Image: [James Watson]

Myths and legends: A Student’s Guide to Athens

Looking out at a panoramic view of Athens from atop the Acropolis, it is easy to think that everything has gone back to BC. This is the real magic of the city. Like a warm blanket, it is able to wrap you in its rich culture and history, steeped in antiquity. The following article will woo you to a city that stole my heart in just five days. Though I cleverly did not do any research before coming to the city…I left feeling it had made its mark on me. This, I believe, to be the tell-tale sign of any great adventure abroad. Without further introduction let me give you a peek behind the curtain at all the secrets Athens holds.


The first thing to consider when visiting Athens is where you are going to stay. Stepping onto the tarmac at Athens International Airport with twenty-nine History students at gone midnight, we were briskly whisked off to the ‘Athens Hawks Hostel’, only a 20-minute walk from the city centre. A half hour coach journey later we had arrived. Being near the end of long line of students to trudge through a dingy and highly sketchy back alley where the smell of piled rubbish waded into my nostrils, I have to admit I was a little sceptical about the location. As the former president of Warwick’s History Society, I had made the decision to embark on the trip, not only as a final well to my beloved HistSoc family, but also to satisfy every history student’s inner calling to see history up close and personal.


The rooftop bar of the hostel offered beautiful views of the city.


In spite of my doubts (which mounted after the collective worrisome looks as we approached the door to the hostel), let me say we were all more than surprised. The rooftop bar of the hostel offered beautiful views of the city. We were also witness to a stunning scene of the Parthenon lit up against a mid-March midnight sky that night. The rooms were all immaculate and all had ensuites. There was complimentary breakfast every morning, a lounge with board games, and a pool table and room service available to order to the room by phone. After my experience, I would definitely recommend staying in a hostel. At only €28/night, with the location, quality, and services on offer, it was great value for money. As the majority of hostels in Athens are priced below €50/night they are a super affordable way to immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of the city without breaking the bank.


The next few days were dedicated to exploring the city. With no plan, no concrete ideas and no map skills me and three others decided to let the city lead us rather than having a specific itinerary. I feel this is better with a city like Athens. After exploring beautiful sunny beaches, mesmerising ancient ruins, bustling shopping districts and brimming bars, I can certainly say that Athens has something for everyone. Have a rough idea of what you might do whether solo or in a group, but be prepared to adapt and be surprised along the way. If you go in the Springtime, as we did, one piece of advice would be to bring clothes for all weather. From raincoats to sunglasses, swim trunks to warm sweaters… everything will get used. After batting back and forth from twenty degrees and sunshine to wind and showers it seemed the weather could not make up its mind. We were grateful to have clothes for both eventualities.


I can certainly say that Athens has something for everyone.


When travelling around the city more broadly, be prepared to do lots of walking. My group definitely got our steps in. Do not fret though, as it is more than worth it for some of the most spectacular views you will see anywhere in Europe. Staring at the ruins of The Parthenon, The Temple of Hephaestus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus it feels like you are breathing rarefied air. We saw these sights at midday and were blessed with temperate weather and clear skies. However, if you really want the majesty of these sights all to yourself it may be better to go a little earlier…as other members of our party bravely decided to wake up early to do.


Last but not least, I could not give a complete picture without talking about the food. Lauded as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, the dining in Athens did not disappoint. As a pescatarian I made the most of the seafood options…gorging on everything from calamari to seafood tagine and cod with sea greens. However, the city is famed for its grilled meat. The pork souvlaki was a crowd-pleasing favourite among the group and so could not go without a mention. The hospitality and atmosphere of all the restaurants was wonderful and one lovely touch was a complementary shot or dessert at the end every meal. Going to the restaurant district in the heart of the city you are guaranteed to find authentic Greek food, and with costs ranging from €12-€20 everything is reasonably priced.


The hospitality and atmosphere of all the restaurants was wonderful


Of course, “when in Greece” it is also important to keep the good vibes going and the Ouzo flowing. However, I fear I would need another article to talk about the ins and outs of Greek nightlife, so will have to complete my whistle stop tour of Athens there. If you have not been yet though I would definitely say it is one to add to the list. Hopefully Athens will show you the same love it showed me and my friends.


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