Why you will love Athens!
It's strange that the Greek capital had never featured heavily on travel bucket list. I mean, I love sunshine, I adore vibrant cities, I studied Ancient History at school.... so why did it take me so long to venture to this part of the world? Either way, I gave my heart to this city pretty quickly. Even arriving by plane is gorgeous: Athens really owns its place between the mountains & the sea and I really felt like I'd landed in the heartland of all those myths and legends. Of course, there are so many incredible ruins to visit but Athens is a very modern city: its sun-soaked edginess feels like a great blend between Barcelona and Berlin. I visited in February, their coldest month, and still couldn't believe how warm and outdoorsy the city felt. I can't wait to come back here in the summer and experience Athens at its best!
Watch out for:
- Athens G.A.: I kept Googling places in Athens and then realising that they were actually in the U.S. state of Georgia. So add Greece to your search, just in case.
- Greek alphabet: I was very intimidated by the fact that everything would be written in an alphabet I couldn't even read! At least in most of Europe, I can try and pronounce a word but here everything is indecipherable (due to my limited language skills). Thankfully, this wasn't ever a problem as most signs and menus were either in English or translated (and most Athenians spoke excellent English).
- Language: once I learnt a couple of phrases, I found them especially easy to remember! Check out my Basic Greek guide below.
- 5 different spellings: anything that is translated from Greek tends to have multiple spellings in the Latin (this) alphabet. For example, the area I stayed in is called Psyri but it could also be spelt Psiri, Psyrri or Psirri in Latin and then Ψυρή or Ψυρρή in Greek. Fun, right? This made researching the city quite difficult as you often needed to try Googling a restaurant or an area by multiple names.
- Long flight: Athens is 4-hours from London, which isn't bad at all (considering I'm from Australia) but I think this might be my limit on a budget airline. Without any in-flight entertainment options, you really have to bring something seriously entertaining or you will go a little bonkers.
- Smoking: I'd forgotten what it's like to go out in a city where people smoked EVERYWHERE. There are laws banning smoking inside but no one pays any attention to them. So don't pack clothes with the intention of wearing them for a second day as they will reek of smoke. Fun if you're a smoker! Not so much fun if you're asthmatic (like me).
- Brunch: whilst you can get weekend brunch in some cafes and restaurants, it isn't really a thing on weekdays. So I would recommend booking accommodation that does breakfast (something I never recommend as I love exploring brunch options!) if possible.
- Coffee: Greek coffee is stronger than what they call 'American coffee' so if you don't like a solid caffeine hit in the morning, avoid it. Apparently, getting your coffee to go is much cheaper than having it at the cafe so if you're on a tight budget just sit outside.
- The Acropolis: don't leave it until your last day like I did. I was a fool and had to rush the whole experience. Ascending those steep hills in a hurry wasn't fun. Thankfully, this means I can't wait to go back and do it all again.
- City Circus Hostel: read my review to see how much I loved this place! They also have gorgeous private rooms, so it's a great option for all travellers.
- Exarchia: head here on Saturdays for the vibrant farmer's market or explore the bars on weekend evenings.
- Vegan Athens: so many great veggie places on my map above, such as Avocado, Mama Tierra, and Wild In The City.
- Gluten-free Athens: all the veggie restaurants above were very gluten-free friendly plus you can also grab sweet treats from Ice Queen Gelato and traditional Greek food from Ydria.
- Gay Athens: read my guide to Fabulous Athens.
- The street art of Cacao Rocks.