Retired budget travel tips for Athens, Greece

We lived in Athens, Greece, for one month and there were a few ways we saved money in some of our biggest spending categories: housing, food, transportation, and sightseeing.

Housing

We’ve shared in the past how we live almost continuously through Airbnb rentals. Sometimes we rent through other methods, like HomeAway or through local sites.

On Airbnb, many owners will give renters large discounts for monthly rentals. The downside is that we have to book a place early enough to ensure an entire month is open.

The owner of our Athens rental offered a 40 percent discount, and so we grabbed the place, and it was a great move. The apartment was perfect for us – huge deck, clothes washer, modern kitchen, a five-minute walk to a metro line, and on a main bus line. We paid $608 for 33 nights. Here’s a video tour:

Food

Greece is the land of gyros, feta, and olives. Gyros are typically so inexpensive that it’s more cost effective to simply grab one at a fast food place. For the equivalent of about $2, you can get a really tasty ‘sandwich’ of meat, lettuce, tomato, sauce, and some french fries — all wrapped in a pita.

Restaurants charge anywhere from about $4 to $6 for a medium-sized Greek salad. For $10, we bought more than a pound of fresh feta, green olives, a pile of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and those ingredients made enough Greek salads to last us almost all week. A great bottle of organic olive oil will cost another $6 – $10, which is far less expensive than back in the U.S.

When we occasionally ate out, we enjoyed reasonably-priced places. Similar to Spain, it’s possible to find a restaurant with “small plates” on the menu. Small plates are appetizers diners typically share, and they cost a fraction of a full plate dinner.

In general, as with every city we visit, anything on any menu will cost less if you get out of the main tourist zones and get into the neighborhoods.

Tedly in Athens with gyro and beer
Tedly enjoys a gyro and beer at a sidewalk cafe in the Kato Patissia neighborhood of Athens in early October 2018.

There might be more cafes in Athens than anywhere else we’ve been so far in Europe. This is a good thing – competition seems to keep prices down. A typical espresso is just a euro, and a cappuccino might be the equivalent of about $1.75, before a tip, in neighborhood cafes.

One stand out restaurant to mention is Couleur Locale a five-minute walk from the Monastiraki metro station. It attracts locals and tourists. We met some friends there one evening and snagged the best table in the house by sheer luck.

The view was superb – we looked at the Acropolis lit up at night, and the bill was totally reasonable. Pizza (8 euros), half-liter beers (5 euros each), and a tonic water – cost us about $30 including a good tip.

View from Couleur Locale, Athens, Greece
The view of the Acropolis from the roof of Couleur Locale, a restaurant in the Monastiraki neighborhood of Athens.

Transportation

We signed up for a monthly metro card to save money. At just $34 (30 euros) for a month of unlimited rides on buses, trams, and subways, this was a bargain. Otherwise, it’s about $1.60 for one 90-minute ticket, or about $5.10 for a daily ticket. We had the card without airport transfers – airport rides cost more.

These cards are easy to get. We gave our passports to a worker at one of the main metro stations. He entered our information, took our money, took our picture, and printed our plastic “smart” metro cards, which are officially called “personalized Ath.ena” cards. You do have to go to the larger metro stations to be certain there is someone manning the booth to make the card, and you might have to wait in a line.

This website here has a lot more good transportation information about Athens.

Sightseeing

Ruins: We bought a five-day pass to see seven archeological sites. For 20 euros, you get admission into the Acropolis, but for 30 euros, you get admission to a total of seven sites over five days. The sites are: Acropolis and its slopes, Olympieion, Kerameikos, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Aristolte’s School (Lycium). The official Ministry of Culture website to buy tickets is here.

Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece
The Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens on a late October afternoon in 2018.

Museum: I loved the National Archaeological Museum. Entry is only 5 euros, and totally worth it. We used the Rick Steves audio tour for this museum for added information in addition to what is provided by the museum on English markers, even though his audio tours are super corny. There are many other museums to check out that are reasonably priced, too.

Free views: To see Athens and the Acropolis, you could splurge for a rooftop restaurant, or head up to Philopappos Hill or Mount Lycabettus. It’s free to walk up both. At Lycabettus, there is a funicular round trip for about $9 per person for part of the 900-foot vertical walk. Sadly, neither of these places is suited for people with mobility issues.

I should add, both vista spots are loaded with tourists, even in the off-season when we were there in late October. You can get some great pictures, despite heavy crowds.

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece
The sunset view over Athens from Mount Lycabettus on an October evening in 2018. The Acropolis can be seen in the distance from this spot, but it is blocked in this picture by tourists.

In closing …

There is so much to see and do in and around Athens. We did not take day trips to some other ruins near Athens, and we did not get to the Aegean Islands this time around. We spent our month exploring the city and also volunteering at a refugee camp. Because there is still so much more to see, we will definitely return to Greece, one day…

Me and Tedly at National Archaeological Museum, Athens
We were all smiles after an afternoon wandering around the fascinating art in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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