Keeping up with the times, the otherwise ancient city of Athens could humorously be considered as an… old lady with young habits. The marble remains of the ancient glory days that are prominent all around the centre are countered by graffiti-laden walls, lamp-adorned streets and colourful street markets. The antiquity of the previous centuries harmoniously coexists with the modernity of the current day, making the Athens of today a breathing collage of authentic street visuals that create a charming contrast between the old and the new.
A stroll around the immediate centre is all it takes to discover both the old and the new amidst the interesting streets.
Somewhere between the areas of Monastiraki and Psyrri, Pittaki is the street where the city conducted a sort of urban experiment, and is now considered one of the most charming and picturesque streets in Athens. It doesn’t have many shops, or stores, or bars that would attract tourists or locals and so it is a relatively quiet street, and yet it is in the thick of it all; it is a street leading to other, more popular streets into the laid back area of Psyrri. Usually, people wandering around the central areas will just happen to stumble upon it and discovering its peculiar transformation may take the first-time visitor by surprise. Such spontaneous charm in such an urban setting is bound to impress you.
The otherwise dark and dank street of Pittaki is now a flamboyant one, graced by numerous old lamps and chandeliers of many types, shapes and sizes which are strewn across its narrow width, and have taken on the role of regular street lamps.
Monastiraki Square Street Market
The main square in the city centre is Monastiraki, with the Acropolis dominating the background from above. Monastiraki is like a downtown ‘hub’ or Athens’ “Rome” if you will, as all the immediately surrounding areas lead there. The laid back area of Psyrri, the gorgeous little neighbourhood of Thiseio, and the buzzing streets of Plaka all merge here. The square has been there for ever, playing its part over the decades and changing to fit the times, and as people’s needs change. Now it is a young persons meeting point and hosts a vibrant flea street market with a plethora of wares: book sale counters, brick & brac stalls, clothes and accessory boutiques, souvenir stores, street food eateries, as well as more speciality shops are waiting for the curious visitor to uncover.
Graffiti art and contemporary visual art samples are found in nearly every side street adding further contrast to the worn marble arches and columns and rundown neoclassical buildings that survive ‘til this day.
At the foot of the Acropolis, and on the side of the famous ancient theatre of Odeon of Herodes (or Herodion for locals) is Athens’ most prestigious street. Dionysiou Aeropagitou, is a wide street with direct views on the south side of the Acropolis rock. Strolling down this street constitutes one of the most scenic promenades while you admire the Parthenon on the one hand, and the gorgeous well-kept neoclassical buildings on the other. This street has been home to (questionable) politicians and well-off artists as owning a house on Aeropagitou is synonymous with wealth and success. You can chose to stay on this fabulous street, in the luxury design hotel AthensWas, that graciously bridges the gap between the old and the new..
Leaving these… delusions of grandeur to the side, what will remain with you if you visit this street is a sense of overwhelment for how the past has been fused with the present, while gazing at the ancient rock and perhaps enjoying a soft ice-cream cone from a street vendor or by taking a carriage ride for the most scenic tour.