What do you see when you visit a city like Athens?
The grime and dirt, the scrawling graffiti, the homeless man with his bedding spread out in a shop doorway?
Or do you see the pretty lilac-coloured flowers of the jacaranda trees that line the avenues, the lively bars and charming restaurants, the colourful street art that brings the city to life, juxtaposed against a backdrop of ancient ruins standing sentinel, looking out across the sprawling city below.
Athens is all this and more. It is not the most beautiful of cities, it is not the most romantic but it is vibrant and enticing and above all else, it is a very welcoming city.
Having visited Greece a number of times as a young adult, I have many happy memories from tasting Greek food for the first time to learning to snorkel in crystal clear waters to visiting magical archaeological sites such as Mycenae, Epidaurus and Knossos – all a long, long time ago.
For sometime now I had been yearning to go back and rediscover Greece so when I was invited to Athens I leapt at the chance. It was clear that while the country may still be reeling from the debt crisis, their tourism industry remains unaffected and numerous young entrepreneurs are taking the initiative, starting up travel related businesses aligned to the digital era.
Here’s a round-up of the highlights from my trip to Athens, much of which was enabled by these digital travel companies run by creative young Athenians, eager to show off Athens to its full potential.
The first thing you notice when you arrive in Athens is the graffiti. It is everywhere and rather than fight it, Athens has embraced it wholeheartedly to become a living, breathing art gallery.
Manos, from Dopios, an Athens based company that specialises in introducing travellers to locals in over 80 countries, took us on a colourful walking tour of the street art of Athens. They’ll be more on this in a forthcoming post.
Did you know that you can drive from the centre of Athens to the beach in just 15 minutes? We spent a wonderful day at YaBanaki Beach, a private beach a little further out of town. The water was chilly so early in the season but it was crystal clear and so inviting that I just had to go in …twice.
We learnt the art of tsipouro tasting with Athens Insiders, founded by a group of avid travellers, offering tailor-made authentic experiences showing you Athens through the eyes of locals.
The Museum of Greek Gastronomy
We were really lucky to be shown around the new Gastronomy Museum. So new it hasn’t even opened yet! As well as seeing the first exhibition, we also had a wonderful meal in their lovely courtyard restaurant. I’m looking forward to telling you more about this and all the other scrumptious delights I enjoyed during my stay, a welcome reminder of just how good Greek cooking really is.
The Acropolis and the new museum
A visit to Athens wouldn’t be complete without taking a look around the new museum at the Acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Sites and then wandering around the ancient ruins themselves. I’d been here once before, over 25 years ago, and I had forgotten just how stunning the views of the city are from here.
Athens may be looking a little down on its heels but if you take the time to peel back the layers you’ll discover a vibrant, creative, eclectic city. The ancient and the modern stand hand-in-hand here and a movement of young Athenians whom, having lived or studied abroad, have now returned to play their part in rebuilding the city they so clearly love.
Athens is a city that it takes a little time to get to know and I’m eager for us to get better acquainted. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing more of my photos and telling you more about the wonderful experiences I had there last week.
I visited Athens as a guest of Marketing Greece, a privately funded, non-profit corporation, formed in 2013, to promote Greek Tourism. For more information on Athens check out their website DiscoverGreece.com
During our stay we were invited to Athens’ inaugural digital influencers’ day, a networking event with some outstanding bloggers and instagramers from the UK and Germany and a collection of exciting travel start-ups from Athens.
I hold the Pallas Athena responsible for my having put on 5 pounds in 5 days, although it should be noted that they were ably assisted by the superb chefs from NJV Athens Plaza Hotel, Divani Palace Acropolis and The Museum of Greek Gastronomy, not forgetting Kayak ice-cream and frozen yogarts.
Thanks too to my fellow digital influencers who were all excellent company.