Why do so many people dislike Athens?

Aug 1st, 2003, 09:41 AM
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Why do so many people dislike Athens?


I am in the finishing stages of planning my first trip to Greece. Many people have stated here and elsewhere that Athens does not merit more than a one-day stay. Why is that? Would two days be too much? Is Athens thought of in the same way as Brussels, boring and ugly? Everyone told me not to spend too much time there, and to my first hand experience, they were right. I don't want to do the same thing in Athens when I could spend that extra day in the Greek isles.

Any comments or suggestions wuld be appreciated.

Thanks again.

newyorkais is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 09:51 AM
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I have not been to Greece in many years. From what I remember, the islands are fantastic but Athens is a pit. Most people only use Athens as a launching point. Sadly, Athens is very polluted, dirty, smoggy, crowded and vandalized. I doubt it has improved with age. Everything about the islands is better than Athens.
Calamari is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 10:01 AM
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Athens is certainly not boring, but it's very ugly. Except for the occasionally sublime bit around the Acropolis. And - which is why limiting your presence to a day isn't a bad idea - polluted more than almost anywhere else in the EU.

You can "do" the Acropolis in a day. Personally, I'd give it a lot longer, and there are some other things - like the Byzantine Museum - that are worth a trip to Athens in themselves.

But, monuments apart, it's not a nice city, the food is worse than London was 30 years ago and it's horribly noisy. And the smaller islands aren't the only alternative. Delphi, Knossos, Corinth, Olympia...Classical monuments on Crete and elsewhere on the Greek mainland are much more worth visiting than most of Athens.

The islands, however, are mostly just islands. By all means cut down on Athens time to visit Knossos, Delphi or Delos. But don't waste time on a Mykonos beach you could be spending in places that created our civilisation.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 10:09 AM
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Except for the Ruins, the Parthenon, the Acropolis, and National Archeologic Museum, Athens is an ugly city with lousy architecture. Given the many wars and earthquakes, most buildings were destroyed, and the replacements are ugly. As says calamari, the city is very polluted, dirty, smoggy, crowded and vandalized
Nevertheless, I stil like Athens. The Acropolis is unique and not to be missed, as well cape Sounion, about 30, 40 mins from Athens.

I don't think it's boring, Plaka is fun, there are nice restaurants, and Greek food is wonderful, but beware, some Greeks, from restaurants' waiters and owners to taxi drivers will try to rip you off.

I stll think it deserves 2 nights and days, or at least 1 night and 1 day and a half
Surlok is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 10:23 AM
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Spend one morning at the Acropolis then get the hell out of Athens before the pollution makes you sick. The diesel fumes and smog are the worst I have ever experienced.
jor is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 10:53 AM
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Argh!!!! These kind of comments make me crazy. Ross, I think people say stay out of Athens because their Greek adventure is all about islands and Athens is so not about islands. But Athens IS about history and culture (albiet extremely different than we are used to) and what the 21st century brings to incredibly cultural historical places (ie, the aforementioned smog and pollution).

Athens is a tough nut to crack. If you don't get below the fact that every taxi driver, and half of the restaurant workers are making a game out of ripping you off, you will hate it. But if you go with an open mind you will be completely amazed.

The Plaka is worth a day and a night trip. The Acropolis of course is a must. The archeological museum is incredible. Take the funicular up Lykavittos to get an amazing perspective of how HUGE Athens is! Stay at a hotel with a roof bar and watch the lights go on the Parthenon while sipping wine and munching fabulous Greek pistachios.

But if you are looking for a beach and party scene.... don't bother with Athens.
Grasshopper is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 11:10 AM
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wow, I wouldn't recognize the city from some of these comments. Okay, I haven't been there in at least ten years, but people said the same things then about it and I didn't find it true. If the pollution has gone way up since then, that might make a difference, but I thought it had gone down if anything.

