ATHENS

According to the Greek mythology, Athens was named after the goddess Athena who according to myth won a competition with Poseidon and became the protector of the city. The myth says that Poseidon gave a spring with sea water whilst Athena offered an olive tree as she touched the ground of the sacred rock of the Acropolis. The people of Athens choose Athena as their protector and so the city was named after the goddess of wisdom. The myth is symbolic but the two Gods symbolising the strength of Athens as a city of wisdom and as a sea power.

The first settlement of Athens 3000 BC was situated on the rock of Acropolis. According to the tradition, Athens was founded when the king Theseus united in a state several settlements of Attica.

The center of Athens has been inhabited for over 5000 years. This makes Athens an open-air museum with historical remains from all ages. Athens is mostly known for its ancient history and particularly the Golden age of Pericles in 500 BC. Pericles was elected for 14 years consecutively in the most significant political position of his time. Under his authority, Athens became the most powerful state city of Greece. His main contribution was, of course, the establishment of democracy.

Athens became the intellectual and art center of the ancient world. In addition to everything else he was responsible for the construction of the Parthenon. What follows is the Hellenic period and Alexander the great (323-146 BC). Athens is no longer the administrative center of Greece and has lost its political influence. However, Athens position is still dominant due to its intellectual power. Athens philosophical schools were famous and people from all over the world came to Athens to study, and also to participate in the social life of the city. As a result Athens kept its prominent position and flourished.

Athens continued to do so during Roman times (146BC-330 AC). Romans not only adopted the Athenian culture but also tried to rejuvenate the city’s old glory by providing funds for its reconstruction.We owe them some of the most prominent historical sites such as the Herodion, Handrian’s Library and Roman Agora. They also constructed aqueducts, drainage systems and numerous others public facilities. The dawn of Athens, itself, might be considered during the 5th century BC and after that period begun a reign of foreign rulers. Nevertheless, Athens set a unique historical phenomenon, despite being a conquered city, it retained its glory and remained the intellectual center of the time.The decadence begun in Byzantine times (330- 1453) when philosophical schools and the faith in Olympians Gods were forbidden. Athens lost its character and as a result its influence.

From now on Athens is a city of relatively small size, weakly fortified and deprived of many of its monumental buildings. This period gave the city numerous churches that we can still see in the historical center of Athens.

During Ottoman times (1453-1821) Athens played no significant role or influence but it developed a small industry which consisted mostly of small workshops of tanners, textiles and soaps. Within the Ottoman Empire, the city flourished as a local center of commerce, with remarkable demographic and financial prosperity.

The siege of the Acropolis in 1687 by the Venetians, which resulted in the destruction of the Parthenon, marked the beginning of a new period of Turkish rule, in which the city gradually declined. The appearance of the city during this period of time, very little of which is still preserved, is mainly known from depictions by foreign travelers.

After WWII, Athens began to grow again, as people migrated into the city in search of work.The industrialization program launched during the 1950s, with the help of US aid, and the fact that Greece joined the European Union in 1981, brought in many new investments to Athens, but also increased social and environmental problems.

Preparation for the 2004 Olympics brought forth also many changes, and the successful staging of the games imbued the ancient city and its residents, with a newfound confidence that acted as a catalyst for more evolution.

Athens today is sophisticated and cosmopolitan and one of the few ancient cities in the world where the cutting edge, the hip, and the modern can suddenly co-exist so harmoniously with the classical. 

A symbol of Western Civilization at its most magnificent, Athens' illustrious history stretches back more than 3,000 years. The city flourished during classical antiquity and was the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, and Sophocles. More than just a relic of its glorious past, today Athens is a bustling and modern capital city and home to some of the country's most important tourist attractions. The Acropolis is one of the world's most breathtaking ancient ruins, and the city's exceptional museums display fascinating artifacts uncovered at local sites. Other hidden charms awaiting discovery are the dazzling Byzantine churches found all over the city and the village like neighborhoods north of the Acropolis.

