Once upon a time, as was woven in the rich tapestry of ancient Greek mythology, the river-god Asopus was blessed with not one, but twenty breathtakingly beautiful daughters! So gorgeous these legendary nymphs were, they soon attracted the attention of the gods and were swept away in the arms of the Olympians. One of those sought-after beauties even caught the wandering eye of the father of the gods, Zeus, himself, who fought with thunderbolts to keep her at his side. Aegina was her name and her namesake island today reflects her beauty, charm and mystical allure…

It seems quite fitting that this small island, just an hour away from the Athenian capital, is just as popular and beloved a destination for locals on weekend-getaways as it is a Saronic beacon of attraction for visitors from near and afar. An exquisite recipe for historical importance, traditional beauty, wonderful locales and sights to discover, this shining gem, nestled in the clear blue waters of the Greek seas, completes the perfect island-hopping trifecta along with other exclusive islands, such as Hydra and Poros.

Boasting a beautiful waterfront lined with cozy cafes and restaurants, Aegina welcomes you with open arms so don’t hesitate. Pull out a chair in one of the many small ouzo eateries that specialize in serving classic fish “mezes” delicacies and enjoy yourselves. Keep an eye out for the freshly caught octopuses hanging at the storefronts and make yourself at home.

Explore this unique tiny destination overflowing with tremendous historical importance and cultural heritage considering that Aegina Town even served as capital of the newly founded Greek state back in the day. Take a horse-carriage ride along the harbor or go for a stroll around the well-preserved neoclassical mansions which once housed the headquarters of the first administrator of free modern Greece, Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias,

More than half the island was created by a now extinct volcano while its beautiful rich plains provide the locals with grain, vines, almonds and figs. In fact, Aegina is renowned for its production of delicious pistachios. Locals harvest them passionately and visitors always opt for souvenir baggies of the famous nut. They even hold a whole celebration dedicated to it in mid-September, called the Fistiki Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors annually. So while you’re there, don’t skip on visiting any of the many small local stores and giving some of these famous roasted pistachios a go

Treading through the main town, you’ll also come across the Markellos Tower, dating back to the War of Independence, which now houses the Kapodistrias Cultural Center. Its imposing pink facade is sure to catch your eye.

At a walking distance from the port, you will discover the Doric temple of Apollo, also known as Kolona (column) since a single remnant column juts out and marks the spot. Built in 520 BC, it was heavily damaged in the 4th century AD along with many other temples and monuments, as they were all considered idolatrous at the time. One of its preserved statues, depicting an impressive Sphinx, is housed in the neighboring Archaeological museum where you can also check out artifacts from the beautiful 500 BC temple of Aphaia and Neolitihic pottery in permanent display.

The great Doric temple of Aphaia, part of the sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Athena, completes the world famous Holy Triangle of temples along with the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion. This is also known as the Sacred Triangle. Trace it on your map and be amazed! To add to the mystery and the myth dictating that these 3 temples are part of a grander plan, they were in fact built within a few years of each other…Archaeology enthusiasts often flock to the tiny island to explore the sight up close, speculating about what it could all mean.

Another popular attraction, drawing the crowds in, is the Church of Agios Nektarios (Saint Nektarios) and the Monastery of Agia Triada (The Holy Trinity). Saint Nektarios of Aegina is one of the most beloved saints of the Greek Church and people often visit the church to pray for healing and to ask for his blessing. A famous healer and hard worker, he was the one who built the Holy Trinity Monastery for women, overlooking the beautiful church. Nowadays, 14 nuns reside at the monastery and consider their home to be a “hospital for the soul”. Every year, on the 9th of November, the locals hold a huge celebration and procession in his honor and if you happen to be around, you can even attend night service and gaze upon the remains of the saint which are on display and carried around the streets of Aegina Town. The immense church, along with the saint’s marble tomb, features on the most prominent list of sites of religious interest to visit.

