So you threw your dart on the map and it hit Greece, but you only have a weekend to spend in Athens? It is not a rare scenario, as Athens is the gateway city for nearly 16 million people visiting Greece’s countless tourist destinations every year. But the burning questions are “what to see?” and “how to maximize” your Athens experience?
You can come to Athens and not spend a single hour indoors. But these are the top 5 reasons you should not:
Built to fulfill the need for a space that can accommodate all the great exhibits that were found on and around the Acropolis rock, it is not named “New Acropolis Museum” by accident. Delivered in the summer of 2009, it is the third museum built for this purpose as the first two –much smaller ones- got full pretty quickly. Soon after the liberation from the Turks, Greeks started to excavate, salvage, collect and restore whatever Acropolis antiquities had not been destroyed – or carried away – during the Ottoman rule.
It is said, and maybe not unjustly, that Greeks have a serious case of iced -coffee addiction. As a non-Greek friend pointed out on his first visit in Athens, “everybody seems to always have a glass or plastic cup in hand, with a straw sticking out and some foamy, brown liquid in it!” No matter where they are, or what they are doing: relaxing in a café or driving a tractor, selling fruit in a farmer’s market or addressing a group of students in a seminar hall.
A visit to Acropolis is somehow “mandatory” during a visit to Athens, but the long walk up and around this rock is an almost equally rewarding experience. Of course, the area surrounding the Acropolis and the Filopapou hill (facing across it from the southwest) has not always looked as it does today. It was transformed to the landscape you can currently see by one of the most ingenious and influential Greek architects, Dimitrios Pikionis (1887-1968), between 1954 and 1958.
Warning Note: Always specify the level of sweetness you prefer; “Sweet” or “Glikos”, as it is pronounced, means (usually) 2 teaspoons of coffee and 4 teaspoons of sugar. Medium or “Metrios” means 2 teaspoons of coffee and 2 teaspoons of sugar). Plain or no sugar or “Sketos” means 2 teaspoons of coffee and no sugar. And no, it is not easy to add as much sugar as you want later cause of the foam and the fact that the ice cubes will make it hard for the sugar to be dissolved.
A magical territory with suiting, pagan-sounding place-names. Like the “Gamila” (camel) mountain, which guards this cluster of small villages made of stone, called “Zagoria”, so picturesque that they seem to belong to a fairy-tale. Or the mesmerizing color of “Voidomatis” (the Oxeye), the clearest river in Europe where you can dive and go rafting, floating through places beautiful and isolated, which you cannot see in any other way except by paddling. Then, you can take a walk to Vikos Gorge, with its breathtaking views and unique plants, once home to druid-like spirit-doctors that healed people with rare herbs they gathered there, or go on a 4-hour hike up to the Dragolimni (yup it means Dragon Lake) an Alpine magnificent small lake inhabited by little tritons, on top of Tympfi mountain. And live on a diet of homemade pies, local free-range meat and fish fresh from the river. Oh, and tsipouro spirit of course.
Pies or “pites” (plural for “pita”) in Greek is not one, but a complete gigantic category of foods and sweets in both traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine. Basically, it is anything that is either wrapped or simply enclosed between one, two or more layers of dough – made of flour and water – spread so much that after baking it is as fragile, thin and crisp as an extremely dried leaf. Hence its name “filo”, that means “leaf” in Greek.
What do Greeks eat for breakfast? Well, it depends mainly on their age and the time of the season. For the over-30-something generation, breakfast is something they usually have to postpone as they are running late for work or school. They get a cup of coffee –usually filtered that they call “Galikos” (means “French”) in the winter and “frappe” in the hotter months and off they go.
Many years ago, during a Rockwave live concert by the sea, on the south shore of Athens, rock band Garbage came up on stage for their first time in Greece. Their lead singer saluted the crowd and yelled out “Athena… born out of a man’s headache? I love this city!”.
That was when it hit me. Yeap, “Athens”, Greece’s capital is named after the ancient goddess of wisdom and knowledge. But why? And when?
You are walking through one of the most hectic and intense traffic junctions of the city and suddenly two ancient Greek gods fly over your horizon! Relax; it’s neither the heat of the sun, nor the power of ouzo that hit you. The two statues – of Athena and Apollo – are guarding a 3- building complex called the “Athenian Trilogy”, the epitome of neoclassical architecture in Greece.
A great part of the tourist world thinks of Greece like a theme park. With summer as its main theme, they think that it closes down with the first drops of rain in October, to be opened again just in time for the first heat waves in late May. Well guess again my friends, the place is on and buzzing with good vibes – and in some cases even better than the summer ones- during the November-to-April ‘off’ season. And there are very good reasons for that.
