Athens Greece is one of the oldest and most influential cities in the world, and it bugs the hell out of me to hear so many people brush it off as a dirty and ugly city. Sure, it might be a bit scruffy with some graffiti walls and trash in certain areas, but that doesn’t mean this historic city is lacking for exploration opportunity.
After all, it was settled in 3,000 BC and like Rome, it can be a bit in your face with hawkers and crowds. But it still has so much to offer.
Every week while living in Greece on the sailboats, we’d arrive back in Athens on a Friday and I’d be eager to get into the city. The skippers would wonder why, usually referring to it as “kinda shit“.
But life on a boat for 5 months made me look forward to as much time on land as possible, and I refused to sit around in port.Sometimes I would chat with travelers and they’d say they didn’t see much because the city wasn’t very “pretty“.
They’d rave about the nightlife and bars but would stick close to the hotels or hostels because it didn’t look safe. Sure, there are warnings on public transport and on tourist info to watch out for pickpockets, but that’s the same thing I’ve heard about Barcelona.
When I’d convince people to come to explore Athens with me, by the end of the night they’d always end up saying “Athens is actually pretty cool“.
I think the problem is that most stick to the walking tours, and the beaten path to tourist hotspots, but never wander off and don’t see what makes Athens really interesting. They don’t get lost.
People miss out on the mime in a back street offering a smile and laugh. Otis the Congolese blue musician on the street corner. The incredible sunsets with a beer on a hilltop over the city. The winding vine-covered alleys. The street parties with locals dancing and a musician singing hip-hop after midnight beside ruins.
Each week I went into the city with no set plans, and always found something interesting, something captivating, and some sort of musicians or artists livening up the streets. And for traveling veggies, wow was the food scene awesome! People, if you don’t explore Athens besides the main staples like Acropolis and popular temples, I feel sorry for you.
Come get lost with me around Athens and I’ll show you below some of the things I discovered.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
TEMPLE OF HEPHAESTUS
MONUMENT OF PHILOPAPPOS
OLD ROMAN FORUM
ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS
SUNSET ATOP FILOPAPPOS HILL
THE REALITY OF ATHENS
The reality of Athens, like most major tourist destinations, is that it can be super crowded.I mean, freakin’ selfie sticks EVERYWHERE!Also, with the financial crisis that hit Greece so bad, the hard times for its people is apparent. Yes, there is a lot of trash in downtown areas and abandoned buildings.
Yes, there is tons of (bad) graffiti everywhere. Yes, you risk getting pick-pocketed on trams and they warn you of it. But at no time have I felt in danger when exploring Athens, even after midnight. And most of the time, when I would break away from tourist-heavy areas, I’d find myself wandering completely alone.
Just because it comes off as a bit scruff, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore. And I know from experience that it is well worth it.I’m just bummed I didn’t have more time to explore Athens.