Athens, I’m Just Not That Into You

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.

Dear Athens,

It was never supposed to end up this way between us.

We were supposed to fall deeply, madly in love. I was supposed to adore you, with all your history and culture. We were supposed to make incredible memories together. I was supposed to go home and make everyone jealous of my time spent with you.

Athens, Greece

I wanted to love you, Athens. I really did. Ever since I was old enough to be interested in history, yours has been one that's fascinated me. Gods and goddesses; philosophers; music; art; ancient ruins — these are the things I fantasized about when I thought of you.

Athens, Greece

I looked forward to visiting you. I wanted to prove all the people wrong who told me you've gone downhill during Greece's financial struggles. I wanted to find interesting and beautiful parts of you to share with people who are wary of visiting you these days.

I wanted to highlight your redeeming qualities, Athens.

Athens, Greece

But damn, you made it hard.

As soon as I arrived, I had that sinking feeling that things just weren't going to work out between us.

As superficial as it sounds, you really weren't much of a looker. Your streets were dingy, your buildings weren't pretty, and all the cool ruins were nowhere to be seen.

And, to top it all off, you were bloody HOT Athens — and we're not talking “hot” in an attractive way. We're talking “hot” in an “I-couldn't-step-outside-without-wanting-to-pass-out” kind of way.

Athens, Greece
No escape from the sun.

Yes, Athens, you left quite a bit to be desired.

It seemed like for every positive thing I saw in you, there was a negative lying in wait just around the corner to cancel it out.

For example:

While the hotel I stayed in was modern and clean and had a rooftop bar and pool with amazing views, the staff was rude, the air conditioning didn't work, and it was way too expensive.

Athens, Greece
View from our hotel's roof.

While I enjoyed shopping and roaming around Monastiraki Square in your Old Town, the walk to get there was a bit sketchy, and it was so crowded at night.

Athens, Greece

While walking through your Ancient Agora in the steps of greats like Socrates and Aristotle was cool, the ruins that remain there weren't as impressive as I'd hoped.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

While I enjoyed looking out over your basin-shaped valley from the spot where St. Paul first preached to your people about the Unknown God, the air was a bit hazy and the sun unbearably hot.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

While standing atop the Acropolis WAS amazing, standing in a huge line to do so in 115-degree weather was not. The day I was there, it was so hot that they CLOSED the Acropolis in the afternoon.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece
The lines/crowds were insane.

While seeing the Parthenon was cool, seeing it covered in scaffolding and swarming with people was not.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece
Not very attractive.

The only things about you I liked without any caveats were watching your amusing changing of the guard ceremony, and eating mounds of frozen Greek yogurt in attempts to cool down.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

If I'm being completely honest, I actually hated you while I was with you, Athens. I found myself in a sour mood, eager to move on to the next destination and leave your oppressive heat and ugliness behind.

Athens, Greece

Looking back on our brief relationship now, though, I'm not quite so angry; I can appreciate the things we saw and did together. I can be somewhat in awe of your history and ancient ruins. I can admit that there was more of you that I would have liked to see if it hadn't been so hot and if I'd had more time.

But, while I might be convinced to give you a second chance someday, I'm not very optimistic that things will ever work out between us.

I'm sorry, Athens, but I'm just not that into you.

Sincerely,

Amanda

Have you been to Athens? If so, what did you think of it? If not, has there ever been a city that let you down like this?

*Note: I visited Athens as part of a discounted 9-day Classic Balkan Trek tour with Busabout. All opinions (obviously) are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

123 Comments on “Athens, I’m Just Not That Into You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I have not been to Greece yet. I would like to visit the island because I have heard great things about them. I figure a couple of days in Athens would be enough.

    The one city that I did not like the first time I was there was Madrid. I have been back twice and like it now. The reasons I did not like it had nothing to do with the city. It was more about the problems that I had getting there.

      I’ll definitely go back to Greece (I really want to go to the islands, too!), but I might skip Athens next time… especially if I go in the summer again! It was simply too hot, and that really made me like the city even less.

        The weather and the crowds are the reasons I do not go to Europe in the summer any more. I do not think I would have a big problem with the heat, because I live in Phoenix, and it is like that all summer. It is just more enjoyable to travel when the weather is cooler.

      Hi there.

      No mention in your blog about safety. Were you traveling on your own in Athens? Did you feel safe or encounter any issues?

      Nic

        Hi Nicola. I wasn’t on my own in Athens – I was with a tour group, and so was always out and about with at least 1 or 2 other people. I never felt unsafe at any time, though I’ll admit that I wasn’t on the streets much after dark, except in the really touristy area of Monastiraki.

    Aww, I can hear in your words just how much you tried to like Athens. It sucks to hate a place that you’ve never been to before, especially one that you expected so much from. Paris was that place for me; I dreamt about the romance of Paris every night until I get there, but I just didn’t see it. Some part of me wants to go back there and give it another shot, maybe Athens deserves a second chance (in better weather) too 🙂

      Yeah, it does really suck to hate a place that you really wanted to love. But, it happens! I know a lot of people who share your sentiments about Paris. I’ve never been there, but I’m not sure that I would love it, either! Then again, who knows. A lot of people are underwhelmed by London, which is a city I love!

      I probably would be willing to give Athens another try someday – but not in the summer!!

    I love honest posts like this! I would love to visit Athens someday, but I think I will plan to do so in the winter or fall. The way you felt about Athens is similar to the way I felt about Istanbul this summer. I still loved it, but the oppressive heat and huge crowds made me wish I would have visited during another season.

