It was pretty obvious to me that the Greek capital would be flooded with people, but as we came to find out by talking to locals it was not always like that. Greece has always enticed its tourists with her beautiful islands and it is hard to be surprised by that fact as they are truly mesmerizing. Athens on the other hand was only a stopover on the way to the islands for most people. It happens to have the Acropolis/Parthenon so it was a nice quick visit to those landmarks and then jump straight to the island. It changed, as we were told, few years ago when the city started to be a destination on its own. I will not hide how surprised I was by that information, not just because Greek mythology was my favorite in school. Since it is Greece people are visiting, Athens must be the place to see as well! However, a city with such potential and history was so easily overlooked by most who traveled there…just blew my mind.
Below I would like to share with you a short list of 5 things that, in my opinion, you must do in Athens. They became a very important part of my travel, besides many more of course, those are the first things I would recommend to anyone to do first.
1. Reach the summit of Hill of the Muses at night
After our arrival to the city that was the first spot we chose to go. Mainly because we got there late in the afternoon and since we stayed nearby the hill, we did not want to lose what was left of our evening. It seemed like an obvious choice since it was just around the corner and is open 24 hours a day. It also happened to be the best decision. Many small paths cover the hill which gave us many routes to choose from, it was so much fun, especially when we got lost on our way back down in the dark, so we followed the sound of the music to get out 😊. Mostly it is the view though, which is to say the least, spectacular. All the lights of Athens and the beautifully illuminated Acropolis/Parthenon caught my heart and eyes instantly. This is the perfect start to your travel, especially if you arrive late and are looking for a quick and cheap way to explore.
2. Taste bitter orange
When we left the metro coming from the airport at Syntagma Square we were supposed to take a public city bus, which by the way we missed as they are rarely on time, so we decided to walk to our Airbnb.
Our walk became very interesting, why you shall ask? Because alongside many roads in the city there are orange trees full of beautiful ripe fruit. The smell was amazing and I found it so mesmerizing as well as curious why no one would pick them? Our deductive skills never fail and we figured that people are just used to it and if we had so many oranges around we would not eat them either…said no one ever, right? 😊.
Something was not right here and it is not hard to guess what my first question was to our host after “Hi, how are you?” 😊. Of course, I had to ask why there are so many oranges still on the trees and if we will be fined if we take them? In my head I could only picture carrying a full bag of fresh fruit to the apartment. The magic was gone when John said that they are mainly for decoration and to kill the city smell, as well as they taste horrible. Google confirmed his words with texts like do not eat, do not touch and for your safety do not even look at it (I exaggerate obviously, but you get my point).
I say try it! I did and I am still alive while I gained knowledge. Smell was identical to normal oranges we all know and love, but the taste was new… Some may say they taste like lemons and you would say it cannot be that bad. But it is! It tastes like lemon and grapefruit combined, but far more sour and potent. Fun fact is that this little guy can survive in lower temperatures and harsh conditions, this is the reason for their year-round charm. Besides it is impossible to eat bitter orange raw it has many uses, but the most popular is making marmalade out of it.
As I read more about this topic I found out that those trees were planted in Athens in December 2012 as an art project that illustrates the taste of the economic crisis, it is bitter am I wrong?
3. Try the best bakery in Athens
Taki’s Bakery will make your day better I promise. This bakery provides their products to many places in the city, because this is how good and well known they are. You will find not only bread, rolls and baguettes, but also sweet treats traditional to Greek culture. Space itself is not very big and you will not sit inside, but there is an outside sitting area. Next to bakery is a small café and they live in perfect symbiosis. So, enjoy your breakfast with a cup of coffee basking your nose in the sun 😊.
Taki’s Bakery address: Misaraliotou 14, Athina 117 42, Greece
4. Drink Greek coffee and eat tzatziki
I love food as you can tell, but that is only a small part of what I have for you, because Greek cuisine is so delicious it deserves a separate post.
Greek coffee is very much like Turkish coffee that is a fact. However, a big part with the names of Turkish and Greek Coffee is played out in the history of those two countries. The Turks introduced coffee to the Greeks, but after Turkey removed Greek power from Istanbul in 1955, The Greeks decided to remove every word that was connected with Turkey from their dictionary and that is why we have Greek coffee. Traditionally it was steamed in a copper pot over hot sand. Now gas is more convenient, and you will always be asked how much sugar you prefer in your coffee.
If it goes for tzatziki I cannot imagine leaving Greece without trying the most popular starter there. It goes well with everything, especially with grilled meat and bread. Traditional tzatziki sauce is made with thick Greek yoghurt, chopped cucumber, garlic and olive oil. So simple, yet so delicious!
5. Lay down on the grass with your head among poppies and daisies
You may call it a banal activity, but just do it! I was surprised by a lot of things in Athens, but the number of poppies was the biggest surprise. They are everywhere and they are charming. It was so worth to stop for a moment in our multi-kilometer walk through the city, just to get my jeans dirty from grass and breathe fresh air.