It really depends if you have any interest in history, archeology and museums. If you don't, then I can see why you would only spend one day in Athens. If you do, the museum there is outstanding, that alone took up about a half day of my time, and I didn't linger. YOu have the Parthenon and other historic sites (which I agree are sadly falling apart). But I also spent time shopping in the Plaka and found that fun and had some great meals. I don't get these comments, but I love Greek food. I agree that London restaurant food was terrible 30 years ago, but I still never liked "British" cuisine -- the good restaurants now are mainly ethnic. I have always liked Greek cuisine, however, for years and can cook it quite well myself (including baklava) and had one wonderful Greek boyfriend, so maybe that's why.

Suprisingly, nobody ripped me off and the taxis I took were very very cheap -- so cheap I was almost embarrassed because the cost of things was so much cheaper there than in the US.

There was some smog, but as I lived in LA when I visited Athens, I didn't find it anything unusual.

Frankly, the islands disappointed me to some degree -- if you think that is going to be some rustic, idyllic experience full of charm, think again. That depends where you go, of course. To pass up what is unique in Athens for another day hanging out and partying on some island full of bars, drunks, layabouts and ugly resort hotels doesn't seem so wonderful.
Christina is online now  
Aug 1st, 2003, 11:53 AM
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For me, to miss Athens would be a huge mistake. I loved the Platka and the Acropolis and had some very wonderful dinners... I didn't explore the area away from the Acropolis/Platka. And we loved Sounion(sp?). I agree with the previous posters - why go to the Greek islands when you can explore the creation of civilization. Greece is my favorite place - but the islands I can take or leave. Spend at least one full day in Athens (2 nights) then venture to the penninsula, Delphi, Corinth, etc..
julie_Colorado is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 07:49 PM
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I, too, liked Athens and had very good food there. I thought it was especially interesting b/c it is so different from all the other western European cities I had been in, definitely an eastern flavor.
grandmere is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 08:01 PM
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I kind of wish I had gone to Athens...I only whizzed by on my way to the Islands in some serious need for R&R.

Maybe you need a bit of cash to stay in nice areas in Athens? I backpacked around Europe, therefore stayed in hostels. I talked to many backpackers, and out of all the cities in Europe, Athens was the only place where I heard really bad horror stories about theft. I met three different people who had their entire backpack stolen out of a hostel. I had heard of odds and ends being taken, but never an entire backpack. Since I was on the tail end of my journey, I didn't care for the hassle, and regret it to a degree, since I won't be going back to Greece any time soon.

But the parts I did see going through were pretty darn ugly.
crazymina is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 03:45 AM
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This is a very interesting thread.
Calamari, you say "i have not been to Athens for many years," perhaps too long ago to offer a balanced perspective. It's true it is in need of some revamping but the greeks are busy right now doing many revamps. For instance when I was there in november they were well advanced with their new metro stations and the Syntagma one is something to behold with it's displays of treasures found in the excavations.
I did not find it polluted at all but maybe it was because it wasn't in the heat of summer. I find London to be far more polluted and oppressive. The Plaka was lots of fun and the people are a delight if you take the time to get to know them. The euro is much easier to deal with than the old drachma so less chance of being ripped off, just keep your wits about you. There are many interesting things to see besides the Acropolis, the musical instrument museum, the folk museum, childrens museum, the Benaki which is one of the best in the world, museums I hear you groan but all different and unless you are interested in history and learning then maybe there's not much point to visiting Athens. Personally I am, hence I stayed there ten days and easily filled in time. In fact it wasn't long enough and I am looking forward to returning.
It's true that the apartments are plain and rather ugly, as one greek woman said to me, we all live on top of each other, however many cities are becoming very much this way in their efforts to house their population. Visit the Acropolis of course but look beyond it also to many other hidden treasures of Athens.
PS I also like Brussels I can't think of anything that is ugly about it.
KathyNZ is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 07:50 AM
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I also like Athens. I think I heard so many terrible things about it that I was surprised that it wasn't that bad. Its recent history is part of the reason for the "cigarette box" architecture. There were very few people living there (maybe 50,00) until after WW1 and 2, when the ciy really grew. Greece missed the Renissance and the wonderful architecture of the 18 century, due to being ruled by a forgein govenment. Greece did not gain independence until sometime in the middle 1800s and it was a very poor country until 1960 0r 1970. Therefore in it does not have the beauty of great cities of Western Europe, but there is a charm. Besides the Plaka try Kolonaki Square. There are other lovely areas, but I just happened upon them and do not know their names. I also love Greek food and if you are a vegitarian (I am not)you can eat very well in Greece. I am not a history major so if anyone wants to correct my history, please feel free. I am writing from memory of things I have learned along the way. I do agree Athens in the summer is tooooo hot.
yipper is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 08:44 AM
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We enjoyed Athens very much. Were lucky there was an inversion so there was no smog. We had been all over first so the Arch. Museum was fabulous-to see all of the treasures from the sites we had seen. We did what we do everyplace - take transportation to a spot and then walk an area. Had some good food also - one restaurant was on a rooftop with a great view of the Parthenon. Sorry I don't remember the name. I was very sorry to read that the Arch. Museum is closed til next year. I would go back to Athens if I had the chance. Go and enjoy! CJ
CarolJean is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 09:47 AM
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I can understand why people don't like Athens. It's not my favourite place in the world either, but after a couple of days it started to grow on me. I think there is an ugly-is-beautiful quality to it. Athens can be surprising, even enchanting. Walk to the top of the Acropolis, around the Plaka and Monastiraki, watch the Evzones changing guard and don't miss the area of Anafiotika. Then there are those fabulous views of the Parthenon.