      See, now the heat and crowds didn’t bother me so much in Istanbul (I was there right before Athens). Maybe because there were so many interesting things to see/do in Istanbul. But yeah… the weather really can have a huge effect on travel experiences!

    Oh those expectations.

      They’re tricky buggers, aren’t they?

      I usually try to travel without expectations as much as I can, but it’s impossible with some popular/famous destinations.

        W0rd. I found myself disliking Athens just from looking at your pictures…

        – Maria Alexandra

          Haha, oh no! That definitely was not my intent. I’d still recommend giving it a try and deciding for yourself what you think of it.

    I don’t think I’ve met anyone that liked Athens other than the Acropolis. It is a dirty city, best to get in and out in a day then go somewhere much nicer like the islands!

      Yeah, I don’t know of anyone who loves Athens either, now that you mention it. I’m still glad I saw it, don’t get me wrong – I just don’t know that I’ll be back anytime soon!

    I really enjoyed this post. I actually visited Athens a couple years ago, and was not as fond of it as I expected to be. Much like you, I really didn’t want to be there when I was. I thought it was ugly, difficult to get around, and dirty. I MUCH preferred Rome. Or, to stay within Greece, the Islands – such as Mykonos and Santorini.
    Refreshing post!

      I feel like a lot of people share my sentiments about Athens. It was good to get my feelings about it off my chest – and it’s good to know I’m not alone!

      Rome is waaaaaaay dirtier than Athens! And I love both! My feet were Black from walking around Rome every day, but not in Athens. Gotta be realistic here.

    It makes me sad that you and Athens did not get along because Athens and I became fast friends. Your view of the city is what others had told me before I went, so perhaps a February visit is the time to go. I was impressed by everything and I definitely want to spend more time in Greece. Or perhaps I loved it so much because I had finally escaped that horrifying city called Dublin. I think we are all bound to dislike or be disenchanted by somewhere that is loved by others.

      So true – you can’t love every place just because somebody else does. Lots of people hate London, for example, but I quite enjoyed it. I also liked Dublin when I was there, but we know how you feel about it. 😉

      I’m sure I’ll give Athens another chance someday; and I’ll keep February in mind!

      Likewise. I did not care for Athens. It actually reminded me of 1967 Saigon!
      It was gray, depressing, dirty, and what saddened me the most is that Greeks do not smile. Very unfriendly. Turkey (Istanbul), was the complete antithesis-beautiful, exotic, friendly, and very hospitable. Also, Greece (I was there in 2003), is very anti-American and anti anything that is NOT Greek!
      I feel sorry for the Greeks……Athens is a true DUMP!

        Hey, keep those unkind comments to yourself next time. It just shows how ignorant you are talking about Greece the way you do. Amanda, not impressed you would publish such an insulting comment, but hey..Mr. Raymond should feel sorry for himself!!!!

    It certainly was bloody hot in Athens but I kind of liked it. I was couchsurfing while I was there and I could never of asked for a better host. He showed me around and look me to local restaurants. He did the free Athens tour of me and then took me on his own tour around the city on his motorbike. But I do agree that Athens IS fairly ugly. And although I am obsessed with ruins and they certainly kept me entertained – Athens does need to step up its game to keep people returning!!

      It sounds like your Athens experience was much better than mine! I also did a really good walking tour of the city, but it was just too hot for me to really enjoy it. I really did pick the worst day of the summer for it. Lol.

    I love Athens, and I’ll always have a soft spot for it because I lived and studied there. It’s not a city you can stop in for a quick visit and be blown away by, as falling in love with Athens takes a bit more time. My favorite parts of the city are places I’m sure you didn’t get the chance to see. Unbearable heat makes any place tough to love too! Did you make it to any islands? Those I’m sure you fell in love with!

      I feel like a lot of cities in that part of the world must require some time to fall in love with. For example, I know people who love Bucharest and Sofia, but I couldn’t see myself really liking them without spending a lot of time in them. Perhaps Athens is the same.

      And no, sadly I didn’t get to any of the islands this time! But I DID manage to find a couple of places that I loved. (Stay tuned!)

      Totally agree Christine, you can’t expect to be there for 2 days and feel/like Athens, (or any city for that matter). Nor is weather conditions a fair judge of whether you like a place or not! I know it’s your opinion Amanda, but I feel I have to reply to a few comments here!

    I’m sorry to hear you feel that way about Athens – although I can;t say I’m surprised. A lot of people are turned off by the place and it doesn’t give off the best first impression! Still, I found enough to like about the place, with the Acropolis being the highlight.

      Well it’s good to know that some people do really like it! I think I just picked a horrible time to visit. Hot and crowded never does a city any favors.

    Never been to Athens, so we can’t comment on the city itself. But it seems to me that the weather played a huge part in your unhappiness. For us, it was London. We’ve been there a couple of times and it just doesn’t do anything for us. But we find most large cities are overrated and we’d rather be in smaller cities. We were pleasantly surprised by Chicago though.

    Why did you stay in a hotel that was so expensive?

      The weather did definitely have a role to play, though it certainly wasn’t the deciding factor (a few days before this I was in Istanbul in similar heat and absolutely LOVED that city).

      I know you aren’t alone when it comes to being unimpressed with London. I personally loved London, but that just goes to prove that different people experience places in different ways!

      And as for the hotel, I was on a group tour, and it was just where we were booked into. I don’t think the rooms themselves were very pricey since we had 4 people to a room, but the “extras” were ridiculous – like 15 Euros to use the Internet!

