Athens, I’m Just Not That Into You

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Dear Athens,

It was never supposed to end up this way between us.

We were supposed to fall deeply, madly in love. I was supposed to adore you, with all your history and culture. We were supposed to make incredible memories together. I was supposed to go home and make everyone jealous of my time spent with you.

Athens, Greece

I wanted to love you, Athens. I really did. Ever since I was old enough to be interested in history, yours has been one that's fascinated me. Gods and goddesses; philosophers; music; art; ancient ruins — these are the things I fantasized about when I thought of you.

Athens, Greece

I looked forward to visiting you. I wanted to prove all the people wrong who told me you've gone downhill during Greece's financial struggles. I wanted to find interesting and beautiful parts of you to share with people who are wary of visiting you these days.

I wanted to highlight your redeeming qualities, Athens.

Athens, Greece

But damn, you made it hard.

As soon as I arrived, I had that sinking feeling that things just weren't going to work out between us.

As superficial as it sounds, you really weren't much of a looker. Your streets were dingy, your buildings weren't pretty, and all the cool ruins were nowhere to be seen.

And, to top it all off, you were bloody HOT Athens — and we're not talking “hot” in an attractive way. We're talking “hot” in an “I-couldn't-step-outside-without-wanting-to-pass-out” kind of way.

Athens, Greece
No escape from the sun.

Yes, Athens, you left quite a bit to be desired.

It seemed like for every positive thing I saw in you, there was a negative lying in wait just around the corner to cancel it out.

For example:

While the hotel I stayed in was modern and clean and had a rooftop bar and pool with amazing views, the staff was rude, the air conditioning didn't work, and it was way too expensive.

Athens, Greece
View from our hotel's roof.

While I enjoyed shopping and roaming around Monastiraki Square in your Old Town, the walk to get there was a bit sketchy, and it was so crowded at night.

Athens, Greece

While walking through your Ancient Agora in the steps of greats like Socrates and Aristotle was cool, the ruins that remain there weren't as impressive as I'd hoped.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

While I enjoyed looking out over your basin-shaped valley from the spot where St. Paul first preached to your people about the Unknown God, the air was a bit hazy and the sun unbearably hot.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

While standing atop the Acropolis WAS amazing, standing in a huge line to do so in 115-degree weather was not. The day I was there, it was so hot that they CLOSED the Acropolis in the afternoon.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece
The lines/crowds were insane.

While seeing the Parthenon was cool, seeing it covered in scaffolding and swarming with people was not.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece
Not very attractive.

The only things about you I liked without any caveats were watching your amusing changing of the guard ceremony, and eating mounds of frozen Greek yogurt in attempts to cool down.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

If I'm being completely honest, I actually hated you while I was with you, Athens. I found myself in a sour mood, eager to move on to the next destination and leave your oppressive heat and ugliness behind.

Athens, Greece

Looking back on our brief relationship now, though, I'm not quite so angry; I can appreciate the things we saw and did together. I can be somewhat in awe of your history and ancient ruins. I can admit that there was more of you that I would have liked to see if it hadn't been so hot and if I'd had more time.

But, while I might be convinced to give you a second chance someday, I'm not very optimistic that things will ever work out between us.

I'm sorry, Athens, but I'm just not that into you.



Have you been to Athens? If so, what did you think of it? If not, has there ever been a city that let you down like this?

*Note: I visited Athens as part of a discounted 9-day Classic Balkan Trek tour with Busabout. All opinions (obviously) are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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135 Comments on “Athens, I’m Just Not That Into You

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  1. Hi there. Stumbled upon your article. I am Greek and involved in outdoors. Seems like you landed in Greece on a very hot period. Its sunny here most of the year but not that hot. Tough luck. Next time schedule it for around September or/and prior July. It would be much greater. But still our summers are not that hot. Athens is bit hotter as its a city… and especially a Mediterranean city.
    Try to visit other places of Greece. It’s great at up north at mainland Greece. Next time you plan to visit Greece drop a note to my travel blog. I can certainly point some very good places with also lots of ancient history to see.
    Have a great life!

      Thanks for the tips, Chris! I definitely did land in some less-than-ideal weather in Athens. It was too hot to want to do anything!

    This seems to be a common view about Athens. My three girlfriends and I visited two weeks ago and I have to say it was one of my favorite cities I’ve been to. I loved the non-cosmopolitan feel, the ruins dispersed throughout, the random tiny churches hidden around unassuming corners, the beautiful hills, the uncompromising sunshine to the calm breeze at night, delicious food and ice cream, the hammam bath house with the gorgeous men, outdoor restaurants with live music, watching the sunset over one hill while the moon rises over the Acropolis from a rooftop restaurant. I could seriously go on. My Greek girlfriend gave me some suggestions and did not let me down. Loved exploring the local neighborhoods when walking down Lycabettus Hill to the Plaka and then the commraderie of watching the World Cup at an outdoor bar. Can’t wait to be back one day. I hope you give it a second chance.

