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Wanderlust: Yummy Scrumptious & Greece

Thank you to Niki from Yummy Scrumptious for doing a Guest Wanderlust post today!  She has all the inside information on Athens- where to visit, where to eat, where to shop with good tips along the way.  Imagine she is your Greek tour guide and enjoy your trip.  

I don’t feel qualified to say that I am well traveled. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent some serious quality time in several places in the United States, and a few abroad, but nothing compares to a Summer time spent in Greece. I am a city girl, so while the tranquility and relaxation of some of the islands or coastal villages might be nice for a few days, I crave the movement of Athens. In light of all that is going on, let me just tell you that Athens is safe. An unfortunate few days in July with bad news coverage blew a lot of the country’s frustrations out of proportion. Of course, there are problems, the country is technically in distress, but that shouldn’t keep you from going there.  So, when you get there, here are a few of my favorite things to do and see. Some of them I am content to visit over and over and they never get old to me, this is a place with so much history and culture that you can’t help but discover something new every time, event if you are lucky enough to go every year.

Athens has incredible museums, several in fact for everything. I have two favorites that I think everyone needs to see. The Benaki Museum is one of the oldest museums in Greece, here you will find a little bit of everything, Icons, Textiles, Ceramics, Photography, and Historical Archives. Personally my favorite section is considered part of the “Historic Heirloom” Collection. I have been involved in traditional Greek Folk dancing since I was 3—this part of the collection displays some of the most incredible clothing from decades ago, what I consider “costumes” now for my own dance group that I teach. Between the costumes and some incredible items belonging to some of our country’s most notable heroes, The Benaki is a great place to spend your afternoon.  After you leave The Benaki, you need to go to the Hilton Athens. It’s a 15 minute walk and you’ll flip for the rooftop bar. Be advised, you need to be dressed to get into this bar the have a dress code and even asked friends of mine who were guests at the hotel to change out of their shorts. Just saying. Anyway, the Hilton is really pretty, lovely lobby, blah, blah, but I am a total hotel bar snob. I love hotel bars. I don’t know why but I love them, even when I’m not traveling! The Galaxy Bar at the Hilton has the most beautiful view of the city and of The Acropolis. Go there, you will love it, and be prepared to pay 20Euro for your cocktail, but the view is totally worth it.

Yes, that’s the Acropolis.

My other favorite museum is the new Acropolis Museum. I must say, if you are a design savvy person, you will freak out so be prepared to be a bit over stimulated. Honstly, I was having a hard time keeping it together, I couldn’t decide which was more incredible, the building or the priceless artifacts it contains. Going to see the Acropolis and the Museum go hand in hand. I would say check out the actual thing first. It really is incredible, I made my husband go a couple of years ago, the first time he had been since he was a child and he was blown away, I couldn’t get him to leave! You cannot go to Athens without going there, and you absolutely cannot go to the museum without visiting the actual Acropolis. This is a full day’s adventure, whenever I do this, I also plan on heading down to Monastiraki afterwards, so imagine me waving a little red flag, “this way please, group ACL!.” 

I take cabs everywhere, the metro is fine here and there but it’s not for me, however you can take The Metro (yes, that’s what it’s officially called…lame I know) to the Acropolis Stop and that will take you to both the monument and the museum. From there, Monastiraki is just a short walk. Imagine it like a flea market. This is where you can buy all your “I <3 Greece” stuff, and it will be swarming with tourists. But there are a couple of gems and places I go to every year to get items that I actually need and use. If for nothing else there is great people watching and who doesn’t want to run through a flea market now and then. When you are there, you must eat at Bairaktaris (it will be spelled with something that looks like this: Μπαιρακταρης) It is DELICIOUS! It’s our favorite place to eat down there and we go every time. I love the roasted eggplant with tomatoes, it isn’t always on the menu, you have to ask. The Gyro is amazing and so is everything else.
The New Acropolis Museum

For shopping in Athens there are three places I like to go. 
  1. Back downtown on Ermu Street. It is off Syntagma Square (where Parliament is) and it’s one long street filled with stores that will lead you back down to Monastiraki. There is great stuff there and don’t be fooled by stores you see in the US, they don’t have the same stuff. H&M in Athens is fantastic, H&M in Atlanta…not so much. Same goes for Zara. Ermu is stop 1 on this train and pick out any cute café down one of the side streets and have a coffee, they are all good, you can’t go wrong. 
  2. Next, I like to go to Kolonaki—here are my specific instructions and if you say exactly this and your cab driver doesn’t know what you are talking about, then he is an idiot. There is a “Platia” there (a small square) in the center of Kolonaki (a suburb of Athens) off the Platia, there is one specific street that taxi’s are not allowed to drive down (I think the street is called Tsakalof) it is flanked by two café’s, again, stop and have a coffee, then do a little shopping. There is great stuff there and a bit more high end then what you will find on Ermu. 
  3. Finally, my newest favorite place is The Mall.  Again, we aren’t super creative with naming things. The Mall is actually pretty close to our house so it is convenient that way, you will also pass it on your way to and from the airport. This is where I discovered the Zara Home store (it’s kind of like if Anthopologie and Club Monaco hooked up) AH-Mazing! This is also the best place to get a good look at the Olympic Stadium. The Mall has a beautiful balcony filled with café’s that over looks the masterpiece created by Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

View from The Mall

When you need a little break from the city but don’t want to be gone too long, or just have an extra day to kill, go to Cape Sounion. This is where the Temple of Poseidon was built and for a few euros you can climb to the top where you will feel like you are at the edge of the earth. It is so breathtaking I can’t describe it. The view is spectacular and you can’t help but feel calm. Again, there is a café up there too, have a coffee and take it all in.

Cape Sounion

 Another nice day trip that I have done a few times is taking a boat to Hydra, Paros, and Egina. It’s an easy thing to arrange and you will get glimpse at a different side of Greece. Hydra is my favorite, so picturesque and tranquil. The lemon forest on Paros is also amazing, the smell is sensational!  

Possibly one of my favorite things to do at night is going to see the Dora Stratou Theatre. This is one of those hidden gems that seems to be off of a lot of people’s radar. Established in 1953, it is considered a “living museum of Greek Dance.” Open Wednesday through Sunday, there are performances every night featuring different areas of Greece and the varying dances, costumes, and live music. It’s a really beautiful way to start off an evening and get a different perspective on Greek culture and history.  One note about getting to and from the theatre, have the taxi take you all the way to the actual theatre, do not let them drop you off near the Acropolis and tell you it’s down the street. It’s true, it is down the street, like a 15 minute walk up and down hills, but down the street. Don’t bother, just make them take you all the way. When you are done, you will need to call for a taxi, don’t try to walk your way back, the theatre is in a neighborhood and it gets a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar.

Once you get in the cab, go to Gazi. Gazi is a popular neighborhood in Athens, now famous for being the “it” place cool people go to for dinner or dancing or if you’re gay. Let’s face it, the gays make stuff better, cooler, prettier, etc., so if they like it, it’s good. What used to be the gasworks of Athens, have now been converted into a museum and the neighborhood has become the coolest place to be. There are incredible galleries, shops, clubs, and restaurants, two of my favorites are Sardelles and Mamacas. You will have the best time there, just walking around, people watching, you never know, you might even stumble upon something fabulous that I don’t even know about!

Athens is one of my favorite places and there is so much do, I hope you enjoy my suggestions and have a fabulous trip! Yiasou!

Thanks for the tour Niki!  To get more of Niki visit Yummy Scrumptious or find her on twitter.  

To keep tabs on where I am travelling you can also follow me on twitter & see what I am saying on facebook.  

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