Ancient Ruins, Ancient Temples
People consider modern Athens to be one of the most interesting places in the world. It combines the Oriental motifs of its buildings with antiquities of the ancient city and modern objects d’art amazingly. It is fun to be here, taste local specialties, enjoy local color, and get an unforgettable and interesting experience.
Athens can be compared to Rome in terms of the date of the foundation: no one knows who and when established the town. According to a legend, the city existed before the Mycenaean civilization. For instance, one of the works by Plato tells that the Egyptian priestess of the goddess Isis told Solon about the existence of a flourishing city bearing the name of Athens about 9.000 BC.
Pelasgi were the first officially proven residents of Athens. The myths say that this place was later inhabited by the Ionians. They are often associated with the rule of the first mythical king Cercops who gave the name to the first acropolis.
According to myths, the city had close political, commercial and economic contacts with Crete.
During the times of the Trojan War, Athens sent over 3.000 soldiers on 50 ships to support Mycenae, standing against Troy. Menestheus was at the head of this ferocious fleet.
The city was gradually developing. It resulted from the mining of tin, silver, and iron in the mines of Lavrion. The Athenians were also developing food and light industries using the production of clay pottery, honey, wine, olive oil, fabrics, and Pentelic marble. All that strengthened the economy and promoted the establishment of trading relations with other policies and countries.
Along with the economy, Athens was developing its jurisprudence. The severe Dragon was the first lawmaker who perpetuated them on the marble bars. Over time, they were replaced by more reasonable and mild laws by Solon bearing the name of “Sesachthia.” They made people free of the debt burden.
After that Athens experienced the “Golden Age.” It caused a culture boom, the results of which became a reliable foundation for the culture of the West.
After that, the city started to gradually weaken. During the times of Justinian I, this cultural capital turned into a usual province, the philosophical schools of which were closed by the act of the emperor.
In 1458, the Turks captured the city and joined it to the Ottoman Empire. The population of the city significantly decreased due to untenable living conditions. A lot of cultural monuments and the entire district were destroyed by the occupants during this period. The decay of Parthenon was a result of a conflict with the Venetian Republic.
In 1833, Athens became the focus of interest again. King Otto of Bavaria declared the city to be the capital of the Kingdom of Greece. At that time, the city was inhabited by 5.000 people. The ruins of local houses were replaced by modern buildings in the neoclassic style. The streets and the corresponding infrastructure was set for people’s comfort.
At the beginning of the XX century, the population of Athens began to increase thanks to a range of international agreements.
During World War II, Athens suffered occupation. Its completion enabled the active development of the city and the entire country as well.
Modern Athens is a developed megapolis with the underground railway system, many highways, excellent transport junction, antique monuments, and trendy nightclubs.
There are several ways to reach Athens:
Athens is an amazing city. Every quarter and street here has its peculiar features, which provide travelers with a special impression. Some people will say that it is dirty, messy, and full of immigrants, someone will also add that local houses are old and run-down, while others will admire it with astonishment, telling that they have never seen a more beautiful city in their life.
Your impression directly depends on the district you choose to live and walk through. The territory of Athens can be conventionally divided into:
Athens Old City. It houses the Acropolis, which Greek means “upper city.” It sits on the limestone plateau at an altitude of 156 meters. The Acropolis of Athens consists of a series of properties: the monumental gateway leading to the Ionic colonnade of the Propylaea, the picture gallery of Pinacotheca, a small temple of Athena Nike (undergoes renovation), and the Parthenon that was housing the statue of the patroness in the past. By the foot of the Acropolis, you can find the Theatre of Dionsus, which became the cradle of the Greek dramaturgy. In a 500-meter distance of the Acropolis, you can find the ruins which were once known as the magnificent Temple of Olympus Zeus. Plaka is the most picturesque neighborhood of Athens. People often call it “Neighborhood of the Gods” as it sits between the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympus Zeus. Right next to Plaka, there is a picturesque neighborhood of Anafiotika that is famous for its snow-white houses. During a stay in Athens, do not miss an opportunity to walk along Adrianou Street, the oldest street in the city. To the north of Plaka, there is the neighborhood of Monastiraki. It reminds travelers of the multi-colored oriental bazaar with its colorful residents. There are a lot of authentic taverns, cafes, a flea market, and many souvenirs shops here.
