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Athens

acropolis from ThisioI decided to make a stop to my sunny trips on the islands  and to talk about Athens.

There are several reasons for this decision: of course one is  because  Athens is an European Capital and it would worth to visit it at least once, another because it is one of the few capitals with a history of thousands of years – and like Rome it is an open air museums.  Another again because now I live here.

BUT for you, travelers, looking for Sunny and warm Summer destinations, it is important to dedicate a chapter to this city since you may stop here one night / a couple of days in order to get to your island and it would be a pity not to enjoy this very nice European capital :)

Some info about Athens – ελλ. Αθήνα

The city of Athens takes the name from goddess Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and daughter of Zeus. She was the protector deity of the city.

They say half of the Greeks live in Athens and it could be true if you consider that all Attica (Regions around Athens) has a population of 4 millions – total Greek population is 11 million people.

In Athens you find the very famous Piraeus port – from where you have connections with most of Greek islands. There is one airport, E. Venizelos, pretty new and clean too.

At the airport you will find all the info you need about Athens – and tourist offices are open until the last flight lands. From the airport you can get directly to the center of Athens with the underground. If you need to go to Piraeus you should change at Syntagma station (where there is the Parliament) and take the green line.  http://www.athensguide.com/metromap.html

You can also take a taxi – the fair would be from 20euros to 30 euros, depending on the traffic. Please consider there is an extra charge for the luggage and if they take the Attiki Odos – therefore do not be negative impressed if they are asking you for more money than what you see on the display. Another thing you should know about taxis in Greece in general is that most of the time they stop and carry other passengers – if you do not want it you have to point it out immediately once you step into the car.

Athens

shop at plakaEvery time I come back to Athens from the plane I am always positive impressed by the immensity of this city. From the plane you see a huge carpet of white houses and you cannot understand where it begins and finishes. You see the mountains surrounding Attica and of course … the sea !  I should say that Athens is a city more developed in horizontal rather than in vertical –  I do not think that there are any skyscrapers or in any case buildings very high. Greeks love to have their owns house, even in the center and why not ! make their own barbecue in their garden  (actually my neighbor does barbecue every Saturday evening of the year, and when I say every Saturday I mean also in winter when it is cold and it may rain !! )

Unfortunately this is quite a new city and apart from the Acropolis and its surrounding area there is no sign of the great past of Athens. I was told that in the past the center of Athens was very beautiful, like the small chora you can see in the islands. Actually if you walk in Plaka you could imagine how the city was long time ago …..For the same reason in Athens living  in the center is not considered to be chic  – unless you live in Plaka, Thisio, Kolonaki – I mean the area really surrounding the Acropolis. In Athens it is considered chic if you live in Kifisia (by the mountain) or in Glyfada – by the sea – places quite far from the center.

As you will see, apart from the strict center of the city, the city is not very nice. You should know that after the second World War most of the Greeks came to Athens (that was completely destroyed) to find a job and big buildings have been built and in a very short time – paying no attention (or very little) to design and respect of space. I might say that in Athens the problem of parking is even more than in other European capitals on average. Also in the center there are such narrow streets that in order to go with the car you have to close the mirrors of your car.

Your trip to Athens

view from AcropolisIf you are coming to Athens for a long weekend of even if you stop just for one night I think that you will understand the magic of this city. Once you will see the Acropolis lighted in the night you will be fascinated and for a while you will not be able to say a word ….. it still happens to me every time I go to the center ….. beautiful ! you can really feel history.

If you are staying just for one night I would suggest you to stay in Plaka, Monastiraki – to go to a nice taverna and enjoy the view of the Acropolis. My Greek friends think that this is a very touristic place but – you are tourists :) All the area is pedestrian and it’s very nice and green indeed. You can walk from Syntagma till Thisio and actually even further.

If you are going to spend more time … you will enjoy yourself a lot: Athens is an open air museum – and the weather is always very nice – you just need to walk and walk and walk and walk :) So good suggestion: very comfortable pair of shoes – not slippery since all the pavement  in the center is in marble! And if it is summer – since there may be even up to 40 degrees –   a hat, sun cream, water and sun glasses !

What to see

What to see – IMPORTANT – I know I will forget thousands of things and details but I am not a touristic guide :)  – I just want to give you first impressions and ideas to what to do here in Athens in a couple of days or less and I will concentrate mainly in the center.

If you are quite lazy and do not have a lot of time, good idea would be to take the hop and off touristic bus

http://www.city-sightseeing.com/index.phtml?command=search&clear-search=true&destinations=athens

 

    Please consider that  in order to visit the surroundings of

Acropolis

    you need 2 days. Also do not forget to go to the

New Acropolis museumhttp://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/?la=2

    – I went in daytime but I would suggest you to go during the evening. You will be in the museum with view to amazing lighted Acropolis – I think it would be more suggestive – and you would spend your daytime in visiting places that are closed in the evening.Most of the places below are close to the

Acropolis

    , and you can visit them by having a nice walk  in all pedestrian areas.