Sandy beaches, ideal for a cool swim in natural creeks, frame this Saronic jewel. From Agia Marina to Loutra, from Portes to Vrohia, there are countless options to choose from and visitors can take their pick among organized beaches with sun-beds and beach-bars to secluded ones, where they can enjoy the sun and beautiful sea in a more private setting. Why not even try the Souvala beach, known for its warm, therapeutic waters, or the pebbly Perdika beach, right off the traditional namesake village?

In the spring and autumn periods, locals and visitors also opt for hiking along the scores of charming footpaths which will lead you to the most picturesque chapels and settlements, sprinkled all over the island. You will find yourself, atop small hills gazing at unforgettable views of the surrounding sea.

Whether you are a history buff, a fun-loving seafood and ouzo lover, interested in sites of religious importance or looking forward to a cool swim or a memorable hilltop photo op, Aegina has got you covered!

Do not miss the chance to visit Aegina with our one day cruise to Aegina, Poros and Hydra

“You enter the harbor of Poros swaying and swirling, a gentle idiot tossed about amidst masts and nets in a world which only the painter knows…!” – Henry Miller – The Collossus of Marousi

Island-hoppers and explorers, start off your sea escapade from busy Athens and, at the snap of a finger, find yourselves in one of the most popular nearby destinations! Less than an hour away from the bustling capital lies Poros, a perfect gem of an island, infused with an invaluable mythological, historical and cultural temperament, effortlessly headlining the ultimate Saronic experience.

Celebrated since antiquity and a favorite destination for locals on weekend getaways due to its accessibility and proximity, Poros is, in reality, an island pair separated by a small canal. It consists of Sphairia, the daughter of tumultuous volcanic dalliance, and Kalavria, named after the gentle breeze swiveling through the rich, dense vegetation pouring down over the golden seacoast. A famed Greek myth about the origins of the name of Kalavria dictates that it was once dedicated to Kalavros, the son of the god Poseidon, Ruler of the Seas. Likewise, Sphairia may have been named after the renowned charioteer of Pelops, King of the Peloponnese, who found himself in the center of many a fabled intricate scandals.

Myths and legends bestow greatness to this small getaway locale, adding to its daedal backstory that the god Apollo may have offered it to Poseidon in exchange for the mystical Delphi.

Poros possesses a rich and varied geological character, combining creeks and streams which flow through steep valleys with smooth hills which run all the way down to calm, pine tree shaded, sandy beaches to the south. To add to its embellished topographical tapestry there are also limestone caves with stalactites and a dreamy lemon tree forest which spreads clear down to the coast, ready to excite all your senses.

Within the prominent Lemon Grove, a popular soothing shelter for every traveler, plucked right of a painter’s canvas, you will discover crystal clear streams traversing throughout quaint windmills, rejuvenating the mind and heart. At its entrance, stands the lovely white Church of Saint Serapheim, built in around 1900, whom the locals turned to for patronage and protection at times of strife.

Sailing into the picturesque port of Poros, a sense of unpretentious cosmopolitan charm washes over you as tradition and history have been safeguarded and preserved, marking this small island of great historic importance a globally protected settlement. The welcoming waterfront is adorned with inviting cafes and restaurants, little shops and visitor-friendly establishments, framed by cobblestone paths leading to the surrounding white-washed preserved stone mansions, all backed by lush greenery.

The historic clock towering over the capital is one of the first sights to catch your eye and an iconic Instagram photo opportunity, absolutely characteristic of the island’s beauty and reputable quality of architecture. Built in 1927, this must-see attraction dominates the landscape and can be admired from all angles as it perches on the highest hill, accentuated by a backdrop of prickly pear and pine trees. The first modern island dwellings were built just around it in 1463.

The beautiful alleyways leading away from the pier are a great place to discover traditional tavernas catering to all your gastronomical whims, providing a variety of classic Greek cuisine and local treats.

You can explore the town hall, archaeological museum and exhibition center or venture northwest to discover the Pregymnasium, formerly engaged as the residence of King Othon, nowadays serving as the naval training academy of Poros. The village of Askeli was built around it, mainly conveying matching neoclassical architecture, surrounded by two sandy beaches. Sitting right on the edge of one of them you can discover the lovely white and blue Chapel of Panagitsa, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Crossing the canal, through the pine tree sheltered winding road you will reach the chapel of Our Lady Agia Zoni, situated near a densely forested steep cliff and crystal clear running waters. This is truly a fantastic spot, often chosen as the venue for many weddings and baptisms.

