Category: Museums

Quietly spectacular Skyros

Enjoy aerial views of some of the wonderful coastal, mountain, valley and village scenery on Skyros in this 5-minute film by TreeZone

 

Real deal: Want to visit an authentic Greek island that isn’t a mainstream tourist magnet like Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, or even its nearby neighbour, Skiathos? Then have a look at Skyros, the southernmost and largest island in the Sporades archipelago. Skyros has everything you would want and expect from a great Greek island holiday destination — impressive landscapes and coastal scenery, inviting beaches, picturesque villages, historic sites, good food, and age-old local traditions — without the massive crowds and commerciality of other islands that have become household names around the world.

Though it is becoming increasingly popular with visitors from around the world, and has an international airport that receives direct charter flights from several European cities during July and August, Skyros is a relatively low-profile destination that isn’t even on the radar for most tourists planning vacations in the Greek islands.

In fact, there were only 3 question-and-answer threads posted on TripAdvisor’s Skyros travel forum in all of 2015, and just 10 in total since 2010. The Skiathos forum, by comparison, had  more than 6,100 conversation threads as of mid-May 2016.

 

Booking.com

 

With so much going for the island, It’s rather surprising that Skyros doesn’t get more attention from travellers — especially considering that it gets good press whenever it’s mentioned in social and regular media.

For instance, Skyros was cited as the best destination for alternative travel and holistic holidays in The Telegraph’s January 2016 feature The 19 best Greek islands, and was included in a piece the Independent published about Holidays for single travellers. Also in January, The Irish Examiner published A letter from paradise on the Greek island of Skyros, a journalist’s account of her writing holiday. And in 2015, Thomas Cook Airlines named Skyros as best destination for “healthy lifestyle holidays” in its profile of Greece’s top 10 islands.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Skyros hasn’t become hugely popular — that means it will remain a unique and special place to charm and delight those travellers who do venture off the main tourist paths to pay it a visit. (And that’s one of the chief reasons why Skyros is on my bucket list of islands to see.)

Skyros photo from sail-la-vie.com

Built on the steep slopes of a craggy peak topped by a Byzantine fortress and a  monastery, Chora village is a striking sight on Skyros (Photo from the Municipality of Skyros travel guide)

 

Please continue reading on page 2, where you’ll find more pictures and videos along with links to more than a dozen different websites with Skyros travel information and photos.

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Visiting Delos in 2016

 Delos island photo by Delos Tours

The “sacred island” of Delos is seen in a photo from the Google+ page for Delos Tours, the firm that runs ferries between Mykonos and Delos. 

 

Delos daytripping: It has been nearly two years since I last wrote about Delos island, and because there have been some noteworthy price changes for 2016, I’ve written this general information article to update my series of Top Delos Posts published from 2012 to 2014. (Apart from ferry schedules and the new prices for ferry tickets and admission to the Delos archaeological site, the information in my previous posts remains current.)

 

 What is Delos?

Here’s a brief background for readers who might not be familiar with Delos. The island, situated just over 2 km west of Mykonos, is one of the most important historic and archaeological sites in Greece. It’s often called “the sacred island” and “the island of light” because, in Greek mythology, it was the birthplace of Apollo, the god of light, and Artemis, the goddess of night light.

During its glory days between 166 BC and 69 BC, Delos was a wealthy shipping hub and one of the world’s leading centers of commerce. Home to more than 30,000 people, the city went into decline after it was looted and razed in two separate attacks; residents gradually left the island, and eventually Delos was abandoned completely and almost forgotten.

 

Delos island

The ruins of the Quarter of the Theater and the island’s once-great commercial port sprawl across the lower slopes of Mt Kynthos on Delos

 

Delos regained international attention when archaeologists began excavating its ruins in 1872. Small numbers of travellers, mainly from Europe, started visiting the island to view the fascinating historic sites that were gradually being unearthed. Over the decades, the trickle of tourists turned into a steady stream of sightseers from around the world, and today Delos is a top tourist attraction drawing more than 100,000 visitors each year. Delos is widely considered a “must see” attraction for people visiting Mykonos, and I personally recommend that visitors schedule a half-day trip to Delos during their Mykonos holidays, especially if it’s their first visit to Greece.

