Updated: Aug 14, 2022
As a Greek-American, I have been to Athens more times than I can count. I still am drawn to this Magical City much as I am to New York. There is something alluring about Athens, not in the summer so much, but in the fall when most of the locals have returned from their summer holidays and the place is alive.
Athens has so much to see and do and there are places that must be seen at least once. I won’t discuss all the obligatory places in Athens like the Parthenon, Lycabettus Hill, the Plaka, Syntagma Square, and The Acropolis Museum, just things to see on your return visit.
October 18 we took a morning flight to Athens thinking that we would be able to visit family, friends and the city. Our flight took off and arrived on time…good start. The plane was small, accommodating about 60 passengers. Nevertheless, we waited over an hour for our luggage to come to the baggage area. Luggage in hand, we then had to wait another hour for the shuttle to take us to our rental car. When we got to the rental agency our car was not ready as the previous renter returned it late. So, we hung around while the agency detailed our ride because a ferry boat did not arrive on time. Sometimes going with a local agency may save you money, but the big ones usually have a car to spare. By the time it was ready, I was hangry. The traffic on the roads picked up and so it took yet another hour to reach our hotel. Once we got ourselves settled, we took a short walk around the neighborhood. It was dinner time and the only photos I have for the 18th are dinner related.
We walked about a kilometer and decided to try O Typografos for dinner. The restaurant was filled with locals and what I can say was really. really good cheap eats. The falafels were excellent and the tzatziki rivaled my daughter’s (it is one of her specialties), and the tsipoura (white fish similar to dorado) was grilled to perfection. I recommend this place if you are in the area.
This was the first time I stayed in the Kolonos neighborhood. It is a residential area with a few restaurants, markets, shops and bakeries and is relatively quiet. We stayed in a boutique hotel called Alex’s apartments and were very pleased with our accommodations. The immaculate apartment was nice, with a small balcony, kitchenette, parking, and all the amenities we needed. Ohm and lest I forget, an elevator, Netflix in case you just wanted to chill and even little slippers.
On our full day in Athens, we walked to Syntagma Square and the Plaka from the hotel. We did have to pass through Omonia, which I would not do at night. It is almost impossible to safely cross the circle with a plethora of cars speeding around it and traffic lights and crosswalks hard to find. I can only imagine trying to do this when it is dark out. In addition Omonia has a reputation for being more…what’s the Greek word?...ah yes “sketchy” than other parts of town. Walking through the area does have advantages, especially if you are interested in photographing street art, architecture, and city life.
The route we took to walk downtown had us go over a bridge closely monitored by a pack of noisy dogs. In fact, these furry friends sounded like they were in attack mode as we passed the old train station and if not for the fence…
Across the street we saw both real palm trees and blue ones that were painted on a building,
Continuing our walk, somewhere around Omonia we saw this gigantic mural of a man
From Omonia we walked into the Psiri neighborhood where we saw hundreds of murals. Below you will find a sampling of what we saw. If you love street art, the Psiri neighborhood will not disappoint.
Soon we saw a crowned dog looking at us as we passed an old firehouse.
Athens born artist, Same84, is best known for his large-scale murals and public art projects which employ a bold and colorful palette. One such mural can be seen on a multi-story building located on Odos Karaiskaki, in the Psiri neighborhood of Athens. To see more of his work, go to: https://same84.com/
Almost everywhere you go in Greece one's appetite is stimulated by the fragrant aroma of fresh baked goods. The bouquet of savory smells that can surround you are a delight to your olfactory senses.
The pastry shop below specializes in Mpougatsa (Bougatsa) a Greek pastry made with a thick filo dough and filled with a semolina and cream custard. One of my favorite sweets.
INO is a muralist known for super-realistic large scale murals. This one of many that you will find in Psiri, Athens.
Abatzoglou packaging materials mural actual depicts store contents such as packaging tape and is on the same building as the huge INO mural.
The mural above was painted by American born muralist, Alex Martinez. To see more images of his work: https://www.instagram.com/alex_martinez_graffiti/
At 5 Μιαούλη, Psiri, Athens, Greece is a brightly painted column by a pharmacy where you can catch a glimpse of the Monastiraki Metro Station.mural by Woozy.
If you start your walk shortly after sunrise and before the shops in the Monastiraki open you will see the contrasting and colorful tags and art on the roll-down security gates.
It doesn't matter what time you walk through the Monastiraki, there is always something to see.
