Athens is a very popular backpacker destination. Thanks to its affordability and impressive history you will find travelers of all types exploring their way throughout the city at all times of the year. It is the perfect European destination and it does not take too much research to see how easy it is to go backpacking Athens on a budget.
In this backpacking Athens on a budget travel guide, I will let you in on all the top things to do in Athens, the best attractions, where to sleep, eat and more!
Backpacking Athens On A Budget: Everything You Need To Know!
How Many Days To Spend In Athens?
Athens is a sprawling city so you could spend much time here and still not see everything. There are numerous historic sights, gorgeous views and you can easily head towards the coast for a beach getaway. Personally, we spent 3 days in Athens, though if I am to be honest one of these days was a write off due to jetlag. Leaving us with only two days we decided to take a few tours to make the most of our short period backpacking Athens.
Though if you have plenty of time I recommend spending anywhere from three days to five days exploring Athens. This will allow you plenty of time to explore some of the historic beauty and explore those hidden parts.
Cost Per Day To Travel In Athens
It’s difficult to know exactly how much money you will need when traveling to Athens as it will differ greatly depending on your travel style. Where you stay, eat and explore will largely effect it. Though you can get a lot for your euro when traveling Greece. Overall, it is a surprisingly affordable country.
Overall, I spent $37.00 / €32.43 per day when backpacking Athens including accommodation. I was honestly surprised about how cheap my time in Athens came out to. Athens is actually the cheapest place we explored in Europe.
After booking our accommodation through booking.com our hotel canceled on us. Luckily booking.com came to the rescue (after many phone calls and complaining by me) and put us up in a much nicer hotel which included breakfast at the same cost as the original. We now had a buffet breakfast at the same price as our noninclusive first booking. This certainly allowed us to save a bit of extra money.
All but one of my meals were eaten at a bakery costing less than $3.40 / €3.00 which also helped keep my spending down for the day. Backpackers Wanderlust was also hosted on a few tours while in Athens such as a bike tour and a food tour. If you can forgo the benefits of having a guide and can deal with walking in the heat you can very easily do a similar walking route as the bike ride we took around Athens.
I do recommend the food tour, even though it may cost, especially if it is your first time in Greece. We tasted different food, drinks and oils from all around the country, making for a delicious introduction to Greek cuisine.
Now, let’s go into more detail on how to explore Athens on a budget so you can save as much money as possible, allowing you to travel longer!
Where To Stay In Athens?
Athens is a sparwling area, though if you are wanting to be right in the action make sure you stay in the area of Plaka. This suburb of Athens can be more pricey, though there are plenty of cheap airbnbs available. I also have a $30.00 discount for first-time users!
You will find plenty of different accommodation options in Athens. From the basic apartments with no reception (this seemed extremely common when searching online) to the fanciest hotels with Acropolis views.
Here are my top picks for the backpacking Athens travel guide:
A comfortable hostel with a social atmosphere. From $15.00 per night with breakfast.
Dorms set in apartments with kitchenettes for use. From $15.00 per night with breakfast.
An affordable and clean option. From $50.00 per night including buffet breakfast.
Dreamy views and modern rooms from $100.00 per night including breakfast.
Getting Around Athens
Getting From Santorini National Airport into town
Considering Athens is the capital of Greece I found the Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport (Athens International Airport) rather small to navigate. Nonetheless, this makes it easier to find our way around for first timers backpacking Athens on a budget.
There are a variety of transport options which will allow you to easily make your way into the city. The 27 kilometer journey, may be daunting at first, but trust me it can be done with ease.
The option I chose, and probably one of the easiest options, is to take the Metro. The metro station is just a couple minutes walk across the bridge from the airport. You will be met by a ticket desk with plenty of ticket options to choose from. If you are just staying in the main Plaka area you may not need to use the metro apart from your airport transfer. If this is the case you can purchase a one-way ticket for 10 euros.
Though, if you were like me and are staying further out of the city, therefore using the metro quite a bit to get around. We purchased a multi-day pass for 22 euros. This tourist ticket allowed us unlimited trips on the metro over 3 days as well as 2 airport transfers. Considering an airport transfer itself on the metro is 10 euro one way, this was certainly the most cost-effective option. Check out the latest metro costs in athens.
