Good to know
“Kaliméra” is what the Greeks say as a greeting, including, of course, in their capital city of Athens. For many tourists, Athens is a starting point for getting to one of the many Greek islands by boat. As one of the oldest cities in the world (Athens is 7,000 years old, Berlin just 780), Athens has a reputation of being a rather old city full of temples. But this is to underestimate Athens: young travelers such as you, who love cosmopolitan places, varied food, art, music, and design, will find a new favorite destination in Athens.
By the way, the highest point in Athens is the 227-meter-high mountain Likavittós. You can enjoy the sport of climbing it on foot, or go up on the cable car. In any case, you’ll be rewarded with a unique view of the city from the top. When visibility is very good, you can even see the island Aegina from here and the summits of the mountains on the Peloponnese peninsula.
There is also a small chapel and nice café on the mountain. The best time to climb Likavittós is in the early evening so you can see the sun disappear impressively behind the Acropolis and marvel at the sea of lights created by the city and illuminated Acropolis.
It can be very hot in Athens in the summer. Discovering a new city in temperatures of up to 45 degrees is possibly not the most appealing choice for everyone, so spring or fall is often more pleasant. Athens can also be very mild in winter, but it can rain a lot.
In Athens, art and culture are closely linked; temples such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple of Hephaestus, the Parthenon, and, of course, the Acropolis fascinate not only with their more than one-thousand-year history, but also because they are, quite simply, art. Many of the ancient sights in Athens are very practically located quite close together. Other must-sees in Athens are Hadrian’s library, Hadrian’s Arch, the New Acropolis Museum, the ancient cemetery Kerameikos, and the Agora of Athens.
A perfect place to immerse yourself in contemporary art and design is the Benaki Museum. And if you’re on the lookout for unusual but easily accessible art, you should go to the Gazi and Psirri districts – you’ll see lots of street art there.
There are people who say that going out for a meal in Greece is something of a national sport. Whatever the case may be, there are certainly plenty of excellent restaurants and cafés in which to practice this national sport in Athens.
You could, for example, begin with a typical Greek salad, moussaka (Greek lasagne) and saganaki (fried Greek cheese).
If you’re a fan of street food, you’ll probably love the numerous variations on pitta, such as pita souvlaki. This combines the typical flat bread with traditional Greek meat skewers. The best overview of Hellenic culinary preferences and specialties can, of course, be found in the bustling Athens Market Hall in the city center.
Lots of small, good restaurants and cafés await you, for example in the student quarter Exarchia and also in Plaka. Plaka is a lovely historic city district at the foot of the Acropolis and even if it’s a bit touristy, it’s still very laid-back and relaxed. Another quarter worth seeing is Gazi. There you can find GazARTE, a versatile arts center with a cinema and outdoor bar.
One of the main shopping areas in Athens is located in the district of Monastiraki with its square of the same name and the two main streets Pandrossou and Adrianou. There, you can find the well-known Athens flea market in addition to clothing and souvenirs, and there are also lots of galleries and vintage shops to be found in several of the side streets.
Fitness and fun
While visiting the numerous cultural sites where you have to climb small and big hills alike, you’ve probably done something to improve your fitness levels, while in Athens anyway. But you can enjoy even more sport by, for example, taking advantage of the relatively new cycle track that links the district of Thissio with the harbor area of Piraeus and is just nine kilometers long. From here, not only can you enjoy watching ships in a relaxed way from a typical Greek café, but there is also an open-air flea market.
If you’ve still got some energy, cycle two kilometers south along the water and you’ll reach the large pebble beach in the Athens suburb of Alimos. Another great beach and lots of beach bars can be found in the Athenians’ most popular swimming area – the elegant suburb of Glyfada. You can also get here by tram from the city center.
Did you know that Athenians love going to watch films? And love watching them in the open air most of all? It’s rumored that wherever there’s a garden or park with a suitable white wall, it will be turned into a cinema screen. A public cinema can be found on the southern side of the Acropolis. English-language films are shown mostly in the original with subtitles. There is also a summer cinema in the wonderful Garden National, a true green oasis in the heart of Athens. And while we’re on the subject of culture in the open air: In the garden of the Megaron Concert Hall, numerous open-air concerts take place in summer.
You can also watch the impressive changing of the guard every hour of every day in front of the parliament building on Syntagma square. It has the special effect of making the guards in their traditional uniforms look as though they’re doing everything in a time loop.
Another great idea: The Syntagma metro station is located close to the parliament building. Like all other Athens metro stations, this is both a transport hub AND a free museum.