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?
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.