This is something I really didn’t expect. Isn’t Athens supposed to be all about the ancient Greek ruins and some Orthodox churches?!
No, I quickly found out, while wandering around the streets in the city centre. Street art, graffiti, tagging. Everywhere. Is this just the new version of the wall paintings of ancient times?
I spent hours turning into every corner of the narrow streets up the Acropolis hill, as well as the Psiri neighbourhood. No wall seemed to have been forgotten by the unknown (to me) graffiti artists. It was like walking into an open air gallery!
Admittedly there is a huge amount of tagging that is of little artistic value, yet some graffiti/murals were incredibly beautiful.
I will leave you with some images, best placed to describe the variety of art available. All credit goes to the respective authors, even though I don’t know who they are!
This was my last full day (+night) in the city. Not tired of walking, I spent the day exploring more of the city on foot. This included a walk up Lycabettus hill (or Mount Lycabettus), the highest point of Athens!
Here are the highlights of the day:
Located behind the Parliament building, this is a peaceful area where to relax away from the main tourist crowds. I actually visited these gardens on two consecutive days as I really enjoyed walking around and exploring!
At the National Gardens
I loved it! This is the site of the opening and closing ceremony of the 1896 Olympics and it was also a venue for the Olympics in 2004. Entirely made of marble and with very steep steps, it requires a bit of caution when walking up and down after heavy rain but once you are at the highest point the feeling is amazing! You can also have your photo taken at the podium that is located at ground level.
#Lycabettus hill (Mount Lycabettus)
This is the highest point in Athens and its top can be reached on foot or by using a funicular. St George’s Chapel is located at the top and offers a good viewing point to the rest of the city. The wind can be very strong here so be warned!
View of Athens from Mount Lycabettus
Ekklisia Agii Isidori (St Isidore Church) on Mount Lycabettus
Only a 15-min metro journey from Monastiraki lies Piraeus, largest passenger port in Europe and second largest in the world. I went because I wanted to see the port and enjoy the sunset by the sea on my last night in Athens. The sky was cloudy but the colours were still beautiful!
My first day of Athens sightseeing covered quite a lot (I walked around 15Km!) and here is some information and photos on what I saw.
I couldn’t miss it. Yes I had been there before but 25 years can make a huge difference from the viewer’s end. The Acropolis wouldn’t have changed much but my way of looking at things would have.
To reach the Acropolis you walk up the steps on the hill, enjoying the narrow streets, the small restaurants and cafes along the way, the graffiti murals that seem to cover every wall, the panoramic views of the Athens. The route isn’t really well signposted (there are various routes anyway) and more than once I bumped into other tourists who appeared lost on their way up.
Steps up the Acropolis Hill
View of Lycabettus hill from the Acropolis
From a little restaurant along the Acropolis hill
Panorama from the Acropolis
Athens from above
The entrance ticket to the Acropolis is Euro 20 (it drops to Euro 10 in low season). I walked around the area for a few hours, enjoying the views despite the strong wind of the summit of the hill. A lot of restoration work is going on and sadly the Parthenon was largely covered in scaffolding. Yet just being able to be there in the presence of such majestic monuments of the ancient times was incredible.
The Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Theatre of Dyonisus, the Temple of Athena Nike, and more. You could easily spend half a day there. And the views of Athens from above are pretty stunning too.
Athens and Lycabettus hill seen from the Acropolis
Notice on restoration works
Details of columns
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Theatre of Dyonisus
Detail at the Theatre of Dyonisus
Along the north slope
View of the Acropolis from the Acropolis museum area
Not tired of archeology yet, I then spent some more time wandering around the Acropolis Museum, which displays a lot of remains that were found in the area. The museum is located by the southeastern slope of the Acropolis hill and the building itself is quite beautiful.
If instead you are tired of sightseeing, the Plaka district, just by the Acropolis hill, has plenty of cafes and shops (mainly souvenirs) for anyone’s entertainment.
My first sightseeing day ended with a walk up Philopappou hill to see the Philopappou Monument and enjoy a panoramic view of the Acropolis and of Athens as a whole. Again it was very windy but the view from the top was really nice.
I had been to Athens before. I had ticked Greece off my list already. It was a long 25 years ago. It was a family holiday. All I remembered of Athens was walking around the Acropolis in the excruciating heat. And a major public transport strike that made us travel around town in army vans. The latter sounded incredibly cool.
Then suddenly I found myself booking a flight to Athens. Ready to re-discover the city and see how much it had changed. I don’t often go back to a place where I have been before, more eager as I am to explore new countries. But this time was different. Certainly the Acropolis would still be there, but how about the city that had been re-modernised thanks to the 2004 Olympics? How about the impact of the economic crisis?
A desire to escape the UK in search of another connection with my Mediterranean roots was the final push I needed. Not that getting me on a plane needs much convincing…
Keep reading my next posts to see what I discovered in my 4 days in Athens!