I am neither Athenian nor Greek, but citizen of the world.” This was once said by the great philosopher Socrates, which pretty much sums up the attitude to life that has prevailed for centuries in the fascinating city on the Saronic Gulf. Cosmopolitan, friendly and full of countless monumental attractions, Greece’s capital exudes an appeal that any holidaymaker will succumb to while flying over the Acropolis on the runway approach. The Acropolis is only the tip of the iceberg, though, because there are also several beaches, museums, devilish treats and, last but not least, the alternative student district Exarchia to discover. So, “as páme!
So you've seen the acropolis from above, now it's time to take a closer look at it. So, quickly dump the suitcases at the hotel and get into one of the outrageously cheap taxis that take you to the foot of the Acropolis. The name "Acropolis" doesn’t just refer to the world famous temple, but also the mountain on which the temple sits. But knowing that doesn’t really matter when the ruins of the "Parthenon" and the surrounding buildings are so incredibly impressive.
The "Propylaea", the "Dionysian Theater" and the "Odeon of Herodes Atticus", among others, await lovers of culture. Even more amazing, though, is that the ancient Greeks completed this marvel in just 9 years, while their successors have been working on the renovation for over 20 years – but who lives in Germany may throw the first stone. Before returning to the valley, enjoy the panoramic view of Athens and get your bearings for the next cultural highlight.
Bringing turtels to Athens
The highlight here is Plaka, Athens’ oldest district, which lies right at the foot of the mountain. But don’t forget the camera on your trip, because if you are interested in ancient Greece, you will see an excavation on every corner. And if you're lucky, you'll even meet a talkative archaeologist.
If you get the chance, you should definitely visit the ancient cemetery "Kerameikos", where cute little turtles crawl among the millennia-old tombs, looking for a cheeky snack. But anyone going against Athenian tradition by bringing the animals up there is as much in the dark about that as they are about the next holiday tip on most travelers’ radar.
When asked what Athens has to offer, most travelers will of course answer: "the Acropolis, the ruins and the museums". That is correct, but what they don’t usually think of, is that Athens is located by the sea. As such, the picturesque beaches that stretch along the Saronic Gulf are comparatively tranquil. The ideal opportunity, then, to take a short break after all the culture by bathing in the crystal clear Aegean sea. Alternatively, rent a sea kayak while you’re there, try kite surfing or take your first steps in stand-up paddling, with the Acropolis as a backdrop.
From A for antique museums to W for changing the watch
So, now you’ve had the chance to cool off, you can get back to it. After all, you’re not just in Athens for fun, but also to immerse yourself in the incredibly fascinating culture of ancient to modern Greece. And faced with so many museums, it can be quite hard work picking out the best ones. The pick of the bunch is the National Archaeological Museum, with more than 11,000 exhibits from 6,800 BC to 400 AD, which will keep you busy for hours.
The journey through time continues in the "Byzantine and Christian Museum" which, with an incredible 30,000 exhibits from 300 AD to modern day, makes the heart of every history buff beat faster. After so much hard work, you’ve earned a bit of light relief. The hourly change of the guard, in front of the grave of the "unknown soldier" at the parliament building, comes right on cue.
Just as with London's palace guards, "touching or making them laugh is prohibited". And that’s quite difficult, actually, because the uniforms with the oversized pompoms really make you want to put your arm around these cute little comrades for a photo. That would be the best bit about the place, although admittly not the most appropriate. The ceremony is especially impressive on Sundays at 11 o'clock, when a grand parade takes place at the same time.
Feast like Zeus in Athens
There’s really only one thing that is risky about Athens – the food. Why? Because it is so good that holidaymakers could easily want to go home with all the sweets and meat specialties in their luggage. And we do not mean the obligatory gyros pita you get on the tourist strips. If you want to experience authentic Athens cuisine, you can take a wander down the narrow streets of Plaka, where the alluring aroma of stewed lamb with potatoes (kléftiko), fresh grilled pork skewers (souvláki) and the traditional noodle casserole "pastitsjo" wafts through the air.
A special tip is the small but exellent restaurant "Mavros Gatos", which is also known for its huge selection of Greek appetisers. Also highly recommended are "Ávalon" and "Daphne's", with their Ouzo-flavoured meatballs. Speaking of Ouzo – yes, that too is risky. After all, there’s some good stuff in Athens. So don’t be surprised if the waiter won’t let you go until you’ve emptied a glass of ouzo. Some waiters will even have a drink with you. That’s Greek hospitality. So, "Yammas!" – as the Greeks say
Nightlife from "Tralala" to the rooftop bar
With the invigorating, strong taste of aniseed in your mouth, you can start the last leg of your Athens holiday. This takes you right into the epicenter of hip Athens, into the heart of the alternative student district of Exarchia. Here, not only you will find a lot of street art worth seeing, but also an extraordinary wealth of bars and pubs. Bars such as the "5 Dromoi" and the "Tralala" are good starting points for a colorful night out. In the midst of the Greek zest for life, even the coolest Central Europeans will thaw out in no time.
When the clubs finally open at 11 pm, take the tram from Exarchia over to Glyfada, where you'll dance the night away in "Vinilio" or "DYBUK". The rooftop bar "A for Athens Cocktail Bar" is a hot tip for couples to spend a romantic last night in Athens. What better place to enjoy the sunset over the Acropolis, while sipping excellent Cocktails?