The “Shadow Theater” or “Karagyoz”, as it is called in the last two countries –Greece and Turkey- where it still survives is an ancient art form and a pretty unique experience for the whole family.
Imagine a cross between street theater and an improvised “poor man’s cinema”. The eastern equivalent of the Harlequin’s figure from the Italian Comedia Dell Arte; but, performed with only shadows and sounds. The simplicity that centuries of evolution have afforded it and the magic of traditional narratives, create an art form that will probably “shock” and charm any kid born in the digital era, as much as its parents. An excellent opportunity for the whole family’s night out and, maybe later on, an incentive for both kids and their parents to learn in a workshop how to make their own figures and give their own shows back home.
It could be called the «Burrito of the East», «Hot Dog of the Mediterranean» or “Amvrosia to Go”… but we simply call it “Souvlaki”. And the only way you can miss the famous – and equally delicious – street food during a visit to Greece, is by spending your whole visit here in jail or something. Although, there are rumors that many prisoners do bribe the right people to have their “souvlaki” order delivered in their cells.
Ancient Greece was one of the oldest civilizations that set the foundations for the development of the Western civilization. Their findings in the area of astronomy, geography and mathematics, pioneered the age of science. Here is a list of the top 10 inventions and discoveries of ancient Greece that are remarkably used until this very day.
Most people who have watched Zack Snyder’s famous 2007 fantasy historical film “300”, might think they know the ancient Greek story of Leonidas and the battle of Thermopylae, but the historic facts are quite different to what was portrayed in the fantasy film.
Spirits in Greece have their own unique character and aroma. Drinking alcoholic beverages has a symposium-like and festive quality abundant at celeberations in Greece, especially on name days, birthdays, holidays, weddings, gatherings, graduations and christenings. Here is the top Greek spirit selection that you should definitely taste when you visit Greece.
Mediterranean nutrition in general and Greek cuisine in particular, are globally famous for their nutritional benefits and of course, their taste. There is a large variety of traditional Greek products with unique characteristics that you can only find in the magnificent country of Greece.
Greek production and traditional recipes go back thousands of years and it is no coincidence that merchants have been traveling from all over the world to get hold of the high quality, tasteful and nutritional Greek products. Let us introduce you to their unique qualities!
If you visit Greece, you will see plenty of cafés packed with people laughing, chatting and socializing around the city. For Greeks, drinking coffee is much more than just drinking coffee. It is the local way of socializing, of going out to catch up, discuss about current events and relax. It is also a great way to enjoy the sun and the hot weather outside. Here, we will suggest the 10 top places to enjoy a true coffee-drinking experience in Athens.
If you have ever visited Greece, you must have tried at least once a cup of strong traditional Greek coffee. This kind of coffee is very famous in Greece, not only because of its strong flavor and aroma, but also because of its historical and cultural background.
In this post, we are going to present you 5 facts that you probably didn’t know about the famous Greek Coffee.
Greek coffee wasn’t always called this way. In fact, Greeks used to call it Turkish coffee until the early 1960s, when the relations between the two counties started deteriorating. Especially after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Greece permanently established “Greek coffee” as the politically correct name for the coffee.
Are you visiting Athens for the first time and you don’t want to miss anything important? Here is the list with the top 10 places that you must visit during your stay in the Greek capital, as suggested by our experienced Athens Insiders!
Of course, the king of monuments, the utter symbol of the great ancient Greek civilization is on the top of our list. You have to visit Acropolis and see the Parthenon up close, not only because it is considered an architectural masterpiece, but also because of the vibes of greatness that it transmits to your entire body. During your visit to the Acropolis, you will have the chance to attend other important sites as well, such as the theater of Herod Atticus, the Theater of Dionysius and the new Acropolis Museum.
If you happen to be in Greece on the 28th of October, you might notice Greek flags waving from balconies, closed shops and military parades on the main streets. Now don’t be scared, this is (hopefully) not a coup, it is just the celebration of the national ‘OHI’ day of Greece.
The 28th of October is celebrated as a national day of pride in Greece, mostly referred to as “OHI” (NO) day. It commemorates the anniversary when former military general and Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said, “No” to an ultimatum made by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini to allow Italian forces to occupy Greece or otherwise face war back in 1940.
When you think of ancient Greece, you might imagine bearded philosophers drinking wine under Acropolis, speaking wise words about politics, science and the universe. Although this picture might not necessarily be true, ancient Greek philosophers were the first that doubted the contemporary philosophical paradigm, observed and interpreted the world they lived in and set the basis of Western civilization thinking. This list will introduce you to the top 10, so sit comfortably and get ready for some wisdom!