Why I like Athens

Athens: dirty, crowded tourist trap not worth visiting. In the run up to my recent work trip to Greece, that was what I kept hearing, and it surprised me. Although I admit to being more likely to get excited by the city than the average tourist – full disclosure: I minored in Classical Civilizations – I don’t think my scholastic background is the only reason I enjoyed my visit in 2006. So, would it be different 7 years later?

Acropolis Athens

Nope. Athens is still pretty cool in my book! I only had one day to sightsee and decided to hit up some of the big ones again. Back in 2006 I may have remembered exactly what each temple was used for, but this time I had the advantage of knowing how to take pictures. The Acropolis deserves far better than I gave it the first time around.

Temple of Zeus Athens

The Acropolis isn’t the only game in town, however. I started out at the Panathenaic Stadium, home to the first modern Olympics in 1896. The impressive marble bleachers were worth a photo but not the entry fee since you can see everything from the street for free.

Olympic stadium

Next up: the Temple of Olympian Zeus with its massive columns. See the tiny people?

Temple of Zeus

Greek columns

And yes, I may have a minor obsession with this particular archeological site. The friend who took that 2006 trip with me will commiserate with you on that!

Greek column

Part of what gets me so excited about Athens is that you can be walking down a modern street, with modern buildings, only to turn a corner and catch a glimpse of the Parthenon. How can anyone not find it cool to have ancient ruins mixed in with the normal daily life of a big city?!


So far during my morning exploration, I’d been just as impressed by Athens’ sights as before. But now I was on track to hit the Acropolis just before midday, which any guidebook will tell you is prime tourist hoards time. My good opinion of Athens was about to be put to the test.

Athens tourist

Info: The Panathenaic Stadium costs €3 to enter. Entry includes an audio guide and the option to run on the track, but unless you’re really into sports and/or want to live out your track and field fantasies, I’d skip it.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus costs €2 by itself, but it makes sense to skip that in favor of the €12 ticket that also gets you into the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, Ancient Agora, Theater of Dionysus, Kerameikos and Roman Agora. It has fab columns and is totally worth the short walk from the Acropolis.

32 Responses to “Why I like Athens”

  1. Maddy says:

    I want to go to Greece SO BADLY. So so badly! Can we gchat about classical civilizations someday? 😉

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Anytime! I have forgotten so much though, last time I really knew my stuff, and this time I could barely anything.

  2. Deborah says:

    Hi. Ive read a couple of your posts. Im living in valparaiso for six months, having moved here from san francisco, where my chilean partner and i lived for three years. Its taking me a while to get used to, but im starting to love it. Though im an experienced english teacher, im having a hard time getting work. Any insights? I enjoy reading your posts, deborah

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Hi Deborah, I’ve never worked as a teacher, so I’m probably one of the worst expats to ask for tips, unfortunately. But from one former Bay Area resident to another I wish you luck!

  3. Carine says:

    Hi Emily, thanks for the info as I am headed to Athens next week for a few days before taking a cruise and family/friend time. I know you are really busy with work, family life, pooch :) so thanks for posting.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Have a wonderful trip! I remember you mentioning that this was coming up, so I hope it lives up to your expectations.

  4. Andrea says:

    Never been there but the ruins would be fascinating…

  5. Truth: I thought of Athens like you first described, as well, but now promise to give it a second chance next time I’m in Greece.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I seem to be in the minority, so you may not enjoy it next time either. But I definitely don’t see what others see and have had a good time on both of my trips.

  6. Alex says:

    I loved Athens too! My mom and I had a hotel overlooking the Temple of Olympian Zeus, went to open air outdoor movie theatres at night with views of the Parthenon and ate at amazing restaurants. I loved that city!

  7. Cata says:

    I want to go to Greece! Mostly because of santorini and a Mediterranean cruise but I will definitely want to see the ruins!!!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I have been to Mykonos too and had a blast…but now that I’m no longer in college I’d probably pick Santorini for any future island trips :)

  8. Charu says:

    Absolutely loved Athens when I lived there for three months!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Wow, I didn’t know you’d lived there! I don’t know if I could handle it…I might overdose on delicious food in the first couple of weeks.

  9. I love that pic of you! I’m dying to get to Greece!!!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Haha, thanks. I think I look a little silly since I’m squinting into the sun, but whatever – it’s proof that I was there!

  10. Erica says:

    Yeah… I am a HUGE history nerd. I don’t think I would let other people’s reviews get in my way. <3

  11. Andrea says:

    I’ve always heard that too – glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  12. Marsha says:

    I agree with you completely- I loved Athens as well. Yes there may be some undesirable elements but the ancient sites are so amazing, they make up for any dirty parts of the city. There was so much history every you look, such a great city!

  13. Great post! I went to Athens when I was 14 and didn’t appreciate the city enough. I think I need to go back!

  14. Come back, come back, come baaaaack…

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Done! Just posted something new :) I don’t know how you kept up with KEEN and your blog – I (obviously) can barely deal with regular work/life and blogging these days.

      • Ha, funny, I don’t feel like I really did keep up with it! I was posting once a week if I was lucky and twice if I *really* had the urge, but my 2014 goal is to get back into a thrice-weekly posting schedule 😉

  15. Pixie says:

    And those pillars are huuuuuuuge. One can’t see from the photos unless there is some comparative element – like a person near them… When I was at the Temple of Zeus… I was astonished to see the gigantic pillars!

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