10 Reasons Athens is the Best Place to Study Abroad in Europe
By CYA alumna Kiki Lewis (CYA Spring ’17)
Athens is a city that is vibrant and so full of life right off the Mediterranean coastline. Whether you’re walking down Ermou Street browsing around Syntagma, or finding a new café to enjoy a Greek coffee for siesta hours, you will never be bored. The city center is hopping with people, vendors, and plenty of noises, with some of the greatest sites of the ancient world only a short walk or bus ride away.
#2 The People:
Once you’ve arrived in Greece, one of the first things you will notice is the hospitality of the Greek people. Local business owners will strike up a conversation with you, and once they find out you’re from America your ear will be full of questions and stories about their cousin who live in Chicago once, or how you feel about the current political situation in America. Small talk is never enough because the people truly care about getting to know you and creating a relationship, even if you will likely never see them again.
After a morning of school or work, you will have time to relax during the siesta hours (3-6pm) when most local shops close to have the afternoons to themselves. This is the time that people take to relax, enjoy company of friends, snack, or even take a nap! You will surely miss the (basically) enforced siesta hours upon your return home.
#4 Culture and Lifestyle:
You will quickly adapt to the laid back Mediterranean style of life in Athens. Grabbing a cup of coffee from that local café down the street on your way to class is breakfast followed by a stroll (or metro ride) through the streets of Athens. While adjusting to the slower pace, you will be encouraged to sit back and enjoy the wonders around you.
Greek food is the best food in the world, hands down. Whether you’re grabbing a spanakopita (spinach pie) from a bakery or some souvlaki from the local Grill N’ Pita, you will never be disappointed with what you’re eating. Going along with the laid back living, be aware that dinner starts later than in the U.S. (8 or 9pm) and continue on late into the night, as the meal is for socializing and going out with family or friends. Don’t forget to try some koulouri from a local street vendor or the famous Lukumades!
Gyros (pronounced year-ose) are so special that they get their very own shout out. Wrapped in pita with a variety of vegetables and your choice of traditional gyro meat or souvlaki (available in pork, chicken, or lamb) along with the traditional tzatziki sauce, and most importantly french fries. That’s right, you read that correctly: French fries. This is a super inexpensive snack to take on the go, or to sit and enjoy.
Greek nightlife can vary in style and location, but one thing is for sure: it starts late. Cafes turn into bars as dusk turns to dark, and friends get together for a night on the town. Grabbing drinks with friends can turn into a night of dancing and fun if you head down to the most popular clubbing district Gazi (right off the Kerameikos Metro station).
#8 Traveling Outside of Athens:
Due to its centrality, you are able to hop around mainland Greece as well as the Greek islands with ease. Tour buses are constantly running to the Peloponnese, Thessaloniki, and Delphi, or you could hop on a plane or ferry to reach any one of the islands off of the Aegean coast. Also because of its location on mainland Europe, flights or train rides to visit other European countries are easy to plan and are relatively inexpensive.
The beauty and history of the city is evident through its archaeological sites and remaining structures. Athens is surrounded and filled with picturesque monuments such as the Panathenaic Stadium, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and of course the Acropolis. All of these and many more are accessible by foot from the city center, or by bus/metro and usually have student discounts! You may think you have seen all that there is to see, until you stumble upon some ruins in a garden or even a metro station!
Athens is one of the safest cities in continental Europe, and you will definitely feel it. Walking around the streets with a large or small group, even at night, I never felt unsafe or in danger. However, you must still be cautious of pickpockets, the most common petty crime in Athens. Always keep your belongings close to your body and never out of sight!