Text: Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
This program can be valid for any day, but is definitely best on a Sunday as it is a special day for Athenians when they enjoy their time off.
Enchanting orthodox mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral
The low-frequency chanting of the male choir resonates in my body when I step into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. The smoke of scent sticks burning fill the dense air of the carefully and into-detail decorated orthodox place of worship. Ancient rituals are carried out here and the priests are dressed in robes wearing the traditional black kalimavkion on their heads. Young and old attend mass as well a few travelers like us who stay quietly and respectfully at the back. The Sunday mass, held between 8:30 and 10:30 is accessible to all.
Change of the efzon guards
As soon as mass is over, head straight to the Greek Parliament on Syntagma Square to observe a changing of the guards. The efzones are a corps of the Greek army specialized in guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier following a strict and ancient protocol involving beautiful uniforms and a clear sense of pace. If this tradition happens every hour on the hour, the Sunday one at 11am is special as the change of the guards is announced by a marching fanfare.
Have a Greek coffee break
Time for a coffee break! Head to the nice square by Agia Irini or one of the many local coffee shops for a traditional Greek coffee or a freddo cappuccino on a hot day. My advice is to order your coffee with no sugar and have some baklavas on the side or some loukoumades (a Greek tradition of fried balls of dough served with honey and cinnamon) at the eponymous store! Only a street away from the touristy Ermou Street soak in the atmosphere of locals talking, the scents of the city, and warmth of the air.
Go vintage at the Monastiraki flea market
Pass the popular Monastiraki square and head out to the Monastiraki flea market. If vintage stores are open every day of the week around the square, Sunday is THE day to check out the busy streets with vintage products, furniture, coins, vases, art, cutlery, sculptures etc. Very popular among Athenians expect quite some crowds!
Meze lunch in Psiri [Mavros Gatos]
Crossing Ermou Street into Psiri you enter in the hipster neighborhood of Athens. If you do as locals, do not sit for lunch before 2pm. Roam the streets to find the ouzery of your taste or just sit at the terrace of Mavros Gatos. Situated in a quiet little street with a few vintage stores, this restaurant serves delicious local food in a cute setting. Order some mezes (small plates) like marinated octopus, eggplant dip, vegetable balls with tzatziki to share and enjoy the healthy and divine Greek food!
Stroll through Anafiotika
Anafiotika cannot be missed and is absolutely the most Instagrammable neighborhood of Athens situated on the North slope of the Acropolis Hill. Part of Plaka, originally it was one of the poorest areas in Athens where construction workers from Anafi Island settled as they were looking for jobs in the 19th century. Built according to their traditions you can expect white houses on steep slopes, narrow alleyways, great views on the city, the scent of fig trees and the purple colors of Bougainvillea’s contrasting with the whitewashed walls.
Sunset on Philopappos Hill
From Anafiotika turn around the Acropolis on the wide Dionysiou Areopagitou promenade planted with olive trees and head to the summit of Philopappos Hill. Take in the sunset on the Acropolis from here before heading down back into town.
Dinner on a staircase
Locals and tourists share popular staircases in Plaka along which restaurants and bars are lined up. Yiasemi is one of the locals’ favorite. Try to get a table and enjoy your dinner with a bottle of retzina (a very dry white wine with a pine aftertaste you will find only in Greece).
Drinks at Booze cooperativa
To share some good times with locals, head to the Booze Cooperativa, a bar where you will find DJ’s spinning their variety of beats and where art is being exposed. Play a game of chess, enjoy one of their signature cocktails and take in the art. If the area around this cafe is lively it is thanks to this bar as it was the first one to be opened back in the 80’s when the area was nothing much. Owned by open-minded artists, they keep renewing themselves and offer a great place for anyone to discuss anything with the people you will meet here.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.
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