Five Reasons to travel to Athens
Wondering whether you should visit the Greek capital or just head straight to the islands? Ask yourselves no more. These 5 reasons to travel to Athens, will place the ancient metropolis on the top of your bucket list.
A potent mix of ancient landmarks and contemporary cool, Athens is a world wanderer’s playground. Refined and wild in equal measures, Europe’s oldest city offers iconic delights -yes, the Acropolis is as stunning as you’d imagine!- but also has unexpected treasures up its sleeve. Spend your days nonchalantly wandering its streets- history keeps creeping up in every twist and corner and there’s is a surprise at every nook and cranny- and then dance your worries away at any one of its cocktails bars or nightclubs. Bustling with life, light and energy, Athens is an experience. Drink in as much of it as you can.
1. Fascinating history and culture-ancient and modern
History doesn’t get much more vivid than in Athens: It’s quite literally around every corner, reminding you that you’re strolling the streets of the ancient capital that’s the cradle of the Western civilization and birthplace of democracy. You’ll be spoilt for choice, whether you’re catching a classical tragedy -or a rock concert at Herodeion, exploring the winding alleyways of Plaka, admiring exhibits in the imposing neoclassical Archaeological Museum, or marvelling at the Temple of Hephestus.
But if you choose only one landmark to visit during your travel to Athens, make sure to climb up the rocky hill of the Acropolis: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient citadel that dominates the city is home to awe-inspiring ruins including the world-famous Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Theatre of Dionysus. On the foot of the Acropolis, the homonymous new museum is an architectural masterpiece: Bathed in light and designed to showcase the findings in a most befitting manner.
2. Food is an experience
Pack your appetite when you travel to Athens: Because sampling as much food as possible is one of the favourite pastimes for Greeks -and Athenians are no exception. Rather than eating to live, they live to eat. And that’s why meals are almost invariably social occasions, last for hours and involve variety and copious amounts. Traditional Greek cooking is based on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that are prepared into simple but delectable dishes: Packed with goodness, without fussy sauces, just seasoned with herbs and extra virgin olive oil.
Of course, there is mouthwatering merit in minimalism: Those just-picked salads, freshly caught seafood and grass-fed livestock are all sure to please and appease your palates. Yet far are the days when one would survive only on stuffed tomatoes, souvlaki or moussaka. As a lively modern metropolis, Athens boasts a thriving foodie scene with everything from gyro and kebabs to authentic sushi, Thai or Indian. High-end fusion eateries go hand in hand with old school tavernas, contemporary Greek restaurants, Mafia – style trattorias and street delis – and that’s to mention but a few of the options. Take your pick as the mood strikes and don’t worry about the calories. You’ll be working them out in no time with all this walking around town.
3. Surprises in every corner of the city
When you travel to Athens, make sure to leave room in your itinerary for spontaneous discovery. Most importantly, keep your antennas up and attuned to what’s happening around you. You never know when you might bump into an impromptu musical performance on the street. Or stumble upon the quirkiest of bars housed in an otherwise unassuming building.
Creative surprises indeed abound. Whether in the form of giant murals attesting to Athens’ bustling street art scene; or the many secret events that take place throughout the city. You just need the insights of a local insider!
Then there are the flea markets, where you just might find your treasure among another one’s trash. One of the most popular is the Monastiraki market every Sunday. Bric a brac include everything from old paintings and tea sets to second-hand books and musical instruments- brush up your bargaining skills and give it a go!
Bear also in mind that Athens is a city that seldom sleeps. Every month, there’s something happening somewhere, whether it’s a festival, show or exhibition. From the Athens and Epidaurus arts festival in the summer, with open-air theatre, opera, classical music and dance performances at various locations around town, to the carnival festivities in February or March (depending on the date of Lent), you’ll never run out of fun things to see and do.
4. The beach is just a short drive away
You don’t need to go island hopping (though it’s very easy, should you wish to do so!) to enjoy the beach life when you’re in Athens. Rimmed by coastline, this sunkissed city boasts glorious shores which are just a short car ride away from the centre. Athens Riviera on the southern side is a long stretch of coast that runs from Piraeus to Sounion: One of the capital’s greatest attractions, it sports beautiful beaches -both public and private- top-class resorts and many eating and drinking options. Some of the best party spots in town are to be found here, but there is also a strong romantic vibe: Tinted in magenta hues, sunsets don’t come any prettier than here.
It is definitely worth embarking on a leisurely road trip all the way down to the edge of the Attica Penninsula. But if you don’t want to venture too far off from the city centre, you might as well head to the coastal suburb of Vouliagmeni, a mere 25 km from the downtown. With plenty of beaches to choose from- society haunts and secluded coves- and everything you need for a day on the water -from windsurfing and paddle boarding to boat hire- Vouliagmeni is beach culture at its shiniest. A place to see and be seen; flaunt swimsuit designer wear or bare it all; socialize or wine and dine in one of the smart cafes and restaurants of the area. Should you be looking on the other hand for the ultimate spa experience, Vouliagmeni again delivers: This is the home of the homonymous natural thermal lake that has been renowned for its therapeutic benefits since antiquity, offering relaxation and sophisticated surroundings in one handsome package.
5. Proximity to other Greek emblems
Nothing says laid back holidays like a road trip. One of the greatest advantages of Athens is its proximity and easy access to other iconic destinations around Greece. If you have the time, Cape Sounion but also Delphi are close by and certainly worth a visit.
At the southernmost point of the Athens Riviera, 70 km from the city centre and a mere 1-hour leisurely drive away, Cape Sounion (in Ancient Lavrion) is home to the famous Temple of Poseidon: Perched on a hill overlooking the Aegean’s big blue, this 2.500-year-old, white marble Doric temple will leave you speechless. As much as it did those ancient Athenians, who went there to worship their god of the sea. Or, in more contemporary times, British poet Lord Byron.
Legend has it that he was so mesmerised by the sight, that not only did he compose poetry in its honour but also carved his name on one of the columns. Searching for said inscription is a favourite visitors’ pastime; and so is gazing at the sun setting from the temple’s vantage position. There are plenty of opportunities for swimming in the surrounding coves, while the area sports a handful of good tavernas for some much-needed sustenance after a day’s worth of delightful discoveries. The quaint port town of Lavrio is a ten-minute drive away and another great alternative for lunch or dinner.
More than just a picturesque mountain village, Delphi is one of the most important historical sites of Greece, with a reputation that far exceeds the country’s borders. Set amongst a dramatic alpine landscape, this UNESCO monument once hosted Apollos’ sanctuary and the seat of Pythia: The emblematic Oracle that shaped fates throughout the ancient world. Named the “navel of the earth”, Delphi is located 180 km northwest of Athens. The drive there takes just over 2 hours, amidst beautiful scenery. Pleasures of the eye aside, this ride will be an experience in its own right. After picking you up from your hotel in Athens, our well kept and quite knowledgeable chauffeur shall regale you with secret stories and insider tips along the way. Did you know, for example, that the Greek colonies in Italy were inaugurated on account of the Oracle’s verdict?
Travel to Athens, Greece with Upper Travel
If you are looking for a potent mix of history, culture and the good life then Athens – in fact, the entire of Greece – is your best bet. Yet whether you are a first-timer or a frequent visitor, to take it all in you’ll surely benefit from the insights of a local expert. A boutique travel agency with a personalized approach, Upper Travel is here to help you make the most of your time in the bustling Greek capital. Contact us and let us design the travel experience that’s specifically tailored to your needs, dreams and whims.