Nearby, you will also come across the remains of the Temple of Poseidon. Having served as a center of amphictyony which included city-states like Epidauros, Prassies, Hermione, Aigina, Athens, and Orhomenos, this ancient temple is of great historical importance and is believed to have been built in the 6th century BC. It is said that Demosthenes, the ancient great orator, sought sanctuary here from Philip the King of Macedonia, but ended his life by consuming poison hemlock in 322 BC.

Some of the most beloved features of Poros are, of course, its extraordinary beaches. Many of them offer sunbeds and umbrellas while others provide calming solitude while you dive into the island’s blue-green crystal waters. Love Bay is one of the most romantic coves you can splash around in, sheltered by lush greenery. Another popular seaside destination is Kanali, located just 5 minutes from the bridge that connects the two isles. In Askeli and in Megalo Neorio you may opt for some water sports and games or enjoy a traditional taverna meal after your refreshing swim.

Why not combine site seeing with an invigorating dip and choose to visit the Russian Naval Base, one of the most important attractions of the island? Its buildings are deemed historical landmarks and

just across you can catch a glimpse of the popular wedding destination of Daskalio or Eros, a tiny uninhabited islet dedicated to the god of love.

Ancient ruins on the island, poised to unravel mysteries of the past and to enrich our knowledge and understanding of ancient times, include an early Bronze Age village located at the northeastern Cape Vasili, representing the oldest settlement ever discovered in Trizina to date.

According to ancient geographer Pausanias, Aethra, the mother of Theseus, erected a temple in honor of Athena Apaturia (the Deceitful) on the island of Sphairia and introduced among young maidens the custom of dedicating their chastity belts to the goddess on the eve of their nuptials.

Another often visited attraction on Poros is the old historical Holy Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, built in 1720 AD by an archbishop whose ails were said to have been miraculously cured when he drank from the nearby holy water springs. During some of the nation’s most challenging times, the monastery featured as an invaluable source of inspiration and support for the Hellenic Liberation War of 1821.

Whether you are lounging in one of the lovely cafes scattered along the cosmopolitan promenade or enjoying a cold one in the shade near crystal blue-green waters, whether you are exploring the fairy tale Lemon Grove or hiking in the pinewood forested hills, splashing around in the lush green coves or discovering historical or ancient sites, Poros offers the whole package just a short ferry ride away from the Greek capital.

Join now our exciting cruise from Athens and admire Poros, Hydra and Aegina island in one day!

 

Celebrated for preserving its “integrity of place” by National Geographic Traveler, Hydra ranks quite high up in the scoreboard for most beloved Greek destinations! A small island, surrounded by the glassy blue clear waters of the Aegan sea, its name is traced back to the ancient Greek word for “water” in honor of its natural springs.

This gem of the Saronic Gulf didn’t go unnoticed by the glam and fabulous, having been on Hollywood’s radar early on. Back in 1957, 20th Century Fox swooped in and ushered Hydra under the global spotlight with “The Boy and the Dolphin”, starring the incomparable Sophia Lauren. Nominated for Best Music Academy Award that year, this wonderful romantic piece of cinematography was the first of many to showcase the island’s beauties. Ms Lauren, as “Phaedra”, portrays a poor sponge diver who discovers an ancient Greek statue of a boy riding a dolphin at the bottom of the Aegean Sea. She sings:

…”If the boy whom the gods have enchanted
Should arise from the sea,
And the wish of my heart could be granted,
I would wish that you loved only me…”

Then in the 60s, a little bird sitting on one of Hydra’s recently installed phone wires and endless wet island nights inspired one of Leonard Cohen’s signature songs, “Bird on a Wire”. Cohen sought both peace and inspiration on this beautiful Greek haven for artists in the company of his muse, Marianne Ihlen, curing his depression and getting his creative juices flowing.

