Athens is a vast cosmopolitan metropolis that attracts travellers from all over the world in all seasons. Summer is the peak season for tourists, who typically have brief layovers in the capital before they hit the road to the islands. This leaves no room for exploration and tourist traps threaten the local atmosphere, which is why most people end up doing random and boring touristy stuff. Our Athens local, Manos, lists five tourist traps to avoid and suggests some authentic local alternatives.
1. Book a hotel in Syntagma
Yes, I know tourist maps show that Syntagma is the centre of Athens, but this area is so dull and touristy that you’ll probably get the wrong impression of the city. There’s the parliament, the square, the wannabe fountain on the square, fancy shops and McDonald’s. Most tourists stay in hotels around Syntagma in order to be close to the metro, and so they miss the best parts of the city. There are some great hotels and hostels in others areas such as Psirri and Exarhia, which are also parts of the centre. They’re great options if you want to interact with locals and explore many of the places listed on Like A Local Guide.
Photo credit: Harout Arabian
2. Hang out in Plaka
Plaka is also a very touristic part of the centre because it offers easy access to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. But! It’s much pricier than the rest of the city and most of the restaurants in the area are tourist traps. I would also like to highlight that fish spas for your feet and balance scooters are no fun at all compared to what the city has to offer! Grab a beer and start strolling through the tiny alleys of Anafiotika and, if it’s summer, take a walk on Aeropagitou St. towards Thisseio where all the buskers play music.
Photo credit: Aleksandr Zykov
3. Party in Gazi
You’ve just arrived in Athens, it’s late at night and it’s too late to go sightseeing, so you decide to go out with your squad. You call a cab and ask the driver to take you to a cool place where youngsters hang out. Well done, you’ve just ended up in the most mainstream place ever – the square of Gazi (or Kerameikos). Now you have to cross Iera Odos St. and head to the other side of Gazi towards Metaxurgio where the local haunts are.
4. Buy meaningless souvenirs from Ifestou
The central flea market of Athens is located on Ifestou St., Monastiraki. It’s a very touristic place, but you can find all kinds of things at reasonable prices and also practise your haggling skills. The souvenir shops, however, sell typical Greek gifts such as komboloi (worry beads) and sandals. Some great alternatives are Greek herbs that you can’t find anywhere else. Mastiha is a natural resin collected from trees that only grow on the Greek island of Chios. Mostly found on Crete, diktamo is a herb that’s considered a superfood. Herbs, spices, honey and mastiha are easy to carry and quite representative of the country as well.
5. Think that Acropolis hill offers the best view of Athens
Big lie! Of course it’s pretty high and the view is panoramic, but you should also consider visiting other parts of the centre for fantastic views. Pnyx (Pnika), Vrahakia, Strefi Hill, and Anafiotika are some great free options that are far less touristy. To be more specific, Strefi Hill is great in the morning hours, Pnyka and Lykavitos are very atmospheric in the afternoon and Anafiotika is perfect at night.
Photo credit: C.
Special tip: For a more authentic Athens experience, get the Like A Local mobile app