Monday, 21 September 2020
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Tips for visiting Athens in the shadow of the Coronavirus.

Here are our tips for visiting Athens. After a meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi Israelis can now visit 4 destinations in Greece after presenting a negative coronavirus test result 72 hours prior to departure. Israelis can now visit Athens, Cyprus, Crete and Thessaloniki. 

visiting athens tips

Brettos Pub in the Plaka

 

Athens is a fabulous tourist destination and for a few hundred Euro; accommodation and major tourist attractions, you can enjoy a fabulous 5 day vacay.

During Covid-19 all travelers to Greece must comply with various protocols. complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) providing detailed travel information and their address while in Greece. One PLF form must be completed per family. Travelers will receive a confirmation email upon submission of the PLF.  It is strongly recommended that all visitors to Greece download the Visit Greece app.  PLF forms, confirmation and other information is easily accessible via the app.  A curfew from midnight to 7am is in place for bars and restaurants in some mainland areas and islands. Face masks are mandatory in all indoor retail and public service spaces.  The official Greek government website details all aspects of the Covid-19 coronavirus protocols.

Here are our tips for visiting Athens this summer in the shadow of the coronavirus:

Accommodation

  1. Accommodation in Athens need not cost a fortune; we recommend Airbnb during coronavirus times. Renting an apartment eliminates the risk of catching the virus in an overcrowded hotel.
  2. You may pay a few dollars more per night but selecting a 'superhost' from the Airbnb options has advantages; hosts are experienced, attentive to your needs, respond in a timely manner and are willing to give advice and share their knowledge.
  3. Airbnb is very popular in Athens and should you need to store your luggage before a late check-in or after an early check-out, Airbnb depots are always close by.
  4. If you are doing Airbnb, irrespective of your destination, bring your own bed linen and towels if possible. Most Airbnb’s are clean and well-maintained, but sheets can be a bit questionable. Not all hosts are going to provide good-quality cotton linens with a high thread count and sleeping on synthetic fabric in the peak of the Athenian summer, is not pleasant.
  5. Don't rely on your host, bring your own chargers for all your communication devices. An extension cord could also come in handy.
  6. Look for accommodation in close proximity to the Metro line and these three stations. Syntagma station; Akropoli station and Syngrou Fix.  These 3 stations give you access to all the major tourist attractions.

Public transport in Athens

  1. A taxi from the airport into Athens is around 30 Euro (per cab) and well worth it if you do not want to spend precious hours look for a cheaper alternative.  The metro ticket from the airport into Athens costs around 10 Euro.
  2. Distances between most tourist attractions are not vast and many can be walked but if you are not into that or have small children with you, on day one make sure you purchase the anonymous AthenaCard (a smart transport card like our Rav Kav but much cheaper).  Five days of unlimited travel costs only 9 Euro per person (not including transfers to the airport). For use on trains, buses and trams, the AthenaCard public transport ticket is available at any of the city’s metro stations, tram stops, train stations, newsagents and bus ticket stalls.
  3. Transport card in hand, plan your daily schedule according to the opening times of the various attractions and the sweltering August sun.
  4. The Metro at peak hours is risky; There are plenty of pickpocketers in Athens, working in teams, and the Metro is a hot-spot for these smooth operators.  They jam the doors of the train and while you are trying to get out you will be blocked, pushed and shoved and your stuff will be stolen in an instant.  Do not put your mobile phone, wallet, passport or any valuables in any of your pockets - be warned, they will disappear. (Remember to sync your photos from your phone to the cloud daily - if your phone does get stolen, at least memories of precious moments will be saved).

