Athens is once again on the rise. Dealt a black eye during the financial crisis and the ensuing media coverage of the unrest, the country has pulled itself together and its capital has never been more lively.
With visitor numbers back up, a recent New York Times article touting the town, and a new campaign to make curious tourists feel more at home (#ImAnAthenian), Athens has regained its confidence and is ready to show the world why this city is the next big thing.
1. Athenians emerged from the financial crisis stronger and wiser.
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2. Athens is Europe’s city that never sleeps.
Monday night and Friday night look alarmingly similar at Athens’ bars and restaurants: packed.
3. There has been a logic-defying explosion of awesome bars, restaurants, and cafes since the crisis.
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Drinks in the Gazi - a former gas plant turned artsy ‘hood in the center of the city.
4. Forget Paris or Rome, Athens has the largest cafe culture in the world.
In Athens it is possible that there is more cafes than inhabitants.
5. It’s laid back.
While Londoners, Parisians and even some Romans eat at their desk, long lunches are still normal in Athens.
6. “Social” is not a strong enough word to describe most Athenians.
Athenians love to talk - a lot.
7. The city isn’t plagued by rules.
It’s not like Athens doesn’t have rules - it does. It’s just that those that are seen as an impediment to living well aren’t really followed.
8. Athens is actually two cities…
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Athens and the region of Attica.
…a seaside Mediterranean one…
View of Faliro from the Poseidon Hotel.
… and an inland historical center surrounded by mountains.
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Sunset view from the Lycabettus hill over Athens.
9. There are dozens of great beaches nearby.
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10. The patios.
The patio at A for Athens hotel and bar overlooking the city.
11. The views.
The view of Lycabettus Hill from the Acropolis.
12. The city’s visitors, former residents and occupiers have left amazing things behind (though who knows what they took away):
The Ancient Greeks
The Parthenon in all its glory.
The Roman agora.
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Church of Panagia Kapnikarea
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Athens’ Parliament and former palace of the Bavarian King Otto.
13. The city’s museums are world-class but underappreciated.
The Benaki Museum.
14. The city perfects shabby chic.
The fading elegance of Athens’ Monastiraki neighborhood.
15. The street art is world class (though the tagging remains awful)
The Exarchia neighborhood has particularly good street art.
16. It’s cheap. Like, really cheap.
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Most European capitals are jaw-droppingly expensive, while Athens continues to be a bargain for any traveler. European brands at discount prices and, er, free hugs for all.
17. Out of the crisis came a booming tech start-up culture.
Nikos Drandakis / Via flic.kr
Nikos Drandakis of the fantastic start-up TaxiBeat that helps Athenians find reliable and friendly cabs in the city.
18. They’re really good at combining bars, cafes, concert halls, art spaces and sometimes even a pool into one venue.
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Audio-visual experimental show at the now legendary Six D.O.G.S. bar, restaurant, art and music space in central Athens.
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Traditional music. Food. Dancing. Much drink. Rebetika music nights, in sum.
Listen to some here.
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The idea is a reserve a table with friends, buy a few bottles and baskets of rose petals to throw at the feet of performers and watch your money disappear quickly to the soundtrack of Greek pop. Dancing onstage is encouraged.
21. There’s something wonderful about street kiosks where you can buy a beer, a box of tylenol or a Byzantine flag at any hour.
Kiosks can be found on nearly every corner of the city.
22. You wouldn’t tell by looking at it but Athens is safer than most cities its size.
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Exarchia (above) might look like a rough neighborhood but appearances can be deceiving. It’s harmless.
23. The city’s central market is the real deal.
Far from a tourist trap, Athens’ central market might just be the most authentic Mediterranean experience there is.
24. And every neighborhood in the city has a lively farmer’s market once per week.
A farmer selling potatoes in the Kolonaki neighborhood.
25. It’s hard to have a bad meal.
A typical mezes complete with tzatziki, octopus, boiled greens and a village salad.
26. The seafood is heavenly.
A piece of grilled octopus from the restaurant Varoulko Seaside near Piraeus.
27. They always serve food (free) with drinks.
George M. Groutas / Via flic.kr
Though this might not seem like a reason to visit a city, you’ll think differently when a bowl of olives, pistachios, cheese, salty carrots or some grilled veggies arrive with your beer.
28. In fact, the food is so good it has its own museum.
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A dish from the Museum of Greek Gastronomy Museum in central Athens.
29. There’s great hiking just above the city.
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The view from Mount Hymettos, which looms over the city.
30. Athens has mild weather all year round.
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It’s rare to find a cloud in summer.
31. You’re a few hours by boat from over one thousand stunning islands.
Firopotmas bay on the island of Milos.
32. Decent skiing isn’t far away either.
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Hitting the slopes on Mount Parnassus next to Delphi.