No hurry to visit everything ! you are in Greece and  you have to enter in siga’ siga’ mood (slowly  slowly  mood). Do not forget to enjoy  a greek coffee too  – caffe’ frappe‘ – this is Greece !!  NB for the caffe’ frappe’ they usually put sugar while preparing it – therefore the waiter will ask you how you prefer it: metrio (with some sugar) – gliko’ (quite sweet) – pikro’ (bitter). Be ready with the answer :)

Acropolis

AcropolisIf you are going to visit the Acropolis you will buy a ticket that will be valid to enter in the main museums in the center – therefore do not throw it away.

In the Acropolis you will see the world wide famous Parthenon, I also really like the Theatre of Dionysos and of course you will see Caryatids (original pieces are in the New Acropolis Museum) but I am not going to explain all artistic beauties in details you will see up there (a guide will do much better ) but I will give you nice suggestions: were comfortable shoes, not leather since it will be very slippery on the marble and please consider that  your way up to the hill of the Acropolis is not very easy. Buy a bottle of water before going to the Acropolis, enjoy the view and take as many pictures as possible. From Acropolis you will have an amazing view to all Athens – it is breath taking!

Ancient Agora

I also really like this place. It is close to Acropolis, there is a beautiful Temple of Hephaestus: it is the best preserved Doric temple in Greece. There is also a museum I suggest to visit and please have a walk in all the area, it is very green and you can relax under the shadow of a tree. it could also be a good opportunity to plan your next places to visit :)

The Keramikos

The Kerameikos was the city’s cemetery from the 12th century BC to Roman Times – there is also a museum inside with sculptures, vases etc … In order to get there you should walk on the pedestrian street from Thisio to Gazi (new trendy place of Athens, with clubs, nice restaurants – with museums too) Despite its central location, this site is one of the greenest places in Athens.

Plaka – I really like this part of Athens, it reminds me to be in an island. Narrow pedestrian and paved streets, with nice colorful touristic shops, tavernas and very nice and old building.  From Plaka you have a great view of the Acropolis.

change of the guardSyntagma – at the end of Ermou Street you will find Syntagma Square. On top of it there is the Parliament and every hour there is the change of the guard. It’s very suggesting – militars (ebzoni) walk if they were doing a dance, implying great efforts and strength to what they do.

New Acropolis Museum – it is very nice and interesting. All original places from Acropolis have been transferred there. On the last floor – where there is the Parthenon – you really can imagine how it was in the past. I strongly recommend to stop and see the video that runs – that  explains the story of the Parthenon. It will take only 15 minutes but will help a lot !

The Temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens

From the Acropolis you can see it – it is just close to Plaka and it is also very close to the other monuments of Athens, such as Kallimarmaro Stadium, the Hadrian’s Arch and Zappeion Megaron.

Kallimarmaron Stadium – it is really impressive. I have never been there but I was told that sometimes they do concert  .. it should be very suggesting !

Well …. better for me to stop here: I do not want to annoy you.

For a “virtual tour” please have a look at the following link :) enjoy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWk5Tox0ilk&feature=player_embedded#at=167

A chapter for my female readers!! Shopping !!!!

Girls!!! this is a place where you can get crazy for the shoes and in Summer it is simply unbelievable to see how many beautiful colorful sandals there are in the shops. If you go to Ermou street you will understand what I mean.

Coming back to shopping – Athens offers whatever you are looking for – following different suggestions for different shopping:

Expensive shops – well your place is Kolonaki that is located between Lycavittos Hill and Syntagma square. It’s a nice hills, where you will find all expensive brands and enjoy your shopping. There are very nice cafe’s, clubs and tavernas.  Kolonaki is a smart residential district of Athens. This is the central chic Athens !

Shopping for anyone  – I would suggest you to go to Ermou (from Monastiraki to Syntagma). This is the paradise for women … I cannot count how many shops of shoes there are in this street.

Flee market – it is close to Monastiraki Underground stations. There are nice shops of handmade jewels :)

at ammosEating

Greeks eat a lot of meat and pasta that they call makaronada – so …. be prepared for this diet :)

Good to know – they always have a salad in their meal, all food will be served together and it is common practice to share the food. All dishes will be placed on the table and people take from them.

Whenever you will be hungry you will always find a place to eat ! Restaurants open around 11am and close after midnight.

