EP005: Athens – Free Attractions, Acropolis, Monastiraki Flea Market, Panathenaic Olympic Stadium

Athens is definitely one of must “see cities” to visit and recently due to economic crisis, Greece in general had received unfair amount of bad publicity resulting from coverages of protest, riot and often referred as sick man of Europe.  The reality is Athens is a great city to visit, its safe, with modern transportation and filled with amazing ancient architectures.

In this episode of DIY Travel Guide:

  • Introduction to Athens
  • Safety Tips and Scams:
    • Athens Bar and Friendly Stranger Scam
    • Mobile Phone Snatching
    • Police Impersonators
    • Complimentary Wines, Beer or Drinks on the House
    • Over priced taxis and bogus hotels warnings
  • Recommended area to stay:
  • Public Transportation from the Airport to Syntagma Square
    • 24 hours Express Bus
    • Metro
    • General Transportation Information and Fares
  • Must See Attractions:
    • Acropolis of Athens
    • New Acropolis Museum
    • Temple of Hephaestus
    • Panathenaic Olympic Stadium
    • National Archaeological Museum
  • Free Attractions:
    • Free Museum Days
    • National Garden
  • Things to Do:
    • Hike up Mount Lycabettus
    • Shopping at the Monastiraki Flea Market
    • Visit The Mall Athens and Metro Mall
    • Changing of the Guards on Sunday
    • Athens Olympic Sports Complex (not recommended)
  • Athens Street Foods
    • Gyros
    • Koulouri
    • Inexpensive Supermarket Beers and Sandwiches

Introduction to Athens

Charles Huang at the base of Acropolis of Athens
Charles Huang at the base of Agora of Athens

Welcome to the ancient city of Athens, the centre of Greek civilization for some 4,000 years.  The city is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy.  Today, Athens is recognised as a global city because of its geo-strategic location and its importance in Greek finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, culture, education and especially tourism.

Safety Guideline

Athens is generally a safe city to visit, however in recent years due to the economic crisis and high youth unemployment, the level of pity crimes increase significantly. But with little bit of caution, you can avoid them and make most out of your journey.

VirtualTourist: George, The Athens Bar Scammer
VirtualTourist: George, The Athens Bar Scammer

Athens Bar and Friendly Stranger Scam

The nutshell of the scam goes like this… a friendly strangers starts a conversation in fluent English and seems genuinely interested where you are coming from, they may even said they being to your home city.  Then they ask you to join them in a bar or restaurants, and shortly after few drinks, the “friendly” host disappeared and you are hit with massive 100+ euro bill consist of over priced drinks.  The second version of this scam includes, having a friendly stranger offers you a glass of Greek ouzo in a local ‘taberna’, shortly after the stranger disappeared and often beautiful women joins you and ask you to buy them drinks.  Again, without realizing a bottle of Champagne actually cost 200 euro… you are on the hook.  Even worse, there cases where men are being drugged and waken up with their wallets, mobile phones and other valuables disappeared or be held ransom.  This scam should not be taken lightly, its getting more common… please be caution.

Mobile Phone Snatching Scam

You will not believe how often this happens in Athens.  Here it goes, again a harmless friendly stranger asked for time.  When you pull out your phone, a second person ran from different angle and snatch it off your hand.  The reality is everyone has a mobile phone in Greece and can find out time on their own phone.  The second version of this scam is someone is using their phone near the door of the metro or the bus, just before the door closes, the phone are snapped from the victims’ hand.

Police Impersonators

Athens Police Impersonators
Athens Police Impersonators

I know this sounds like a script from Hollywood and how many people fell victim to this.  Police Impersonators, those crooks are always on the looks for tourists and typically show you a faked badge.  Then they asked them to show their identification cards or a passport.  They claims to look for counterfeited currencies and wanted to look at your wallet, they return your wallet with some of the “counterfeited bill” confiscated.  This scam can easily avoided by ask to see their badge again and also ask which station they are assigned to, and unless they are real police, they do not have rights to check your belongs.

 

Complimentary Wines and Beers on the House

Charles Huang and Toshikazu Kobayashi in Athens Restaurant
Charles Huang dinning in Athens Restaurant

We all love deals or even better free things, however everything comes with a cost.  Beware of restaurants that offers complimentary wines, beers or other drinks on the house.  They often gives you a overpriced version of the menu to make up for the “free” drink.  My suggestion is just avoid it.

