Who doesn’t like free (Unless it’s a cold. No one likes those. I was originally going to say an STD but didn’t want to offend anyone.)? Rocking a Budget Athens Greece Trip!
So, you wanna kill it on your budget Athens Greece trip huh? Look,I get it. We all love to travel, but sometimes the price tag can leave you sobbing in the corner, wondering why you “needed” to sign up for skydiving lessons while abroad. It’s happened to us all. You get caught up in the vacation excitement and totally forget that you actually have to pay off your credit cards at some point (Wait, you mean it’s not a gift??No way!).
That’s why I’ve created this list. We all want to experience a foreign culture and see what a city has to offer, but does it really have to cost as much as a showcase on the Price is Right (If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch this show. And Bob Barker is the REAL host of this show! Sorry Drew Carrey but my allegiance is with Bob.)? The answer is no!!! You can experience a multitude of what Athens has to offer without actually having your house go into foreclosure. I also promise that these are things you would actually want to do. You know, nothing lame like “breathing the fine air of Athens while walking down a romantic cobble stone street”. We all have to breath, so that’s kind of whack, to say the least. No, these are the things that I enjoyed doing while strolling around the historic city center of Athens, Greece.
1. Filloppapua Hill (the Hill of the Muses)
Okay, I totally stumbled upon this hill by accident. See, I am a rather zealous traveller and that’s why, I basically ran out of things to do (It was so bad that even the girl at the front desk was like yeah, you kind of did it all). So I wandered around Athens and hoped that I might come across a hidden gem of cultural delight. Well, I actually did! While walking through Plaka, I came across this hill right that was located directly across from the Acropolis. I decided to hike up to the top since well, why not, I had nothing else to do.
But to my delight, it totally exceeded my rather low expectations.Not only is hiking this hill free, and easy, but there is the Monument of Fillopappos at the top (No, it’s not the Acropolis but fun to see). Plus, there are amazing views of both the Acropolis and all of Athens as it stretches out before you and hugs the waters of the Aegean.
However, my absolute favorite part was that no one was there!! You can actually hear birds singing and feel the breeze nestle against your cheek (Who knew there was any other wildlife in Athens besides stray cats and dogs?). A big contrast to fighting 10,000 other tourists to get the perfect, tourist free, shot of the Acropolis; a picture that will make everyone else on Facebook super jealous. Plus, this hike is not that strenuous. I mean, I hiked it in a pair of Toms and was totally fine, and I am not fit at all (Like, I get winded climbing the stairs.).So if I can do it without coughing up a lung, then I have all the faith in the world that you can kick this hill’s ass.
2. Monastiraki Flea Market
I know, I know what you’re thinking. A flea market is only free if you don’t actually buy anything. Well trust me, I don’t think you will be that tempted. The more authentic stalls sell things like birds and antique chairs, both of which would be super awkward to bring back on the plane. The rest of the stalls are pretty generic tourist fare, but still worth exploring to hear the street performers singing, smell lamb being roasted on a spit, and listen to the vivacious citizens of Athens chatting away over a glass of wine and a kebab.
There are also a bunch of ruins scattered throughout the adjacent area, so you can check those out while perusing the stalls of endless “authentic” Greek souvenirs (Wow.I had no idea that Toms and YOLO t-shirts were authentically Greek. Who knew? LoL.)
Be aware that this area is known for pickpockets so keep an eye out for any creepers. I had one guy follow me and I finally lost him when I ducked into a jewelry stall that he would have looked super awkward in. I think he knew the jig was up and high tailed in out of there. I also had a crazy lady follow me down the street, spit in my face, and call me a, “bastard son of a bitch”. The kicker was that she was American but just be aware of your surroundings (And don’t worry about the crazy lady. She just hated me and didn’t bother anyone else. It was my pheromones. They attract only the most maladjusted of people).
3. Watch the Changing of the Guard
Like with most good things, this was a total accident. I just happened across this as I was walking past the parliament building. I saw a huge crowd gathered (I knew they were tourists from the backpacks, sneakers, and ultra zoom cameras at the ready) and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Well, when I saw the guards, I put two and two together and actually wanted to leave. I mean, I have seen a bunch of Changing of the Guard ceremonies and they can be pretty standard. You just see guards march up and replace the old ones, albeit in a fancy way but that’s the basic gist of it.
