I’ve just returned back from four days based in Athens, Greece, and thought I’d share my thoughts and top tips on the city.
I have to admit, initially I felt that Athens seemed like a standard European city but a bit grubby around the edges. Aside from the archeological sights and museums, there weren’t many other things to do or green parks to relax in. This probably wasn’t helped by the location of our hostel (in the slightly dodgy feeling Omonia area) but even after a few days here I probably wouldn’t return for a chilled, relaxed holiday. It is very much a place to go, tick off the main archeological sights, and visit other places in Greece.
A budget destination
As a student, Athens is an extremely cheap place to travel – since my tickets to practically everything were free. However, if you have to pay for full price tickets you would end up spending a LOT more on entrance fees (although there is a €30 7 day combined ticket for the main sights). Overall, I spent under £300 – including flights (approx. £110), accommodation (approx. £56), food (approx. £40) and touring (approx. £80) for four days.
The main things to see in Athens are the archeological sites – however to be honest they can start feeling a little “same-y” after a while. If you want to see them all, I’d recommend spreading them out over a few more days, perhaps with a day trip to an island in between. Personally, my top five sights would be:
- Acropolis – the heart of ancient Athens containing multiple sights and incredible views.
- Changing of the Guard – held at 11am on Sundays, a grand parade and ceremonial changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- Panathenaic Stadium – birthplace of the Olympic Games and simply stunning.
- Roman Agora – ancient ruins of a roman forum where you can wander freely around the remains without all the crowds at the Acropolis.
- Temple of Zeus – an awe-inspiring ancient structure with plenty of space to relax and explore.
Easy day trips
From Athens, it’s possible to go on one or two day tours to many other interesting sights in Greece. I went on a one day tour to Delphi, which I would highly recommend, and most tour agencies also offer popular trips to e.g. Meteora, Nafplio, Corinth, and Cape Sounion.
Being located right by the sea, Athens is also a great place to start an island hopping adventure, or simply visit one of the nearby islands for a day. I spent an afternoon exploring the island of Aegina and really enjoyed it as a more relaxing break from the city.
Where to stay
Getting a good hostel is definitely key. Most are located around the Acropolis area, which enables you to easily reach all the main sights on foot. While I didn’t venture into other parts of the city, there didn’t seem to be any specific sights to see there – so paying a couple of pounds more a night to stay by the Acropolis is definitely worth it to avoid having to get the metro/ bus everywhere.
My first hostel was booked through AirBnB and located in the Omonia area. Personally, I really wouldn’t recommend it – it was in a slightly dodgy feeling area (I didn’t feel particularly safe wandering around in the evening alone) and rather grimy.
The last night, I moved to Small Funny World Athens – a youth hostel located on a pedestrian street directly next to the Acropolis. This had more of a backpacker atmosphere, was much more convenient for the main sights (although I only stayed there to make use of the nearby 24hr bus to the airport!), was clean and comfortable, and had the friendliest staff I’d ever met. It was also cheaper – just €12 a night!