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

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  1. Athens was heartbreaking . Stayed at the same hotel (where my passport was stolen) horrible experience to say the least. The islands were absolutely incredible in the days that followed, but not sure I’ll return, as you have to travel through the gates of hell(athens) to get there.

    I’ve been to Greece many times over the years as my family is from there. I really appreciate some of your points and agree with many. The heat in the summer is absolutely BRUTAL and can make Athens hard to enjoy. However, you saw only a tiny fraction of it. Athens is a very large city with many beautiful neighborhoods. Some people complain about sketchy areas. That’s like complaining about NYC after going to the Bronx! Or saying Chicago sucks after visiting the Southside. Expectations are everything.

    I actually hate the graffiti. However, I understand why it’s there. If one digs a little deeper, you can find out how the economic collapse has affected the youth of Greece and how this is a form of protest. The Greek government is corrupt as hell, but really, how many countries aren’t? It breaks my heart, but there it is. I met a lawyer selling trinkets at a tourist shop in Athens. She’s been doing it for 10 years because she can’t find a better job. Shit, no, I don’t expect her to be smily and friendly, even though she was. She’s trying to make it through one day!

    I can’t say I love everything about Athens, but hey, as much as I adored Rome, my feet were disgusting and black at the end of the day and keeping vigilant about pick pockets was exhausting. But it’s Rome! Hell, yes!! I’m so lucky I got to see it! And Athens is hot AF in July! But it’s Athens and I got to see it!

    Our privilege has a funny way of affecting our expectations. These cities don’t owe us anything. The people who run them are flawed and human. Travel is a privilege, not a right. Thanks for your insight. I hope your future travels continue to inspire you.

      You’re absolutely correct that travel is a privilege – but as this site is solely about my personal travel experiences, I do have the right to have whatever opinions I have! I didn’t love Athens (even after a second trip there), and that’s just a fact! It would be super boring if we all loved every destination anyway.

    Hello and thank you for your honesty about Athens! I live in Athens 12 years now and I believe it’s an interesting and cool city, if you know where to look. However, I completely understand how it seems weird and kinda ugly to tourists! lol!
    Next time avoid the summer, it’s the worst time to visit! 😉

      Yes, summer was definitely not the best time to visit!

    History of Greeks adds great fantasy to young minds. We were taught from the childhood the exploits of Alexander, more than favorite sons of our nations. That really sets great expectations. Truly, you are very honest, I hardly see any picture of you in the post with the backdrop of Athens. Yes, it is true that Greece is going through tough times, but that will undermine the glory of the ancient Greeks. What I feel is that as a responsible traveler, you influence some proportion of people who read your past. It is your basic human right to express, as you have been to Athens, why don’t make it a positive angle, when not to visit or the Greek Government should take certain steps for developing better tourism infrastructure.

      If it’s my basic human right to express my opinions, then it should also be my right to express negative ones. I really wanted to love Athens, but I simply didn’t. And I’m not going to lie about it! This is a travel blog about my personal experiences while traveling, and I won’t ever sugarcoat them.

    I was there last year in april and it was the perfect time to visit. Sunny, about 25-28 degrees and not too many tourists.
    I agree there are a lot of buildings that aren´t pretty but the museums, historical sights and Anafiotika made me fall in love.

    Omg are you crazy? Athens is one of the most great cities in Europe. How can’t you be amazed by the ruins and acropolis and the culture? You are such a typical tourist (aka traveling with a group, appreciating only the food and only some famous parts of the city). You are seriously the first person that i heard saying they don’t like Athens. I am very disappointed about the tourists who come to Greece because they are superficial and they don’t explore, they don’t appreciate, they don’t realize!! but what can you expect from American citizens anyway…

      Just as you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m also entitled to mine – please remember that as you make judgments about people you don’t even know. I’ve been to Athens more than once, and just have never connected with the city. It has nothing to do with me being American or a “typical tourist” – it’s just my opinion! I’m sure you have opinions of people and places that I don’t agree with.

