Athens is a great place to visit although in summer it is too touristy for my liking, full of day trippers from the cruise boats that moor in the port of Piraeus which is almost an extension of the capital city of Greece now.
Athens is an amazing city, with the Acropolis beaming down benignly on the activity below. If you ever get the chance to see a concert in the Herodion theatre just under the Parthenon, grab it with both hands as its an experience not to be missed. The ancient theatre is full of atmosphere and is especially wonderful on nights when the moon is full. Even during the day the view from the Acropolis is magnificent, with views over the whole city. (The Acropolis museum is not to be missed too; it’s the new building nestling at the foot of the Acropolis hill.) You can also see it almost from wherever you are in Athens, f you know which direction to look in. Some locals say that it has a magnetism that can’t be avoided- but you have to experience whether or not that is so for yourself.
Other Museums and sights not to be missed
The Benaki museum and the National Archaeological museum are two that you shouldn’t miss on a trip to Athens. As Greece has a rich history going far back to the Minoan civilization, the artifacts and jewellery in these museums are really worth visiting. Athens is also home to a national movement in the Arts, Technosphera, begun by an artist, Vassiliki Tambouri, and which is part of the fulfillment of her dream of creating an artists’ community which aims to develop the creativity of others. You can visit her website for details.
Shopping and eating out
During the day Athens is a bustling city like any other, but with a charm all of its own, especially in the Plaka area which is packed with souvenir shops, cafes and tavernas (restaurants) where you can sit and people-watch to your heart’s content, as tourists and locals mingle as they walk along the marble streets. (Be careful if it has rained.) Take a walk down Kidathenaeion Street where there is a Children’s Museum as well as a selection of Greek tavernas, my favourite being the Plaka Taverna, although Byzantino is pretty good too – they are neighbours.
There are the multi-national shopping chains as well as Greek department stores where you can literally shop til you drop in the streets opposite the Parliament building in Syntagma Square.
The James Joyce (Irish bar with good food) is a great place to rest after visiting the Sunday flea market in Monastaraki, and you can find this at Astingos 12. This used to be a great place for a bargain, but prices have gone up in recent years and you have to be prepared to haggle.
The “Athenian Riviera”
If you want to escape the city you can head for the Athenian Riviera which starts at Glyfada, and the beach at Vouliagmenos is a good place to sun-worship. Take the tram or a bus from central Athens. You can watch the sunset at Sounio, through or from the temple of Apollo on the hill and then take a stroll on the beach. If you are lucky you may see dolphins in the little bay.
In Glyfada you can relax in Molly Malone’s and even grab a pint of English or Irish beer at Yiannitsopoulou 8, and if you are in Voula the Blue Parrot is worth finding, at Poseidonos 16-20.
Places to stay
In Plaka there are is the students’ hostel in Kidathenaeion Street next door to the Plaka taverna, which is one of the cheapest places and right in the heart of this area with its 18th century Neo-classical buildings which have had a much-needed facelift in recent years. Close by is the Hotel Nefeli which is a family run hotel and good value. Others in the area range from the very cheap to the very expensive.
Athens is a great city to visit off-season and this year you could celebrate Greek Easter if you are there around the 15th of April. Book your seats now and enjoy your stay.
Copyright L Evens, more about the Author Lynn Evens