When it comes to history, Athens is indisputably the capital of Europe. The cradle of Western civilisation is home to some of the continent’s oldest monuments, with buildings dating back as far as the 5th century BC. There is perhaps no grander testament to the city’s esteemed past than the story behind its new Metro system. Its construction inadvertently led to the excavation of around 30000 artifacts! But those constant reminders of millenia past have forged anything but conservatism. Athens is a city with attitude.
Athens is lively and highly social, with plenty of energy resounding through its streets, galleries and open-air restaurants and bars. Like the ancient city, Greek cuisine is steeped in history, with colourful dishes that emphasise freshness over complexity. Nothing complements the Mediterranean heat like sun-ripened, locally sourced produce. In Greece, dinner time is something to celebrate, whether down by the water or in its bustling squares.
People and Traditions
You’ll generally find the people in Athens to be very hospitable. However, if meeting up with locals, note that punctuality often isn’t much of a priority in the city. It’s best to meet people somewhere where you can keep yourself entertained, like a taverna, and try to exercise a little patience.
For Greeks, Easter is the most significant date of the religious calendar – more so even than Christmas. If visiting at this time, expect lots of sombre rituals in the churches, followed by bell-ringing and fireworks, and more food than anyone can possible be expected to eat, with servings of spit-roasted lamb and tsoureki (Easter cake). Many superstitious Greeks believe that spitting can ward off the devil and misfortune, so don’t be alarmed to see more of this than you’re used to.
Summers in Athens are dry and hot, particularly from June to August when temperatures regularly reach beyond 30ºC. Heat can be trapped by the city’s surrounding hills and the hottest months have been known to reach extremes in the forties (ºC). Fortunately, the public buildings in Athens are extensively air-conditioned. Winters range from cool to mild, with January and February tending to be the coldest months.