Taxi Cowboys and Bogus Dangerous Hostel Warnings

Greek Taxi "Cowboy"
Greek Taxi “Cowboy”

Now, this is not unique to Athens, one of the most popular pity tourist scams in the world.  While majority of Taxi drivers are honest, there are some that take advantage of tourists by make unnecessary loops and indirect path.  The best way to avoid this scam is just take a public transportation, Athens has one of the most modern public transportation system in Europe and majority attractions mention here are about 15 minutes walk or less from the Syntagma Square.  There are also some claims that your hostels are not safe and offers you alternative accommodation.  Don’t do it, most likely the taxi driver are being paid a commission to the alternative hostel.  If you do get scammed by one of the taxi drivers, don’t fight them.  Ask for a receipt which must provide you by Greek law, which contains their taxi registration details and their names which call the Tourist Police at 171 or 210 9242700 or visit their office at 77 Dimitrakopoulou Street.

 

Recommended Area to Stay:

Athens' Syntagma Square
Athens’ Syntagma Square

We strongly recommend you to stay near central Athens around Syntagma Square, the hostels in this area cost around approximately 12 to 15 € or approximately $13 to $16 U.S. Dollars.  The advantage of staying in central Athens is majority of attractions are only 15 minutes or less in term of walking distances, such as the Acropolis, Panathenaic Olympic Studium, Athens Flea Market, etc. other locations are easily accessible by metro, bus and tram.  There is also 24 hours dedicated express bus for airport.

Athens International Airport to Syntagma Square Transfers and Public Transportation:

Athens Airport to Syntagma Square 24 hours Express Bus
Athens Airport to Syntagma Square 24 hours Express Bus

Once again, we strongly advise using Athens advanced and modern public transportation, including getting to downtown using public bus or metro.  There is two options here, the bus or the metro.

24 hours X95 Express Bus to Syntagma Square

  • Located outside arrival gate #4 and #5
  • Cost: 5.00 € (2015 rate), half price for students with university ID, children age 6 to 18 and seniors after 65
  • Direct route from Eleftherios Venizelos Airport to Syntagma Square
  • Every 10 to 20 minutes, 24 hours a day
  • Approximately 1 hours

By Metro

Syntagma Square Metro Entrance
Syntagma Square Metro Entrance
  • Blue Line
  • Depart every 0:05 and 0:35 of every hour (e.g. 1:05 pm, 1:35 pm)
  • Hours: 6:30 am to 11:30 pm
  • Cost: 8.00 € each way or 14 € round trip for one person, 14 € one way for two adults, children 6 and under are free and students under 25 with valid university ID are half priced.
  • Approximately 1 hour
  • Get off at Syntagma Square

Athens Metro Maps

Athens Metro Route Map

Athens Metro, Trams and Buses (Excluding Airport Stop)

  • One-Way Fare: €1.20 (valid for 70 minutes)
  • Daily Passes: €4.00
  • Weekly Passes: €14
  • Monthly Passes:  €30
  • Half price with valid student ID or seniors 65+
  • You need to validate your paper ticket at the beginning of your journey.
  • Regular Fare do not include to and from the airport

Bus
Operating hours vary according to line/day/season, but generally they run between 5:00 – 23:59. Special schedules apply during summer months of July-September. Routes and timetables can be found at here

Electric Bus

Trolley Operating hours vary according to line/day/season, but generally they run between 5:00 – 23:59. Special schedules apply during summer months of July-September. Routes and timetables can be found at here

Metro

Depending on the day and the time, trains run on average every 5-10 minutes. There is a connection between Douk. Plakentias and the Airport every 30 minutes.  Operating hours are 5:30 to 00:30, and on Friday and Saturday night, lines 2 & 3 are open until 2:30.

  • Line 1 (green line): Kifisia – Piraeus
  • Line 2 (red line): Anthoupoli – Eliniko
  • Line 3 (blue line): Airport – Douk. Plakentias – Aghia Marina

Trams

Operating hours are 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays it operates approximately from 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Information on the Athens Tram, including timetables, can be found here

  • Line 1 «Syntagma – SEF» linking downtown Athens to the Peace and Friendship Stadium,
  • Line 2 «Syntagma – Voula» which runs between the city center and southern suburb of Voula and
  • Line 3 «Voula – SEF» running along the coastal zone.

Must See Attractions:

  • Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis
  • Tickets – Standard:
    • Full: €12
    • Reduced: €6 for Seniors and Non-EU Students with ID
    • Tickets available only at the ticket office
    • Free for EU Students with Valid ID, disabled, children and seniors – full list here
    • Free on 6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
      • 5 June (International Enviroment Day)
      • 18 April (International Monuments Day)
      • 18 May (International Museums Day)
      • The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
      • Every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st to 28 October
  • Standard Site Hours: Summer (April 1 – October 31): 08:00 am – 7:30 pm daily / Monday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm and Winter (November 1 t0 March 31): 08:30 am to 3:00 pm

The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is the number one sight that you must see, the sites is home to remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon along with the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike.

