Finally, here we are in Athens, capital of Greece and a great place full of promises for us, Antiquity lovers and great travelers passing by! As we discover the heart of this mythical Greek city, we take you for a weekend tour leading to unusual places, street-art, good tips and even more good food.
Most of the attractions are located in 5 neighborhoods: Syntagma, Monastiraki, Psiri, Anafiotika and Exarchia. To find them, spot these places on a paper map (Athens free map) available in one of the small displays scattered all over the city!
Syntagma, an open-air museum
We start our city tour in Syntagma, the central district where we made a stop to observe the guard changing (every 30 minutes). We were equally impressed by the choreography mastery – perfectly executed! – and by the costumes, not very practical to wear for guards in exercise!
The show over, direction the national garden for a refreshing walk. We even saw some animals in the free entrance “zoo” of the garden: ducks, chickens, goats and exotic birds looking passers-by, confined in their enclosures. Once out of the garden on the Zappeion side, we found ourselves in the alley bordered by flamboyant blue (Jacaranda mimosifolia) trees with purplish-blue flowers, a real visual delight, before finishing our tour of Syntagma with a glance at the Temple of Zeus and a visit to the Panathenaic Stadium, from where we can admire the Acropolis!
Monastiraki & Psiri, the most cosmopolitan places
For the atmosphere, nothing better than to get lost in the Monastiraki & Psiri districts! We really liked the Little Kook theme (pastry shop with a decoration inspired by the circus world), the Athens flea market (Ifestou street), the covered market (105 Athinas) and the subway that passes between the ruins along the Adrianou way.
Good surprises did not stop there because in these two districts there are many attractive bars and rooftops, like Couleur Locale and 360° where you can come and sip a drink on the roof terrace or take a picture of the Acropolis without consuming anything (by kindly asking the waiters’ permission!). Finally, a word about the nice Greek specialties Bairaktaris ΜΠΑÏΡΑΚΤΑΡΗΣ restaurant, that looks like a tourist trap, but how delicious with dishes of a very good quality/price ratio!
Anafiotika, the small Cyclades
At the foot of the Acropolis lays Anafiotika district, a micro-district built by the workers from Anafi Island who came to work in Athens in the 19th century. Built on the side of the Acropolis, these thick-walled, cube-shaped houses, partially covered with lime, are reminiscent of the Cyclades houses – you know, those famous Greek islands of which Santorini, Myconos and Paros are a part! We loved walking along the small pedestrian streets, those whitewashed steps between two alleys and getting lost in this charming neighborhood. And at lunch time, you will not fail to find a small restaurant of Greek specialties in the area!
Exarchia, the anarchist den
We ended our tour of Athens by visiting a very special district, which we advise you not to visit at night – because of regular disturbances: we are talking about Exarchia, the anarchists district!
But don’t worry, during the day Exarchia is a dynamic neighborhood occupied by students, street vendors and artists. In the middle of all this joyful mixture, you can discover the park/car park in 26 Zoodochou Pigis and street art inside the Polytechnic University of Fine Arts of Athens (free entrance), small artistic bubbles in the heart of the capital. Don’t hesitate to share your other findings in the comments section!
More about Greece
Thanks again to our host in Athens, for her precious advice! You can find all her expat stories on her blog.
* Post written according to our personal experience *