A more affordable option will be to take the express airport bus. This bus service operates between Athens International Airport and Syntagma square. The price of a ticket is 6 euros and the journey takes approximately an hour depending on traffic so make sure to leave with plenty of time to spare. Lastly, be prepared to be packed in as many of the airport staff also use this bus service.
Lastly, you have the option of taking a taxi. This is the most pricey choice, but if you are short on time this could be ideal. It will cost you 38€ during the daytime and this price increases to 54€ overnight.
Traveling Within Athens
It is extremely easy to travel around Athens. The footpaths are extremely accessible and it is relatively easy to navigate. There are excellent public transport options allowing you to explore further afield as well.
So let’s get into all transport options so you can figure out how to actually get around while backpacking Athens on a budget.
Athens was my first time using a metro system in my life, and one day in I became a pro at it. There are only 3 different lines which make it all quite simple and we had no problem using them.
There are a variety of different ticket options allowing you to get the most out of your money depending on how often you are needing to get around. As mentioned above I purchased a 22 euro tourist ticket. This allowed me 3 days of public transport access as well as return airport transfers. Though, if this is not for you there are plenty of other options. You can purchase a 24 hour ticket for 4.50 euro which just excludes a transfer to the airport. A simple one-way ticket costs 1.40euro, though it is valid for 90 minutes of travel.
Be prepared to be squished like a sardine on the metro and completely forget about personal space. Lastly, keep a tight hold of our personal possessions and wear bags on the front. Pickpocketing is notorious on the Athens metro.
If you are not traveling to Athens in the heart of summer or are only traversing short distances then walking is the perfect option to get around Athens. The sidewalks are always easy to navigate. Though, if it is raining make sure to wear shoes with a good grip as the marble footpaths get extremely slippery.
In Plaka there are certain parts where cars have minimal access so you can walk around with no problems whatsoever.
Just be aware that Athens is a rather hilly city. Nothing is overly steep, though it can take a toll on your by the end of the day. Just something to keep in mind if you aren’t the fittest person and plan on walking the entire day.
There are plenty of yellow taxis around Athens and you will have no problem finding one. The minimum fare is 3.10 euros and the meter starts at 1.00 euro.
Taxi scams are not as common as they once were, but they still happen from time to time. The easiest way to avoid getting into such situation is by insisting on using the meter.
There is also Uber in Athens, though not like we are used to in other cities. Rather it is just used to request a taxi, then all the payment is done directly to the driver. Therefore it is not as popular to use as in other parts of the world and there are not that many drivers registered as an Uber driver.
Where To Eat & Drink In Athens
From high-end restaurants, bakeries and eateries with Acropolis views there are so many options when eating in Athens. Though, prices can vary greatly so a bit of research can certainly pay off.
These are my top picks, all tested and tried, for the backpacking Athens on a budget guide:
Cheap Food In Athens
I can confidently say it is relatively easy to find cheap food in Athens as I have done it myself. Bakeries are my number one recommendation when it comes to eating in Athens on a budget. I ate nearly every meal at a bakery and never spent more than 2.50 euro. This was also my first time at a European bakery and I was utterly amazed at the assortment of goods. From sweets, sandwiches, bread and basically everything your heart could ever want.
To keep food costs down try book an accommodation with breakfast included, that means one less meal to purchase during the day. Even better if you manage to find somewhere with buffet breakfast as you can completely full up before heading off to explore for the day.
Another option is to stick to the notoriously cheap dishes. Find places which specialize in the backpacker staple food, the Gyro. For just a couple of euros you can get a meal that will keep you going. These are all around Athens so you will never have a problem in finding one. Basically just look for a crowd outside of a store and there’s a 90% chance it will be specializing in gyros.
Greek Dishes You Must Try
If you are interested in taking your taste buds on a culinary journey nothing is better than Greek food. You can stick with the food staples of a Greek salad, yogurt or Gyro, or explore a little bit more.
I did a food tour with Athens Walking Tours and I highly recommend it. It was an excellent introduction into Greek cuisine which can be found all throughout the country.
