The Hellenic capital is fast reinventing itself. The cultural scene is alive with new venues that add to the emblematic ancient monuments, while new neighborhoods vibrate with legendary Greek hospitality.
Montpellier - Athens
From 31/10/2021 To 26/03/2022No direct flight from Montpellier for this season
Pierre Soulages in Athens? For some weeks now, the artist from Rodez has been sharing the walls of the Goulandris foundation with Picasso, Miro or Matisse. This new museum of contemporary art bears witness to the renewed vitality of the Greek capital after the painful economic and social crisis. The resilience of the inhabitants can be seen on the crowded terraces of cafés and even on the walls of abandoned buildings, whose graffiti tells of revolt and hope. Athens is back in the spirit of the times, a welcome sight!
The capital's ancient sites have a magnetic force. Since the refurbishment carried out for the 2004 Olympic Games, a pedestrian walkway now zigzags between marble and cypress trees, linking the main points of interest, from Kerameikos Cemetery to Hadrian's Gate, passing, of course, through the Acropolis. People jostle to admire the old stones that constitute the wealth of this emblematic rocky hill! In spite of the crowds, you can’t afford to miss the wonders inherited from the time of Pericles, the temple of Athena or the marbles of the Parthenon, which has stood watch over the city for 2500 years.
From up there, at 156 m, the view of the city undulating down to the sea is impressive. You can take this opportunity to plan the next steps of your visit! Friendly and debonair, Athens is a lively city that can be discovered on foot. At the foot of the Acropolis, the district of Plaka thrives in all the clutter. In the labyrinth of narrow streets and staircases, between the stone and brick houses festooned with geraniums, the souvenir shops and tourist taverns have long since replaced the old stalls. And yet the charm works, irresistibly.
You can get lost following the trail of a stray cat to Monastiraki, the flea market district along the old Agora. Between terraces, ice-cream parlours and quirky vendors, it's all hustle and bustle at the end of the day. You can also go further to Gazi. Surrounding the old gasworks converted into a cultural centre (Technopolis), the neighbourhood is the meeting place for trendy young people who swap ouzo for gin and moussaka for world cuisine.
In its "official" version, all around Syntagma Square, which is reached by the shopping street Ermou, Athens traces out its main avenues and unveils its institutional monuments, starting with the neoclassical building of the Old Palace, now the Parliament, which owes its popularity to the hourly changing of the guard. With their stiff step and traditional uniform - a white skirt and shoes trimmed with pompoms! - the soldiers really get the smartphones popping... The athletes at the nearby Panathenaic Stadium are more supple. Built in 1896 for the Olympic Games, the all-marble stadium is the finish line of the annual marathon.
This display of old stone should not make you forget that Athens is also a maritime city. At the gates of the capital, its port Piraeus is alive day and night with ferries leaving for the islands of the Aegean Sea. A delicious breath of fresh air at aperitif time! From the marina, which harbours some of the most beautiful yachts in the world, to the café terraces or from the verandas of the chic restaurants, the simple spectacle of the ballet of the boats is enough to make you forget time, dreaming of the white houses of Mykonos and the black cliffs of Santorini...
Sites and monuments
- The Acropolis - Perched on its rock, the ancient upper city is home to some must-see sights: the monumental staircase of the Propylaea, the temple of Athena, the Erechtheion with its famous Caryatids (columns in the shape of female figures) or the Parthenon, a marvel of marble 70 metres long...
- Kerameikos, the Ancient Cemetery - it contains the gravestones of the rich Athenians of antiquity.
- Parliament - neo-classical in style, it also has its traditional changing of the guard
- The Central Market - a large traditional building where the inhabitants buy meat, fish, fruit and vegetables in a joyful hubbub.
- Plaka - the most picturesque neighbourhood of Athens, a maze of narrow streets and stairs with the feel of a village.
- Panathenaic Stadium - an impressive stadium with white marble stands, built for the 1896 Olympic Games, the first of the modern era.
- Zappeion - in the National Garden, this neoclassical palace of ancient inspiration was built to accommodate the delegations of the 1896 Olympic Games. It was here that Greece's entry into the European Union was signed in 1981.
- The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre - surrounded by a park, a modern building (2016) with clean lines by Renzo Piano that houses the opera house and the national library. The terrace of the Lighthouse offers a 360° view of the city.