        Too many tourists are always a put off and bad weather doesn’t help.
        I am glad I visited during the shoulder season! i like a few tourists around and tourist services operating.

        Athens was such a contrast to the beauty of the islands. I felt sad for and hassled by Athens. But for Athenians, I am sure home is where the heart is. Liz
        ps. I once loved London too, having lived there for 2 years.

          Visiting during shoulder season was very wise! That’s what I’m planning to do when I head back to Greece this summer – I’m going to the islands, but in early September!

    Amanda, you’ve reminded me my trip to Rome, Italy. It was VERY crowded, bad food, and had NO public restrooms… however, i was trying to like it as much as I could…. it didn’t work out between us 🙂

    You are just another person who seems unhappy with Athens. Thanks for sharing. I have a feeling like I need to move Athens down in my bucket list (at this time).

      Aww, sorry to hear you didn’t like Rome! I actually loved it. But that just goes to prove you can’t judge a place based on someone else’s experience.

      That being said, you should definitely still go to Athens someday and see what you think of it!

    Wooh..I’m glad you wrote this! That’s EXACTLY how I felt about New York City when I went there this summer. I expected so much more, and I was just… disappointed. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if it’s just bad-timing or I just didn’t know where to go? I’d give it a second chance and do things differently next time around.

      I think a lot of factors probably combine to make us dislike places… bad timing, bad weather, bad moods, bad experiences… so much can have an influence on our over perceptions. Sorry to hear you didn’t like NYC. But it’s good that you’d be willing to give it another shot!

    Very good post, Amanda! We haven’t been to Athens but we did go to some of the Greek islands this summer. It was unbearably hot there too, but we found the islands to be beautiful.

    I fear that, like you, I’ll be disappointed by Athens when I do make it there. I’ve had a life long love of mythology and Greece’s history.

    And I think you’re right. It’s like a relationship. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out no matter how much you might want it to.

      Other parts of Europe were just as hot, but I still liked them. There was just something about Athens that I didn’t click with, unfortunately. And I’m not sure cooler weather would have changed things…

      I definitely need to get to the islands, though!

    Rome. Rome forever. Hot. Crowded. I just wanted to go home (I was 16 and had been away for nearly 7 weeks at that point). I just didn’t care about anything.

    And in reading this, I will NEVER go to Greece in the summer. It just sounds miserable.

      If you go to Greece in the summer, stick to the coast or the islands, where at least you can go to a beach! Athens was particularly miserable because it’s land-locked.

    Hi Amanda, I enjoyed reading your un-love letter to Athens. I completely relate. While I enjoyed all its antiquities, the city itself was seedy and depressing, and oh Lord, was it HOT! But then that was exactly how I felt with Rome when I visited it more than 10 years ago and I had no desire to return. Last year, I revisited Italy with my husband and he insisted on going to Rome. I was glad I let him convinced me because this time I fell in love with the city. I found that it has polished it rough edges, much sexier and really a a much more pleasant city to visit. So based from my Rome experience, I’m not writing off Athens yet. Maybe years from now after it recovered from its economic crash, it too can become a much more likeable city.

      I certainly hope Athens can pick itself up! I’d be willing to give it another go someday – just not right away, and definitely not in the summer!

    Great post! I often feel like places are partners. I was heart broken leaving Cardiff but I knew that I had to have time to meet other places, to fool about and find the one. Now, I fee like Nakhon Sawan in central Thailand is my long term partner (it just works, we argue sometimes but I love it, warts and all). That was until I fell in love at first site with Kathmandu who will always have a special place in my heart (but I haven’t told Nakhon Sawan yet!) I may well bump into Athens next year. I’ll let you know if we hit it off!

      Haha, this is such an awesome comment. But yes, I, too, often feel like places are potential partners!

    I had the same feelings about Athens. I was there in the winter/spring and it literally rained mud. Disgusting. The winds blew sand from sandstorms in nearby Africa and then it rained the sand back down again. Gross. I did not care for Athens and I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way. Thessaloniki, however, I loved…. so I know it’s an Athens-specific problem…. not all of Greece. 🙂

      Oh gross, that sounds horrible!!

      I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Thessaloniki, either… but I loved Meteora and Parga! So yeah, definitely don’t dislike ALL of Greece!

    Wow! it does look busy – much busier then then when I was there Dec 1 2011. I came from dry 30 degree (Celsius, sorry don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit) Egypt, to humid 20C Athens to freezing, snowy England – I was lucky to get back in, as all the other London airports were closed! I didn’t spend very long in Athens, but I would like to go back… definitely might reconsider going back in the middle of summer though!

      Yeah, I wouldn’t really recommend Athens in the middle of the summer, unless you REALLY like to sweat and are OK dealing with crowds… haha.

    Ha ha! Well written! I can agree! I found the streets dodgy, the men sleezy (and scary) the temple of zeus was such a disappointment tha m friend wanted to cry. The most enjoyable part was the food, but that can be found anywhere in Greece and particularly less expensive. The worst part was the fear, I did not want to step out of my hotel or stay out to late which was ashame. I had such high hopes for Athens and hope one day Athens will sort out its shit so we can reunite and have it be like I pictured in my heart. (song dedication – fell in love in a hopeless place!

      Yes, it’s sad that Athens has become what it has. Hopefully it can shape itself back up in the coming years!

    This is the first negative type review I’ve read here 😀
    I’m glad you are always honest. To tell you the truth I also thought it would be more impressive, especially the ruins. I think you will find the same “impressive” Greek ruins in Romania (the old city states near the black sea). Anyways, I’m glad you told me about the heat, I can’t stand weather over 25 degrees Celsius, so I guess I’ll never go to Greece.

