For those of you who know me well, know that I was in Athens for more than 48 hours so you’re probably wondering, “Why 48 hours?” Well, I’ll tell you why ~ this is a travel suggestion for you, how’s that? My eagerness and excitement for our recent trip to Greece was just short of ecstatic. The photographs, the Pinterest research and tons of blogs that I read only fed the flame of my desire to experience Greece. However, my recent trip to Athens was more like this popular YouTube video about “expectation vs. reality.”
Athens is absolutely a MUST-SEE, but… well, there’s a lot to share.
We decided to try out another Airbnb. Our place was fine for our longer stay, five days, for three people. We were located just outside of town near the Larissa Train station. One of the main transfer centers for the metro. Our views and patio were excellent and I think if we were there any other time we would have thoroughly enjoyed our extended space on the porch.
The apartment was inexpensive just on the small size, I think the 100m included the patio. Our main bedroom was also the dining room and kitchen. The second “room” was actually a glassed-in porch room but equipped with heaters. Decorated beautifully, we weren’t “living” there thankfully but if we had brought the girls as we intended it wouldn’t have worked.
Although I read all the reviews and re-read them after we checked in, I checked my notes and it was exactly as described just a bit tight. I am sure in the spring or summer we would’ve lived out on the patio. It was close to a metro stop but the neighborhood was questionable.
Must-sees of Athens
Let me begin with the most famous. One of the seven wonders of the world, the Acropolis and Parthenon all the ancient streets and bumping into historic ruins were surreal. My life will never be the same and this history chic has been changed forever.
You MUST visit the Acropolis BUT before you do please visit the new Acropolis Museum first. To truly understand the history and story behind this ancient town on a hill you will appreciate having visited here first. The museum is directly across from the entrance from the archeological site and will help you connect the dots before you visit the mountain museum. Bonus, it’s only €5 per person and so worth it!
Do the tour guide of Acropolis! Unless you have already signed up with an official tour guide, know that you can catch an official tour right outside the entrance gate ~ make sure they are wearing a badge. Most of the guides will wait a few minutes until they have 20 people. If we would have waited, it would’ve been about €15 per person and I feel like that would be worth it also. We were heading to another museum so we missed out on the official guide but I know if we returned, I would do it!
Flea Market ~ Plaka neighborhood
If you are only staying a few days in Athens I would recommend to stay in this neighborhood. The Plaka district. This location is within walking distance of just about everything you’ll want to see and it’s in the old town district and quite beautiful. It is touristy but also has a lot of shopping, restaurants and historical sites making your stay here perfect. You might have to pay a bit more for this location but it would balance out the cost in travel in and out of the city.
What is not to love about the food in Greece?! It is fresh, tasty, seasoned perfectly and just delicious. Our favorite place was Alexander the Great. I used Foursquare app to help find his place that was close by our apartment and I was really glad we did. We became quick friends with Alex who spoke perfect English and soon became regulars at his place. His food was exceptional, well-priced and had some great atmosphere, plus he was very entertaining! If you stay at the Wyndham, you are lucky ‘cause he’s right across the street.
Another favorite was 33 Adrianau near the Royal Agora. They have tasty omelettes and fresh yogurt this brought us back a few times too. Try the yogurt with honey, it tastes like a dessert, not exactly a healthy breakfast option, though.
A friend recommended Little Kook, but the Christmas crowds were a little bit too much for me.
We got lucky as right around the corner was Serbetospito (Nancy’s sweet home.) The chocolaty syrupy deliciousness of this chocolate cake smothered in Nutella and sauce was unbelievable.
Hard Rock in Athens
Enjoy some music and nightlife!
Walking the city at night
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is visiting cities at night. They take on a totally different personality and come to life. Be safe, go in groups or as a couple and only do this after you know the city during the day.
This was our first real time using UBER and I gotta say, I’m a fan! At least in Athens. You would think taking the train would be cost effective and if you are traveling solo, absolutely. But, the group daily ticket costs more than using an UBER around town. Most of our Uber’s cost between €3-4, one way, for the three of us.
With low cost train tickets €1.40/trip a lot of single travelers use the train – unfortunately one time we had an unpleasant encounter with a very fragrant homeless man on our train causing quite the emotional and physical reaction from other travelers.
Uber definitely was a friendly option too and we found most drivers were really eager to share insights and travel tips about touring in Athens. My Uber rating is “huge” I’m a 4.9, now. Ha…ha…
Possibly the worst one I’ve had in EUROPE yet! It was €50 for 3 people, for 2 days and gave absolutely no facts or history – just a transport vehicle. More info was given with our Uber drivers.
If I could create an angry emoticon I would here. While visiting the Acropolis I came across several tourists who were disrespecting history. Jumping over ropes and moving pieces of ancient stone for the perfect selfie.
Having been a museum docent and still a lover of history, I just couldn’t keep silent. I had a little freak-out on moment on these visitors as they were disrespecting one of the holiest places in all of Greece. I was glad I said something. Of course, Jon and Chris gotta kick out of me being the “museum police.” I was proud of my New York girl moment. I’d do it AGAIN! Hope I don’t have too.
Gypsies and vendors
Be AWARE! Most of these “vendors” try to sell you an umbrella or a bracelet. If I walk near them, I keep my hands in my pockets, in some places around Europe (Florence, Italy) if they put it on your wrist you are obligated to buy it. Also, try not to make eye contact with them, unless you want something they are selling. We found the busiest place was near the Flea Market and Agora.
Oops, what did I step in?
Yup, there are cats and dogs EVERYWHERE! Even on the busiest streets just walking about freely. Be mindful where you walk as they were seldom cleaned up after.
I wanted to embrace Athens like a character from “My big fat Greek wedding” or “Mamma Mia” but the reality of its recent history has probably irreversibly changed it. My heart ached for the people. I was a little broken-hearted for Athens. It was hard to put my finger on the sadness, but I suspect a city that has suffered a recent economic crisis, an influx of new residents, and cruise ship after cruise ship every weekend is just taking its toll.
The buildings and homes in our neighborhood reflected the lack of hope and color of its people. The street art was beautiful, shocking and pervasive. I love it most of the time but there was a disconnect throughout the city. One of our Uber drivers actually told us the city was just sad. I thought so too.
Still make Athens a stop!
Athens to me is the definitive in the common phrase, “it’s a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.” To be honest, I think most Athenians feel this way too. Please visit our city, learn some history, enjoy our food, shop for a bit but don’t stay too long it is just overwhelming. This EU protected city is amazing and I am thoroughly impressed with the struggles they’ve endured and are still working on to get stronger. Truly impressive.
There are several boat day trips and excursions to the surrounding islands that you could easily take and make Athens a stop-over to continue discovering the rest of the country. Might be what I do next because I would love to visit Alex again, have a chat and enjoy some delicious eggplant ~
It’s always an adventure when you Travel with Wendy!