- Agora - at the foot of the Acropolis, the centre of public life in antiquity, has been turned into a huge park planted with cypress trees from which the ancient ruins emerge. Romantic!
- National Garden - 16 hectares of lush vegetation that wrap around the Parliament, with a botanical garden and a small zoo.
- Lycabettus Hill - the highest point of Athens (277 m), ideal for photographing the Acropolis and Athens without limits.
- Acropolis Museum - a concrete and glass showcase that houses pieces of the Acropolis brought here to protect them from pollution: the Caryatids, the Parthenon frieze (at least the part that is not in the British Museum in London).
- National Archaeological Museum - rich collections from excavations across the country
- Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments - a beautiful exhibition, with an audio system that allows you to listen to the loveliest instruments.
- Benaki Museum - in a neoclassical building, it highlights Hellenic culture: jewellery, pottery, furniture, icons, fabrics...
- Museum of Cycladic Art - it contains various pieces from the Cycladic archipelago.
- Byzantine and Christian museum - frescoes, icons, bronzes... enhanced by beautiful museography.
- Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Goulandris Foundation - the latest of the Athenian museums, it brings together works from the 19th and 20th centuries: Monet, Picasso, Modigliani, Miro, Matisse, Bacon, Soulages...
- 25 March - national holiday, in commemoration of the 1821 revolution that liberated Greece from Turkish occupation
- April - Easter, with processions. Please note that the Orthodox calendar is not the same as the Catholic calendar.
- 1 May - Labour Day but also Flower Day
- May - jazz festival, around the Technopolis complex
- June - Synch festival, dedicated to electronic music
- July - international dance festival at Technopolis
- Summer - festival of Athens and Epidaurus, with concerts, operas, dance performances, at the foot of the Acropolis.
- 28 October - "No" Day, a day celebrating the rejection of the Italian ultimatum in 1940.
- November - Athens marathon, to run in the footsteps of the first marathon in history
- Set sail! On board a sailboat or a zodiac, you can sail to Aegina, the closest of the islands in the Saronic Gulf, for a day's immersion in the heart of a preserved world. By zodiac only (faster), you can reach Spetses, the hangout of Athenian high society.
- Forget Athens for a day and head for Marathon, from where the messenger Philippides is said to have set off for Athens (about 40 km) to announce victory over the Persians in 490 BC. Another mythical site: Cape Sounion (south-east of Athens) where the temple of Poseidon stands.
- Fancy a swim? The Athenian Riviera is made for you! From Flisvos to Varkiza, at the gates of the capital, several marinas harbour yachts from all over the world; while the beaches bathed by crystalline waters attract the golden youth as soon as the fine weather arrives...
- Greek Salad - a must have, a mix of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, olives and feta (cheese)
- Tzatziki - yoghurt to which cucumber, crushed garlic and mint are added. Excellent with a simple piece of bread
- Octopus - eaten in salads or grilled.
- Squid - usually offered fried or grilled
- Fish - sole, sea bream, red mullet or sardine, fish (grilled or fried) is a must in Greek cuisine.
- Moussaka - minced meat baked in the oven, mixed with eggplant and topped with béchamel sauce
- Dolmadès - vine leaves, stuffed with rice, onions and minced meat
- Souvlaki - pork or beef brochettes
- Keftédès - meatballs, flavoured with mint and oregano
- Feta - cheese made from goat's or sheep's milk. To enjoy with a salad of raw vegetables or fried.
- Baklava a desert of Ottoman origin, consisting of layers of filo pastry with dried fruit and flavoured with orange blossom
- Gadaifi - an oriental dessert also called "angel hair", in the form of vermicelli. You can add honey, nuts...
- Rizogalo - rice pudding sprinkled with cinnamon
- Wine - as everywhere in the Mediterranean, the drink par excellence, with excellent grapes grown in the Peloponnese.
- Retsina - a white or rosé wine to which pieces of pine resin have been added to give it a bitter taste, perpetuating an ancient tradition.
- Samos - a sweet wine, especially for dessert.
- Ouzo - the emblematic alcohol of Greece with an aniseed flavour, in the style of pastis.
- Tsipouro - a grape marc brandy, reminiscent of Italian grappa
- Coffee - drunk "Turkish" style, i.e. with the grounds, except that here it’s called "Greek coffee".