    I just did Athens for two days and felt exactly the same, being from Australia I couldn’t believe the difference in living standards, I was used to the heat so that didn’t bother me but apart from the area around the Acropolis the city was so run down; every second building abandoned or unfinished and beggars or unemployed people just standing around on corners, the countryside is nicer but still has that walking dead abandoned vibe, it’s a shame the economy is damaging the country so bad

    Hello! As a greek person who grew up in Athens, I felt strange to read all these comments. Although I understand fully the disadvantages of living in athens, i thought the tourists didnt get them! I will try to explain to you why you hated the city
    First of all travelling with a group never gives you an authentic experience. Especially in cities of the south. You just came, saw acropolis, walked the classic tourist walk, ate the classic tourist food and left. This is not the way! Athens is a strange city. It is at the same time european and balcan and of course totally messed up. When europe was flourishing, we were occupied by the turks, then we made a revolution, then 2 world wars and a civil war happened, then a dictatorship, then 30 years of corruption and fake imptovement and now the crisis. Greece is not Belgium. Is not America. Is a category herself. If you stayed with a local person, in a non-touristic central neighborhood, i am sure you would get a very different idea of the city. Yes its chaotic, yes its ugly sometimes, yes its in decay, but this is it. Accept it for what it is and try to enjoy this strange mix. Living like a local is the way to get the vibe. To feel the atmosphere. Yes maybe we have only five euros in our pocket. We will spend them in some beer and have fun. Yes maybe people are rude in touristic bussineses. But if you go to the backery of the neighborhood, probably a sweet old woman will welcome you. Generally true athens is far away from touristic places. And its not ugly.
    I noticed that people that come from the north are surprised by things that to me are normal. A good advice would be to keep an open mind when you travel in the south. Its not organised, its not clean, its always changing, moving, rebelling, its corrupted, disgusting sometimes but in the end in this chaos somebody may find beauty and freedom.
    Sorry for the big text, i just felt like defending my city a little! And i think it was also a mistake to go to a touristic place in the middle of summer! Personally i look for the smallest places on the map because in august i cant stand the touristic ones! Ciao!

      I totally realize that tourists probably don’t see the “real” Athens. And I do have friends who love the city. But here’s the thing: I WAS visiting as a tourist, and I wrote honestly about my experience there. That’s really the best I can do, because I’m not likely to truly be a “local” anywhere in Europe in such a short amount of time.


    I definitely agree with you that Athens is not what I would call a traditionally attractive European capital. You go to Prague, Krakow, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Budapest etc and you encounter those super clean, super nice old towns that seem untouched by time (however, dare to step outside the well-marked areas in the map and you encounter a post war despair that rivals and outdoes that of Athens!)
    In Athens, old and new blend together, often not very harmoniously. It is in many ways a very new city after all (excluding those famous chaps 2,500 years ago). But what makes Athens special is living it, not touring it. I cannot imagine climbing the Acropolis in the middle of the summer; it would be a punishment worthy of Tantalus. This is a bit on you, dear friend, for not choosing a better time to visit. Athens is sunny all year round. Chances are you will get sunshine and mild weather in January (I have the photos to prove it!). Chances are you’ll also get to enjoy the Acropolis without the crowds we all hate.

    But if you go past your history books (and I know many tourists do not), you get to enjoy what Athens truly has to offer: unique bars and coffee shops in every corner, each with its own identity, but always with chilled and friendly atmosphere. No one will make you uncomfortable for chilling there for more than 2 hours with just one coffee (I think of the ‘polite’ “are you finished?” that I always get 45 mins into my coffee anywhere in the UK…). You can enjoy good food in non pretentious portions and decent prices. As for those sketchy areas you mention, the fact that they were so busy should speak for itself: they aren’t sketchy! That’s where the center of entertainment for young Greeks is! At the graffitied, often dirty streets of Exarcheia you will find life until the mourning hours and you will never feel unsafe.

    I never recommend Athens to tourists. Go to the islands instead. But if you want to truly live and experience the place that half of Greece’s population calls home, you will not be disappointed.

    Oh Amanda…I felt the EXACT same way! I was in Greece for my best friend’s wedding (yes, for real, that is not some weird rom-com mash up title). I was really only in Athens three days – one of which was spent at a nearby resort on the water. The two days in the city…sucked. We walked up to the Acropolis and it was so ridiculously warm (late Sept)..we got there late in the day and realized we didn’t have enough cash in Euros and they don’t take cards. We asked the person working there if there was an ATM nearby and…they shrugged. Literally. By the time we found one and got cash it was about 15 minutes to closing time and they wouldn’t let us in! So much for Athens! The coast was lovely though (where my friend got married) but I don’t know if I really would ever go back. The entire city was covered in graffiti – even the really old churches. It made me sad.

