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Athens in December

TSR
Danville, CA
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Athens in December

My son is studying in Berlin and has about five days of down time mid December before returning to the U.S. He is thinking of flying to Athens and staying in a hostel seeing the sites, maybe ferry to an Island or a short cruise (if there are any). Any advice for a student on a budget? Know the weather isn't the best but probably better than Berlin. Thanks in advance

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1. Re: Athens in December

Hey and welcome TSR:-) Have him take a look at www.athensbackpackers.gr/ Should fit the bill;-) As far as an isle.. some close isles great for a day trip are Aegina, Hydra, Poros.. www.gtp.gr/ www.openseas.gr/ will provide ferry schedules;-) With 5 day.. 4 nights.. doubt he'll have much time to meander beyond this magnificent City with all it has to offer;-) Best.. and EnJOY!

Athens, Greece
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2. Re: Athens in December

Last December it was colder in Athens than in Berlin :):)

Do what Litsa said.

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3. Re: Athens in December

Having experienced several January visits in Athens, and several in Berlin, I think your son's choice is wise. It's true that last year Berlin had an unusually warm early winter while Athens had an unusually cold one, but generally speaking Athens has warmer winters than Berlin, and if he is lucky he could even get a spell of warmish sunshine (that's more likely in January, but it's possible in December).

But never mind the weather. He's in Europe, and wants to see Athens, so that's what he should do. He'll enjoy it. Whatever the weather, it's a good time to be in Athens. In the tourist season this most exciting of all cities is packed with tourists; in winter one can see the Acropolis and the other ancient sites relatively free of crowds, and visit the museums in relative peace and quiet. (Of course there will be other tourists in the run-up to Christmas, because that's when people have time to travel, but it will be a good deal quieter than summer.)

Athens Backpackers, where he'll meet other students on a budget, is a great suggestion. And, as Litsa says, the nearby islands are really the only realistic possibility (especially Aegina: people who live there commute to Athens daily for work, so there is a reliable ferry service).

Prices of sit-down meals in Athens aren't cheap compared to Berlin - probably about the same. But just as in Berlin, there is great street food available everywhere to be downed on the hoof - souvlaki, cheese pies and other pies, and the ubiquitous, delicious, and incredibly cheap koulouria. Even if he's very short of cash he won't starve, and will have a wonderful time.

Edited: 04 November 2013, 08:46
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4. Re: Athens in December

.Athens prices are about 30% more expensive than Berlin (in restaurants <

I knew restaurant prices had risen since my last visit four years ago, and of course Berlin restaurant meals are notoriously good value. But are they really 30% higher than Berlin's?

I suppose it depends on the types of eating places one compares. I was comparing - from memory - a two-course meal with a glass of wine in an Athens neighbourhood taverna with a similar meal in a small Berlin neighbourhood restaurant. I'd have guessed - though my Berlin eating experiences are more recent - at about €12-15 give or take a euro or two, in either.

Am I seriously out of date?

London, United...
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5. Re: Athens in December

Thanks Toni.

I'll be in Athens before long and will see what prices are like now for myself.

I agree: the Oriental food in Berlin is great. My favourite too, especially Thai, and always good value.

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6. Re: Athens in December

Wow - I don't know where you eat in Athens - but I shop at laiki and can buy fruit/veggies for myself and my husband for a week for about 10 -12 euro, and we have dinner all of the time around Pagrati at our neighborhood tavernas for 3-4 people with wine for less than 20 euro.

I suppose if we only wanted to go to trendy places in Psirri and Gazi we would pay much more - but I'm quite certain that Koukaki around AthensBackPackers - like Pagrati, has many great local spots where you can eat for less than local food in Berlin (or LA or New York or Chicago or London) let's be fair - as an American, I would not come to Athens for a week to eat anything BUT Greek food.

The keys to eating economically are pretty simple:

1. Drink house wine, not beer

2. Seek tavernas in central neighborhoods where locals, especially families, live - not trendy "upcoming" or hip areas that are still creating themselves (old local faves that are established don't need to gouge anyone or spend money being trendy or hip.

2. Eat local food, not imported

3. Shop the farmer's market (laiki agora),

4. Stay away from most places that have been published (either in a guidebook or a Greek magazine/newspaper, though there are some exceptions here).

And remember that you will pay a price for the location you choose to dine. Thanasis in Monastiraki can charge what they charge because of where they are and thus they do. The Grand Bretagne can charge what they charge because of their view. You pay for that.

And even as an American would lives months at a time in Athens, I don't eat Asian food other than one very special place in Pagrati that is really exceptional - (It's called OK Kitchen and its tucked away on a side street one block from Forminos "south" of Ymittou) - But come to think of it, even OK Kitchen has some great deals - they were offering 8 euro meals when I was there last a couple of months ago.

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7. Re: Athens in December

We eat this way at Dionysos on Ymittou & Arhontikes Yefsis on Formionos - also at a little place on Platia Messologiou and a hidden one I'm not allowed to put on TripAdvisor because its too small but it is not far from Platia Varnava ;-)

Anyway, I should be clear that we don't order three appetizers and three main plates and three desserts. We share and graze - usually 3 - 5 meze or 2 meze and a main plate. At Dionysos we often order their "pikilia" (mixed grill) for 14 euro for 2 people, it feeds 4, comes with salad & if we add extra patatas the bill is 22 euro.

I suppose that is a tip that should also be added to my list above. I think that Greek food is meant to be shared and you money goes further if you order small plates and share.

Athens, Greece
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8. Re: Athens in December

Again, I disagree - I buy plenty of local produce, I buy Greek cheese, Greek olives, Greek bread at the fournos - I go to my local fishmonger or laiki and buy marida, gavros, atherina - highly nutritious and locally caught and very very cheap - AND my local fournos (bread bakery), even grinds their own wheat on site (you can see it if you visit them - they are across from the mini Carrefour in Pagrati so they are a way better place to get your bread than in the mini supermarket ;-)

I don't buy red meat a lot but when I do, it is from one of two butchers in my neighborhood who I know and trust - they have high quality Greek meats -

I eat Greek yogurt for breakfast, not imported breakfast cereal - etc.

As someone who lives in Chicago part of the year and in Athens part of the year, I can say that it is by far easier to "eat local" in Greece than it is to "eat local" in Chicago year round.

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9. Re: Athens in December

I guess we just have to leave it as we agree to disagree.

I don't eat Fage - I eat a local Peloponnese yogurt which is made from sheep in the mountains outside of Tripolis (and they aren't German sheep ;-)

I'm not much of a farmer so I can't speak to the wheat question - but I can say that I've watched it be ground and I would challenge anyone to find more affordable bread that one can buy fresh from the oven in Greece.

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10. Re: Athens in December

Generally speaking Greece imports around 70% of the foods it consumes.

Greece is self sufficient in feta cheese,hard wheat (not soft wheat used in bakery),poultry and of course olive oil and wine,it has severe non-self sufficiency in Sugar (100% based in imports),beans.chickpeas and lentils (90%+) , soft wheat (90%+ imports),red meat (over 70% imports w/ the exception of lamb and goat meat),fish (yes fish since 70% of the locally sold fish is made in...Africa...) there are many reasons why Greece is not self sufficient in food (agriculture's percentage in GDP has fallen from 15% to only 4% in 20 years) but it is not something to be discussed in a tourist forum.

Still you can find local produce although in very high prices and limited supply (like the divine yogurt described above) .

Edited: 04 November 2013, 15:45