Athens: A Local's Guide to the Capital of Greece

BY Maria Pappa

A Guide to Athens
Photography by Dimitris Lambridis

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With the iconic Acropolis towering above a modern-era landscape of greyish concrete, Athens can easily hide its plethora of faces. It combines the old – often the ancient – and the new, the local and the international, the classical and the alternative. Like every metropolis, it can be a city of contrasts, a place where the desire to preserve a glorious (or just glorified) past clashes with the need to make space for the present. Yet, despite the multitude of influences, ideas and trends, Athens succeeds in maintaining its own unique character, its own codes and secrets, its own identity.

Athens is located in the southeast region of Greece. A visit to Athens can easily become a small adventure. Certain aspects can be challenging: the hot weather, the heavy traffic, the collapsing infrastructure, the hasty and often rude behaviour of locals. Yet, there is so much to love: the long history, the rich culture, the art scene, the stylish cafes and bars, the youthful energy, the city's love for life. The two contrasting lists can go forever, but in the end, the best way to describe Athens is like a traditional Mediterranean dish: rough and spicy but full of flavour and taste.

In summer the heat can be exhausting and insufferable with temperatures soaring to over 40°C (104°F). August marks the official holiday season for Greek people, in its second week the city seems deserted, not a soul wanders the streets and it feels like you are starring in a post-apocalyptic film. This is because the 15th of August is one of the biggest religious celebrations in Greece, dedicated to Virgin Mary. Due to climate change, winter can sometimes bring snow (which was once very rare). For milder temperatures, visit during March, May, September or October.