The reason why all roads leave to Athens is a no-brainer. You know as soon as you arrive in this lively city why it’s the centre of Greek culture, architecture, finances and industry. This city is incredible time after time. If you think you’ve seen it all after one trip, think again. Put on a local’s shoes this time and explore!
Once you look past the looming pollution, the crowded streets and screaming traffic, it’s really hard to not love Athens. With world-class sights and unbelievable food, this city has a lot going for it. One thing that is really remarkable here is that century-old structures have withstood the test of time and can still be found, although cramped, between modern cement apartment buildings and offices, creating a stark contrast between antiquity and modernity.
When you’re taking on this ancient city, give yourself enough time to see the famous sights and catch a glimpse into what the locals love about their city. There is plenty to discover, that’s without a doubt! From London you can grab cheap flights to Athens, arriving in less than 4 hours. British Airways and Aegean Airlines fly direct, as does low cost carrier easyJet.
What to do?
- Outdoor cinemas – catching a film in the open air is a popular Greek past time, especially in Athens which as more than 30 open-air cinemas. Zefyros (Troon 36, Petralona) is a classic choice. Nestled in the beautiful neighbourhood of Petralona, this cinemas is also within easy reach from the Acropolis. Tickets are 8€.
- Lycabettus Hill (Kleomenous) – Athens is famous for its hills, one in particular, Lycabettus Hills, offers outstanding views of the city and the Acropolis. It’s so quiet on top that it’s easy to forget you’re still in Athens. During the summer there are film screenings and live music at the theatre. Take the funicular to the top from the corner of Kleomenous and Ploutarhou, it’s free and quite fast.
- Kolokotroni (Syntagma) – Ermou Street is probably the most famous street in Athens, especially for shopping. It’s also super pricey and touristy. Just parallel though is an area widely undiscovered (except by tourists that took a wrong turn). Start at Karageorgi Servias and then turn right onto Aiolou. There you will reach Kolokotroni which has a lot to offer in pastry shops, cafés, homey restaurants and artisan shops. For art galleries and theatres, take a left down Karitsi Street.
Where to eat?
There is nothing more Greek than a taverna and incidentally there is no better place to indulge in feta, olives and retsina than at a traditional tavern, complete with wicker chairs, red and white chequered tablecloths and wobbly tables! Greeks like to share when it comes to eating, ordering rather a couple big dishes to be shared among the whole group. Don’t be shy, dig in!
- Kouki Bar (5-9 G.olimiou) – A great place to taste traditionally made raki (an alcoholic drink thatis sweetened with honey). The tables are all hand painted and the place has a real artistic flare to it. Enjoy your drinks and snacks on the patio under the orange trees.
- Rantevou (Plateia Amalias Merkouri/Arkadon) – Pull up a chair next to some elderly Greek men enjoying a game of chess and some raki! This place has been in business for years and attracts all ages thanks for its recent renovations while still satisfying the old and loyal customers. Drinks aren’t served without food so come hungry.
- Therapeftirio (Kallisthenous/Kydantinon) – Great food at a low price, what more is there to love? The menu changes seasonally with daily specials too good to resist. Try a bowl of giouvarlakia soup or fried eggplant with the catch of the day on the side. It’s nearly impossible to get a table here on Sunday afternoons. Main dishes are 8€.
Greek for Travellers 101
- Good morning – Kalimera (kah-lee-MEHR-rah)
- Good afternoon / evening – Kalispera (kah-lees-PEH-rah)
- Good night – Kalinikta (kah-lee-NEEK-tah)
- Goodbye – kherete (KHE-reh-tay)
- Hello – Yassou (YAH-su)
- How are you? – Ti kanis? (tee-KAH-nis)
- Well / good – Poli kala (po-LEE kah-LAH)
- Thank you – Efkharisto (eff-kah-rees-TOH)
- Sorry – Signomi (seegh-NO-mee)
- Yes – Ne (neh)
- No – Ohi (OH-hee)
- Do you speak English? – Milas Anglika? (mee-LAHS Ang-lee-KAH?)
- I don’t understand – Den Katalaveno (then’ kah-tah-lag-VEH-no)
- What time is it? – Ti ora ine? (tee OH-rah EE-neh)
- Where is…? – Pou ine? (POO EE-neh)
- How much is it? – Poso kani (poh-soh KAH-nee)
- Left – Aristera (ah-rees-teh-RAH)
- Right – Dexia (thek-see-AH)
- Open – Aniktos (ah-neek-TOHS)
- Closed – Klistos (klees-TOHS)
Have you ever been to Athens? Tell us about what you liked and loved!
Img: chrissy575 / flickr cc