As mentioned in the previous post, we came to Athens for the history but enjoyed the modern city as well. These are a few of the highlights.
Our Airbnb was located in Apollonos 12, making it easy to enjoy the downtown area. The night we arrived our cab driver had a difficult time finding the place, as the downtown area was not car-friendly and the streets were narrow. He eventually dropped us off at a spot he figured was close, and we managed to find our place after searching for a few minutes.
A short walk from there was the Central Market, with lots of choices from oranges to olives to pistachios and everything in between. We had a look at the fruits, vegetables and meats and bought some fruit to have as we moved around the city.
When we went by the central building of the University of Athens we noticed a protest forming, so we stepped back and observed. It was an angry demonstration but people seemed to be content to make their voices heard and march down the streets which the police had cordoned off. After a few minutes we moved on.
Just down the street from the protests, a couple was posing for wedding shots with the sounds of protest barely audible in the distance.
Another time we saw the Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square. The soldiers are Evzones, members of the Presidential Guard. They stand perfectly still in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in all conditions. Then, on the hour they do a switch of positions. This allows them some circulation after standing still for so long. Behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the Greek Parliament.
One day we headed north from the downtown to Exarcheia. The neighbourhood of Exarcheia has a bit of a history in Athens. Site of a huge student uprising against the military government in the 1970s, it has long been a place of student activism and anti-government action. The area is home to many coffee shops and student hangouts as well as housing a number of migrants and refugees who have left crowded refugee camps.
On the way we passed bookshops and other small stores. Eventually we reached the heart of Exarcheia. The neigbourhood did have a different feel to it and was very quiet in many parts; however, the busier sections with the cafes were lively and friendly.
Food is something that always makes travel more enjoyable, so we had to try a variety of different things. Athens did not disappoint there either–we tried the bakeries and did a lot of takeout during our stay.
From traditional pastries to calamari, stopping for a bite to eat kept us going during the long walks around the city. And there were some interesting fusion options as well. The place below (Oven Sesame) did a delicious Lebanese twist on traditional koulouri from Thessaloniki. It was located across from Syntagma Square.
Close to that restaurant was the National Garden, where we took a stroll. It was wide open and peaceful, free to enter and open from sunrise to sunset. The National Garden was a nice getaway from the busy pace downtown. While we were there a ballerina was doing a professional photo-shoot which led to the opening photo of this blog.
We had a great time in Athens, and we hope to return as we want to explore more of mainland Greece in the future.
We recommend getting a place to stay in the heart of downtown, as it makes so many ancient and modern sights accessible within walking distance. One of the other advantages was that Athens City Center subway station (Syntagma) was close by. This is the main station downtown, and it gave us direct access to the airport when we were leaving.