In 1990, Delos was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. A description for UNESCO’s Delos listing says “The archaeological site is exceptionally extensive and rich and conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port.”

And according to the Delos page on Visit Greece, the official tourism website for Greece, “nowhere else in the Globe is there a natural insular archaeological site of this size and importance. No other island on Earth hosts so many monumental antiquities from the Archaic, the Classical, and the Hellenistic periods, i.e. the centuries of the great Greek art, on a territory used exclusively as an archaeological site.”

 

What’s on Delos?

Delos Terrace of the Lions photo by Bernard Gagnon

The Terrace of the Lions is one of the most popular attractions on Delos island (Photo by Wikimedia contributor Bernard Gagnon)

 

All of Delos is a protected archaeological site, and visitors are not permitted to stay on the island overnight; hence, there are no accommodations (the nearest available lodging is on Mykonos). Besides the extensive ruins, which extend across most of the island, there is a museum that houses sculptures, wall paintings, pottery and thousands of small artefacts discovered during the excavations. A cafe in a separate building sells beverages and light snacks.

Some of the antiquities and sights most popular with tourists include: spectacular floor mosaics in the House of Dionysos, the House of the Dolphins, the House of the Mask, and the House of the Tritons; a marble amphitheater; several different agoras, sanctuaries and temples; the Sacred Lake and the Terrace of the Lions.

 

Delos Tours photo of mosaic in the House of the Dolphins on Delos

A detail of one of the colourful mosaics in the House of the Dolphins (Photo from the Delos Tours website.)

 

Bernard Gagnon Wikimedia Commons photo of Delos theater

The marble theater, seen in another image by Wikimedia contributor Bernard Gagnon, could seat up to 5,500 spectators

 

You’ll see many of the island’s top sights while a narrator describes the history of Delos in this informative 9.5-minute film by Expoza Travel.

 

Please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2, where you’ll find information about Delos ferry ticket and site admission prices, ferry schedules, guided tours, private charters to Delos, and more.

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The enchanting beauty of Athens

Athens is a gorgeous 5-minute promotional video produced by Visit Greece, the website of the Greek National Tourism Organisation. With its fabulous high-definition and time-lapse photography showcasing top attractions and historic monuments in Greece’s capital city and points beyond, such as spectacular Cape Sounion and beautiful beaches on the Athens Riviera, it’s one of the best Athens videos I’ve ever seen.  Click the arrow on the image above to start the film and take “an enchanting trip around the beauties of Athens.” 

 

 

How a cultural renaissance is reshaping Athens

Church of Panagia Kapnikarea

Throngs of shoppers and tourists on Ermou Street pass by the 1,000-year-old Byzantine Church of Panagia Kapnikarea

 

Gritty, not pretty: After six years of agonizing economic hardship, the City of Athens and its residents appear to be “rebounding” and turning their attention “to the task of building a better future,” according to the Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

“More and more Athenians are involved in a kind of civic infill activity, re-imagining the town, improvising social services and engaging in what Greek photographer Eirini Vourloumis calls ‘a forced renegotiation of Greek identity,’” columnist Robert Everett-Green observes in a feature article published recently in the Globe.

“Now, ambitious plans are afoot to remodel the downtown in more sustainable ways, and to add cultural capital to civic life. Innovative restorations, led by artists and arts organizations, are reclaiming rundown industrial districts. There is a feeling here that creativity is the last and best resource when other resources fail,” he notes.

 

Athens graffiti

Athens is “gritty,” not pretty, with “rampant” graffiti and street art, but arts and culture are leading the city to a “rebirth” as it recovers from the harsh economic crisis of the past six years, The Globe and Mail newspaper observes.

 

Everett-Green visited Athens last November, and the Globe published his feature story The Energy of Defeat on the front page of its weekend travel section this past Saturday (March 28 2015).

