Greece's Unlikely Hot Spot for Tourists: Athens


A walk at the streets of Plaka, Monastiraki in Athens, July 16, 2017. Photo: Eurokinissi/Antonis Nicolopoulos

ATHENS – In the past a stopover for visitors on the way to the islands, Greece's capital has become a must-visit place, the number of arrivals doubling in six years as the city has picked up an international reputation for having a buzz, if not charm.

With funky areas like Psirri and Gazi drawing the young, the capital's grimy, graffiti-covered concrete buildings that stand in stark contrasts to elegant if abandoned classical structures has neighborhoods with unique coffee shops, taverns and restaurants and not just chain stores.

Athens is also home to a few bars and restaurants rated among the world's best and pedestrian walkways that used to be roads now let people stroll from the new Acropolis Museum down to the Monastiraki flea market and trendy tourist area of the Plaka, drawing hordes.

Visitors said they are satisfied with what they see, once they get past the often grim first image with the 15th survey on Attica hotel guests conducted by the Athens-Attica and Argosaronic Hoteliers Association and GBR Consulting showing good results, said Kathimerini.

In the period from 2012- 2018, Athens International Airport recorded an increase in annual visitors from abroad from 2.5 million to 5.7 million, while data for this year up until September showed a further annual increase of 12 percent. Most of this demand (87 percent) concerned recreation visitors, of whom 31 percent headed to other destinations within Greece.

What tourists don't like are filthy public places and air pollution and the emergence of short-term rentals such as Airbnb has siphoned off a million people a year although new hotels keep popping up during a run of record tourism seasons.

Hotel occupancy rates dropped 2.4 percent in September 2019 from a year earlier, while hotel room rates increased 1.2 percent, bringing the average revenue per room down by 1.3 percent year-on-year.