What Not to do in Athens – 17 Mistakes Every Traveler Makes

This post is all about what not to do in Athens, Greece.

Athens is a city that’s on everyone’s bucket list.

With all the ruins, historical landmarks, tasty food, and jaw-dropping landscapes – it’s easy to see why everyone is flocking to see the wondrous Athens.

Planning a trip to one of the most known cities in the world is overwhelming, It can be so easy to make a few simple mistakes.

Here’s a complete list of what NOT to do in Athens. These are 17 common mistakes most travelers make in Athens, Greece.

what not to do in Athens

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Before you read about all the things you should NOT do in Athens, here’s a free printable checklist of all the things you SHOULD do!

things to do in Athens

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What Not to do in Athens – 17 Common Mistakes Most Travelers Make.

1. Not Staying Long Enough

what not to do in Athens

Athens shouldn’t be a city to explore conveniently just because of your flight plans. Yes, 1-day Athens planners, I’m looking at you!

This city is the oldest capital in Europe. It’s also massive and there is so much to do.

So, how many days should you spend in Athens?

I would recommend spending a minimum of 3 full days in Athens. However, 5 days would be ideal.

To consolidate your plans, check out my list of 21 things to do in Athens.

2. Booking Accommodation Far Outside the City

Whenever I hear someone say they didn’t enjoy their trip to Athens, my first question is always “Where did you stay?”

Just like most major cities around the world, staying in an Airbnb an hour away from the city center can certainly make or break a trip. In Athens especially, it’s easy to end up somewhere not ideal for tourists.

Stick to staying in the neighborhoods of Psiri, Monastiraki, or Plaka.

All the neighborhoods I mentioned above are touristy, but within walking distance of most attractions and good restaurants.

If you are wanting to stay in a neighborhood more authentic, but still near the tourist hotspots, check out Exarcheia.

This is where a lot of young professionals live. It’s also a big artistic community where you’ll see punk rock-themed bars and graffiti everywhere. There are loads of good restaurants and bars in this area.

3. Eating at Tourist Trap Restaurants

what not to do in Athens

Most of the time, when waiters are standing outside a restaurant heckling people to come inside, the food is not good.

There are parts of Athens that are touristy and have good restaurants, and other parts that are touristy that have bad restaurants. Plaka is one of those neighborhoods that is beautiful and has lovely shops but is notorious for its bad food.

Of course, the best food in Athens can be found in the residential outskirts of Athens where you likely won’t be. However! As mentioned; Psiri, Monastiraki, and Exarcheia all have wonderful dining options and are near the city center.

A few of my favorite restaurants are Bandiera, Oineas, and Avli.

4. Thinking It’s Warm Year-Round

Believe it or not, Greece can get cold. When I volunteered at a hostel in Athens during the month of November, travelers would check in all the time shocked that it was freezing. In fact, at times it can even snow (though this is rare).

While Athens is warm most of the year, it’s going to be chilly from November – March.

5. Just There For the Ruins

what not to do in Athens

Athens is packed with all kinds of ancient monuments worth seeing. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Panathenaic Stadium, the list goes on!

Oftentimes, travelers jam-pack their 2-3 day itinerary full of these tours and rarely leave room for the other parts of Athens that make it so great. This can lead a traveler to feel as if their trip is a history lesson rather than an enjoyable experience. It can totally be both!

Be sure to save time in your itinerary for eating at tavernas, the national gardens, or having a cocktail at Clumsies (one of the best cocktails in the world!)

Nobody likes a trip planned so tight, that it makes your brain hurt. So prioritize your list of monuments you’d love to see, but don’t overdo it.

6. Not Having Enough Cash

While cards will get you through most places in Athens, you’ll always want to have a few euros with you. There may be occasions where you need to tip a tour guide or pay for your meal in a cash-only taverna.

7. Ordering the Wrong Food

Greek food is some of the best cuisine in the world. Be sure to do just a little research on what to order, and what to expect.

Here is a quick cheat sheet to help you:

Authentic greek salads don’t have lettuce. Typically, they consist of tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, green bell pepper, red onion, olives, and feta cheese.

