At first glance, there is not much to love about this grimy city. Your feet will be black from dirt each time you go outside, all over the streets you will see beggars, graffiti, rubbish and you will get the vibe that you are in a unsafe neighborhood in almost every suburb you walk through. However, despite all this, Athens has redeemed itself in my eyes due to the abundance of delicious food that this city has to offer.
A few days in Athens is more than adequate to see the main sites such as the many ancient ruins that are scattered throughout the city, have a little shop in the flea market and sample some great Mediterranean cuisine. I personally have always seen Athens as a gateway to the beautiful islands that are just over the horizon, so never really endeavor to spend a lot of time in this city.
Where to stay:
One of the nicer places to stay in Athens is in the tourist district of Plaka. This area is close to all the shops, flea market and not very far away from the acropolis and main sites. Although you will definitely pay for it as accommodation and restaurants in this area are more pricey. I have always stayed just outside of this area within 10-15 mins walking distance. My first trip to Athens I had stayed in the suburb of Omnia with a tour company – apparently I was told on arrival by my taxi driver that this is not a safe area to stay, so be careful of your belongings around this area, especially at night. This time around I stayed in the city centre about 10 mins away from the station – Monastiraki and on one of the main streets -Athina.
What to Do?
If you are as much as a history buff as i am, you will definitely need to see the ancient ruins particularly the Acropolis and Parthenon. I always make the mistake of going to these sites in the peak heat of the day (which is roughly around 2pm – 4pm) and lucky for me Greece was having a particularly hot week with temperatures rising to 40 degrees Celsius! Soo definitely pack some sunscreen to avoid the lobster look.
The trek up the hill was definitely worth the views of the city and to be up close to these ancient structures. The pass to see the Acropolis and Parthenon is €20 euros and €30 euros if you wish to get a pass to see majority of the ruins around Athens.
It was scorching hot in Athens so i ended up checking out the National Archeology Museum , which costs roughly €10 euros. This museum holds the largest amount of Greek artifacts and art from Ancient Greece. I particularly liked the Odyssey exhibit which brought the museum to life with the use of music and lights.
Athens is a great place to bag some bargains, you have the options to explore higher end shops on Ermou street or go through the maze that is the Flea Market. In the Flea market, definitely haggle for the best price possible and I’m pretty sure you can find almost anything within the market. I found it quite odd that there was a lot of Army depot items and clothing in there.
Being a wog i am obsessed with food, and in Greece you won’t be disappointed with the variety of options and quality of produce. My favorite restaurant from my stay was Karamanlidika, which also doubles as a Deli and serves traditional Mediterranean dishes. The service was impeccable and the food was absolutely divine and quite inexpensive. I had vine leaves, grilled halloumi, little Greek pastry pies with deli meat and a greek salad. For dessert the server at the restaurant gave us Greek yogurt with apricot syrup and apricots on the house and it was the perfect and refreshing ending to the meal.
The second restaurant we went to was Kuzina near the flea market and is more centrally located. This restaurant was a little more expensive, apparently has earned a Michelin star and serves creative Greek inspired food. I did enjoy the balance between sweet and savory that i sampled in their food. I had the dumplings filled with feta and olives in a pomegranate sauce and slow roasted pork with pineapple and puree. The service was not as good here but on the upper level there are some great views of the acropolis.
It is relatively easy to get from the airport to the centre of Athens. I took the train to and from the airport and the ticket costs just €18 euros for two people. The train trip to Athens is roughly 45 mins and the train leaves every half hour. You can catch a taxi and it generally has a standard price of €38 euros but be sure to check this with the taxi driver as sometimes they do not turn on the meter and will try to overcharge passengers.
It is generally quite safe around Athens but just like with any major cities please keep an eye on your belongings wherever you go.