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Athens, at first, excited us a little. In our early days there, we were sure it was one of the most abandoned European capitals we have ever seen. We had high expectations when we arrived, and that was the problem! We thought it would be a charming, mysterious and secretive city. Instead, we found a place somewhat ugly, dirty and sad.

We know Greece has faced a serious financial crisis for years and it would be impossible for the country’s capital not to reflect the economic situation. However, another aspect which weighs heavily against the city’s reputation in our first impression, is that we were there doing volunteer work with the refugees, thus exposed to the worst of the place.

Nevertheless, the days passed and we ended up knowing another side of the Greek capital. We saw a more interesting and attractive side of it. The Greeks, for instance, are one of the highlights of the visit. They are always cheerful and friendly. The food is also very tasty and the streets are full of bakeries and cafeterias for all tastes and budgets.

We can say that after a month living there, we ended up being conquered. Here is our contribution to those who want to see the best in Athens: the 8 must-see attractions of the Greek capital.

Acropolis
Athens

Dionysus theatre

Athens

Acropolis actually means “highest city” and there are several acropolis around the world, being that of Athens the most famous.

It was built in 450 BC. it is here where the remains of the famous Parthenon (temple to the Goddess Athena), the Temple of Zeus, Erechtheion (temple to the gods Poseidon and Athena) and the Theater of Dionysus, among many others, lie.

Many of these constructions were well-preserved until the mid XVII century, when during a war between the Ottomans and Venetians, the area was hard bombed and destroyed.

Acropolis sits atop the mountain (“highest city”, remember?) providing a privileged view of Athens. This view is already worth a visit by itself. The citadel is certainly the most anticipated program in the Greek capital.

  • Please note that from December to April 2017, the first Sunday of each month will be free of charge.
  • Journalists also do not pay. In all other cases, the ticket costs: 20 euros
  • More information here: http://odysseus.culture.gr

* Underground station: Akropoli *

Acropolis museum
Athens

* Photo by Érica de Castro *

Unlike Acropolis, everything here is new and modern. We did not have the chance to go, but friends who did, said to be even more interesting than the Acropolis itself. Inside, there are relics and information about the old capital, besides a perfect model showing how was the citadel in the Ancient Greece.

Part of the museum, including the restaurant, has the wall made of glass, which provides a very beautiful view of the Acropolis.

* Underground station: Akropoli *

Plaka

Athens

One of the most tourist and charming areas of Athens. Plaka is full of traditional houses, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.

* Underground station: Monastiraki *

Monastiraki

Athens

It is a neighbourhood with a wide square and cobblestone floors, historic buildings and views of the Acropolis. It is also one of the most touristic places in Athens due to street fairs and shops. Just be smart with street vendors working in the subway. Some may take an aggressive approach and you’ll end up buying what you do not want.

* Underground station: Monastiraki *

Gazi

Athens

It is a trendy area, full of bars, nightclubs and restaurants. They have options for various budgets and tastes, from more sophisticated establishments to more alternative ones. Most places stay open late.

* Underground station: Kerameiko *

National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Athens

* Photo by Érica de Castro *

This is the largest museum in Greece and where it has one of the largest and most important collections of the Ancient World.

The building is also very beautiful.

* Underground station: Viktoria or Omonia *

Exarqueia
Athens

Exarchia View Point

This is the anarchist neighbourhood, which reminiscent of Berlin. Graffiti, bars, galleries and cafes are everywhere. Also, it is here the historic National Polytechnic Faculty of Athens.

Honestly, Exarqueia is not the most beautiful part of Athens, but it is surely interesting. The neighbourhood was taken over by anarchists and the police do not even go in there. It’s not dangerous, rest assured, but avoid entering the neighbourhood on a day of protest, unless you want to have tear gases on your vacation.

* Underground station: Omonia *

Syntagma
Athens

* Photo by Harout Arabian *

Okay, this is not a must-see, but I think it’s fair to pass through the main city square on a visit to Athens. This is where the Greek Parliament (the former Royal Palace) stands. Also, it is here the final stop (or where you would catch) the buses to the airport.

* Underground station: Syntagma *