Category: Top Athens posts (page 2 of 2)

An Athens hidden gem: the TAF art space & café

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The Art Foundation in Athens

An art installation in one of the cool gallery spaces at metamatic: taf

 

 

Cool spaces: If you’d like to have a coffee or drink in a cool and truly unique setting, and have the opportunity to view contemporary art exhibitions at the same time, make plans to visit metamatic: taf (formerly called TAF: The Art Foundation) next time you’re in Athens.

One of the most fascinating cultural venues we’ve ever seen, metamatic: taf is an incredibly innovative multi-purpose facility that features cool gallery and performance art spaces along with a fabulous courtyard-café bar that received praise in the New York Times Magazine last year.

metamatic: taf is secluded inside a rustic old building at 5 Normanou Street in the Monastiraki flea market neighbourhood of Athens, and is so inconspicuous from the dingy, dark street that it’s almost hard to believe more than 200,000 people visit each year. Until you see what’s inside.

 

Our friend promised to show us something amazing

A friend showed us the place last October while we were on our way to a birthday party in the nearby Psirri neighbourhood. Leading us along a series of dark and narrow cobblestone streets, she promised there was something “amazing” that we just had to see while we were in the area. (Of course, we couldn’t help but wonder where the heck she was taking us, since the streets were practically vacant and everything appeared to be locked up tight.)

We had absolutely no idea what to expect when we stepped through a pair of wrought iron doors into a stone-walled, ground-level room that was almost empty.  The room had a few pieces of furniture, including two televisions that were both turned on, one displaying the words “super cool” above an image of a ceramic owl. We walked up a flight of stairs, turned a corner and found ourselves on a walkway overlooking the impressive courtyard café. I distinctly remember saying “Wow!” and thinking what a great place it would be to have a drink.

Our friend led us down the walkway, where windows and doors offered views into rooms housing a variety of interesting and provocative contemporary art installations. The works reminded me of art projects we had seen during some of the annual Nuit Blanche events back home in Toronto. After we spent a short period of time checking out the art displays, our friend led us through the courtyard — which was buzzing with dozens of people enjoying conversation over wine, beer and cocktails — and eventually back out to the street.

 

Look for a small, illuminated logo next to a doorway

When I asked “how the heck would anyone even know how to find this place,” our friend pointed to a small illuminated metamatic: taf logo on the wall next to the entrance gate. If we had been trying to find the place on our own, I think we probably would have walked past without even seeing the sign. Of course, it was obvious once it was pointed out to us.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stay for a drink and enjoy the atmosphere because we had to join other friends for a birthday dinner celebration at a taverna. But next time we’re in Athens, we’ll see if we can find our way back.

If you need to be convinced that metamatic: taf is worth a visit, consider that it got good press in the New York Times Magazine. The magazine’s April 7 2013 food and drink edition included the feature A World of Secret Watering Holes, in which overseas-based New York Times reporters described “their most memorable drinking spots.” Correspondent Rachel Donadio’s pick for Athens reads: “It’s on a gritty street in downtown Athens, under the shadow of the Acropolis. At night, you have to wander through a shuttered flea market to find it. But inside, the Art Foundation, or TAF, is a hidden garden — a courtyard where trees are strung with lights; an oasis, young and alive.”

metamatic: taf also was profiled in an October 11 2013 article that Nelly Paraskevopoulou wrote for USA Today’s 10Best Travel Advice for Travelers website in October 2013.

You can obtain more information about the venue and its events by visiting the metamatic: taf Facebook page.

 

metamatic: taf in Athens

A small illuminated logo marks the location of the entrance to the metamatic: taf galleries and café-bar at 5 Normanou Street

 

 

metamatic taf in Athens

Televisions we saw inside the gallery & café entrance

 

 

metamatic: taf in Athens

The cozy courtyard café and bar

 

 

metamatic: taf Athens

A daytime view of the café courtyard. I found this photo on the metamatic: taf blog. The gallery and performance spaces are contained in the two level structure that encloses the courtyard. The rickety building looks like it’s ready to crumble, but its dishevelled appearance enhances the courtyard’s ambience and atmosphere, thanks to the café’s subtle nighttime lighting.

 

New Athens X80 express bus links Piraeus cruise ship port to Acropolis and Syntagma Square

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The Acropolis

A new express bus service links the cruise ship terminal at Pireaus with the Acropolis (above) as well as Syntagma Square in Central Athens

 

Editor’s 2018 Update:  The X80 route resumes service on Thursday May 10. Click here to read a Keep Talking Greece article with information about the service, including fares, schedules and stops.