Modern City occupies the rest of the area, which consists of.
The Church of Agios Eleftherios – it is a small church of the XII century. It is one of the oldest churches in the city. This stylish marble building is adorned with carvings, old frescos, and icons, providing a special peaceful environment.
Temple of Hephaestus – this temple was perfectly kept despite the eventful history of Greece. The entry on its territory is free of charge from November till March. If you come at any other time, you will have to buy a complex ticket to visit the Acropolis.
The New Acropolis Museum –is an ultra-modern building that was established on the ancient ruins. The museum has got a glass floor, which lets its visitors have a closer look at the remains of the ancient civilization. The exposition includes a lot of antique statues, the fragments of pottery, primitive tools, and unsophisticated weapons. The roof of the museum houses a small café, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and fascinating views.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens offers a wonderful opportunity to trace the history of the city from early days up to the present. The ancient figurines, antique clothes, weapons, agricultural tools, jewelry, the ruins of the walls of the city, and antique furniture help visitors to get a complete idea of the people’s lifestyle throughout different epochs.
To look at Athens from the height, you will need to go to the Areopagus rock. It sits in the northwest area of the Acropolis. It was formerly known as the political center of the city. At present, it is a favorite place of travelers and newly married couples who arrange wedding photo sessions here.
The Benaki Museum – is a place where you can see the distinct influence of the Ottoman culture on the Greek culture and vice versa. It is a private museum, preserving the best examples of two countries. At present, it is engaged in educational and restoration activities.
The Museum of Greek Folk Art demonstrates that the Greeks are keen not only on the creation of masterpieces of marble, elephant ivories, and clay, but also on embroidery, pottery, decorations, and clothes design.
The Museum of Traditional Pottery – the name of the museum speaks for itself. The region, housing the museum, was the home for potters during the times of antiquity. The exposition includes a great number of statuaries and compositions of the antique period.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus – it is an amphitheater that keeps on working till present days. It sits on the southern hill of the Ancient Agora. The only bad thing about this place is that you can visit it only if it hosts festive events. You can easily access it in summer as it is the main place for holding theatrical festivals.
The Port of Piraeus – is the oldest port, where you can enjoy the sound of the sea, spectacular panoramas, and experience the Greek color to the fullest extent.
Monastiraki Flea Market – it is the biggest flea market, where you can get to know better the notion of “Greek trade.” Even if you do not plan to buy anything, you should necessarily take a walk between the rows.
Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum – this museum exhibits over 4.000 fascinating items, allowing visitors to trace the establishment of jewelry in Greece. The permanent exhibition also demonstrates the works made by the founder of the museum.
The Old Royal Palace – it sits on Syntagma Square, just a few steps away from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Every hour, you can see a Changing the Guard Ceremony here. It is a very exciting performance, which constantly attracts a lot of attention. Do not forget to draw your attention to the way the soldiers are dressed.
The range of activities in Athens is diverse. The city offers:
Greece and the world of high fashion can be compared to two parallel lines that haven’t crossed yet. It is perspective enough to become the fashion capital of the world in the future. Shopping in Athens has its own specificities. First of all, one should mention that travelers can buy most European brands with discounts. This results from the decision of the local government which obliged the shops to hold sales 4 times a year. There are also shops selling goods of local production. You can recognize them by the judicial acts on their doors.
During a stay in Athens, you should necessarily buy some clothes of local designers. They are equal to famous mass-markets brands in terms of quality and boast of having an exciting texture and intricate design.
We recommend that you draw your attention to:
There are two large jewelry houses in Athens, creating unique pieces of jewelry of gold and silver. They will make you feel like Athena, Hera, Demeter or Aphrodite.
