The best destination comparison site!
The best destination comparison site!
Both Athens and Naples are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is an abundance of travel guides for both cities, but few actually comparing them, and advising you which is the better for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased and independent views of Naples and Athens, hopefully making your choice that little easier.
The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the underlined links:
1) Introductions -
2) City ratings -
3) Which one should I, friends, or family visit? -
4) When to visit and weather -
5) Who is the city suited for? -
6) The perfect 48hours (with map) -
7) Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)
The home of democracy and one of the cradles of human achievements in fields as diverse as science, mathematics, and philosophy, Athens has always been a bucket-list city. Since the first wooden walls were raised on the edge of the rugged Attica peninsula back at the start of the first millennium BC, it's been a hub of the Mediterranean.
In many ways, Naples is split in two halves; a town of shadow and light, just like the Caravaggio chiaroscuro that hangs in the Capodimonte palace on the hill – art buffs will want to see that! There's the Naples of pizza dough and La Dolce Vita, which is all about kicking it by the azure Tyrrhenian Sea with good food and great wine. Then there's the gritty city, whose reputation comes from the Camorra mafiosos and the ramshackle alleys around Spaccanapoli street. Both are immersive and interesting in their own right.
Put simply, Naples is one of the most authentic and enthralling cities in Italy. The self-proclaimed capital of the south, it's got Roman history (seriously visceral Roman history, in fact) and gorgeous landscapes in equal measure. It promises something for honeymooners, backpackers, foodies, and outdoorsy types, but won't sugar-coat the experience with anything special for tourists.
Which city would I go to?
Which one would I recommend to my parents?
Naples (via a guided tour)
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin?
Which for my food obsessed friend?
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year (which is detailed later in this article)
The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map). The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city.
We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip!
That's a tricky one. Naples itself can be seen from tip to toe in just a couple of days. We'd say around 48 hours is perfect for tasting Neapolitan pizzas in legendary L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele and feeling the vibes down lively Spaccanapoli – the main drag in the historic centre.
For a longer stay of five to seven days, there's a catch: A lot of Naples's main draws are outside of town. Think the likes of Pompeii, the soaring crater of Vesuvius, and the Amalfi Coast. To add those on, you'll need to plan to come here for considerably more time.
Athens can be sampledin a few days, but it can also warrant trips of a few weeks or more. It all really depends on what you want out of your visit. If it's a whirlwind tour of the famous 5th-century history sights (the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Agora), some Greek mezze, and a good night out that takes your fancy, then a weekend could be enough.
If you want to feel like a real local, sip gritty Greek coffees in corner bars in alt neighborhoods, and even escape to the islands to top up the tan, you'll need to plan longer.
Athens is most popular in the summer months, but we'd say it's not the best time of year to come. Temperatures in Greece can be scorching between June and August, with daily highs peaking around the 40 Celsius mark! Bear in mind that there's also not too much shade in the main monuments. That's especially true up on the Acropolis, where it's just marble columns and temples. If you do travel at this time, always visit the history sights as early as possible to escape the heat.
Much better are the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. These see warm days and cool evenings of between 16-29 degrees on average. It's still usually dry, with the occasional cloud and rainfall. However, there are also fewer people around, cheaper hotels, and smaller queues for the ancient ruins.
Winter in Athens gets surprisingly cold. Snow can even fall in the height of the season. It's the best if you really don't like dodging other tourists though, with the museums and the galleries all virtually empty. Be warned that ferries to nearby islands like Poros and Aegina rarely run between November and March.
There's not much debate about it among the locals – spring is the best time of year in Naples. This southern city gets warm nice and early, so you can expect April highs in the 20s and even enough sun to hit the beaches of Gaiola and the local lidos if you want to take a dip in the Med. There are fewer other travellers about before the summer rush too, which means you'll find it more pleasant strolling the historic centre and Pompeii.
Of course, that's not to say the summer is bad in these parts. It most certainly isn't. Reliable warmth and loads of sunshine, topped off with a buzz about town, help make the months between June and August great options. Just be prepared to pay extra for hotels and flights, and don't expect the place to be quiet.
