GREECE GOES TO THE MOVIES: 12 FILMS THAT INSPIRE GREEK VACATIONS

It is no secret that Greece is one of the world’s most important touristic destinations. With its unparalleled natural beauty and its profound historic heritage, it has been long attracting not only tourists, but also filmmakers, actors and producers from all over the world. Already from the 1950s, many movies filmed in Greece have contributed to place it as a popular destination in the world tourism map; at the same time, they were able to build and consolidate various romantic stereotypes and perceptions about Greek’s ancient history and mythology, culture, traditions and modern way of life.

If you are stuck in the city, not being able to take a break, never mind! Take this cinematic tour to Greece, admire its natural and cultural wealth through the lens of the world’s largest film studios.… And who knows? Maybe after watching these films you will get inspired to see Greece by yourself!

1) PELOPONNESE: Before Midnight (2013)

Movies in Greece Before Midnight

Stroll in the narrow roads of Pylos and Kardamyli, eat in famous Lela’s taverna, visit the house of sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, and should you want more glamour, spend a night at Costa Navarino Hotel, while you follow the steps of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in the bittersweet third part of Lindlaker’s marvellous “Before…” trilogy. Read more on the film here.

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Before midnightMovies in Greece Costa Navarino

2) SKOPELOS AND SKIATHOS: Mamma Mia! (2008)

Movies in Greece Mamma Mia

These two super green Sporades islands serve as background for this feel-good musical comedy, a must-see for the fans of Swedish group Abba. Don’t miss the lovely Church of Agios Ioannis Kastri in Skopelos, where the wedding’s scenes were filmed -and many couples followed since them. From there you can enjoy breathtaking views of -equally beautiful- islands of Skiathos and Alonissos.

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Movies in Greece Skopelos Movies in Greece Skopelos Agios Ioannis Church

3) CEPHALONIA: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

This time the emerald-like waters of the Ionian Sea are the setting for this classic love story, based on Louis de Bernières’ book. During WWII, Italian Captain Antonio Corelli (Nicholas Cage) falls in love with Cephalonian Pelagia (Penelope Cruz). The island of Cephalonia saw a spectacular touristic increase after the film… It’s actually hard to resist a visit to the island once you see its magnificent beauty! The amazing beaches of Antisamos and Chorgota, and the lovely villages of Sami and Komitata feature in the film.

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Movies in Greece Sami

4) AMORGOS: Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue, 1988)

Movies in Greece Le Grand Bleu cr

Luc Besson directed this beautiful hymn to nature, freedom and friendship that takes place in the deep blue waters of Amorgos island. Famous Agia Anna’s beach and the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa can be seen in the film, which has remained as a cult, all-time classic.

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Movies in Greece Amorgos Panagia Hozoviotisa Movies in Greece Agia-Anna-Beach-Amorgos-island

5) KASTELLORIZO: Mediterraneo (1991)

Movies in Greece Mediterraneo

This beautiful Oscar-winning Italian comedy was filmed in the island of Kastellorizo, one of the Dodecanese islands. During WW2, a group of Italian soldiers serve in a small Greek island; while in the beginning the locals face them with reticence, little by little they all realize how much they have in common… The colorful, neoclassical houses in the seafront will captivate you.

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Movies in Greece Kastellorizo Grotto

6) METEORA, CORFU ISLAND: For your eyes only (1981)

Movies in Greece For Your Eyes Only

In the twelfth of James Bond’s film series, phlegmatic 007 is assigned to hunt for a lost British encryption device, which leads him to beautiful Corfu island. Achillion Palace in  Gastouri, atmospheric Agion Spyridon tower in Corfu town and Kanoni Island all appear in the film. In one of the most adrenaline-packed scenes, 007 faces the enemy literally hanging from the rocks of imposing Meteora! In spite of the negative reactions of Meteora’s monastic community, who tried to boycott the film, “For your eyes only” became a massive box office success.