If you are looking for an ideal outwear for winter, then you will do great shopping here. Local prices are higher when compared to Kastoria (the place of main factories’ location), but a great variety of goods compensates for this issue. Right near Mitropoleos Square, there is a shop belonging to one of the oldest companies in Athens – Avanti Furs (operates from 1864). The Karakul, sable, marten, and polar fox coats can be bought at Emzo Furs, Naomi Furs, etc.
Do not forget to include Glyfada in the shopping list – it is a real mecca for buyers. There are a lot of fashion boutiques, jewelry stores, and shopping centers in the district.
The Greeks are considered to be family men. Hence, many cities in the country provide all the necessary conditions for a holiday with children. Both children and their parents will like the cultural program offered by Athens. We suggest you visit:
Athens has a diverse nightlife. Thousands of bright lights brighten the darkness when the sun goes down. These small sparkles are supplemented with all sorts of sounds, creating a unique night symphony: the vibes of a rave venue, the rhythm, and bass of the nightclubs hosting a famous DJ this night, shout and noise coming from the square, acting as a stage for dancing performances.
7 Times is considered to be the best venue for youth. It has a stylish interior, which inspires visitors to take Instagram stories. Its cocktail card is large. 7 Times suggests its visitors listen to modern tracks, making Shazam work non-stop. Here you can enjoy an inexpensive hooka. All those features set a perfect atmosphere for relaxation till early morning hours.
Architektoniki – it is a legendary concert venue in Athens. It evidenced the first steps in the music of many popular Greek singers. At present, it is a hotspot for youth, coming here to relax and listen to new artists.
MoMix Molecular Mixology Kerameikos – the high cuisine of this venue is represented by the molecular drinks. At the time when the best venues in France cook only meals, this venue excites its visitors with unique cocktails. Their presentation fascinates. The impression is doubled when visitors start feeling play of the flavors. All those features are flavored with a musical performance, inviting visitors to dance after dining.
Golden Queens – it is a Greek cabaret, where you can admire a dance and vocal show for adult visitors, enjoying a glass of sparkling wine.
Taf The Art Foundation – this art-café is especially lovely at night when dozens of street lights brighten the darkness. It was designed in the style of a small Italian courtyard. In the evenings, representatives of local bohemia often come here to relax.
Brettos Bar – it is a bar with centuries-old history, where you can try ouzo, traditional Greek vodka, wine (over 130 types), and one of the home-made liqueurs. The atmosphere promotes a perfect environment for a chat with a friend.
If you like to party on the beach until early morning hours, then you should necessarily visit Fantasia Live. It is a small concert hall on the promenade. Every evening, it welcomes the fans of Greek folk music and lively dancing.
Athens Festival – you will hardly find at least one theatre-goer who can miss this bright event. For 60 years already, the drama groups from around the world have been coming here to show their art. You can see their performances on both traditional stages – the theatre on Lycabettus Hill and the ancient Epidaurus Theatre – and at non-traditional locations – open terraces, industrial buildings, and cafes.
Epidaurus Festival is held every year from June till August. During this time, on the stage of the Odeon Theater of Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus hosts the reproductions of works by the ancient Greek playwrights such as Sophocles and Aristophanes. It is a unique experience for observers as they have an opportunity to see the ancient Greek stage play in the place, where it was initially presented to the public. Many plays got a new lease of life in the XXI century thanks to modern interpretation.
Art Athina – it is a festival which lasts three days. It is held in June in the building of the Athens Conservatory. It is a great time to admire various installations from all over the world under one roof.
Athens Digital Arts Festival takes place every year in May. The target mission of this event is to show that the future is closer than it seems to be. In the framework of this festival, the artists represent their vision of modern art using the technologies of the XXI century.
Onassis Fast Forward Festival is another art-festival you cannot miss visiting. It is held in May. It is a challenge to all our thought about art, life, and the Universe using hybrid presentations, interactive installations, and videos. It takes place around the city on private and public platforms.
