Every tourist dreams of visiting Athens. It’s the relic of the civilization and homeland of modern democracy. Also, Athens has a warm and dry climate almost all year round. And its port, Piraeus, is the gateway to the famous Cyclades, the island of Mykonos and Santorini that are popular for their beaches and sunsets.
Like all tourist destinations in Athens, there are some things you should watch out for.
Thousands of tourists coming to Athens frequently find themselves caught in tourist traps. You can easily avoid them by reading this short article giving you ideas on how to make your stay there meaningful and safe.
What are tourist traps?
Being close to the Acropolis and the ancient market that is there (Plaka district) is the first thing everyone suggests tourists should visit first. However, getting there is the first tourist trap you need to avoid. Even though the Acropolis (the ancient temple of Parthenon built in the 5th century BC is one of the seven world miracles and a must-see in Athens) is essential to visit, Plaka and Monastiraki aren’t.
Too many tourist agents suggest tourists visit Plaka and Monastiraki after descending from the ancient rock of the Acropolis. However, there you will find prices over 50% increased compared to the ones you would pay if you choose to go to Syntagma or Omonia square, less than a mile away.
As you may understand, tourist traps are heavily promoted and advertised places that give zero value to your trip. You can have an outrageous bill in restaurants or even jeopardize your safety. Although tourist traps exist in almost any famous location, it’s not easy to identify them if you haven’t talked to a local.
What are some common tourist traps in Athens?
A common tourist trap in Athens would be to use taxis for your transportation. Athens is not an uber-friendly city, and you cannot find uber taxis anywhere near. If you are unfamiliar with the local taxi applications (TaxiBeat and TaxiPlon), it’s better to stick close to the Metro stations.
Taxis (the well-known yellow cabs) are anywhere but are notorious for their bad attitude and extremely high charges. On the other hand, using the metro is easy.
Athens has a neat and clean metro (better than many other famous European cities) and an extended network allowing you to go virtually anywhere. You can even buy the reduced price tourist card for the metro, which costs almost 6 euros per day.
Another tourist trap to avoid would be the fancy restaurants in the city center. They will charge you more to offer you the same Mediterranean food that you can enjoy in similar places just a mile away. Stay away from the fancy Zonar’s opposite the Acropolis and just get closer to the safe Kolonaki district. There you can have the best possible Mediterranean food without paying a fortune for it.
How can you avoid tourist traps?
There is no easy way to avoid tourist traps. You need to learn more about Athens, and read every blog you can find in the English language. Even though you may not think it’s possible, you can still have more information from sites like Lifo.gr and Kathimerini.gr that have an updated English version.
Another easy way to avoid tourist traps would be to have a local host. Either social media or applications can help you find the local host you want. It’s better to pay a local to guide you through the traffic and show you the best places to hang out. Believe me, you will save a lot of money compared to just getting around the city alone and listening to the “mules” that are there to attract your attention and spend your precious money.
What are some tips for avoiding tourist traps?
The best way to avoid tourist traps is to perform your own research before you even arrive in Athens. Today you can find multiple sites offering tips for tourists visiting Athens for the first time. You can find precious information on sites like the culture trips and why Athens. English-speaking visitors create them to show the city’s image from the tourists’ perspective.
It’s also better to avoid renting an AirBnB close to touristic zones. There you cannot have the sleeping quality you need, and you are always close to the hawkers and touts that are out there to deceive you. Instead, it’s wise to rent a room close to the southern part of the city that is close to the beaches (Alimos, Glyfada, and Ellinikon are the best places). You may use the light tram railway to get there, so you don’t even have to rent a car or get a taxi.
A secure way to avoid tourist traps would be to rely only on catalogs and signs with proper English translation. Every store and hotel having the EOT sign (Greek National Tourist agency) is safe for tourists and should have translations for every good and service you buy.
What are some things to keep in mind when visiting Athens?
The first thing to keep in mind would be that the Greek power network operates in 220V, so you need to have a transducer to charge your appliances safely. Then you need to choose a local Greek telecom carrier (Cosmote and Vodafone are the most reliable) and operate your cell phone.
Also, you need to remember to call 112 for any emergency. It’s the European number that applies to Athens emergencies, and there is an English operator to receive your request and respond. Download the Taxiplon and Taxibeat applications on your smartphone. They will give you the right taxi service when you need it, and you will know the fare well before you enter the taxi. Not to mention you can choose the best-rated drivers!
Athens is a safe place to hang around. However, you need to be careful during the night when walking in the city center, close to Omonia avenue. It’s better not to be there after 11 PM, especially in the streets that are below Omonia square and lead to the National Theater. Stay close to Syntagma square and Kolonaki, which is full of bars and restaurants. The public transportation operates till 1 AM and starts again at 5:30 AM, so plan ahead for your rides.
What are some popular tourist attractions in Athens?
Here is a shortlist of the most popular tourist attractions in Athens:
- The Acropolis. Ascend the ancient hill and visit the museum that is opposite the Parthenon.
- National Archeological Museum. It’s a one-mile ride from the Acropolis and is one of the most interesting museums in the world if you like the antique era.
- The Roman Market. There you can find Attalus Square, where you will see the place ancient philosophers like Socrates and Plato used to give their lectures.
- The Syntagma Square. It’s also called Constitution Square. You can see the Greek Parliaments and take a picture with the Tsoliades (the traditional greek soldier’s) guarding the monument of the Unknown Soldier losing their life in the wars of Greek Annexation.
- The Market Triangle. It’s a set of stores just beneath Syntagma square where you can find cozy places to drink local beers and even buy souvenirs at lower prices than everywhere else.
- Sounion Temple. It’s one of the ancient temples devoted to Poseidon (the God of Seas) and is located about 35miles away from the city center. It has the best view of the Aegean sea, and getting there for sunset pictures is a must. You can get there using a bus or a local taxi.
What are some less-known places to visit in Athens?
Some less known places to visit in Athens are the new malls that have existed for less than 20 years and not so many people know about them. You can go to the Maroussi district using the metro and then walk to the Mall, which is the biggest marketplace in Greece.
Another place you should go would be the Ancient Long Walls in Piraeus. There you can get there using the metro and stop at Neo Faliro station. You will admire the Ancient Long Walls that were built in the 5th century BC to protect the city from pirates.
The Byzantine Church of Kapnikarea is also a hidden place that many tourist blogs will not include. You can get to Syntagma square and walk 0.3 miles south to Ermou Street. There you will find the Byzantine Basilique of Kapnikarea that remains the same from the 8th century and admire the frescoes.
People who love the automotive industry would like to get to the Athens Automotive Museum, which is just across the street when you visit the National Archaeological Museum on Ioulianou Street. The automotive museum is a live history of the cars used in Greece from the 19th century till today. You can even admire some supercars that are no more on the production line, and collectors would die to have them.
What are some things to do in Athens outside the typical tourist traps?
When you visit Athens during summer, the best thing to do would be to catch the first bus that will take you to the Athens Riviera. The best destination would be Vouliagmeni and Lagonissi. You can get there by bus that you can catch from Syntagma Square. There are organized beaches for a small fee (5 to 10 euros), and you can swim by having your personal bed and umbrella.
Athens is also the place where you can see how olive oil is made. You can ask some local tourist agencies to get you to close olive oil refineries to see how farmers get their olive fruits there and produce the extra virgin olive oil. In the same destinations, you can also try the Mesogeion Wines that are known for the “retsina” (pine-trees extract) added inside and giving them one of the best tastes in the world. Trying and buying some local wine is the best alternative tourist attraction you can have in Athens.
No matter where you may go, Athens is a vivid and welcoming place, provided you know where to go.