Athens, as a whole, is a city culturally on the rise after having sustained years of recession. But which are the neighborhoods that carry this transformation on their shoulders? What are the new areas in the Greek capital that have become seed beds for this positive change?
Are you sitting on the sofa of your airbnb apartment, wondering how to exploit the limited time before leaving Athens? Well, what if someone told you there’s a quick, alternative escape just around the corner?
You’ve booked your late summer vacation to Greece and you still have your mind set on statues, beaches and sun? Well, maybe you should think again, because there might be something that has slipped your attention… We are, obviously, referring to food; one of the fundamental elements of Greek culture, the delights of which you should not miss.
Cycladic figurines are certainly the most enigmatic, abstract, and evocative objects from Greek prehistory, that also inspired the art pioneers of abstraction and cubism of the early 20th century.
I cannot say that I am the biggest fan of mainland Greece; I strictly prefer the islands; driving has never featured in the list of my favorite activities, either. But, I love the Peloponnese, the Greek paradise that has seduced me over the years.
Unlike the other Aegean islands, with their harsh, forbidding terrain, Aegina is much more hiking-friendly. The island’s small size and particular shape, combined with its relatively mild slopes – its tallest peak, Ellanion Oros, is only 532 meters high – and the many villages which are spread around, make the place ideal for hiking.
So, you want to come to Greece in the summer but you have heard a bunch of stories that revive scenes out of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in your mind: you are being baked by the scorching sun, in a barren archeological site, dying of thirst, seeing mirages of oases and ice-cream-offering Karyatides girls, holding iced beer kegs on their heads…
Well that’s a tough one. We will try to warn you about driving on Greek roads and at the same time not scare you away from the wheel (or handlebars).
Let’s make Dolmadakia.
What do we need?
Lots of patience, before everything else, especially if it’s your first time trying it.
There are many ways to see Athens. The city with the many faces also has many different, themed tours on offer. But this one is brand new and as stylish as they come. Riding a bicycle around the most colorful part of the center, graced by beautiful neo-classical buildings, is the main idea. It is a proposition with strong practical advantages, as you can cover a wider area and still enjoy the views and explore the various places at your own pace, while at the same time it is as cool as it gets. But, “cycling around the city is nothing new”, you might note and you could be right, if we were not talking about this specific tour.
There aren’t many places which showcase so perfectly the multi-layered mix of cultures which we call Greek civilization, like Monastiraki square. It is situated north of Plaka, the traditional neighborhood under the Acropolis, and right next to the busy junction of two central streets, Ermou and Athinas.
Aphaias’ stone blocks may look fairly unattractive, even rather uninspiring, at first sight. As a matter of fact, they are of great importance, revealing some of the major aspects of the ancient Greek Temple-building process. Beyond that, they stand witness to how the ancient Temple of Aphaia on Aegina Island was built some 2,500 years ago.
Of all the little islands in the Saronic gulf, this one is kept off the tourist map as an Athenian’s little secret; a small island just 35 kilometers from Piraeus, covered easily with a 40-minute Flying Dolphin (hydrofoil) ride or a 75-minute trip with a ferry. Such a short trip means it is “no big deal” for Athenians to get there, while the island itself is so beautiful that it had the Huffington Post declare it “the most beautiful Greek island that you haven’t heard of”. Being so near the Greek capital, it is ideal for a day-trip but, at the same time, it is an interesting place where you can easily spend a couple of weeks.
So, let’s make “gemista”!