One of things about Greece, pretty much all of it; it is old. When construction starts, it often abruptly stops because some ancient artifact has been found. Everywhere you go, you will find evidence of Ancient Greece.
As you are leaving the Monastiraki area and heading into the Plaka you will see the old with the new.
Once you arrive in the Plaka you can see the Acropolis above you and the Roman Forum below you. If you look down the hill to where the Monastiraki and Thiseio meet, you will see one of the best preserved examples of Greek Dorian architecture - The Temple of Hephaestus.
Of course no outing is complete without a photo of either a bird or a cat. One of the first birds that I observed when I started birding a few years ago was the magpie. Here is one in a tree.
Of course in Athens you will invariably see the Acropolis even if you don’t climb the hill and enter the historic site because it is visible from many parts of town. The first time I saw the Parthenon on the Acropolis was in 1973. At that time we were actually able to sit on the marble and to walk inside. Today movement is more restricted.
While in the Plaka we saw yet another beautiful mural.
We also saw colorful buildings with colorful windows and doors.
Back to Monastiraki Square where the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens can be found. This landmark dates back to the 19th century.
Continuing our walk we soon arrived in Syntagma Square.
Every time we go to Athens we try to stop in our favorite bakery, Χατζή Pastry Shop. Their Baklava and Kataifi are to die for.
You can tell by the smile on my husband’s face that the pastries are beyond excellent
We walked about 400 meters up Stadiou Street and came upon the National History Museum.
Theodoros Kolokotronis was a general and leader of Greek Independence. He is regarded as a national hero. We continued our walk on Statiou Street where we saw the Memorial of National Reconciliation.
Soon we were in Omonia where we saw the larger than life “Ode to the Big Sea” - Mural by Leonidas Giannakopoulos. To see more Street art by Leonidas Giannakopoulos visit: https://leonidasgiannakopoulos.gr/
So now we had to carefully dodge traffic to cross to the North Side of Omonia Square which took a while. Eventually we continued on Agiou Konstantinou until we got to the fallen Aviators Monument (sorry no photos) and about 40 minutes later were back in Kolonos.
In the evening we left the city and visited a friend of mine from high school in Glyfada.
The next morning, our 2nd full day in the Athens area, we explored the Kolonos area a little. Below are some examples of the street art that we saw.
We walked past the old Peloponnese Railway Station which I probably took a train from some 30 or 40 years ago.
There we saw a painting by Lia Koutelieri with a little girl, a train and a joker.
Another area to visit in Athens if you like Street art is Metaxourgeio. Omonia Square is located in this neighborhood. There you will see the impressive mural by SimpleG, “So many books, so little time”. This mural needs some time to appreciate because it is so large and varies from different angles.
While the building below does not have street art and is in need of some TLC, it is an interesting structure .
We went back to our accommodations, retrieved the car, and met up with one of my cousins in another part of town. A few hours later my daughter met us, we had coffee, and she got to meet yet another cousin. My daughter hadn’t been to Athens in several years, but did hear of a really nice restaurant in the Plaka. We decided to drive and attempt to park there this time. This was an experience. It is very difficult to find parking anywhere near the Plaka area. We drove for longer than we would have walked, and finally found a spot that required an app to pay for parking. My phone had intermittent internet access and so it took a while to download the app. Once we successfully did this then we had to put the spot in and for some reason the app did not recognize the spot. Looking around, everyone also had a similar problem and so we waited until we were close to the time when parking was free. Having gotten a parking ticket in Athens a few years ago, I did not want to risk that again. Four people can have dinner in a nice restaurant for less than the cost of a ticket, and sometimes they boot the car too. So when parking you have to be careful.
I recommend downloading MyAthensPass to your phone and registering for a novoville account before you venture out. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gr.citizen.pass&hl=en_US&gl=US Check and confirm your email and you should be good to go. Hopefully it will accept your credit card.
So we contacted Mani Mani, were able to make a reservation and had an absolutely amazing meal. Everything that we ate from the tzatziki to the cuttlefish to the lamb to the swordfish was cooked to perfection. Traditional Greek food is cooked in a modern way. https://www.manimani.com.gr/en/
Our First course
After a fabulous meal we took a short walk in the Plaka to digest and to see the Plaka at night
I hope you enjoyed reading about Athens and that you take a short trip there. The best time of year to go is the spring or fall. Avoid the summer, you will not get the real flavor of the town as it is all tourists and the locals are gone…and it is very hot. The winter is also nice and, although it doesn’t happen every year, on very rare occasions it will snow.
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