 

New route: Buses began running today on a new express service route that links the Piraeus cruise ship port to the Acropolis and Syntagma Square in Central Athens.

The X80 express bus will run seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 21:30 (9:30 p.m.), with departures every 30 minutes. The trip along the 25 km route from the cruise ship terminal to Syntagma Square is estimated to take between 30 and 45 minutes.

OASA, the Athens Urban Transport Organisation, introduced the new route to help make it easier for tourists arriving at Athens by cruise ship to reach Syntagma and the Acropolis — two of the city’s most popular attractions.

The bus will stop at the OLP terminal gates, the Piraeus town center, the Sygrou-Fix metro station, the Acropolis and Syntagma Square.

For 2018, two types of tickets can be used to take rides on the X80 — the €4.50 ticket that is valid for umlimited use on the metro, buses and trams in the city center for 24 hours, or the €22 tourist ticket that is valid for 3 days of travel.

Below are two maps that show the X80 route and stops at Piraeus as well as the route and stops in Central Athens. Click here to view an OASA PDF document showing the complete X80 route between Piraeus and Syntagma Square.

For general information about all modes of Athens public transportation, click here.

 

X80 express bus map from the Athens Urban Transport Organisation website

This map, from the Athens Urban Transport Organisation website, shows the X80 bus route stops at Piraeus. Click the image to view a larger-size picture.

 

 

Map of bus stops in Central Athens for the new X80 express route

This map shows the X80 bus stop locations in Central Athens

 

 

Another Acropolis Museum treasure: food

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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

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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.

 

Athens Riviera coves offer secluded spots to swim, sunbathe & savor the Saronic Gulf scenery

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A quiet cove on the Apollo coast of Greece, southeast of Athens

One of many coves along the scenic Apollo coast, southeast of Athens, where locals and visitors can enjoy sun, sea and serenity

 

 

Beach alternatives: You don’t have to travel to an island to enjoy beautiful beaches and coastal swimming spots in Greece — you can find them in spades on the mainland, including the scenic Saronic Gulf coast a short drive from Athens.

Popularly known as the Apollo Coast and the Athens Riviera, the more than 70-kilometer-long stretch of seafront between Piraeus and Cape Sounion boasts scores of beaches and swimming spots, with an extensive variety of public and private beach facilities catering to all tastes, budgets and lifestyles.  Many are easy to reach from Athens either by car, by the city’s tram system, or by public bus.

And for those who prefer to avoid busy organized beaches, there are plenty of secluded coves and inlets offering places to swim or suntan in peace and quiet — or even in nothing at all.

When we visited Athens last year, we noticed that many beach clubs and public strands along the Apollo Coast were packed with people. We could only imagine how crowded they must get during the summer when practically everyone in the city would head to the seaside to beat the heat.

Both in May and again during our return trip to Greece in October, friends who live in Athens took us for drives along the Apollo Coast, stopping to show us some of the popular beach areas including public strands to which admission was free, as well as several private clubs that charge entry fees of around 5 or 7 Euros and up per person.

 

Apollo Coast  of Greece

A peninsula on the Apollo Coast just a short drive south of Vouliagmeni. The rocky shoreline is popular with sunbathers and swimmers — especially nudists — who want to avoid the crowded public and private beaches along the Athens Riviera.

 

 

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Sharply-dressed Dromeas stands tall in Athens

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Dromeas glass sculpture in Athens

Dromeas (“Runner” in English) is a 12-meter-tall glass and iron sculpture created in 1994 by Athens artist Costas Varotsos

 

Sharp Dresser:  Athens may be one of the world’s safest cities, but you won’t want to run into a big Greek guy named Dromeas while you’re there — he would literally tear you to pieces.

Standing 12 meters tall (nearly 30 feet), Dromeas cuts a dashing figure at Megalis tou Genous Sholi square near the Hilton Athens Hotel on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.  Created by noted Athens sculptor Costas Varotsos in 1994, Dromeas originally stood at Omonia Square, but was moved when construction commenced on the underground metro station there. Concerns that shakes and vibrations from subway building activity could damage the sculpture prompted his relocation to a triangular public square close to the Canadian Embassy.

 

 

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Acropolis Museum is a must-see Athens attraction

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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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