Naples is a raw and immersive Italian city. It's got pizza places that are frequented by locals. It's got wine bars serving gorgeous Campanian tipples. It's lived-in and gritty and real. That makes it perfect for city hoppers who like atmosphere and energy. And the joys don't end there…
Just around the Bay of Naples are two of the country's most impressive archaeological sites: Pompeii and Herculaneum. They'll entertain the history lovers, along with the likes of the Castel dell'Ovo and the vast Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Loved-up duos might also want to make Naples a pitstop on a couple's break to the impossibly gorgeous Amalfi Coast that lies to the south.
Naples isn't for those who like small, easy-going towns where there's lots of room. It's crammed between the volcanos and the sea, so things are compact in the centre. It can also be quite hectic, with touts and traffic.
The history lover is the traveller who will surely feel most at home in Athens. After all, this is the place of the mighty Parthenon; where the Athenian Empire once flourished. And it's got Orthodox temples and some of the most acclaimed ancient artifact museums on the globe to top the lot off. You can spend whole trips hopping between crumbling temples and learning about the hard-fought Peloponnesian War, without even scratching the surface of the amazing daytrip possibilities.
Aside from its famous historical relics, Athens also has a reputation for hedonism. Districts like anarchist Exarcheia come laced with squat bars and buzzy pubs. There's also pumping nightlife around the Plaka area, where you'll be able to dine on endless platters of saganaki cheese, hummus, and grilled lamb before heading out to dance the Zorba.
If you're planning a Greek beach holiday, then Athens is a good arrival point. You're likely to be a little disappointed if you hang around too long, though. The only sands within reach of the centre are in Vouliagmeni to the south and they certainly aren't the best in the country.
Everything from millennia-old villas to rich art collections is on offer in this 48-hour guide to Naples. Oh, and there are plenty of chances to devour pizza – it's considered the very best in Italy.
Day 1: Start in the Quartieri Spagnoli. Ramshackle and rough around the edges, it's the perfect combo of Neapolitan grit and charm. There's bound to be a cafeteria serving cannoli (crunchy Sicilian pastries) and cappuccino there that takes your fancy.
You'll need the energy, because your next destination is the acclaimed Naples National Archaeological Museum. It's known to have one of the largest collections of Roman artifacts anywhere in the world, but the standout highlight is surely the Alexander Mosaic, reconstructed from the floors of Pompeii's opulent House of the Faun.
Once you're done in there, head south to the sleepless street of Spaccanapoli. Literally meaning 'the street that divides Naples', it does exactly as that implies. It runs right through the heart of the city, with drooping washing lines, street-food vendors and age-old churches looming on both sides. It will take a while to walk its two kilometres but it's all about breathing in the urban energy. What's more, the iconic L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele sits at the eastern end.
Day 2: Rise early and get to the platforms of Naples Centrale station. That's where the trains depart for Pompeii in the morning. You might just have heard of that place – it was once an entire Roman resort town for the nobles and elite of the empire.
That is, until Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupted in 79 AD and flooded it with lava and ash. These days, the site is an amazing and haunting archaeological dig, with whole streets, entire villas, and even brothels complete with Roman wall art just waiting to be discovered.
It's likely Pompeii will take more than half of the day, while the most devoted history buffs can add on a trip to Herculaneum to boot. If not, head back to Naples city and go straight to the hilltops where the Castle of St Elmo keeps watch. That's the Vomero district, and it's famed for its sweeping panoramas of the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. With that as the backdrop, find yourself a traditional trattoria or pizzeria and dine with a view of the metropolis to cap off the trip.
48hours in Athens
Searching for an all-round fantastic 48 hours in the Greek capital? Look no further. This culture-packed and monument-filled itinerary whizzes you through all the mainstay sights and even into some downright gritty local districts. Enjoy…
Day 1: Start as early as you can and head straight through the Plaka area up to the base of the Acropolis. The best way to reach that grand monument is via the winding roads that link up the tavernas with the great Propylaea gatehouse that dates to 437 BC. It was commissioned by Perikles in the aftermath of the Persian War and leads to the symbolic heart of ancient Athens: The Parthenon.