      If you can’t stand the heat, definitely avoid Greece/the Balkans in the middle of summer! It was hot just about everywhere I went!

      And yes, I try to always be honest when I write about places. Usually I can find positive things to say about anywhere, but Athens just wasn’t one of those places…

    I was fascinated with this place as a child, but I have a feeling that if I were to go, I too would be disappointed by it. I’ve just heard too much bad press from friends who’ve been there.

      It’s probably still worth a visit just to see the Acropolis, but I certainly wouldn’t plan a Greek vacation around a trip to Athens!

    I actually went to Athens myself this past August (2012) and I fell in love with it! We stayed in a part of town that wasn’t necessarily flash which mean that we got a big taste of how the Athenians lived their daily life. It helped that our hostel manager was such a fun man, but we also got to be quick friends with the owners of the shops around us and my favorite, experience the meat, fish and produce markets! I agree with the fact that the ruins were not what I expected but the culture was so so so much more. We only got to spend about 3 days there but I would definitely go back to explore more of the GIGANTIC city. Here’s my experience of Athens.. http://kelseyshappiness.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/the-ancient-city-of-athens/

      Well it’s good to hear that not everyone dislikes Athens! I’m happy to hear you had a great time there!

    I was in Athens back the 70’s when I was a high school student. What I remember of it, I loved. Although my memories are more than a little hazy, I do remember that we were not there during the hottest time of the year. Would I love it now? I don’t know. I do know I wouldn’t want to be there when it’s so hot.

      I’m sure it’s changed a bit since you were last there! Who knows though, you might still like it!

    I have heard really polarizing views of Athens, in fact the only person I know who raved about it was Chrystal-Clear.com and I think it’s because she Couchsurfed while she was there and got out of the city.

    Sometimes you just don’t connect with a place, it happens to everyone.

      Yeah, sadly we can’t always love everywhere we travel to. If I had couchsurfed and visited during a different season, maybe I would have liked Athens better!

    […] after being so disappointed by Athens (and Thessaloniki, too, for that matter), I was getting a bit worried that Greece as a whole would […]

    […] #23 being said, of course, you don’t have to love every place you travel. Destinations are like potential partners, I think — sometimes you just don’t mesh well together, and the relationship doesn’t work out. This is OK. As positive as I am about new places, there have still been destinations that just haven’t wowed me. Like this one. And this one. […]

    Totally agree. We have been in athens for 3 days now and it has been very disappointing. Im glad we are leaving tomorrow. If it wasnt for the acropolis i dont think anybody would have any r reason to come here. I know that sounds harsh. One thing i did like was climbing up the hill the venetians used to attack the parthenon from at night and just sitting there with my fiance in relative quiet admiring the acropolis all illuminated. We have been travelling europe for 2 months now and alot of places have been letdowns but this takes the cake.

      Unfortunately this is a pretty common reaction to Athens. I’m sorry you didn’t really enjoy it; hopefully you can appreciate the history of it all later.

      I’ll actually be headed back to Athens again this summer. We’ll see if it can redeem itself…

    I know it sounds stupid of me to judge athens when ive only really been venturing the tourist areas but thats the problem,outside the historical area theres not much else to do in the city. I found your little peice on athens because i wanted to see if it was just us or if other ppl thought athens was pretty crappy too! We r headed to istanbul tomorrow so hopefully the tables will turn

      Yes, that’s the problem exactly! And you’re definitely not alone in your opinion…

      I hope you enjoy Istanbul more! I know I did.

    […] the end of the tour, I’ll give Athens a second try. I hated Athens the first time around, but I’m willing to keep an open mind to see if it can redeem itself in cooler […]

    I cam across your blog trying to explain to a friend the dirtiness of Athens (and I’m a New Yorker) and funny enough you are spot on! I only stayed in Athens a day then headed to Island hop for 7 days… but in less than 24 hrs I could tell I didn’t like Athens much. Cab driver from the airport told me the area I was staying in was horrible (which happened to be a 4 min walk to Monastiraki Square) and made sure to tell me to be careful at night due to “cocaine wars”…yeahhhhh don’t think I’ll be back.

      Yeah… not a big fan, either. I’m going to give Athens another try this year (before and after 2 weeks in the islands), though, so we’ll see what I think about it the second time around.

    I’m sorry that it didn’t work out between you and Athens.

    I was in Athens at the beginning of June and even though it was hot, I enjoyed my visit to the Acropolis and the agora. It wasn’t crowded at all, and I even entered the Acropolis for free. I was also luckier that I found a cool hostel, with flashy dormitories, cool people and even cooler staff. I had been warned though that apart from the Acropolis Athens was a polluted, ugly, unbearably hot city, so I didn’t have huge expectations. I really loved my time at the Acropolis, but the rest I also found mostly unremarkable.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed your trip to Athens – plenty of people do, don’t get me wrong. I just had such an awful time in other parts of the city that it’s probably one of my least-favorites now.

    My hub lived in Athens for two years and he’d agree that you have to get outside of Athens to places like Meteora and Thessaloniki, and the islands. Athens is big, the air is polluted, the people don’t like foreigners. But the food is to-die-for; including the fresh fruits and vegetable carts that come around once or twice a week. We both love Greek food.

      I love Greek food too! I just don’t love Athens… haha. The islands, though?? I’m head over heels for places like Santorini.

