If you’ve ever been to Estonia or met an Estonian then you probably know that we call our summer ‘bad weather for skiing’. This fact is only one of the reasons why I jumped on a last minute flight deal to Athens. It was time to make the most of this year’s Midsummer Eve and do it somewhere warm. This is the story of my three days in Athens, Greece.
As this was my first time to Greece I wasn’t sure what to expect. Are the people friendly? Is it easy to move around? Will I find something to eat? Here are some tips and trick that you might find handy as well.
Getting To/From the Airport
If you arrive in Athens during the day or an another ‘normal’ hour then take the metro. The blue line goes from the city centre to the airport and back. Though bear in mind that you will need an additional 10 euro ticket since the regular ticket does not cover it.
If you arrive at night then you have two options – taxi or bus. The bus will cost you less than 10 euros, but it WILL take you close to 2 hours. Landing at 1:25 am and then sitting on a bus for 2 hours was not my idea of a great start to the vacation. So, we chose the taxi. There’a handy service called Welcome Pickups. They charge you the same amount as the other taxis and you can be sure that you’re getting a driver who knows what they’re doing.
Where to Stay?
Even though our taxi driver’s question on why we chose Piraeus as our place to stay in Athens got me a bit off guard, I couldn’t be more happy about our choice now. Everyone and I mean everyone stays somewhere where you’ll have a view of the Acropolis and a heated pool a few floors down. But that’s not the only way.
We stayed in an Airbnb in the Piraeus area. It’s a less touristy area that’s known for the Piraeus port, which is the biggest in Greece. Thanks to that we got to experience the real Athens with the local restaurants (and I mean local as we were the only ones speaking something other than Greek), local residents (who are more than helpful), local shops (without the tourist surcharge) and an overall feeling of the slow and relaxed pace of the Greek lifestyle.
Getting Around the City
Athens has a great public transportation system. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t get a chance to try all of it, but we got where we needed to be in 1-2-3. If you’re planning on using the public transport every single day for more than 2 days then I would recommend buying the 5-day ticket. It will cost you 9 euros and grant you unlimited rides on all public transportation. Though as I said before, it’s not valid on the metro to the airport.
Get Out to the Islands
If you’re staying in Athens for more than 2 days then I recommend hopping on a boat and visiting an island or two. We chose the island of Aegina and as we were looking for something less touristy, we hit the jackpot. The roundtrip ticket from Piraeus to Aegina cost 25 euros and the boat ride itself took about 40 minutes.
Aegina is a beautiful island not far from Athens and it’s a favorite of many Athenians. It has a cute port town which boasts quite a few excellent seafood restaurants. Wandering the streets is enough to make you fall in love with the place. There are also more than enough swimming spots in the form of beaches and just stairwells along the cliff face.
Our best friend on this city break to Athens was the app Foursquare. We found a little local restaurant on it which served some of the best dishes I’ve ever tried. I’m not sure if I was more taken by their taste or the fact that they were simple Greek dishes made by local fishermen.
We also found a small café for lunch with the best orange pie and mastika ice cream ever. EVER!
Do the Must Do’s
The Acropolis is a must do. I would say that it’s impossible to go to Athens and not visit it. It will set you back by 20 euros (a bit more if you book a full tour) but it’s worth it. You’ll get to see the history of mankind up close and enjoy some of the best views of the city as well. I’ll be honest and say that the Temple of Zeus was a big let down for me. The unfinished temple is something, but the lack of signs around the other ruins really made me just walk past them.
Here’s a hint to the groundskeepers – put some signs next to the sights, not just at the entrance. I would have very much liked to know what everything was, but I wasn’t going to run to the entrance and back five times in 40+ C’ heat.
All in all, I really liked Athens. It’s a great spot for a short city break that gives you ample opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, eating well and just relaxing. Now, I’m really hoping to nab some great tickets to the Greek islands as well.