Why does nobody like Athens?

A lot of the backpackers I met in Athens told me they didn’t like the city. They thought it was dirty and unsafe. I was only there for 24 hours, but of what I saw in that time I really felt like I connected with the city. Athens for me could be the new Berlin, and I think people need to give it a chance.

Look beyond the surface…

When you hop off the metro and arrive into the city centre, I must admit, Athens is not some gleaming shiny city. It’s dirty, there’s graffiti everywhere and a lot of the buildings are in need of repair. There are a lot of unusual characters lurking about and many groups of kids dressed as punks. People drive crazy. It’s unusual and more importantly –  it’s FULL of character.

Personally I loved walking the streets of Athens, but then I’ve always been attracted to broken things more than those alluding to the idea of perfection. I feel more comfortable in these surrounding and I find them more interesting.

Where many saw vandalism I felt it was art. Where many people looked at the punks and clutched their hand bags, it was really just some kids listening to music. Where others saw buildings falling apart with a dirty exterior, they seemed to miss the beautiful little church that seemed so startlingly out of place in amongst it all, making it uniquely Athens.

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just some weird person who seems to like the places that no-one else does, but I don’t understand the hate for Athens that a lot of people have. For me Athens felt like it could be the new Berlin. Like how a reviving, unique and life-before-it Berlin was before all the corporations started to come in.

Athens feels like its been through some shit, but now it has experienced rock bottom it is moving on to something new. For me it was genuinely an intriguing and mysterious city, and not just for the architectural/historical gems that you may have heard about the city for (although they were obviously incredible too!) I left wanting to learn more and I don’t understand why other people didn’t like it… but then I’m a bit strange!

Police men everywhere…

Every corner I turned in Athens city centre I seemed to bump into a police man. This was especially so at main transport hubs and any medium+ congregations of people. At the same time, life seemed very normal in Athens compared to what you may have heard on the news. Nobody seemed to be in any major predicament – on the surface at least. People just got on with their day, went to work, and did as they would have before any financial crisis that may have hit the country recently. That said, the police presence did make you aware that some frustration had clearly bubbled over at various points over the past few months and years. I am well aware that many people here are struggling, but they are very much trying to get on with it as best they can.

Proud people

One thing I learned not just in Athens, but in Greece in general, is that Greek people are proud. Countless times when I left a tip in a bar or restaurant it was handed back to me. On the occasions when people did accept, you could tell they felt uncomfortable. Another thing I learned while in Greece is that Greek people do not want a bailout. Despite the dire situation that many of them may be in right now, they would much rather help themselves than be helped by other people, and I think the derogatory perception that the European media has portrayed of the Greek people has been unfair. This crisis has always been global, they are just unfortunate to have been hit harder by it than some others.

Athenstyle hostel

I stayed at Athenstyle hostel while in Athens. I was greatly surprised (and impressed) by the rooftop view (pictured at the top of this article) that you can experience in the hostel. I would definitely recommend it as a place to stay for this reason, and also for the easy access to both the airport and the port from the metro station nearby.

– If you liked this article you may also enjoy reading about my first impressions of Mykonos island.

9 Responses to “Why does nobody like Athens?”

  1. Christine says:

    I personally LOVE Athens. I studied there and lived two blocks from the Acropolis, so it’s a city very near to my heart. The people who claim they don’t like it normally are the ones who don’t give it a chance and are there for a night before heading north or out to the islands.

  2. Sara says:

    The first time I went to Athens I was underwhelmed. BUT! The second time I went, when I got to see more of the city, I really fell in love with it. There are so many cool neighborhoods to explore, and I found it to be really easy to navigate on public transport. It’s great that you had a good time there! 🙂

  3. Jane says:

    Glad there are others out there with the same love for Athens! 🙂

  4. Diego says:

    By just being in a plane heading towards Greece, I could not be excited even more. I love the place so much because of the superb architecture from the past.

  5. Rease says:

    I haven’t really heard a lot about Athens from a traveler’s point of view, but from your description, I think it sounds like a truly interesting place to visit. I don’t need a city to be modern and fancy for me to find something I love about it.

  6. Athens is still on my ‘to do’ list, having read your article it has been bumped up a few places!

  7. As a proud Greek American who knows exactly what you’re saying, thank you for this post! I really enjoyed you dispelling some unfortunate myths about Athens and Greece- that Greek people all want bailouts and are lazy, etc.

    I’ve spent about 6 weeks of my adult life in Athens throughout the years, staying with family. No, it’s not always pretty but there is still a lot to love there. You can also find some world class hospitality in Greece.

    Oh, and anyone heading to the Cyclades at the moment. Consider more time in Syros than Mykonos!


  8. Philip says:

    I absolutely loved Athens. Visited in 2017. It wasn’t dirty and the graffiti far less than I thought. I saw fever homeless people and punks than in San Francisco! Everything is set up so easily for a tourist to explore. Getting from the airport to my downtown backpackers on Metro – an absolute breeze. The scale of the ancients sites are mind boggling. Sure, it does not have the immediate appeal of other European cities, but to me it was the most relaxing city I have ever toured in. Walking from one sidewalk cafe to the next,sitting in pedestrian streets, eating delicious yoghurt,enjoying the incredible weather, chatting to friendly Greeks, shade everywhere around the Acropolis. What is not to like! The botanical garden – wow – spotless. The only place I did not like was Syntagma Square – reminded me of the Damrak in Amsterdam which I didn’t like! I don’t know how it was in 2012, but I would love to live in Athens (and I’m from Cape Town – one of the most beautiful cities in the world).


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