Forget the tourist guide. Explore Athens and get lost in the chaos of its meandering streets, and your efforts will be duly rewarded. If, however, you need more encouragement, here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to lose the map in the city of Athens, Greece.
With its blend of modernity and antiquity, a walk around Athens transports you back 6,000 years. Blessed with a rich ancient and medieval history, the city features the Acropolis, the ancient agora as well as a few temples dedicated to gods of the past. You can even see Aristotle’s Peripatetic School. Deepen the experience by visiting the various museums on offer, including the National Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum and the Acropolis Museum.
Athens is considered as a city with one of the most vibrant street art scenes in all of Europe. Forget your plans and take the time to stroll around the center, as well as the stunning districts of Psirri, Exarcheia, Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio where street artists use the city’s concrete walls as their canvas. Many organizations offer walking tours, which allows you to discover and learn more about specific artists as well.
It is widely known that Greece is home to one of the best diets in the world. Characterized by ample portions of sun-grown vegetables, meat and seafood, Greek cuisine deserves to be enjoyed. Depending on the area you find yourself in, you can find many dining options. For an authentic, traditional meal, head to Taverna tou Oikonomou in Petralona. Tzitzikas & Mermigas is another great option downtown and in Chalandri. For seafood – this is a no-brainer – head to Piraeus. Wherever you go, try souvlaki, as well as pastitsio, moussaka, tiropita (cheese pie), spanakopita (spinach pie) and koulouri. Be adventurous. Try new things. When it comes to food, disappointment is a rare thing in Greece.
In a country where family and tradition play a major role in everyday life, it is not rare to find small, family-run businesses, which are now a rarity in many other European nations. As such, Greece is a place where you can enjoy real customer service, where you are welcome and treated as a family guest. Do not be surprised if the owner of the small mezedopoleio you stumbled across for lunch offers you free wine or raki. It is part of the Greek filoxenia, or hospitality.
In a city where summer lasts more than four months of the year and where social life happens outdoors, rooftops are a must. With the recent boom in the bar scene and the emergence of creative concoctions made with local ingredients, it comes as no surprise that cocktails are Athenians’ new favorite drinks. Picture yourself watching the sky on a rooftop bar, a mastiha-infused cocktail in hand, with the lit-up Acropolis in plain sight. Divine, right? This is only a small taste of what Athenian summer nights are made of – and if this hasn’t convinced you yet, we don’t know what will.
The center of Athens may not be the most aesthetically pleasing area of town, but it still offers a wide range of buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. With a plethora of neoclassical houses or modern buildings, there are many wonders you should venture to see. Many neighborhoods are ideal for strolling around, such as Metz, located right behind the Kallimarmaro stadium, Petralona, and Thissio.
Full moons are always a phenomenal moment, but once a year, during the August full moon, the Acropolis, Parthenon and Lycabettus show off their spectacular beauty bathed in moonlight, while the city celebrates the occasion with many events such as classical music festivals and other activities.
Once you get your fix of cultural and historical wonders, it is time for you to enjoy one of Greece’s most treasured features: the sea. Luckily for you, Athens has a long coastline of beaches and small coves progressing all the way to Cape Sounio, at the southeastern tip of the Attica region. Whether you decide to rent a car (please be cautious) or take public transportation, a day trip on the Athenian Riviera is well worth the effort.
While the city is filled with live music tavernas, it is not rare to find yourself enjoying dinner when all of a sudden, a motivated group of friends start playing rebetiko songs with a guitar. If you’re lucky enough, you will see that the crowd gladly joins in, and just like that, you have your own personal show. Even if you’re not into this kind of music, you will quickly sense something magical in the atmosphere.