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Movies in Greece For your eyes only Corfu r Movies in Greece Meteora

7) ATHENS, OLYMPIA, DELPHI: My Life in Ruins (2009)

Movies in Greece My Life In Ruins

Although not as successful as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding“, Nia Vardalos’ second comedy features an American academic who travels to Greece to find her mojo (or “kefi” in Greek). With background the beauty of ancient Greek monuments -the Acropolis, ancient Olympia, Delphi– she also discovers the charm of Greek men.

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 The Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

8) SANTORINI: Summer lovers (1982)

Movies in Greece summer lovers

When a conservative American couple goes on summer vacations to Santorini island, the amazing beauty of the place, and their acquaintance with a bohemian French archaeologist will lead them to develop a particular relationship between the three -and to have the vacations of their lifetime. It is certain that if you see this movie you will want to visit this magnificent island -not necessarily to engage in a threesome 😉 – but just to walk its narrow, atmospheric streets and dive into the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea.

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Movies in Greece Santorini 2 Movies in Geece Santorini

9) HYDRA: Boy on a Dolphin (1957)

Movies in Greece Boy on a Dolphin

This was the first American film shot in Greece. Sophia Loren is a poor diver who collects sponges in picturesque Hydra island. While diving, one day she discovers a gold statue of  a boy riding a dolphin, which is said that can fulfill your every desire. The film is considered still to these days one of Hollywood’s classics.

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Movies in Greece Hydra

10) MYKONOS: Shirley Valentine (1989)

Movies in Greece Shirley ValentineThis award-winning British romantic comedy- drama is based on a play of the same title. An English middle-age woman, bored with her life, has the opportunity to travel to Greece. Inspired by the beauty of the island of Mykonos, her meaningless life changes forever… It is rumored that the play is actually based on a real life story, and that has inspired many middle-aged women to move to Greece following Shirley Valentine’s steps…

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Movies in Greece Little-Venice-Mykonos-Greece-house_1920x1200_DxOo1 Movies in Greece Mykonos11) RHODES: The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Movies in Greece Guns of NavaroneInspired by the Battle of Leros during the World War II, this classic film describes a fictional battle between the Germans and the Allied for the domination of Navarone island. It stars Gregory Peck, David Niven, Irini Papas and Anthony Quinn. The movie was filmed in the island of Rhodes, which after the film became world famous. Even Anthony Quinn was so impressed by Rhodes that decided to buy a beach in the island. Unfortunately, he was not able to do so due to the infamous greek bureaucracy, but the beach has kept his name: Anthony Quinn Beach.

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Movies in Greece Rhodes old town Movies in Greece Rhodes Saint Paul Beach

12) CRETE: Zorba the Greek (1964)

Movies in Greece Zorba the GreekNo list on films in Greece would be complete without mentioning this quintessential film, which certainly contributed to place Greece among the world’s top tourism destinations, and made syrtaki a mainstream dance. This Oscar-winning movie is based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ book and features music by legendary Mikis Theodorakis. It was filmed in the island of Crete; among the places seen in the movie are the city of Chania, the Akrotiri Peninsula, Apokoronas region and the Beach of Stavros Town, where the famous syrtaki scene was filmed.

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Movies in Greece Chania

 

Photo Credits

8 DAYS IN WEST CRETE, GREECE

You just came back from vacations? It’s time to plan the next ones! What could be better than an escapade to a greek island? Crete is a perfect choice, boasting some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches. But even if you are not a beach person, there are plenty of mountains, canyons, caves, ancient monuments, beautiful villages… so many places worth visiting, so many things to do, day and night… not to mention the fantastic food!