    I must admit that whilst I enjoyed Athens, the acropolis was rather disappointing with all those people and that ugly scaffolding. I think half of Europe is under repair with scaffolding inside the Mosque’s in Istanbul, at the Colosseum and many other locations making it quite an eyesore. Fortunately we didn’t experience the heat as bad as you, though it was warm, we went in September when it was starting to cool down. One thing I loved was the round of Ouzo by the owner at the end of our lunch… Opa!

      Haha, yes, I agree with you that half of Europe seems to always be under construction!

    My husband still calls Athens a ‘hole’. I am not that harsh but am inclined to agree. Once was enough.

      I’m really torn because TBEX is being held in Athens this year. Part of me wants to go for the conference, but the other part of me dreads visiting Athens for what would now be a third time.

    As a tourist, I would never spend more than 2-3 days in Athens during the summer and during my stay I would definitely visit the suburbs near the sea, like Alimos, Glyfada and Vouliagmeni to have a walk by the sea. Otherwise, you will hate the heat and the grey buildings.

    However, as a person that has lived in Athens for 6 years, has lived enough time in France, works in Ireland and has travelled in various european cities the last year, I want to go back to Athens sooo much. That city is the most lively ever. You can find the nicest cafes, taverns, bars, clubs, with every kind of music you want, with whatever decoration you like, whatever time you want. There are so many nice neighborhoods full of excellent bars and young people to go out, both in the center and in the suburbs. You can even go to a hill opposite to the Acropolis and chill out having a beer, playing games and chatting with friends.

    Bottom line: Except for visiting the acropolis, you have to find a local to tell you where to go at night, stay out until late and go to the seaside suburbs or a cool cafe during the day! Under the grey buildings, there is much more!

      Glad to hear of someone who loves Athens! I’ve now been there twice, and have not been very impressed. I may have another chance to visit this year – in October. We’ll see if it can change my mind.

        Try to “live” the city during your stay and not be just a tourist doing sightseeing. Sleep in the morning and stay out late at night, with ouzo, wine or beers at exarcheia, gkazi, monastiraki, karitsi square and Zografou (student area), talking with locals (you can find from couchsurfing for example). Go also for a walk in the seaside suburbs, as I mentioned before.

        http://www.slowtrav.com/greece/athens.htm
        As it says here:
        “Athens is not a gorgeous city. It’s not exactly a beautiful city. Heck, I would not even call it a pretty city. But Athens is really everything else, and I mean every single thing in the world. Athens is a modern, developed, fully western metropolis; but it’s also a village and an Arab souk town. It’s frantic and chaotic, but it’s also luxurious, artsy, and neat. It’s sleek and stylish, as well as run down. It’s poor and decayed in spots, yet it’s lively, sleek and fashionable. And quiet and meditative. And intense. Poetic. Yet funky. Fun and occasionally silly.

        Tell someone you like Athens aesthetically and most will think you are nuts. Say you love it and most who have been there for more than a quick hit-and-run will know what you mean.”

        http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/260/top-7-reasons-i-love-living-in-athens
        And as it mentions here:
        “Despite what the Greeks are going through, they still know how to live life. Family is sacrosanct to them, friendships are important and there is still a love of life that exists…albeit a little worn down of late. Take “apokries,” or carnival. Greeks love to get dressed up and partake in street parades at this time of year: young, old, male, female. Inhibitions do not exist! And as you can see, the effect wears off onto you too. – See more at: http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/260/top-7-reasons-i-love-living-in-athens#sthash.rJH5PCRL.dpuf

        Athens may be ungly, but it is the liveliest city ever!
        I would really like to be in Athens and show you around and change your mind, but I will be in France for one more year, before I return (I miss home)! Hope you have more fun than your previous stays!

    I was in Athens last July for 3 days and I have to agree that I found the city to be a little bit overrated. Along with the hot weather, I think I got tired of looking at all the graffiti but I do understand there are alot of anarchists and radicals that live there that enagage in that type of activity (spraypainting). I agree with one reviewer who said that the city has an underground feel (artsy and lively) and that you have to get out to the cafes and clubs to really enjoy it. Unfortunately most tourists are more into sightseeing than music culture art.

      You are very right, Peter. The average tourist visits Athens for the history and to see the ancient sites; many probably aren’t very interested in the “underground” scene, which I think is perhaps why it’s not always well-loved by everyone!

    Damn, girl. I’m Greek and I have to say that if what you liked was the changing of the guard ceremony… whoah! I hate it! And there are so many important stuff/info that make the ppl of Greece proud! The education here is FREE for everybody, we have amazing poets and philosophers as you mentioned, the countryside is GORGEOUS (next time you come to Greece, be sure to go to our amazing islands). I have so many things to point out about the country but I haven’t slept at all for hours and I cannot! But (no offense here please), I read the whole thing and you don’t seem to know how to have fun and TRAVEL! And yeah, it is hot in the summer. It’s the SOUTH!

      Hahaha. I’ve been traveling for years, and I think I definitely DO know how to do it, thanks. I just didn’t fall in love with Athens. End of story. And I HAVE been to some of the Greek Islands – LOVED them. Just don’t love Athens.

    I’m a Greek, born in Athens and have lived in Athens all of my life (I’m 40). You’re right in most of the things you say, but I would argue that the hot weather isn’t something you can avoid – It’s the same everywhere in South Europe, some people like it, some don’t.

