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** I spent 4 days in Athens in May 2012 before I went partying in the islands (Mykonos, Ios). I found Athens to be much better than I expected! In this travel Guide, I’ll share my experiences and give you recommendations for culture, food, nightlife and things to do.
Let me start off by saying that most people I talked to about Athens told me that the city is nothing special. They told me the streets are filthy and the people are rude. And an overwhelming majority of the blogs I read online had negative views towards the city.
But with that being said, let me clarify a few things…
– Yes, Athens is a pretty dirty city
– Yes, there are African immigrants bribing you on street corners
– Yes, there are tons of gypsies scamming you for your money
– Yes, there are slums just 5 minutes away from the Monastiraki Rail Station
But you know what?
None of these things take away from the historical significance and majestical ambiance that Athens has.
Athens is one of those prestigious cities that you just need to experience with your own two eyes. The city has a recorded history dating back 3,400 years ago. It’s known as both the cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy. It’s a place where you can wander around aimlessly, stumble upon ancient structures and learn more about ancient Greek history than your college ever class taught you.
Seeing all of the ancient Greek Temples, walking through the ruins from old buildings, and exploring the Acropolis are some of my most memorable experiences of traveling to date.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Athens, and I highly recommend you taking the trip to visit. It will be life changing.
Alright, it’s time for some quick facts!
– Currency: Euro (EUR)
– Language: Greek
– Population: 700,000 (city), 3.2 million (metro)
– Athens is the oldest city in Europe, that has been inhabited since the 5th Millennium BC
– Evidence of the first settlement around the Acropolis was around 3000 BC
– The Acropolis and the Daphni Monastery are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites
– Athens is home to all of the Greek Gods, and their home was Mount Olympus where they ruled mankind
– Ancient Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games (776 BC was the first games), and hosted the first “modern” Olympic Games in 1896
– Western Literature, Philosophy, Political Science and major Mathematical Principles were derived in Athens
– Athens was the first ‘cultural capital of Europe’ in 1985
– Greece, as a country, attracts 19 million tourists per year (almost double the population of the country)
Culture & People
My first impression of Greek people was that they were closed-minded and they only associate with other Greeks. But once again, I was proven wrong!
Greeks are actually very friendly and are willing to show you a good time. As I found out by experience, Greek people will open up to you as soon as you initiate the conversation. All you have to do is have the courage to approach them!
Luckily, there isn’t much of a language barrier because most of the younger generation speaks English pretty well (not the same for the older generation).
The views all around Athens are phenomenal – especially from the top of the Acropolis. It makes perfect sense why Greece’s national colors are white and blue, because the old white buildings clash against the deep blue ocean. Athens is just beautiful.
Before my trip to Athens, I didn’t know so much about ancient Greek History. However, my trip opened up my mind, as I was able to walk the Acropolis, see the historic artifacts, and learn from the countless number of museums.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make some new Greek friends! Click this link to learn the Top 10 Greek Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
One of the most amazing moments of my life was hiking up the Acropolis to the top of the Parthenon, where there is an incredible 360 view of Athens. I really couldn’t get enough.
Along the hike, I saw the Stoa (ancient Greek Marketplace), and old ruins from buildings that are over 2,000 years old!
On the day that I hiked the Acropolis, I got the same butterflies in my stomach that I had in Rome when I was at The Colosseum. When you see something with this much power and history, you won’t even know how to react.
Another thing to do in Athens is test your bargaining skills at one of the street markets!
They are really cheap and there are a large variety of goodies and food to buy. The street markets are all over the main squares and on side streets. On Sunday morning, take a visit to the Monastiraki Flea Market – where you can buy clothes, paintings, gadgets and souvenirs.
Don’t make the mistake of buying a fake iPhone like I did in Syntagma Square… Oops.
Fore a more complete list of things to keep you occupied in Athens, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Athens.
Don’t get me wrong, i LOVE Greek Food. But honestly, the food in Athens was kinda ‘blehhhhh.’ for me personally.
Let’s just say that I was expecting the gyros to be a little bit tastier, but I just don’t think I ate at the right places. The street food that I found was sloppy (although cheap) and it wasn’t any better than the Greek food I’ve had at home in the States.
However, I did find some ridiculously amazing Greek Salad at a few different restaurants. The homegrown olive oil and cheeses was enough to make me one happy guy. The fresh vegetables and large pieces of lettuce, mixed together in a nice blend of olive was one of the best salads I’ve ever had (shown in pic).
If you like seafood, then you’ll be happy to hear that the fish dishes around Greece are extra fresh and not overly priced. Just try it.
Also, you must taste the locally grown wine! Greece is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world (dating back 6,500 years ago) and the wine has carried on a flavor that keeps everyone satisfied.
If you want to know more about the best local foods, then please check out my post on 6 Greek Foods to Try.
In Athens, it’s all about the clubbing scene.
I went clubbing one night in the Psiri district and had an absolute blast! I learned that Greek people are not only beautiful, but they love to party and will welcome you with open arms.
Scattered around Athens are a bunch of bars that you can enjoy during any night of the week. Try to step out of your comfort zone so you can meet some locals and have yourself a awesome night!
The majority of the nightlife in Athens is located in the areas of Psiri, Plaka and Thissio. You will find loads of clubs and bars in these areas.
But if you really want to party, then I suggest taking a ferry across the Aegean Sea to either Mykonos or Ios (the two biggest Greek party islands). I spend my 21st birthday in Mykonos and it was amazing.
If you want to learn the hotspots for where to party, then read up on my Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Athens!
Thanks for reading! Have you ever been to Athens?