10 of the Coolest Things To Do in Athens

If Ferris Bueller took a day off in Athens, his itinerary might look a lot like this.


1. Visit the Oldest House in Athens

The Benizelou Mansion is the only Ottoman-era residence that survives in Athens. Among the members of the aristocratic family to whom it once belonged was Revoula Benizelou (1522-1589), who became a nun known as Filothei and was ultimately canonized for her selfless philanthropy. As such, the home is also referred to as the house of St Filothei the Athenian.

Recently restored and opened as a museum, the home gives visitors a feel for life in the city as it was before the founding of the Greek state. The experience is enriched with video screenings, audio exhibits and interactive digital applications that are fun and engaging for children.

Info

The Benizelou Mansion, 96 Adrianou, Plaka, τel. (+030) 210.324.8861

Open Tue-Thu 10:00-13:00, Sun 11:00-16:00

2. Tango in the Streets

Nearly eight years ago, a tango-loving couple brought a portable stereo down to a marble platform on a pedestrianized section of Ermou, near Pireos Street, and began to dance. Friends followed, the group got bigger and now every Monday “Street Dancing Milonga,” as it’s called, brings together people of every age from all the dance schools in Athens, some even sporting proper tango shoes. Even the sound system has been upgraded.

Info

“Street Dancing Milonga” Ermou & Pireos, Mondays 22:00-very late.

3. Take an Alternative Tour With Your Smartphone As Your Guide

This is one of the most interesting guided walks out there, especially because there’s no guide. Install the free app MCMS (My City My Sounds), then search and download the Rhizome II English Version and make your way to any part of either Metaxourgeio or Kerameikos.

The app will locate your position via GPS and, once you’re in place, it will begin the playback of an immersive soundscape that includes narration, interviews and even recordings of hawkers selling their goods. The tour lasts two and a half hours.

4. Take a Steam Bath in the City Center

Al Hammam is a small-capacity (up to 8 people) traditional bathhouse in Plaka. Lie on the warm marble, breathe deeply in the steam bath and place yourself in the hands of experts equipped with a ketse (a special sponge for exfoliation) foaming with natural olive oil soap.

Get your hair washed and your body massaged. There are many services available and special offers for couples. You can, of course, combine different options as you wish. Tea is served afterwards and you leave Al Hammam relieved and replenished. Starting from €25.

Info

Al Hammam, 16 Tripodon, Plaka, tel. (+030) 211.012.9099

5. Expand Your Mind at National Observatory of Athens

This summer, science meets art at the National Observatory of Athens, the oldest research institution in Greece (founded in 1842). Atop the Hill of the Nymphs, with an uncluttered view of the Parthenon, the beautiful building designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen is adorned by “The Theater of Disappearance,” a major site-specific installation by celebrated Argentinian artist Adriàn Villar Rojas, featuring 46,000 plants (it runs until 24/09/17).

It’s an impressive piece of work, but don’t miss out on the Astrogeophysics Museum, housing clocks, telescopes and other 19th-century instruments.

Info

The National Obseratory of Athens, Lofos Nymphon, Thiseio, tel. (+030) 210.349.0000

6. Picnic in the Diomedes Botanical Gardens

An 18.6-hectare oasis just 8k from the center of Athens, the Julia and Alexander N. Diomedes Botanical Gardens features 500 plant species in its intentionally overgrown part and more than 2,500 plants from all over the world in its cultivated section.

The plants are organized by categories such as ornamental, medicinal, aromatic and historic, and there’s a seed bank as well. Take a leisurely stroll under blooming pergolas or try an official tour to get the most of it. Bring a sandwich – picnic tables abound.

Info

 The Diomedes Botanical Gardens, 403 Iera Odos, tel. (+030) 210.581.1557

Via Public Transport: Metro line 3 (get off at Aghia Marina) and then buses A16, 866 or 811 (get off at Diomideios bus stop, across from the entrance).

Open: Mon-Fri 8:00-sunset, Sat-Sun 10:00-sunset. Entrance is free.

7. Look to the East at the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art

Embark on a journey through the evolution of Islamic civilization from its beginnings through to the 19th century at the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, housed in a neo-classical building complex near the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos. Its collections comprise more than 12,000 works of art from as far away as India, North Africa and Spain, with two carved wooden memorial door panels from 8th c. Mesopotamia considered the prize items. The museum’s café, with its colorful murals and great views of the Acropolis and Philopappou Hill, is ideal for a break.

Info

The Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, 22 Asomaton & 12 Dipylou, tel. (+030) 210.325.1311, open Thu-Sun 10.00-18:00

 

8. Learn From Plato, 21st Century Style

Interactive, fun and kid-friendly, the Digital Museum is located in the neighborhood where Plato founded his school of philosophy, the Academy, around 387 BC. Built like a box with one exit and one entrance to symbolize the path to enlightenment, the purpose of this museum is to create a link between modern-day Athens and the life and teachings of the ancient philosopher.  

Info

The Digital Museum, Monastiriou & 1 Kreontos, Akadimia Platonos

Open Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00, admission free.

9. Watch Movies Under the Evening Sky

Athens has dozens of open-air cinemas, but the most enchanting are found nestled beneath the Acropolis. Get a taste of old-world movie charm at Cine Thisio, which first opened in 1935. Aside from popcorn and soft drinks, the snack bar also offers traditional Greek products to enjoy with your movie, such as home-made spoon sweets, gourmet Greek fish roe (avgotaracho), wine and fiery tsipouro.

Even older is Cine Paris, which began operating in 1920 and has a wonderful view of the Acropolis. In Greece, all foreign films (except children’s films) are shown in their original languages with Greek subtitles. As long as rainy weather holds off most open air cinemas remain open throughout September.

Info

Cine Thisio: 7 Apostolou Pavlou, Thiseio, tel. (+030) 210.342.0864

Cine Paris: 22 Kydathineon, Plaka, tel. (+030) 210.322.2071

 

10. Go Night Swimming Downtown

Unlike many city hotel swimming pools, in the outdoor pool of the Athens Hilton you can actually swim. A full 25m long, 15m wide and up to 4m deep, the pool is also open to non-guests and offers a refuge to those who are stuck in the city heat (although at the rather hefty price of €25 on weekdays and €45 on weekends). This season, every Thursday and Friday, it’ll be open at night too (21:00-01:00), with DJs spinning cool tunes and cocktails delivered to your ‘moonbed’ – all for a reasonable €10 entrance fee.

Info

Hilton, 46 Vas. Sofias, tel. (+030) 210.728.1000

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