A lot of people might be surprised to learn that Athens isn’t as expensive as most other European cities. When I’m planning to travel somewhere, I always do a lot of research so I can get the most bang for my buck. How much you want to spend is up to you, but I generally try to find the cheapest way to visit any given place without having to sacrifice safety and comfort. Getting to Europe will cost you a pretty penny, but here are some ways to cut back costs once you’re in Athens.
Where I Stayed
I almost always stay in a hostel when I’m traveling, especially because they’re cheap and are a great way to meet people from all over the world. In Athens, I stayed at City Circus Athens in an all female 4 bed dorm room with an attached bathroom for €19 ($23 USD) per night. You can also get dorm rooms that hold 6 or 8 people, as well as private rooms. The beds were super comfortable, the staff were really friendly and helpful, and it’s in a great location as it’s near all the shopping and attractions. The hostel has several activities, such as a movie night, wine tasting, and a walking tour. They also offer day tours to cities outside of Athens, although I think this is new because I don’t remember hearing about them when I stayed there. There is also now a restaurant attached to the hostel, which was in construction while I was there. I would highly recommend staying at City Circus Athens, especially if you’re a solo traveler looking to get involved in activities and meet new people.
What I Ate
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on food, eating local food and staying away from touristy areas is key. I actually did eat in tourist areas, but I still managed to do it cheaply. My first meal in Athens was at an Italian restaurant called Piazza Duomo. I found this little place a block over from Ermou Street, a popular shopping area in Athens. It was still in a touristy area, but away from the main street where restaurants are the most expensive. If you go a block or two over from the main streets, you can generally find cheaper, more authentic food.
Monastiraki Square is also a popular area, but you can get gyros there from street vendors that will fill you up for €3! If you go to a restaurant in that area, you’ll probably pay a lot more for a meal.
If you’re a picky eater (like me) and prefer to stick with what you know, you can find several American chain restaurants in Athens. Just be aware that prices for these chain restaurants are usually more expensive than they are at home, but are still cheap options. You won’t find your 99¢ McDouble abroad!
Many hostels have a kitchen, so you can save even more money if you stay in a hostel and cook your own food. City Circus had sandwiches and pizza that you could buy for cheap, but they also provided a free breakfast! Score!
How I Got Around
A lot of travelers make the mistake of taking a taxi everywhere they go. Although it usually saves time, it definitely isn’t cheap. I usually take the public transportation wherever I am. Do as the locals do! In Athens, everything was so close together that I didn’t need to use public transportation at all because I could easily walk everywhere. However, I did have to take the train from the airport all the way to the city center of Athens. Taking the train took longer than it would have in a taxi, but it was also a lot cheaper.
What I Did
In just about every city, there are several things that are free to do and see. In Athens, there is plenty of ancient architecture and parks to see that are all free, and if you’re on a really tight budget, you can simply look at some things while wandering around on the streets without actually paying to get in. For example, you can still see the Acropolis (one of the most popular attractions in Athens) from far away, but a ticket to actually get to it will cost you €12 ($14 USD), and it includes admission to several other attractions in Athens.
On my second day in Athens, I went on a walking tour with the hostel I stayed at. On a walking tour, a guide shows you the city on foot, giving an overview of all the things you can go see. The walking tour was €7, but it was worth it to have a local Athenian guide me around the city and provide information that you may not get anywhere else. I believe you can get walking tours for free in Athens, but I didn’t know that at the time and just went with the one my hostel was offering.
A lot of the tourist attractions in Athens are cheap, such as the Panathenaic Stadium (the first modern day Olympic stadium) and the Acropolis Museum, which will only set you back €5 each. As mentioned above, there are also a lot of free things to see, such as Mars Hill and the National Gardens. Take advantage of the parks and busy areas like Syntagma Square; they’re great for people watching and don’t cost a penny!
See? Athens is the perfect city if you’re looking for a budget destination in Europe! Would you like to see more posts about budget travel? Let me know in the comments!