If I had to go back I'd take a few days in Athens over Santorini.
April is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 08:38 PM
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For those of you who think there is not a lot on in Athens at the presnt time or in the near future go to
and be over run for choice!!!!
KathyNZ is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 09:24 PM
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I have not yet been to Athens, but will have the opportunity to see it next month,and can't wait to see what I think of it..Usually I see the good in everything, so I am wondering how bad it could be..I will let you know when I get back.
TracyB is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 03:15 AM
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I just returned from a two week Greece-Paris trip. We spent two nights in Athens. I think if you're a big city person, Athens is fine. Acropolis is unbelievably impressive. Par;iament and the changing of the guard stuff is very impressive as are other things in the area. Plaka is ok, but it all looks the same after awhile-tavernas and touristy shops. The city is getting a face cleaning for the Olympics so that helps, but there's lots of construction. I think Athens is fine for a couple days, but Greece has so much to offer beyond the downtown city area, that you feel like you want to venture out.But if you're from NY like me, Athens is fine. Ignore these danger signs people put up.
I felt safer in Athens than in say, Philadelphia.
Mark_va is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 04:30 AM
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You may like to consider the price hikes that are already occurring from what I was just told by one Athenian who was complaining that a small bottle of water had gone up to 3euro and she had been told that by the time the Olympics come it will be 6. The Greeks have also been big complainers along with the Germans of how much the intro of the euro has caused inflation, so this will really not be improving things.
If you do go there, then add Kolonaki to the night life - still a popular place for bit better off Greeks to go.
Travelnick is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 05:05 AM
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I loved Athens. I was given a free trip to Greece a few years ago to accompany some American exchange students to Thessaloniki for the summer program. I stayed there 10 days. Asked my mom to meet me in Athens and we stayed at the Acropolis View Hotel a few blocks from the Acropolis. The tour companies there will pick you up outside your hotel and you can take tours to Delphi, Cape Sounion, Corinth, all sorts of places, also day cruises to the islands which we did twice. When we weren't taking tours we would walk around the Acropolis or to the Plaka. I loved walking through Athens looking at the ruins they uncovered when they dug the subway. I could stay there a long time.
codetta is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 08:23 AM
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Yipper, I like your response--you've done a nice job of placing Athens in context. I was there in Ocotber 2000 for two nights and thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather was great, and I could easily have spent a week there. I was surprised, by the way, by the dogs, which were docile, seemed well cared for, and were roaming free everywhere. We had breakfasts at a local cafe, and the waitress said that in her neigborhood people fed them (and the cats) and pooled money for a vetenarian to care for them.
Joe_in_Silver_Spring is offline  

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