Visiting a country for the first time usually implies visiting its capital: it’s often the country’s most widely-known region, the easiest point to access by plane and the historical and cultural center of your destination. However, what do Athenians really think of Athens? Getting to know a city involves more than being able to wander its streets without a map, it also means learning the clichés, and sharing the local jokes ―and we help you do all that and then some!
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Flirting with Athens
Athens' fruit market - credits: D.Bond/Shutterstock.com
Α close relationship with the Greek capital may not always be built upon “love at first sight”. Do not blame yourself for not finding Athens’ charm the first time you step out of your best value for money hotel in Omonoia square. You’ll need just 10 minutes to walk till the breathtaking Archaeological National Museum, the town hall, the colorful agorá -or else, the Central Market- or even the Polytechnic University, where 1973 freedom protests against the junta took place. To let the Greek capital conquer your heart you need to fully understand ts background: in 1922 more than 1.5 million people were forced out of their homes into mainland Greece in one of the most important episodes of Modern Greek history. The city of Athens grew extremely quickly to host them all, and today’s rather complicated city plan is proof of that.
A whole different world, two streets apart
Strefi Hill, Exarcheia - credits: Milan-Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Athens metropolitan area can be divided into more than 40 municipalities with a population of almost 4 million people in total. This means that one-third of the Greek population lives in the capital you’re about to visit.
When it comes to the city center, the divisions are not real. If you walk less than 2 km down Andrea Metaxa’s street from Exarcheia square, you’ll notice a rebellious atmosphere. A full-black rock & roll style may suit the most alternative part of the city at the beginning of the street, but it will definitely attract people’s attention at the high-class, posh district of Kolonaki by the end of your walk. Exarcheia is not only hipsters' and graffiti artists’ paradise, but it is also an incredible place in which you can find good restaurants and a lively young atmosphere. As mentioned, less than 2 km away brand and fashion lovers can indulge in a shopping spree through Kolonaki hills, and leave some room for visiting the Athens War Museum, the Byzantine Museum or the Benaki Museum on the way down to Vasilissis Sofias Avenue.
Night walks: an experience you cannot miss
Aerial view of Monastiraki and the Acropolis - credits: Anastasios71/Sutterstock
To the list of the mixing of people and underground cultures that Omonia and Exarcheia represent, you can add Monastiraki square: Athenians joke about finding very tempting and good-priced gifts there, as long as you don’t ask where they come from -the truth about Monastiraki streets will remain unveiled. What is certain though is that the square is one of Athenians' favorite meeting points and it offers the best night views of the Acropolis from any of its amazing roof bars. Drinking a cocktail in A for Athens, 360º bar or a more secret top-roof bar around Monastiraki is a must you can’t delay ―or you’ll find no place to sit!
The city of freedom
Syntagma square - credits: Constantinos-Iliopoulos/Shutterstock.com
Syntagma square and the parliament building is probably the most famous spot of modern Athens abroad: 'Syntagma' means 'constitution'. However, the widely broadcasted square was not called like this till September 1843, after hundreds of people marched up to today’s Hellenic parliament to ask King Otto for a constitution. Can you guess his answer?
Today, Syntagma square offers a perfect meeting point for friends and a bunch of public transport possibilities: you can take the red metro line till Acropolis station, the blue line takes you to the National Gallery and the tram travels along the city coast. There, you can choose amongst plenty of beach bars to spend the morning away, until the posh Glyfada neighborhood -where you can visit the most upscale shops and cafés. Syntagma offers as well trolleys, night and sightseeing buses for you not to waste a minute of your holidays. Syntagma is not a place just to pass by. If you decide to wander around the square, pay attention to the Parliament building: especially to the Evzones, the guards standing next to the monument of the Unknown Soldier -dedicated to honoring those who fell for the freedom of the country. The most impressive change of guards takes place every Sunday at 11 a.m. -since a bigger parade of evzones is marching, wearing the special red and white uniform, full of history and symbolism.
As you can imagine by now, Athens is a city of many diversities and secret stories. The best way to discover them is to join us for a morning walking tour. If you prefer strolling through the city after the sun goes down, you can choose an evening tour around the romantic historical center. All in all, you can create your own amazing itinerary -we are here to make your Athens trip simply unforgettable!