Enjoy the serene atmosphere of this popular get-away, the traditional stone villas built by Italian artisans and blooming flower gardens, just a two hour ferry ride from Athens. White-washed houses and winding cobble-stone streets spread out from the quaint port while waterfront cafés combine a wonderful view of the crystal blue waters with refreshing beverages. The odd poet or writer finds solace in the calm waves foaming around the fishing boats and breathes in the fresh air without a car in sight. Literally! The only motor vehicles you’ll see will be the municipal rubbish collecting trucks as all other automobiles have been banned from Hydra. Visitors and locals alike get around on foot, bikes and donkeys and you can always hail a water taxi for a ride around this unspoiled authentic locale.

Thus, the island’s traditional atmosphere and soothing environment have been preserved throughout the years, making for a lovely destination whether you’re fancying a hike around its historical monasteries or a visit to either the gunpowder store or one of the several historical museums. A yachting paradise, with fishing boats, impressive yachts and motorboats mooring at the crescent shaped harbor, the seafront also features beautiful statues and bastions; an idyllic background for sensational photos when capturing memories of this nearby heavenly getaway. The most dominating statue of the harbor, welcoming in all visitors, is that of Admiral Miaoulis, erected in honor of his efforts in leading the island against the Ottoman Empire during the Greek War of Independence.

Pebbled beaches, island coves begging to be explored, sandy shores and crystal waters frame this small garden of Eden, while picturesque taverns offering delicious local dishes reflecting our famous mediterranean cuisine are just a stroll away. Rocky tops and small densely forested pine-clad areas, sun-washed plateaus hosting historical churches, all come together in an excellent location for ecclesiastical tourism, mountain trailing, art and architecture tours, weddings, guided scuba-diving, snacks and drinks at the beach-bars or numerous seaport café -bars, gourmet meals at specialized restaurants and fresh fish taverns or for grabbing a “tsipouro” or “ouzo” at the local hangouts. In traditional bakeries and local workshops, here and there, you will discover the island’s delicious almond based treats, the “amygdalota”. Trail hiking has become a favorite activity for Hydriots and visitors alike, leading to the annual Hydra’s Trails Event. Nature lovers, looking to test their endurance while enjoying the sunny landscapes, participate every year in this popular event, choosing any of the five popular routes running through the island.

Hydra, has rightfully been deemed a national Greek monument in order to restrict any building activity which may endanger the historical landscape and traditional character so it has managed to preserve its legacy as a gateway to the past.

It undeniably features on everyone’s island hopping list as it’s definitely not a “stop” to miss!

Try now our famous One-day Cruise to Hydra, Poros and Aegina. With not one, but three popular Greek islands on your itinerary, you will soak in the sun and replenish your batteries before resuming your mainland exploration adventures.

As the gentle Greek summer night breeze blows through every quaint neighborhood and winding road of Athens, it’s time once again for one of the most iconic cultural activities which has defined our evenings for decades! Summer cinema theaters open their doors, welcoming visitors and locals into their open-air jasmine scented gardens, terraces and rooftops. They are sprinkled all over the historic capital as well as beyond the city gates.

The summer cinema experience is a wonderful addition to your visiting agenda if you are seeking authentic local savoir-faire, as it embodies a favorite pass-time for many Greeks. Movies from all genres and production years grace these screens in traditional open-air theaters, fusing an authentic classic feel with modern vibes and swanky trends.

Cinema-goers duly honor these establishments, many of which have been operating for decades and have managed to preserve their retro feel and atmosphere. They were already there, operating, when silent films transformed into talkies and changed entertainment for ever. Some of these venues have a taste for art-house films, paying homage to older movie-makers and classic cinematography, while others screen the latest releases and blockbusters under the starry skies.

Don’t miss a chance to attend a showing in beautiful neighborhoods around Old Town, like in Thissio where your evening will be crowned by the astonishing view of the floodlit Acropolis, rightfully earning Cine Thissio a top place among the “CNN Travel list of the 10 most enjoyable movie theaters in the world”.

With as many as 90 screens located all around Athens, you will be amiss not to pay one of these lovely venues a visit where you’ll find yourself glancing at the night sky over the screen and making a wish on a falling star, while you enjoy your outdoor entertainment and refreshments.