Crete is a big island, which means that you will need several weeks to explore it… In this post I propose you an 8-day tour to the western part of Crete, to discover not only its natural beauty, but also the architecture, the rich history and its particular culture…

So what are you waiting for? Grab a bag, get on a plane -or a boat- and enjoy Crete!…

Day 1: CHANIA – AGIA MARINA

“The diamond of Crete” as Cretans call Chania, is a monument on its own. What makes Chania so fascinating is the amalgam of civilisations and cultures, which, while passing through it, left a particular trait : the Minoan mightiness, the Venetian refinement, the Byzantine spirituality, the Ottoman simplicity, the Neoclassical grandeur…

A good starting point when arriving early morning is a breakfast at Chania’s atmospheric Old port, when you can peacefully admire the colourful harbour and the elegant architecture of the buildings surrounding it. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and art galleries aligned along the harbour, which add to the charm of the area…

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The atmospheric Old Port of Chania

Take a walk to the lighthouse to enjoy a panoramic view of the harbour, then head to another emblematic building of the Old Port: the Kiutsuk Hasan Mosque. Stroll along the narrow, intrincated roads of the city, visit the museums and churches, admire the districts of Topanas, Kastelli, Splantzia, Halepa and the Jewish Quarter.

Crete Chania port lighthouse

The lighthouse, an emblematic monument of Chania

After wandering around the city, it’s time to relax! A 15 minute-drive from Chania will lead us to Agia Marina, a lively area with beautiful, golden sand and warm water…

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Agia Marina. Beautiful sandy beaches, a few minutes away from Chania

Besides many nice hotels and restaurants, Agia Marina, together with neighbour Platanias boast some of the best beach bars and clubs of the island, for all day -and all night- revelry…

Crete Theatro Chania

Agia Marina. Theatro beach bar

Day 2: FALASSARNA – MARATHI BEACH

Falassarna beach, together with Elafonissi and Balos (see below) is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete and, according to CNN, as one of the world’s 100 best beaches. It has amazing golden sand and turquoise, crystalline waters … Located about 53 km from the city of Chania, is easily accessed by car or even by public bus.

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Falassarna, one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete

The only disadvantage of this beach is that is frequently exposed to strong winds (especially during August), so you may encounter big waves; that makes Falassarna a very popular destination for windsurfers.

Unless you are a skilled windsurfer, should it get too windy, don’t panic. Marathi beach, situated only 16 km far from Chania, is a great alternative. This nice beach, located on the southeastern tip of the Akrotiri peninsula, is well guarded from the winds, which assures that it never gets wavy… It may not be as spectacular as Falassarna, but it has warm, clean waters and golden, thin sand, many tavernas and cafes by the sea, and nice views of Souda Bay’s shores and the White Mountains… enough reasons to visit Marathi, especially for those of you who travel with small children.

Crete Souda beach

Marathi Beach. Shallow, calm waters, sandy shore, ideal for kids…

DAY 3: APOKORONAS

Crete Vamos 3 Crete Vamos 10Maybe less known than the world-famous cretan beaches, the Apokoronas region definitively deserves a visit. Surrounded by the White Mountains, reaching the Cretan Sea, this blessed-by-nature area plenty of rivers, lakes, caves, vineyards, olive groves, hosts bizantine monasteries, Venetian Castles, an ancient city and 75 traditional villages. Apokoronas’ rich nature and interesting architecture have endowed it with an unparalleled beauty.

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Get your camera ready for a stop in beautiful Vamos, a well-preserved village with authentic Cretan-style architecture. Near to Vamos, the imposing monastery of St. George of Karidi warrants a detour. Other villages worth visiting are: picturesque Gavalochori; delightful Vrisses and Argyroupolis springs, both plenty of running water and plane trees; the seaside resorts of Kalyves, Almyrida and Georgioupolis; super green Armeni, with its leafy plane trees, springs -and its renowned tavernas.

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Another must-visit in Apokoronas is Kournas lake. This beautiful lake is so deep (22,5 m) that locals used to believe that is bottomless. The lovely surroundings -protected by Natura 2000- can be admired by swimming across the lake, renting a pedalo, or just sitting in one of the tavernas or cafes overlooking the lake.…Kournas lake is also a good option when the beaches get too windy.

