Many tried to put me off visiting Greece and exploring Athens altogether. It’s hot, polluted and dusty friends said. Moreover the country is in the middle of an economic meltdown more severe than the Great Depression. I could have been exploring Vatican City instead.

I arrived to a city of orange trees and warm spring evenings. Maybe later in the year Athens lives up to this insidious reputation, but not in May. Spring is the perfect time of year for exploring Athens. The days are not too hot and the touristic centre is small enough to explore without using public transport.

As I started exploring Athens I found myself wandering the small backstreets that rise up towards the Acropolis, passing pretty whitewashed houses along the way. A group of students at the top of the hill were busy dancing to a rendition of YMCA against the backdrop of cityscape millennia old on the evening we arrived.

From Bronze Age temples to medieval Coptic churches the city has a bit of everything for history lovers. A long weekend gives you plenty of time for exploring Athens and finding the best parts of the city. While you’re here I’d also recommend a day trip to the Temple of Poseidon tucked on the last outpost of the Aegean.

If history is not your thing there are plenty of other diversions for you, food for example. Like much of the Mediterranean a café culture has invaded the city. Tables are spread over the roads and local residents seem to enjoy watching the evening unwind around them as they tuck into delicious local delicacies. It was the perfect place to watch a policeman hop over a garden wall to retrieve his new remote control helicopter.

Despite the fears of my friends and family, my decision to visit Athens is not one that I regret, which is why it’s on my list of top European city breaks for 2013. Put simply, if you have the chance you should definitely consider exploring Athens.