Many of these cinemas offer a variety of snacks, similar to any other conventional cinema while some try to diversify even further by adding more options to their menus. Alcohol is also available, as well, so crack open a cool one while you enjoy the show. Some venues provide love-seats as well as tables here and there, and most of these lovely neighborhood hang-outs adorn their garden walls with jasmine and primrose, enveloping you in a cool and refreshing shelter from the hot summer evenings.

Traditionally, most showings are at 9pm and then again at 11pm as of course earlier afternoon showings are not an option since it doesn’t get dark enough for outdoor screenings before then.

You will often find the movie roster being renewed on Thursdays and in most cases you will need to get your ticket at the cinema reception. So, it’s always clever to get there early enough to avoid a queue. You will also be able to choose where you’d rather sit once you are there since the seats are not numbered. Many of these summer cultural staples of Athenian night life offer a small bar and waiting area with tables or other options while you wait to be ushered in. Look for Wednesday night specials as traditionally that’s when you may get half off the admission tickets and don’t skip on the mosquito repellent as it may come in useful.

You will discover that most of these cinemas also offer intermissions half-way into the movie giving you a chance to stretch your legs or grab another drink. But keep in mind that these breaks are quite short so don’t go wandering off. On your way to the canteen for more supplies, sneak a peek around the surrounding buildings and catch youngsters, gathered on their balconies, enjoying a free show, basking in the waning moon, and what our Italian neighbors call “cinema sotto le stelle”, translating to “cinema under the stars”.

Open-air cinema season depends on the weather although it usually lasts from May to September. Colorful posters outside the venues inform the public of each week’s screenings as well as of any special events such as the occasional theatrical play or time-honored shadow puppet show that may also take place now and then. Traditionally, all movies are featured in their original language accompanied by Greek subtitles aside from the casual cartoon screening when it might be dubbed during its early showing to accommodate younger viewers.

The Athens Open Air Film Festival is organized every year, transforming the entire city into an open-air theater, hosting screenings of classic faves and even premieres all over town, set against a backdrop of Greek monuments and historical venues, showcasing the urban landscape, from town squares to parks. Running from June to September, the festival welcomes everyone, admission-free.

So, while you’re staying in the historic capital, enjoy the Athenian night life, food tours, promenades down the ancient district of Plaka, and don’t forget to pop in for an evening with the stars… under the stars!

 

Following up on our “When in Athens: Part One”, where you were given all the crucial info on where to soak in staple landmarks, we have now compiled the list of traditional experiences that come with a local thumbs-up! So, if you want to fully immerse in Greek culture during your stay and plunge into authentic locales along with seasoned travelers and locals-in-the-know, here we dish out all the inside information.

Start by exploring Plaka, situated at the foothill of the Acropolis, a city district as old as time, bountiful in stylish neoclassical residences and a variety of cafes and tavernas. Take in the sights and pleasant atmosphere while you explore the courtyards and lovely gardens, full of flavors and souvenirs. You will fall in love with the quaint and colorful Anafiotika, a beautiful settlement within, reminiscent of an Aegean island nestled in the heart of Athens.

You will also enjoy a walk downtown through the Monastiraki flea market, accessible by metro, an excellent place to pick up souvenirs, leather goods, traditional trinkets and get lost in its narrow cobblestone streets and countless small shops.

As one of the many celebrated entertainment centers of the city of Athens, Thissio, overflowing with history and culture, is the place to be and enjoy yourself at all times of the day, brimming with museums, art galleries, exhibition centers and open-air theaters from where you can enjoy the amazing lush surroundings. A tourist spot and favorite hangout for Athenians!

Why not also hike up Lycabettus Hill, standing at 277 meters above sea level, the highest point in Athens and enjoy the magnificent view? You can choose to walk up the forested paths or take the cable car to the top, and it is well worth your time, as locals and visitors daily dine at the cafe/restaurant atop, enjoying the wonderful locale and the white-washed quaint St. George church. Lycabettus Hill also provides for a fantastic place to enjoy your morning jog as most neighborhood residents will attest to.