In Greece, gyros & souvlaki are the traditional meat dishes, not kebabs. Souvlaki is meat skewers with pork or chicken. Gyros consist of your choice of shaved meat wrapped in pita with toppings. Of course, you will find kebabs in Greece, but souvlaki and gyros are the traditional dishes.

Most restaurants serve ouzo and a small house dessert after every meal.

Fresh orange juice is a must You’ll find it at any coffee shop or bakery.

Saganaki Cheese is a delicious appetizer.

While there are many well-known Greek desserts, Loukoumades are famous in Athens. These Greek donuts are a scrumptious treat for any foodie.

8. Skipping the Nightlife

what not to do in Athens

Athens has some truly amazing nightlife. Don’t skip out on it! Some even declare Athens as “the new Berlin”.

Whether you’re looking for techno clubs, bougie cocktails, or dive bars – Athens really has it all.

Here are a few of my favorite nightlife spots in Athens:

-Techno: S.I.X dogs (weekends or special events only), BLAST Athens, or anywhere in the Gazi neighborhood.

-Cocktails: Barrett, The Clumsies, Juan Rodriguez

-Dive Bars: Handlebar, Bad Tooth

9. Not Watching Your Stuff

Just like in any major city, travelers will need to keep an eye on their belongings. Before you leave for your trip, make sure to get anti-theft purses or day bags.

Also, be sure to have your valuables locked up, even when you leave your room or Airbnb.

Hotels and hostels that have 24-hour security will greatly reduce the risk of your belongings getting stolen.

10. Staying at an Airbnb

Athens Hub Hostel

Airbnb (in my opinion) is NOT the move in Athens.

There are times and places when I prefer Airbnb over hotels & hostels, but Athens is not one of them.

Athens is so big, you can easily catch yourself in a neighborhood that is still in Athens but is nearly 2 hours outside the city center.

The hotels & hostels in Athens are generally better located and are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Check out my favorite hostel in Athens here.

11. Thinking You’re Getting Freebies at Meals

During my first week in Athens, I couldn’t understand how I kept getting mealtime “freebies”.

In most authentic greek tavernas, you will always be served some type of bread, a small dessert, and ouzo with your meal.

Of course, there are variations of this tradition depending on where you dine. If you don’t receive any of these traditional dishes, you are probably dining at a tourist hot spot.

12. Eating too Early

what not to do in Athens

Mealtimes tend to be later in the day in Greece.

Lunch is typically served 2-3 pm and dinner around 9 pm.

13. Not Taking Metered Taxis

Not only should this rule just apply in Athens. but in every big city!

For transportation, you can take the subway, taxis, or Uber.

If you’re taking a taxi, just double-check BEFORE you get in the vehicle that you can see a meter. Or haggle with the taxi driver on a flat rate beforehand.

14. Forgetting to Cover Up in Churches & Monasteries

what not to do in Athens

Stunning and historic churches are all over Athens. It’s expected to cover up and dress a little modestly to enter.

15. Thinking Tap Water is Dangerous

While water on the greek islands is not safe to drink, in Athens it’s perfectly fine.

Although safe to drink, there’s always a chance that your body isn’t used to drinking water in other countries. Check out life straw water bottles so your water is always filtered.

16. Buying Weird Souvenirs

what not to do in Athens

Don’t get me wrong, weird souvenirs are a special type of awesome sometimes. In Athens. you will notice many of the souvenir shops all sell the same items. Most of the time, these “greek souvenirs” are not even made in Greece.

Here are ideas for traditional souvenirs to buy in Athens that you will love:

-olive oil

-custom leather sandals

-greek honey

-gold jewelry

17. Not Knowing a Few Greek Words

Most Athenians speak English, but it’s still important you learn a few Greek terms just so you can be more aware of your experience and surroundings.

Kalimera – good morning

Kalispera – good evening

Kalinichta – goodnight

Yasou – hello or goodbye

Parakalo – please/you’re welcome/ (also used when answering the phone)

Efcharistó – thank you

Tikanis – how are you?

Nai – yes

Thelo – I want

What Not to do in Athens

Overall, this list should be taken with a grain of salt! There simply is no right or wrong way to travel when you’re on vacation. I hope this post provided you with some tips for traveling in Athens.

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