Athens - a city (re)discovered :
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Athens - a city (re)discovered
Athens - a city (re)discoveredPedestrian, 16 km, 3 days
Athens has often suffered from a reputation as a dirty and polluted capital, noisy, tiring...In reality, the enormous work undertaken for the 2004 Olympic games gave the city a new shine. Around the Acropolis is a lovely walk that enables you to enjoy the unique light and flavours of this legendary city. Even the brand new underground system that has freed the city from some of its road traffic is like a beautiful museum! The Monastiraki market, the tavernas, the lanes of Plaka, so full of life, and the chic boutiques situated at the foot of Lycabette are all worth a detour...Customise this route and add it to My travel book
Pláka forms a picturesque web of small peaceful roads and alleys, small squares and terraces linking flights of steps. A few small Byzantine churches alternate with old houses with round-tiled roofs and wooden balconies, sometimes surrounded by hidden gardens. Views of the town or the Acropolis are revealed here and there. At night Pláka comes to life. In the taverns which light up, you can taste Greek cuisine washed down with retsina, and dance the sirtáki.
In this focal point of civilization you will discover the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechteion and the Parthenon, masterpieces of the 5th century B.C. At a relatively late period, the hole which Poseidon made on a rock with a blow of his trident was worshipped, along with the stocks of the olive tree which Athena caused to spring from the arid base. After reaching the Acropolis by Beulé gate, get carried away by the inspiration of the gods who, in past times, are said to have passed by here.
This elegant 5C B.C. temple, with many places of worship, was a church, a palace, a harem and then a military magazine. The famous portico of the kores was named the «Caryatids tribune» because 6 statues of young women, clad in tunics with parallel folds, with a noble and calm attitude, support its architrave. The eastern portico leads to the sanctuary which housed the oldest statue of Athena. The western façade was modified during the Roman epoch. Admire the view from the end of the rock.
This Doric temple was built in the epoch of Pericles by Iktinos, under Phidias. His statue, dedicated to Athena, decorated the sanctuary. In the Byzantine epoch this statue taken to Constantinople, was destroyed during the siege of the city by the Crusaders; the temple was then converted into a church. Later it became a cathedral, then a mosque, and it preserved most of its sculptures until an explosion of the gunpowder store in 1687 destroyed many of them. Major restoration from 1834.
This graceful Ionic temple (late 5C B.C.) juts out in front of the Propylaea, overlooking the Sacred Way. According to the legend, Aegeus, the father of Theseus, believing his son to be dead, threw himself from the rock where the temple is built. Rebuilt by the Bavarian archaeologists of King Othon, it consists of a cella between 2 porticos with monolithic columns which once concealed a statue of Athena victorious. Only the outer frieze contains original parts (eastern and southern sides).
In the 6C B.C. a first stage was built in the sacred enclosure dedicated to Dionysos, where the famous Dionysian festivals were held. These installations gave way at the start of the next century to a genuine theatre where you missed the great plays of classical theatre! Modified by the Romans and abandoned after the barbarian invasions, restoration dates from the end of the 19C. When visiting it, remember you are in the theatre of the most complex of the Olympian gods.
The central market of Athens still forms a spectacle with a quite extraordinary oriental ambiance. Note especially the house of meat, the egg-sellers and, close to Sofokleous Street, the goldsmiths and moneychangers equipped with small scales. From the market you can walk down Evripidou Street hiding the Chapel of St John of the Column, which has many visitors seeking a cure for fevers!
In the heart of a popular district, Omónia is an animated and lively square which has partly preserved its oriental character. Minor professions flourish here, and in the neighbouring streets are groups of specialist traders and small companies. What a contrast there is between this «Concorde» Square and Síndagma Square! The feeling of disorientation is greatest in the evening.
The Lycabetus, or Wolves' Hill, 277 m high, is crowned by Saint George's Chapel. From the neighbouring terraces, a wonderful panorama embraces the city of Athens, the Acropolis, and the Piraeus coast, together with the main surrounding peaks: to the south-east, the Hymetus, to the east the Pentelikos, dotted with marble quarries, and to the north the massive silhouette of Parnis. A path leads down towards the St George Lycabettus hotel.
Kolonáki Square is surrounded by luxury shops, restaurants and cafés. A small column in the garden has given its name to the square. The latter is the centre of the Kolonáki district, modern and elegant, clinging to the sides of the Lycabetus. Along the streets you can find the most refined shops in Athens: fashion, jewellers, bookshops and art galleries, etc.
Boasting one of the finest collections anywhere, this museum was founded in 1834. Devoted to ancient art from the Neolithic to the Roman epoch, its revamped interior displays works of art from the major Greek archaeological sites. Admire the famous golden mask of Agamemnon, Aristion's funerary stela, the superb funerary kouros from Anávissos in Attica, the Poseidon from the Artemision region, the Eleusis relief and the huge statue of Poseidon of Milo!