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The beautiful Kournas lake, Crete’s unique sweet water lake

Day  4: PLAKIAS BEACH

When visiting West Crete, a sea bath in the Libyan Sea cannot be missed… The beaches in the southern side of the island are usually more quiet, less windy and less crowded than their pairs in the northern side. Plakias beach, located 40km southwest of Rethymno, is a long and wide sandy beach with crystalline, warm waters, situated in a closed bay surrounded by mountains. The eastern side of the bay is the quieter, and is usually taken by nudists.

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Plakias beach. Its location in a closed bay makes it a quiet beach with warm waters

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If you like nudism, head to the quieter, eastern side of the beach 

Day 5: ZONIANA – ANOGEIA

Crete Zoniana sign pxIf you want to get a taste of “the real Crete”, spend a day of your vacations to visit Anogeia and Zoniana. The authentic, wild beauty of the area will fascinate you, and is one of the few regions of the island where you can still see men wearing the traditional Cretan clothing. The trade mark of the area? Road signs riddled with bullet holes! The gun culture is deeply rooted in Crete, particularly in this part of the island…

To get to Zoniana, the road itself, 53 km far from Rethymno, climbing up 630 meters on Mount Psiloritis, will already set you in the mood.

Crete View from Zoniana Cave

The wild beauty of Mount Psiloritis

Although the village of Zoniana itself does not have any particular touristic attraction (except for a wax museum), Zoniana’s cave, called Sfentoni cave is not to be missed. There are more that 4500! caves in Crete, but only three are open to the public, and Sfentoni cave is the largest one of those.

Crete Zoniana Cave entrance

The entrance to Sfentoni cave

After entering the cave our guide explains us how the stalagmites and stalactites originated, talks about the animals that inhabit the cave (about 400 bats! among others), and tells us about the history and myths surrounding it.

The beauty of the cave is emphasised by its colourful lighting, which creates a phantasmagoric effect…

Crete Zoniana cave Collage

The interior of Sfentoni’s cave, plenty of stalagmites and stalactites

A 15-minute drive will lead us to our next destination, the traditional village of Anogeia.

Crete Road to Zoniana

The road to Anogeia may eventually get… some traffic

Anogeia, perched on the slopes of Mount Psiloritis at an altitude of 740 meters, has a powerful history (it was burnt twice, by the Turks and by the Germans) and a strong character, which keeps being passed from older to younger generations. Agios Georgios square is the ideal spot to drink a greek coffee at a kafenion, or try local dishes accompanied by some raki.

Crete Anogeia cafenioLocals and tourists at a traditional kafenio in Anogeia 

After that -unless you drunk too much raki- stroll along the streets of the village and admire the famous cretan weavings, tablecloths and linen…

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Cretan weavings monopolise the streets of Anogeia

Day 6: ELAFONISSI

Today the wind is over: a perfect day to visit Elafonissi. I couldn’t wait to see this world-famous beach,  and I did not get disappointed: Elafonissi is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Located 76 kilometers far from Chania, in the southwest part of Crete, it does get crowded, especially in August, but even so it’s an absolute must.

What makes Elafonissi such an exotic place is the presence of sand islets forming a sort of lagoon with shallow and crystalline waters, and certainly the powder sand which eventually gets pink due to the presence of crushed oyster shells.

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The exotic beauty of Elafonissi

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Powder white and pink sand, crystalline waters… Paradise on Earth

Day 7: RETHYMNO

A trip to west Crete is not complete unless you visit beautiful Rethymno. This pleasant city, the third largest in Crete, has managed to keep a “small town” air, and to preserve its Venetian and Ottoman heritage.

Crete Rethymnon-harbour-at-nightThe Venetian Harbour is a nice place to get a coffee or eat some -delicious- cretan food at a traditional taverna. In the meantime you can admire the small but strong breakwater, which for 8 centuries has been proudly facing the tough waves of the Cretan Sea. The imposing lighthouse although built by the Turks, matches perfectly the Venetian style.

Crete Rethimno fort resizedThe magnificent Fortezza (fortress) dominates the city, and a visit to it is warranted.  It was built by the Venetians in the 16th century to protect the town from the Turkish pirates; besides the impressive 1300 meters of walls, we can still appreciate some other remains from the Venetian era: water cisterns, guardhouses, barracks, and arsenals.

