When you visit a new country, what do you do first? Do you visit all the recommended stops from TripAdvisor? Do you contact friends who visited? Do you just wing it? Even when doing all of these things, how do you decide what’s important or what you will enjoy?
I’ve lived in Athens, Greece, for over seven weeks now, and, alongside my studies, I’ve packed my days with travel and exploration. Having spent my weekends away from campus and my evenings traveling within the city, I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of how to jam-pack a trip to Greece.
If you’re coming to visit Athens — or to study — there are 6 things you should definitely do:
1. Visit an island.
Greece has 227 inhabited islands, and while I’ve only visited 3 (Spetses, Hydra, and Karparthos), I’m sure they’re all beautiful. The water is crystal clear and watercolor blue. Plus, swimming in the Aegean Sea is way warmer than swimming in the ocean. With so many islands to choose from, you can easily get to one when visiting.
2. See the Athenian Acropolis.
The Ancient Athenian Acropolis (or city center) is home to the Parthenon and other temples from the 4th century BCE. It’s €20 a person, but with a student ID you can get a discount. The Athenian Acropolis has both Greek and Roman constructions, along with informational plagues and a terrific view of the city that lies below.
3. Stop by a museum.
In a country filled with history, museums are everywhere. Many islands have museums dedicated to local history, and the area around the Athenian Acropolis is littered with them, too. The Acropolis Museum (my personal favorite) has floor-to-ceiling windows and offers incredible views of the Parthenon. The National Archeological Museum of Athens hosts vases, statues, jewelry, and so much more spanning from the time of the Homeric kings of Greece to the Roman Empire. Both of these museums also offer student discounts.
4. Enjoy a traditional Greek meal.
Traditional Greek restaurants can be found all over the country, so take advantage of them! Order a bunch of appetizers and a couple of traditional entrées: Greek salad, tzatiki, gyros, and souvlaki.
5. Explore Monastraki.
Monastraki (or Monastiti) lies below the Athenian Acropolis and the Parthenon, and it is the place to go for your tourist shopping and dining needs. Alleys and streets are packed with authentic restaurants, gelato booths, stands of handmade leather goods and jewelry, and any other item you could desire to purchase.
6. Find some ruins.
Archeological sites and ruins are spaced all throughout the country, but Athens has quite a few even within the downtown. The Acropolis Museum sits on top of a house from antiquity that is still being explored, and the paths are glass to allow visitors a view of the 2000-year-old house. Monastraki is also surrounded by both Greek and Roman ruins: temples, the Roman agora, the library of Hadrian, the list goes on. Take a few minutes and admire some of these other ruins. You won’t even have to go out of your way.