Bucketlist2Life

Why didn't I know that Athens is super romantic!?

Author Carina Klein
Carina
· 5 min read · 10 comments

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TL;DR

Before going to Athens I had many preconceptions, which this amazing city changed in a heartbeat. It's less about the history and more about the atmosphere, which is immensely romantic. This city is too often overlooked by travelers!

I got Athens wrong! The German image of Athens is that it's exceedingly dirty and loud and full of traffic. I didn't think I would need much time there. Well, the Germans got it wrong. The traffic situation over the last years has improved immensely. There are three modern metro lines and quarters like Plaka are mostly car-free.

Before I went, I thought Athens was about the ruins and the history. But it's really about the food and the atmosphere. It's lively and chaotic and romantic and beautiful. It quickly became one of my favourite cities ever. And I'm almost reluctant to share this because I would like to keep this a secret. So Athens will stay my hidden place - mine and the 7 million inhabitants.

Fortunately, my planning was loose enough so that I could make many adjustments on the fly. And to be honest, my bucketlist2life app helped quite a bit.

First overview

A hostel located close to Monastiraki Square is a great choice. It's close enough to all the sights and the touristy areas but also very close to the local areas.

Doing a free walking tour gives you a great overview of the highlights and hidden gems as well as the history and geography. And in my case, it led to one amazing find: a free food walking tour. This is where I fell deeply in love with the food in Athens. We tried feta cheese and olives and bougatsa and so much more. But almost the best thing about this tour were the restaurant recommendations.

And this is where my bucketlist2life app came in very handy. I could quickly save markers using my GPS location for every place that looked interesting. And some of these places weren't even on Google Maps! I tried several of them and none of them disappointed.

Picture of a cat in an alley
Small alleys of Anafiotika

The Acropolis

For me, the historic sights of Athens started to play a secondary role as soon as I got there. Walking there through the little alleyways, sitting down in lovely cafes on the way and soaking up the atmosphere was just as nice.

Don't get me wrong, the Acropolis is amazing but it's definitely dangerous to overhype places. And that had happened to me. The thing is: you don't see historic significance. You only see old buildings. The information onsite is sparse, so I would recommend you to read up before you go so you don't have to do it in the immense heat - there's barely any shade at the top and very few seating options.

I would still recommend buying the special ticket package. I really enjoyed the Ancient Agora and the Kerameikos. Hadrian's Library, the Roman Agora, and the Olympieio were nice quick central additions. Next time, I would skip the Lykeion because it's a bit out of the way and again - you don't see historic significance.

Picture of a view on the acropolis
Parthenon, Acropolis

Other things to do

It was amazing just strolling through the little alleys of quarters like Plaka and Psiri. A real highlight of Athens is the Anafiotika area just beneath the Acropolis. It looks like a Greek island and is immensely romantic.

Additionally, there are some great sunset views in Athens. Many hotels and restaurants do have rooftops where you can overlook the city and see the Acropolis. My favourite sunset spot was Areopagus hill right next to the Acropolis. The atmosphere is super lively and after the sun has set you can walk over to the other side to see the lights turn on on the Acropolis.

If you're seriously into photography or want a bit more history, you could also climb Philopappos hill, but in my opinion, it's not really worth the climb.

Picture of a sunset
Sunset from Areopagus hill

The food

Like I mentioned above, all the recommendations from the free food walking tour were amazing. Additionally, Mark Wiens pulled through again. Because of him, I ended up going to an underground restaurant where an old man serves the dish of the day without a menu. And I went to the amazing central market, where you cannot only buy your fresh meat, fish and produce but also have amazing food.

What really surprised me about Athens was the sheer amount of instagramable cafes and restaurants. I fell deeply in love with Little Kook, a fairytale themed dessert restaurant. Surprisingly, the food was great and reasonably priced.

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that these restaurant recommendations made a huge difference because I ended up going to quite a tourist trap on my last evening. I had gotten too brave because all other restaurants I had been to were great.

