Ex­plor­ing Athens, north to south, on the cheap

A sim­ple 1.40-euro ticket for all modes of public trans­port will gain you ac­cess to an­tiq­ui­ties and mod­ern art, green spa­ces and the beach

Kathimerini English - - Focus - IOANNA TZIMA

Af­ter tak­ing in the main sites of Athens, go­ing on mu­seum tours and shop­ping for sou­venirs, you may not like what you see when you check your bank bal­ance. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do in Athens on a tiny bud­get.

A reg­u­lar ticket cov­er­ing jour­neys on the Athens metro, ISAP elec­tric rail­way, buses and trol­ley buses costs just 1.40 eu­ros. It is valid for an hour-and-a-half and al­lows you to change be­tween the dif­fer­ent modes – tak­ing you from the city’s parks all the way to the sea on the south­ern coast. On Fri­days and Satur­days, more­over, the metro runs un­til 2 a.m. in­stead of mid­night, al­low­ing you to sam­ple the nightlife be­yond the city cen­ter.

Athens is a trea­sure trove of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites and mon­u­ments, and al­though you have to pay to see most of its ar­ti­facts up close, you can al­ways opt for the sim­plest, stripped-down ex­pe­ri­ence.

Acrop­o­lis, Mona­s­ti­raki, Syn­tagma and Panepis­timio metro sta­tions all host dis­plays of ru­ins and ar­ti­facts un­earthed dur­ing the un­der­ground sys­tem’s ex­ca­va­tion. His­tory buffs should ven­ture out to Ae­ga­leo sta­tion too, as its ex­hi­bi­tion sheds light on the Sa­cred Way that linked Athens to the Sanc­tu­ary of Deme­ter at Eleu­sis in an­cient times.

Mod­ern art

The Athens metro also rep­re­sents some of Greece’s most cel­e­brated artists. Evan­ge­lis­mos sta­tion, for ex­am­ple, boasts a sculp­ture by Chryssa ti­tled “Mott Street” in­spired by Man­hat­tan’s Chi­na­town. The light in­stal­la­tion at Am­be­lokipi is by Greek-Amer­i­can ab­stract artist Stephen An­ton­akos, while two in­stal­la­tions by pi­o­neer­ing sculp­tor Takis can be viewed at Syn­grou-Fix sta­tion. The confetti mu­ral “Foot­ball Play­ers” at Omo­nia is by Pav­los and Nikos Kes­san­lis cre­ated “Queue,” in­spired by the con­stant river of com­muters at the busy sta­tion. Ge­orge Zon­golopou­los also contributed one his sig­na­ture um­brella sculp­tures to Syn­tagma, but keep your eyes peeled across the net­work, be­cause you can see pieces by most of the great Greek mod­ern artists, among them Yiannis Mo­ralis, Alekos Fas­sianos, Yan­nis Gaitis, Opy Zouni and Costas Varot­sos.

That same 1.40-euro ticket gets you on the tram, which runs from Syn­tagma down to the cap­i­tal’s south­ern coast, turn­ing west to­ward Neo Faliro and bring­ing you to one of the big­gest ur­ban and cul- tu­ral de­vel­op­ments in Athens in more than a decade – the Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion Cul­tural Cen­ter. A trea­sure de­signed by Ital­ian ar­chi­tect Renzo Pi­ano, the SNFCC (www.snfcc.org) does not charge ad­mis­sion and has tons of ar­eas to ex­plore and things to do: gar­dens ar­ranged in themes, a gallery, an area where sound in­stal­la­tions al­low you to make your own mu­sic, a pop jet foun­tain to cool off or just play in, and gi­ant chess sets, to name but a few. It also hosts live mu­sic shows ev­ery so of­ten, as well as yoga and pi­lates classes. If you’re us­ing the metro, there’s a free SNFCC shut­tle bus run­ning reg­u­lar ser­vices be­tween the park and Syn­grou-Fix sta­tion.

A day at the beach

Back on the tram, the east­ern line takes you to sub­urbs Palaio Faliro, Alimos, Gly­fada and Voula, among oth­ers. There’s dozens of free and pay beaches along the south­ern coast, but only two have been awarded a Blue Flag for the good qual­ity of their bathing waters: Beach A in Voula (Askli­pio Voulas stop) and Gly­fada Beach (Par­alia Gly­fadas stop). You can also hop off at the Flisvos or Mikroli­mano ma­rina to catch the sea breeze and check out the mega-yachts.

Athens has re­ceived a bad rap for not hav­ing enough parks, but once you know your way around, you’ll re­al­ize you’re never far away from at least one green space. Be­yond the Na­tional Gar­den and pocket parks in many parts of the city, there’s Athens’s main hills – Ly­ca­bet­tus, Philopap­pou and Ardit­tos – where you can have a brisk walk, en­joy a great view and soak up some his­tory. Fur­ther afield, the Dio­midis Botan­i­cal Gar­den in the western sub­urb of Haidari (403 Iera Odos; take the A16 bus start­ing from Koumoundourou Square to Elef­sina and get off at the Diomedis stop) is a 166hectare par­adise con­tain­ing more than 3,000 species of na­tive and ex­otic plants.

Go­ing north

Tak­ing the 550 bus from the Pana­thenaic Sta­dium (Kal­li­mar­maro) or the Na­tional Gallery or the ISAP train, head north to Ki­fis­sia, an af­flu­ent leafy sub­urb that is home to the sum­mer res­i­dence of Greece’s for­mer royal fam­ily. The Ta­toi es­tate can be reached from Ki­fis­sia Square on the 503 bus, get­ting off at the 13th Varym­popis stop. It’s a bit of a walk from there, but worth­while, es­pe­cially if you’re in­ter­ested in royal his­tory.

The 550 bus also takes you to the sub­urb of Maroussi, home to the Syn­grou Park, one of Athens’s big­gest and per­haps its most over­looked. It is a 97-hectare green oa­sis with lovely walk­ing and jog­ging trails, a soc­cer pitch and play­grounds.

Back in the down­town area, a stroll through all or any of the Psyrri, Me­tax­our­gio, Anafi­otika and Exarchia neigh­bor­hoods will give you re­ward you with a healthy dose of street art. Amid the masses of mean­ing­less tags and doo­dles, you’ll spot mean­ing­ful cre­ations by stu­dents from the School of Fine Arts and many more Greek and for­eign artists, the ma­jor­ity in­spired by the eco­nomic cri­sis and its ef­fects. Highlights in­clude the owl mu­ral at 50 Palaiol­o­gou Street in Me­tax­ourgeio by WD and a mas­sive por­trait of the an­cient Athe­nian states­man, law­maker, and poet Solon, ti­tled “Sys­tem of a Fraud,” by iNO on Achilleos Street in the same area.

WD’s owl mu­ral in Me­tax­ourgeio is one of many pieces of street art you can spot while ex­plor­ing Athens. When it’s too hot for down­town, take the tram and hit the beach.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.