Athens, named after the goddess Athena is located in the region of Attica with an exceptional regional-climate (also known as the Attica climate — imagine 300 days/yr of sunshine). This is the city that flirts with all your senses. It is a loud, intriguing, yet, a laid-back city, with a “chaotic” skyline as one of its trademarks. It awakens some of your most primitive instincts and delivers a feast for culture-hungry eyes as myth and modern day realities clash. Some hate it, some love it. But you must definitely visit it for yourself and wander through it before you decide. I can promise you that it will deliver a lot more than you expect.
Why visit Athens? In a sentence: it is bound to be one of the most rewarding travel experiences of a lifetime! Do a little homework beforehand. Then set aside the travel guides and allow yourself to get lost. This city has been through a lot and it’s been all over her, but she stands proud with her typical Greek unrest that keeps her alert and on her feet.
Source. View of the Odeon Herodes Atticus in Athens
Source. The Caryatids found inside the Acropolis Museum
But first things first. The first reason is:
Her history! Travel back in time to the cradle of democracy. This city has so many ancient monuments that celebrate a culture whose legacy lives on throughout the world. The Parthenon, symbol of a thriving democracy at the time, rests upon a hill overlooking the ever changing Athenian skyline. Along with the city’s most famous landmark, you should definitely pay a well worth visit to the new Acropolis Museum. It is a must. Naturally, there are many more museums such as the National Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum and the Hellenic National Maritime Museum in Peireus to name a few.
I also recommend taking a walk from the pedestrian zone of the Acropolis area (Dionysiou Areopagitou street) all the way to Plaka’s meandering streets, one of the most historic neighborhoods that includes the Roman Agora. Don’t miss the Tower of the Winds, the very first clock tower and weather station in history.
You will come across a lot a touristy shops, coffee houses and tavernas. The one that stands out in my mind is Melina’s coffee house. It has a plethoric personality and a really cozy atmosphere, just right for a cup of coffee.
There’s a unique aura about the whole place and if you allow yourself to wander you’ll discover a lot more than meets the eye like the flea market in Monastiraki with some hidden treasures, or live music tavernas in Psirri with locals as regulars.
2. Her social life. Athens, has an unbeatable social life. It has a great number of theaters, bars, clubs, open air movie theaters, all sorts of gourmet restaurants and naturally, tavernas where one may savor traditional Greek delicacies. The Greek cuisine is noteworthy for dishes like the Greek salad with its sun grown veggies, fish dishes, and meat savories (i.e. “souvlaki” and “gyros”). Pastichio, mousakas, stuffed tomatoes are only but a few traditional dishes worth trying.
Athenian social life happens mainly outdoors, including on many of its rooftops with a breathtaking view. Having a cocktail drink (I recommend any one infused with ‘mastiha’) on a rooftop bar watching Athens boasting with life is truly divine. Athens, has a great renowned night vibe that will surely indulge any sort of mood. Do not be surprised if you find yourself in a 3 a.m. traffic jam. It comes with the territory; after all this is a city where one is always on the move.
3. Her sandy coastline. What most people love about Athens, is the fact that it stretches to the sea, making Piraeus its natural port. Almost any isle destination is within an easy reach proximity due to the many ferries from this port (Hydra, Spetses, Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Crete, etc). The Athenian Riviera stretches all the way to Sounion (the southeastern tip of Attica, about an hour away from the city center). There lies the Temple of Poseidon yet, another iconic monument to visit.
Moreover, Athens, is probably the only European capital with such an easy access to the seaside — a sea that anyone may enjoy safely all year long (this capital is awarded the most “blue flags” by the way). Its suburbs form a lacy, sandy 75 mile (120km) coastline. Heading out to a beach even after a long day’s work is probably a national past-time. During the summer months, these beaches are boasting with people who want to chill out and forget about their worries, especially now with the recession. Renting out a sailboat from any of the yacht marinas for a day trip, a weekend away or even a week’s holiday to any of the Saronikos or Cyclades isles cannot be easier, while yacht chartering provides guests an enjoyable stay in luxury. Personally speaking, a sailboat trip over a three day weekend to Hydra – Spetses – Aegina is one of my most memorable holidays. It was an amazing experience (read more).
Finally, I would like to add one more reason. Her people. Greeks are warm, sociable, friendly people with a great sense of hospitality, empathy and solidarity. That’s why it should not come to you as a surprise that many of them own a family-run traditional business and strive hard for the welfare of their families. They keep close ties with friends and family and will go out of their way to welcome and help out the best way they can their guests. Even during these times of economic hardships, Greeks will proudly offer to help one another and that’s what makes Athens a “humane city” to live in and that makes up big time for any aesthetic mishaps. Should you decide to visit Athens, it would be real nice if you dropped me a line. I could definitely help you setup your itinerary and give you some great tips!