    Apart from the weather, let’s see what other things that are mentioned in the article (and comments) are true:
    – Dirty – yes, unfortunately
    – Rude staff in some places – yes, very unfortunately, but not everywhere
    – People don’t like foreigners – partially true. Athens is flooded with immigrants, a lot of them are uneducated, poor people. Some of them are prone to petty or more serious criminal behavior. People are always careful with foreigners due to this fact – but this doesn’t include tourists.
    – Buildings suck – yes. Athens has been built in a totally random and chaotic manner, each building follows its own rules, no uniform appearance except in specific neigbourhoods.
    – Not many things to do – not true. If you come with a group, you’ll probably miss all the fun. Athens is abundant with restaurants, night clubs and bars either near the sea or scattered through the city.
    – Dangerous neighborhoods – partially true. Around the centre, and in some specific neigborhoods, things are pretty tough due to the large number of immigrants and, generally, extremely poor people (locals and immigrants). If you stay at 2-3 mile distance from the centre, though, things are completely different. In most places you can walk alone at night without any issues – especially in the summer, when people are all around – sitting in balconies, walking in the street, at local cafes and bars, even at 2-3am.

    Don’t get me wrong – just because I live in Athens doesn’t mean I’m supporting it. It’s an ugly, noisy, dirty, polluted city – but it still has extremely interesting places to go, things to see and do. Especially if you’re not from Athens, since us locals seem to exaggerate on the bad side of things here.

      Thanks for the great insight!

    It is a pity to read this about my city. I always thought that for tourists the city is an amazing destination. And that was the feedback I had. You really visited only the “ancient” part of Athens, there’s much more to see and to experience. However crisis is obvious and that has influenced the greeks in all their behaviour (rudeness etc.). For the weather part, well, you are right.
    xx
    debsbug.blogspot.com

      Just goes to show that everyone experiences a place differently! I’m sorry I didn’t like Athens more, too. Maybe I’ll give it a third shot someday…

    Great post, and I can totally relate to this !
    I had always wanted to visit Greece, so when I got to Athens this past July I was beyond excited. But I too felt very disappointed, there’s was nothing in the city that excited me. Not even the Acropolis, I was just coming from Turkey and visiting Ephesus over there beat Acropolis any day.
    The sun was killing me too.

    With all that said, I did hop on a few ferries to explore a few islands, and that was definitely worth it!
    Just discovered your blog. I have just been writing for a year (and not very often I have to admit) , and your blog is a true inspiration 🙂

      I finally got to explore some of the Greek islands last year, and I agree – I liked them SO much better than the mainland!

    This seems to be a common view about Athens. My three girlfriends and I visited two weeks ago and I have to say it was one of my favorite cities I’ve been to. I loved the non-cosmopolitan feel, the ruins dispersed throughout, the random tiny churches hidden around unassuming corners, the beautiful hills, the uncompromising sunshine to the calm breeze at night, delicious food and ice cream, the hammam bath house with the gorgeous men, outdoor restaurants with live music, watching the sunset over one hill while the moon rises over the Acropolis from a rooftop restaurant. I could seriously go on. My Greek girlfriend gave me some suggestions and did not let me down. Loved exploring the local neighborhoods when walking down Lycabettus Hill to the Plaka and then the commraderie of watching the World Cup at an outdoor bar. Can’t wait to be back one day. I hope you give it a second chance.

      Just goes to show that different people respond differently to different places! I actually HAVE been back to Athens a second time – and still didn’t really love it! Glad to hear you enjoyed your time there, though.

    Hi there. Stumbled upon your article. I am Greek and involved in outdoors. Seems like you landed in Greece on a very hot period. Its sunny here most of the year but not that hot. Tough luck. Next time schedule it for around September or/and prior July. It would be much greater. But still our summers are not that hot. Athens is bit hotter as its a city… and especially a Mediterranean city.
    Try to visit other places of Greece. It’s great at up north at mainland Greece. Next time you plan to visit Greece drop a note to my travel blog. I can certainly point some very good places with also lots of ancient history to see.
    Have a great life!

      Thanks for the tips, Chris! I definitely did land in some less-than-ideal weather in Athens. It was too hot to want to do anything!

    Hi Amanda, I’m wondering wether you knew that Athens was basically a town before the 19th century (compared for ex. to other cities in Greece) and everything except the Acropolis and some other things were build later on, so it’s probably not what people expect when thinking about Athens… But anyway I was a bit, far less than you, disappointed by Athens. Yes, the heat is terrible but I’m still glad I went! Have you ever visited Thessaloniki? It really did surprised me! Have a nice evening!

      Yes, I think a lot of people assume Athens to be older and full of more ruins. Which of course it isn’t! I have been to Thessaloniki, but only very briefly – so I can’t really say what I thought of it!

    You’ve summed up my experience perfectly! I had such a love for Greek history and upon arrival to Athens, I was so disappointed. I visited first week of April 2015 so weather was not even an issue, nor the crowds. I too, truly wanted to fall in love with the city for what I suppose was the image I had in mind from all the Greek mythologies, etc. The ruins were unkept and seems to be in disarray, grounds overgrown. It was not a problem to me and I am glad to see that there are efforts to maintain the ruins as there were work being done with scaffolds all over. However, things were pretty much roped off in a way that you couldn’t be up close to appreciate them. Luckily, we didnt stay in the city so my most enjoyable part of our Greece visit was being outside of the city, on a beach along the coast. Acropolis was also a big let down. The only attraction I felt worth my time was the Temple of Poseidon, which was outside of Athens, but was worth the trek. Like you, we visited Istanbul just before Athens and it was not on my list of places to visit but it ended up being a city I really enjoyed for the very same reasons you have stated. We also visited Pamukkale and the ruins at Hierapolis was more interesting to me than those in Athens. To keep in perspective, we went to Rome following Athens (my third time in Rome) and this time, a lot of work were being done throughout, but unlike in Athens, it was done in a way that as tourists, you can still come close enough to view and appreciate them.

