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I hear Athens is a "dump"

I'm intrigued by Greek history but have heard that Athens itself is a real pit without any redeeming value otherwise.

What say you?

Posted by
14016 posts

For the 2004 Olympics, Greece spruced up a lot of Athens, including building a modern metro system. There are bits of the central city that are somewhat to very seedy, but you don't need to venture into them to enjoy the charms and ancient wonders, including some fine museums and well-kept archeological sights, some very good restaurants, and great street food.

Posted by
2340 posts

Absolutely not true

The Plaka neighborhood where the Acropolis is is a heavily touristy zone but pleasant. The main complaint is that it’s too touristy and overdone, the opposite of what I consider a “dump”.
Most of the architecture in the city is from the last 50 years and utilitarian so it’s not like...charming and “olde world” but many neighborhoods are nice and fun to go to, good restaurants, good energy.
Like any city there are rough neighborhoods, but the average tourist has no reason to go there.

I think some of the reputation is because people expect all of Greece to look like Santorini or some other whitewashed island. It’s a major city, with traffic and big buildings and no sea view or beach. That’s not a dump, that’s a city as opposed to an island small town.

Posted by
2044 posts

I haven’t been to Athens, but I was repeatedly told (not on this board) that I would hate Paris because the people there were rude to Americans. “What people said” was the direct opposite of my experience.

Posted by
609 posts

There are a lot of basic, utilitarian apartment blocks in Athens. They are not as attractive as much European architecture, but I don't find them to be ugly either. I have read (and if this is wrong, someone please correct me) that these had to be built very quickly to accommodate large numbers of Greeks who migrated from Turkey in a huge population swap after the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Personally, I find Athens visually very attractive, and delightful as a place to visit. There are many ancient remains, many beautiful 19th-C. Neo-classical buildings, and the topography (including especially the Acropolis) is great. It's one of my favorite places. Can't wait to go back.

Posted by
367 posts

I've had coworkers who visited and say the same thing but maybe that was before the place was spruced up for the Olympic games.
I was in Athens in 2015 and found it to be a very attractive city.
The Plaka district is lovely with restaurants and shops, and the new museum was a joy to visit.
The country had been through a tough and difficult economic period several years ago with riots and unrest so there were damaged buildings and graffiti, but still it could hardly be described as a dump.

Posted by
757 posts

Most of Athens is fine, not a dump.

Most of what people go to Athens for is in a relatively small area and for the most part is clean, safe and certainly not a dump.

Like all major cities there are going to be areas that are not taken care of as well as others.

I've been to Athens numerous times and I can safely and honestly say it's not a dump!

Posted by
2004 posts

I will disagree with most of the other posters. We were there last summer. I will not be back. It was the grimiest, grittiest, least appealing city I have ever visited. It has the most dangerous metro, with gangs of pickpockets (according to a security guard there) who target people. The non-historic areas are dirty and not interesting. And there are MANY refugees who are actively hostile and can be dangerous. We were verbally attacked by a group of refugees.

There's little good in Athens IMHO. We enjoyed the historic sights, and the museums were amazing. But the city itself was dreadful.

Posted by
3023 posts

Let's face it, your experience in any new location can be a c&*p shoot. It may depend on how prepared you are or how interested you are in the location; or whether you are arriving with some pre-conceived notion. Culture shock can still occur even if a place isn't the first landing on a trip.
Athens and Greece have gone through financial and social adjustments the past few years that may well impact the impression of the city. But don't totally write it off.
If you are unsure, plan for the minimum time you can feed your interest in Greek history, or ensure your plans can be flexible in order to leave earlier or stay longer depending on your feel for the place.
In my optimistic mind, everything is redeemable; it depends on how you approach it.

Posted by
2489 posts

In my optimistic mind, everything is redeemable; it depends on how you approach it.

MariaF, I love this!

And I loved Athens. I spent only 4 days there, so I will return. I did not ride the subway, but I'd hardly describe a train with pickpockets being 'the most dangerous' subway. I have many acquaintances who have easily ridden that subway. I was just spoiling myself that trip. Your life is not in jeopardy. If you travel well, with your financial docs out of reach, then you will enjoy watching the activity (which I have done in other such scenarios).

With tourism and some people's dislike of certain "gritty" cities, I find certain travelers want clean beauty all the time. They want sanitized tourism. The tourism section of Athens is sanitized. However, when one wanders a little away from these areas, they are perhaps 'gritty' to some extent, but they are not dangerous, and they are beautifully full of life. I love gritty areas of a city, because that is where people live their lives, where you find the best energy, where you find the true city. And ruins do not have to be 3,000 years old to be beautiful. IMO, YMMV.