When you think you have run out of things to do in Athens, spend some time getting lost in the Plaka district's narrow pedestrian streets, lined with quaint bougainvillea draped houses and inviting restaurant terraces.

A completely different vacation experience from the idyllic Greek islands, Athens can feel hectic and busy during the summer season, but in the spring and fall, you can still enjoy good weather and see far fewer tourists.

1. Acropolis

The Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the Western world. Crowned by the Parthenon, it stands sentinel over Athens, visible from almost everywhere within the city. Its monuments and sanctuaries of white Pentelic marble gleam in the midday sun and gradually take on a honey hue as the sun sinks, while at night they stand brilliantly illuminated above the city.The Parthenon, Ancient Temple of Athena, the Theater of Dionysos and the Herod Atticus Theater.

Acropolis

2. Acropolis Museum

This dazzling museum at the foot of the Acropolis' southern slope showcases its surviving treasures. The collection covers the Archaic period to the Roman one, but the emphasis is on the Acropolis of the 5th century BC.

Acropolis Museum

3. Plaka

Stretching out under the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited neighbourhoods.

Duck into the side streets here and explore the charmingly narrow old lanes. They’re lined with a hotchpotch of crumbling buildings from various eras, as well as beautiful restored buildings-turned-stately homes. Plaka boasts a wealth of ancient sites, small museums, historic churches and picturesque small squares buzzing with restaurants and cafés.

Plaka

4. Anafiotika

Clinging to the north slope of the Acropolis, the tiny Anafiotika district is a beautiful, architecturally distinct sub-district of Plaka.

In the mid 1800s, King Otto hired builders from Anafi to build a new palace. In their homes here, they mimicked their island's architecture, all whitewashed cubes, bedecked with bougainvillea and geraniums. The area now is a clutch of about 40 homes, linked by footpaths just wide enough for people and stray cats.

Anafiotika

5. Monastiraki Square

This is one of the oldest and busiest areas of the capital, packed with rooftop bars, ancient sights and huge markets. The Monastiraki metro station is right off the picturesque main square, which also has brilliant views of the Acropolis.

Go shopping at the Monastiraki flea market, squeeze your way through thronging pedestrian alleys, and peruse shops filled with antiques, handmade jewellery and Greek handicrafts.

Monastiraki Square

6. Syntagma Square

In front of Parliament, the traditionally costumed evzones (presidential guards) stand by the tomb and change every hour on the hour. The evzones uniform of the fustanella (white skirt) and pom-pom shoes is based on the attire worn by the klephts, the mountain fighters of the War of Independence. look out for the changing of the guard infront of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Syntagma Square

7. Lykavittos Hill

The 277 meter (744 feet) summit of Lykavittos, 'Hill of Wolves', from ancient times, when it was wilder than it is now, gives the finest panoramas of the city and the Attic basin. Perched on the summit is the little Chapel of Agios Georgios, floodlit like a beacon over the city at night. Walk up the path from the top of Loukianou in Kolonaki, or take the 10 minute funicular railway from the top of Ploutarhou.

The open air Lykavittos Theatre, northeast of the summit, is a 1960s ampitheatre which hosts concerts and other events in summer. There is a cafe at the top to reward your walk.

Lykavittos Hill

8. Ermou Street

If you start at the top of Syntagma Square and walk down the steps and past the fountain, at the bottom of the square is the beginning of Ermou Street, a paradise for those who live to shop. From the Parliament building you can make a straight line that follows Ermou all the way to The Gazi, the old gas works of Athens, now the center of its nightlife. Ermou street is a commercial avenue which has been turned into a pedestrian only street.

Ermou Street

9. Kolonaki Area

Neighborhood in central Athens situated at an exclusive location, encompassed by Syntagma Square, Vasilissis Sofias Avenue and the southwestern slopes of Lycabettus Hill. It was named after the ancient old column found in the center of Kolonaki Square. Kolonaki is a wealthy, chic and upmarket district, and a fashionable meeting area. It includes a number of high-end boutiques, cafes and restaurants.

