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10 Important Reasons for a Lengthy Stay in Athens

A panoramic view of Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  A panoramic view of Athens

Athens, considered to be the cradle of Western Civilization, is more than just an open-air archaeology museum - it’s a modern, slightly chaotic 21st century city, where you are free to do whatever you please. Some travellers characterise Athens as a boring and expensive city, but that is very far from the truth. These rumours originate from those who fail to get a decent look and head straight to the Greek islands. Here we present you with 10 reasons why this city deserves a lengthier stay.

Even though the media usually discusses the Greek capital in the context of political upheaval and economic instability, it’s a rapidly developing city that has much to offer to its visitors – history buffs, natural food enthusiasts and party lovers will not be disappointed.

1.Ruins of an ancient civilization

Seven thousand years of the city’s history lies right before your eyes – ancient heritage and architectural monuments can be found all over this large metropolis. All of the city symbols – the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the ancient city square Agora, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Roman Agora, the Hadrian’s Library and, of course, the Temple of Olympian Zeus – can be found along a single pedestrian path that stretches all the way to downtown and residential areas

An archaeological site in Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  An archaeological site in Athens

If you want to see all of these historical monuments, we recommend you get the general pass, which costs 12 Euros and lasts for three full days. The pass can be bought at the first stop – the booking office near the Acropolis of Athens. By the way, make sure to watch the following video (called Ancient Athens) before leaving home:

Video
Video by Davidsbeenhere blog.  

2. The beach!

In the summer, the city’s Mediterranean coastline becomes an excellent counterpoint to the exhausting urban heat. The new, modern tram system of Athens will make it easy for you to leave the city centre and reach the beach, the coastal restaurants and the shopping zones. Most beaches here have showers, diners and beach chairs.

Evening glow in Mikrolimano coast, Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Evening glow in Mikrolimano coast, Athens

If you fall in love with the Mediterranean breeze so badly you don’t want to go back to the city, you can always stay at one of the many hotels in the Glyfada District that range from luxurious to economy.

3. Greek cuisine

Even though most people who come from Southern Europe speak incessantly about Italian, Spanish and French food, Greek cuisine has been unduly overlooked. First of all, it offers a mix of fresh and simple foods, which you can find in most Athenian restaurants and diners. The main ingredients of the Greek cuisine are as follows: olive oil, lemons, fresh herbs, tomatoes, cheese, pork, beef and, of course, seafood.

Greek food
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Greek food

Every self-respecting Greek loves coffee and coffee breaks, so while in Athens, make sure not to stay behind.
For more on Greek food, read David Hoffmann’s blog:

http://davidsbeenhere.com/2014/04/04/classic-traditional-greek-foods/

4. Go on a shopping spree of your life

Shopping in Ermou Street, Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Shopping in Ermou Street, Athens

The city of Athens has many excellent stores, art galleries, beauty salons and souvenir shops. Every district of the city is bound to have at least one little shop that’s suited to your needs, where you can buy traditional Greek worry beads (kombolói), personal hygiene products, natural Greek cosmetics, hand-made leather accessories, Byzantine jewellery and other characteristically Greek handiwork.

5. Moving round Athens is easy

Before the 2004 Olympic Games, the city government restored and built a lot of new public transportation infrastructure – the metro and tram systems are very efficient here, saving a lot of time for their users.
Furthermore, you can visit three free museums, built in several of the metro stations that exhibit archaeological artefacts discovered during the construction of the lines.

6. Many free museums

Apart from the free metro station museums, many can also be found up top – the Exile, Greek Instrument and Greek Theatre museums are also free of charge.
The New Acropolis, Cycladic Art and National Archaeological museums, too, can be accessed for free if you know when to come – all of the city’s museums are free on March 6, April 18, May 18, June 5 and September 27. Also, on the last weekend of September, every Sunday from November 1 to 31, and the first Sunday of April, May and June.

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens
Photo taken by Lucretius - wikimedia.org.  The National Archaeological Museum in Athens

So, as you can see, not that much planning is actually needed to get in free of charge! Apart from July and August, you’re sure to find a Sunday that works for you schedule.

7. Turbulent night life

Just like most Greeks, the residents of Athens love parties and celebrations. In the summer, when days are almost unbearably hot, the city only comes to life in the evening. That’s why, on summer nights, the city’s Mediterranean coastline is so reminiscent of the famous party capital – the island of Mykonos.

Night life in Plaka district, Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Night life in Plaka district, Athens

You don’t have to go to the beaches if you want to have a good time, though – there’s plenty of action in the city centre, too. As soon as the sun begins to set, many cafés and diners bring their tables outside, crank the music up, and turn on their special lighting, thus creating a completely different city atmosphere.

A street with restaurants and cafes in Palaka District, Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  A street with restaurants and cafes in Palaka District, Athens

Just like most people from the south, Greeks eat their diner late – around 9 or 10 PM, which means that parties only begin around midnight. Most bar lovers head for the Gazi Square, while wine connoisseurs usually congregate at the Heteroclito wine bar, where the owner himself often comes out to interact with the guests and share his passion for local grapes.

As for nigh club enthusiasts, they always go to the eternally fashionable GB Roof Garden terrace in the Syntagma Square.

8. Inexpensive hotels

The Grand Resort Lagonissi, Athens, Greece
Photo taken by facebook.com/GrandResortLagonissi.  The Grand Resort Lagonissi, Athens, Greece

The economic crisis and political upheaval really did deter some tourists from visiting Greece, but it also encouraged all service providers to reduce prices.

Go to the Travel On Spot website and compare hotel prices in Athens with those in other cities of the world – the difference is impossible to miss.

9. The Athens Central Market

Most cities tempt travellers with their fragrant, colourful and noisy markets – if you like these places, make sure to visit them in Athens as well. Every day, the city’s Central Market hums in tune with the hubbub of butchers, farmers, vendors, locals and tourists. Lamb and goat meat, beef, pork, fish, octopuses, shrimp and other seafood are all enticingly arranged for everyone to see. The sellers also shout their prices out loud. Even though it’s not as usual in other European markets, here this shouting creates an authentic market atmosphere.

A street market, Athens
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  A street market, Athens

Lined up opposite the meat and seafood lie fruits and vegetables. The market is also the best place to buy Greek herbs and olives.

10. The opportunity to escape to an island

View of Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  View of Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece

If you ever find yourself tired of the city noise and heat, and wanting to escape, leaving Athens for a day’s – or even a week’s – trip is more than easy. The Greek capital is situated on the crossroad between continental Greece, its islands and the Peloponnese Peninsula, which opens the gate to 

the magical world of Greek natural and marine environment, which is the reason why many travellers miss the first nine points related in this text and head straight for number ten.

Even if you’re interested in the Greek islands, give Athens a chance to surprise you.

Comments (1)

Eva   2 months ago  Edited
Would surely go this lovely place after completing my bus tour from san francisco