Greeks take their day of rest so seriously there is an Oscar-winning song about it. Here’s how to Sunday in Athens like a true local.
Sunday in Greece is largely a day of repose and a time for family get-togethers. For many employees it is their only day off work and so they like to make the most of it, especially when the sun decides to make its first bold appearances in spring. Heavy coats come off, light walking shoes come on and hoards of sun-thirsty Greeks head downtown to mingle with the tourists and pretend that summer is nearer than it actually is. So try these 8 local favorite activities and spend your Sunday like a true Athenian:
1. Coffee and Newspaper
Newspaper sales may be down compared to past decades, but for many Greeks, reading Sunday’s newspapers (many read more than one), preferably over a coffee, is a long-engrained habit. The cosmopolitan district of Kolonaki, a 10-minute walk from Syntagma, has two kiosks with foreign press (at the start of Kanari Street, and further along at number 15-17). So grab your newspaper of choice and then head for the coffee shop that best suits your style.
A favorite among many media-types and notables is Da Capo (1 Tsakalof), famed for the high quality of its coffee. For a nostalgic taste of old Athens, visit the historic Vivliothiki (‘Library’) at number 18A on Filikis Eterias Square.
Located next to the impressive church of Aghios Dionysios, Filion (34 Skoufa) is a popular hangout for artists and intellectuals. If, however, you are looking for something a bit trendier and a bit lighter on the caffeine, Tsai (9 Alexandrou Soutsou) is a lovely establishment serving a large variety of teas, which you can pair with scones, homemade biscuits, open-faced sandwiches, scrambled eggs and other mouth-watering selections.
2. Urban Eden
With its ponds and brooks, Mediterranean and exotic plants, towering rows of old Washingtonia palms as well as turtles, goats and peacocks, the National Garden in the middle of the city is an urban oasis ideal for a morning jog, meditative walks, or some playtime at the children’s playground. Once the Royal Gardens, landscaping began around 1839 under the supervision of the German-born Queen Amalia and now includes 7,000 trees and 40,000 shrubs, according to a recent survey.
If you and your kids get peckish, hop in for some food and coffee at Aegli, located nearby next to the stately Zappeio Hall, an 1888 neoclassical building designed by the renowned Danish architect, Theophil Hansen (also responsible for the National Observatory of Athens). Zappeio is now used to host conferences and exhibitions as well as important political events.
The National Garden has six entrances and is open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free.
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