O Athens! O Athens! How I marvel at thee!
I was so excited about visiting Athens! I’ve recently become quite a big fan of Greece after visiting the beautiful islands of Santorini (see our Santorini blog) . It’s been a pleasure to meet some of the friendly locals and vibrant culture of Greece.
In Athens, I was looking forward to not only the opportunity of experiencing a trip to another famous Capitol city, but to also gaze upon the magnificent ruins of the Parthenon and Acropolis – which I was very excited about seeing!
When to go:
The best times to visit Athens are between March and May but you can also travel between September and November period (which is when we decided to take our trip). Weather during these periods is generally quite good with plenty of sunshine. During our visit there was a little bit of rain during one of the days, but overall it was quite warm and sunny. We chose to go in November which is admittedly is a bit later in the season but the crowds tend to be less busy at this time.
Talking to people:
I am ashamed to say I do not speak a word of Greek – so it was a relief to discover that pretty much everyone in Athens, including the shops and tourist areas spoke both Greek and English. This made our visit to Greece much easier to navigate and we encountered very little difficulty in talking to people in shops, locations, and making purchases in food outlets. However –it wasn’t always the case with taxi drivers, which did provide a bit of a problem for us on our visit to and from the airport.
Shopping and Food:
There are simply a huge array of modern shopping areas and markets in Greece. It includes well known brands, and brands only known in Greece. You could spend hours shopping here. There’s also a range of inexpensive cafes, restaurants and fast food places if you are on a budget, as well as some of the more high quality places if you want to splash out. The city can be busy at times but on the most part was fairly relaxed (especially compared to London) and generally everything was reasonably priced. You can visit Athens quite easily on a budget.
If you go to Athens, you simply have to go and visit the Acropolis. The Acropolis is amazing. It’s the name of the rocky outlook in the middle of Athens overlooking the whole city. The Acropolis contains the temple ruins of the Ancient Greeks. It includes the Parthenon, the Eretchtheum, and Athena Nike. You can see the Acropolis high up perched above the city, with a great photo view from the other Olympian Ruins near the national park. It’s truly astonishing to look at and you can see why the Ancient Greeks built the temples here. It’s inspiring.
The Parthenon is impressive and huge. It’s massive marble columns reach up high above, surrounded by the statues and entrance temples below. It’s easy to walk around the ruins (although tourists are discouraged from touching) and you really get the opportunity to really get up close and personal with the beauty of the architecture. There are plenty of opportunity for instagramable photos here and the entrance fee is only 10 euros.
The other instagramable location (already mentioned), is Hadrian’s Arch in the National Gardens. The ruins are a marvel to look at and really dominate the landscape, with smaller ruins scattered around it. Considering they are thousands of years old they are in great condition (they’ve survived centuries of earthquakes) – and I cannot understand how the ancient people managed to build them without special machinery, when people in the British Isles were still living in caves. It’s even more unbelievable when you realise that the marble they are built out of isn’t from the local area – it was transported from miles away.
The entrance fee is very cheap (3 euros) so don’t get conned into paying the more expensive price.
Things to avoid:
Agh the taxis! We made the mistake of taking 50 euros in the car from the airport with a taxi driver who did not speak English. He wouldn’t look at the directions, he wouldn’t look at my phone using Google directions, and he didn’t seem to pay attention to any hand gestures I was making, and although he had the address clearly wasn’t sure where he was going. All the time we saw the taxi meter clocking up to 50 euros and not a cash machine in sight. I am not sure what we would have done if it had gone over.
It wasn’t our only experience. On the way back, I was determined to not get into a taxi unless they spoke English. Although this didn’t take us very long (there are yellow taxis literally everywhere in Athens), he seemed to manage “not understanding me” when it came to discuss the fare. I asked him beforehand about using the meter, which he didn’t reply to and seemed to not understand, yet when we arrived at the airport with the meter running produced a small card, with a different fare charge on it . He seemed very able to explain to us how a different fare applied and charged us an extra 10 euros for the journey.
I would recommend that before getting into a taxi; 1. You check that the taxi driver can fully understand you (English is widely spoken), 2. Agree that the taxi fare will based on the meter or alternatively agree the fee in advance, and 3. clarify the approximate total cost of the fare without any additional charges.
Athens is a great city to visit and you can do it really easily on a budget. In my view, it’s probably worth going for no more than 3 days as I think after that you’ll have been able to see most sites and the key activities. All in all, a brilliant place for instagramable photos.