Summer has arrived and a record number of tourists have flocked to Athens. While the crowds overflow at the Parthenon and other well-known monuments, Discover Greek Culture reminds visitors that the Greek capital is replete with unique cultural experiences worth exploring. Here are seven of our favorites:
#1 – Experience the City’s Urban Life
Just off the tourist trail, the traditional urban center of Athens – stretching from Monastiraki to Omonia Square, along the Aiolou pedestrian thoroughfare – has been reborn as the cultural nerve center of Athens. A historic trade hub for the city, today infused by international and youth culture, this area of Athens is bustling with hip bars, cafes, restaurants, boutiques and ateliers.
This is the place for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a night out on the town in true Athenian fashion.
#2 – Check our the Numismatic Museum (Iliou Melathron)
One of the most impressive and least-known collections in Athens, the Numismatic Museum (est. 1834) is one the oldest public museums in Greece and boasts one of the greatest collections of coins in the world. The museum’s permanent collection comprises over 500,000 items—coins, medals, lead bullae, gems, obeloi, talents, etc.—dating as early as the 14th century BCE, and puts special emphasis on Greek artifacts. Originally housed in the University of Athens, the collection was moved to its current location, Iliou Melathron, in 1998. Commissioned by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and designed by the famed architect Ernst Ziller, the luxuriously decorated Iliou Melathron was considered the most magnificent private residence in Athens at the time of its construction, in the late 19th century.
Behind the museum is the enchanting garden of the Black Duck Bistrot – Athens City Museum Bistrot, one of the city center’s great hideawa
#3 – Dine Like Athenian Aristocracy
After a tour of the spectacular Museum of the City of Athens, guests can enjoy a taste of aristocratic life in the early years of the modern Greek state. A specially catered meal will be served in one of the museum’s accurately reproduced period dining rooms, and guests will enjoy their meal at a 19th century dining table set with antique tableware. In the evenings, dinner versions of this exclusive feature are accompanied by live violin music to further enhance the 19th century atmosphere.
The museum also offers children (up to 15 years of age) a fantastic opportunity to dress up in period costumes—child-sized reproductions of clothes that once belonged to the Greek royal family! (Note: special arrangements must be made in advance for this dinner, please contact us for details).
#4 – Walk with the Ancients in Philopappou Hill
Pristine, tranquil and bearing the marks of ancient settlements, Philopappou Hill is located just southwest of the Acropolis rock, together with which it forms the broader Acropolis archaeological area. The hill offers unrivaled views of the Acropolis and Parthenon and boasts several significant monuments and sites of its own, including the Church of Aghios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris and the Philopappos Mausoleum, after which the hill is named.
It is the ideal place to take a quiet walk in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks (and there is no better time to do so than in the early morning).
#5 – Cocktails in a Convent
Located in the up-and-coming Metaxourgio area of Athens, El Convento Del Arte is a unique Dinner Theater meticulously decorated as a medieval convent. Each evening El Convento Del Arte offers sensational performances – ranging from traditional Greek mythology to modern Tango – accompanied by sumptuous cuisine and fine beverages.
This is a one-of-a-kind outing not be missed.
#6 – Become an Athenian Literati
One of Athens’ greatest cultural tourism secrets, and one of the most centrally located, the Katakouzenos’ home was once one of the capital’s great salons literaires. A popular meeting place for the Greek ‘30s Generation, Aggelos and Leto Katakouzenos’ home hosted many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the time.
Re-opened to the public in 2008, the Katakouzenos House Museum houses a collection of works and objects d’art by prominent Greek and international artists.
#7 – Get Lost in the National Garden
Originally commissioned by Queen Amalia, the first Queen of Greece, as her royal gardens, the National Garden has provided the backdrop for much of the country’s modern history. Located just next to the Building of Parliament, the gardens have witnessed much of the social and political history that forged the modern Republic of Greece. They are as full of facts and fables as they are flora and fauna.
Commenting on the gardens, Henry Miller wrote: “It remains in my memory like no other park I have known. It is the quintessence of a park, the thing one feels sometimes in looking at a canvas or dreaming of a place one would like to be in and never finds”.