One of the greatest venues dishing out variety festivals and concerts to acclaimed exhibitions and events, is the most emboldened cultural/educational project ever undertaken in the country, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the Bay of Falliro.

Another landmark to visit, a hub attracting everyone from celebrity chefs to everyday home cooks, is the larger-than-life bustling market, the Varvakios Agora. Locally sourced foods, from fresh fish to delicious fruit, fill up the largest market in Athens where you’ll certainly find the goods you’re after.

Stretching from the southern city neighborhoods all the way to the southernmost cape in Attica, the Athens Riviera is a lovely coastal route, passing by all the high-end suburbs of the capital. Beautiful seaside, a variety of eclectic shopping options and top rated food and drink venues, all line up as you travel down this idyllic road breathing in the sea breeze.

A rare geological gem awaits you smack down in middle of the Athens Riviera, as you take a break over at Vouliagmeni Lake, frequented for its soothing atmosphere and thermal underwater springs.

Why not enjoy a cool swim in the beaches of Athens, where you can find everything from exclusive beach bars like Astir Beach and comfortable sun lounging at Akti Vouliagmenis. One of the largest beach clubs, the Varkiza Resort, offers everything from water sports to great eateries. When in the capital, a salty dip is closer than you’d think!

The nightlife in Athens is all encompassing. You can discover sophisticated cocktail hot spots all around popular areas like Monastiraki, Plaka, Psiri and Thissio, with lounging areas on rooftops from where you can enjoy the breathtaking views of floodlit historic landmarks under the stars. Agias Irinis square, Kolokotroni street, the Kolonaki neighborhood downtown and of course the Athens Riviera are overflowing with options which also include slow paced ouzo drinking, accompanied by a “mezes”.

Speaking of “mezes”, a snack traditionally served with drinks, sometimes seafood-based or concocted of cheese and meats, the Athens experience would be lacking if you didn’t taste all the wonderful flavors. Greece is famous for its mediterranean cuisine and countless popular dishes expanding further than the staple Greek salad and delicious mousakas, so enjoy a delicious journey around the city center and Old Town for a finger-licking great experience!

When in Athens…Part One: Let’s be civilized!

Frankly my dear, once you’ve made it to Athens, the place where ancient philosophers, poets, leaders and generals, story tellers and artists, athletes and renowned speakers, all came together a very long time ago to pave the road for today’s civilization and democracy, you owe it to yourself to explore every nook and cranny of this historic capital. To leave no stone unturned, no path untaken, no flavor forsaken.

But where to start?

Well, we’re glad you asked, as we’ve compiled a list with the top sites and experiences you cannot afford to miss out on!

First things first! There is nothing more recognizable and undeniably associated with Greece than the Acropolis of Athens. This sacred symbol of Greek ancient history encompasses:

  • the Propylaea Gateway, a monumental and awing structure leading to the main site
  • the Temple of Athena Nike, dedicated to the goddess Athena, bringer of victory (Nike)
  • the Parthenon, erected as a symbol of power following the defeat of the Persians in 479 BC
  • and the Erechtheum with its famous “Porch of the Maidens”.

On the southern slopes you will come across a grand stone theater, the Herodeon, a venue for acclaimed performances, restored and maintained throughout the years. You will also discover the Theater of Dionysus, the birthplace of Greek drama.

On the northwest slope, you will be met by the Agora of Athens, having served, among other things, as the seat of justice in ancient times, and the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved ancient temples.

Spanning over a total area of 25,000 square meters, with its globally distinguished architecture, the Acropolis Museum is a must on everyone’s list.

At the foothill of the Acropolis, discover the ancient district of Plaka where you will find the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments and the Roman Agora, the first trade center of the capital. There, you will come across one of the oldest churches in Athens, the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea.

Why not also drop by the National Archaeological Museum, where you can admire the fully preserved Kore (young maiden), surely one of the most important pieces of Archaic art in existence?

Another important stop is at the “mansion-turned-museum” Benaki Museum, dedicated to preserving and promoting world heritage.