Summer Nostos Festival takes place every year in June under the support of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre. This event provides its guests with the possibility to take part in sports competitions, visit exhibitions, art performances, concerts of Greek and international artists, and learn how to do something new at the masterclasses.
Athens Xclusive Designers Week – it is held every year in the building of an insurance company sitting in Syngrou Avenue. The beginning designers, couturiers, and famous figures in the fashion industry of Greece demonstrate their clothes collections here in the framework of the annual fashion week.
Plisskën Festival – it is a music festival, which annually intrigues the locals with newly-designed music products. For instance, in 2019, its stage hosted such world-famous starts as Giorgio Moroder, The Black Madonna, Jungle, Hunee, and Boy Harsher. The visitors of the festival have an opportunity to visit several cultural events within one location.
Megaron Concert Hall Garden Series – it is a series of evening performances, held every day in the gardens of Megaron Concert Hall. Here, you can listen to something from the repertoire of the Vienna Philharmonic or a song by Leonard Cohen, performed in the moonlight among orange and locust trees.
Colour Day Festival – it is the brightest festival in Athens. It is held every year in June. Leave your formal clothes at home and get ready to fight using Holi powder. It is a joyful and exciting event that impresses both children and adults.
Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival – it annually takes place in Technopolis. It is an international festival that unites musicians and fans of jazz from all over the globe.
Since Athens is the capital of Greece, it annually welcomes millions of visitors. Thus, its hotel business is booming. The variants for accommodation range from cheap rooms on the outskirts of the town up to elite hotels.
The residents of Athens actively give their apartments for rent during the peak of festivals and the beach season. We recommend that you hire accommodation via local websites. Thus, you can rest assured that the booking will be done successfully. Furthermore, the cost of your apartment will be much lower, compared to booking via international websites, specializing in short-term rent facilities.
There are many private villas of different comfort levels in the city. You can find them in the area near the promenade and the city center. Thus, you can choose the option matching the purpose of the journey.
Hilton Athens – this hotel chain needs no introduction. Ergonomic design, pseudo-ascetic rooms, spacious conference halls, and several restaurants have already provided this brand with a specific level of prestige. Apart from dishes of European cuisine, you can enjoy a lot of traditional delicacies here, including cheese and traditional wine. The rooms of Hilton Athens overlook the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill.
Electra Palace Athens – it is a 5-star hotel, standing in the very heart of Plaka. A beautiful neo-classical building provides its transients with spacious rooms, a SPA center, a gym, a conference hall, and several restaurants. An open rooftop terrace is the gem of the hotel. Here, you can have some dining, admire the views of the Acropolis or refresh in the swimming pool. There is also a quiet garden within the hotel’s area.
Hotel Grande Bretagne –this hotel dates back to 1872. It provides its clientele with luxurious suites and a huge wine cellar with exclusive Greek wines.
COCO-MAT Athens Jumelle – it is a luxurious hotel sitting in the heart of Kolonaki. Its rooms come with interesting elaborated interior design and all the necessary facilities for a comfortable stay: a tasty breakfast, special pillows for deep sleep, a Hammam, and a swimming pool. Furthermore, it sits in the vicinity of many historical landmarks (for example, you can take a walk to the Acropolis through Athens National Garden), which makes it an ideal place for travelers.
AD Athens Luxury Rooms & Suites – it is a small hotel in the neomodern style. It stands near the New Acropolis Museum. Its rooms have a modern design. The hotel provides a kid’s playroom on the first floor. There are coloring books and toys for children in it.
Kubic Athens Smart Hotel – it is a fancy hotel, which occupies an old industrial building with steel and glass face in the center of Athens, near the Omonia Station. Its visitors are offered to accommodate into stylish rooms with fascinating views. They also have access to unlimited supplies of orange fresh in the restaurant, situated on the first floor.
