How Best To Explore Artistic Athens, The Capital Of Culture
June 20, 2016
Many will have heard of Athens – the capital of Greece, in particular the rich history of warring goddesses and vengeful gods. Believed to be one of the world’s oldest cities, the capital overflows with unique architecture and monumental ruins.
Known worldwide as the home of the classical philosopher Plato and many more, the city has become a hot spot for budding artists and musicians… and once you read this guide you’ll soon see why!
Often referred to as Athens’ downtown, The Plaka’s quaint village like feel has proved popular among tourists and natives alike. To add to its charm, the city is pedestrian only, so you can take a stroll through the narrow winding streets to admire the prettily painted pastel houses, and picturesque churches. There are also a variety of shops to explore, selling everything from antiques, to paintings, and those beautiful Greek mosaics.
Did you know? The Plaka is what used to be Athens old nightclub district, but all the clubs closed their doors in the 70’s when loud music was banned.
Situated in The Plaka is Glykys – an idyllic café that spills out onto the cobblestone. Drink traditionally prepared Greek coffee, surrounded by hanging baskets filled with fragrant flowers, or if it’s too hot for coffee, we recommend trying one of their iced frappes to cool off! The café is harder to find as it’s located on one of the narrow back streets, so it’s perfect if you fancy a peaceful break away from the hustle and bustle. Offering a range of Mezze (small dishes) including authentic Greek pies, Glykys represents the epitome of Greek culture.
Built in the early 20’s is Athens first outdoor cinema. The theatre was established by a Greek hairdresser who used to live in Paris, hence the name! What makes the cinema extra special is that it’s located on the roof with a stunning view of the Acropolis, which is fully lit so you can see it in all its splendour. Don’t worry if you don’t know the language though! Most movies are in English with Greek subtitles, and they regularly show a mixture of classics and new releases. There is also a bar that offers a selection of beverages and those all-important movie snacks, yes! There is popcorn!
Athens up and coming neighbourhood for nightlife is well worth a visit. The district surrounds the old gas works, which was moved due to the close proximity to the city, leaving the abandoned town open to renovation. Today it is home to the hottest hipster bars, fine dining restaurants and is considered to be the heart of the Athens gay scene!
Did you know? The Gazi was the only gas works that survived World War II as the Germans didn’t want to destroy the Acropolis!
GazARTE promises an experience like no other, part bar, part library, part movie theatre, this bar is definitely one you should visit. Downstairs you’ll find a bookstore filled with unique Greek and international literature, and even rare, vintage vinyl! Right next door to the bookstore is the cinema which showcases the coolest independent film makers – so you won’t find any big blockbusters here! Upstairs is the cocktail bar and restaurant, described as a ‘library lounge’ due to the countless number of books that line the walls, you can hang out with friends or quietly read a book on one of the cosy couches. The building also boasts an outdoor terrace bar, where you can sip a margarita and look out at the glorious Greek landscape! Now that sounds good to us!
For the younger people wanting to party, you’ll find Athens hottest nightclub just up the street. International DJ’s including David Guetta and Sebastian Ingrosso are known to play sets here, and the club is regularly teeming with paparazzi! Villa Mercedes is known by tourists and locals alike as THE BEST place to go dancing, so don your dancing shoes and party the night away!
If you have more cash to splash, or just fancy window shopping then head on over to the trendiest neighbourhood in Athens. Considered to be one of the capitals top shopping areas, boasting top boutiques, classy cocktail bars and chic restaurants – it’s no surprise that this location is frequented by Greek celebrities!
Did you know? Kolonaki means ‘little column’, named after a 2-meter column you can find in the square!
Art lovers will find the Benaki Museum to be heaven on earth. Boasting a large collection of art dating from prehistoric to modern times, and displaying everything from prehistoric pottery, to roman jewellery! The museum is arranged according to time period, allowing visitors to start at the very beginning with the roots of ancient Greece, and you can walk through time to the modern day!
For the best view in the entire city visit Mount Lycabettus – the highest point in Athens, offering astounding panoramic views across the city. If you enjoy hiking enter the trail from Kolonaki, where there is a long winding path all the way up the mountain! Don’t fancy the hike? Take the funicular (cable car). We definitely recommend the climb if you’re up for it, the views of the city on your ascent are worth it! On the peak you’ll encounter a charming little white chapel, built as a tribute to the famous dragon slayer St. George; an open air amphitheatre with seating for up to 4,000! During the summer the venue plays host to world renowned musicians, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath and UB40 are among those who have played there! There’s also a restaurant where you can enjoy traditional cuisine with a stunning view of the Athens landscape. We don’t know which bit sounds the best!
Did you know? According to Greek myth, the mountain was created by Athena when she dropped a limestone mountain she’d been carrying for the construction of the Acropolis.
Situated between the Plaka and Kolonaki are the National Gardens, previously known as the Royal Garden as it was the royal families garden! Now its glorious 38 acres are open to the public, so you can take a stroll around the park, and feel like you’ve stepped into an amazon rainforest with the numerous tropical plants and trees. The only thing that will remind you that you’re in Athens are the remains of buildings scattered around! Also on the ground is a Botanical museum, and a small zoo including: goats, ducks, rabbits (not really a ‘zoo’ if you ask us!). Take one of the parks many paths and you may find yourself at either the temple of the Olympian Zeus, or arc of Hadrian!
Monastriaki Flea Market
If you visit Monastriaki on a Sunday, you’ll encounter a weird and wonderful sight indeed! Street musicians are on every corner, and vendors set out blankets selling the strangest stuff you could imagine! Don’t believe us? Among the things sold there are broken dolls, taxidermy insects and ukuleles with two strings. We know right?! Who would buy that junk? But don’t despair, there are also cool antiques on sale, you’ll just have to filter through the trash to find the treasures. Every other day of the week it’s just another quirky high street, selling vintage vinyl and unique crafts. This is the perfect place to pick up those all-important souvenirs!
Prefer to observe the crowds? Have lunch at one of the cafes that spill out onto the streets. Or if you’re feeling a little home sick there’s a Starbucks close by!
Take a Tour Like No Other with: ATA – Alternative Tours of Athens
Experience the city through creative eyes and take a tour from a photographer, artist, writer, architect or musician! You’ll get to hear all about why they think the city is so special, and see Athens the way no tourist has ever before! ATA also offer night out tours, where they’ll take you on an adventure to the best cocktail bars and hippest venues in the city! They even promise it will be a ‘bar crawl to remember!’ Where do we sign up?!
When in Athens, you just HAVE to go sightseeing. The Acropolis is a sight not to miss, frequented by tourists across the globe, the ancient citadel above Athens has become a pivotal draw to the city. On top of the craggy rock sit Greece’s most ancient significant buildings. Among the most important is the Parthenon – the Greek goddess Athena’s temple, built in 447BC the temple used to house treasures, including a Huge statue of Athena! The building is considered to be one of the most important structures in ancient Greece so it’s well worth a visit!
What do you think? Have you been to Greece? Are there any places that blew you away? Let us know and comment below!
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