Tips for visiting the sites in Athens

  1. Only 600 Israelis will be allowed entry every week and as the the time of publication, flight schedules to Athens are not yet finalized but if you are in Athens on a Sunday, then that is the day to experience the changing of the guards in front of the parliament buildings and the tomb of the lone soldier in Syntagma Square.  The 'changing' takes place hourly, on the hour, but only on Sunday's the full, almost hour-long ceremony is performed. The ceremony starts at 11:00am.  Get there an hour before in order to get a good viewing spot. Syntagma Square is adjacent to the Syntagma metro station. 
  2. Visit the Acropolis Museum after visiting the ancient ruins of the Acropolis so that you can fully appreciate the wonder and spectacle of the ruins and the lifestyle of the Greeks during that era.  Visit the ancient site early in the morning.  You want to avoid the trek up the mountain to the site in the midday sun. There is almost no shade on the site.  Social distancing is enforced. The site closes at 5pm. Covid-19 restrictions only allow 2,200 visitors at the archaeological site at any given time.
  3. On Monday's the Acropolis museum closes at 4pm and till 8pm the rest of the week. The queue at the museum is often long so try to purchase your entry ticket online, ahead of time.  You must wear a face mask at the museum and maintain a 2m distance. The number of daily visitors to the museum may still be restricted.  Check their website for updates and online ticket purchase.
  4. The Monastiraki flea market is accessed via the green and blue metro lines (Monastiraki station) and this is the place to make all your small gift purchases.  Cute, hand made sandals for upwards of 15 Euro can be purchased here too.  There are a few fruit and vegetable stands outside the Metro station but the municipal fruit and vegetable market is an eye opener and well worth a visit (close to the Omonia metro station).  Like any market, keep your valuables close to your body.  Coronavirus restrictions on open-air markets could be set in place.
  5. The Jewish community in Greece dates back to 300 BCE.  Allow one hour for a visit to the Jewish Musuem. The museum now controls the flow of the number of visitors and duration of their stay in order to avoid overcrowding. Health regulations include the use of face masks and antiseptics. Touch screen explanations for museum displays have been suspended.
  6. The Holocaust Memorial is a little off the beaten track and the outdoor monument is hidden behind a tree on the main road leading to the Keramikos archeological site and museum.
  7. Keramikos is an ancient cemetery dating back to the 6th century and an archeological museum also on the site. The cemetery is limited to 200 individuals at any given time and the museum limit is 25 individuals at any given time  Face masks and social distancing must be observed.
  8. Frequent use of antiseptics/alcogel is recommended at all tourist sites.

Dining and eating out in Athens

  1. Approximately half way between the Akropoli Metro station and Syntagma is the Plaka. Up-market al-fresco dining you can order a main course for upward of 10 Euro. You'll also find up-scale boutiques and specialized stores in the Plaka.
  2. For an inexpensive meal - you must try the gyro sandwich. Basically a laffa with a selection of fillings. We are used to tehina on our laffa or pita but in Greece yogurt is widely used. A gyro costs around 2 Euro and is ample for a light meal.
  3. If you choose an apartment on Airbnb you will have access to some cooking facilities.  There are supermarkets and 'makolets' (small neighborhood food stores) selling whatever produce you need for your breakfast.
  4. Try the olives - small quantities of different varieties sold in small vacuum packs are a definite must on your breakfast menu. 
  5. Corner bakeries selling fresh bread (stale after one day) and other treats; borekas are sold as 'borek' they are large pies rather than individual servings as we know here.
  6. Basic pizza takeaway - 6 Euros - enough for two.
  7. Liquor stores often sell their own blends of wine and if you bring your own bottle, they'll fill it for a few Euro. Bottled wines are more expensive.
  8. Mythos is a popular, local lager beer costing around 1 Euro in supermarkets. Fix is another popular lager you might want to try.
  9. Brettos is a very famous pub in the Plaka.  Don't leave town without seeing it. Can't find it, ask a local! Brettos is Athens' oldest distillery and is home to one of the most stunning displays of hundreds of multi-colored bottles lining the walls from floor to ceiling. Specializing in ouzo, liqueurs, spirits and wines. Brettos is an unique drinking experience!
  10. The island of Aegina is off limits to Israelis for the timer being, but it is home to the best pistachio nuts.  These pistachios can be bought pre-packed anywhere in Athens.

We hope you found out tips for visiting Athens useful. Have a wonderful time and if you'd like our Airbnb recommendation, feel free to contact us.

 

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