So glad I decided to stay anyway because not only were their outfits AMAZING (the pom pom shoes were my favorite part), but they didn’t just march. They actually did this elaborate dance like sequence that put the River Dancers to shame (Okay. That was an exaggeration but it wasn’t standard. That’s what I wanted to say). Totally worth checking out when you visit.
4. National Gardens
While you’re here, why not take a stroll through the National Gardens. No, they’re not the gardens at Versailles, but it’s a pleasant enough walk. There is also a coffee shop and a small animal exhibit that make this park a great place to escape the sun and marvel at some of the greenery that is lacking in much of ultra urbanized Athens.
This is also a great place to meet some local Greeks. I had a guy talking to me for fifteen minutes about the glory leaves that they had growing in the park. Apparently they were used to create the crowns of the victors in athletic competitions (Come to think of it, this guy was kind of weird. Maybe this isn’t a selling point…).
5. Walk through the neighborhood of Plaka
Not gonna lie, some parts of Athens are pretty gross. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere, trash a plenty, graffiti covering basically everything, and, oh yeah, it smells like pee. But Plaka is a picturesque neighborhood that conjures up the fairy tale notions of Greece that I have from movies like Mamma Mia (Yup, I went there). This neighborhood is well kept, with quant alley ways, nestled upon a hill, that weave in and out of a multitude of ruins. Along these alleys, flowers are strewn across a series of bold, blue doors that break up an otherwise, never ending series of romantic, white washed buildings. Meandering through these corridors transports you into a fantastical world where the problems of today become nothing but a distant memory, A feeling that is enhanced by the amazing coffee shops and restaurants that are perched along the slopes of the Acropolis. Be sure to stop for some Baklava and chase it with a cappuccino ( I mean, you’ll be hungry and thirsty after all that walking. You need to fuel up! Click here to find some of the bets places to eat in Plaka!). Plus, some areas did not escape enthusiastic, local graffiti artists, so there is plenty of street art to explore (Especially eyes. Everywhere i looked there were eyes. Maybe the evil eye. Muhaha).
6. Free Walking Tours
I know, walking is right up there with breathing in terms of the most OBVIOUS free thing to do. But don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me until I finish this point. I only mention this because the historic center of Athens is very walkable. So walkable that you don’t even really need the metro (If you haven’t been to Athens, the metro is so EASY to use. It only has three lines and every time I went in, no one checked if I had a ticket) With the right guide, you can check out all the ruins you like (If you’re on a budget then you don’t need to go inside. Most of the smaller ruins don’t have too much going on so a walk by with a guide will suffice) and not have to venture very far at all.
Now, I am not sure about the walking tours at other hotels, but Athens Studios was a great place to stay that offered some really informative walking tours. The tour was not only interesting, but oriented you to the area as well (Shameless plug for my hotel. Athens Studios was an awesome place to stay and everyone was really friendly and helpful. Plus, they didn’t pay me to say that so you know I’m being truthful. If you need a list of great hotels in Athens, check this Article out.) So just another, cheap way to see all the majesty that this epicenter of ancient Greece has to offer.
7. Hadrian’s Arch
So I saw this and kind of recognized the name but I had no idea what this site was actually about. Well, once I saw this impressive arch and actually read the plaque, I learned that the Roman emperor Hadrian had an affinit
y for both Athens and classical architecture. That’s why he fritted his money away by embellishing the city with a series of monuments in the style of classical architecture.
But thank God he did that because now we get to marvel at some of these monuments today, like Hadrian’s Arch. This specific gate was created to delineate where the ancient city ended and the modern, Roman City began (the more you know). If you want to check out what good old Hadrian was up to, rock out at this wicked awesome (totally kidding with the wordage but it is cool) arch that is located directly across from the Temple of Zeus. Seriously, you cannot miss it. I actually found it while I was getting lost trying to find my hotel so it is pretty hard to miss.
*The Acropolis has free entry on the first Sunday of every month (You’re welcome! And for more information on the Acropolis, click here )
*Museum of Greek Popular Instruments, Epigraphical Museum, and Centre of Folk Art and Tradition all have free admission (Full disclaimer. I haven’t gone to these museums so they could be totally amazing or totally awful. I’m just putting them here in case you are totally strapped for cash and have no idea what to do).
*For more ideas on what to do in Athens, click here.
So go forth, save money, and do what travelers do best, use the money they saved on their last trip to plan their next trip. Yup, us travelers are funny folk for sure.