When the opportunity arose recently to come home from a trip via Athens for a dirt cheap price, this plucky tourist had to jump at the chance. For the record, let it be known that the flight with Scoot from Athens to the Gold Coast was only $471 all in. Bargain. The down side, and due to time constraints was that I only had 24 hours in Athens. Better than none I would suggest. Besides, it made for a nice taste test for a potential return at a later date.
The recorded history of Athens dates back almost 3,400 years which, when you think about it compared to other nations, is quite extraordinary. Today, Athens is home to almost 700,000 people and is among the top financial hubs in Europe. But what of the city as a tourist destination? Well, it’s more hot than miss but does have a number of floors. Let’s take a closer look shall we starting with your arrival at the airport.
The airport is reasonably small and, like all things in Greece, a little disorganised. Getting to the city is reasonably easy with a bus route that takes around 90 minutes depending on traffic and a metro service that runs every 15 minutes and takes only 35-40 minutes to the city. It’s an expensive metro ride though, coming in at 10 Euro’s. A return is slightly better at 18 Euro’s. The bus is just under half that price. They have wifi at the airport however, it’s perhaps one of the slowest wifi networks at any airport I have ever visited. A good reason to head straight to the city if ever there was one.
My accommodation was reasonable. I stayed at the Bed Box Hostel in the city centre for 21 Euro’s on the Saturday night. It was located in a quiet back street and the rooms were air conditioned, clean tidy and came with lockers. Not exactly a party hostel which suited my needs down to the ground. From here, the historical action and the bustling parts of Athens were only a short 10 minutes walk away. It’s a good idea to take a hearty water bottle with you because the sun is quite the stinger and Athens is one of those cities with lots on offer to explore. Being the historical nerd that I am, my first incentive was to visit the ancient relics and then head up to look around the wondrous site of the Acropolis and the Parthenon along with the original site of the first Olympics in 1896.
At every turn, there is culture and a rich history to embrace. Some parts of the city are a little worn down and smothered in tasteless graffiti which kills the charm a little. It’s a shame really but part of the modern world we live in. Also, another sad element with Athens is the large volume of homeless and destitute people living on the streets. More than 28 million people visit the city each year and you can’t help but wonder if there is a better way for the tourism dollars to help those less fortunate?
At a guess, I would suggest one could take 4 days or so before you really start to appreciate the beauty of Athens. I spent a good hour or so near the entry to the Acropolis taking in the wonder and beauty of the city that lay on the horizon before me. I ran out of time to pay the admission fee into the Acropolis itself as you would need at least 2-3 hours to explore, enjoy and appreciate things properly. A marvellous place to watch the sun set mind. The streets are full of life and colour though, with the fall of darkness, they became a little seedy and not the sort of place you would want to take your kids of loved ones. A few female travellers I spoke to at the airport the following day all advised me that they didn’t feel safe in Athens at night on their own due the countless men harassing them. A great shame that a great city has this problem.
Food is relatively cheap if you look around long enough and a cold beer can be enjoyed for a couple of Euro’s. There are a few small supermarkets around that meet your hostel budget well and no end of helpful locals to direct you to where you would like to be. Just be careful of the African gangs trying to sell you those daft “friendship bracelets” for a “couple of Euro’s” because, as is the case in Milan and Paris, once they get that bracelet around your wrist, 5-6 more will surround you demanding money.
I’m sure there are many more expensive ways to explore Athens though I can attest to you here and now that the city is very friendly towards budget travellers and is perhaps one of Europe’s major cities that can be seen and explored for a minimal outlay. It’s a city I am very much looking forward to returning to and one you should mark down on your must see lists if you have not been before.