Don’t forget to pass by the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Athenian cultural hub with an infamous collection of ancient Greek, Cycladic and Cypriot artefacts for all ages.

On Amalias Avenue, feast your eyes on Hadrian’s Arch, the monumental 18 meter tall gateway (131 AD), and don’t miss a chance to explore the remains of the Temple of Zeus.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to fallen Greek soldiers, is located at Syntagma square, outside of the Hellenic Parliament building. You can catch the traditional change of guard ceremony at the tomb where one Evzone soldier comes to relieve the other of his duty.

Just a few meters away, enjoy a serene oasis in the center of Athens in the National Garden with its 519 species of plant life.

A true Athenian staple and attestation to Greek history, dating back to the first modern Olympic Games, is the Panathenaic Stadium or Kallimarmaro, with its glorious past and iconic presence in the capital.

A must-see testament to the birthplace of all western civilization, the three priceless architectural jewels forming the notable Athenian Trilogy are the University of Athens, the Academy and the National Library, situated on Panepistimiou street.

For a more modern outtake into Greek landmarks, don’t skip on the chance to check out the 1994 Runner Statue (Dromeas), a unique 12 meter tall statue made mostly of glass shards, creating the illusion of a blurred runner in motion.

And last but not least, make sure to escape the busy city life, through the Athens Riviera, to Cape Sounion, situated at about 70km southeast of Athens. It serves as the setting of one the most photographed monuments of Greece, the Temple of Poseidon.

To be continued…

So you’ve made it to the globally renowned cradle of civilization! Athens is a veritable smorgasbord of antiquities to explore, brimming museums and historical sites at every turn of the road. You’ve found yourself in the birth place of democracy and philosophy, your map app in hand and city guide in the back pocket. As you embark on your exploration and day packed with visits and activities, don’t forget to load up on carbs, giving your body energy to face the day and boost you hikes up Lycabettus hill and strolls down the historic port of Piraeus.

And what better way to get your energy levels up than a traditional Greek snack you can pick up at virtually every metro station or popular town square? Vendors stock their wheeled stands every morning and cater to all passersby. Even bakeries and coffee-to-go places offer it and nowadays you might even encounter specialized delicatessen chains experimenting with this well-loved street food that is suitable for any moment of the day.

We are, of course, talking about the Greek “koulouri”, originally a staple snack of our Northern co-capital, Thessaloniki, but quickly having spread all across the country, earning a place in everyone’s heart. Whether you grab one when you step out of the train station on your way to the Acropolis museum to explore the countless invaluable historic treasures, or you accompany your coffee with it while you board your tour bus to the beautiful Peloponnese, the “koulouri” is the perfect traditional light snack to boost your mood and energy levels!

This roundish ring of bread can be traced back to antiquity, to its ancestor “kollyra”, having survived over the ages as it continues to accompany modern Greek every day life as a cheap healthy street food option you can pick up everywhere. It is believed that the “koulouri” (or “simit” in Turkey) was a popular snack sold on the streets of Constantinople during the Byzantine empire. 19th-century oil paintings about Constantinople daily life show “koulouri” vendors on the streets offering these tasty snacks to travelers and visitors.

Its most usual and loved version relies on its classic bread recipe, sprinkled with sesame seeds. You might stop at the classic street stands and ask for crispy or softer ones, in various sizes. Varieties in flour and toppings, like poppy, flax or sunflower seeds, are always available and of course, nowadays, you are sure to also come across the stuffed version for that extra kick you might need. Commonly, cream cheese or turkey may be used in some bakeries and as times progress, specialized recipes with chocolate and chestnut stuffing or various super-food combinations like cranberries and goji berries are popping up everywhere, catering to everyone’s taste and preferences.

So, pick up a couple while you board the ferry to your island destination, toss one in your back pack while you follow the footsteps of ancient Greek philosophers on the rock of Acropolis, or have a rest and a quick snack while you gaze across the Aegean sea from the temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion. An ideal traditional and healthy breakfast option for the explorer-on-the-go!

