The best destination comparison site!
The best destination comparison site!
Both Athens and Paris 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 Paris and Athens, hopefully making your choice that little easier.
The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the links:
• Introduction to the cities
• Scores and ratings
• Which one should I, friends, or family visit?
• When to visit and weather
• Who is the city suited for?
• The perfect 48hours (with map)
• 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.
Paris is famed as the capital of Romance, the epicentre of French culture and grand European art, and the home of iconic monuments like the Eiffel Tower. There's no question that it's an amazing city to explore.
Everywhere you go along the Seine River it seems like there's a world-class museum or gallery beckoning. But Paris can also be overwhelming, not to mention downright gritty in some parts.
The history here goes back to the Celtic tribes of the 400s BC. But it was the 7th-century fortifications on the Île de la Cité that went on to form the medieval kernel of the town.
The capital still radiates out from that, with bohemian neighborhoods along the Canal Saint-Martin, stereotypically Parisian cafes and cobbled streets in Montmartre, and enthralling cultural and foodie attractions throughout other arrondissements (areas).
Which city would I go to?
Which one would I recommend to my parents?
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!
Paris could take a lifetime to explore completely. This is a living, breathing, sprawling capital city, which means even the locals can be surprised at the new cafes, bistros, and cultural events that come and go. For travellers, at least three days is a good idea.
That's probably just enough to see the mainstay sights and hop into the Louvre to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Trips to explore outer arrondissements and sample Paris's pumping nightlife should probably be between four days and a whole week, with more extensions needed if you want to hit the Loire Valley for wine tasting.
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!
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.
Paris is known for its café culture, it would be a shame to miss all those al fresco coffees on the canal side. Enjoyments like that are most likely to be had in the warmer months, which – this far north in France – means May to September.
Outside of those, the rainfall picks up and things get chilly. That said, the summer is the most expensive and busy part of the year, so you'll be contending with others for those selfies by the Eiffel Tower.
Visits pre-Christmas tend to be pricier than those after Christmas. If you're eager to cosy up and see Paris in the ice and cold, you might want to push your break to February or March. Those months tend to be nice, quiet and free from the tourist masses.
Paris is a master of art and culture. From the gold-gilded palaces of Versailles to the endless works of the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, you'll never be short on paintings or architecture or sculpture.
But the best Paris trips mix all that with a little bit of food, some classic sightseeing, and even a touch of hedonism. That makes this a versatile city-break option, offering wine bars and bucket-list attractions like the Eiffel Tower.
It's probably worth dodging Paris if you're not the sort who deals well with crowds, traffic, and big cities. The nearest place you can go to escape to nature are the forest parks on the outskirts. What's more, it can take a while to get from A to B in the French capital.
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.
Paris in 48 hours is a hard ask, but this itinerary should help distil the city's preeminent culture, art and atmosphere into two short days:
Day 1: Breakfast time in the 19th arrondissement. Local and traveller joints meet there, with some charming cafés and bakeries lining Le Bassin de la Villette, where there are open-air swimming spots in the summer months. Then, move south-west along the picturesque Canal Saint-Martin.
It takes you to the beating heart of the city, just shy of where the Île de la Cité hosts the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame. Take your photos and then move across the Seine River to the famous Latin Quarter.
Day 2: Seek out the bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre to start your second day in Paris. It's known for its zigzagging cobbled streets and urban staircases, but also comes replete with cosy coffee houses with crispy croissants. At the very top of the hill where the district is draped is the gorgeous Sacré-Cœur. Its great travertine domes gaze over the city, so expect some awesome views.
On the way down, heading west, you might just pass by the infamous Moulin Rouge and its makeshift windmill all lit up in red neon. You can catch a metro from that to go along to Ternes. Emerge and you'll be looking straight down at the Arc de Triomphe, which marks the start of the Champs-Élysées – a place to shop till you drop.
Be sure to pull yourself from that grand boulevard with enough time (and light) left to see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. The landmark is just over the river to the south, but the best view might be from the Trocadéro Gardens on the northern banks.
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.
The Old Parliament House served as the parliament building until 1935
Paris is served by two large international airports. Low-cost carriers typically use Orly. From there, you can hop to Anthony Train Station and then switch to the urban metro line to reach the city. The trip costs around €12 in total. The more famous and larger airport at Roissy Charles de Gaulle is for long-haul fliers and premium services. It's linked straight to the Gare du Nord station in the middle of the city by regular trains that take around 35 minutes from terminal to town.
The Parisian transport network is vast and efficient. Travelers shouldn't need more than the RER and Metro combination. They can be caught to virtually all the major sights and areas around the capital. You can purchase a contactless card ticket to travel on all the lines – tariffs are €1.90 per ride.
Even among the French themselves, the Parisian people are renowned for being curt and a little rude. Remember that this is a working, living metropolis, so expect central areas to be busy with commuters and the like. You'll also want to be especially cautious on public transport when carrying large luggage or travelling at night, because pickpocketing and thefts certainly aren't unheard of.
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.