Posted by: nikusjka | September 14, 2013

Athens on a budget. Insiders guide.

If you couldn’t get a unique copy of “Seriously We Think Free” Magazine, then here is a full original article. I believe that this guide will help anyone who wants to see REAL Athens and explore this amazing city. I lived there, so you can rely on this 🙂

Athens on a budget.

So you decided (or still thinking) to visit a city that is well-known cradle of Western Civilization? Well I hope that by the end of this article you`ll fall in love with Athens (as I once did) and will learn how to enjoy this amazing city on a budget. Straight away I want to mention few things about this city. Athens needs to be discovered. It`s not like Rome, where you go and everything is pretty like Italian Vogue. It`s not like London where all interesting places are concentrated around the center. Athens are different. You`ll need to wonder the smallest streets, take trips to various neighborhoods, walk a lot and I`m sure you`ll find the unique places to be loved and remembered.

 Getting to Athens.

There are many ways how to come to this ancient city. The best one really depends where you`re coming from.

Plane is quite a cheap option if you`re coming somewhere in January-February – these are the cheapest months. June-August are the most expensive. Of course, if you book well in advance, you`ll probably manage to get a well-priced ticket.

You can try trains (Greek trains www.ose.gr) or busses (Greek bus company www.ktelbus.com) from various destinations in Greece and Europe. If you are an EU student you can get a discount on a ticket, so don`t forget your student ID!

Staying in Athens.

So you got to Athens and the night is approaching. www.hostelbookers.com claims to be cheaper than well-known hostelworld.com, so give it a try. Else, I`d suggest to open an account on couchsurfing.org. If you`re unaware about this amazing community website, it`s a unique worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the communities they visit. You can browse people in your destination city, who are offering their couches for FREE! So not only you`ll save money on hostels, you might also end up meeting some very cool and interesting local people, who will take you around and show some local traditions. Just remember to check the references of the person you`re planning to couchsurf at. As Greeks are known worldwide for their hospitality, I, personally, think it`s a really good option if you`re looking for authentic Athenian experience.
Besides that check www.booking.com or a new and amazing service www.airbnb.com. I love AirBnB for offering better value for money in comparison with Booking.com or other mainstream booking sites. You get to live in somebody’s room/flat/house, which usually mean better location for less money and accommodation that has everything ready for living. Extra plus is a locals hospitality (like with couchsurfing.com).

Eating in Athens.

“Kalimera” is Greek for “Good morning”. Hungry, e? J Luckily you`re in Greece – the place of great food on every corner! Just go downstairs from the place you`re staying and you`ll for sure find shop, selling “pites” – pies. There are all kind of pies: with Greek cheese (tiropita “τυρόπιτα”), spinach (spanakopita “σπανακόπιτα”), ham&cheese (zabonotiropita “ζαμπονοτυρόπιτα”) etc. It`s a great breakfast and will keep you energetic for a long day in the city. Don`t forget to grab a coffee at the same place. Many times, especially in the chain shops, they offer coffees+pites with a discount, so just look out for signs or simply ask. This kind of breakfast will cost you around 2.5-3eur.

If you want some fruit, drop by Monastiraki square, there are always two men selling seasonal fruit quite cheap. If you`re hungry more than that, then it`s time to try another traditional food – souvlaki! You can call it fast-food, but, trust me, you simply have to try it, because it`s delicious. Basically souvlaki is round bread on which Greeks put pieces of meat, tomato, fried potatoes and sauce or tzatziki (Greek yogurt-based dip with chopped cucumber and garlic). As for a place, I`d suggest one on the corner at Monastiraki square just behind the small church – very tasty. There are many souvlaki shops in every neighborhood and every Greek has his own favorite one. Normally you`d be able to get souvlaki for about 2.5eur.

Another authentic food experience you have to have while in Athens is taverna. It`s a local kind of restaurant serving Greek food. Here again, all is based on experience or suggestions. The best and cheapest tavernas are hidden from the touristic areas. My personal favorite is “Ladokola”, because it`s a great value for money (visit www.ladokola.eu). By now they already have 5 tavernas around the city, so find the closest one to you. It`s a perfect place to try meat made by Greek recipes (lamb, pork, chicken), keftedes (meatballs), Greek salad, melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), tirokafteri (whipped feta cheese, with hot peppers and olive oil dip), moussaka (layered dish with eggplant, minced meat, béchamel sauce), fried feta cheese and much more. Take wine of the house or local beers. Want something stronger? Go for tsipouro or ouzo! Prepare around 15eur per person excluding heavy drinking.

So now you`re full and want to go for some more drinks? Visit Psiri area, which is just next to Monastiraki. The neighborhood will welcome you with the smell of waterpipe and rakomelo (Greek spirit raki boiled together with honey). Sit in any of the places and for 6-8eur you`ll get a 300-400ml of rakomelo that you`ll drink in shots with your friends. Fancy wine? Order inomelo – wine boiled with honey.

Walking in Athens.

Athens center is very good for walking. Try to visit Syntagma square and see the guards change in front of the parliament. Walk don`t the crowded Ermou street that has a lot of shops and you`ll end up in Monastiraki square. If you go up from here you`ll reach Acropolis hill. The admission fee is 12 eur, but you`re lucky if you`re EU student, cos then it`s FREE. With this ticket you can visit various other archeological sights (Temple of Zeus, Ancient Agora etc), so in the end it`s not very expensive even if you pay. I strongly recommend the new Acropolis Museum. It was built to house the most precious of ancient relics – the Parthenon Marbles, which Greeks are still trying to claim back from UK. The insides of the museum are pure glass, it has a lot of light and is great to learn some more about Parthenon.

New Acropolis Museum

New Acropolis Museum

If you have time and power – climb the Lykavitos hill for a breathtaking view over Athens (even better one than from Acropolis hill). Take some beverages or beers from the kiosk, go up and you`re guaranteed a perfect moment with a view.

Feeling a rebel inside of you? Then it`s time for Exarchia neighborhood. It`s a place where the alternative Athenians gather. It might be not the safest place during the riots, but all the other times it`s nothing to be afraid of. Exarchia has a lot of cheaper cafeterias, birrerias and places to eat. You`ll find amazing graffiti and a legendary street “Alexandrou Grigoropoulou” – place, where in December 2009 a 15 year old boy Alexandros was killed by a policeman. Event, that caused riots all over Europe.

Alexandrou Grigoropoulou Street

In a memory of 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

For a cheap beer (2 eur) with Acropolis view – go to “Poikili Stoa” (Agiou Filippou 14, Thiseio, Athens 10555). It`s quite busy place, but if you find a table, you won`t regret!

You also put some party clothes into your backpack? ) Head to Gazi (Kerameikos metro station)! The young party people are to be found here together with amazing number of bars and clubs for every musical taste.

NB! So. Remember. Athens has something to offer for anybody! Just keep discovering! And if you don`t know something – just ask a person next to you, a taxi driver, a shop assistant.. Athenians are helpful!

Athens is a mosaic. It`s ugly and gorgeous, tough and easy-going, with sunny squares and dark corners, rocky hills and sandy beaches. You will either love it or hate it. But one I can promise you – you`ll NEVER stay neutral! 

View from Lykavitos hill

View from Lykavitos hill

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