The 11 most exciting things to do in Athens right now
Athens is different from your ordinary summer getaway destination. The Greek capital is overflowing with culture, from extraordinary archaeological sites to captivating museums, but that's not all it's excellent for. With all of its architectural charm, Athens also serves as a tremendously chic destination for charming little cafes to people-watch and a cutting-edge arts and culture scene.
Here are some of the best places to visit while travelling to Athens.
This 2,500-year-old rocky outcrop poised in the bustling metropolis of Athens is a breathtaking sight. The Acropolis is at the top of our list because if you only do one thing in Athens, it should be this. The monuments here are acknowledged as the most glorious triumphs of Greek heritage. The Parthenon temple, devoted to the goddess Athena, is flawlessly proportioned and acclaimed as the world's greatest Doric masterpiece.
Temple of Poseidon
Fans of Greek mythology will not be disillusioned in Athens. This is the first temple you should go to. Poseidon is the god of the seas, though his palace on Cape Sounio is 60 metres above sea level. Ancient Athenians constructed this marble temple to commemorate Poseidon and guide seafarers safely home. All that's left are a series of towering columns that appear spectacular against a glorious Greek sunset.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC)
A Mediterranean greenery haven. For 170,000 square metres of parkland, replete with playgrounds, gardens, cafés, a striking eco-friendly glass edifice (also home to the Greek National Opera), a manmade river, and the National Library of Greece. There's also a spectacular view of the Acropolis.
Lycabettus Hill is one of Athens' tallest summits. You can get there by hiking up a forested incline - briefly, mind you - or taking the cable car. At the summit, you'll enjoy one of the incredible scenery in the city. There's a quaint whitewashed monastery named St George, a café, and Orizontes, a gourmet Greek restaurant with the capital's most picturesque patio. In the summer, concerts are staged at the Lycabettus open-air theatre, which is situated on another portion of the hill.
The indoor and outdoor food market in Monastiraki satisfies the senses. Beginning in the early morning hours, Greek sellers yell out their finest prices to sell fresh meat, fish, fruit, spices, and products from all across the country. The ambience is unique as visitors and residents navigate the short alleys packed with hanging butcher carcasses, stalls of Greek deli treats, and fresh fish are frozen down in vivid displays.
The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens
The EMST is Athens' equivalent of the Tate Modern, the Centre Pompidou, or the Museum of Modern Art. This area is packed with conversation-starting art. Expect exhibitions of Greek and international artists working in various mediums, from painting to video to experimental building. The museum's massive home has a fascinating backstory; it was previously a brewery where the Greek beer Fix was produced.
The National Gardens
The National Gardens, located in the centre of Athens, provide a magnificent respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. This superb garden was commissioned by Queen Amalia, Greece's first queen, in 1838 and completed two years later. The Gardens are 16 hectares and feature narrow gravel walks, ponds, and a small zoo with wild goats, peacocks, and chickens.
Monastiraki is one of the capital's oldest and busiest neighbourhoods, with rooftop bars, ancient ruins, and massive markets. The Monastiraki metro station is located directly across from the stunning main square (which also has brilliant views of the Acropolis). Shop at the Monastiraki flea market, squeeze through crowded pedestrian passageways, and browse shops selling antiques, handmade jewellery, and Greek handicrafts.
Museum of Cycladic Art
An opulent museum with about 3,000 artefacts of Cycladic, Ancient Greek, and Cypriot heritage. Admire the distinctively sculpted slender marble figures and statues from the Bronze Era. If the Bronze Age isn't your thing, check out one of the 150 artefacts from the ancient Greek art collections, which include vases, figurines, and weaponry organised by themes such as Gods and Heroes, Eros, The World of Women, and The Underworld.
Plaka stretches out beneath the Acropolis and is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited neighbourhoods. Explore the pleasantly narrow old roads by ducking into the side streets here. They're lined with a mishmash of dilapidated structures from various centuries and gorgeous renovated houses that have been converted into majestic mansions. Plaka has ancient sites, modest museums, antique churches, and charming small squares teeming with restaurants and cafés.
Athenians know it's summer in the city as the outdoor theatres begin to open. The iconic Cine Paris, which has operated since the 1920s, is most known for its breathtaking views of the Acropolis and for a good night out the Greek way. Cine Paris is one of around 90 outdoor theatres in Athens where consumers can watch historical Greek and foreign classics and the most recent Hollywood movies.