Picture of a delicious milk-shake
Milkshake at Little Kook

How to move on

So what do I do about this? After my beach trip, I will come back to Athens! And probably many times more...

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10 Comments

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Stefan (BerkeleySqB)

23.08.2021, 23:56

I read this post with interest, Carina. When I last visited Athens it was extremely dirty, loud, and entirely unattractive, with aggressive stray dogs everywhere. No way would you have seen a cat THAT relaxed in any alley of Anafiotika back then. The views you captured from up there ARE amazing and I can see why you'd call the place romantic.

So good to hear that Greece's capital has cut a corner at some stage during the past twenty-odd years or so, despite the continuously rough times it's been going through. Just goes to show that taxes are unnecessary and no one needs a government haha.. Dessert restaurant sounds right up Ellie's alley.

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

21.09.2021, 17:07

Many people seem to have had a similarly bad Athens experience in the past. Shows that you shouldn't remove cars from city centers because cities will die this way *rolling my eyes*...

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John Quinn

21.08.2021, 03:15

Athens did the same to me. I’d heard it was loud and angry. No it certainly wasn’t. An amazing city, great history, and top top food like you said. I’m off to explore this free food tour and dream of returning to Athens.

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

10.09.2021, 08:13

So glad to hear that you had a similar experience!

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Jen Nilsson

12.08.2021, 19:33

I love a walking food tour to get to know a city. I feel like it helps you have the confidence to roll right on up to an underground restaurant with just the catch of a day on the "menu"! Thanks for changing my perspective on Athens, too!

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 10:43

You are very welcome. I did another food tour on this trip. The second one was in Sofia, Bulgaria and amazing as well.

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Chalk and cheese travels

12.08.2021, 06:09

Underground restaurant sounds great and love the idea of no menu. The market also sounds fantastic.
Would love to go one day

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 10:54

I wish I would find more hidden gems like this everywhere!

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Jan

11.08.2021, 14:58

Athens, known for inventing democracy and mythology, It's such a great city that makes a traveler want to be part of its everyday drama and tragedy experiencing all grit, grunge and grace.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 10:49

The mythology is still very omnipresent in Athens!

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lannie

11.08.2021, 08:28

I do love Athens! And yes, a part of me agrees that it is dirty, rough and kind of chaotic at times, but it is also romantic and lovely as well. I'm also just a sucker for historical places and I am genuinely in awe of how incredibly old the monuments ar!

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 10:38

I am a sucker for historical places as well. That's why I'm genuinely amazed how much my focus shifted away from them. I rarely loved a city as much as Athens. Maybe because my hometown Berlin is also kind of rough.

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Smalltownplussize Tom

11.08.2021, 05:09

Hi Carina. Thanks for the advice. We would follow the little alleyways and try the small cafes too. I think the the underground restaurant without a menu would be the best find ever. And probably one of the best memories too. I enjoyed reading about Athens from your view.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 11:00

I'm all about these little unexpected finds!

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Tiffany Pence

11.08.2021, 04:59

I love that sunset view! So now I'm curious about this free food walking tour! It sounds like the best tour in Athens. Local recommendations are always the best. I would love to see and taste the meal of the day at that underground restaurant.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 11:16

I can fully recommend the free walking tour. If you ever do it say hi from me!

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SteveH

11.08.2021, 01:21

What a great blog. So Germans got it wrong about Athens. So many good points in the blog. We love taking the free walking tours. The guides are great and it's a perfect way to quickly grasp the important areas to revisit. Great your itinerary was flexible. THXS for posting

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 11:13

I have already taken 5 free walking tours on this trip and hope for more to come!

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RJ

10.08.2021, 16:02

I loved Athens when I visited 30 years ago, the traffic was bad then good to hear its better these days.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.08.2021, 11:06

My parents also visited Athens some 30 years ago. They didn't enjoy it very much...

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