares! Not as cheap as other city break destinations in Europe, but bear in mind it is a 4 hour flight and quite far away.
- For accomodation, you can get it as low as £15 a night per person with some Airbnbs. With my example of Eleni’s Airbnb and my travel credit of £30, you could get a four night stay for £20 per person, which is an absolute bargain!
- For food, eating out in local areas can cost 2-5 Euros for a meal and eating in can cost 50 cents each! Expect to pay 7-10 Euros a time if eating in areas like Plaka.
- Travel expenses will be low for the city itself, with 90 minute metro tickets costing under a Euro. However if travelling to the islands it will cost a minimum of 40 Euros return if booked in advance, it’s a large expense but I personally think it is worth it, especially if accomodation and eating costs next to nothing. It’s good to save in some areas to splurge in others! But bear that cost in mind if seeing the islands is a priority.
Now this is something I got asked many times when planning my trip: ‘but is it safe’? With the migrant crisis and economic crisis, many people see Athens as unsafe. However, not once did I feel unsafe, I feel more unsafe in London and New York! However, just be sensible when it comes to petty crime like pickpoketting like other cities, and do not go to Omonia, that is the red light district of Athens. Otherwise, you should be absolutely fine!
Would you consider a trip to Athens?