I loved Athens but it wasn’t what I expected at all. In fact, it was a lot like Palermo or Taormina in Sicily – which is perfect because I loved both of those places – but I didn’t know it would be so vast, so lively and filled with that rich cultural feeling which I adored in Italy.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Athens: beautiful music, historic sites and museums, warm and friendly people, gorgeous climate and beaches.
But of course one of my favourite things was the food.
Oh my goodness, there’s nothing like a warm pita gyro filled with chopped tomatoes, onion, parsley, greasy French fries, and dripping pork or chicken. Backpackers bonus: they’re usually only €2-3 each.
Not to mention: the seafood, Greek salad topped with a brick of feta, fried saganaki cheese, souvlaki kebab or rice-stuffed vegetables, homemade wine or the widely-available raki (homemade grapa).
My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
We stayed in Athens for three nights and two days at Hotel Fivos which I would ONLY recommend for the location. It’s a grimy and dark “hotel” filled with budget-conscious backpackers like us. Our room was about the size of the bed they squeezed inside it, had the general odor or a public washroom and there was pee in the toilet when we arrived. When we told the manager about this, he was polite but basically did nothing about it. We’re also pretty sure it was staffed by a sort of ex-con program. But like I said, you’re right downtown and steps away from Monastiraki Square where there are the touristy flee markets, metro and lots of restaurants with great views of the Acropolis. Breakfast is simple and the early bird gets the worm so don’t sleep in if you like to eat!
Acropolis & Museum
We did this first because it’s the number one thing you must do in Athens. I’d been to a couple of Ancient Greek ruins before, like Agregento, but unsurprisingly nothing compares to the stunning Athens Acropolis. It’s loaded with tourists mostly any time of day and pack lots of water because you’ll be walking a lot in the sun, but it’s absolutely a must-see.
Right after, I recommend heading down the hill to the Acropolis Museum which was beautifully designed to incorporate as much natural light as possible and to showcase the Pantheon Gallery in exactly the way it would be placed on the actual building centuries ago. There’s also a beautiful cafe which offers a splendid view of the ruins, but be prepared to pay for it.
Go Greek for Lunch
For (in my opinion) an authentic lunch in Athens – and there are so many options it’s unimaginable – I ended up at “Ta Giouvetsakia” on Adrianou Street in the center of the city. It’s touristy, however affordable and the food was delicious. We had the Greek salad, saganaki cheese (best we had in Greece!), chicken souvlaki, and mousaka (Davide describes it as “Greek lasagna”). Plus great house wine for only €5 half litre, you can’t complain.
Sunset in Athens
The evenings in Greece are fun and lively almost anywhere you go. You’ll see huge groups of people enjoying a meal outside until around 11:30 or 12:00 at night, and you can walk around with a beer and enjoy the atmosphere if you prefer not to sit in one place.
In Athens, there are tons and tons of cafes, patios and lounges to choose from, but I highly recommend A for Athens just above Monastiraki Square, next to the metro station. It’s the perfect rooftop terrace to grab a relatively affordable cocktail while watching the sun set over the acropolis. For €10 each, you can choose from a booklet of handcrafted mixed drinks. I had the “Spicy Tommy, which was a little spicy with fresh ginger and a paprika rim while Davide ordered the “Spritz de Nostalgie”, an orange-flavoured cocktail garnished with basil.
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there’s tons of other nearby spots to choose from!
Photos from Athens, Greece
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