For my junior year of college, I’d decided to study abroad in Athens, Greece. Greece is that fairy tale destination that we all hear about. The lover’s island of Santorini, the party island of Mykonos, and the ancient history of Crete. There are hundreds of islands to choose from, but the mainland of Greece is just as interesting.
1. Museums/Historical Sites
Athens has many ancient ruins scattered throughout the city. There is the Acropolis, the ruins of Zeus, the Roman Agora, and the Pantheon, all within walking distance from each other’s spectacular glory.
Like almost everywhere else in Europe, a lot of things are free or reduced in price for students and people under 26 with proper identification. That makes museum hopping very manageable to do.
There are lots of great archaeological museums in Greece to see and visit. But if museums aren’t your thang, there are shopping plazas, monuments, and other touristy things to do.
Plaka is a great place for students to explore as well. Simply walking down the main streets of Plaka will speak for itself. There are many different bars, restaurants, and stores to explore. Some are traditional Greek restaurants where the menus are completely Greek.
One of my favorite restaurants/bakeries near Plaka is called Lukumades. Lukumades creates hand-crafted Greek doughnuts with modern twists. You can have doughnuts smothered in Nutella, sprinkled with crushed Oreos or Almonds, and even drizzled with Bueno sauce and white chocolate. Not into doughnuts? There are milkshakes, waffles, ice cream, and coffee that you can get, and they let you combine it with the doughnuts!
The price range for Lukumades is not excessively expensive either. The price for the doughnuts is about €3.50 and the milkshakes are €5 . The portions are sizable so you can share one with about 2-3 people.
A bonus to the restaurant? It’s right on the corner of the plaza so you can people watch, observing the tourists and locals go about their daily lives. It was my favorite place to go for a sweet treat.
3. Metro Stations
One cool thing I learned on my first tour of Athens was that lots of the metro stations are mini-museums! When they excavated some sites for potential metro stations, they unearthed buried ruins and artifacts from the past.
There is one uncompleted metro station by the pillars of the Temple of Zeus that was discovered to be the ruins of a bathhouse. If you go into Syntagma Square, there is a small museum that rotates quite often with different exhibits and sometimes shops that you can stop in.
And Monastriki station has an underground ancient river that runs through it! So, whether you’re on the go or just casually strolling through, this is a priceless experience that is unique to Greece and well worth the time exploring.
4. Gyros Stands
Honestly, gyros are a staple in Greece. Street food you can basically get everywhere around the country. An average price for a good, fulfilling gyro is €2. Maybe €2.50 at max. If you pay any more, you’re paying too much.
It’s cheap and satisfying, and if you need to skim some corners to pay for more exciting things, then you can just eat gyros all the time! There is pork, chicken, and beef, souvlaki and kebabs, with pita or without.
Each stand has a different history and menu to try. Some stands are generationally owned and others are fledging newbies. Greeks are very friendly people and if they see that you’re a tourist, they’ll be more than willing to talk to you about where you’re from and your opinion of their beloved Greece.
My favorite gyro spot is in the Agia Paraskevi neighborhood, respectively called Milf: Meat I live For. They have the best chicken gyros with special milf sauce instead of tzatziki; it’s a bold and interesting mix of flavor and break of tradition.
All are affordable and filling so no need to worry about an amazing experience or being hungry afterwards. It’s all taken care of!
I hope this encourages you to get out into the world. Whether studying abroad or simply traveling, there are lots of things that you can do that you deeply enjoy and won’t break the bank!