The largest city in Greece is its capital city, Athens. I decided to visit Athens in the beginning of the year since I was curious to check out the hype behind one of the world’s oldest cities. In comparison to other cities in Europe, I found Athens to provide some very unique neighbourhoods. Here are the top ones which are definitely worth your time.
The neighbourhood around Syntagma is always full of life and one of the main reasons for this is because it is the location where three main metro lines meet. The Royal Palace that has housed the Greek Parliament since around 1934, is also located a few seconds away from the metro exit. Drop by to see the hourly Evzoni change shifts in the Changing of the Guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Further up from the Royal Palace, the National Gardens are also worth a visit. If you have some hours to kill, take a book with you. In the heart of the gardens, look out for the massive building known as the Zappeion which is mainly used for ceremonies and important meetings.
Exactly opposite the Royal Palace is Ermou Street which is filled with shops and some good eateries too. The ladies will love this part of the neighbourhood as this pedestrian area is considered to be one of Athens’ main shopping streets, so it is definitely worth a visit. Somewhere mid-way, the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea can be found in a pedestrian intersection, making it an ideal stop for the bored boyfriend to sit on its perimeter walls, eat a bread ring and wait for his significant other. You should take a peak inside this beautiful Greek Orthodox church which is actually one of the oldest churches in Athens.
If you visit in the morning I suggest you try one of the Greek sesame bread rings known locally as Koulouri Thessalonikis. These stalls are actually found everywhere around Athens, usually up till the late morning.
This is where I spent most of my time in Athens and in my opinion the surrounding area has a lot to offer to anyone visiting. Upon exiting the metro station you immediately notice that you have just arrived in what seems to be the heart and soul of Athens. As soon as you walk out of the metro, you will notice a pedestrian cross road.
To the left side of the metro exit, you will find a road called Dionysiou Areopagitou. This is clearly a pedestrian area which will take you to a number of tourist sites including the Acropolis of Athens, the Acropolis Museum, the Parthenon, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus. This path also leads to Socrates Prison. If it isn’t too hot, you should walk up Filopappou Hill. If you plan on walking up the hill in the evening, take my advice and take a torch as there are no lights to guide you on your way down – I had the opportunity to meet the hound of the Baskervilles on my way down – not fun at all.
Taking the road on the right of the metro exit takes you to the Arch of Hadrian, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium, which is located around 15 minutes away from the temple on foot. This stadium is built entirely of marble and it is huge. Before entering the stadium, a walkie-talkie-like device will be provided. I suggest you take it as it serves as a great guide while you walk through the marble stadium.
Walk north of the Acropoli metro station exit and you will end up in the neighbourhood of Plaka; the historical neighbourhood of Athens which is built around the northern and the eastern slopes of the Acropolis. During the day, the many shops located in the labyrinthine streets make it the ideal place to buy some souvenirs for family and friends back home. In the evening, you must try out some local food at one of the eateries in the area and experience life going by in the “Neighbourhood of the Gods”. I believe it is ideal to have dinner here. Try out the local moussaka usually served with ground meat and eggplant. If you don’t eat meat there is also a vegetarian variation too with zucchini and rice.