Crete Rethimno fort 3The mosque was built during the Turkish occupation (in the place of a Venetian cathedral); it has an impressive dome with the lovely mosaics.

Crete Rethymno view from Fortezza

From the Fortezza you can admire a panoramic view of Rethymno

Crete Rethimno center 2After that, wander along the narrow alleys of the well-preserved old city, discover picturesque corners and architectural treasures… Indulge yourself shopping souvenirs, local products or folk art.Crete Rethimno center 4

Α perfect ending for a day in Rethymno is a promenade at the seaside and a dinner at one of the numerous tavernas overlooking the sea and the imposing Fortezza.

Crete Rethimno tavern

Day 8: BALOS – CHANIA BY NIGHT

A grand finale to our trip: a visit to majestic Balos. This isolated beach can be reached by boat (leaving from Kissamos) or by car, but be careful: it’s a dirt road in really bad condition, and then you have to walk about half an hour, which during summer time can get quite hard (especially the return, going upward). But the view of the beach when arriving will reward you: just stunning. No wonder why Balos is the most photographed beach in Crete…

The imposing rock that emerges from the sea, the white sand and the shallow turquoise waters resemble a work of art… The area has rare species of flora and fauna, and is protected under the Natura 2000 program.

Crete Balos 1Crete Balos 3Crete Balos 5 Crete Balos 6The last night in the island cannot be wasted! We choose Chania. The options? Too many! You may just stroll along the bustling harbour; or dine at one of the traditional tavernas of the historic center; or have a drink at a cafe, bar or club located in the harbour, in Akti Miaouli or in Koum Kapi beach; or chill out at a bar in trendy Chatzimichali Daliani Street

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A traditional taverna in Chania

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Bars, cafes, clubs… With the magnificent Old Harbour as a background

We leave West Crete firmly promising to ourselves to come back and explore the many places we didn’t have the time to see… I hope it’s gonna be soon…

Photo credits: All the photos belong to woman2womenblog.com; except: Theatro cafe bar: theatrochania.com, and Rethymno’s Venetian Port: Wikimedia commons

THE BEST OF ATHENS

There are many reasons why we love Athens. Maybe is not as beautiful as other European cities, some people find it gritty and polluted, but it has a great energy… It’s like you can feel in the air all those 7000 years of civilization…

Whether you are planning to come to Athens for the first time, you have come many times, or even if you live here, check out my list with the best, not-to-be-missed of Athens…

BEST MONUMENT: THE ACROPOLIS

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

If you do only one thing while staying in Athens, undoubtedly this should be this unique masterpiece, “the symbol of World Heritage”, as UNESCO named it. Go up to the Sacred Rock, marvel at the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, imagine Athens in the time democracy was born…

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BEST MUSEUM: THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM

Acropolis museum outside 1_943_393_1Acropolis museum inside the-new-acropolis-museum-at-yatzer_13

Admire timeless beauty at one of the best museums in the world.…Its impressive architecture, the sublime collections and the breathtaking views of the Acropolis will leave you speechless…

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BEST CONCERT VENUE: THE ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS

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If you are lucky enough to come to Athens between June and September, don’t miss the opportunity to see a concert at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus…. Every year, as a part of the Athens & Epidaurus festival, many acclaimed Greek and international artists perform here. The astounding acoustics, the Parthenon as a background, its amazing architecture will add up for a one in a lifetime experience…

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BEST PLACE FOR A STROLL: PLAKA

Anafiotika

You may spend hours wandering the narrow streets of Plaka…This atmospheric neighbourhood located at the foot of the Acropolis is plenty of restaurants, gift shops, art galleries and ancient monuments…

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BEST PLACE TO STAY: HOTEL GRAND BRETAGNE