      I think a lot of it has to do with Greece’s financial situation right now. But I’m sorry to hear you had a slightly poor experience in Athens, too. Good thing you enjoyed the other places you visited so much!

    […] heard consistently over and over about Athens, it is that the city is an absolute pit– ugly, hot, dirty, unorganized, unkept, full of trash and graffiti— those are the adjectives I’ve […]

    dear amanda… as you may understand from my name, iam greek, and i live in Athens.. i will not try to change your mind because this is the experience you had. there are too other places around athens where are very very nice… unfortunately centre of athens is not this picturesque as someone may expect. on the other hand, most tourists visit greek islands where are very beautiful… you can go to crete or corfu, santorini, or rhodes, myconos, or serifos etc… (greece has more over 2.500 islands).. greece is not just athens… if someone is interested in history must go to Athens… if he just want to have a nice time, its is better to go to greek islands… of course if someone visits athens and be with someone local, it is certain that he will really love it..i have many times invited some foreigners in my house… we went together to beaches, clubs, taverns that i knew and they really loved this city… anyway, hope you come again soon and have a better time

      Next time I go I’m definitely going to have a local friend show me around so I can see the best parts!

      I’ve been to the Greek Islands, too, and LOVED that part of Greece!

    Hi Amanda, I am an Athenian and have been showing people around for the past ten years.

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience here – but it so happens that our city can be really hot on a few days a year. It looks like you had one of those days. You could possibly have asked your tour guide to make alternative arrangements – like, go to the coast!

    Next time you are here, consider booking a local person (I can’t stress the word local enough) to show you around. You will definitely scratch the surface and see stuff that you didn’t imagine existed – like the solidarity to the poor, community cooking, anti-capitalist posters, and so on.

    Also, since you referred to “the Greek islands” – as you may know, they are mostly different to each other. I am not sure which one(s) you went to, but I’m glad you had a good experience there. Try another one next time 🙂

    Oh Amanda…I felt the EXACT same way! I was in Greece for my best friend’s wedding (yes, for real, that is not some weird rom-com mash up title). I was really only in Athens three days – one of which was spent at a nearby resort on the water. The two days in the city…sucked. We walked up to the Acropolis and it was so ridiculously warm (late Sept)..we got there late in the day and realized we didn’t have enough cash in Euros and they don’t take cards. We asked the person working there if there was an ATM nearby and…they shrugged. Literally. By the time we found one and got cash it was about 15 minutes to closing time and they wouldn’t let us in! So much for Athens! The coast was lovely though (where my friend got married) but I don’t know if I really would ever go back. The entire city was covered in graffiti – even the really old churches. It made me sad.

      Yeah, Athens has never done it for me. I do have some friends who LOVE it, though. So if I ever go back, I’ll have to make sure to go with one of them to see if they can change my mind about the city! 😉

    Hello

    I definitely agree with you that Athens is not what I would call a traditionally attractive European capital. You go to Prague, Krakow, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Budapest etc and you encounter those super clean, super nice old towns that seem untouched by time (however, dare to step outside the well-marked areas in the map and you encounter a post war despair that rivals and outdoes that of Athens!)
    In Athens, old and new blend together, often not very harmoniously. It is in many ways a very new city after all (excluding those famous chaps 2,500 years ago). But what makes Athens special is living it, not touring it. I cannot imagine climbing the Acropolis in the middle of the summer; it would be a punishment worthy of Tantalus. This is a bit on you, dear friend, for not choosing a better time to visit. Athens is sunny all year round. Chances are you will get sunshine and mild weather in January (I have the photos to prove it!). Chances are you’ll also get to enjoy the Acropolis without the crowds we all hate.

    But if you go past your history books (and I know many tourists do not), you get to enjoy what Athens truly has to offer: unique bars and coffee shops in every corner, each with its own identity, but always with chilled and friendly atmosphere. No one will make you uncomfortable for chilling there for more than 2 hours with just one coffee (I think of the ‘polite’ “are you finished?” that I always get 45 mins into my coffee anywhere in the UK…). You can enjoy good food in non pretentious portions and decent prices. As for those sketchy areas you mention, the fact that they were so busy should speak for itself: they aren’t sketchy! That’s where the center of entertainment for young Greeks is! At the graffitied, often dirty streets of Exarcheia you will find life until the mourning hours and you will never feel unsafe.

    I never recommend Athens to tourists. Go to the islands instead. But if you want to truly live and experience the place that half of Greece’s population calls home, you will not be disappointed.

