There will always be a mystery, a meaning laying on the background of the city of Greek Gods where myths are intertwined with present reality and the past.
The modern alter ego of the city has earned it another name, Cementopolis, this is how locals are calling Athens for its over urbanized plan (The capital has four times less green space per person than recommended by EU standards).
However, good news, I didn't really feel the lack of shade thanks to the close standing houses, entrance canopies of numerous cafes and offices' arcaded passages.
Streets of the modern world might be drowning out of the echoes of ancient times but never in Greece, where the history is felt and seen literally everywhere. Here comes the advantage of quick gateways, your eyes grasp unique qualities of a place right on the run, you get surprised by the number of antiquities, authenticity and the otherness.
Let's get practical!
24 hours in Athens.
Flying with an early flight will guarantee you a healthier and a lighter start for your long day to explore the city (just google circadian clock, melatonin and the importance of a long night sleep).
We flew from Larnaka Airport early in the morning and greeted the sunrise on the plain with a cheese-filled pastry (soaked in old). A very traditional start to this little getaway!
Your hotel choice is crucial, try finding one close to the beginning of the end of your planned route. We have stayed in Royal Olympic Hotel (Athanasiou Diakou 28, Athens, Greece 117 43, Greece) right close to beautiful green National Gardens (Leoforos Vasilisis Amalias 1, Athina 105 57, Greece).
National Gardens Temple of Olympian Zeus
Hotel Breakfast and Bar Lounge
The hotel overlooks the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the gardens and the Acropolis. I will never forget their generous breakfast we enjoyed with a view while the sun was rising.
Breakfast included traditional sweets and cookies, loukoumades (see photo below in a food chapter), a variety of delicious Greek cheeses, bread, sautéd veggies and classic continental breakfast content with eggs, salad and fresh-cut vegetables and fruits).
Even being one of the biggest cities of Mediterranean, submerged with Piraeus, the largest port in all Europe, main sites of Historical Athens can be explored by feet in just a day.
The sun is shining strong above the hills of Athina all year round, illuminating streets with warm orange colours. Try starting early, before the sun hits it's zenith and visit the main outdoor attractions.
Most important sites first, so head to Acropolis. Coming here in the morning will save you up to an hour of the queue waiting time.
Descending from the highest spot in Athens, you can plan your walk very easily. Main landmarks are located close and within the old city borders.
Plaka District New Acropolis Museum
Plaka district, starts from the right side, down the hill and connects with Syntagma square, National Gardens and Pittakou Street. There you will find many local restaurants, shops and cafes.
Streets around Acropolis
We went till the Ekklisia Agia Dynami (Voulis 31-33, Athina 105 57, Greece), the old Orthodox church left under the new high rise office building, and ended up having lunch in one of modern Greek cuisine rests right in front of it (details below in food section).
Cheerful people; second-hand stores and many graffiti.
On our way, we've also visited Metropolitan Cathedral of the Athens (Mitropoleos, Athina 105 56, Greece) with a breathtaking blue ceiling, countless maple plates and golden decorations. It was built in 1862, after 20 years using construction material of 72 old and destroyed churches.
The work of a renown french-swiss deconstructivist architect Bernard Tschumi that formed modern Athens' face, New Acropolis Museum (Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens, Greece). Built from 2001 to 2009, design of the building was led conceptually as described by Tschumi himself. Marshall Berg mentions that visitor's movement was designed as a “circular ascend” through time. With 8,000 square meters of exhibition space, the museum tells a life story of the Athenian Acropolis and its surroundings. It unites formerly dispersed artefacts and covers historical remains (seen from the entrance and through the glass floors inside of the museum) with building's structure.
The entrance and the exterior.
Remaining extremely minimal, the museum presents a strong and stable personality. One can easily identify main materials that form the building, concrete, marble and glass (a lot crystal clear glass). Detailing is what needs special visitors attention here, as well as space planning.
Another astonishing fact about this space is its lightness, airiness and brightness due to the "erased" wall. Inner columns and walls are supporting the building letting the skin to remain transparent, full glass and almost unnoticeable fine shades. Thus museum exhibits are drowning in natural light and are present with the most corresponding background, Acropolis and Athenian hills. (Tschumi valued the existence of light and noticed its difference depending on the city.)
Everything inside remains parallel and is articulated in three levels. The first level includes the main exhibit of the museum- ruins from the 4th through 7th centuries A.D which are protected beneath the building.
Inner space is merged with the other reality by the continuous route from the main road of the city to the historical part and to the entrance on the north side, covered with a concrete canopy.
FOOD AND DRINKS:
Stop by and enjoy your afternoon coffee:
· Lotte (1) for a quick coffee and pastry recharge.
117 42, Tsami Karatasou 2, Athina 117 42, Greece
· Little tree Books and Coffee (2,3) located a few steps away is very cosy and much more spacious place where you can enjoy your time with some literature. perfect for longer stays, conversations or meet-ups. Plus it has a terrace under the tree.
Kavalloti 2, Athina 117 42, Greece
· Lukumades (4), loved by locals and tourists alike, one of the best greek traditional pastries is served here. (I am still regretting the no I’ve said to another portion)
Aiolou 21, Athina 105 51, Greece
Places we ate at and loved, ̶a̶̶̶n̶̶̶d̶̶̶ ̶̶̶a̶̶̶l̶̶̶r̶̶̶e̶̶̶a̶̶̶d̶̶̶y̶̶̶ ̶̶̶p̶̶̶l̶̶̶a̶̶̶n̶̶̶ ̶̶̶t̶̶̶o̶̶̶ ̶̶̶c̶̶̶o̶̶̶m̶̶̶e̶̶̶ ̶̶̶b̶̶̶a̶̶̶c̶̶̶k̶̶̶ :
· Ella Greek Cooking. They have extremely delicious food here! Plus local products for sale. Go for many mezes and a small Greek coffee if you are not very hungry. Friendly staff and cosy atmosphere. Don’t miss an opportunity to see survived old church under the modern high rise building, its right across the street.
Mitropoleos 26, Athina 105 63, Greece
· Happy blender. If you are into smoothies or eat vegan, it is a place for you.
Ifestou 39, Athina 105 55, Greece
Athens has a very warm climate with a harsh sun throughout the summer.
For a weekend short getaway, pack a small backpack, a straw hat and a camera with an empty memory card (essential). One outfit will be quite enough. Light linen and silk are preferable materials for summer months in a Mediterranean climate, paired with natural footwear like sandals or espadrilles. Autumn and Spring are the best seasons to visit the city when its fresh and cool during mornings and evenings (trench, summer sweater or a coat are ideal to be added). When we've travelled in September I've packed similar items, minimum cosmetics, sunscreen and a sketchbook (because inspiration levels during trips are always high). Pro tip: save some space for some local street stores' finds.