Like all people living in a big metropolis, I am engaged in a brawling love relationship with Athens. Ask Athenians on a Friday evening what they love about their city and you will get a whole lot of excited answers; the hidden rooftop bars, the maze-like cobbled streets, the nostalgic neoclassical buildings, the summer cinemas, the quirky cafes, the street art scene, the ethereal view of the Acropolis… Ask the same question on a Monday morning and you will hear everybody whining about the traffic in the streets, poor urban planning, tagging walls, and so forth. Well, I guess cities are somehow like us, multifaceted and complicated, one minute looking cute and the next driving you mad. As everything in life is a matter of perspective, I decided to shift into a laid-back mindset and stroll around the corners I love the most!
I started from Syntagma square, the pulsating heart of Athens, and seeking for some tranquillity I walked along Amalias avenue to enter the National Gardens, a magnificent park that once used to be the retreat of the first royal couple of Greece. The spellbinding sight of Queen Amalia’s Washingtonians, the palm trees that you see while entering the gardens will invite you into a green oasis brimming with secret treasures; from Queen Amalia’s iron wrought bench to the ravishing mosaics of Roman villas and scattered relics of ancient pillars, the gardens are wrapped in romantic charm. Taking the Athens National Garden tour is an ideal way to enjoy your stroll and listen to tons of old Athenian stories as you walk along the labyrinthic alleys of the gardens, weaving through little ponds, colourful flower pergolas and fragrant orchards.
Craving for a cup of coffee, I left my lush green haven and headed to Panepistimiou street. My second destination lay hidden in the shadows of a charming villa that was once the house of Heinrich Schliemann and today houses the Numismatic Museum of Athens. Behind the stunning neo-renaissance style mansion of the famous archaeologist, an iconic structure created by Ernst Ziller, you will discover a cosy coffee shop surrounded by marble statues and sweet-smelling flowers. The weather was sweet and proved to be great for a cup of coffee in the beautiful yard. It is a very idyllic all- day spot in the heart of the city and should you visit it on a Thursday night, you will also have the chance to catch some cool jazz and blues gig.
After having my essential eye-opener, I continued to Kolonaki, the high- end neighbourhood of Athens. If you are interested in architecture, you’re bound to love its charming blend of influences, from 19th-century neoclassicism and elements of french eclecticism to modernist structures from the interwar years and scattered Art Deco references. Head to Anagnostopoulou or Lykavittou street to stroll amidst the sweet-smelling wisterias or spend some time to explore the fancy shopping scene of the area. When it comes to local shops in Kolonaki, the one I am most fond of is a nostalgic 1962 patisserie called Desire. There you will find the most scrumptious variety of sweet treats, the store’s signature speciality being the celebrated St. Honore cake! I paid a brief visit to get a little treat of love, a fresh warm croissant and kept strolling. Interested in discovering more delicious Athenian secrets? Why not take the mouthwatering tour Flavours and memories of Athens and visit the favourite eateries of local foodies?
I took the hilly way up Iraklitou street and reached Dexameni square. Nestled on the slopes of Mount Lycabettus, Dexameni is a very quiet spot, a hermitage at the heart of Athens with a beautiful view to the city and the Acropolis rock. It owes its name to the Roman reservoir, which was constructed during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. There you will also find a quaint open-air cinema, an endearing spot for movie lovers during summer, and a little cafe. Back in the past it was the hub of the Athenian intelligentsia and many of the country’s great literary minds used to gather around its round tables. The statue of Odysseus Elytis, one of the most erotic Greek poets and a regular visitor of Dexameni square stands under the trees. It would begin to grow dusk, so I started walking down the hill gazing out on the Acropolis which was stretching at the background, immersed into a dreamy purple haze.
Often, in the Repose of Evening her soul took a lightness from
the mountains across, although the day was harsh and
Beauty and the Illiterate