Athens, end of June 2022. It is 7:30 p.m., the sun is slowly setting over the city. We are on the roof of the Central Hotel, a glass of local white wine in hand, the view of the Acropolis is superb. We take advantage of this moment when the light is soft and the heat of the Greek capital, less stifling.

Athens and its agglomeration, it is nearly 3.2 million inhabitants; the center of the city is made up of very different districts, monuments, honking taxis, faded buildings… and, above all, a vibrant atmosphere. You can see the Acropolis in the distance from many, many places in the city, and every time you look at it, you think that it is here, on this sacred hill, that the symbol of our civilization.

Athens is not as aesthetic a city as Rome or Paris, but it is an endearing city, full of surprises, which you have to tame. It is pleasant to spend a few days there, at your own pace, because you realize that too many tourists cross the city at a run, stop there for barely 24 hours, the time to visit the Acropolis, and then leave for one of the busiest islands in the country, whether Santorini, Mykonos or Crete.

“We had a record year in 2019 with 33 million tourists in Greece, then after two years of the pandemic, they came back in large numbers in 2022, with 27.8 million tourists,” explains Ioanna Dretta, President of Marketing Greece . “It is a very popular destination for holidaymakers, they appreciate ancient and modern culture, gastronomy, islands, sea and beaches. There are so many things to discover and the important thing is to have an authentic experience,” she says.

Obviously, the visit of the Acropolis is essential, and it is advisable to go there as soon as it opens in the morning or at the end of the afternoon. The Acropolis and its monuments form an incredible architectural ensemble. Perched on the sacred hill for over 2,500 years is the Parthenon, a monument to the goddess Athena and temple to Poseidon. Then on the north side of the Acropolis, we admire the six Cariyatides, these female statues which support the temple of Erechtheion. We head to the west side to discover the Odeon theater of Herodes Atticus, which is still used for events.

Don’t miss the Acropolis Museum, the air conditioning will keep you cool as you admire the treasures on display. In this modern building opened in 2009, one can see nearly 4000 objects and statues from the archaeological excavations of the Acropolis. The on-site café is very pleasant for a short break and the terrace offers a magnificent view of the Acropolis.

Plaka, at the foot of the Acropolis, is the oldest district of the city. We walk there in the very narrow streets, stopping to eat a gyros, delicious (and very affordable) Greek sandwich on pita bread, in one of the many taverns, or to drink a cold coffee, a local specialty. It is in this district that you will find Hadrian’s Gate, a large arch erected in 131 as a tribute to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

We then head towards Monastiraki Square, which is always very lively, from morning to evening. We stroll through the itinerant sellers of roasted chestnuts, entering the shops of the flea market, the best place to do some shopping. There are the famous Greek leather sandals, dresses reminiscent of goddesses, jewelry, olive oil and Greek slippers with pompoms (we bought some, we love it!). Monastiraki Square is popular with tourists and Athenians, as it is a meeting point where there are many terraces and shops, where to stop to eat (Taverna Thanasis), have a drink (A for Athens, a restaurant -bar with roof terrace), but also to visit archaeological sites such as the Roman agora and the ancient agora.

The changing of the guard is one of the things to see in Athens and we are very surprised by this “ballet” in Syntagma square, in front of the parliament. Every hour, evzones (presidential guards) guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dressed in their traditional costume consisting of a red beret and a 400-pleated skirt, they move and impress us with great movements, in a very synchronized way. Just next to Syntagma Square, we advise you to go for a walk to the National Garden; it is very pleasant to get lost in the shaded paths of this large, lush garden.

In another area of ​​the city, less touristy, is the Panathenaic stadium which is a splendid monument for lovers of sport and architecture. This elongated ancient stadium was inaugurated in 330 BC. Jesus Christ and was restored to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It still hosts sporting events today, and served in the 2004 Olympics. We take a photo of ourselves on the podium imagining yourself with an Olympic medal around your neck, the crowd vibrating, and you believe it! A Greek friend told us about a restaurant nearby, the Vyrinis. Sitting on the terrace in the backyard, with customers who live in the neighborhood, we taste very good Greek dishes in a very local atmosphere… and we say to ourselves that in Athens, there is a real art of living to discover !