  • Tickets: Standard
  • Metro Station: Acropolis
  • Standard Site Hours

New Acropolis Museum

New Acropolis Museum
New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum established in 2009 and house every artifact found on the rock and on its feet, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. The museum also are located in the archaeological site of Makrygianni and the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.

  • Metro Station: Acropolis
  • Hours: Summer (April 1 to October 31) Tuesday to Sunday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm / Winter (November 1 to March 31) 8:30 to 3:00 pm Daily
  • Tickets:
    • General €5
    • Reduced Admission: €3 Students from Higher Education Institutions, from non-EU countries, with current student identification card or International Student Identity Card (ISIC) and Greek senior citizens – here
    • Free Admission for Greek Member of Parliament, under 18 years of age, EU students  and other groups – here

Temple of Hephaestus

Temple of Hephaestus

This is one of the few temple that remains standing largely as built, located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens.

  • Tickets, included in the Acropolis tickets
  • Hours: Standard Site Hours
  • Metro: Thiseio

Panathenaic Olympic Stadium

Athens Panathenaic Stadium
Athens Panathenaic Olympic Stadium

The stadium also referred to as Kallimármaro meaning the “beautifully marbled”, administered and belong to the Hellenic Olympic Committee.  It is the only stadium in the world to completely built by marble.  The stadium were built from the remains of ancient Greek stadium where for many centuries hosted games in which nude male athletes competed (gymnikoi agones) in track events, athletics championships as we would call them today.  It hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and site of all Olympic torch handover ceremonies to from the Greek to host nations.

  • Hours of operation :
    • March – October: 08:00 – 19:00 last ticket sold at 19:00
    • November – February: 08:00 – 17:00 last ticket sold at 17:00
    • Suggested visit hours: during morning and evening hours
  • Ticket:
    • Regular – 5,00 €
    • Student and Senors – 2,50 €
    • Free for Visitors with disabilities and person accompanying them and Children under 6
  • Metro Station: Akropoli

National Archaeological Museum of Athens

National Archaeological Museum
National Archaeological Museum

This is the largest archaeological museum in Greece and considers one of the most important museum in the world, located in the Exarcheia area in central Athens between Epirus Street, Bouboulinas Street and Tositsas Street.  The collections includes Prehistoric periods, the works of the great civilizations that developed in the Aegean from the sixth millennium BC to 1050 BC.  The other collections includes sculptures from seventh to fifth centuries and ancient artists whose work is presented in the museum are Myron, Scopas, Euthymides and many more.

  • Hours of operation :
    • 7 Days a week, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Ticket:
    • Regular – 7 €
    • Non-EU Student and Senors – 3 €
    • Free for visitors with EU student card, those with disabilities and person accompanying them and Children under 6
    • Special package for Valid for National Archaeological Museum, Byzantine & Christian Museum, Numismatic Museum and Epigraphic Museum for 12€ or 3€
    • Free Admission on:
  • Metro Station: Viktoria station or Omonoia station

Free Attractions:

Free Museum Days

  • Entrance is free to all visitors on the following days:
  • 6 March (Memory of Melina Mercouri)
  • 18 April (International Monument Day)
  • 18 May (International Museum Day)
  • 5 June (International Day of Environment)
  • the last weekend of September (European Days of Cultural Heritage)
  • 28 October (National Holiday)
  • The first Sunday of the month for the period between 1 November and 31 March

National Garden Athens

National Garden Athens
National Garden Athens

Located directly behind the Greek Parliament building and across from Panathenaic Stadium.  The National Garden is open to the public from sunrise to sunset free of charge.  The main entrance is on Leoforos Amalias and the park includes a duck pond, a Botanical Museum, a small cafe and a Children’s Library and playground.

Things to Do:

Hike up Mount Lycabettus

Mount Lycabettus
Mount Lycabettus

For those of you who wants to breathtaking view of Athens and likes to hike, Mount Lycabettus is definitely right for you.  It usually takes a hour up or you walk to Kolonaki area and go to teleferi. The peak will give you a breathtaking view of Athens and in case you want to confess your sin, there is St. George’s Chapel.

  • Metro Station: Evagelismos

Athens’ Monastiraki Flea Market

Athens Monastiraki Flea Market
Athens Monastiraki Flea Market

If you are arriving late in the afternoon, just relax and do some shopping at the Athens Monastiraki Flea Market, a 15 minutes walk from Syntagma Square. This is one of the principal shopping districts located in the old Athens and home to Church of the Pantanassa, clothing boutiques, souvenir shops, and specialty stores.  Remember to bargain hard, almost all small souvenir, such as oil soap with fridge magnet, key chains, and bracelets are 1.50 € or less… and never accept the first price.  Here is some of the souvenir we brought for 1.50 € or less.

