Why you should add Athens to your RTW travel listPeople who visited Athens many years ago will tell you that the place is a mess, but since the city hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics a lot has changed. Sure, there are still problems, but the city is cleaner and easier to get around in than ever before. New roads and a light rail system have been added that really clean up a lot of the problems that people used to complain about. The city's historical districts have also been renovated and now pedestrian-only streets lead visitors calmly throughout the city.
- Greek coffee will kick your arse
- Get some culture, take in that cradle of Western civilization stuff
- The National Archeological Museum of Athens is a must-see. The amazing contents of this museum really help put Western history into a new perspective as you see art and other antiquities from centuries before Christ.
- Not far away is Syntagma Square, which is home to the Parliament Building and its quirky guard-changing ceremony.
- Of course you'll want to visit the Acropolis and see the Parthenon as well as the other ruins and the small museum included in your admission fee. It's a slightly challenging walk up the hill, but it's well worth it.
- Walk the same streets where Plato, Socrates and Hercules walked
- Cheap wine, great food – hello, Greek food, try some!
- From the city, soak in the sun and surf of the Greek Islands
Indie travel tips for Athens
- This is a sprawling metropolis without much open space except for the Acropolis itself.
- It's best to come into town for a day or two and quickly see the fascinating sights and then move along, preferably to one of the famous Greek Islands that can all be reached by ferry from the nearby port of Piraeus, which is just a 30-minute subway ride away from central Athens.
- At the base of the Acropolis you'll find the ruins of the ancient city of Agoura.
- You can get a combined admission ticket to see both and they really go together well.
- The streets just north of the Acropolis are lined with shops and restaurants, and are a great place to grab a drink and a meal or just wander aimlessly.
- Athens is more pedestrian friendly than it used to be (though some areas are still very pedestrian unfriendly). Check out the mostly car free archeological walk that takes in many of the amazing sites.
- Instead of paying for an expensive tour, rent an iPod Pocket tour audioguide to explore sites like the Acropolis. It’s much cheaper than hiring a guide, and you can go at your own pace.
- Wander the winding streets of Athens, popping in and out of cafes and bars along the way.
- Athens is a great place for art and culture. Explore the many smaller galleries, some of have combined with bars to offer coffee or other drinks
- Athens is surrounded by four mountains, providing plenty of opportunity for the outdoorsman. Hiking and biking in the various parks surrounding the city is a great way to get away from the traffic, smog, and tourist herds.
You'll almost certainly arrive by a flight to Athens International Airport. Athens is a major transportation hub and is served by many discount carriers so good deals are often available. The airport is about 30 km outside the center, but it's on the subway line and is also accessible by direct shuttle buses.
There are plenty of hostels in Athens, but the city is very spread out so it's important to research your exact location before you just reflexively book the cheapest place. If you are only staying for a day or two it's worth paying a bit more to stay near the center. The area around Syntagma Square is filled with places to sleep and is also the best hub for local transit.Photo credits: Titanas