The article also was published on the newspaper’s website, where it was retitled Athens isn’t pretty, but it’s exciting: discover the city’s cultural rebirth.

Everett-Green examines how artists are playing a leading role in the revitalization of a city he describes as “gritty, restless and spontaneous.” He looks at major cultural projects and initiatives, including:

♦ the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center that will house the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece;

♦ the Onassis Foundation’s Rethink Athens project, which will transform the city center along Panepistimiou Street with ambitious public realm improvements and beautification;

♦ the Technopolis cultural event hub in the former premises of a coal and gas plant;

♦  the revitalization of the once-industrial Metaxourgio district; and

♦ the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which has opened in a restored brewery building.

Click here to read the full story on the Globe and Mail website.

 

Click on the arrow to view this 13-minute virtual tour of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center being built in the Kallithea district of Athens, about 4 km from the city center.

 

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

This photo shows an aerial view of construction work on the massive Kallithea site where the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is being built. Designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, the center will include a new building for the Greek National Opera, a new National Library of Greece, and an extensive landscaped park. This photo is from the SNFCC project page on the Renzo Piano Building Workshop website,.

25 tongue-in-cheek reasons why you shouldn’t visit Greece

Messinia Golden Coast

“Mediocre” views, like this one of the Messinia Golden Coast in the beautiful Peloponnese region of mainland Greece, is one reason why BuzzFeed recommends that travellers stay away from Greece. This striking photo is from the fantastic Visit Greece photostream on Flickr.

 

Just stay home: Are you tired of winter? Could you use a good chuckle? Want to see some superb photos to inspire your next trip to Greece?

Then click here to view the tongue-in-cheek photo feature 25 Reasons You Should Never Visit Greece, which was published this week on the news and lifestyle website BuzzFeed.com.

Featuring gorgeous photos from Visit Greece and other sources, the article addresses a number of modern “myth”conceptions about Greece, considering whether Athens “isn’t really that special,” if the country’s beaches are truly only “average at best,” and whether the views, scenery and sunsets in Greece are worth seeing at all.

The BuzzFeed piece gave me a much-needed good laugh today, while the spectacular photos took my mind off the snow and deep-freeze temperatures outside.

If you want to forget winter for awhile yourself, and learn 25 reasons why you really should visit Greece as soon as possible, be sure to check out the article.

 Windmills at Chora on Amorgos

Hectic places, like this crowded hilltop with windmills near Chora village on Amorgos, is another reason why travellers might want to avoid Greece, according to the website BuzzFeed.com.

Athens bounces back: NY Times travel report sees rise in Greek capital’s confidence & creativity

 Click the arrow to view 36 Hours in Athens by The New York Times

 

 

On the rebound: As tourists continue pouring into Athens in record numbers, visitor statistics aren’t the only things on the rise — so is the city’s self-confidence and creativity, The New York Times reports.

That surge in local pride is in turn reflected in the city’s burgeoning arts and culture scene, where new shops, restaurants, bars and, museums and cultural venues have been popping up all over Athens, Joanna Kakissis notes in a travel piece published by the venerable American newspaper.

 

New cafés & restaurants revive city squares

“After years of dreadful press that defined Athens as a broken-down capital prone to fiery riots, the city’s self-confidence and creativity are stirring again. Enterprising young fashion and graphic designers are opening shops celebrating the classic lines of ancient Greece and the anarchic wit of modern times. In reviving city squares, there are new restaurants and cafes serving native delicacies like Cretan sausage and sheep’s milk yogurt with preserved quince. The five-year-old Acropolis Museum is consistently rated one of the top museums in the world, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art is set to move into a new building later this year. Even rough times have silver linings,” she writes in 36 Hours in Athens, published this week.

The article chronicles a weekend visit Joanna paid to the city, describing the various landmarks and tourist attractions she visited, the restaurants and bars where she ate and drank, and the shops and cultural centers she discovered.

 

36-hour weekend visit

The informative travel feature includes a map showing the locations of places referred to in the article, plus a “details” list of addresses and websites (where available) for the various venues.