Kolonaki

10. Odeon of Herodes Atticus

This large amphitheatre, part of the Acropolis, was built in AD 161 by wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Regilla. It was excavated in 1857–1858 and completely restored in the 1950s. When you are visiting the Acropolis site, the path leads west from the top of the Stoa of Eumenes, and you can peer down into the odeon from above. From this vantage, it looks positively intimate, though it seats 5000 people.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

11. Temple of Olympian Zeus

You can't miss this temple on two counts: it's a marvellous temple, once the largest in Greece, and it's right in the centre of Athens. Of the temple's 104 original Corinthian columns (17 meter high with a base diameter of 1.7 meter), only 15 remain. The fallen column was blown down in a gale in 1852. Begun in the 6th century BC by Peisistratos, the temple was abandoned for lack of funds. Various other leaders took a stab at completing it, but it was left to Hadrian to finish the job in AD 131, thus taking more than 700 years in total to build. In typically immodest fashion, Hadrian built not just a colossal statue of Zeus, but an equally large one of himself.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

12. Panathenaic Stadium

The spectacular Panathenaic Stadium remains one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and is a shining beacon of modern Athens. Following several transformations over its long history, it eventually became the home of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and remains the only stadium in the world built entirely out of marble.


With its serried rows of white Pentelic marble seats built into a ravine next to Ardettos Hill, this ancient-turned-modern stadium is a draw both for lovers of classical architecture and sports fans who can imagine the roar of the crowds from millennia past. The stadium, built in the 4th century BC and restored for the first modern Olympic games in 1896, was first used as a venue for the Panathenaic athletic contests. It is said that at Hadrian's inauguration in AD 120, a thousand wild animals were sacrificed in the arena. Later, the seats were rebuilt in marble by Herodes Atticus.

Panathenaic Stadium

13. Temple of Poseidon

Athens is not short on treats for fans of Greek mythology. This is the temple you should visit first. He may be the god of oceans, but Poseidon's palace stands 60 metres (196 feet) above sea level on Cape Sounio. This marble temple was first built by ancient Athenians to honour Poseidon and guide sailors safely home. All that remains now is a series of towering columns which look magnificent against a Greek sunset.

Please note that this temple is about an one hour drive from the city of Athens.

 

Temple of Poseidon

1. Souvlaki

The Greek shawarma, a definite must. Try the souvlaki at Thenasis in Monastiraki. 

Greeks typically eat souvlaki on a pita that is stuffed with grilled meat, as well as tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, chili pepper flakes and french fries.

Once cooked, the meat is sliced off the rotisserie or taken off the skewer , which is my favourite and is put on round pita bread with lettuce, tomato, onions and tzatziki. Tzatziki  is the key ingredient that gives souvlaki its delicious and authentic Greek taste. In some souvlaki shops, which are scattered all across Greece taking up almost every corner of the country, you can have your souvlaki wrap with beefteki, the Greek equivalent of burger meat. Souvlaki is served wrapped in a wax paper, which helps it keep its shape and it is designed to be consumed like a sandwich.

While souvlaki refers to pieces of pork or chicken on a skewer, gyros refers to the same kinds of meat, this time cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Fair warning: don’t expect any posh eateries here; the best souvlaki can be found in tucked-away tiny shops no one would spare a second glance at, with only a few if any sitting tables.


2. Moussaka

A layered casserole which turns tender and airy thanks to the sauce bechamel. This dish is made of baked minced lamb and eggplants or potatoes.

One of my favourite restaurants to try Moussaks is Lithos Tavern. Lithos is a Greek Tavern operating since 1996. Here you can taste excellent greek food. It is located in the heart of Athens, in Psiri, the Historical Center of Athens, next to Monastiraki , Ancient Agora and bordering with Plaka. Taste their great moussaka and risotto! It has a great atmosphere for dinner with reasonable prices and friendly staff, Recommended for an excellent Greek experience. 

 

3. Cheese


Feta,
manouri, kaseri and graviera are some of the famous Greek cheeses..