      Yeah, Athens has never done it for me. I do have some friends who LOVE it, though. So if I ever go back, I’ll have to make sure to go with one of them to see if they can change my mind about the city! 😉

    Hi Amanda, I am an Athenian and have been showing people around for the past ten years.

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience here – but it so happens that our city can be really hot on a few days a year. It looks like you had one of those days. You could possibly have asked your tour guide to make alternative arrangements – like, go to the coast!

    Next time you are here, consider booking a local person (I can’t stress the word local enough) to show you around. You will definitely scratch the surface and see stuff that you didn’t imagine existed – like the solidarity to the poor, community cooking, anti-capitalist posters, and so on.

    Also, since you referred to “the Greek islands” – as you may know, they are mostly different to each other. I am not sure which one(s) you went to, but I’m glad you had a good experience there. Try another one next time 🙂

    dear amanda… as you may understand from my name, iam greek, and i live in Athens.. i will not try to change your mind because this is the experience you had. there are too other places around athens where are very very nice… unfortunately centre of athens is not this picturesque as someone may expect. on the other hand, most tourists visit greek islands where are very beautiful… you can go to crete or corfu, santorini, or rhodes, myconos, or serifos etc… (greece has more over 2.500 islands).. greece is not just athens… if someone is interested in history must go to Athens… if he just want to have a nice time, its is better to go to greek islands… of course if someone visits athens and be with someone local, it is certain that he will really love it..i have many times invited some foreigners in my house… we went together to beaches, clubs, taverns that i knew and they really loved this city… anyway, hope you come again soon and have a better time

      Next time I go I’m definitely going to have a local friend show me around so I can see the best parts!

      I’ve been to the Greek Islands, too, and LOVED that part of Greece!

    […] heard consistently over and over about Athens, it is that the city is an absolute pit– ugly, hot, dirty, unorganized, unkept, full of trash and graffiti— those are the adjectives I’ve […]

    You’ve summed up my experience perfectly! I had such a love for Greek history and upon arrival to Athens, I was so disappointed. I visited first week of April 2015 so weather was not even an issue, nor the crowds. I too, truly wanted to fall in love with the city for what I suppose was the image I had in mind from all the Greek mythologies, etc. The ruins were unkept and seems to be in disarray, grounds overgrown. It was not a problem to me and I am glad to see that there are efforts to maintain the ruins as there were work being done with scaffolds all over. However, things were pretty much roped off in a way that you couldn’t be up close to appreciate them. Luckily, we didnt stay in the city so my most enjoyable part of our Greece visit was being outside of the city, on a beach along the coast. Acropolis was also a big let down. The only attraction I felt worth my time was the Temple of Poseidon, which was outside of Athens, but was worth the trek. Like you, we visited Istanbul just before Athens and it was not on my list of places to visit but it ended up being a city I really enjoyed for the very same reasons you have stated. We also visited Pamukkale and the ruins at Hierapolis was more interesting to me than those in Athens. To keep in perspective, we went to Rome following Athens (my third time in Rome) and this time, a lot of work were being done throughout, but unlike in Athens, it was done in a way that as tourists, you can still come close enough to view and appreciate them.

      I think a lot of it has to do with Greece’s financial situation right now. But I’m sorry to hear you had a slightly poor experience in Athens, too. Good thing you enjoyed the other places you visited so much!

    Hi Amanda, I’m wondering wether you knew that Athens was basically a town before the 19th century (compared for ex. to other cities in Greece) and everything except the Acropolis and some other things were build later on, so it’s probably not what people expect when thinking about Athens… But anyway I was a bit, far less than you, disappointed by Athens. Yes, the heat is terrible but I’m still glad I went! Have you ever visited Thessaloniki? It really did surprised me! Have a nice evening!

      Yes, I think a lot of people assume Athens to be older and full of more ruins. Which of course it isn’t! I have been to Thessaloniki, but only very briefly – so I can’t really say what I thought of it!

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