Route | Estimated time: 3-4 hours
Our walk starts from Syntagma Square Metro Station located in the centremost square in Greece, where an archaeological site is still active. Syntagma Square is where many major events of the country’s social, political, cultural and financial life have taken place. Directly opposite the square is the Old Palace, currently housing the Hellenic Parliament; at its front entrance lies the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Take some pictures, feed the pigeons and wait for the changing of the guard. It is well worth the wait.
We then walk to Panepistimiou Street to admire the Hotel Grande Bretagne, where the glamour of a bygone era is perfectly preserved. A few steps further, we turn onto the Voukourestiou pedestrian street and there, to our left, see the famous café Zonar’s, the Spyromiliou-Citylink Arcade and the Pallas Theatre. We may stop at one of the beautiful bistros for a taste of French macaroons. In the arcade we can admire the new installations before shopping at the Attica department store, which offers top brands of clothing, accessories and cosmetics.
We return to Panepistimiou Street and stroll to Iliou Melathron, home of the Athens’ Numismatic Museum, with its collection of ancient coins. We’ll also visit one of its greatest treasures, the charming garden café.
Our trip continues along Panepistimiou Street, past the Archaeological Society, to St. Dionyssius Areopagite Catholic Church, which faces the imposing National Bank of Greece building. Beyond the Bank of Greece are two other buildings worth admiring: on the left is Serpieri Manor, and opposite it the Athens Ophthalmology Hospital.
Our next stop is the famous ‘Athens Trilogy’, three buildings of magnificent architecture and paramount historical significance, namely the Academy of Athens, the University of Athens and the National Library. Constructed in the 19th century, these structures bear witness to Greece’s progress after liberation from Ottoman occupation.
A short distance further, we see the Arsakeion, another superbly designed building where, after admiring its beautiful entrance, we may visit the Books Arcade and Orpheus Arcade. Exiting the Arcade on Arsaki Street, we see the Old Athens Press, one of the first public buildings constructed in Athens after 1830.
Returning to Panepistimiou Street, we spend a few moments in front of the Rex Cinema and Theatre Hall, a venue that holds a special place in the hearts of many generations of Athenians. We now walk up Panepistimiou Street, past the traditional Aigaion doughnut shop, and turn left onto Harilaou Trikoupi Street. Thirty metres ahead we see the German Archaeology Institute, built in 1887.
Our stroll through downtown Athens is nearing its end. Should you choose to return, be sure to use the Panepistimio Metro Station, which will give you yet another perspective on the remarkable panoply of antiquities that make Athens a one-of-a-kind destination.
Should you decide to continue, we suggest you go to Kolonaki to shop for designer brands and visit one of the gourmet restaurants.