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A Step Back in Time

This article was written by Heidi Siefkas and was featured in our January issue of Home By Design magazine. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.


Whether you want to soak up the Mediterranean sun, indulge in Greek cuisine, or stroll through ancient ruins of the birthplace of democracy, Athens is a real sensory delight. A trip to Athens is a great history lesson for all ages; however, history is just one component of a visit to the capital city. It has a robust café culture, so when in Athens, do as the Athenians do—take your time and enjoy good food, strong coffee, and something sweet. Let this be your inspirational guide to some of the most amazing highlights, neighborhoods, and traditional dishes to experience while in Greece.

Panoramic view of Athens showcases its vibrant history, modern vibe, and Mediterranean coastline. The Erechtheion, one of many must-sees of the Acropolis. Detailed Ionic columns: fundamental components in ancient Greek architecture. On-to-go authentic Greek street food.

Historic Highlights.

Rising up from the center of Athens, the Acropolis is a limestone hill with various important sites that were used as places for worship and protection. The most popular structure is the Parthenon, but don’t miss the other inspiring ruins: the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Theatre of Dionysus. Most visitors recommend buying e-tickets instead of waiting in line at the Acropolis (the best times to beat the crowds are early morning and late afternoon). Athens is considered one of the hottest cities in Europe—literally. Apply sunscreen, wear a hat and drywick clothing, and bring a refillable water bottle.

Plaka & Psyrri.

Plaka, a popular Athenian neighborhood, is bordered by the Acropolis, Syntagma Square, and Monastitraki. It’s one of the best areas to shop and grab a bite to eat or a strong cup of Greek coffee. Closer to the Acropolis, you will find older, more picturesque streets for your Instagram reel or holiday card. Closer to Syntagma Square, you will find the pedestrian street Ermou, lined with popular international and domestic stores.

If you fancy a break from historic sites, head to Monastiraki Market for great souvenir shopping. On the market’s northeast side you will find Psyrri—a funky, trendy neighborhood with small boutique shops, unique restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife.

A little insider’s secret: the street food in Athens is tasty. So, don’t skip on-the-go dishes such as a gyro (sandwich with your choice of protein topped with tzatziki sauce and wrapped in pita) or a souvlaki (chicken, pork, beef, or lamb skewer).

Syntagma Square & Mount Lycabettus.

Syntagma Square (aka Constitution Square) is a must-experience plaza. Located in central Athens, every hour on the hour in front of the Parliament building, two soldiers wearing historical uniforms honor the memorial of the Unknown Soldier. This impressive demonstration of pride and physical and mental strength takes fifteen minutes. If you get to the square with time to spare before the changing of the guards, pop in to one of the many cafés or hotels with rooftop bars surrounding the square for something cool or sweet.

Change your view of the city from the highest point in Athens: Mount Lycabettus and its cable car. Tickets for the cable car run ten euros per round trip, and you will need to walk a bit uphill before reaching the station. Prefer to hike? Hit the paved trail with switchbacks, which takes about fifteen minutes.

On your bucket-list trip to Athens, let your taste buds dance with the flavors of authentic Greek cuisine; pair delectable eats with a bottle of Greek wine; and cheers—Στην υγειά μας! (STIN-eh YAH-mas)—with new friends you met along the way.

The most popular time to travel to Athens is during the summer months, June through August. To avoid the heat and the crowds, try late spring or early fall.

1. Moussaka: layers of eggplant, potatoes, seasoned ground meat, and spiced tomato sauce, all topped with bechamel sauce
2. Tzatziki: a dip or sauce made with Greek yogurt, cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and dill
3. Gyro: a common street sandwich with beef, pork, chicken, or lamb and your choice of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce, all wrapped in pita bread
4. Souvlaki: beef, pork, chicken, or lamb on a skewer
5. Spanakopita: spinach, feta cheese, and phyllo dough pie
6. Dolma: grape leaves usually stuffed with rice, herbs, ground beef or lamb
7. Baklava: a dessert made from layers of phyllo dough, butter, honey, and finely chopped walnuts
and pistachios
8. Saganaki: Greek fried cheese, most typically splashed with liquor and set on fire table-side