More and more people, instead of spending Christmas among annoying relatives, choose to get away for Christmas holidays. We decided to take a closer look at this trend and see how Christmas looks in Athens, Greece. It was not our first time in Athens, but more like a winter check-up on the destination we know from summer trips. In December the capital of Greece is still much warmer than the majority of Europe, so a good place to warm yourself a little bit up.
During our previous trips Athens were only a short stop, so this time we wanted to spent few days only in the city, focusing on its beauty and history, instead on simply running through Acropolis. Of course Acropolis was as well on our to do list, but this time we could simply enjoy it.
Top 15 things to do in Athens:
- The Acropolis is one of the most important ancient monuments in the world and it’s hard to imagine Athens without it. This is the IT tourist attraction in Athens. Propylaia, Parthenon, and Erechtheion are one of the best preserved and iconic sites in Acropolis complex. During summer visiting Acropolis may be really exhausting because of heat and crowds of tourists. On Christmas it was much more quiet here and we could finally enjoy the beauty of Acropolis without hurrying up. Acropolis literally means a high city and the first temples were built here during the Mycenaean times. During ages Acropolis was partly destroyed, but the final stroke was done in 1687 by Venetians who caused explosion of Parthenon, where that time Turks were storing gunpowder. During the explosion the fire damaged all the buildings of Acropolis. It’s good to remember this story, especially when you get irritated by having visited Acropolis since many years and seeing it all the time being renovated.
- The Theatre of Dionysus is on the south-eastern slope of the Acropolis hill. The first theatre on this place was built in the 6th century BC. The existing monument dates back to the 4th century BC. The reliefs from the 2hd century BC depict the exploits of Dionysus.
- The Ancient Agora was a meeting place in ancient Athens. The site was first developed in the 6th century BC. Here was the place there Socrates talked about philosophy and where later St. Paul tried to convert Athenians to Christianity. The main monuments here are the Temple of Hephaestus, the Stoa of Attalos and the Church of the Holy Apostles.
- The Roman Agora is another historical site worth visiting. Here you can admire: ruins of the Odeon of Agrippa concert hall, Tower of the Winds (a marble clocktower which is considered to be the world’s first meteorological station), Gate of Athena Archegetis, East Propylon, and Fethiye Mosque.
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus was completed in 131 AD by Hadrian. It is the largest temple in Greece and building it took over 700 years!
- The Kerameikos is the ancient cemetery of Athens. The name of the site derives from Keramos, son of Dionysios and Ariadne, a hero of potters. Kerameikos was used for burials from 12th century BC.
- The changing of the Greek Presidential Guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Syntagma Square is something you should definitely see at least once in your life. The guards are dressed in traditional uniforms and everything looks very spectacular
- The National Archaeological Museum is the biggest museum in the country and it exhibits one of the most important artifacts form prehistory to late antiquity found around Greece. . To appreciate it fully we strongly recommend you to read more about ancient Greek history beforehand. Why? Well, how else can you be honored while standing close to the Mask if Agamemnon if you have no idea who Agamemnon was in the first place. Among the most precious exhibited objects in the museum are: the Mask of Agamemnon, findings from excavation of the Grave Circes in Mycenae by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, statues of Zeus, Athena, and Asclepius, frescoes and many other historical objects.
- The Museum of Greek Folk Art. This small museum exhibits embroidery, pottery, artifacts, reconstruction of a stage with the heroes of the folk shadow theater, traditional costumes and works of a modern Greek naïve painter Theofilos Chatzimichail.
- Visit Plaka the oldest neighborhood of Athens. The majority of streets are closed to car traffic, so you can enjoy a beautiful walk in the labyrinth of small streets. Apart from old houses and archeological sites like the Tower of the Winds in Roman Agora or the Monument to Lysikratous, you can find here many great restaurants. We used to one here every evening to enjoy a delicious meal and the view of the Acropolis. We strongly recommend visiting this neighborhood more than once.
- Anafiotika is a tiny neighborhood in Athens and a part of Plaka. It is filled with small houses built on the slopes of the Acropolis. If you don’t have a time to visit any of Greek islands during your trip, Anafiotika will definitely remind you of them. Visit this neighborhood during day and enjoy the beautiful panorama of the city.
- Monastiraki is one of the oldest areas in Athens. You can find there flea market / bazar, souvenirs shop, monuments, churches, and museums. It is the place to make shopping, no matter if you are to buy a T-shirt, Greek pottery or icons painted by Greek monks. There are as well many cafés and restaurants, so you can anytime make a break and grab a bite. If you are more interested in buying at flea market rather than tourist oriented bazar visit Monastiraki on Sundays. More information about Monastiraki bazar, Monastiraki Square, and a small Byzantine church called Agios Eleftherios you can find on https://www.athensguide.com/monastiraki.html
- Greek Orthodox Churches. More than 90% of Greeks belong to Greek Orthodox Church, which makes this country the second Holy Land for all Orthodox Christians around the world. (Unless you are a Russian Orthodox who puts nationalism over the common sense and decides to reject anything that is not Russian). Greece is filled with Orthodox monasteries, churches, miraculous ikons, preserved bodies of many saints and holy places. Therefore, if you are in Athens, use the opportunity to visit few churches and observe local religious customs.
- Try Greek food. We love olives, meat, spicy and salty food, so Greece with thousand sorts of olives, feta cheese, high quality meat, and marinated peppers was a heaven for us.
- Food market. Whenever you find yourself close to any food market in Athens, GO! Food markets are not only the places where you can get high quality delicious products but as well a place where the life is happening. Here come the citizens of Athens to buy and gossip. So be sure you don’t miss this opportunity to observe the real Greek life.