Safety In Athens
I would love to say I felt completely safe during my time backpacking Athens on a budget, but this would be a lie. Unfortunately, we had a last minute cancellation in our accommodation booking so had limited options to choose from. We ended up staying at Athens Golden City Hotel, which is alright in itself, but it is nearby Metaxourgeio Metro Station. This is known as being quite a drugged filled area, especially during the night. Many of the side streets were abandoned, smelled like urine and had people sleeping on them.
There were numerous reviews online about occurrences of muggings and overall negative run-ins with people around the area of the hotel. I mean it is not a good sign if you check in somewhere and there is a sign a reception warning guests if they are going out at night to book a taxi. Anyway we were aware of this so made sure to have early dinners and quiet nights in.
Apart from this in the touristy areas, there are plenty of ‘scams’ to watch out for. The most popular seems to be the men who offer a ‘free’ bracelet. Just say no and walk away. Things are never free and they will end up harassing you until you give them money for it.
If taking the Metro make sure to wear your backpack on your front and keep your valuables close. This is a hot spot for pickpocketing and tourists often make the best victims.
Things To Do In Athens
Athens is full of amazing sights which will keep you busy throughout the day. Whether you enjoy a spot
of shopping, experiencing some history and discovering some hidden gems, Athens has something for everyone.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens is covered in Athens and makes a perfect stop if you are walking around exploring the city. Take a break from the historical sights and check out this seriously impressive church.
Appreciate the Acropolis Views
There is no better way to relax in Athens then heading to one of the many viewpoints and checking out the impressive Acropolis sights. There are numerous cafes and restaurants which you can choose from and if you are really wanting a memorable experience head out during sunset to watch the sky light up.
The National Gardens
If you are looking for a bit of serenity in this busy city then there is no better place than The National Gardens. Filled with over 7000 trees, 40000 bushes and plenty other plants you will find locals and tourists alike enjoying the gardens. There is even a little petting zoo type place here filled which ducks!
Once you are walking around it is hard to believe that you are just minutes away from a busy road and the bustle of this awesome city.
Presidential Mansion (Changing Of The Guards)
Now the majority of people will head to Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the guards. Though, for a more personal experience head to the Presidential Mansion for a quieter demonstration.
With fewer crowds and a much picturesque backdrop, it was interesting to watch the mustache laden men performing this dance like march. We were advised where to stand from the other soldiers watching on, ensuring we were well-behaved tourists.
Next up is the very impressive Panathenaic Stadium. Built completely out of marble it is one of the main historic highlights in Athens. A true must visit when you are in the city.
In the evening light, this place truly lights up and is the perfect place to be when watching the shade change colors in the sky.
No visit to Athens can be complete without checking out the Parthenon. This temple that dominates the hill of the Acropolis at Athens. It was built in the mid-5th century BCE and dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos.
This is one of the more expensive things to do in Athens, though if you are a history buff it will be well worth the money. A summer ticket costs 20 euros, whilst a winter ticket is half this price at 10 euros. Make sure to visit early in the morning to avoid the massive crowds as well!
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum showcases the findings of archaeological sites around the Acropolis of Athens. It was built to house every artifact found on the rock and the surrounding slopes. The museum also lies over the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.
Inside you will find nearly 4,000 objects that are exhibited over an area of 14,000 square meters. Tickets to the Acropolis Museum are extremely affordable costing just 5 euros. This is an affordable way to spend an afternoon or morning and allow you to gain a whole new appreciation for this historic city.
Little KooK cafe
Little Kook Cafe is definitely an honorable mention here as if you are looking for something other to do than historical sights this is the place to be. It is Instagram heaven as the cafe has a new theme each month. They go all out and they do an incredible job at it. Little Kook Cafe is definitely worth the visit if you are backpacking Athens on a budget.
All The Other Historic Sights
There are honestly way too many other historic sights which you can explore while backpacking Athens on a budget. Honestly, the best thing I found was to honestly just walk around and discover them yourself. They are spread all around the city and it is nearly impossible not to come across any.
A bonus is that you can usually appreciate the beauty of these historic sights from the outside, meaning you do not have to pay the entrance fee. Of course, if you are a history buff you will obviously want to go in. Though in you are a cheap backpacker like me there’s nothing better than glaring through the fences and hiding from the ticket booths.
Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!
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