I visited Athens for a conference. I stayed the weekend to experience this antic city on the other side of the Aegean. Unfortunately I am not impressed. That is not to say that Athens is not a fun town, with beautiful girls and a nice beach just 30 minutes away with tram. All that is true. But the city itself is so reminiscent of Turkish cities like Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul that I did not feel I was in a foreign city. And therefore I was not all that impressed. Yet I think it is a decent 3 day trip for those of you who are not from Turkey. For my Turkish friends I wouls suggest visiting the Greek islands or rural Greece instead. Here is a small guide to athens, which is also available as a Google Map.
The Airport: is connected conveniently to the city center with subway (called Metro). The tickets cost 6€. Ride takes 45 minutes, the firs train leaves at 5:30 from the city.
The City: The city center is also meshed with many subway station. Daily card which includes trams costs 3€. I'd recommend walking as the center (Plaka, Psiri, Kolonaki districts) is pretty small and if you really going somewhere far single ticket costs 0.70 €. Other interesting parts of the city apart from the center is the sister port city of Piraeus, which practically is a part of the city, and the southern suburb Glyfalda which is the center of night-life in the summer and a home to many beaches.
The Squares: can be organized according to squares. Omonia Square is the transport hub and is a part of a busy middle class trading district. It resembles Kizilay of Ankara. To the north it gets a little creepier, with some prostitution and drug trafficking going on. Use it as a transfer center. All marble Syntagma square and the shopping avenue Ermou connecting to it is where the locals hang out and my favorite. Just across from the square are the Parliament, where the famous guards do their funny walks, and the National Gardens. Slightly to the west lies the Monastraki square, which is the heart of the old city, Plaka to the east and Psiri to the west. Also every Sunday there is a large flea market around the square.
Plaka: This is the old Turkish quarter, torn down largely during the military junta in the 70s. It is the most touristic part of down, which is just on the footsteps of the Akropolis. The tour operators take (mostly old) tourist groups to a tour of the Acropolis, and then bring 'em down to a restaurant with whom they have arrangements in Plaka. There was a restaurant which was trying to push french fries as mezes. I approached the owner and said that they are not mezes. He asked me where do I know. I said I am Turkish. He replied in a very clean Turkish that I was right and it was just a tourist trap. The guy turned out to be a Turkish-Greek who immigrated 20 years ago from Istanbul. He told me how much he missed Istanbul. So to sum up just visist here, but don't eat or drink here.
Psiri: This used to be (as a matter of fact some parts are still) the dark and shady part of Athens filled with companies and people of all sorts. South part (Miaouli street) has been transformed into a bars and restaurants alley similar to Nevizade in Istanbul. I saw some authentic taverna's playing rembetiko where the Greeks hangout. So if you want to eat some Greek food and listen to the music of Greek-Turkish immigrants come here. In summer however the area is not that crowded. If you are brave, I recommend Soul Island on Europistou Street. Situated in the middle of Athenian China-Town it is only accessible with dark and not so safe looking streets. But the music and the gardens definetely worth it.
Kolonaki: This is the poshy district, resembling to Nisantasi in Istanbul. If you want to see some extremely good looking girls and pay loads for drinks I suggest this neigbourhood for a night out. During the day (around 4 pm) the streets are full too. Definitely worth going for a coffee.
Execharia: Very close to rich Kolonaki this students neighborhood is the exact opposite of Kolonaki and home to Athens Technical University which is associated with the left wing opposition to the military junta. I did not tour this district extensively. But Tribeca is a nice bar playing rock music and serving cheap drinks. Very much like Korfez in Bodrum.
Pireus: 2nd bussiest port city in the Mediterreanen is merged into Athens. Accessible with subway in 20 minutes it is worth visiting to get the sea breeze. You should avoid the main port and head for the two smaller ports (Pasa and Turk Limani) . The fish restaurants on the port are little bit on the expensive side but the fish is fresh. Avoid the mezes. I ate the most disgusting tarama of my life. Dorado (Cupra) was great though.
Glyfalda: This southern suburb is where the heart of nightlife beats in the summer. I suggest you asking people or checking the flyers to find a good party and take a cab to Glyfalda. The ride costs less then 15 euro.
Beaches: You can either take a direct tram from Syntagma square, or take the subway towards Pireus. Get of one station befor Pireus, and take the tram to Glyfalda. There is a decent public beach on Edema stop. If you want a beach club feeling for 15 euros take the tram to Glyfalda. Then a taxi to Varzakai Beach, which owns a blue flag. I did the public beach and was completely satisfied.
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