    Hello! As a greek person who grew up in Athens, I felt strange to read all these comments. Although I understand fully the disadvantages of living in athens, i thought the tourists didnt get them! I will try to explain to you why you hated the city
    First of all travelling with a group never gives you an authentic experience. Especially in cities of the south. You just came, saw acropolis, walked the classic tourist walk, ate the classic tourist food and left. This is not the way! Athens is a strange city. It is at the same time european and balcan and of course totally messed up. When europe was flourishing, we were occupied by the turks, then we made a revolution, then 2 world wars and a civil war happened, then a dictatorship, then 30 years of corruption and fake imptovement and now the crisis. Greece is not Belgium. Is not America. Is a category herself. If you stayed with a local person, in a non-touristic central neighborhood, i am sure you would get a very different idea of the city. Yes its chaotic, yes its ugly sometimes, yes its in decay, but this is it. Accept it for what it is and try to enjoy this strange mix. Living like a local is the way to get the vibe. To feel the atmosphere. Yes maybe we have only five euros in our pocket. We will spend them in some beer and have fun. Yes maybe people are rude in touristic bussineses. But if you go to the backery of the neighborhood, probably a sweet old woman will welcome you. Generally true athens is far away from touristic places. And its not ugly.
    I noticed that people that come from the north are surprised by things that to me are normal. A good advice would be to keep an open mind when you travel in the south. Its not organised, its not clean, its always changing, moving, rebelling, its corrupted, disgusting sometimes but in the end in this chaos somebody may find beauty and freedom.
    Sorry for the big text, i just felt like defending my city a little! And i think it was also a mistake to go to a touristic place in the middle of summer! Personally i look for the smallest places on the map because in august i cant stand the touristic ones! Ciao!

      I totally realize that tourists probably don’t see the “real” Athens. And I do have friends who love the city. But here’s the thing: I WAS visiting as a tourist, and I wrote honestly about my experience there. That’s really the best I can do, because I’m not likely to truly be a “local” anywhere in Europe in such a short amount of time.

    I just did Athens for two days and felt exactly the same, being from Australia I couldn’t believe the difference in living standards, I was used to the heat so that didn’t bother me but apart from the area around the Acropolis the city was so run down; every second building abandoned or unfinished and beggars or unemployed people just standing around on corners, the countryside is nicer but still has that walking dead abandoned vibe, it’s a shame the economy is damaging the country so bad

    Omg are you crazy? Athens is one of the most great cities in Europe. How can’t you be amazed by the ruins and acropolis and the culture? You are such a typical tourist (aka traveling with a group, appreciating only the food and only some famous parts of the city). You are seriously the first person that i heard saying they don’t like Athens. I am very disappointed about the tourists who come to Greece because they are superficial and they don’t explore, they don’t appreciate, they don’t realize!! but what can you expect from American citizens anyway…

      Just as you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m also entitled to mine – please remember that as you make judgments about people you don’t even know. I’ve been to Athens more than once, and just have never connected with the city. It has nothing to do with me being American or a “typical tourist” – it’s just my opinion! I’m sure you have opinions of people and places that I don’t agree with.

    I was there last year in april and it was the perfect time to visit. Sunny, about 25-28 degrees and not too many tourists.
    I agree there are a lot of buildings that aren´t pretty but the museums, historical sights and Anafiotika made me fall in love.

    History of Greeks adds great fantasy to young minds. We were taught from the childhood the exploits of Alexander, more than favorite sons of our nations. That really sets great expectations. Truly, you are very honest, I hardly see any picture of you in the post with the backdrop of Athens. Yes, it is true that Greece is going through tough times, but that will undermine the glory of the ancient Greeks. What I feel is that as a responsible traveler, you influence some proportion of people who read your past. It is your basic human right to express, as you have been to Athens, why don’t make it a positive angle, when not to visit or the Greek Government should take certain steps for developing better tourism infrastructure.

      If it’s my basic human right to express my opinions, then it should also be my right to express negative ones. I really wanted to love Athens, but I simply didn’t. And I’m not going to lie about it! This is a travel blog about my personal experiences while traveling, and I won’t ever sugarcoat them.

    Hello and thank you for your honesty about Athens! I live in Athens 12 years now and I believe it’s an interesting and cool city, if you know where to look. However, I completely understand how it seems weird and kinda ugly to tourists! lol!
    Next time avoid the summer, it’s the worst time to visit! 😉

      Yes, summer was definitely not the best time to visit!

    I’ve been to Greece many times over the years as my family is from there. I really appreciate some of your points and agree with many. The heat in the summer is absolutely BRUTAL and can make Athens hard to enjoy. However, you saw only a tiny fraction of it. Athens is a very large city with many beautiful neighborhoods. Some people complain about sketchy areas. That’s like complaining about NYC after going to the Bronx! Or saying Chicago sucks after visiting the Southside. Expectations are everything.

    I actually hate the graffiti. However, I understand why it’s there. If one digs a little deeper, you can find out how the economic collapse has affected the youth of Greece and how this is a form of protest. The Greek government is corrupt as hell, but really, how many countries aren’t? It breaks my heart, but there it is. I met a lawyer selling trinkets at a tourist shop in Athens. She’s been doing it for 10 years because she can’t find a better job. Shit, no, I don’t expect her to be smily and friendly, even though she was. She’s trying to make it through one day!

    I can’t say I love everything about Athens, but hey, as much as I adored Rome, my feet were disgusting and black at the end of the day and keeping vigilant about pick pockets was exhausting. But it’s Rome! Hell, yes!! I’m so lucky I got to see it! And Athens is hot AF in July! But it’s Athens and I got to see it!

    Our privilege has a funny way of affecting our expectations. These cities don’t owe us anything. The people who run them are flawed and human. Travel is a privilege, not a right. Thanks for your insight. I hope your future travels continue to inspire you.

      You’re absolutely correct that travel is a privilege – but as this site is solely about my personal travel experiences, I do have the right to have whatever opinions I have! I didn’t love Athens (even after a second trip there), and that’s just a fact! It would be super boring if we all loved every destination anyway.

    Athens was heartbreaking . Stayed at the same hotel (where my passport was stolen) horrible experience to say the least. The islands were absolutely incredible in the days that followed, but not sure I’ll return, as you have to travel through the gates of hell(athens) to get there.

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On