The birthplace of democracy, the Olympics, and modern philosophy; feta cheese, baklava, and tzatziki; the ancestral home of comedic geniuses Tina Fey and David Sedaris, as well as Uncle Jessie (John Stamos): Opa, Greece! [What does Opa mean? Read up on that here]. In a country that’s clearly rich with history and culture, and produces some of the world’s most envy-inducing Instagrammed islands, need there be more reason to hightail it to Greece? Read on for just a few of the reasons that make visiting this Central European treasure a must.
1. Soak up some history and visit the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
The sheer scale and age of these constructions is humbling and a must-see even if you’re not the biggest history buff. Plus, the outdoor cafe at the Acropolis provides stunning views of the city below — perfect for an afternoon espresso, light snack or just admiring the scenery.
2. Eat like a local.
Conduct your own baklava taste-testing throughout the city as it’s readily available in most cafes and is so delicious you won’t mind the ‘research.’ After a long day’s work, treat yourself to a typical Greek dinner of Moussaka (think lasagna-like layers of eggplant, minced meat and potatoes) and Spanakopita (layers of filo pastry with spinach and feta cheese) paired with, of course, wine.
3. Explore Street art in the Plaka and Monastiraki neighborhoods of Athens.
The current political and economic climate in Greece’s capital city has inspired artists to channel their opinions and frustrations via large-scale murals which can be found across these neighborhoods in the city.
4. Get out of town!
Yes, literally. While Athens can provide you with the excitement and conveniences of a modern European capital, there’s much to be explored outside of the city. Sports buffs should head three hours south to Olympia where the classic olympics began centuries ago. Those more interested in Greek mythology may prefer to head two hours northwest to Delphi to visit the place that was once believed to be the center of the earth.
5. Take a detour!
If heading to Delphi, be sure to take in the gorgeous Greek countryside by stopping at Hosios Loukas Monastery. Escaping into the Greek countryside will reward you with views like rolling hills and beautiful architecture found at the Hosios Loukas Monastery between Athens and Delphi (about two hours outside of Athens). This great side trip will only set you back about a half hour on your way back to Athens.
6. Visit the Flisvos Marina.
Located just a 10 minutes’ drive from Athens is the Flisvos Marina, which can make your dreams of visiting Greek islands come true in just a day. Many day cruise companies dock from this port and offer stops at islands such as Hydra, Poros and Aegina. While they may not be Mykonos, your day is sure to be excellent with the gorgeous views of the Aegean Sea and the small island charm of these quaint villages in between.
7. Get custom made sandals from Stavros Melissinos, the “Poet Sandal Maker” of Athens
Located near Monastiraki Square, the shoemaker has fitted custom sandals for celebrities like John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Sarah Jessica Parker. For less than $50 USD, you can leave Greece with a custom souvenir in any of his 30+ sandal styles.