“Don’t bother with Athens,” they said. “Skip it and fly straight to the Greek Islands,” they said. “It’s a tourist trap,” they said. “You’ll just spend hours in queues to see ruins, which you can see anywhere,” they said. But I beg to differ.
After a sleepless night on a ferry from Kythera, I was relieved to see the port of Piraeus at dawn (and to get away from the overwhelming stench of gasoline by my seat) but I’ll admit that I didn’t fall in love with Athens the moment I set eyes on it. After a quick nap at the hotel, I took the concierge’s advice to “pop up to the roof terrace and take a look at Athens” and then I knew I’d come to the right place. There, on the other side of the city was a hill. And on top of that was the Acropolis.
I love ancient history and I loved walking around Athens, imagining the things this incredible city has seen over millennia. Yes, there were tourists in Athens, but guess what? I’m a tourist too, so I was not offended by the fact that other people wanted to visit this city at the same time as me.
Athens is a city of ancient ruins, yes. It’s also a city of parks, it’s a city of palms.
It’s a city of tortoises.
It’s a city with an abundance of street art.
It’s a city where you can get lost in its streets, but you only need to look up again to see the Acropolis.
And it’s a city that looks spectacular at golden hour.
So, to all the naysayers out there, I’d ask, have you even been to Athens? Did you step one foot off the main tourist streets? Or did you decide you wouldn’t like Athens before you got there and you spent your trip proving your point to yourself? To anyone who thinks they should “skip Athens,” my advice is not to – you won’t regret it, you might even love it!
Are you interested in reading more from my trip through the Southeastern Europe? I started in Ljubljana, took a side trip to Lake Bled, stopped quickly in Split and Dubrovnik, then went to Mostar and Sarajevo. To get to Skopje, I spent a night in Kosovo. Then I travelled through Greece, stopping in Meteora and Gytheio on my way to Kythera. Click on the links to find out more.