Getting there early means you can hopefully dodge the crowds and the heat. Take some time to wander to see the hulking columns and design – it's considered to be the finest Doric temple on the planet. The next-door Erechtheion also catches the eye. It was built after 421 BC in honour of Poseidon and Athena, famed for its Caryatid statues of female figures. A lookout point on the south-east end of the Acropolis is perfect for taking in the city views.
For lunch, go for the vibrant area of Koukaki, checking out the Theatre of Dionysus en route. It's filled with hip cafeterias and bakeries, all huddled under plane trees and bougainvillea. It's a short walk from there to the acclaimed Acropolis Museum. You can while away the whole afternoon within, uncovering the story of the legendary building and the politics it represented.
Think about ending the day with a walk through the pine trees to Filopappou Hill. That's home to the place where Socrates was imprisoned in the early 390s BC and tops out with some of the most stunning views of the Acropolis there are.
The Parthenon was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, who is regarded as the patron of the city
Day 2: The café culture of Monastiraki gets the day rolling – think about grabbing a traditional Greek coffee and pastry in one of the local bakehouses. A quick stroll through the blocks southwards then takes you to the Agora.
That was the epicentre of life in the ancient city state, complete with shrines and marketplaces and statues. The piece de resistance is the Temple of Hephaestus, which crowns a hillside on its northern end. Nearby, the blocks of Syntagma and Syntagma Square offer a glimpse at the modern edge of the Greek capital.
The vast plaza at the area's heart hosts the Old Royal Palace of the Greek monarchy. There are also countless places to sit with a cold lunchtime beer. Finished? Go south and you'll find the mighty Temple of Olympian Zeus. It is half ruined but still draws a gasp from most visitors on account of its monstrous Corinthian columns.
In the afternoon, catch a tram towards the National Archaeological Museum. Inside, you'll discover perhaps the richest collection of ancient artifacts there are in the world.
What's more, the district on the doorstep is Exarcheia. Be careful with your valuables in those parts, because it's rough and gritty, but the streets ooze character and have perhaps the most hedonistic bars in the country.
Capodichino Airport, or Naples Airport, is the main gateway to the city by air. It's the fifth largest in the country, so should have lots of low-cost and premium services jetting into its runways. There's a metro line to the terminal in the works, but for now arrivals will need to use the Alibus to Naples Centrale station. Tickets cost about €5 each way and the travel time is roughly 15 minutes outside of rush hours.
Centrale Station is a main stop on the north-south railway line through Italy. It's easy to get there on high-speed links from Rome and even Milan. That's one of the most glamourous ways to arrive in Campania, offering gorgeous views of the countryside before pulling right into the heart of the city.
Naples has a reputation for being Italy's roughest and most dangerous place. It's true that crime rates are higher here than in the north. What's more, the mafia are still in action in these parts. You'll want to be a little more careful walking around areas like the Naples Centrale station and Quartieri Spagnoli. Also try to stick to more touristy central districts, and don't walk alone at night. On top of that, be wary of street touts selling stolen goods, and be on the guard for pickpockets and drive-by thieves on scooters.
Traveling from Athens airport is best done using the metro. Line 3 links directly to the terminal. The fare is a flat €10 and the journey takes around 40 minutes each way. If leaving the city, be sure to catch the right train, because not all departures on the line go to the same place.
Always beware of pickpockets, muggers, thieves and scams in Athens. The capital is generally safe, but certain areas – the Plaka, Omonoia Square and Exarcheia especially – do see regular crimes against tourists. Try to keep a hand on your wallet and an eye on your bag at all times.
Political upheavals in Athens are a common problem. Widespread discontent with the government has led to regular protests and marches since the 2000s. They can sometimes bring the whole city to a standstill and are worth avoiding – teargas, clashes with police and even Molotov cocktails have been known to play a part.
Getting around Athens is relatively easy. You've got a metro network that links most of the main tourist areas and the airport. Above ground, there are buses and trams going out to lesser known neighborhoods. There are both kiosks and vending machines at the entrance to most stations for you to buy tickets. They cost €1.40 and are valid for 90 minutes from the moment of validation.