The article is accompanied by the video I posted above, which includes insightful brief interviews interspersed with colourful scenes of city streets and attractions. The video was created by the team of Fritzie Andrade, Max Cantor, Chris Carmichael and Aaron Wolfe.

Click here to read the complete article by Joanna Kakissis in The New York Times‘ online travel section.

 

 Heteroclito wine bar Athens

One of the places The New York Times visited was Heteroclito cav & bar à vin, seen here in a screen capture from the newspaper’s 36 Hours in Athens video

 

Acropolis Museum turns 5

Acropolis Museum

Looking toward the Acropolis Museum from a vantage point on the Acropolis itself. Below is a zoom view of the museum, which turns 5 years old on June 20. I shot the photos on June 1 during a weekend visit to Athens.

Acropolis Museum

 

Birthday bargain: If you’re going to be in Athens on June 20, make plans to pay the Acropolis Museum a visit. The beautiful building will mark its fifth anniversary that day, and will be charging a reduced admission fee of only €3 to celebrate the occasion. (That’s two Euros cheaper than the already bargain-priced entrance charge.)

Exhibition areas will be open from 8 a.m. until midnight, so you’ll have plenty of time to drop by and enjoy the museum’s permanent collections as well as its current special exhibition, Archaic Colors.

The museum will be hosting two special events for the big day.  One involves the use of three-dimensional digital image technology to show how copper weapons and bridles would appear on the horsemen on the west frieze of the Parthenon. The second is a 9.30 p.m. concert by musical artist Leon of Athens in the museum’s courtyard entrance.

I described the museum in my March 3 2012 post, Acropolis Museum is a must-see Athens attraction, which includes photos the museum provided of some of the spectacular items in its collection. And in my post Another Acropolis Museum treasure: food earlier this year, I reported that VirtualTourist.com had ranked the Acropolis Museum Restaurant as one of the world’s top 5 museum restaurants.

Below are several more pictures I took of the museum exterior last weekend. (Although photography is permitted in most of its galleries, the Acropolis Museum does not permit media publication of such images, so I didn’t take any shots inside. The wonderful treasures are best viewed in person in any event, so be sure to schedule time to see the museum if you haven’t been there already.)

 Acropolis Museum

A street view of the museum’s eastern facade

  Acropolis Museum

Visitors gather on the museum’s entrance plaza, which overlooks archaeological ruins discovered during construction of the building

 Acropolis Museum

Architectural details on the building’s eastern facade

 Acropolis Museum

A walkway leading to the museum entrance

 Acropolis Museum

Window and facade details on the museum exterior

Acropolis Museum

The museum’s rooftop cafe terrace has views of the Acropolis

 Acropolis Museum

A view of the Acropolis from the museum’s entrance plaza. The large sign on the side of the building at left is a promotional poster for the museum’s Archaic Colors exhibition, running until July 31.

 

Another Acropolis Museum treasure: food

Acropolis Museum

Visitors to the Acropolis Museum Restaurant can enjoy this excellent view of the Parthenon and the Acropolis while they dine, as this image from the museum website demonstrates

 

 

Good eats: Nearly two years ago (in my March 3 2012 post), I described the Acropolis Museum as a “must-see” attraction, both for its magnificent treasures and the museum building’s contemporary architecture.

Now there’s another good reason to visit the museum next time you’re in Athens — to enjoy a memorable meal.

 

Ranked in world’s Top 5 Museum Restaurants

The travel review website VirtualTourist.com has ranked the Acropolis Museum Restaurant as one of the Top 5 Museum Restaurants in the world, along with counterparts in Paris, New York, L.A. and Seattle. 

The top 5 list was reported by the Toronto Star newspaper this week, but I couldn’t find the restaurant rankings on the VirtualTourist site itself. In fact, the search form on the VirtualTourist’s front page doesn’t even work. Anytime I type something into the search field and click the “explore” button, the page goes …. absolutely nowhere.

According to the Toronto Star report, the Acropolis Museum’s “conveniently location” (their words, not mine) less than 1,000 feet from the Acropolis and nearby historic sites “makes it a great place to grab a bite after a long day of exploring the ruins.”

