The best of Athens
Athens, a city with so much to offer. From ancient Greek temples to local markets and modern rooftop bars. It’s a city you never want to leave, so I didn’t. I moved to a beach town next to the Greek capital and stayed for 5 months (spread over even more). It’s probably the best (and most warm) summer I ever had. Nevertheless, now the time has come for me to leave and explore more of Europe by train, but not before I share the best of Athens with you!
HOW TO GET THERE
Athens International Airport is 30km from the center of Athens. There is a direct connection by metro that connects the airport with the city center in 40 minutes (departs every 30min). There are also busses but they take forever.
✦ If you arrive at Pireus port you can also use the metro. From there its takes about 25 minutes to reach the city center.
HOW TO GET AROUND
As the city center of Athens is fairly small, you will be able to walk to most of the places once you’ve reached the main square of Monastiraki. If you do need to go somewhere else I would simply get a taxi. Taxis are cheap in Athens and there are plenty! If you don’t see one you can easily order a taxi using the app Taxibeat. Uber is a new invention in Greece so there aren’t that many Ubers around yet. They are, however, even a bit cheaper than normal taxis!
If you’re on a very tight budget, there are many busses! I always struggle with them though, they’re never on time, ticket machines don’t work and they drive like maniacs. There are also trams that work a bit better, although it happened to me a few times they just stopped driving and we ended somewhere for no reason (or explanation).
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed at AthenStyle hostel, right next to Monastiraki Square in the old city center of Athens. It’s one of those hostels that are better than a hotel. The private rooms are amazing and some of the rooms even have view over the Acropolis. I stayed at a dorm which was really nice and very clean. The hostel has all facilities you need from lockers to laundry service, fast WiFi, a cinema and an amazing rooftop bar with a 360 degrees view over Athens. The hostel is part of European Famous Hostels which is a chain of high quality hostels around Europe with some of the best locations.
WHAT TO DO
1. See the most iconic view over the city
By far my favourite spot in the city! From the cocktail bar, A for Athens, you get the most beautiful view over the city. You look over the people walking around Monastiraki square and have an amazing view of the famous Acropolis. It’s a really good place to start your day with a coffee or end a busy day of sightseeing with a nice cocktail at sunset.
2. Try Ouzo
No visit to Athens is complete without trying the local drink Ouzo. The alcoholic drink (with 37,5 to 44 percent alcohol) is widely consumed in Greece and the best spot to give it a try is the old distillery Brettos. You can find this distillery in the streets of Plaka where both locals and tourists drink the homemade Ouzo. For the ones that prefer another drink, no worries, they serve beers too.
3. Shop at the Monastiraki Flea Market
The tourist that I am always loves all the souvenir shops and markets with local products. In Athens the main place for this is the Flea Market at Monastiraki, which is actually not really a flea market but more of a cute street with little shops. You can literally buy anything here, to olive oil to the ancient Greek helmets and leather bags.
4. Watch the change of the guards
The change of the guards at the Parliament Building at Syntagma Square is a must see when you’re in Athens. The guards change position in pairs after standing perfectly still for one hour. It’s very interesting to see and if you’re there on a Sunday make sure to be there at 11AM for the “big” ceremony.
5. Visit the ancient Greek temples
Wherever you walk in Athens, during day or night, your attention is always drawn to the Acropolis. The Acropolis of Athens is the hill with 21 major archaeological remains. The most famous ones are the Parthenon, Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Erechtheum. You can visit the complex for 20 euros per person or get a 5-day pass (30 euros) to visit other sites such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Ancient Agora as well. All sites are free for students from the EU (bring your student pass).
6. Wander around Plaka
Plaka is the oldest neighborhood in Athens and my favourite one. It’s one of those places where you just can’t decide on the restaurant to sit down as they all look amazing. An area with the best atmosphere, cute little alleys, handicraft shops and stunning architecture, all in the shadow of the beautiful Acropolis. Make sure to get a drink at the Stairs of Plaka (see picture).
7. Explore the surrounding beaches
Greece has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and you can easily visit some of them from Athens. I lived in Glyfada, a beach town 14 km South of Athens where the nice beaches start. You can visit Balux – which has an amazing sea side swimming pool as well, or go to the public beaches. However, if you really look for a cool little spot to jump into the crystal clear Aegean Sea go to Vouliagmeni. There is a place called Lemonakia where you’ll only find locals, nice music and the best swimming spot of the area.
✦ A really cool temple to visit outside of Athens is the Temple of Poseidon (see photo above). The temple is 70km South of Athens. You can go there by bus or rent a car (it’s a really beautiful drive along the coastline).
✦ If you’re up for a night out go to the area of Gazia or one of the amazing beach clubs (I can recommend Club Bolivar!)