Seems like everyone and their grandmothers are zipping off to Athens in flow-y cotton dresses and wide brimmed sunhats to enjoy salads, wine by the glass and beautiful sandy beaches. We trooped over ourselves for an impromptu vacay at the start of summer, and although the weather was a bit too chilly for our liking, the cold kept the crowds away. Now that there’s a direct flight there via Scoot, we’ll definitely be back! Whether you’re planning a trip to Athens with kids or without, here’s our five top tips to take note of when you travel:
1. Safety first!
First things first, although Athens is considered a very safe city, especially for women travelling solo, keep your belongings on you or you will get your wallet or phone nicked. We’ve seen some pretty ingenious ways some tourists have chosen to secure their belongings, as well as equally ingenious ways pickpockets and scammers operate. You know the drill, hands on bags, sealable pockets and keep the jewellery for special occasions.
Grecian food is a delicious array of kebabs, salads, fresh tomatoes, bread, olives, fish, cheese and of course, wine. Wine in Singapore can be $8-12 a glass easy, but wine in Greece is about five euros which makes it a great pairing to any meal. We’re not saying take total advantage of the tipple, but that’s exactly what we’re saying. We’re also big fans of souvlakis which is a street food that is grilled meat wrapped in pita bread, served with sauce and yoghurt and cheap as chips.
3. Historical sites
If you’re going to Athens, you’re probably planning on climbing the Acropolis. Tagging along with a tour group might give you all sorts of interesting historical anecdotes, as well as being able to tell the Acropolis (the citadel) from the Parthenon (which is the famous building that sits atop it), but we chose to the free-and-easy route which is just as fun. Other amazing landmarks include the Theatre of Dionysus, the world’s first theatre located on the Acropolis, the Arch of Hadrian, the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium in the world to be made completely of white marble. We also swung by the Acropolis Museum to check out the ancient artefacts and enjoy the view of the Acropolis. You may want to check out the National Gardens and National Observatory of Athens for more fun adventures.
If you’re planning on travelling around Athens with the kids in tow, you’ll want to download the Beat app. It works just like other ride-sharing apps in Singapore where you select your location and your destination and voila! The prices are set before you confirm your ride and you can choose to pay by PayPal so you’re not fumbling with cash when you arrive at your destination. We’re also big fans of the hop-on hop-off bus tours around Athens. There’s three to choose from which will take you around and outside of the city, even all the way to Piraeus and Beach Riveria to see the conservatory, Olympic Stadium and all of Athen’s beautiful beaches. Not only will you get a full audio tour of Athens, you’ll have up to three days to enjoy it with minimal walking involved – love!
While not exactly known as a shopping destination, Athens has a fair few spots for unique finds. On your way to the Acropolis, you’re sure to find plenty of souvenir shops lining the streets selling everything from hand carved olive wood and honey to grecian statues and Greek instruments. If you’re more for second-hand shopping or antique hunting, head to Monastiraki Square for clothes, jewellery, CDs and various paraphernalia. Take a stroll down Ermou for the latest high street fashion and design labels to refresh your wardrobe.
Things to take note of:
- There are no public toilets. We spent over an hour hunting for one around the shopping district to no avail. If you ask nicely, shop owners may let you use their private toilet, but if not, you’re better off ducking into a cafe and ordering a coffee.
- By the way, there aren’t really any shopping centres either. You won’t find a place with everything under one roof (play centres, cafes, food courts, clothing, grocery stores) like you can in Singapore. Shops may share a building but they pretty much run their own show (and toilet).
- The driving is scary but very safe. Our tour bus did a tricky manoeuvre past a taxi that had parked too close to the pedestrian crossing and down a small street – and it managed to get past without a scratch!
- Tipping in Athens is a highly debated topic and ranges from 0-15% but you won’t get any nasty glares if you decide the service wasn’t worth it. Although it usually is as many restaurants are family-run and give complimentary desserts.
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