Enjoying A Return Visit To Athens

Acropolis view

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My previous visit to Greece had been in 2003. The country was busy preparing for the Olympics and I was often disappointed to find sites closed, with a sign that they were renovating and would be reopening the following year. And on that occasion I only managed a short visit to Athens, following the standard tourist itinerary of the Acropolis and Syntagma Square, with lunch in the Plaka area. So when I got the opportunity to revisit Athens, I jumped at the chance.

Athens Old And New

Of course, the Acropolis is one of the main attractions of the city, and I spent some time exploring the ruins. And I was lucky enough to have a great view of it from the top of my hotel (the lovely St George Lycabettus).

Hillside with trees and ancient Greek ruins
Athens is full of history…

But there is much more to the history of Athens than the ancient Greeks. I went on a tour of Byzantine Athens, where we looked at hidden churches and saw the place where St Paul preached to the Athenians. And a tour of Literary Athens, which spotlighted the Greek contribution to the artistic and cultural history of the 20th century.

It isn’t all about history. This is a vibrant city with much that is modern and new. I spent some time at a conference in the Megaron Concert Hall, a state of the art cultural centre, and one evening we all headed off to Technopolis, a modern entertainment centre on the site of a disused gasworks.

Ancient artefacts in the Athens Metro
Excavated artefacts on display at Evangelismos Station

Then there is the shiny new subway, making it so much easier to get around the city. I like to see the subway as a metaphor for the different periods of Athens’ history. Digging the tunnels for the trains provided an opportunity for large-scale excavation, and some metro stations have glass cases exhibiting locally found artefacts. But they showcase modern art at well, creating a synthesis of old and new.

Modern art in the Athens Metro
Also on display at Evangelismos Station is “Mott Street” (1983) by the Greek American artist Chryssa

A Friendly Welcome

But it is the people who make the place. Athens is not a tourist showcase but a place where people live and work, and there is a small town feel to much of the city. Walking up to the Acropolis I passed along narrow streets with whitewashed houses and a rich smell of pine that would not be out of place in a Mediterranean village. On tours, in the hotel, and in cafés and restaurants, people were keen to explain their city to us and to make us feel at home.

On one of the tours we were stopped by a woman with a basket of fruit cake. “Take a piece,” she urged. Our guide translated what she was saying: she had appealed to a saint to help her find something she had lost, and when her prayer was answered she made the cake to share with others as a thanksgiving. That wouldn’t happen in very many countries!

Fabulous Greek Food

And did I mention the food? You can’t make a visit to Athens without enjoying the food: cheese and olives, juicy tomatoes, and pastries oozing with honey. And, of course, the wine. Read more about Eating Well In Athens.

Food is one of the highlights of a visit to Athens - here we have a white plate with yoghurt, honey and nuts
A delicious dessert of Greek yoghurt with walnuts and honey

In between the tours and the eating I managed to explore some hidden parts of Athens and to climb up Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in the city. However there was far more to see and do than I could possibly squeeze into the time available. I’ll have to make another visit to Athens…


8 thoughts on “Enjoying A Return Visit To Athens”

  1. I had such an AMAZING time in Athens and Greece in general. You're right about the hospitality, it was amazing. I'm pretty sure the extra 10 pounds I walked away with makes me have to agree with you about the AWESOME food too! 😀

  2. You said everything exactly as I think it is! I had really great time in Athens and hanging out with you. I loved the food, it's pretty similar to Bulgarian food but still so different! I can't wait to go back and explore Greece more!

  3. The food sounds sooo good! I heard another blogger talking about the yogurt with honey and walnuts too, so it must have been great.

    I wish I'd been able to go to TBEX but unfortunately was traveling elsewhere. Sounds like it was a lot of fun.

  4. People do make the destination sometimes more than the sights and I've always thought of the Greeks as very welcoming. Oh and the thanksgiving cake? That would definitely happen here in Portugal in a smaller town, never in the capital.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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