      Just goes to show that different people respond differently to different places! I actually HAVE been back to Athens a second time – and still didn’t really love it! Glad to hear you enjoyed your time there, though.

    Great post, and I can totally relate to this !
    I had always wanted to visit Greece, so when I got to Athens this past July I was beyond excited. But I too felt very disappointed, there’s was nothing in the city that excited me. Not even the Acropolis, I was just coming from Turkey and visiting Ephesus over there beat Acropolis any day.
    The sun was killing me too.

    With all that said, I did hop on a few ferries to explore a few islands, and that was definitely worth it!
    Just discovered your blog. I have just been writing for a year (and not very often I have to admit) , and your blog is a true inspiration 🙂

      I finally got to explore some of the Greek islands last year, and I agree – I liked them SO much better than the mainland!

    It is a pity to read this about my city. I always thought that for tourists the city is an amazing destination. And that was the feedback I had. You really visited only the “ancient” part of Athens, there’s much more to see and to experience. However crisis is obvious and that has influenced the greeks in all their behaviour (rudeness etc.). For the weather part, well, you are right.

      Just goes to show that everyone experiences a place differently! I’m sorry I didn’t like Athens more, too. Maybe I’ll give it a third shot someday…

    I’m a Greek, born in Athens and have lived in Athens all of my life (I’m 40). You’re right in most of the things you say, but I would argue that the hot weather isn’t something you can avoid – It’s the same everywhere in South Europe, some people like it, some don’t.

    Apart from the weather, let’s see what other things that are mentioned in the article (and comments) are true:
    – Dirty – yes, unfortunately
    – Rude staff in some places – yes, very unfortunately, but not everywhere
    – People don’t like foreigners – partially true. Athens is flooded with immigrants, a lot of them are uneducated, poor people. Some of them are prone to petty or more serious criminal behavior. People are always careful with foreigners due to this fact – but this doesn’t include tourists.
    – Buildings suck – yes. Athens has been built in a totally random and chaotic manner, each building follows its own rules, no uniform appearance except in specific neigbourhoods.
    – Not many things to do – not true. If you come with a group, you’ll probably miss all the fun. Athens is abundant with restaurants, night clubs and bars either near the sea or scattered through the city.
    – Dangerous neighborhoods – partially true. Around the centre, and in some specific neigborhoods, things are pretty tough due to the large number of immigrants and, generally, extremely poor people (locals and immigrants). If you stay at 2-3 mile distance from the centre, though, things are completely different. In most places you can walk alone at night without any issues – especially in the summer, when people are all around – sitting in balconies, walking in the street, at local cafes and bars, even at 2-3am.

    Don’t get me wrong – just because I live in Athens doesn’t mean I’m supporting it. It’s an ugly, noisy, dirty, polluted city – but it still has extremely interesting places to go, things to see and do. Especially if you’re not from Athens, since us locals seem to exaggerate on the bad side of things here.

      Thanks for the great insight!

    Damn, girl. I’m Greek and I have to say that if what you liked was the changing of the guard ceremony… whoah! I hate it! And there are so many important stuff/info that make the ppl of Greece proud! The education here is FREE for everybody, we have amazing poets and philosophers as you mentioned, the countryside is GORGEOUS (next time you come to Greece, be sure to go to our amazing islands). I have so many things to point out about the country but I haven’t slept at all for hours and I cannot! But (no offense here please), I read the whole thing and you don’t seem to know how to have fun and TRAVEL! And yeah, it is hot in the summer. It’s the SOUTH!

      Hahaha. I’ve been traveling for years, and I think I definitely DO know how to do it, thanks. I just didn’t fall in love with Athens. End of story. And I HAVE been to some of the Greek Islands – LOVED them. Just don’t love Athens.

    I was in Athens last July for 3 days and I have to agree that I found the city to be a little bit overrated. Along with the hot weather, I think I got tired of looking at all the graffiti but I do understand there are alot of anarchists and radicals that live there that enagage in that type of activity (spraypainting). I agree with one reviewer who said that the city has an underground feel (artsy and lively) and that you have to get out to the cafes and clubs to really enjoy it. Unfortunately most tourists are more into sightseeing than music culture art.

      You are very right, Peter. The average tourist visits Athens for the history and to see the ancient sites; many probably aren’t very interested in the “underground” scene, which I think is perhaps why it’s not always well-loved by everyone!

    As a tourist, I would never spend more than 2-3 days in Athens during the summer and during my stay I would definitely visit the suburbs near the sea, like Alimos, Glyfada and Vouliagmeni to have a walk by the sea. Otherwise, you will hate the heat and the grey buildings.

    However, as a person that has lived in Athens for 6 years, has lived enough time in France, works in Ireland and has travelled in various european cities the last year, I want to go back to Athens sooo much. That city is the most lively ever. You can find the nicest cafes, taverns, bars, clubs, with every kind of music you want, with whatever decoration you like, whatever time you want. There are so many nice neighborhoods full of excellent bars and young people to go out, both in the center and in the suburbs. You can even go to a hill opposite to the Acropolis and chill out having a beer, playing games and chatting with friends.

