The official website of Athens gives you the top ten of things to do in Athens. Whoever wrote it has a really good sense of humour because they’ve included shopping as a hook for coming to this city. Unless you’ve spent the last six months in downtown Kabul then there is no reason on this planet that you’d want to expose yourself to the over inflated prices and the lackadaisical customer service in this city. The only thing worth buying here is a fridge magnet. Actually, that’s not strictly true; some of the items made from olive wood are beautiful and they would be the only non edible souvenir that I’d be recommending. I like how they include the Athens Metro at number six as a museum on the move. In recent months it’s been more like a museum standing still and going nowhere. However, that’s me being very very picky and I’ll acknowledge that they’ve got some interesting bits of rock at Syntagma and Acropoli. I think they were commuters who just faded away in the strikes.
But I’m amazed that their top ten doesn’t include Philopappou Hill and the areas around it. One of the best views of the Acropolis is from Philopappou and apart from Clean Monday (just before Lent) it’s pretty much deserted. You can then walk from there down to the Hill of the Pnyx (where democracy was born) and get another brilliant view of the Acropolis while you’re pretty much alone enjoying the view of the army of people marching up and down the steps of the Propylaea. Of course you have to visit the Acropolis while you’re in Athens but take the time to view it from a distance too.
What else would I suggest? Get yourself down to Monastiraki Square and with your back to the metro turn right into a road that’s packed with tables. This is souvlaki heaven. Don’t stop at the first ones but instead walk about fifty yards along and go to either Thannasos or the one opposite. Tell yourself that you’re not going to over order this time but somehow still manage to find yourself surrounded by too many plates. Eat souvlaki until your eyes bulge. You need it because you had a walk up Philopappou Hill.
And all that tosh about the Plaka and Sunday morning flea market? Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Get yourself down to Piraeus and hop onto a ferry to Aegina for the day. You can find a temple or two, a cup of coffee, a camera obscura, a swim and top it off with lunch by the fish market. Don’t bother with the calamari unless it specifically says that it’s fresh. Get back to Athens for the evening and haul yourself back up Philopappou to watch the sun set over the city and the Saronic Gulf. Take a chilled bottle of champagne up with you and drink it while wondering if it would be really great to move here.
(Yes, sometimes but probably not during the truckers’ strike)