Wondering whether or not you should visit Athens? Here’s a list of 10 reasons why Athens should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Athens has and always will have a special place in my heart. And I believe I couldn’t possibly have had the full Greek experience without spending time here. I want to share with you some of the reasons why I love Athens and why you have to visit Athens at least once. While it’s the capital of Greece and its largest city, it’s also so much more.
Historically it lies at the very heart of Greece as it’s known for being at the forefront of early civilisation, labelled as the birthplace of democracy and home to some of the most famous philosophers. Even today the cities thrumming pulse exudes an essence of importance that never fails to transport you back in time. The novelty of being constantly immersed in a city with so much character never really wears off, and in the end it began to feel like home.
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Athens, having been continuously inhabited for at least 3,000 years, has a wealth of history. Many of the ideas that exist today in Western society originated in this city. Whether it be philosophical ideas or the foundation of democracy, the importance of these contributions doesn’t diminish with age. While visiting Athens, you will learn amazing things and be humbled by the places where such monumental things have happened.
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Going hand in hand with history, the museums in Athens are the perfect way to help piece together all the facts that you learn while visiting. Here you are truly spoiled for choice, with a huge number of museums in the city centre alone. You just need to decide which ones you’d like to visit!
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The Archaeological Sites
As you probably know Athens is home to many important and historic archaeological sites. Their presence and preservation is something that makes the city incredibly special. Obviously the Acropolis is a defining feature and over a million people visit this site alone annually, but there are many other sites that deserve your attention. They are clustered within walking distance around the city, and will often be a lot less crowded.
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Many parts of Athens often have an unassuming exterior. While the buildings may be dated and worn, it by no means alludes to a dull interior. The narrow and sprawling alleyways of the city can lead you to the most unexpected and pleasant of surprises. Numerous times I’ve stumbled upon some of the quirkiest bars or cafes that only have a discreet doorway for their entrance, and if I wasn’t paying attention I might not even have noticed them. In Athens there are constantly things to explore, and you’ll find something new and exciting every single day, no matter the length of your stay.
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I know this isn’t Athens as such, but the capital is very close to the port in Piraeus. Just a 30 minute drive out of the city, this is the biggest port in Greece, and ferries run frequently to many gorgeous island destinations. A stay in Athens leaves you situated in the perfect central location; you get the best of both worlds in that you can experience some of the mainland but also see the islands. This proximity is always good when you only have a limited number of days on holiday. So, while it is possible to fly straight to Santorini or Mykonos, why not consider visiting Athens first?!
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Situated right on the southern edge of Greece’s capital is the Athens Riviera, a stretch of coast that has many private and public beaches. So, if you are unable to visit the islands, there are plenty of beaches that you can explore close to the city. Vouliagmeni is an example of one such destination and is only 25 km out of Athens. This coastal suburb has plenty of beaches to choose from. Lake Vouliagmeni is also close by and is a lake that is situated over a natural thermal spring. The high concentration of salts and minerals offer a number of therapeutic benefits that have been recognized since antiquity.
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The markets will give you a taste of real Athenian culture. There are many markets in Athens and here you’ll often get chatting to stall owners, whose friendly curiosity will hold you for a while longer than you expected. You’ll learn about the products and their origin and meaning all while meeting and seeing everyday people about their daily tasks. If you want a really authentic Greek market experience, make sure you visit Piraeus! Aside from the cultural aspect, often when you leave a country after a holiday you want to take a little something home with you that can be a reminder of your journey. Or perhaps you want to share something with those loved ones that missed out. For me it was both, and the markets in Athens provided some of the best places to find something special.
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Like anywhere, it depends how you choose to travel as to whether or not things are expensive. But should you require, Athens can be incredibly kind on your wallet. Sadly, the Greek people suffered immensely during the financial crisis, something that Greece is still recovering from today. However, for a tourist this means two things: firstly, by traveling you are contributing back to the Greek economy and secondly, prices are in general a lot more affordable than most other destinations in Europe. While the prices can be massively inflated on the islands if you’re visiting during peak season, Athens remains more consistent. Museum entry fees are minimal, eating out in restaurants won’t break the bank and I can guarantee you will always find a gyros for €2.50!
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Nothing says summer like a road trip, and Athens is in the perfect location for you to take a drive to visit some of the other popular destinations around Greece. If you have the time these destinations are close by and definitely worth a look.
- Cape Sounion is the southernmost point of the Athens Riviera and only 70 km out of the city. It will take just over an hour to get here. If you don’t have access to a vehicle there are also plenty of companies that run day trips. Here you will find a multitude of beaches and plenty of tavernas and bars to head to after a day of swimming and sun. Perched on the hill overlooking the sea is the Temple of Poseidon, made all the more stunning with the blue Aegean as a backdrop. Whether you view the temple from land or while swimming in the surrounding coves, the Sounion cape is worth a trip.
- Delphi is an incredibly important destination for travellers and for Greeks themselves. More than just a picturesque mountain village, Delphi is home to the Sanctuary of Apollo, considered one of Greece’s most important historical sites. Delphi is located 180 km northwest of Athens and a road trip here will take you just over 2 hours. Regular bus services also run here, so having a car isn’t necessary. It’s significance is globally recognised and it’s a journey that many people take while visiting Greece.
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In Athens the fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down, and in true Greek style things generally start to pick up later in the evening. Unlike many European countries, at 9pm the night is only just beginning. Restaurants will start to fill up as people come to have dinner or a drink with friends. This bustling evening energy is such an exciting change for those not accustomed to it. So, after dark you’ll find plenty to do in the city that never seems to sleep. Athens also has a large number of bars and nightclubs that can cater to everyone’s taste.
- Athens has stolen the hearts of many. Will you let it steal yours? Let us know what the most compelling thing on this list. Are you going to visit Athens this year?