October 11, 2020

City Guide: Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Athens

When we speak of Athens, what comes to mind are ancient ruins, philosophy, gods and goddesses, and drama. This doesn’t come as a surprise; after all, it’s the birthplace of an ancient civilization that continues to live to this day. Athens is an open-air museum that brims with world-class cultural heritage attractions and is a metropolitan place that mixes grunge and grace. Athens’ name was taken from the Greek goddess of wisdom and inspiration, Athena, which is also why the city always remains at the cultural fore.

Neighbourhoods in Athens

Athens is composed of various neighbourhoods; each of which personifies something different. For example, you’ll love the cafes in Exarchia, the shopping scene in Koukaki, and the vibrant nightlife in Gazi. Check out each of them below:

  • Plaka

One of the top attractions of Athens is, without a doubt, Plaka. Live shops and historic landmarks dot its picturesque streets. Of course, with this come the crowds, so you just have to be ready for it.

  • Koukaki

Ten years has done so much to Koukaki. It is the lesser-known sister of Makriyianni that boasts the world-famous Acropolis Museum, which has prompted it to take a step back and be identified as just another neighourhood in Athens. But that’s no longer the case as Kouokaki is now famous among tourists and locals. For tourists, it is a popular Airbnb destination that ranks among the top five most popular neighbourhoods in the world to stay in.

  • Monastiraki

This neighbourhood is at the hub of craftsmanship and commerce with layers of history.

  • Historic Centre

The Historic Centre of Athens is where the heart of modern Greece beats. But don’t keep your hopes up in seeing ancient ruins as you won’t see them here. Ironic but true.

  • Pangrati

This neighbourhood is where the Athenian intelligentsia has always settled. Today, this place of lively cafes and leafy squares is starting to see more hipsters.

  • Exarchia

This part of Athens is popular for being the hive of anarchists and radicals, as well as rebels with or without cause.

Can’t-miss things to do in Athens

Coming here isn’t just all about learning the historical side of an ancient civilization, but it is also about admiring its other offerings and doing activities that can truly reveal to you the true beauty of Athens beyond its ancient ruins.

1. Tease your taste buds with Athens’ interesting cuisine

Delicious-looking food on a plate

Want to experience the true essence of Athens? Go on a culinary journey of the city and give your senses an experience they won’t ever forget. Its culinary landscape and food culture are truly unique, featuring classical tavernas and ouzeries that are locally known as tapa bars. There are also tons of fine-dining restaurants, street food, and fusion cookeries to choose from that can surely tease your taste buds. If you think you have a discriminating taste and a demanding palate, wait and see how they can be satisfied by Athens’ fine tastes and flavours.

However, if you’re looking to taste the delicacies and local food offerings of the city, there are festivals that are always around to show tourists and visitors what Athens local life is all about.

2. Enjoy your time exploring the city with your children

Athens: two kids playing on the sand with a turtle

Take a break from sightseeing and exploring the ruins and have fun with your children exploring the National Garden. This is the perfect place to take the kids out for a leisurely time where they can enjoy watching the ducks in a small pond. That’s not all as the children can also explore a small zoo, a playground, a children’s library, and a botanical museum.

Then, after they’ve had their fill of some outdoor fun, you can take them next to the Children’s’ Museum and the Museum of Greek Children’s art. Both located in Plaka, they’ll surely be interested in the different exhibits. And if there’s still time, proceed to the planetarium of the Eugenides foundation, which is one of the world’s largest and best-equipped digital planetariums.

3. Go swimming in the blue ocean

Athens: the blue sea with an island

You might think that to go swimming in the blue ocean you’ll need to get on a ferry. That’s not the case here because Athens offers a unique string of beaches along the Apollo coast. Best of all, it’s only 30 minutes away from the city centre and is accessible by tram, public buses, and cars. And if you’re up for the thrill and physical exercise, you can also hire a bike and pedal your way to the beaches. There are a lot of options at the beach with some of them offering changing cabins, water sports facilities, and self-service restaurants. Just be ready to expect big crowds here; otherwise, you can travel 50 kilometres from the city to the area of Attica where crowds are smaller.

4. Acropolis Museum

Athens: the facade of the Acropolis Museum

We could not exclude visiting the Acropolis Museum because it’s already synonymous to Athens. You’ll surely be amazed to see its collections sprawled across three levels, plus the archaeological excavation at its foundations.

Proceed first to the ground floor where you can find the ‘Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis’ houses, things that Athenians used in everyday life from the different historic periods, as well as finds from the sanctuaries that were established on the Acropolis’s slopes. Admire the ‘Archaic Gallery’, a nine-metre high, naturally-lit structure, situated in the south and east sections of the first floor. It hosts extravagant sculptures that graced the first temples on the Acropolis.

5. Enjoy Athens by night

Athens: A wall of different drinks and cocktails

If there’s one thing that modern Athens is nailing, it would have to be its nightlife. The city just brims with all kinds of evenings to choose from—luxurious hotspots to partying with the locals. Choose from Greek and fusion restaurants, taverns, bouzouki places, cinemas, theatres, beach parties, dance clubs, and after-hour bars.

6. Explore the city with a local

Athens: stone houses up on a cliff side

Where else in the world can you find locals volunteering their time to show visitors around their lovely city? Athens has what they call ‘This is my Athens’, a community of savvy local volunteers who love showing tourists around Athens while sharing their insights and favourite spots. This provides an excellent way for tourists to see and explore more deeply into the city spots they wouldn’t normally find in guide books. The volunteers may not be professional tour guides, but they come from various professions and ages and don’t accept payments or tips. This makes the excursion of Athens originate from a local’s perspective.

Athens is truly one remarkable city to visit. With a long and colourful history and a deeply-rooted ancient civilization, it surely continues to grow and show the world what a beautiful city it is that deserves your time and attention.

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