Grand Bretagne Hotel

You will feel like royalty at this emblematic hotel, considered to be one the World’s Best Hotels. Style and luxury, high standard services and the amazing view will make your stay in Athens unforgettable. But even if you don’t stay at the hotel,  a meal at the GB Roof Garden is a must, with breathtaking views of the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill, the Parliament and Syntagma Square…

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BEST DINING EXPERIENCE: FUNKY GOURMET

Funly gourmet funky-gourmet-orange-explosion

Funky gourmet 2Located in a charming neoclassical house in downtown Athens, this restaurant, awarded with 2 Stars Michelin is featured among the best restaurants worldwide. Innovative dishes and unusual combinations, presented in a creative and theatrical way, will provide you a unique dining experience….

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BEST PLACE TO BUY ONE-OF-A-KIND CURIOS: MONASTIRAKI FLEA MARKET

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On Sunday morning, head to Avissynias Square in Monastiraki where the flea market takes place. There you can find the most amazing stuff, from clothes, books, painting to antiques. And while you take a break, you can grab a bite at Avissinia Cafe.

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BEST GREEK FAST FOOD: SOUVLAKI!

Souvlaki pita gyrosUnless you are vegetarian -too bad for you!- indulge yourself with this traditional greek fast food. There are plenty of souvlaki places (they got really ubiquitous after the crisis), many of them way too touristic, especially around Monastiraki. You may try at these more “local” places in the center of Athens: Kosta’s Souvlaki and Lefteris o Politis.

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BEST PANORAMIC VIEW: LYCABETTUS HILL

Likavittos at night 6943470795_950fa3f864_zLycabettus hill view of the AcropolisClimbing up to Lycabettus hill is like going to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see Paris, or to the Empire State Building to see New York City… This beautiful hill is the highest point of the city (277m) and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Attica basin up to the Aegean Sea. It can be reached by car, by foot (take the path that starts at the end of Aristippou Street in Kolonaki), but also by a  funicular leaving from Ploutarchou and Aristippou Streets… The best time of the day to venture there is around sunset…

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BEST PLACE FOR A COCKTAIL: A FOR ATHENS

A for Athens 2Photo courtesy of alexinwanderland.com 

Just across the Acropolis and above Monastiraki Square, the rooftop of this design hotel offers astounding views of Athens’ historical center. But the view is not the only reason to visit to A for Athens Cocktail Bar. Its head bartender, award-winning Thodoris Pyrillos, prepares most of the classical cocktails, but also his own signature ones. A for Amazing…

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BEST COFFEE BREAK SPOT: BLACK DUCK GARDEN- ATHENS CITY MUSEUM BISTROT

Athens city museum bistrotBlack DuckThis atmospheric, well hidden cafe is a true oasis in the center of the city. Located in the garden of the Museum of the City of Athens, is exactly what you need to chill out after been exploring the city…

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A FEW MORE NOT-TO-BE-MISSED SPOTS

Changing of the guard Parliament

Changing of the Guard at the Parliament

 

 

 

 

 

Kallimarmaro

Panathenaic Stadium

 

 

 

 

Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora

 

 

 

 

 

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus

 

 

 

 

 

Acropolis moon 2599990431_69b87e08f7_oPhoto credits

Acropolis: Wikimedia commons; Acropolis museum: theacropolismuseum.gr, yatzer.com; Herodium: all-athens-hotels.com; Plaka: bluetravelstories.com, Wikimedia commons; Hotel Grande Bretagne: grandebretagne.gr; Funky Gourmet: funkygourmet.comathenspotlighted.gr; Monastiraki: sites.google.com, Wikimedia commons; Souvlaki: kalamatian.gr; Lycabettus Hill: Wikimedia commons, taxi-apollon.gr; A for Athens: alexinwanderland.com; Black Duck Garden-Athens city museum bistrot: athinorama.gr, ​blackduckgarden.gr; Change of guard: athenstourgreece.com; Panathenaic Stadium: tvxs.gr; Ancient Agora: Jorge Lascar Flickr.com; Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Olympian Zeus: todayifoundout.com