24 hours in Athens: a day spent between antiquity and the present
Art, science, politics, philosophy – no other city has influenced the western world like Athens. It’s not just the oldest, it’s also one of the most exciting cities in Europe. The Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Roman Agora and many other ancient sites vie for visitors’ attention in the busy metropolis of four million with modern architecture, hospitable hosts, trendy in-scene districts and top-notch cultural offerings plus shopping galore. Athens is the perfect place for a daytrip into the past - and back again.
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Modernity meets tradition
The Fresh Hotel is a design hotel right near the famous Plaka (old town) and close to trendy Psiri district. The rooms have been done out in tasteful, minimalist style and the Greek cult cosmetic label Korres awaits you in the bathroom. The view of the Acropolis from the balconies is magnificent and gets better the higher up you go. So make sure you don’t miss the Air Lounge on the 9th floor (which also has a pool and restaurant). At night, the roof terrace turns into a bar where a well-heeled in-crowd meets for a sundowner in the cool evening breeze.
Fresh Hotel, 26 Sofokleous Street, Downtown Athens. Rooms: between €90 and €240, Tel.: +30-210/524 85 11
When you leave your hotel to explore Athens’ vibrant street life, head for the city’s biggest and most popular marketplace – the agora. An important meeting place for the Ancient Greeks, agoras were the center of political and social life and market places back then, too. Millennia later, the Greeks still buy and sell, barter and chat in the agora. Being your day among the fish and spices and exotic fruit - ideally clutching a bag of red pistachios from the island of Aegina. If you tire of the tumult why not order a cool frappé in one of the cafés in Psiri - after ouzo, it’s probably the most popular drink in Greece.
Central Market, Evripidou Stret, Psiri district
Tavernas, artisan workshops and traditional shops give Psiri district its charm. The Elixir, on Evripidou Street, is a perfect example of a traditional shop. It’s a real insiders’ tip for all visitors to Athens, too. The interior is simply furnished, old-fashioned and just plain charming, with spices, herbs, teas, soaps and oils stacked right up to the ceiling. Once you step inside this shop infused with pepper, curry and aniseed, you probably won’t be able to leave again without buying a small, pungent souvenir.
Elixir, 41 Evripidou Street, Psiri district, Tel.: +30-210/321 51 41 www.elixir.com.gr
From the Akropolis Museum to the new cool district of Gazi
The Acropolis Museum, which just opened last summer, is without doubt the most spectacular piece of modern architecture in the city. A must for all fans of Ancient Greek history, too. The unusual architecture and the unique collection of archeological treasures are just waiting to be discovered and admired! The ingenious exhibition concept developed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi affords visitors an unforgettable glimpse of old Athens. And the sight of the columns of the Parthenon on the Acropolis rising right above the museum will take visitors even further back into the past.
Acropolis Museum, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Plaka, Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 8am-8pm, Friday -10pm, Admission: €5, Tel.: +30-210/900 09 00 www.theacropolismuseum.gr
The former gasworks in Gazi attract locals and visitors to what is now the latest trendy venue in Athens. After the giant complex of factory buildings and gasometers closed, it was transformed into an industrial museum and cultural center hosting art and photography shows as well as readings, concerts, theater performances and festivals. In the evenings, partygoers head straight for the numerous galleries, bars and restaurants in Gazi.
Technopolis, 100 Pireos Street, Gazi district.
Tel.: +30-210/346 09 81
Mamacas is a gem of a restaurant in Gazi. The name refers to the mothers of both owners, Costas Iliopoulos and Vasilis Tsekouras, who serve traditional Greek food in a stylishly furnished modern Greek taverna. The mezes, small portions of hot and cold appetizers, are particularly delicious. They can consist of feta cheese, eggplant, deep-fried fish and octopus salad. No meal should begin without them and they do their job well, whetting the appetite for fish, meat and local wines. Dinner is eaten quite late in Athens, so if you want to dine when everybody else does, don’t reserve a table for any earlier than 9pm.
Mamacas, 41 Persephone Street, Gazi district,
Hours: daily 2pm-2am,
Tel.: +30-210/346 49 84 www.mamacas.gr
Pictures: Mauritius; Knoll/Bilderberg; Pompe/Look (3), Corbis (2)