Completely surrounded by mountains on the one side and the Saronikos bay on the other, the Greek capital sprawls inside the Attica basin like a delicate colony of coral that constantly grows and regenerates itself. Now, in spite of this methaphor’s somewhat exotic overtones, there is no better way to describe this restless, multicultural urban centre and the way it has reinvented itself, time and again, over the past 7,000 years of its continuous history. One of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is a striking mosaic of historical periods, cultures and styles: here, the remains of 2,500-year-old public buildings still stand next to Byzantine chapels and Ottoman-era townhouses, while monumental Neoclassical edifices built in the 19th century stand side by side with apartment buildings from the Art Deco, Bauhaus and Modernist eras.
|Pedion Tou Areos|
|Keep Shelly in Athens, In Love with Dusk, 2016|
Set against this striking architectural collage, and tucked away in unassuming alleys and arcades, the city’s culinary scene is thriving, bringing the best out of local produce with a dash of playfulness and experimentation. Pair that with the Athenians’ sophisticated coffee culture, countless bars and a truly diverse live-music scene, and you get a city that spoils its guests for choice when it comes to entertainment and nightlife. But if you seek to really pick up the city’s pulse, you must head out and explore the unexpectedly lively, Athenian art scene, from street art to illustration, and cutting-edge performance art to thought-provoking contemporary art of an international calibre. And of course, one is not to miss the city’s numerous museums, housing impressive collections of mysterious ancient treasures, fine examples of traditional arts and crafts, Islamic Art, technology and more.
If the activity of the city centre becomes too much, head south to the Athens Riviera, where you can immerse yourself in the stunning Aegean landscape and relax on its numerous sandy beaches. No matter how one chooses to experience Athens, one thing is for sure: the sheer variety of cultural nuances and the city’s multiple, often contrasting layers cannot be experienced in a linear, uncomplicated way; one could say that the city’s idiosyncrasies and leisurely pace are part of her charm, in the same way that an eccentric and irregular shape is what makes a coral beautiful.
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