'Really, after the Acropolis what is there to see in Athens?' we've been asked back in the States.
I chuckled over that question last weekend when I heard myself
saying whining to The Scout, "My feet hurt and my head is full - I need a break - I can't absorb anything else for a few hours." We'd not gone anywhere near the Acropolis and yet. . .
I was on Athens Overload.
I was on Athens Overload.
Now I'll admit the Acropolis, the towering icon of this city and considered the most important ancient site in the Western world, is pretty darn magnificent. Gazing at it from afar never grows old. We do it from rooftop bars, street-level restaurants and every chance we get when we're in Athens.
|Acropolis at night - Athens|
This trip we were in search of answers to the question asked by friends in the States - just what else does this city have to offer. With at least 10 neighborhoods calling out to be explored we picked one closest to our hotel and set off. This is some of what we saw during our long-weekend in the big city. It didn't take us long to conclude. . .
There is so much more to Athens than the Acropolis!
|Syntagma Square Athens|
Kolonaki District: Museums and More Museums. . .On this trip, we found ourselves drawn to the Kolonaki District which sits between Syntagma (Constitution) Square and Lykavittos Hill. Because our hotel was located at Syntagma Square, we had only to cross the street to enter this chic, upscale district that has global designer brand stores, cafes and bars that could rival London's High Street or Paris's Champs-Elysees. It is also laced with other treasurers as we soon found out.
The man's fascination with Troy was reflected in the 1881 mansion's décor as well as its name, Iliou Melathron, (Palace of Ilion), Ilion was the ancient city believed to be the site of the Trojan War.
You need one trip through the place to look at the architecture and décor. Then another to concentrate on the coin collections, which turned out to be amazingly intricate pieces of metal artwork, so old it boggled the mind. Some were in circulation back in Troy, others during the time of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy, and others from the Peloponnesian War . . .and that is just to name a few. The ambiance and the displays kept us there longer than we could have imagined.
There's a café in the garden with tables scattered about what was once the Mansion's back yard. You need not go to the Museum to enjoy a cup of coffee sitting in 'the garden of the Muses'.
It was about the second hour of our visit and while on the third or fourth floor of the Benaki Museum (www.benaki.gr) the following day that my head filled to capacity and my feet cried out for rest. The Benaki Museum, reputed to be Greece's finest private museum and housed in a stately old building three blocks from Snytagma Square, offered us a chance to see hundreds of excavated relics, take a walk through the country's war history, and see up close textiles and lifestyles of centuries past. We skipped the visiting exhibition not for lack of interest, but lack of energy.We had underestimated the size of the collections and the vast amount of information they carried.
Tickets at the time of our visit were: 9 euro; 7 for us who are 65 and older. The visiting exhibition had an additional charge. There is an upstairs café with balcony where one can rest and renew.
There are nearly 100 museums in Athens ranging from its famous National Archeological Museum to others that showcase, for example, religion, criminology, folk art, marine, and telecommunications. You wouldn't be disappointed in either of the two we visited and we do recommend them. If they don't appeal, try a couple of the others, but do take advantage of at least a few of those the city has to offer.
|Cathedral Basilica of St. Dionysos|
|Floor Mosaic - Church Entryway|
We'd set out to walk the neighborhood with no destination in mind, no timetable, no guidebooks. We did carry a map as it is easy to get turned around in Athens. We simply happened upon the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Dionysius, which turned out to be a gem of a find.
|Cathedral Basilica of Saint Dionysius - Athens|
Greek churches and the members of the congregations we've encountered are welcoming to visitors who are dressed appropriately and who take photos discreetly (and who don't take photos when services are underway!). We pretty much had the church to ourselves so we explored the icons, the art and soaked up the ambiance. And learned a bit of church history as well!
Working up a ThirstWe'd worked up a thirst as we explored the dozens of blocks that make up the Kolonaki district. Cafes and coffee shops line the streets. So many, that we often wonder aloud how they all can stay in business. And so many that it is difficult to choose just one to experience. We've picked several 'favorites' in central Athens and I wouldn't begin to try and recommend just one.
|Café Arcade at City Link - Athens|
I can tell you that one of our favorite places for sipping coffee or wine is the covered arcade -- home to a half dozen cafes --at City Link just a block from Syntagma Square. City Link -- a retail and entertainment center -- was the end result of a massive renovation project that turned the old Military Pension Fund Building into one of the more popular areas of downtown Athens. The arcade sits next to the, The Pallas Theatre, built in the early 1930's and now a part of City Link. Doesn't matter what time of day we visit, the vibe is one of life and vitality. People watching doesn't get any better.
|Sidewalk cafes line the streets|
I don't want to have you suffering from the same Athens Overload that I did so I am going to save the tale and photos of our market and shopping expedition for next week and make this a two-part report. We thank you for the time you've spent with us and always appreciate your comments. We are curious . . .have you spent time in Athens and if so, what districts are your favorites and why?
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Safe travels to you and yours ~
Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday