Ah Athens – the birthplace of theatre and democracy, the land of weathered ancient ruins, slippery marble floors, creamy feta, extra virgin olive oil, fragrant dried herbs, speckled cobbled streets, busy markets, drinking on the streets, and soaking in the view from one of the city’s many hills. A guide to 2 ½ days in Athens:
Navigate through the city from an insider’s perspective, with Athenian native historian, George. A little introduction to help you find your bearings; a mix of ancient and modern Greece, told in a way that’s gives you just the right amount of information. Athens city center is smaller than it looks on a map – walking or the metro is the way to explore. Make sure you ask George for his top food recommendations around the city too.
(+30) 690 7866 588
Central Market and Surrounds
As you wander around the Central Market (and especially the meat market), the vendors will constantly harass you to buy something. But, once you get over that, you can sample everything from thyme honey, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and olives before you buy. Buy everything that I’ve just mentioned! The best part is that it’s so cheap, especially considering the quality (stay away from tourist areas like Plaka to buy these).
Elixirion Dried Herbs (Evripidou Street)
When it comes to herbs, Greece is one of the riches in the world, all because of its climate. For that reason, it’s not surprising that dried herbs and spices are a key part of its food culture, its history, myths, and even its medicine. Herbally speaking, Evripidou Street (close to the Central Market) is the place to go for dried herb and spices. As you walk down the road, a whiff of spice fills the air. Dried herbs on display in baskets, sacks, glass jars and peacefully hanging, waiting patiently to be bought. There was one shop that stood out from the rest – Elixirion. With over 1,700 varieties proudly on display in beautiful wooden boxes with clear glass, owner, Periklis, guided me to some rare and interesting finds (like Mountain Sage). The level of care and attention placed on the dried herbs and spices that he expertly sourced, was clearly evident.
Evripidou 41, downtown Athens
(+30) 210 321 5141
Monday – Saturday 7:30am-4pm
I hiked up Lycabettus Hill and Filapapou Hill, the first being a clear ‘must-do’ when you’re in Athens. Lycabettus Hill sees you walking up steep steps, which then wrap around the winding limestone hill. It takes roughly about 30 minutes to climb up the 300 meters above sea level, and it is definitely worth the sore legs. There is a cable car that does the job for you, but that’s no fun. Watch the weathered cityscape blush to a shade of pink, as the sun bids goodnight – it really was something special.
Catch the metro to ‘Evangelismos’. Walk up the stairs to the base of the hill (then you walk up the actual hill).
So, the ancient Greeks built some incredible structures out of marble, then the Vikings got angry and decided to smash them up. A bit of an obvious choice, but you have to visit The Acropolis. Certain points will make more sense if you go on the walking tour or head to the museum before (for €5). The cool thing about the new museum is that it’s been built on top of ancient ruins, so you can see the ruins under the perplex floor. Apparently they’re going to start doing tours under the museum too (I’m a geek). If you enter The Acropolis through the ‘South’ side, you’ll miss the queue for tickets, plus as Athens was the birthplace of theatre, you won’t miss seeing that landmark using this route.
Once the heart of the ancient city, it was also a symbol of Athenian democracy. It’s right by The Acropolis, and to be honest, all the other sights can be explored from the outside.
Cook up a Greek feast with your entertaining culinary instructor, Fofi. Greek culture is all about spending hours socializing over food and drink, so the class is spread over 4-hours (€75). Starting with some raki (Greek alcohol, like vodka) to sip on over meze (small bites), your culinary journey turns to preparing a multiple course meal, found in the homes of locals on a Sunday. After all that prep, you get to sit family-style to enjoy your big fat Greek feast.
Athens Walking Tours
2 Cheiden St., 104 34 Athens, Greece
(+30) 210 8847 269
Meeting Poing: Diavlos Restaurant, 1 Adrianou St, Thission