Posted by
2466 posts

Because it's so new, the Athens subway is one of the cleanest you will ever see. However, pickpockets are known to be a problem.
The new Acropolis Museum is beautiful. I've been to Athens twice, once in 2019 and once in 2008, and did not encounter any problems of any kind on either visit.
I would not listen to any more opinions from the source(s) of such negative information. I'm wondering if this person or persons was pickpocketed there and that's the reason for the negative evaluation?
For perspective, my family travels a lot and has been pickpocketed only 3 times: my mother-in-law across the street from Harrod's, my husband in the lobby of a hotel in Virginia, and my husband in a busy market in Africa. Not in Athens, Paris, Rome or Barcelona.

Posted by
1132 posts

We were there in 2018. It was the end of a two week trip to Greece. I really was not expecting to like Athens but I did. We did wander away from the main tourist areas and found it to be fine. We went to a grocery store that was clearly local (noone spoke English there and much cheaper than near tourist areas) and to a couple restaurants off the beaten track. There were some aggravations like the metro from the airport was on strike so we ended up taking the bus.

We later rode the metro twice without any issues.

We found the people to be friendly and helpful.

I don't think Athens is as beautiful as say Paris and certainly is not as green as some capital cities in Europe. But I would not call it a dump either.

We were there three days and I would like to go back.

Posted by
11139 posts

Never good to use derogatory terms. Different places speak differently to different people and its all good. My experience in Athens was that once off the beaten tourist trails is was less than spectacular; and less than spotless and less than interesting for my taste. But all that aside, if you are into history, architecture and cultures then Athens is a must see.

Posted by
1 posts

Athens has a lot of good places to visit like Acropolis Museum, Parthenon, Acropolis of Athens, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and many more. We also plan to visit thereafter this pandemic is over. For now, I will fix and change what needs to be fixed at home like our toilet https://bestflushingtoilets.org/best-toilet/. So that we can go with no worries.

Posted by
20718 posts

,,,,once off the beaten tourist trails is was less than spectacular; and less than spotless and less than interesting,,,, I think you can make that statement about any major European city. Especially those heavily damaged by WWII. I think the OP was just interested in stirring the pot. Hasn't been back to defend his statement. Once you move beyond the historical sections, the cities can be pretty plain Jane. Once about 15 years ago was I had to spend several days in a far suburb of Paris -- it didn't look or feel much different than a suburb of Chicago complete with KFC and Burger King.

Posted by
5184 posts

Just a note that you can always go to Sicily (Magna Graecia) instead. More Greek temples and ruins than in all of Greece.

Posted by
11139 posts

Frank, each to their own, but there are a few cities that have suburbs and off the tourist trail neighborhoods that I find every bit as interesting and enjoyable as the tourist paths.... But seriously, each to their own. Never good to generalize that something is "this" or "that" because different places speak differently to different people. There is no right and wrong. I dont know the OP's intent, but its still an interesting discussion.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for all the replies. I see there is quite a variance of opinion, and I'll keep this all in mind as I consder
my plans.

Posted by
2004 posts

I will say that the Byzantine and Christian Museum was a rare treat, with many wonderful artistic pieces which document the development of religion and the area. Greece was a part of the Byzantine Empire and was also a part of the Ottoman empire, so there's a lot of contact back and forth. The National Archeological Museum was the highlight of our trip. We also spent several evenings in small local restaurants nowhere near the city center, which were very nice, and not expensive.

Posted by
3436 posts

You could say the same thing about most of the cities in the Rust Belt here in the US as well as any number of cities anywhere in the world. But beauty, if you want to call it that, is in the eye of the beholder.

I didn't find anything about Athens that was worse than any other large city. There are areas that seem run down and could use a good pressure washing and a fresh coat of paint. There are other areas with amazing antique Greek architecture that I could stand in front of for hours just going "wow!". I was impressed by the friendlyness of the residents I interacted with. The food at the places we ate was fantastic, huge in quantity, excellent in taste, and relatively low cost. We did avoid the tourist centers when eating. The B&B type hotels we used were also comfortable, air conditioned, and located close enough to everything.

If you have a chance to visit without overly impacting your other plans, I would spend at least a couple days there.

Posted by
5609 posts

Never good to use derogatory terms. Different places speak differently to different people and its all good.

