Athens, the birthplace of modern democracy, is home to ruins that are more than 2000 years old and restaurants serving some of the best Greek food. Who wouldn’t want to visit this ancient, yet modern, city in Greece? Some tourists come for a luxury Greece vacation and others to experience the history. Whichever you decide, you’ll want to know a few things before you visit. Here’s a mini-guide to give you the essentials on travelling to Athens.
Why Visit Athens:
Picture a city centre with modern cafes and designer shops lining the streets and walking around a corner to face ruins dating back more than 2000 years. Look up into the clear blue sky and admire the towering Acropolis and Parthenon dominating the central parts of the city. Walk through white-washed buildings with flowers of all colours of the rainbow growing up the walls. And finally, sit down and savour the delicious Greek cuisine, of either fresh meat or seafood, served up with even fresher salads washed down with a bottle of local wine.
If this isn’t enough, Athens was the birthplace of democracy which developed inside the Agora, or former marketplace, at the foot of Acropolis. History is everywhere. Greek culture radiates from the city. And 300 days of sunshine bakes the city. What else could anyone want?
Where to Stay in Athens:
The best district to stay in Athens depends on your budget. Central hotels with views of Acropolis fill the city but are relatively expensive. And a range of more budget-friendly hotels and hostels are on the outskirts. If you’re into house-sharing or Airbnb, you may be better to stay in one of Athens’s suburbs, which could save a fortune in accommodation costs. Depending on where you choose, you’ll typically get a high level of service and good value for your money.
A quick tip if you’re staying out of the centre. After the recent economic crisis in Greece, Athens still hasn’t fully recovered. Some of the neighbourhoods, like much of the city, will be covered in graffiti and bins tend to overflow due to the limited collection days. You should also be aware that different neighbourhoods have better and worse reputations than others. Do a quick Google search to get a picture of what the area you’ll be staying in is really like.
How to Get Around Athens:
The easiest way is to use the metro that connects all areas of the city. You just go to the station, buy a ticket (or a pass), validate it in the machine and away you go. Ticket machines are at all stations, and validation is essential to avoid a hefty fine. If you’re travelling from the airport, either take the airport bus (€6) or buy a metro combination ticket (€10). The second option is much faster.
When you’re in Athens, getting around is easy on foot. Many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. Taxis are available but tend to be vastly overpriced, and some of the dishonest ones like to overcharge tourists. When you’re in the city, you’ll notice the traffic is quite dangerous for pedestrians. Take care when you’re crossing the road and always wait for a car to stop.
It’s also worth mentioning about Athens’s hills. You should expect to be walking up steep inclines as you explore the city, especially when visiting the Acropolis. Again, this shouldn’t be a problem for most people with a reasonable level of fitness.
The Must-Do Things:
The most prominent attraction is Acropolis, perched on the hill in central Athens. Inside the complex, you can see the Parthenon along with a few other temples built in the modest styles of the ancient Greeks. Admission is steep at €20 per person, but worth it for history buffs. You can find several viewing points of Acropolis in Athens to get the perfect photograph. The best (and busiest) spot is on a rocky outcrop on the northern side near the entrance.
Apart from Acropolis, the second (or arguably the most) important site is the Agora. Located to the northwest, this former marketplace has an essential role in Athenian history. Greek scholars met in the Agora to discuss and debate ideas. Inside this modest archaeological park in modern Athens was where the Greeks developed their ideas of democracy and planned the construction of Acropolis. Despite its historical significance, few take the time to visit.
Fans of history will adore the National Archaeology Museum that houses extensive collections of ancient Greek art and artefacts. Expect to see everything from statues and coins to what some call the world’s oldest computer, a device used to calculate the position of stars.
Apart from the ruins, wander through Plaka District, bordering Acropolis, which is Athens’s version of an old town. You’ll see several traditional style buildings juxtaposed with ruins and the modernity of a 21st-century city. The streets are full of restaurants with charismatic and energetic Greek waiters and cafes bursting at their seams. Plaka also has several souvenir shops making it a beautiful place to soak up the atmosphere and do a little shopping.
How to Have an Awesome Trip to Athens:
If you follow the points mentioned in this mini-guide, you’re sure to have a great time on your trip to Athens. Enjoy the historical and traditional inside the city centre and make the time to find the perfect viewing point of Acropolis. Athens is on the bucket list of many and always live up to expectations.