If you are looking for a place full of culture, great food and history, you’ll love Athens! The Greek capital has everything the traveller’s heart longs for and more. During my 3-day visit in this stunning ancient city, I was fascinated by what an excellent travel destination it is. A lot of people skip Athens when traveling around Greece and its many magical islands, but I say “DON’T”! Athens has a lot to offer and is truly worth a visit – even if it’s just a short one!
Here’s 10 Reasons Why You Need To Visit Athens:
#1 The Acropolis
Most travelers are heading to Athens to stand in awe at the world-famous UNESCO site of the Acropolis. The Acropolis is not a single building as many think, but is rather a large pedestal located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens. The Acropolis was constructed in the fifth century BC by Pericles and contained a number of world-famous buildings, such as Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. Today, the Parthenon is the landmark of the Acropolis and visited from people around the world.
However, the area leading up to the Acropolis is also part of the exhibition and features various ancient relics and sculptures as well as ruins of temples and a theater. From the top, you get breath-taking views of the city as far as Piraeus port and the Mediterranean Sea.
The entrance ticket to the Acropolis is a staggering €20 and a combination tickets including various other sites in Athens costs €30. Students, however, enjoy a free entrance, so bring your student ID!
#2 Temples and Ruins
Athens has a lot more to offer than just the Acropolis. The city if full of ancient landmarks and ruins that many people just pass by unknowingly. One of the most famous site is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was constructed in the 6th century BC. Another great place to check out is the Ancient Agora of Athens, which was a lively market area and center of town in the 6th century BC.
#3 The Most Stylish Cafes And Restaurants
Something that struck me the most while exploring Athens was its abundance of stylish cafes and restaurants all over town. Modern Greeks seem to still appreciate design and architecture just like their ancestors did and open up the best shops in town. I say anything from vegan coffee shops to cozy street cafes. The options for eat-outs will not disappoint you here.
#4 Greek Food
Travel and food go together like peanut butter and jelly in my book. No wonder that I used every opportunity to try out new food while I was in Athens. It’s incredibly easy to find cheap and delicious eats in Athens and you even stumble upon the most delicious fusion cafes as well as hidden local gems. I kept seeing “mastic” pop up in cafes and ice-cream parlors and when I asked what kind of flavor it is, turns out it comes from the mastic tree in forms of “tear drops” and is very healthy for your body. Another must is to try the vast variety of olives that you can order anywhere as an appetizer. Also be sure to try out local dishes such as moussaka, gyros, feta cheese in all variations as well as local seafood.
#5 Convenient Transportation
One of the most important things when traveling is to be able to get to the places you want to see. Therefore, it’s important for any traveler to be able to easily navigate through a city of country they’re exploring. Before traveling to Athens, I did some research and found that the city is well equipped with a subway system and I noted down the stops to all the landmarks and sites I wanted to visit. In the end, I only took the subway once while in Athens, from the airport into the city. I found that all the attractions are pretty much located in the center of the city and everything was within walking distance. I was able to see a lot more when walking half an hour to the desired destination. It is possible to travel to suburbs such as Piraeus port as well as the airport by express bus or subway quite easily. Other than that, you do not need to worry about spending too much money on public transportation.
#6 Plaka Area
If you’re looking for cool souvenirs or the best Greek snacks and oils to take back home with you, the area of “Plaka” is probably your best bet. Here, you will not only find typical tourist knick-knacks but also local specialties such as olive oil soaps or handmade Greek pottery. Venturing off into the many small side streets around Plaka, you will come across some of the best restaurants in town at a reasonable price. Plaka is definitely a must to check out when in Athens.
#7 Great Weather
Greece is blessed with sunshine year-round. There are only a few days out of the year that might not be pleasant but these days are truly rare. That’s what makes Athens, or Greece in general, a great travel destination. Each day I visited out of my 5 day stay were absolutely gorgeous. It’s true that summers are hot in summer, but you can work your schedule easily around the heat. I always got up early in the mornings and visited major tourist attractions as the heat was still bearable (and the masses of tourists didn’t arrive yet).
I explored the city until after a good lunch and headed back to the hotel to recharge during the few hours in the early afternoon with extreme heat. Once it cooled down again in the early evening, I set out to grab dinner and explore further. Athenians eat late dinners (around 9 or 10pm in summer) and go to bed late, therefore there’s lots to do once the sun goes down.
#8 Exciting Nightlife
Due to the Athenians late dinners, the city gets really lively once the sun has set. You can find an abundance of pubs and bars or more relaxed cafes and restaurants open late. Even though stores in the pedestrian streets close around 9pm, the local bars and restaurants stay open late. Partying goes until the next morning and there’s always a place open to grab a bite to eat or drink. When traveling, there’s nothing worse than not being able to find a place to eat when your stomach growls. My personal schedule changed quite a bite when I travel and I tend to eat not as regular as back home. That’s why I especially appreciated Athens’ great nightlife. Oh, and don’t forget the spectacular night views of the Acropolis, of course!
#9 Greek Orthodox Churches
Something I’m really passionate about when traveling in Asia is temples. I love to explore temples in the different regions of Asia. Now, I can also add Greek orthodox churches to my passion catalog. All across the city of Athens you can find beautiful old churches that are often hundreds of years old. You will notice that there are more smaller churches than big cathedrals due to history. Back in the days when christianity came to Europe through Greece, private individuals helped building churches with their own funds. They were obviously not able to build gigantic cathedrals but built smaller ones for their communities. Only later, the government had big cathedrals built.
Don’t be shy and step into a Greek orthodox church when you get the chance, as they are very different from other christian churches. One of the things I liked the most were that people hung up small silver plates with different symbols on them, such as eyes, a leg, a baby, a house, etc. These are small prayer plates and are hung under a saints portrait so that the saint would help them with their problems. Isn’t that a lovely gesture?
#10 Low Travel Expenses
Now, you’d think eating at cool places and trying your way through the local cuisine would require a big wallet, but the reality is traveling in Athens is rather cheap. Compared to other European destinations, such as Paris, Rome or Barcelona, Athens will allow you to travel more comfortably while not paying too much attention to what you are spending. On our last night, we had dinner at a rather posh place and only paid about 10 euros more than our average meals. Dinner for two averages for around €20 while you can have cheaper meals. If you eat gyros, one of the Greeks favorites, you will only spend about €2,50 per person. Accommodation is also not too expensive even if you stay in a central area. A night at a 3 star hotel costs about €60 for a double room. One more reason to love Athens.
When are you heading to Athens?
I have spent amazing 5 days in the Greek capital city of Athens and can truly say I’d go back any minute! If you’re looking for a lively destination, with great food, welcoming people and a long history, you will fall in love with Athens just like I did! Traveling the city is cheaper than other European cities and the public transportation is good. Combined with year-round great weather and some of the finest and oldest landmarks in the world, Athens is truly a must-visit for any traveler coming to Europe.
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