    Bottom line: Except for visiting the acropolis, you have to find a local to tell you where to go at night, stay out until late and go to the seaside suburbs or a cool cafe during the day! Under the grey buildings, there is much more!

      Glad to hear of someone who loves Athens! I’ve now been there twice, and have not been very impressed. I may have another chance to visit this year – in October. We’ll see if it can change my mind.

        Try to “live” the city during your stay and not be just a tourist doing sightseeing. Sleep in the morning and stay out late at night, with ouzo, wine or beers at exarcheia, gkazi, monastiraki, karitsi square and Zografou (student area), talking with locals (you can find from couchsurfing for example). Go also for a walk in the seaside suburbs, as I mentioned before.

        As it says here:
        “Athens is not a gorgeous city. It’s not exactly a beautiful city. Heck, I would not even call it a pretty city. But Athens is really everything else, and I mean every single thing in the world. Athens is a modern, developed, fully western metropolis; but it’s also a village and an Arab souk town. It’s frantic and chaotic, but it’s also luxurious, artsy, and neat. It’s sleek and stylish, as well as run down. It’s poor and decayed in spots, yet it’s lively, sleek and fashionable. And quiet and meditative. And intense. Poetic. Yet funky. Fun and occasionally silly.

        Tell someone you like Athens aesthetically and most will think you are nuts. Say you love it and most who have been there for more than a quick hit-and-run will know what you mean.”

        And as it mentions here:
        “Despite what the Greeks are going through, they still know how to live life. Family is sacrosanct to them, friendships are important and there is still a love of life that exists…albeit a little worn down of late. Take “apokries,” or carnival. Greeks love to get dressed up and partake in street parades at this time of year: young, old, male, female. Inhibitions do not exist! And as you can see, the effect wears off onto you too.

        Athens may be ugly, but it is the liveliest city ever!
        I would really like to be in Athens and show you around and change your mind, but I will be in France for one more year, before I return (I miss home)! Hope you have more fun than your previous stays!

    My husband still calls Athens a ‘hole’. I am not that harsh but am inclined to agree. Once was enough.

      I’m really torn because TBEX is being held in Athens this year. Part of me wants to go for the conference, but the other part of me dreads visiting Athens for what would now be a third time.

    I must admit that whilst I enjoyed Athens, the acropolis was rather disappointing with all those people and that ugly scaffolding. I think half of Europe is under repair with scaffolding inside the Mosque’s in Istanbul, at the Colosseum and many other locations making it quite an eyesore. Fortunately we didn’t experience the heat as bad as you, though it was warm, we went in September when it was starting to cool down. One thing I loved was the round of Ouzo by the owner at the end of our lunch… Opa!

      Haha, yes, I agree with you that half of Europe seems to always be under construction!

    My hub lived in Athens for two years and he’d agree that you have to get outside of Athens to places like Meteora and Thessaloniki, and the islands. Athens is big, the air is polluted, the people don’t like foreigners. But the food is to-die-for; including the fresh fruits and vegetable carts that come around once or twice a week. We both love Greek food.

      I love Greek food too! I just don’t love Athens… haha. The islands, though?? I’m head over heels for places like Santorini.

    I’m sorry that it didn’t work out between you and Athens.

    I was in Athens at the beginning of June and even though it was hot, I enjoyed my visit to the Acropolis and the agora. It wasn’t crowded at all, and I even entered the Acropolis for free. I was also luckier that I found a cool hostel, with flashy dormitories, cool people and even cooler staff. I had been warned though that apart from the Acropolis Athens was a polluted, ugly, unbearably hot city, so I didn’t have huge expectations. I really loved my time at the Acropolis, but the rest I also found mostly unremarkable.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed your trip to Athens – plenty of people do, don’t get me wrong. I just had such an awful time in other parts of the city that it’s probably one of my least-favorites now.

    I cam across your blog trying to explain to a friend the dirtiness of Athens (and I’m a New Yorker) and funny enough you are spot on! I only stayed in Athens a day then headed to Island hop for 7 days… but in less than 24 hrs I could tell I didn’t like Athens much. Cab driver from the airport told me the area I was staying in was horrible (which happened to be a 4 min walk to Monastiraki Square) and made sure to tell me to be careful at night due to “cocaine wars”…yeahhhhh don’t think I’ll be back.

      Yeah… not a big fan, either. I’m going to give Athens another try this year (before and after 2 weeks in the islands), though, so we’ll see what I think about it the second time around.

    I know it sounds stupid of me to judge athens when ive only really been venturing the tourist areas but thats the problem,outside the historical area theres not much else to do in the city. I found your little peice on athens because i wanted to see if it was just us or if other ppl thought athens was pretty crappy too! We r headed to istanbul tomorrow so hopefully the tables will turn

      Yes, that’s the problem exactly! And you’re definitely not alone in your opinion…

      I hope you enjoy Istanbul more! I know I did.

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