Greek Orthodox Easter! What an ideal time to be visiting Greece! If you have found yourself in full Athens exploration mode during this holiday of holidays for Greeks, you’re certainly in for a treat! Time-old traditions, passed on from generation to generation, tightly interweaving religion and culture, are still honored to this day by one and all.

The customs are so many and so colorful all throughout Greece, so rich and deeply woven into the tapestry of our history, that you will find yourself fascinated during the countdown to Easter Sunday and the days to follow.

Preparations for the most important feast of the year start seven weeks prior, on “Clean Monday” when believers or those looking to cleanse their systems start fasting. The period of lent will last up until Saturday night leading to the Resurrection of Christ when people will flock the churches with candles, filling up the courtyards and surrounding streets.

As many people abstain from meat during this period, you will find a plethora of vegetarian options at bakeries all around Athens as well as restaurants and souvlaki shops. Yes, people may request mushrooms or other meatless fillings in their classic souvlakis, elevating the popular meal to an acceptable option for these days. Seafood will also pop up more often in all menus as well as traditional vegetable-based dishes, which offer a great opportunity to enrich your palate with many Mediterranean delicacies.

All throughout the Holy Week, the mood is more subdued as people attend church daily awaiting the crucifixion, culminating in a celebratory explosion on Easter Sunday when people gather home or in taverns for skewed lamb and goat, pork and all kinds of time-honored dishes. The music is loud, the wine flows endlessly and the “opas” are aplenty!

On Holy Tuesday, the Hymn of “Kassiani” is sung in many churches and it is a truly melodic hymn, performed only once a year and one of the most popular places to listen to it in Athens, is the Agios Nikolaos church in Old Town Plaka.

On Holy Wednesday, why not venture downtown to the popular Ermou street, where morning communion is performed at the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea? It is one of the oldest churches in Athens, built over an ancient temple.

On Holy Thursday, traditionally, we bake and dye eggs. You will find red dyed eggs symbolizing the blood of Christ everywhere, as well as other color variations decorating supermarket shelves and tavern tables. The custom dictates that you go around the table tapping each other’s red egg and when your opponent’s cracks moving on to the next one until there is a winner in the group, earning good luck for the rest of the year! Ovens are in full overload mode at homes and in bakeries on every corner, dishing out special Easter cookies and of course the famous traditional sweet bread, called “tsoureki”. The braided, golden brown “tsoureki” comes in many varieties, and you’ll be sorry not to have tasted all the stuffed versions during your stay. From all kinds of chocolate to chestnut fillings, this traditional delicacy can be enjoyed all year round although it truly holds the top spot in everyone’s heart during this time of the year.

On Good Friday, church bells toll reminding everyone of the crucifixion of Christ and flags are flown at half mast. In the evening, the “Epitaph”, a shrine, beautifully decorated by everyone attending mass, symbolizing Christ’s tomb, is carried out of church in a solemn procession followed by hundreds of visitors with candles. It is a solemn tradition, deeply touching and often spiritual in which everyone is welcome to partake. Encompassed in the epitaph march are multiple choruses and bands. When the shrine returns to the church, evening mass follows and members of the congregation and other visitors can take a carnation or other flower from it as a keepsake.

At the Kaisariani and the Asteriou Monasteries on the north side of Mount Hymettus, the service is held at 2pm instead of at night which is a delightful opportunity to combine a lovely walk on forested mountain paths with the beautiful procession.

Another great option is Lycabettus Hill, where you will be able to view dozens of more processions all around Athens.

On Easter Saturday, keeping on with a thousand year old ritual, the ‘Holy Fire’ is lit at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where it is believed that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Every year, the light is then flown into Athens on a chartered flight and received by the Metohi tou Panagiou Tafou church in Plaka. This is an experience you will cherish forever. It is where candles are lit and then dispersed to churches throughout the Attica region in time for the services leading to the Resurrection. After midnight,  fireworks light up the night skies over the capital in a full blown wonderful celebration.

Much like in August, in the week leading up to Easter Sunday, many Greeks evacuate the capital for some family time in their villages, far away from the city, thus freeing up some space for those of us who know better and can relish in the beautiful traditional side of Athens during these holy days, combining exploration with authentic experiences.