The single most distinguishing characteristic of Greek cheese is that most of it is made with sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, or a combination of the two. Cow’s milk cheeses exist but only a handful of Greek islands. The mountainous Greek landscape generally is not conducive to cattle grazing.

There are approximately 70 distinct cheeses produced in Greece today, although many are similar and fall into one of several broad categories.

 

4. Olive oil, olives and olive paste

 

The famous Kalamata Olive is characterized by its mild, juicy flavour it is therefore not surprising that Kalamata olive paste, a typical Greek appetizer, is also characteristically aromatic and full of flavour.

 

5. Tsoureki

 

Greek sweet bread. This traditional Greek Easter bread is terrific for Easter brunch, slathered with butter and any leftovers make the world's most outrageous French toast! Try the one covered in white chocolate filled with chestnut cream.

 

6. Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a Greek savory spinach pie. It often also contains cheese, typically feta, and may then be called spanakotiropita, especially in northern Greece. In southern Greece, the term spanakopita is also common for the versions with cheese

 

7. Dakos

The most known Cretan salad is what we call kritikos dakos. It is delicious, it is healthy, it is the ultimate representation of the Mediterranean diet, straight from Crete. First of all it’s been described as a Greek bruschetta, but it isn’t, it is a bit different. Dakos specifically refers to a recipe that uses the famous Cretan barley rusks. These rusks are made with whole grain barley flour, water and salt. They are super healthy. Dakos includes olive oil, tomato and crumbled cheese, traditionally this cheese is Cretan mitzithra but you often see it outside of Crete, made with feta.

Moussaka

Spanakopita

Dakos

Tsoureki

Pita Gyro with Pork

Queen Bee

 

I found this very popular cafe/bakery in the heart of Kolonaki, not far from my Divani Caravel Hotel. It was 9am on Saturday morning and it was already full with locals. Nevertheless, it was still easy to get a table on the street corner, infront of their restaurant. Their breakfast selection was excellent.

Their coffee beans are being directly sourced from Brooklyn on a weekly basis and the robustness of a French bistro, Queen Bee has all the buzz you could imagine for all day dining and people watching.

Their menu is full of pastries, one of which you must not miss is their double-baked croissants filled with almond cream and sprinkled with powder sugar!  Eggs are daily on their menu too, scrambled, poached or fried, although one must go for the avo toast. This is what I ordered and it was delicious. Also why not try for their egg breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, caramelised onions and cheddar cheese.

Chia seeds are also available on their berry breakfast bowl, specially prepared with a handmade jam and granola. There is also some kick-ass orange juice and other smoothies served chilled, as well as an espresso on the rocks, not quite the same as the shaken espresso Greeks call freddo.

Also a very good real reason for making it to Queen Bee in Kolonaki, lies behind an excellent team that has paid all the right attention to all little details, from impeccable and very friendly service.

A for Athens rooftop bar


In Monastiraki square with spectacular views. Often crowded with tourist but offers an amazing
face to face view of the Acropolis. On the top floor, they created an urban terrace with the most stunning view to the Acropolis, Plaka and Monastiraki Square.

This is an ideal place to have your breakfast in the morning or enjoy their house special cocktails at night. Their minimal design is set to enhance your viewing experience and their menu is created with special care with emphasis on local and healthy ingredients.

their barista coffee is superb. 

Coffee Island

 

You can enjoy their unique Arabica specialty coffee in any of their 151 Coffee Island Coffee Shops. You can also find freshly made coffee beans for your home. You can order a coffee with delivery or simply stop by their shop and order a take away cup. Their coffee is simply amazing. 

Catch Bus X95 from Airport or Holiday Inn Athens Attica Airport Hotel into the city to Monastiraki Square Cost: EUR 6 per person (single trip)

Divani Caravel


Centrally located in Kaisariani, within a 10 minute drive or 35 minute walk of Syntagma Square and Temple of Olympian Zeus. This 5-star hotel is perfectly situated at 3.3 km from the Acropolis and 3.7 km from the Parthenon. 

Their rooftop bar and pool offers superb views of the city and the Acropolis, especially at night, while enjoying a meal and a cocktail.