AthensOne of Europe's Ancient capitals, Athens has undergone significant change in recent years. A modern metropolis with an old town feel, this is where antiquity meets futurism, and ancient monuments fuse with a trendy, cosmopolitan scene. Plaka neighbourhood is the heart of its historical centre, with labyrinthine streets leading to all manner of ancient wonders.
The CityAthens’ heyday was around 400 years BC, that’s when most of the classical monuments were built. During the Byzantine and Turkish periods the city decayed into just an insignificant little village, only to become the capital of the newly-liberated Greece in 1833. Ahead of the 2004 Olympics, almost the entire infrastructure was transformed: the Metro, trams, new ring roads and viaducts have eased the pressure of heavy traffic. Athens is still a rather messy and chaotic place — it wouldn’t be Athens otherwise — and despite all the improvements still retains a great deal of its oriental charm. The whole coastal stretch from Piraeus to the old Hellenikon airport has been improved with new plantings, viaducts and paths for walking. The Plaka district is becoming more and more popular and it is on the way to catching up with Psyrri, Gazi and Rouf when it comes to restaurants and cafes. Discover the beauties of the Anafiotika district, at the feet of the Acropolis, and visit the ancient village still housed in the midst of the city. In Exarchia, there is a somewhat in-your-face anarchic atmosphere around the Technical University. Meanwhile, Kolonaki is becoming more and more gentrified.
Do & See
Athens' unrivalled history and world-famous landmarks are just some of what this city has to offer. The difficult years inflicted by the economic crisis have only deepened the city's artistic soul and not a day goes by that Athens does not amaze its visitors.
Food is at the centre of all activities in Greece and it is easy to understand why. The Greek cuisine, Mediterranean at heart and influenced by their Turkish neighbours, is fresh, honest, filling and absolutely delicious. Whether you are in for a tour of the best Greek Tavernas in town, looking for the tastiest gyros or want to try the new Greek cuisine, you might adjust to the local rhythm and spend a lot of time around the table. In Athens and in Greece in general you can eat at any time of the day and late at night. Tavernas and Ouzerias (where you can drink local cocktails and usually hear traditional music) are also a key place for social life.
Drinking coffee in Greece is an institution, and Athens is no exception. You will find the cafes and their terraces full of people, laughter, cigarette smoke and animation everyday and all year long. Cafes here are the place to meet up with friends, relax, have long conversations about life and politics, or to play backgammon (when in Greece, call it "Tavli"). The most Greek coffee drink is without a doubt the frappé. It was invented at the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair by Giannis Dritsas — a representative of the Nestlé company. It's basically instant coffee whipped with cold water until frothy, served on ice. If you're not an instant coffee lover, ask for the server to add some sugar and milk to your drink. It's quite a marvelous invention for hot summer days. Or course, third wave coffee has made is to Athens as well. You can choose to sit at a trendy or alternative cafe, at a traditional kafeneio, or even at one of Greece's own coffee chains.
Bars & Nightlife
Athens' bar scene brings is a neverending surprises. The nightlife extends way beyond the first morning lights. The Greeks know how to drink and to party, and Athens is the living and breathing image of this happy and joyful spirit. From alternative bars to fancy clubs, pubs and traditional "ouzerias", follow the flow and experience one of the best nights of your life. Don't miss out on these fun spots in Athens:
It is almost unbelievable that Athens is not yet consecrated as one of the best fashion and shopping destination of Europe. It has everything the other capitals are so proud of: international brands, luxury products and major names, designer shops, smaller and more original boutiques — all showcased in pleasant walkable streets and neighbourhoods, usually with lower prices than cities such as Paris, Milan or London. Even though years ago the city was hit hard by the crisis and many small shops had to close, it still offers plenty of shopping opportunities, in and around the centre.