Hotel Lozenge – this hotel enjoys a convenient location in Kolonaki. It sits not far from luxurious designer shops. Most of its rooms come with a private balcony, overlooking the beautiful city center. The on-site fine dining restaurant features panoramic windows, which make evening dining incredibly romantic.
Greece can be regarded as the younger sister of France in terms of hedonism. Its cuisine is not so high; it has a simpler plate service and structure. At the time when restaurants in Paris require special dress code (it is not allowed to visit most of the restaurants in sportswear and informal clothes), the restaurants in Greece will gladly treat you with their tasty meals without any formal clothes.
Let us start a familiarization tour with Athens from aperitif. One should note that the food culture is elevated here to a sacred significance. The Greeks adamantly opposed to fast food. They enjoy each bite of their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the same time, it does not mean that the country does not have its national fast food. Souvlatzidiko is a local analog of McDonald’s. It is a small café, which often does not have tables and focuses on servicing of all hungry visitors. These cafes sell Souvlaki (small shashlik) and gyros. The closer the venue sits to the center, the smaller portions it offers. Nevertheless, it does not have any influence on the taste of a meal.
To find the best gyros in Athens, you should go to Dionysiou Areopagitou, 8 to a venue ΜΙΚΡΟ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΟ. The rumors say that its signature dish, the response to Turkish kebab, is prepared upon a secret recipe.
Among the venues where you can have a snack are:
O Kostas (Pentelis, 5) – this venue has a long history. The signs and yellow press-cuttings on the walls demonstrate that the cooks have been preparing Souvlaki here since 1950. You can see all the possible variations of this meal at the showcase.
Everest – it is a network of coffee shops, which operate as fast food venues. Here you can enjoy spanakopita (phyllo pastry with spinach staffing) and Tiropita (Greek cheese pie). The portions of Everest are the largest ones in the city!
A coffee drinking session is a sacral ceremony in the life of every adult Greek. Coffee has a lot of variations here. That is why Athens boasts a great number of hospitable venues, where you can do both enjoy the skills of local baristas and take several pictures for your travel diary.
Κιμωλία Art Cafe – it is a small art-café, the stylistics of which combines the elements of Provence with the pop-modern features in the oriental handling, inspired by the atmosphere of French coffeehouses of the mid-thirties.
Noel – this venue will impress you with its strange design: the replicas of famous paintings hanging on the bright walls, a huge chandelier in the style of French Barocco, the abundance of garlands and artificial flowers, and scrappy furniture. At the same time, if you take a closer look, this café will remind you of a secret garden that could evidence the coffee-parties of Carroll’s Alice. There are pancakes with various condiments, a small choice of pizza, sandwiches, and light snacks on the menu.
My Pastaflora – it is a comfortable café with the walls painted Tiffany Blue and vintage furniture. It is especially awesome in the morning when the sunlight penetrates inside through large windows. It has a rich choice of coffee, which is usually served with crispy sandwiches with cheese.
Melina Merkouri Cafe – this café has both beautiful interior and exterior. It sits on a narrow cobblestone street, drowning in greens and flowers. Its interior is an excellent example of a classic style of Montmartre: there are a lot of black-and-white photos on its walls; the chandelier is adorned with a huge garland that is a combination of flowers and leaves; small round tables for two-three people invite visitors to get in. You can have a cup of Espresso here and feel as if you were a writer whose book will become a bestseller in the future.
Mokka – this venue complements each cup of coffee with several pieces of Turkish delight, made of roses and hand-made Mastiha.
There are a lot of restaurants in Athens. They differ from each other upon the level of service and atmosphere.
GB Roof Garden – this venue will treat you with the tuna fillet with sauce, a portion of Greek salad with sophisticated sauce, and the salmon steak with brown rice. It will supplement your dining with excellent views of the after-dark city.
