Athens. One of the world’s oldest cities and the supposed birthplace of western civilisation. The history of this city is beyond summary in this infinitesimal blog, so I won’t even try. Let’s just say that its history, culture and people are all fierce, proud, and wonderful. We all know of Athens but do yourself a favour and spend some time on the Wikipedia page for the city, it’s well worth your time.
We were there for three nights, excited to be in a big city after two weeks of island life. As soon as we arrived we found a city with a wild beating heart; graffiti absolutely everywhere, city smells, food, people and music. We found a modern, trendy city with an inspired youth. Athens was going to be fun.
We arrived via ferry from Milos. Originally we had booked passage with Hellenic Seaways, but they cancelled the service seven days earlier. We had re-booked with Seajets, but they cancelled their service two hours before departure due to high winds. Fortunately for us we had a fantastic host, who bundled us in a car and down the port to get refunds on our Seajet tickets, and to purchase tickets on a larger ship departing at 2pm. We got two tickets for €32.50 (€72.50 cheaper than our original booking), but only to Kynthos; the final stop before Piraeus (Athens), as tickets for the whole journey were sold out. Our host advised us to find a quiet corner and “just not get off” until Athens, which worked ok, although our names were getting called out over the P.A since we failed to disembark. He didn’t tell us however that the journey would take 8.5 hours. It all worked out in the end, we got to Athens tired but without a fine, and €72.50 richer. Sorry whatever ship that was.
Piraeus port services all the islands, and ships arrive from all over the world. From the port it’s a short walk to the Athens Metro system, where a single ticket will cost you €1.20 to almost any destination. The Metro is easy to understand and use. I think there are local buses that stop at the port, but we didn’t use any in our time there. Check this site for info on local train and bus services. There is a large taxi rank at Piraeus and taxis are quite cheap in Athens.
Athens has a major airport with everything you would expect, and is serviced by airlines from many countries all over the world. Check out Skyscanner for prices and routes from your city. From the airport to the city centre on the Metro is €10, or €9 each if travelling with someone else. Again, we didn’t use the bus service, but you can get info here.
Getting around Athens is best on the Metro; it’s cheap, frequent and reliable, where as the bus service looks sparse and painful for tourists.
Hint – Book ferries in person a day or two before departure. Schedules change and weather can determine the day and time you depart.
We wanted the local low-down for our Athens experience, so we chose a room in someone’s apartment using Airbnb. We stayed in Thiseio, which turned out to be a really cool area, with two young guys and their two dogs. Our room cost €27 per night and was worth every cent. The apartment was beautiful and our hosts were wonderful; taking us out drinking one night, and staying up to ply us with homemade Raki and olives the next.
Traditional bnb’s aren’t that common, but Airbnb offer private rooms from €15 per night and whole apartments from €30 per night.
Hotels in Athens offer double rooms from €25 per night, but be careful at this price range. As in any big city I advise thorough research into choosing a hotel, as the cheap places are often cheap for a very good reason. If you pay upwards of €60 per night in Athens, you should be somewhere nice.
Thiseio, Plaka and Monastiraki are good areas to stay. If we returned we would head straight to Thiseio again for its cool bars and cafes, but all three have a similar vibe and all three are walking distance to the Acropolis. I would avoid staying in Piraeus as there’s nothing there but the port, and for the prices in Athens I don’t think it’s necessary to stay outside the main city centre.
We had done zero research and honestly had no idea what to expect in Athens. We knew we wanted to see the main historical sights, including the Acropolis, but other than that we were a clean slate, which was a strange experience for myself (Mr. Research) in particular. We took some advice from our hosts and kind of just followed our noses (partly pinched) for our time in the city. Thankfully there’s so much awesome in Athens central that we managed to stumble upon a tonne of great stuff.
The Acropolis is the huge collection of partially restored ruins that dominates the Athens skyline; it’s a very impressive sight for the first time, and we were lucky enough to see it in lights from our own balcony. Tickets to visit are €20 per person, and if you want to visit other sites around the area you can buy a multi-pass for €30. We lined up with the masses and paid entry to the Acropolis only. It took a few minutes to just get over the huge amount of tourists, but once we did the experience was humbling. The gravity of history weighs heavy in this place and one’s mind can’t help but drift to a solemn respect for all that’s happened on that hill and everything it influenced. I thoroughly recommend it.
We spent most of our time exploring Thiseio, Plaka and Monastiraki, wandering through markets and in and out of cafes and bars. If you find yourself in Thiseio it’s worth eating at Seychelles, we ate an incredible Meze style meal there for €29.30 including a large carafe of wine. There’s also numerous bars that are open late (locals often don’t go out until after 11pm), serving good local beers and Raki, often with live music.
Around Monastiraki you can find the awesome flea markets, selling everything vintage. To the south towards Plaka there is the shopping district, where you can find Brettos; a traditional Raki distillery and boozer, and Remember; a famous punk ‘designer’ store. To the north you will find the extensive central markets, selling meat, fish, fruit & veges, cheese, coffee and everything else. In the area check out Handlebar; a small cafe selling good food. We ate lunch there for €14.30 including a pot of tea. Little Kook Cafe; an awesome themed cafe for good coffee, and if you are out late check out the Lebanese fast food places at 40 Marni, 104 32. Definitely in my top five kebab wraps of all time.
For a sunset to remember, walk up the Hill Of The Muses (The Philopappu Monument) around 7:30pm in summer. Take some wine and relax as the sun sets over panoramic views of the city and the Acropolis turns on its flood lights. Truly magical.
Athens is a large, historically rich city with enough happening to keep you entertained for days. My main advice is to just wander the streets, meet the people and see where your mood takes you.
Hint – In bars, order large beers to share, and carafes of wine. It’s much cheaper this way and you could find something really interesting. For example, we shared a 600ml bottle of local craft beer between three people for €6, rather than paying €3.50 each for 330ml bottles of big brewery lager.
Athens for three nights;
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