Sample souvenirs for 1 euro or less
Sample souvenirs for 1.5 euro or less

Metro Station: Monastiraki

Intersection: Pandrossou Street and Adrianou Street

 

Shopping Malls

The Mall Athens and the Metro Mall

Athen's Metro Mall
Athen’s Metro Mall

One of the amazing reasons I love Athens is there is new along with the old.  There is the ancient structures that are thousands of years old and 15 minutes later you reached a newly built mall.  In this case the Metro Mall, located Southern Suburbs of Athens and right next to Ag.Dimitrios metro station on Vouliagmenis Avenue.  The Metro Mall covers five floors, 90 stores with major brands covering every need, 18 eateries, 5 cinema screens, a Super Market, a play area, a bank and of course 1200 parking spaces.

Metro Station: Agios Dimitrios

Hours:

  • Store: Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Bank: Monday to Thursday 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, Friday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, closed weekend
  • Dining: Open until morning hours
  • Free Parking: Monday to Friday 5:20 am – 2:00 am, Saturday and Sunday 8:00 am to 2:00 am

The Mall Athens

The Mall Athens
The Mall Athens

The Mall Athens located near the 2004 Olympic Venues is one of the largest illegal constructions, initially built under the pretext as Olympic Media Village to provide accommodation to foreign journalists.  Today, the mall consist 200 stores spread over four floors with a underground parking.

Metro Station: Nerantziotissa

Hours:

  • Store: Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Dining: Open until morning hours
  • Free Parking: 7 Days a Week 9:00 am to 3:00 am

Changing of the Guards “Evzones”

Evzones guarding the tomb of a unknown solider
Evzones guarding the tomb of a unknown solider

The Evzones is members of prestigious ceremonial unit of the Presidential Guard, historically it belong to the elite light infantry units of Greek Army.  Normally there is “little change” takes place once a hour involving two incoming and two outgoing members with additional member supervising the “Corporal of the Change”.  The Grand Change involves change of whole Guards with its officers and a military band, happen at 11 am on Sunday.

  • Grand Change: Sunday at 11 am
  • Syntagma Square

2004 Athens Olympic Sports Complex

Due to financial mismanagement and austerity measure due to Greek economic crisis, the site of Athens 2004 Olympic Venues falls into disrepair.  Therefore, there is very little reason for you to visit this site unless you really are interested in seeing the “Modern Ruins” of Athens.

  • Metro Station: Omonia

Athens Street Food

Greek Gyros, a popular street food consist of roasted meat on a vertical spit and usually served in a pita
Greek Gyros, a popular street food consist of roasted meat on a vertical spit and usually served in a pita

There is so many varieties of inexpensive authentic Greek food being sold on the street.  We’ll recommend two “must try”.  First is the Greek gyros, a dish consist of meat roasted on a vertical spit and usually served in a pita bread with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.  It cost approximately 2.25 € or $2.50

Koulouri, a thin bread ring encrusted with sesame seeds
Koulouri, a thin bread ring encrusted with sesame seeds

Koulouri or Simit, a inexpensive snack consist of circular bread, typically encrusted with sesame seeds or, less commonly, poppy or sunflower.  This is one of the most popular food stand found on the street across Greece and Turkey.  The cost typically half euro or with approximately 1.00 € with goat cheese.

 

Inexpensive Supermarket Beers and Sandwiches

Inexpensive Greek Beer Zythia
Inexpensive Greek Beer Zythia

If you really want to save money on beer, then pickup some domestic Greek beer for approximately half euro or so if you buy them from grocery stores and supermarkets, away from tourist areas.  They are approximately half euros and yes, openly drinking on the street is allowed, but remember to respect the destinations and do not trash!

Exercising the free of openly drinking beer on Athens' street
Exercising the free of openly drinking beer on Athens’ street

With a great beers goes with a great sandwich, and for a euro or so.  You can pick up some sandwiches at the same supermarket that sells beers, but check the expiry date.

Inexpensive Supermarket Sandwiches
Inexpensive Supermarket Sandwiches

So, this is your complete guide to Athens, if you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear it!  Please ask it in the comment below and we hope you have wonderful Greek Odyssey in Athens!

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  • Co-Host/Producer: Charles Huang
  • Co-Host/Editor: Kai Mathias
  • Camera: Stan Trac
  • Music: Greek National Anthem “Hymn to Liberty”, Capo Music “Legends Of Time”, “Destiny”

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