We have a lot to say about Athens after this last trip. 4 days total in a city over a lifetime qualifies us to offer advice, right? ;)
I guess we can call it “lessons learned” from one beginner traveller to another. Hopefully there’s something here that another newbie out there will find useful!
1. Read up on Ancient Greek history and study a little bit of classical art history before you go. The whole Greece experience will be so much more significant and meaningful if you know a little bit about the monuments and artifacts you are seeing. Watch some movies about Greece too (you know… Disney’s Hercules, the Percy Jackson series, Troy, Clash of the Titans). They may not add to your historical knowledge, but will get you super excited about your trip :)
2. Do not, under any circumstaces, buy drinks from the stalls outside the Acropolis (unless you are literally dying…but only then!) You will spend a large portion of your euro (that could otherwise have been spent on baklava) on a simple watery lemonade (becuase they were out of bottled water) THAT THEY WON’T EVEN LET YOU TAKE THROUGH THE GATES! You will be forced to stand to the side and chug your icy lemonade until your brain freezes and the guards laugh at you. Learn from our mistakes and prepare ahead to buy water at the bottom of the hill for 50 cents. Or you could even save the 50 cents (for more baklava) and use the drinking fountains at the top of the hill. The water is warm and doesn’t taste the best (but hey… a baklava fund is a baklava fund.)
Chris trying to chug his $10 lemonade so the guards will let us in.
3. Also do not, under any circumstances, attempt to take photos with a sock puppet, Flat Stanely, or any other sentimental object in front of the Parthenon. It’s apparently disrespectful and the guards will blow their shrill whistles at you until you put it away. Feel free to dance around, do some crazy poses, and even make rude hand gestures though. That’s totally fine. But don’t take a photo with your daughter’s favorite toy to bring back to her as a souvenier. The whistle-blowers will take. you. down.
4. Your ticket to the Acropolis will get you into the Temple of Zeus for free! It’s not widely advertised, but just show them the receipt and they’ll let you right in!
5. The dream of cheap Greek food is a reality… you just have to know where to look. Get out of the touristy spots. Sometimes even one street over has significantly cheaper food. Also, try asking for a gyro pita when you go out to eat (depending on the restaurant). Most places will automatically give you the gyro plate, which is usually a lot more food and a lot more expensive, but the gyro pita is cheaper and much better on-the-go food. It took us a while to figure out the difference and learn to order accordingly.
6. Budget for a lot of bottled water. While Greek tap water is technically safe to drink, it tastes pretty nasty (and that is coming from a girl who grew up on Las Vegas water!) and if you are out exploring there are few clean places to refil your bottle. You’ll buy a lot more bottled water than you planned on so you should budget accordingly. Trust us on this one.
7. Bring bug spray/itch cream. It’s been a long time since we were bitten by so many bugs!
8. Learn to say “thank you” in Greek (efharistó). It’s a nice gesture :)
9. Always have cash on hand. Very few places take cards.
10. As of 2013, fanny packs are still totally a thing in Greece. I’m not sure if that’s advice or not… but I guess if you have always wanted to rock a fanny pack and look hot doing it then Greece is the place!
That’s all for now! If anyone has any other great tips to share about visiting Athens, please share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and advice!