Greece is mostly known as a summer destination as hordes tourists flock from all around the globe to sail to the magical islands of the Aegean and the Ionian sea. And who can blame them? Golden-sand beaches stretch between picturesque villages that are dotted with blue and white houses while traditional restaurants situated right by turquoise waters serve fresh seafood local dishes. However, those who choose to spend a few days at the capital city of Athens rarely regret it. In fact, it’s a must.
Athens is unquestionably one of the European cities every traveler must visit at least once in their life. It boasts a spectacular cultural scene with some of the world’s most important archeological sites, great traditional cuisine and a vibrant nightlife. This ultimate travel guide to Athens wraps up all the things you should know before visiting Athens for the first time, so make sure to keep notes.
Archaeological Sites in Athens You Must Definitely Visit
Acropolis, also known as the Sacred Hill is the city’s trademark and often the first thing tourists visit in Athens. Parthenon, a temple constructed in 5th century BC in honor of the goddess Athena stands proudly on the top of the hill welcoming millions of visitors every year. The area around Acropolis is equally impressive to the hill and should you devote some time to explore its hidden corners, you’ll see places described in Greek mythology and in philosophers’ writings. In just a few-minutes-walk northwest of the Acropolis, you’ll find The Areopagus Hill, the place where ancient Greeks held their trials while less than one kilometer from there lies Philopappou Hill. Take a walk around its cobblestoned streets and discover the prison of Socrates and the Pnyx (Pnyka), the era where Greeks used to hold their assemblies from 6 to 4BC.
Located on Dionysiou Areopagitou, one of Athens’ most scenic streets, The Acropolis Museum fits perfectly to its surroundings. The modern-architecture museum houses 3,000 artifacts from different eras as well as prototypes and copies of sculptures that once adorned the Acropolis. Other museums that offer visitors a glimpse into Greek culture and history is the National Archeological Museum, the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art.
The Greek Traditional Dishes you Must Taste
Greek cuisine holds a special place in foodies’ hearts. Inspired by the Mediterranean cuisine, locals cook their meals with seasonal vegetables, olive oil, and local fish or meat. Souvlaki is the most popular Greek street food and you can find a restaurant serving it in almost every corner. It’s a pita stuffed with pork or chicken, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and tzatziki sauce. If you hit the city’s restaurants and traditional taverns don’t forget to ask for a moussaka dish or the meat-free dolmades and yemista.
The Hippest Athenian Neighborhoods for a Night Out
One of the strongest points of Athens is definitely the city’s bustling nightlife. There is a place for every age, style and budget. Thiseio and Plaka, the areas around Acropolis brim with cafes and taverns where you can savor a traditional meze dish accompanied with a glass of ouzo while gazing upon the Acropolis. Monastiraki and Gazi are popular for their numerous cocktail bars and nightclubs while for a more alternative night out head to Exarheia or Metaxourgeio.
Getting Around Athens
Traffic in Athens is heavy especially in the city center and the surrounding areas during the morning hours. Luckily, there is a great metro system, which even locals prefer to use for their daily commuting. One single ticket costs 1.40€, it’s valid for 90 minutes and it can be used in all means of public transportation including buses and trolleybuses, the railway (Metro Line 1) and the suburban railway as well as the metro. If however, you’re planning to spend a few days in Athens make sure to purchase the 3-day Athena tourist ticket which costs 22€ including transfers to and from the airport or the 5-day ticket which costs €9 with airport transfer excluded. Taxis are cheap compared to other European cities but the minimum fare is 3.60€.
Is Athens a Cheap Destination?
Well, the answer is yes and no. Prices range when it comes to accommodation, food and entertainment. The average price for staying in a hotel in a central area is 50€, a main dish at a regular restaurant costs from 10 to 15€ and a drink at a regular bar costs around 6€. However, there are ways to visit Athens on a budget. Book a room at a hostel or at an Airbnb, shop at the local fruit markets and taste street food delicacies (one souvlaki costs no more than 3€) and for a night out seek for places at the city’s most alternative areas.
The Ultimate Guide to Athens photos courtesy of WikiImages/pixabay, michel simeonidis/ Flickr, Kullez/Flickr, G Da / Wikimedia Commons, Panoramas/Flickr, hans-johnson/Flickr, hjrivas /pixabay