Well said, James!

Posted by
757 posts

As far as the pick pocketing on the Metro is concerned, I've ridden the Metro many times and have never had any issues. Never accosted, threatened, approached by scammers, etc.

I'm not saying it doesn't happen but that will happen in most major touristed and transportation areas including the US.

Take precautions like you would anywhere you go. Never assume anywhere is perfect but for the most part Athens and in fact all of Greece is one of the safest countries in the world.

There are numerous website about Athens, the pluses and minuses but for me there are far more pluses than minuses!

Check out this great website for Athens:

https://www.athensguide.com/

Posted by
14016 posts

I rode the metro many times and never had a problem - the opposite, at least a couple of times, locals warned me to take better care of my backpack. Yes, I seemed to be careless but I never have anything valuable in my backpack - if they want my kleenex, or my water bottle, let them take it. On the other hand I have a friend who's been pickpocketed twice (albeit she is a bit careless), once on the Paris metro and some 25 years later on a crowded bus in Rome.

Posted by
558 posts

Wrong! Athens is great with wonderful sites and museums and a fun and safe tourist zone. We visited for 3 days back in 2016 and had no problems with people or mass transit, etc. We did wander into parts of the city where you don't find tourists and had no issues. What you will see is A LOT of graffiti like EVERYWHERE (except on the monuments).

Posted by
11139 posts

Nick, on my first trip to Budapest about 20 years ago the city was black with soot, but the streets were clean. Still it was a tad dark and oppressive... I fell in love with it just the same. Bern and Cologne were my two greatest travel disappointments. Both filthy on the occasion that I was there. But all valid experiences to live and learn.

Posted by
23890 posts

my recent experiences in Bern (over the last 2 years) are that you can practically eat off the floor it is so attractive.

Things may change, some up, some down, anywhere.

Posted by
6921 posts

"my recent experiences in Bern (over the last 2 years) are that you can practically eat off the floor it is so attractive."

If you can Afford to eat there, that is.

Posted by
11139 posts

I'm glad its typically NOT what I found. All I found dirty pavement covered with tens of thousands of cig buts..... Maybe I passed through after some sort of event. That's a good example of why you cant make dead certain statements about something you have limited experience with.

Posted by
23890 posts

"my recent experiences in Bern (over the last 2 years) are that you
can practically eat off the floor it is so attractive."

If you can Afford to eat there, that is.

I'm not rich and I've never starved there.... nor anywhere in Switzerland

Posted by
10330 posts

Isn't Athens, arguably, one of the places where Western civilization began? If so, then it's not a "dump", enough said.

Posted by
21 posts

The city of Athens has never fully recovered after their ambitious bid to sponsor the 2004 Olympic Games. . .and I've been to almost all Olympic Games since my retirement.

At the time when they held the Games they built new roads,  built railways and new buses for the city.
They also built (as always the case) housing accommodation for athletes and visitors like me and visitors from all over the world.
All these expenses they never recovered and their debt lingered for non-payment to financiers for years that followed.
The economy has been bailed out by Eurozone member countries and they are still in the red.
The last time I was in Athens was in 2018.  As my taxi was passing by in one of the Olympic venues, it was fenced off and overgrown frontage-- while some goats were perched on top of pedestals. I've read news accounts about this with regard to Athens but I wasn't expecting to see this.

Not being judgmental. . .I think the city is a victim of lack of foresight.
People are uncomfortable  hearing opposing views and they easily dismiss it as denigrating.

Only through opposing views can we achieve a full view of what the real issue is.
We often read how people often say a place is adorable. What lies behind is often not visible to the human eye...and not allowing us the chance to see the truth..

There are  areas around Pireaus  in the port area where unsightly graffiti are in sight . . .although efforts to clean them up is ongoing.
Tourism still is a large contributing segment to Greek economy.

Don't let mundane features dissuade you from immersing yourself in a by-gone era --where you can simply sit at the marble steps of the Parthenon and imagine Socrates or Plato once  lectured Philosophy that was embraced by the western world.

Posted by
14016 posts

On my second visit to Budapest - 2 years ago - I vividly remember having trouble walking along the streets one evening because of piles of junk in front of just about every other building. A day or two later I found out (it may have been James that told me) that once a month the city collects such trash so people have to hang onto it until the night before. Lots of furniture, appliances, sinks, toilets, bits of walls, floors, pipes, etc.

Posted by
757 posts

I have been to Athens numerous times since 2010. I was there during the height of the economic crisis and it looked grim.

