Athens Travel Guide
Athens, Greece has some of the largest collection of Greek ruins and artifacts and is the primary stop for people visiting the country. However, outside the ruins and the beautiful Plaka, Athens is a city filled mostly with graffiti and trash. Even the folks I know from Athens try to get away. Yet, a city thousands of years old, is going to have a lot to do and this travel guide can help you plan your trip around the city.I love the history in Athens, and I enjoy walking through the ruins but I wouldn’t spend more than three days here.
- Hostel prices – Hostels are very cheap in Athens. Dorm rooms start at $10 USD and private rooms begin at $45 USD.
- Budget hotel prices – You can find some good deals here on budget hotels. Double rooms can be found for as little as $40 USD per night and often include breakfast.
- Average cost of food – Cheap street food (gyros, pizzas, etc) will cost around $4 USD and even a meal for two people with a bottle of wine will only cost about $40 USD even in the touristy Plaka. Meals are cafes will cost around $13 USD. For $50 USD per week, you can buy all the groceries you need.
- Transportation costs – The subway system costs $2 USD for a single trip. The train to the airport costs around $12 USD while the bus costs $5 USD. If you choose to take a cab, expect to pay around $20 USD regardless of where you go.
Money Saving Tips
- Eat gyros – You can cut down your food budget by eating delicious and filling Gyros for only $4 USD. It’s the best way to eat cheap in an already cheap country.
- Stay in Omonia – Not the nicest neighborhood in town, this area north of the central Plaka has really cheap accommodation.
Top Things to See and Do in Athens
- Visit the historic Parthenon – Made entirely of marble, this was the main the temple to Athena (the patron of the city) and the city’s religious center. It’s been battered by time and history. Unfortunately, it seems to be always under construction so you won’t get a good photo without scaffolding. It’s also surrounded by other little temples and gives you a great panoramic view of the city. Avoid going in the morning when tours from the cruise ship swarm the site.
- Hike the Acropolis – This the name to the area around the Parthenon. Besides having the Parthenon at its peak, there are other temples around and many theaters and ruins along the side. I love wandering around the area learning about the history.
- Relax in Kifissias Park – This park is a great way to spend the day. Bring your own wine and local bread, cheese, meat, and enjoy some good people watching.
- The Agora – Whether it is the Roman or Greek Agora (there are two), the area around the Acropolis is littered with the ancient ruins of the administrative buildings of old Athens. My favorite is the old library. This is the equivalent of the forum in Rome. There are tons and tons of ruins around here and you’ll need a long time to explore.
- The National Archaeological Museum – This museum has one of the collections of ancient Greek sculpture, jewelry, pottery, and that 2000 year old computer found in the shipwreck off the island of Antikithera will have you wondering just how advanced those ancient Greeks actually were. You’ll learn a lot about Greek history here.
- The Agora-Athens Central Market – Come early to watch the produce and fish being unloaded or visit between 7am and 1 pm with the majority of the Athenian shoppers. A walk through the market will make you wish you weren’t traveling and had a kitchen so you could cook some of this amazing food.
- Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon – This makes for a great afternoon trip from Athens. It’s a great spot to see the sunset and the temple is very well preserved. Unlike the temples in Athens, it is not under restoration and not nearly as crowded.
- Kanellopoulos Museum – On the northern slope of the Acropolis, resides this mansion, built in 1884. There is an impressive collection of jewelry, weapons, clay-and-stone vases, various figurines, and more items that once belonged the Kanellopoulos family. It was recently refurbished and expanded in 2008.
- Tower of the Winds – Originally built by Andronicus in the 1st century BC, it once functioned as a sundial, a weather vane, a compass, and a water clock. It is a very neat piece of history.
- Easter Vigil – If you happen to be in Athens during Easter weekend, you won’t be able to miss the stunning vigil procession. Every year, hundreds of people make their way down the hill—all bearing lit candles. It’s a really beautiful sight and a great photo opportunity.
- Parnitha National Park – The landscape of Greece is really breathtaking—particularly throughout Athens and the surrounding area. Within this national park, there are several caves, gorges, and springs to see. There are a number of well-marked paths so a guide isn’t really necessary.
- Stroll through Anafiotika – This is a 19th-century neighbourhood on the northern side of the acropolis hill. It lies above Plaka, near the entrance to the Agora, but has none of the bustle of the city centre. Take a walk, enjoy the flowers and the whitewashed walls.
- Hike to the top of Lycabettus – If you want some exercise and a great view of the city (especially in the evening), take a hike up to the peak of this 277-meter hill. The path starts at the end of Aristippou Street. There’s a (pricey) cafe at the top if you need a refreshment afterward. You can also pay $8 USD to take the funicular to the top.