“When you look from on high, the world looks like a painting”…
Seeing Athens from above is relaxing and refreshing. Your gaze sweeps over the thousands of buildings and stops to rest at the mountains which embrace them. Here and there, scattered widely throughout this urban tapestry, lie little islands of greenery. Although they are few and far between, for some reason, to the eye they seem sufficient. Athens doesn’t have huge urban parks or a large river running through it like many European capitals. Here instead there is an impressively chaotic collection of buildings, an architectural polyphony,
a banquet of various trends and projects and historical periods that some have called harmonious or interesting. And just a step away the land ends, and there is open sea, blue and sparkling in the dazzling Attic light, which shines over this city almost all the days of the year.
Climb up high: To the Acropolis of Athens, the Acropolis of ancient Athens. And all around, nothing may be built higher than the Parthenon. Everything spreads out before and below you, and around the Acropolis you see practically everything that defines and embraces this historic basin, this land of Attica.
The Hill of Philopappos. Just southwest of the Acropolis, following paths through pine and olive trees, you quickly reach the top of this lovely little hill and turn back to face the Parthenon – another view, another perspective entirely. Turning now to the south you enjoy the sparkling Aegean, just steps away – and all around you the peace and greenery of a true Mediterranean landscape.
The Hill of Lycabettus. At 277 meters in height, Lycabettus offers surprises and delights at whatever hour of the day you choose to visit. The modest white chapel of St. George at its summit, the feeling of unfettered freedom and the 360ο panoramic views make Lycabettus one of the most beautiful spots in the capital and provides a view which lets your mind and imagination soar like an eagle.
Strefi Hill. In the middle of the old anarchist neighborhood of Exarchia, charming and beleaguered, the Hill of Strefi stands as an oasis of green – and richly rewards anyone who takes the trouble to climb it. With its paths and trees and athletic courts – and its views of Athens, it makes for a wonderful urban stroll, especially in the morning.
Ardittos Hill: One of the most scenic runs in Athens follows the pine-covered hill which embraces the gleaming marble Panathenaic Stadium and ends at a 500m horseshoe-shaped dirt and cinder track going all the way around the top of the stadium. Here you can stretch and jog in sight of the Parthenon, Philopappos Hill, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the neo-classical Zappeion building, the National Gardens and the Hill of Lycabettus – the perfect spot in the city to exercise your body and imagination.
The 10th floor of the Athenaeum InterContinental. At the renowned Premiere restaurant, where sensational tastes lift your senses to another level, a highly refined atmosphere emerges from subtle lines, colors and understated luxury – all surrounded by a view truly unique in the world: the Acropolis and its crown jewel the Parthenon, and, spread at your feet, glimmering Athens throbbing with life.
*Words from the song “When you look from on high”, composer, Costas Hadzis; lyrics, Sotia Tsotou.
Athens welcomes spring with its own special road race. The 3rd Sunday of March has been selected as the date for the 6th annual half marathon road race for all Athenians and foreign visitors who want to test their running abilities in a mass-start race in the center of the city. One of the main goals of the race organizers has been to create a road race in Athens that would attract runners from all over the world during their spring vacation and to give them the added opportunity to sample our Mediterranean cuisine, to learn about the city’s history, to visit museums and other points of interest and to enjoy the rich variety of entertainment and nightlife offered by Greece’s lively capital.
On Sunday the 19th of March, four different races await you
The Athens Half Marathon is co-hosted by the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS) and the Cultural, Sport & Youth Organization of the City of Athens – and this spring, on Sunday March 19, they hope to see a record number of over 20,000 participants of all ages.
The three official Half Marathon races which will be timed electronically are: The Half Marathon race of 21,100 meters, the 5-kilometer road race and the 3-kilometer road race. An additional 1-kilometer race for children, Special Olympics athletes, and those with disabilities is untimed – but very festive.
On the race’s official website you can find information about the route, the start and finish lines, the basic roads that the races will follow, the organizations and agencies that are participating – and you can sign up to participate as well. And while you are running through this fascinating city, Athens will win you over with its charms.
Soutzouki, pastirma, spices from all over the world and hundreds of different herbs have transformed Evripidou Street, from Aiolou to Menandrou Street, into the (literally) hottest spot in town. Fifteen shops are filled to the rafters with every conceivable spice; herbs for every possible use or ailment; beans of every size, color and origin; and all the most famous “super-foods” which promise: health, weight loss and body toning, mental acuity and balance – and even longevity. Interspersed among these stores are numerous shops with hams and sausages swinging above our heads – while the smell of country sausages cooking on the grill promise another kind of “forbidden” pleasure.
Traditional products from all over Greece - in line or online.
And in between healthy spices and herbs and those more “sinful” delights are a host of traditional products of every kind: honey, homemade pasta, grains, teas, olives - the list is long and as varied as Greece itself – or like your stroll along Evripidou Street if you stop to explore even a fraction of its fascinating shops.
And if you don’t fancy standing in line with the many loyal customers, make a note of the items you’d like to buy, and ask for the store’s email address. Most of the shops will handle your orders online and will bring your purchases to your home at your convenience.
Philopappou Hill, also known as the Hill of the Muses, is one of Athens’ most beautiful spots of greenery. It stands 147 meters tall just southwest of the Acropolis and provides an outdoor balcony with a view that takes your breath away. It is a place of great historical and cultural significance as well as a favorite spot for both locals and visitors of all ages.
Τhe road and footpaths of Dimitris Pikionis
The mosaic-like road and footpaths which take you up Philopappou Hill are the creation of the architect and landscape designer Dimitris Pikionis, who, in a space of three years (1954-1957), created one of the most beautiful pedestrian walkways in all of Athens. Its design is influenced by Greece’s folk tradition and by the spare elegance and harmony of the Japanese school of architecture and landscape design. If you don’t go off on one of the natural paths leading to the left and right as you begin to ascend the hill, Pikionis’ road leads you the little chapel of Saint Demetrios Loumbardiaris, built in 12th century, and the small café of the same name, which, although now closed, still recalls a more leisurely era and the hum of conversation that used to spill out into the surrounding woods.
Αscending toward the summit
Follow one of the paths which wind along the side of the hill and take you to the summit, where the monument of Philopappos (10 meters tall and built between 114 and 116 A.D.) looks out over the Parthenon, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the marble Panathenaic Stadium and the sparkling mosaic of modern Athens, chaotic but charming.