A first foray would take us to the cobbled streets of the old neighborhood of Plaka, at the foot of the Acropolis. The area is colorful, lively and full of craft stores. You’ll find fine pieces of gold and silver jewelry as well as faithful reproductions of antique vessels and other amphorae. There are also plenty of bars with terraces and many restaurants to enjoy captivating Mediterranean cuisine with sublime dishes like moussaka, yogurt-dressed salads, and typical Kalamata olives, accompanied by a chilled Retsina white wine. Spondi and Funky Gourmet: Two Shining Stars in the Greek Culinary Universe
One of the world’s most famous monumental compounds—the Acropolis—is located in Plaka. As you ascend to the top of the hill, on the left flank you’ll discover the Dionysus Theater, built in the sixth century BC. With a capacity for 17,000 spectators, it still retains its ancient steps and—near the stage— the marble seats reserved for the most influential Athenians. Nearby there is another ancient venue reserved for the entertainment of the ancient–and contemporary–Greeks: the Odeon of Herod Atticus, an imposing arena where the Athenians still perform theatrical plays and musical shows.
The colossal Ionic columns of The Propylaea announce the entrance to the Acropolis. On one side we find the temple of Athena Nike, which celebrates the victory of the Greeks over the Persians. Then we arrive at the majestic Parthenon. Built in the fifth century BC, it is the mightiest building of Athen’s golden age.
The Parthenon was built in the Doric style with white marble brought from the Penteli Mountain. It housed a colossal statue of the goddess Athena, patron of the city. The gold and ivory 40-foot sculpture was created by the Athenian sculptor and architect Phidias. Visitors can become familiar with the complexities and historical relevance of this great work by visiting the nearby Acropolis Museum, home to the largest collection of ancient Greek sculpture.
But Athens is much more than the Acropolis. Travelers should also visit the extraordinary National Archaeological Museum, the Temple of Zeus, and Syntagma Square—where they will witness the colorful changing of the guard. The spectacular Panathinaiko Stadium—which hosted the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in 1896—also deserves a stop during your stay in Athens. Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek arena, Panathinaikos is the one of the oldest stadiums in the world built entirely of white marble. And if you are in the mood to shop, take a relaxing stroll on the prestigious Ermou Street, where the best shops and boutiques of Athens are located.
No matter where your steps take you–or where you stop to rest and relax–every corner in Athens, its parks and squares, will help you understand and enjoy the history, traditions and culture of the entire Western World. ■