Athens is both a blur and a blast when you’re solo. A blur as in the speed of traffic (I think that’s why everyone here drinks so much coffee, you need your full focus to survive the streets), and one of the most youthful, fun cities I’ve visited.
Youth culture in an ancient city
When I first arrived here, I stayed in the lovely and quirky Athens Quinta (pictured above). Certainly the most beautiful hostel I’ve ever stayed in! And in the hip Exarchia neighborhood too. Filled with cool bars with beautiful terraces and organic tavernas, it’s a neighborhood run by students and young artists.
And anarchists, which is exciting when you turn a corner and see the police lined up in their riot gear (this is where the big riots of 2008 happened, so there’s a lot of tension between the two groups that occasionally erupts (it’s safe though!)).
Combine the old and the new
Stroll the very ancient Acropolis and admire the massive and gorgeous structures built thousands of years ago. Then after the sun sets, pop up to Couleur Locale to admire the literally lit scene (both the lights of the Acropolis and the stylish young Athenian crowd) for a view of some new culture, with a side of cocktails.
Marvel at the 4,000 year old treasures in the National Archeological Museum, then walk a couple of blocks to sip an espresso freddo (iced coffee) in a sidewalk kafenio with the students and artists of Exarchia. Bonus points if you squeeze in some vintage shopping!
I’ve loved being in Greece as a solo traveler. People here are very friendly and very curious, and talkative! While you may be visiting alone, it’s so easy to strike up conversations everywhere: cabs, cafes, that stand where you buy your sesame pretzel thing with cheese. And everyone is willing to help with directions and advice.
Plus, it’s such a popular destination you’ll find loads of fellow travelers wherever you go, and plenty of English spoken (though a few words of Greek go a long way to winning people over!).
Solo safety here
Like all large cities, Athens has its share of crime the solo traveler should beware of (mostly pickpocketing in the crowded tourist areas). Some areas aren’t super well-lit after dark, so I stuck to main streets for comfort.
Not going to lie though, staying in Exarchia I was more cautious after getting those glimpses of the riot gear. Cabs are cheap and very friendly, so if you have any doubts just hop in one and get home safely.
More than just museums
In fairness, I went to a lot of museums in Athens. I just love Ancient Greece! (I love it so much I have a tattoo in Ancient Greek.)
But even the museums here are more than just armless statues. Some of the statues are missing penises too. (lulz)
Seriously though, most of the museums have lovely cafes. The Cycladic Museum also has the best gift shop I’ve ever been in, and I’m obsessed with museum shops so I’ve been in way too many.
And if museums aren’t your style? There’s so much more here to do here: eat, shop, wander, chat.
Don’t sleep on those cheese-filled pretzels, either.