However, as each year as gone by more and more of Athens is being cleaned up. More pedestrian friendly streets created and I believe becoming more attractive.

Like any major city there are places that do not look good. Most tourists don't go to these places and concentrate on the major tourist areas.

There are places in my small town that look like dumps while other areas are clean, attractive and safe.

While Athens is not Rome or Paris it does have its own unique character. I think seeing goats in the city limits is kind of cool. You won't see that in Boston or Los Angeles.

Since I am a visitor to Greece and can't say how things are on an every-day basis I have no problem returning to Athens every year (not this year due to virus) and look forward to next year when I will return to my favorite areas of Athens.

Posted by
757 posts

The usual great photos from stanbr. It shows Athens has a lot to offer, not only the spectacular archeological sites but the every day sites that make Athens unique in its own right.

Athens is a wonderful city to wander about in warts and all!

Posted by
31056 posts

Where have you heard that? I would most definitely disagree.

Athens is a large city and like others it has some areas that are nice and some that are a bit rundown (that's also true of cities in my home country), and other places I've visited in Europe have the same characteristics. I've found that locations in southern Europe can be a bit rough around the edges, but they're still beautiful and they all have their charms.

I quite enjoyed my time in Athens. If you're "intrigued by Greek history", a visit would certainly be worthwhile. There's an enormous amount of history there and the Museum and other sites will keep you busy for hours.

Posted by
3347 posts

Athens isn’t a dump or a pit - we'll all look a bit worn when were 3,000 years old.

Its Metro is, however, a pickpocket hazard - take extra care on the trains.

Posted by
4307 posts

Been to Athens three times. First time in 1985, then 2010 and 2014.

As a tourist in Athens, you will not be exposed to many rundown places. Yes, if you seek out such places they are there.
However, you find the same in great cities like Paris or London.

Athens is a special place for the history. The Acropolis is amazing and every time I go back, more of the Parthenon has been put back together. It was largely intact until about 300 years ago when a Venetian shell hit the building, where the Ottoman Empire's army had stored munitions.

The New Acropolis Museum and Museum of Archaeology are amazing and must sees.

There are many other important sites to visit in the city, as well as doing day trips to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, Corinth and Delphi.

Posted by
757 posts

Appears the consensus is Athens is not a dump!

Go to Athens and enjoy one of the most unique cities in the world!

Posted by
96 posts

We were there last summer, for 4 nights at the beginning of a two week trip to Greece, then another night at the end. I would not at all describe Athens in those terms. The historic sights (Acropolis, Agora, Kerameikos cemetery) are unmatched. The new Acropolis museum is stunning. The National Architectural Museum was well worth a visit. The plaka is busy and touristy, but the neighborhood just below the Acropolis is quiet and charming. There are lively restaurants with outdoor tables and good food literally everywhere. We stayed just outside the plaka, near the psyrri neighborhood, and never felt unsafe. We took a food tour so were able to learn a lot about local specialties and get an introduction to various neighborhoods. We did avoid the metro because we had heard about the issues with pickpockets, but were able to walk everywhere and then used Welcome pickups to and from the airport. I highly recommend spending a few nights there is you are traveling to Greece.

Posted by
444 posts

I spent 5 nights and 4 days in Athens in October 2018. Others are right who point out that most or all cities, if big enough and probably in all countries, have at least some bad neighborhoods. Others are right that most tourists have no reason to go into the known bad neighborhoods. From the bus just before I got off in Athens - I left the city after getting out of the airport and returned at the end of my trip - there were some areas that were not ritzy looking. The bus station was not ritzy looking. I don't remember feeling like the areas within close walking distance of the acropolis and the archaeology museum feeling decrepit. I do remember trying to sit on a bench in an over-crowed square one evening but I kept smelling too much cigarette smoke...

The city of Detroit is known to be decrepit yet there are two parks that feel reasonable safe and certain areas within close walking distance of the Detroit institute of arts and close to other museums and venues are safe enough most of the time. Its probably the same situation in many or most big cities in all countries.

Posted by
11139 posts

Mike, I can't think of a major city anywhere in the world that isn't 10x safer than Detroit .... on the whole.

Posted by
56 posts

I last visited in October 2018, as part of a RS tour. Can't say that I thought it was a dump at all. I'm sure that prior to the 2004 Games, it probably was more a dump due to all that pollution and lack of public transportation/infrastructure, etc., but when I was very pleasantly surprised when I was there. Would gladly return in a heartbeat.