 

Greek breakfast served daily until noon

Situated on the second floor of the Acropolis Museum, the restaurant opens in the morning every day except Monday, serving a traditional Greek breakfast until noon. From then until closing, it offers a selection of hot dishes based upon traditional recipes, and updated according to the season.

Menu items include “Fresh shrimps from Alexandroupoli with ouzo, cherry tomatoes, orzo and red saffron from Kozani, Scaloppini from veal with oregano, lime and seasonal vegetables lightly sautéed, Trachanas from Arachova made by whole meal wheat with mushrooms and crunchy Greek prosciutto and Homemade pasta with minced meat and kefalotiri cheese from Amfilohia,” the museum website says. A special children’s menu also is available.

 

Great spot for a special Friday night dinner

The restaurant remains open until midnight on Friday evenings, giving Athens tourists a perfect place to dine with superb scenery. Besides the wonderful night views of the illuminated Acropolis, diners can enjoy delicious dishes including: “Carpaccio of fresh fish with citrus juice and lime, Smoked veal fillet with truffle oil and dried fruits, Mushrooms millefeuille with smoked cheese from Metsovo and eggplants, Risotto with fresh nettle, truffle flavors and San-Mihali cheese, Veal fillet with porcini sauce, homemade mashed potatoes and onions, Lemon tart and homemade Orange pie.”

Reservations are strongly recommended for the Friday night dinners. But there is a special dining area that offers cold dishes and desserts for guests who don’t want to reserve a dinner seating, but still want a light bite to eat. Another dining alternative is the café on the museum’s ground level, where visitors can order from a selection of light fare including salads, soups, snacks and desserts.

 

Huge terrace offers prime views of the Acropolis

Besides its interior dining space, the Acropolis Museum restaurant provides seating on a huge 700-square-meter outdoor terrace that offers superb, unobstructed view of the Acropolis. Below are some photos we shot from the terrace during our museum visit in May 2010.

 

Acropolis Museum restaurant

The Acropolis Museum restaurant has a 700-square-meter outdoor dining terrace offering superb views of the Acropolis (top left)

 

 

cropolis Museum restaurant

Restaurant terrace view of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. You can take a stroll on the terrace to enjoy the views even if you don’t plan to dine in the restaurant.

 

 

The Parthenon and the Acropolis, as viewed from the outdoor restaurant terrace at the Acropolis Museum

The restaurant terrace view of the magnificent Parthenon and Acropolis. Click on the image to view a full-size photo.

 

Winter edition of Aegean’s in-flight magazine shines spotlight on Athens’ top cultural attractions

Aegean Airlines Blue magazine

Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou descends the Renaissance-styled staircase at the National Library of Greece in Athens in the cover photo for the Winter 2013-2014 edition of Blue, the in-flight magazine of Aegean Airlines.

 

No flight required: If you haven’t been to Athens before, or haven’t spent much time there, the current issue of the Aegean Airlines in-flight magazine presents plenty of good reasons why you should book a first-time or a longer repeat visit to explore “the eternal capital of culture.”

With its “Rediscover Athens” cover feature, the Winter 2013-2014 edition of Blue magazine explains “why we love Athens” and shines the spotlight on the city’s top cultural attractions — Athens’ history, museums, architectural landmarks and monuments; its city squares, hills, mountains and landmark streets; its wealth of cultural activities and its exciting culinary landscape; and its extensive, vibrant seafront.

 

Photos of world-famous Athens attractions

The feature includes a fashion photo shoot in which acclaimed Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou poses at some of the city’s outstanding landmarks, including the fabulous Acropolis Museum, the Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Stoa of Attalos, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, and the Monastery of Kaisariani.

Maria also poses at the enormous construction site for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, a spectacular new complex which will ultimately be home to several new Athens cultural attractions — the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, and the Stavros Niarchos Park. The immense size of the building site, as well as the cluster of at least eight tall construction cranes towering above it, grabbed my attention when we passed by last October. Considering the severe financial crisis that has firmly gripped Greece for the past five years, I had not been expecting to see such a vast construction area with so many cranes in one place. But it’s a promising, bright sign that Athens remains one of Europe’s top cultural centres despite Greece’s economic woes.

