If there was anything I heard consistently over and over about Athens, it is that the city is an absolute pit– ugly, hot, dirty, unorganized, unkept, full of trash and graffiti— those are the adjectives I’ve read and heard others use to describe one of Western Civilization’s oldest cities. But, despite the criticisms, I wanted to see for myself. And thankfully, I didn’t judge a book by its cover– because I loved Athens!
Sure, it’s dirty, it’s disorganized, the street art / graffiti covers every visible surface, and the consequences of the 1999 earthquake as well as 2011 riots are still abundantly present. But Athens is a perfect combination of Western Europe with just a touch of the Middle East- a mix of Istanbul, Marrakech, and numerous European cities I’ve explored. It’s a country that uses the Euro, but where you can still slightly bargain prices at the shops. It’s a country where you can dress as you like as well as walk safely on the streets at night, but still get the flirtatious men outside of shops trying to get your attention and your business– but not in the same aggressive catcalling manner as I found in Turkey or Morocco. It’s a city with a busting night life that won’t break your bank. It’s a city where just like in the Middle East, stray cats rule the streets; it’s a country where you can’t flush your toilet paper but where you can safely drink the water. Athens, overall, is a vibrant city full of history and wonderful, welcoming people, with a lot of charm and a fantastic atmosphere. I loved wandering around Plaka, sipping wine on rooftop bars, and discovering unique street art. Overall, I was gutted to leave and I cannot wait to go back!
Free Walking Tour
During our 2.5 days in Athens we took a free walking tour of the city. Though our guide took us past most of the main sites of the city, my favorite part included the Anafiotika neighborhood, located just behind Plaka. The neighborhood is mostly unknown to both tourists and locals, and in fact the houses are stacked to look like a replica of Santorini, blue doors, white walls, and gray cobblestone pavement included! It gave fantastic views of the city, and had some of the most artistic street art I had seen throughout the city.
Hike the Acropolis
We spent our first day hiking around the Acropolis, the area around the Parthenon. We spent several hours browsing the stands of various street vendors, admiring the temples and ruins, and awing over several impressive theaters.
A former temple on top of the Acropolis, the marble temple is dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. The Parthenon construction began in 447 BC and was completed in 438 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece.
This temple was built and dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian Gods. Today, only 16 of the original 104 pillars remain in tact!
The area surrounding the Acropolis is scattered with the ancient ruins containing the administrative buildings of old Athens; some include Hadrian’s Arch, Hadrian’s Library, and more. You can literally kill hours exploring the area– this is equivalent to the Roman Forum in Rome.
Climbing up this 277-meter hill is a great way to see the city and watch a great sunset!
Eats and Streets
The Greek Salad, the Greek yogurt, the gelato, the wine, the gyros– I just couldn’t get enough of Athens eats! My best purchase included strawberries from the Monastiraki Square.
The Acropolis Museum is a museum which houses archaeological findings within Athens. It gives a great overview of the city as well as a history of Athena and her importance to Athens as a whole. I would highly recommend visiting this museum before visiting the Acropolis in order to have a deeper understanding of its importance and significance.
Athens is a city worth at least 2-3 days of your time. It is a great introduction to Greece, and really sets the tone for the history of Western Civilization. Overall, Athens is a fantastic place with a ton of charm– you just have to know where to look.
What’s your favorite photo of Athens?