- 8 medium-sized tomatoes – not too soft
- 4 big bell peppers
- 1½ teacup of olive oil
- 2 big onions, grinded
- 1 water-glass of rice
- 2 heaped soup spoons of pine seeds
- 2 heaped soup spoons of black raisins
- 1 small cup of mint leaves, minced
- 1 small cup of parsley, minced
- ½ a kilo of potatoes
- 1 cup of rusks or toasted bread, grinded
- Salt and pepper
It sits under the sun, a bit less than 70 kilometers south of Athens, like a rock thrown in the middle of the Argosaronic gulf; popular among Athenians for the perfect romantic getaway, or a calm, relaxing weekend in a soothing place of such beauty. Hydra is a place bursting with architectural character, history and – most interestingly – devoid of cars. Yes, it sounds strange but motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island. Two small garbage trucks and some fire-fighting units are the only motorized vehicles allowed on the island. A host of ever-posing Greek donkeys – their modeling careers challenged only by the island’s hundreds of well-fed cats – is responsible for most transport services. Water taxis can take you around the island to – otherwise inaccessible – beaches or to the coast of the Peloponnese.
Got a sunny day in Athens, but you are already fed-up with “ancient” stuff? We got you covered with a modern, state-of-the-art architectural jewel built on top of a park. Situated right next to the city’s waterfront, the brand-new, spectacular Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre is not to be missed by anybody who has more than a few days to spend in Athens; a space ideal for all outdoor activities like walking, jogging, enjoying a picnic, relaxing among plants and trees, it also regularly hosts concerts, exhibitions and other events – usually with free admission – in the vast gardens which surround the main building.
If you enjoy performing arts, and especially theater, this is an opportunity like no other. Visiting Athens and central Greece offers the unique opportunity to experience a theatrical performance at the birthplace of this art-form. Watch gods and humans struggle against their passions and fate, as the warm Mediterranean night covers a two-thousand-years-old stone-made theater or a modern dance show at a contemporary open-air plaza.
One could say that their name itself betrays the attraction. “Meteora” means “things suspended in mid-air”. But nothing can prepare you for what you are about to experience after a four-hour drive north from Athens. Truth be told, it could be the set for a futuristic film or trippy video clip. But it is real and it has been there for millions of years, overlooking the, otherwise ordinary, town of Kalambaka. And there they are; not one or two, but twenty-four gigantic, pillar-like sandstone rocks standing next to one another, reaching up to 400 meters high. Unfortunately, no photographic effort has yet captured the full majesty of the place, the breathtaking 360°-scenery of a rare geological phenomenon.
Athens with kids & no nagging?
Totally doable! You get them walking like an infantry soldier from archaeological sites to “must see” places and countless museum halls. Places they don’t understand or simply don’t consider “cool”. So at some point your kid’s patience might run out and the nagging is inevitably going to start. To make your life a lot easier we gathered a handful of ideas, for things you can put in your visit and sightseeing program to avoid underage mutinies during your vacations.
Three must-see places in walking distance from Acropolis and the city’s center.
A few years back, it was a quiet neighborhood with cheap, old apartments rented by students in the nearby Panteion Social Studies University and small local businesses. Koukaki was named after George Koukakis, a business man that in the old days opened his shop, dealing in metal beds, there. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, once full of neoclassical houses – with some of them still standing – it used to be called “little Paris” in the past. The place always maintained a rhythm of its own as it was kept hidden from the speeding world by Filopapou hill and the buzzing noise of Syngrou Avenue but at the same time alive, thanks to the students of the nearby University. Being such a cheap and quiet area near the center, it attracted artists who set up their studios and workshops, next to the commercial center of the town, until the economy folded.
It stands in the middle of the city, bearing the same name since the age of Pericles. Lycabettus – in Greek “Lykavitos” – means “the path of the wolves” or “where the wolves go”, indicating it was populated by wild beasts in the distant past. It is the highest hill within Athens and it’s the ideal observation point. You can’t miss it, if you lift your head up, while walking around the city’s center. And, yes, there have been no wolves up there for a long time now…
by Athens Insiders
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.
by Athens Insiders
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.
by Athens Insiders
Zagoria Villages in Epirus
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.
If you have visited Greece in the past, you must have tasted those little bites of heaven called loukoumades. If not, cancel all your meetings and get on the first plane to Athens!
Loukoumades are traditional Greek sweet little honey puffs, the Greek version of donuts some could say. But trust me, this version is an indulgent delight like no other!
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!