To be completely honest I had only heard bad things about Athens before my trip to Greece – Its dirty, its unsafe, its totally skippable. I decided to make my own mind up about it and went anyway and I am so glad I did! The whole city is built around a hill with ancient buildings on top of it that are centuries old (the Acropolis), there are ruins scattered everywhere around the beautiful historical district of Plaka and museums full of ancient artifacts that were found right there beneath your feet… man that sounds awful. I personally think Athens is a place for everybody however if you are a history buff than you CANNOT miss this.
I only stayed one night in Athens and had two full days however in hindsight I would recommend staying around three nights. If you have that sort of time than you should buy the all inclusive pass as it is much better value and gets you into all of the main attractions. The only reason I didn’t do this was because they had a heat wave (I’m talking +50°C) so everything closed at 3pm instead of the usual 7:30/8pm close and also because I only had two days. There are a few things I missed such as walking through Filopappou Hill and seeing the Archeological Museum but all in all I saw the main things I wanted to see. A lot of the attractions are also scattered around the city and you can see them for free (unless of course you want to walk through them) such as the Temple of Zues, Arch of Hadrian and Panathenaic Stadium. The below photos were all from free vantage points so I don’t think its necessary to pay to see these smaller sites. For the larger ones however, such as the Acropolis and Ancient Agora you will definitely want to go exploring so you will have to pay the entry fee.
The Acropolis and Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis consists of three main temples on the top of the hill – The Parthenon, The Erechtheum and The Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon is the main iconic temple that everyone goes to Athens to see – knowing this before I left would have saved me a ton of confusion as people often use Acropolis and Parthenon interchangeably.
The Fortifications and original buildings within the Acropolis date back to the Myceanean Era around 1500 BC. By the 9th Century BC the Acropolis was the centre of Athens until its collapse around 500BC by the Persians. The Parthenon was built after this between 447 and 432BC as a dedication to Athena, the Goddess that was the protector of Athens.
Other Attractions in the Acropolis definitely worth seeing include Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Theatre of Dionysus and the Byzantine Cistern. Concerts and performances are still held at the restored ancient theatre Odeon of Herodes Atticus (dating back to 161AD) but I’m not sure exactly how expensive these are or how far in advance you will have to book. You can learn more about the history and see all the artifacts that were recovered from both the Acropolis and Ancient Agora at the Acropolis Museum.
The Ancient Agora
The Agora was used as both a residential area and cemetery throughout various periods in history from as early as 3000BC. It became a public area for the city around 600BC as the cities ‘meeting place’ or ‘place of assembly’ and was the hub for all political, social and commercial activity in Athens. There is a lot to see at the Ancient Agora including the Temple of Hephaestus, The Bouleuterion (ancient ‘senate house’), The Stoa of Attalos (The Agora Museum), The Klepsydra (The Water Clock), The restored Church of the Holy Apostles and various other statues and ruins strewn throughout the grounds. You can learn all about these sites while exploring the Agora and learn about how democracy was shaped here in its earliest days.
Where to Stay and FYI’s
I recommend staying in Plaka, Monastiraki or Psyri as I think your location could probably make or break your experience in Athens. I stayed at a place called Adams Hotel which was right in the centre of Plaka and had restaurants and shops galore at my doorstep. The main streets for shopping and restaurants are Adrianou in Plaka and Ermou from Syntagma square to Monastiraki however, there is so much to see that I would recommend straying from these streets a little to find a few of your own hidden gems. One really cool little bar you should definitely check out is Brettos. With a range of ouzo, brandy and liquors this is the oldest distillery in Athens and second oldest in Europe!
From what I have heard Psyri and the area out by Technopolis has a bit more of a nightlife but as I was solo for this part of my trip I didn’t really venture out too much at night on my own. It may be safe alone at night however I did have a few encounters in broad daylight where I had to be extremely rude in order to stand my own ground. This including being followed into a restaurant bathroom by my waiter at lunch time who then grabbed my hand and made an attempt to kiss me. As a solo female you should be fine if you are firm and not afraid to come off as rude when you tell people to leave you alone. Unfortunately, my experience of being followed in broad daylight stopped me from doing too much at night. In saying all of this I would still 100% go back alone so I definitely don’t mean to scare anyone. Just a word of caution for women, you don’t always have to be polite!
All in all I had an amazing time in Athens and I think it’s a city everybody should experience for themselves (solo female or not). If anyone has any comments or questions I would love to hear from you!
Amberlee Jane xx