Grab a snack. Grab a drink. Get comfortable. This is going to be a long one… I’m going to break it up into sections so you can go to the parts that you want to read most.
Athens is not the most beautiful city. At first glance, it may seem dirty, loud and unsafe (in terms of pickpocketers and such). But once you take a better look, you can really appreciate all of its beauty and the history behind it. Everywhere you go in Athens there are ancient ruins. As whenever new infrastructure was built, there are constantly new ruins being found underground.
Accommodation is very very expensive in Athens, especially if you go in the Summertime and often, cheaper hotels are further out of the main city area. We found an apartment for a great price that was situated right next to Monastiraki Square in the heart of Athens above one of the market stalls. The apartments are called the Suitas. They were very clean and got re-cleaned daily and I can’t emphasise enough how nice, friendly and well-spoken the host was. He even met up with us to take our luggage into the room as we arrived earlier than the check-in time. The only issue here is that cars can’t come to the door of the apartments during the day as it’s above a market area where there are lots of stalls. But, in the evening or early morning, they can so be prepared to potentially wheel your bags a fair way.
Even though there are no great views, the location is perfect as we were walking distance from cafes, restaurants, shops, markets and even sights.
Markets + Shopping
Athens is a great city for shopping.
If you’re after souvenir type items, cheap jewellery and clothes, or knock-off brands, the Monastiraki Markets are your one-stop-shop(s). They have everything you could be after and there are so many stalls that you could easily spend half a day there. There are also market type stalls all around Athens as well and you can barter and negotiate a price, especially if you’re buying quite a few things.
If you’re after the big high street brands, right next to Monastiraki Square is a very long street called “Ermou”. It has everything you could ask for: Sephora, H&M, Pull & Bear, Mango, United Colours of Benetton, Korres, Adidas, Forever 21, Pandora, American Eagle, Zara, Nike AND THE LIST GOES ON!!
BUT THEN, if you’re after high-end shops such as Juicy Couture, Tommy Hilfiger, Jo Malone etc Glyfada is a 20-30 minute tram trip away. It’s a beautiful area that’s on the shoreline and has very nice restaurants (I suggest going at sunset!).
The Acropolis + The Acropolis Museum
Did you even go to Athens if you didn’t go to the Acropolis? No. I don’t think you did.
The Acropolis is a sight to behold and is a must see. I don’t care what it takes you, how long you’re there for or what else you’re doing… you HAVE to see it.
It’s easily walkable from the centre of Athens (as long as you don’t take too many wrong turns like we did), but be warned, it’s a bit of an uphill. Not too steep. But uphill nonetheless. I HIGHLY suggest going in the morning for two reasons. 1. It’ll be wayyy less busy up at the Parthenon. And 2. The weather will be bearable. It gets extremely hot in Athens during the Summer (high 30’s – 40’s) and there’s no cover or shade up at the Acropolis. Also, wear comfortable shoes.
As for the Acropolis Museum, if you’re even remotely interested in the history of the Acropolis then I really recommend going. It’s an incredible, modern museum that is so well designed and it really explains everything you need to know about the Acropolis. It’s only a short walk away and is a perfect escape from the heat of the afternoon. It has a cafe inside it if you get peckish, but there are plenty of restaurants and taverns around the area too.
Note: Ask about student discounts at the Acropolis entrance and at the museum.
The Olympic Stadium
If there’s one other ancient ruin/site that I suggest visiting, it’s the Olympic stadium. It has so much history behind it and with the entry fee, you’re given a headset in your language that walks you around the stadium and explains everything you need to know. It’s also incredibly special being in the birthplace of the Olympic games.
Getting there is walking distance but because it’s so hot during the day, I like to cut through the National Gardens where you can be relieved from the sun a bit by the trees, not to mention how beautiful they are.
Right in the centre of Athens are Syntagma Square and the Greek Parliament where you can find The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Every half hour you can see the changing of the guards which I think is definitely worth seeing.
I wouldn’t say that this is a “MUST SEE” but if you have the time, climbing up to the Chapel of St George is a really nice thing to do. It’s quite a bit of a walk to the base but then if you don’t want to climb the mountain, there’s a cable car. It’s the highest point in all of Athens that has incredible 360 views. Not to mention the stunning little white church on top.
As you’re walking around Athens, it’s easy to stop by the Saint Dennis Church. If you’re anything like me and have not only an appreciation of architecture, but also love beautifully made, and intricately designed churches, you need to see this. It’s truly breathtaking.
Lastly, two things that are also easy to walk by are the National Library and the Academy of Athens. This is purely for the architecture. But again, it is beautiful.
Getting around Athens is easy. Almost everything is walking distance and if it’s not, you can hop on the underground train or the tram by purchasing a ticket from the stations. There are also plenty of taxis around too if you need to head even further out. Also, be smart about how you plan trips. As I’ve mentioned it gets extremely hot so try to get up early, walk through the gardens and plan trips wisely.
Finally! The exciting part! Need I even mention, the food in Athens is amazing. There are restaurants everywhere, all with authentic, fresh, delicious and cheap food. There are so many options and variety. I eat a plant-based diet (basically vegan), and even I was spoilt for choice in a country that obsesses over meat and cheese. Our favourite tavern in Athens is Thanasis Kebab. It has the most delicious food.
I hope you found this post interesting or helpful that you have the opportunity to visit Athens at one point or another. It truly is such a special city.