Athens disappointed me.
I’ve been to London and Paris before, so I’ve experienced a big city, and I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting out of Athens, but it didn’t live up to whatever expectation I had.
When I first arrived in Athens, I came from the airport in a taxi and saw a lot of the outer suburbs on the way. My taxi driver, Niko, was so lovely and friendly and was a great introduction to Greece. He gave me a bit of history about Athens and Greece and answered any questions I had.
I knew Greece had a rich culture and history, so I was keen to explore the city of Athens.
First thing I noticed was the fact that it is a dirty, old and run down city. I knew Greece had financial problems, but I guess I still assumed the city would be pretty and looked after, considering it is visited by so many tourists…
Anyway, I decided to go explore. Firstly, it is not an easy city to navigate. I was staying a bit of a walk from the centre (although apparently I was staying in the city centre) so I had to figure out how to get to the sights. I had men hiss at me whilst I walked down the street. I was almost fully covered, with a maxi dress, button up shirt and hair up in a braid. So I was a bit shocked to have these strange hissing noises made at me.
My exploring was made harder by the fact that I could not understand the street signs. It really doesn’t help when you don’t understand the language. I had goggled where to go earlier so I thought I knew where I was going, but the English tanslation of Greek words was really unhelpful.
Eventually I found my way, and got some delicious ice cream in the Mastrimaki square. I found some shops just near this square, so I decided to have a quick look in them and buy a few little bits and pieces. I was jet lagged, and quite frankly, too anxious and nervous to stay out, so I went back to my hotel to figure out my sight seeing for the next day.
I decided to change my accommodation to the place that I would need to meet for my tour the following day. Athenstyle is so close to Mastrimaki square, so it made everything easier. Once I got there, I wanted to get a city map to get my bearings, but the hostel had run out. Instead I decided to get the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus around town. I’m so glad that I did because it made it easier for me to figure out where everything was. I also enjoyed the commentary and learning about the city’s history. I feel that it was €22 well spent.
I was able to visit the Acropolis and see some other sights around town. I did forget to put sunscreen on though, so I got a little red climbing up to see the Acropolis.
Later that day I made a new friend, Becca, at the hostel, and we went for a walk around town. We were in search of free wifi, so we walked up the Sygnamata Square where there is free wifi (why don’t more places do this in their city squares? Or have I only just figured this out?). We then walked around the town, passing through Athens Flea Market, and the strip of restaurants that sit behind it.
We had dinner at Athenstyle rooftop bar, as we had a pre-tour meet that night. We both chose the moussaka for €10. However, since eating moussaka everywhere around Greece, I think this may be a tad expensive, especially as this is from a hostel…
But back to Athens. Now I wish I had figured out the metro system earlier. It would have saved me a lot of walking. But I suppose it was good exercise 😉
If I were to do athens again, then I think I should set a strategy about what to see and when. This is what I would do:
- Find accommodation near Mastrimaki or Sygnamata Squares. They both have metro stations so it makes life easier being near there.
- Get a city map and metro map before getting into the city. Figure out points if interest beforehand.
- Get a sightseeing bus ticket. Yes, it’s touristy, but it saves the hassle of figuring everything out plus you get some history on each place.
- Visit the Acropolis early morning. It gets hot up there. Also wear sunscreen.
- Go to some of the other attractions like Hadrians Arch. A lot of the attractions are nice places to have a picnic at.
- Speaking of picnic, grab some fresh food from one of the stalls in Mastrimaki square.
- Go shopping in the flea markets.
- After shopping, rest and have a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants behind the flea markets.
- Watch the show of people playing drums in Mastrimaki square. Grab an icecream from the shops surrounding this area. BUT a word of caution – be wary of pick pockets in this square!
- Walk from Mastrimaki square to Sygnamata Square. When walking up this way you will come across many shops from H&M & Zara to smaller little clothes shops and souvenir shops.
- Rest and have a drink at Sygnamata square. There’s Starbucks and Everest for coffee lovers, or there’s also some bars near by as well.
I’m fairly certain you could even complete all of this in one or two days. Many shops do not close until late, often staying open until 10pm or even later. It is also perfectly acceptable to have dinner at 10.30pm at night. But if you have more time, don’t rush and just enjoy the sights. I only had one full day. But it’s all I felt I needed and frankly, all I wanted. I am always willing to give a place a second chance, so if I were to go again, I would do all of this and see if I enjoyed it more.