Feedέλ Urban Gastronomy – the concept of this venue is not new for visitors from Europe. At present, more people realize the need of living side by side with nature. Its simple interior perfectly combines an abundance of plants with wooden furniture and simple shapes. The cooks present almost each of their dishes in a unique manner, for example, pitas with vegetables held by clothespins, clay pots with flavor seafood soup, a grilled octopus with balls made of thick sauce, veal medallions on cheese.
Kuzina – this venue is annually mentioned in the Michelin guide thanks to its signature dishes and interesting combinations of flavors. Here, you can try tuna with ginger in a special sauce, risotto with goat’s cheese, roasted feta with cranberry sauce made by the renowned chef Aris Tsanaklidis.
For something special, visit Hard Rock Cafe. It serves huge burgers, juicy ribs with sauce, steaks of the required degree of doneness, a “do-it-yourself” dish (including pita, fresh vegetables, and sauce), and onion rings au gratin in the atmosphere of American rock. While a visitor is waiting for his order, he can have a detailed look on the guitars at the walls.
The fans of colorful venues can also find a place to their taste here. They can start a tour with Oinomageireio Epirus on Filopimenos, 4. This small venue sits right in the middle of the meat market. It is very noisy here. This canteen is mostly visited by the locals. Thus, you will have an excellent opportunity to fully immerse into the life of the Greeks. The portions here are huge, while their cost is low.
Varvakios is another exciting market sitting upon the address of Athinas, 42. It is a very noisy and colorful location: its fussy merchants offer fresh octopuses, calamaries, mussels, oysters, the caviar of sea urchins (exactly the ones which like to hurt divers). There are a few taverns in the market. These venues can cook a grilled Dorado or octopus for you. You should also visit a tavern Epirus to try its excellent margirica and nourishing patsas.
After that, we suggest you visit Mama Roux. It is a very colorful venue treating its visitors with simple homemade Greek food: tzatziki with garnish and sauce, tortilla with diverse stuffing, spaghetti with seafood, and delicious desserts.
Sweets deserve particular attention. Considering the number of confectioneries in Athens, the Greeks can easily enter the sweet tooth list.
Zuccherino – it is a real must-visit-to-eat place in Athens. It will make any adult feel like a child who wants to try it all from a huge shop window: gelato with different flavors, small lemon tart shells with meringue, frozen yogurt, chocolate salami of several types, Viennese waffles with chocolate topping and fruit, a Three Milk Cake (Tres Leches), the “Anna Pavlova” dessert, and other sweets.
To koulouri tou Psirri at the address of Karaiskaki, 23 – it is one of the few bakeries, which operate 24/7 and delivers fresh Koulouri (sesame bread ring) to local offices and houses.
Fresko Yogurt Bar Acropoli – it is a yogurt bar, inviting visitors to try a tasty and nutritious goat’s milk-based smoothie with hazel-nuts, fruit jellies, jam, and fruit.
If you cannot imagine your holiday without ice-cream, then you should go to DaVinci, providing over 30 flavor combinations; Cremino, serving homemade ice-cream made of natural components with rare flavors; or Le Greche that invites to try exceptional ice-cream with the taste of Mochito.
According to Section 1 Article 10 of the Most Existent Gourmet Code, it is a serious crime to visit Greece and forget to try local wine and cheese. There are a few excellent restaurants in Athens, which offer tasting sets of Greek wines. Among them are:
Cinque Wine & Deli Bar – it is a wine bar with an elaborated alcoholic menu, boasting with a selection of red, white, dry, sweet, and semi-sweet wines. We advise you to taste Agiorgitiko and Mavrodaphne (from red wines), Malagousia and Assyrtiko (from white wines). They are followed by sets of meat and cheese snacks, olives, bruschetta with feta cheese and cherry-tomatoes, snails, and seafood. The waiters of the Cinque Wine & Deli Bar also hold small lections about the main wineries and the key differences of the wines from all over the country.
You should necessarily visit the following winery tasting rooms: Vintage Wine Bar& Bistro (Mitropoleos, 66), Oinoscent (Voulis 45-47), and Yoleni’s Greek Gastronomy Center (Solonos, 9).
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