When people hear ‘Athens Greece’ they think of two things – the Parthenon and the Olympics, not necessarily in that order. While both are worthy of first thoughts, there is so much more to Athens that is worthy of experiencing. I have visited this city three times, although once was only a 24 hour layover. But it was on this layover that I discovered a wonderful part of Athens I had never seen before. I want to share parts of all three of my visits to Athens in this post.
Athens is a juxtaposition of ancient and modern. Most of Athens is built atop Roman ruins, and even the subway lines are museums. When the city began building new subway lines to accommodate the 2004 Olympics, it took much longer than anticipated because they kept finding ruins and artifacts. These ruins and artifacts are displayed in many of the modern subway lines. Below is a picture of Syntagma (Constitution) subway station which is full of pottery and other extraordinary finds that were discovered while digging the most recent subway lines.
The first sight most people visit is the Acropolis, dedicated to the goddess Athena and constructed in 447BC. Atop the Acropolis sits the Parthenon, a temple built to shelter the sculpture of Athena. It was never meant to be entered. Temples were built to be seen from the outside. After decades of reconstruction, visible progress has been made. Be sure to walk around the back side of the Parthenon when you visit to check out the description of the progress made since restoration began.
After a visit to the Acropolis, most people think it is time to leave Athens to explore the islands or other parts of the mainland, but I disagree. I love the energy of Athens and the neighborhoods around the Plaka at the base of the Acropolis are a great place to wander, take pictures, and of course, eat and drink. There are great places to eat and drink all over Athens, not only near the Plaka.
I have to give a shout out to one most unusual restaurant called Funky Gourmet. It’s the first and only Michelin star restaurant I have ever visited. It’s two Michelin stars (whatever that means) and was such great fun to experience. It is appropriately named and while the food combinations seemed pretty unorthodox, they were delicious, beautiful, and whimsically presented. Here’s some pictures of the 16 courses of small bites we had for dinner. Yes, I said 16 courses, but many of them were literally one yummy, delectable bite.
I could go on and on about how fun this restaurant is, but I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I also have to mention a great street food experience we had Falafellas. These guys make, you guessed it, great falafel! For cheap eats, I haven’t had better in Athens. Another great place for great eats is Piraeus, the port. For fresh seafood, this is the place to go for any number of great restaurants with a view of the many harbors. I can’t say the waterfront is a particularly romantic place. It isn’t. But some of the restaurants are.
Numerous museums in Athens include the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Greek Folk Art, and a really long list of others that most tourists miss. I won’t lie. I’ve missed many of them. But I skipped some because I preferred to spend my time wandering the streets looking at graffiti. I’ve heard and read many people describe Athens as ‘seedy’ and maybe the graffiti is why, but I don’t feel that way. I love it. It’s art. The picture below was taken near Funky Gourmet.
Neighborhoods in Athens are well worth a walk around, especially a little gem above the Plaka called Anafiotika. It’s over 300 years old, whitewashed, and picturesque. Monastiraki has it’s share of cafes and bars and nightlife, but lots of charm and reasons to explore it during the day as well.
When you visit Athens Greece, don’t just fly in, see the Acropolis, and then head out to your next Greek destination. Take a few days to enjoy Athens. You’ll find all the reasons people are drawn to Greece here in this one city.