Athens Unveiled: More Than Just the Acropolis
Athens, the cradle of Western civilization, is a city steeped in history and culture. While the iconic Acropolis stands tall as a testament to its ancient glory, the city offers a plethora of experiences that go beyond the well-trodden tourist paths. If you're a traveller contemplating a visit to Greece and wondering how many days to allocate to Athens, this guide is for you.
The Acropolis: A Timeless Marvel
The Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Athens. This ancient citadel, perched high above the city, houses several iconic structures, including the Parthenon. As you wander through its ancient ruins, you're transported back in time, reliving the tales of Greek gods and heroes. But remember, Athens is not just about the Acropolis.
Hidden Gems of Athens
Anafiotika: Nestled under the northern slopes of the Acropolis, Anafiotika feels like a tiny island in the heart of the city. Its narrow alleys and whitewashed houses are reminiscent of the Cycladic islands. A stroll here offers a serene escape from the city's hustle and bustle. Here you’ll also find some respite with more traditional restaurants if you look carefully.
Central Market: Dive into the local flavors at Athens' bustling Central Market. From fresh produce to aromatic spices, this market is a sensory delight for food enthusiasts. The market is usually the busiest in the morning and early afternoon.
Mount Lycabettus: Standing 277 metres above sea level, you can’t beat this panoramic view of Athens. If you’re fit or have a good amount of time you can hike up Mount Lycabettus but do not attempt in the summer months, it can be gruelling. The view from the top, especially during sunset, is nothing short of magical. For most of us mere mortals you can take a return trip on a funicular (cliff railway) but don’t expect a view till you get to the top as it goes through a tunnel. If you decide to go for the sunset make an evening of it and stay for a fine dining experience with possibly the best views extending from the Acropolis to the port of Piraeus. Be sure to make a reservation at Orizontes and ask for a table out on the outside terrace (weather permitting).
Beyond the Tourist Trail
Technopolis: Once an old gasworks factory, Technopolis has been transformed into an industrial museum and cultural venue. It hosts various events, from music festivals to art exhibitions, making it a hub for contemporary culture. Give yourself 1-2 hours to enjoy this area.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center: This architectural marvel is a testament to modern Athens. With its sprawling gardens, opera house, and library, it's a space where culture, nature, and architecture converge. You’ll need more than 3 hours to explore.
Exarcheia: Don't be put off by the graffitied walls (yes, it's everywhere). Known for its bohemian vibe, Exarcheia is the place to experience Athens' alternative scene and in many ways Athens’ best-kept secret. With its street art, indie bookstores, and quirky cafes, it's a neighborhood that pulsates with creativity. Some of the best Athenian tavernas are located in this area, along with underground music venues.
Athens is a city that seamlessly blends the ancient with the modern. While its historical landmarks like the Acropolis beckon tourists from across the globe, its lesser-known spots offer a glimpse into the city's soul. So, when planning your trip to Greece, ensure you allocate ample time to explore Athens in all its multifaceted glory.