In late November, my adult daughter and I will be traveling to Greece, and we'll be in Athens for the first few days. We'll be staying just a bit north of Lykavittos Hill, and on Sunday morning, I'd planned to walk to church services in the Syntagma area, which according to Google maps is about a 25 minute walk from our hotel. Afterward I planned to walk to the National Archaeological Museum, another 20 minutes. We're both used to a lot of walking (my husband and I have done a couple of Rick Steves Tours with lots of walking), so those walks are no bother, but now I'm reading things about the neighborhoods we'll be walking through that leave me wondering whether it would be safe. Maps suggests walking down Char. Trikoupi, right through the Exarchia neighborhood to get to the cathedral, and the walk to the museum would take us through Omonia. Any thoughts from someone who has traveled to Athens about the safety of those walks for two women together?
One thing that should always be kept in mind when discussing safety in Europe is the distinction between property crimes and physical attacks. You are very unlikely to be held up at gun point in Athens or any other European city. Pickpocketing is another story. That being said, the area around the NAM is quite unattractive. The first time we visited, we took the metro to the stop nearest the museum and walked the rest of the way, a long walk. Second time, we popped for a taxi. I didn’t see the point of wearing myself out with a long walk through trash filled streets lined with graffiti covered buildings.
In my 12 trips to Greece I've probably stayed in Athens 16 times, and I can say I've felt safer there than any major city in Europe, and most major US cities, I've lived in NYC Chicago and Philly. Here's a Super map to illustrate my post --. http://www.orangesmile.com/destinations/img/athens-map-big.jpg (click & it get's huuuuge -- find the Acropolis , put it in the middle & use side-sliders to navigate).
Walking from above Lykavittos area to Syntagma is pleasant and safe, Trikoupi is a perfeclty respectable, wide and busy street to take over to Panepistimoui- Venizelouou (WHY do they have these loooong names???) You can walk past he national Library, University of Athens etc -- modern buildings in the Classical style. Very interesting, lots of students around. From Syntagma, the Cathedral is just a few blocks west on Mitropoleos. you will see shuttered Storefronts covered w. Graffiti ON Mitropoleos itself, but that's just a hangover from the GReek economic crisis, the neighborhood itself is emininently respectable.
Walking from Cathedral to N.A.M. is something I've done several times ... and it can be fascinating and its' entirely safe. You need not walk thru Omonia -- by day it's just boring & traffic-choked, not dangerous, but why bother??? I would suggest you follow the PEDESTRIANIZED WALKWAYS (green-checked on the map). A few steps left to the tiny Kapnkarea, the N. on EOLOU to the Square of TOWN HALL. Just before it, on Eolou, you'll find a glassed-in pyramid to look down on 400 BC ruins, & just to the right, a glassed-in area (built into a BANK), where u can see the ruts of 300 BC chariot wheels!!!. Right next to an H & M shop. The Town Hall Square is very "official" & graffiti-free.. last time I walked thru they were filming a TV commercial for Mercedes, fun to watch. Then just cut over to Arkidimias & up to the Museum. Boring big street but no worries. BTW, one time I walked up Stadiou street, and in a park across from Univ., there was the Chamber Orchestra of Athens playing STRAUSS WALTZES, and a woman in flowing evening gown and a man in tails (Powder-blue!) were twirling around madly in front of an enchanted crowd. Just a serendipity.
I would look both ways before crossing the streets, then double check again, and cross quick. Greek drivers are crazy.....just joking, only somewhat, traffic probably will be your greatest danger, if you take general safety precautions I do not think you have anything to fear.
Thank you, Paul, Rosalyn, and Janet for your replies. And thank you, Janet, for the link to the map and all the info on the walks. That will be so helpful on our travels. I have the Rick Steves Athens guide which has a decent Athens map, but the map you linked to is excellent and I like the marking of the pedestrian ways. Thanks for the tip on the excavations - my daughter really enjoys Greek art and architecture, which is why she wanted to go to Greece. We'll definitely want to include those excavations on our route!
I just had my cell phone nicked today while on the (busy on a Sunday afternoon) Athens metro returning from the Victoria stop near the Archeological Museum to the Monastiraki stop near where we’re staying in Plaka. The thieves were quick and sophisticated as I felt NOTHING (they lifted it from an outside pocket on my crossbody bag which I kept a hand on the entire time...)and consider myself an experienced traveler. My advice: take taxis and avoid public transportation unless you are convinced that nothing you have on you can be lifted.
I've been to Athens numerous times and can say that I feel safer there than any major city I've been to in the US. The most you'll have to worry about is pick pockets, someone trying to take you to a bar and buy them watered down drinks at outrageous prices.
I do agree with Paul that crossing a street in Athens can be far more dangeorus than anything else, I'm not kidding. Look twice, three times and even a forth time before crossing, I think local drivers play a game to see how close they can come to hitting you . . . without hitting you . . . maybe that's a stretch but do beware of the traffic.
Other than that you'll have a wonderful time in Athens . . . use common sense like anywhere and you''ll be fine.
In fact I was just in Athens early October and had no problems and will return for 2 days before flying home . . . and I won't be worried about safety.