Blue magazine’s “Rediscover Athens” profile also includes an “Insider’s Athens” report in which Maria describes her favourite city hangouts.

Don’t fret if you’re not taking an Aegean Airlines flight in the near future — the seatback pockets on Aegean’s aircraft aren’t the only places to find a copy of Blue magazine. The full 228-page winter edition is available online in e-book format, so you can read the feature story and peruse the ads and other articles wherever you may be. Click here to view the issue.

 

New city discount card spotlights big savings at Athens shops, restaurants & cultural attractions

Athens Spotlighted discount city card

A promotional image for Athens Spotlighted, a city card discount project initiated by Athens International Airport and Athinorama, the Athens city guide magazine

 

 

Big savings: Next time you fly into Athens International Airport, there’s something you should be sure to pick up before leaving the terminal (besides your luggage!).

The airport, in partnership with the Athens city guide magazine Athinorama, has launched Athens Spotlighted, a new city discount card program that offers significant savings at participating Athens shops, restaurants, nightclubs, galleries, museums and other cultural attractions.

The discount cards are free, and can be obtained from the Central Information Counter on the arrivals level of the airport terminal.

 

Savings on food, shopping & entertainment

So far, 22 restaurants are participating in the program, offering either 20% discounts on meals or special menus at special prices. Vassilenas in Piraeus, Kuzina in the Thissio district, Orizontes on Lycabettus Hill, Hytra in the Psirri district, and Aleria in the Metaxourgio area, are among the noteworthy restaurants involved in Athens Spotlighted. Seven different delis and food stores, including the Mastiha Shop in Central Athens, also provide cardholder discounts.

Four major entertainment venues — the Greek National Opera, the Greek National Theatre, the Onassis Cultural Centre and the Pallas Theatre — offer discounts of 15 to 20% on tickets purchased at the box office for each venue.

Nearly 20 major galleries and museums, including the Benaki Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the National Gallery and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, also offer discounts on admission (from 10% to as much as 50%).

 

Deals for car rentals and city tours

More than 60 shops will provide discounts varying from 10 to 20%, depending upon the establishment, while over three dozen service providers — including car rental agencies, nail and hair salons and spas, and city tour companies — also offer cardholder savings, usually 20%. This includes Athens Walks, the independent local tour company that I personally recommend.

The Athens Spotlighted website contains full details about the program along with a list of participating businesses and attractions that you can download and print from your computer. (The listing includes information about any conditions or restrictions applicable to any product or service provided under the discount card program.)

I’ve made a note to pick up a card when I fly into Athens International Airport in a few weeks’ time. If I do get to use it (I’m not sure if I will be spending time in Athens yet), I’ll report back on my experience.

 

 

Acropolis Museum celebrates 4th anniversary with concert, extended hours & reduced admission

A Nikos Daniilidis photo of the southern facade of the Acropolis Museum in Athens

The south facade of the superb Acropolis Museum in Athens is seen in this photo by Nikos Daniilidis. Click the image to view it full-size.

 

Untold stories: Tourists visiting Athens tomorrow (Thursday June 20) are in for a treat if they plan to visit the city’s acclaimed Acropolis Museum.

The museum will be celebrating its fourth birthday with a few gifts for its visitors — longer opening hours (8 a.m. until midnight), a reduced admission fee (only €3 per person), special gallery talks with 3D presentations, and an evening concert by the Athens Municipality Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Acropolis Museum is a must-see Athens attraction

 

Acropolis Museum in Athens

This photograph by Nikos Daniilidis offers a superb daytime view of angled wall segments on the eastern facade of the Acropolis Museum

 

 Acropolis Museum in Athens

… while this photo, also by Nikos Daniilidis, shows the building at dusk. More than 1.3 million people (including us!) visited the Acropolis Museum between June 2010 and May 2011


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