The good thing about food in Greece is that you can eat with  only  4-5 euros !!! having one souvlakia with a coke. This is usually what I do when I am on holidays and I am quite short of money … maybe this is not good for your diet but your wallet will breath:)

In the center you will  find nice tavernas where you can enjoy classical greek food – moussaka, tzatziki, feta, choriatiki salat, biftekia ….. don’t worry !! you will always find the Menu in English and you will understand what you are going to eat.

For people that love fish ….  I would suggest to go to Castella (microlimano), it is an outskirt of Athens close to Piraeus. It is a very small port, surrounded by a hill – Very suggestive !! If you go to these restaurants you will have the sensation to eat on the sea ….. atually  must come back shortly :)
If you decide to go there I would suggest you to book the restaurant one day before (at least!) and to ask to sit by the sea: I always go to the same restaurant “Ammos”  http://www.ammosmikrolimano.gr/home.htm that I strongly recommend  because food is very good and the costs is reasonable comparing to other restaurants in Castella. Forget to take your car in Castella – better to come with a taxi !

Last but not least …. If you still have one free afternoon I would strongly recommend you to go to Cape of Sounio, about 70 km from Athens, dominated by the spectacular Temple of Poseidon.

I could write a book about Athens and I am very sorry to stop here the article about this magic city….but I am worried to write too much. Of course for any questions just write me on the blog and I would be more than happy to reply to you.

I really hope you enjoyed it and will be thinking to come to visit us or it least won’t be upset if you must “waste” one night staying here in your way to you holidays .

ciao
φιλακια

 

Crazy night in Plaka ! updates August 2011!!!!!!! 

http://www.athensbarcrawl.com/index.php

A friend of mine Kat just found it out ! I think it is an amazing idea to have some fun in athens ! to visit the best clubs and also meet people :) for the only cost of 20 Euros

I will try it in the next days and let you know

Gia mas !

 

5 comments to Athens

  • I had great time in Athens and I know I will miss it… but Athens is not like Rome! :P (kidding)

  • Silvia T.

    I saw now the souvenirs photo … I don’t know how to translate in English what I think … I could not even write it in Italian hihihi

  • augusto

    Atene… sì, qunque, dopo una notte in traghetto, via milos, e 10 giorni a Ios…. a proposito quand’ è che parli di Ios? non puoi aver detto di aver visto le cicladi se non sei stata ad ios, rigorosamene tra maggio e settembre, escluso il periodo tra il 20 luglio e il 25 agosto: troppi italiani 18enni e inglesi, altrettanto giovani, più ubriachi e più rissaioli….
    Dicevo.. atene, … miii come eravamo messi.. fai te.. 10 giorni che sono state come 10 serate di capodanno di seguito, con un tasso alcoolico tale che la mattina la ragazza, rigorosamente o canadese, o australiana, o neozelandese, o israeliana, si svegliava, ti dava un bacio e ti diceva “hey… good morning… who are you?”..
    insomma, come se la birra fosse fatta con acqua del Lete..
    (ragazzi!! non “l’acqua lete”…ma l’ acqua del Lete… il fiume dell’ oblio… mitologia greca… roba da liceo classico… avete presente?)
    bei tempi… l’ aids. non c’ era, e se c’ era dormiva, o tanto “safe sex, use condoms”..
    ah dicevo, Atene…
    Si insomma era domenica 5 maggio 1996…il mio compleanno, ma anche non so quale festa o evento, i musei e i siti archeologici aperti e gratuiti.
    Quindi, con il mio compagno di caccia alla topa, andrea, ne approfittiamo: non possiamo mica tornare in italia e dire che siamo stati in grecia, nella culla della civiltà e non abbiamo assaporato un po’ della cultura classica! o no?
    Prima tappa a Monastiraki , che per i veneti, non è il tempio della Mona… anche se ne meriterebbe uno… ma è..vabbè, che ve lo dico a fare… insomma mi gusto un po’ di messa ortodossa: non sono religioso, ma spirituale.. e il rito ortodosso è capace di penetrare nei meandri della mia spiritualità.
    Seconda tappa, il Partenone.
    Cerco un angolo silenzioso per ammirare quella magnificenza, per immaginare giasone che tornae le sue vele all’ orizzonte verso cape sunion , invisibile causa smog…e d’un tratto la poesia muore…
    scolaresca tipo 4^ superiore… veri cazzoni…
    italiani, romani…

    voce allegra del solito pirla (che alla sua età io ero esattamente uguale), che grida:
    “prof! E’ vero che quando lei aveva la nostra età qui non avevano ancora costruito nulla?????”

    • ursula

      Augusto, che dire ….. che bel commento …. molto emozionante, divertente che sicuramente rinforza il mio invito a trascorrere un po’ di tempo in questa citta’.
      Ce ne e’ per tutti !! per tutti i gusti !! per il sacro e per il profano :)
      Filakia
      ps prometto !! appena posso vado ad Ios :)

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