Why Athens is the Absolute BEST
Athens is one of the most amazing cities in the world, offering opportunities for students and travellers that few other cities can boast. While it is possible to do the most famous sites in a day, the only way to fully appreciate this beautiful city is to live in it. If you explore enough, have an open mind, and try to fully immerse in the culture, you will have an experience unlike anywhere else in the world by studying abroad in Athens:
1. The Sites are the Best.
The most obvious reason to study abroad in Athens is the sites in the city. There is so much history imbedded in Athens, from ancient to modern, and it is all screaming at you when you walk around the city. Since the city is best explored on foot, it’s impossible not to run into some street art or a museum that is significant in Greek history no matter where you’re headed.
For those interested in the ancient world, there are some of the most famous attractions in the world in Athens, like the Acropolis, which encompasses the Parthenon, Erechtheion, and Theatre of Dionysus. There’s the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the ancient Roman and Greek agoras, but there are also sites for the more informed traveller.
As a student in the city, you’ll have the time and freedom to explore the sites. You’ll find well known places, like Socrates’ Prison and the incredible view from Philopappos Hill, ancient meeting places, such as Pnyx Hill, the Areopagus, and Panathenaic Stadium, and hidden sites too, like the inside of Monastiraki Metro Station, the ruins in the National Gardens, and maybe even an ancient Athenian gymnasium. All of this can be found in Athens, and more. After a few days, you’ll still be surprised by the plethora of picturesque, and functioning, Byzantine churches.
If ancient history isn’t your cup of tea, that’s okay. Athens has grown since the fall of the Roman Empire, so there’s still plenty to excite you if you choose to study abroad in Athens. You can hike to the top of Lycabettus Hill for panoramic views, see the changing of the guard at the Parliament building in Syntagma, visit the Zappeion or the President’s house, and explore Benaki Museum, the Numismatic Museum, the War Museum, or the Folk Art Museum. Don’t worry, there are many more modern day wonders to see.
Whether you want to see the hotel Churchill stayed at, examine the naval ships in Piraeus, discover what the Greek anarchist movement looked, or check out the street graffiti in Monastiraki and Plaka, there is no shortage of places to see for those who study abroad in Athens (especially if you choose to spend summer in Athens!).
2. The Nightlife is the Best.
No matter what your interests are, Athens has more than enough opportunities to have a good time. If you like hanging out at a bar for hours, this city has a everything you could want. There are literally bars for every mood, and most cafes become bars in the evening. Whether you head to Glyfada to spend the evening on the beach or prefer to be in the heart of the city, there is no shortages of nightlife in Athens.
Want a quieter atmosphere? Go to one of the outdoor bars with plants and fairy lights and a courtyard, like Six Dogs.
Feeling adventurous? Try one of the alcohol specific bars with specialty drinks, like Baba Au Rum or The Gin Joint.
Prefer clubbing? Head to Gazi.
Want formal entertainment? There are theatres all over Athens, offering shows in a variety of languages, as well as concerts and cinemas to keep you entertained.
Greeks rarely spend the evenings holed up in their apartment, so the city is always alive. If you don’t feel like walking to explore the nightlife in Athens, cabs are very cheap; although, the city is very safe and absolutely stunning at night!
3. The Dining is the Best.
Whatever you think you know about Greek cuisine, forget it! The food tastes homemade wherever you go in Athens, and is so much better when you’re eating it in Greece. Food is cheap in Athens and there are so many options, even for vegetarians, vegans, or whatever restrictions you may have. There is nothing as satisfying as a two Euro, loaded, juicy gyro or souvlaki, or a bite of tzatziki and calamari after a long day. Every place in Greece has slight cuisine variations, but Athens has the “base template,” so even if you are extremely picky, you will find something you like while studying in Athens.
And the best part about Greek dining: there is no time limit. People regularly sit in a coffee shop or restaurant in the morning, and stay until late in the evening. Nobody will kick you out because they need your table. You get the check when you ask for it, not when you finish eating, and you can take any amount of time you need to enjoy your food, wine, and most importantly, your company. Restaurants stay open late, and most have live music, so you likely won’t have any reason to ever leave.
To top it all off, the Greeks love their coffee, and consequently, their coffee shops. Stop by any to get a cup of Greek coffee and a spinach pie or some spoon sweets between your long delicious meals.
4. The Location is the Best.
Athens is near to everything in Greece, and very centrally located in Europe.
Want the beach? It's a 20 minute drive away.
Hiking? Only an hour away there are some of the most stunning trails.
Want to go the islands? There are three main ports around Athens with ferries that will take you to any island you want, as well as Turkey and Italy, for as cheap as 10 euro.
Want to hop out of the country for a weekend? The airport is easily accessible by train or bus to help you get anywhere in the world.
Take advantage of all the travel, but make sure you spend some time actually seeing Athens, or you might miss one of the most amazing cities of all! You’ll be able to walk just about anywhere in the center of Athens, and the metro, trams, streetcars, buses, and taxis can get you anywhere else. Nearly everywhere offers student discounts, making this already cheap city extra affordable for international students. You should probably consider spending an entire year studying in Athens too, since there is obviously too much to see in just a few short weeks.
5. The People are the Best.
Greek people are some of the nicest, most interesting, most engaging people you will ever meet. They will freely tell you their life story and their favorite places, so take the time to talk to them. But don’t just get to know the locals, try to learn the language too. Even though almost everyone speaks English, they’ll love it if you make an effort to speak Greek, and they are generally more than happy to help you with your Greek homework and assist if you are struggling to learn the language.
As a student studying in Athens, you’ll have the time and opportunity to foster relationships with the stall keepers at the farmer’s market, your local coffeeshop owner, and countless other people, especially if you decide to study in Athens for a full semester. If you make an effort to talk to people and get to know the city, there will even be people who invite you to celebrate the holidays with their families; it is all a part of the Greek hospitality.
Solely by making the effort to study abroad in Athens, you will be greatly appreciated. And don’t be surprised if people become very invested in your studies and helping you make the most of your time in Greece, because it’s part of who they are.
There is a genuineness, sincerity, uniqueness, and adventure in Greek culture that is reflected in the people, making them unlike anyone else in the world.
Do you know why you should study abroad in Athens yet?
If you have the courage to take your studies abroad to the best city in the world, then find a program to study abroad in Athens and have the best experience of your life!
This article was contributed by College Year in Athens (CYA), a non-profit educational institution dedicated to introducing international students to the wonders and culture of Greece. Founded over 50 years ago, CYA focuses on taking learning beyond the classroom through every program experience.