Who would’ve thought that a city built over 2,000 years ago, fortified with an ancient stronghold, and a growing university nightlife culture would be a fun place to visit for three nights? My sister went last year and suggested taking 3-4 days to see the capital of Greece, Athens. I needed to get west in order to leave the Schengen Zone through a Greek island and I figured that this historic place was a perfect place to start.
City Circus hostel was in a great location but did not come with the environment that I typically desire. It was attached to a restaurant but luckily not in the heart of the (tourist) nightlife, so I was able to sleep a little better (except for an enormous guy who snored worse than anyone I have encountered in a while). My first meal came recommended by a lovely hostel employee, Prigkipas. It was traditional Greek food and having not eaten all day…I ordered everything I could.
One of the keys to Athens, in terms of seeing the ancient ruins, which is a must because they’re amazing, is to do the following:
- There is a pass that allows you to see the 7 main sites (including the Acropolis) for $35
- If you were to buy each pass individually it will cost more than 50 euro, granted the Lyceum is skippable, but it was Aristotle’s school.
- First, go to the Temple of Olympian Zeus because the lines to enter are minimal. It is the farthest east in the city and you can work your way back towards the city.
- Make sure you attempt to skip the line at the Acropolis, it can be up to an hour long wait but with the 7 pass you can skip the line.
One of the coolest parts of Athens is that all of the historical info is written on tablets throughout the city. Unlike other cities in Europe, you don’t need to do a walking tour to get the relevant information. I skipped Lycabettus Hill but I heard that it was a lovely walk. Depending on what your age range is as a traveler, you may like to avoid the really touristy spots. I completely understand this. Most backpackers prefer to skip big cities and want to be out in nature, exploring the more untapped areas of the world. Athens combines the best of all worlds. I was blown away that the Greek capital, a place visited by the whole world, could feel so homely and small, while simultaneously housing some of the most sacred relics in the world. The ruins are breathtaking and hold history that you can basically touch with your fingertips (although don’t actually do that because they will blow a whistle at you).
Lastly, the nightlife. I went with some folks from the hostel to a bar called Beatniks. It was full of college kids dressed in darker tones. Nightlife outside of the tourist center was terrific, we all had a blast interacting with the locals. I ended up getting a $4 wrap that was worth maybe $2. I did not do the pub crawl despite it being a weekend. I’m sure it would be fun, albeit probably not going to the bars that the locals frequent.
"Harvey Danger" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.