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Contemporary Athens

Ever since the first event in 1955, Documenta has been held in Kassel every five years. As the fourteenth edition approached, the modern cultural event packed its bags and moved to Athens for the first time. Under the title “Learning From Athens”, the 2017 event has adopted proposals with political connotations. Running from 8 April to 16 July, this the largest and most important contemporary art exhibition in Europe is being co-hosted by both Athens and Kassel. As Documenta lands on Greek soil, we leave behind the Acropolis and venture into the heart of a more contemporary Athens.

National Museum of Contemporary Art
The main Documenta exhibition is housed in the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST Museum), which was inaugurated in 2014. An exhibition featuring works by over 80 artists will form the backbone of a journey with dark overtones from colonial times to the economic pragmatism of today. One of the leading and most interesting galleries in Greece, the museum is located on the premises of the former Fix Brewery – built in 1962 and designed by architect Takis Zenetos in collaboration with Margaritis Apostolidis. The brewery closed down in 1982, having produced what was the most popular beer in the country for decades. Kallirrois Avenue & Amvr. Frantzi Str

Those interested in counter-culture should make a point of visiting the Exarchia district. This bastion of anarchism in Athens has often been the scene of major demonstrations during the most difficult moments of the economic crisis. Exarchia is the closest thing to one endless, open-air art gallery. It is a striking display of street culture, with every single stretch of building frontage acting as a potential canvas; indeed, you are unlikely to find any patch of wall not covered in graffiti. By way of an Athenian version of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, Madrid’s Malasaña, London’s Camden Town or Berlin’s Kreuzberg, Exarchia also boasts some of the best cafés in Athens, as well as the most highly recommended book shops and stores selling comics, records and second-hand clothing.

In the Gazi district of downtown Athens you will come across a huge cultural centre which was founded with the aim of promoting the art scene and enshrining the site’s industrial heritage (it houses the Industrial Gas Museum, dating from 2013), as well as arousing public awareness about social issues. Built in 1857, this complex was originally a gasworks. Amid chimney stacks, furnaces and huge gas tanks, attesting to the site’s recent past, Technopolis is the venue for virtually daily must-visit events in the fields of music, cinema, theatre and the visual arts, such as Fashion Week or the Athens Jazz festival. 100 Pireos Street

Embros Theatre
A self-managed theatre with one of the liveliest cultural agendas in Athens. The Embros Theatre is housed in the former headquarters of one of the leading publishers in town. But, when the business went to seed, the owners were forced to sell the building, which was acquired by a popular theatre company and turned into one of the most frequented theatre venues in Athens. However, the venture was short-lived. The company split into two and the building fell into disuse. In 2010 the auditorium was acquired by the Athens City Council but, in view of it hosting zero activity, it was occupied by a group of actors. Ever since the theatre has been hosting all kinds of artistic and cultural events, as well as operating as a social centre. Riga Palamidou, 3

Former Gestapo Prison
Surprisingly, a place bearing such a historical burden as this former prison has been overlooked by most tourist guides. It is located on Korai Street, opposite the Panepistimio metro station. Visitors can venture into what once concealed a clandestine prison of the Gestapo. Now designated a Historical Memory Site, under the German occupation during World War II it was where communists and other members of the Greek left-wing were incarcerated. It makes for an emotionally charged visit, of which the highlights are the picture gallery and the carvings made by the revolutionaries during their confinement. 4 Korai Street

Booze Cooperativa
One of the trendiest venues in town. In the morning, this multi-purpose space operates as a specialty café and a refuge for the bearded crowd working on their laptops. After lunch, which in Greece ranges from three to five o’clock in the afternoon (and the Booze Cooperativa cuisine is highly recommended), it turns into a bustling bar and stays that way until the wee hours. But, the great draw of Booze Cooperativa is the exhibition room hidden in the basement. On display in this gallery are works by some of the most evocative names from the local alternative art scene, while the theatre room on the floor above is the first choice for upcoming, alternative Athenian playwrights. 57 Kolokotroni Street

After so much art and culture sightseeing, the time always comes to replenish your strength. And, talking of good food, there is nothing quite like Greek cuisine. There are dozens of spots where you can get delicious traditional Greek fare in Athens, but Avli tops them all and it’s set in one of the most picturesque yards in the city where you can taste all the homemade Greek specialities. And, in between helpings of keftedakia, loukaniko and moussaka, be a daredevil and have a few sips of ouzo. Locally made, this is one of the most popular drinks in Greece, characterised by its high alcohol content (from 37% to 50% proof), strong flavour and liquorice aroma. 12 Agiou Dimitriou

Monastiraki Flea Market
All trips tend to end off with a round of shopping. And, when you’ve been on an alternative tour of Athens, this should be negotiated at the Monastiraki Flea Market. Monastiraki is renowned as one of the major shopping hubs in Athens, and it also features numerous boutiques. However, on Sundays, this area, particularly along Ermou Street, becomes one huge flea market where you can pick up practically anything, from antiques to out-of-print books, vinyls, second-hand clothing, furniture… This rounds off your perfect Sunday morning programme, after having tucked in to a whopping breakfast of cheese or spinach pastry, washed down with a Milko (the Greek Milo chocolate drink) or a huge frappé coffee (although this is the speciality in Thessaloniki).

Texto de Oriol Rodríguez

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Athens is alive with colors

Words: Philippa Dimitriadi / Photos: Eftychia Vlachou

You may have heard a lot of things about Athens. Every travel guide will tell you to visit Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the scenic streets of Plaka, but no travel guide will tell you about Athens’ street art.

Apart from the historic centre, someone may say that Athens is full of cement and gray, dull walls. That is not true. It just takes a little time to dig out the well hidden diamonds of this city. Street art is now an inextricable part of Athens, so if you are going to visit this city, you had better dedicate a sunny morning for a street art walk.

Starting from one of the most interesting parts of Athens, the area of Psiri, you will come across the sad black and white princesses of Sonke in Pallados Street. Right above Heroon Square, you will see the huge and quite impressive mural of Alexandros Vasmoulakis aka Vasmou, that doesn’t stay the same for very long, since every now and then the artist adds something to his work. Continuing up to Piraeus Street, one of the main roads of the city, you will see the breathtaking hands. Is Athens praying to God, or God praying for Athens? Who knows what the students of Athens School of Fine Arts had in mind when making the famous painting of Albrecht Durer “The Praying Hands” backwards.

Down to Technopolis two other marvelous works of art make their appearance. The cool baby of STMTS and the gigantic eye of “iNo”, which watches day and night all people passing by Piraeus Street. Along with this paintings you will also meet two Greek words– at times with huge letters, other times with smaller ones- decorating the buildings of Athens. “Vasanizomai” and “lathos” are the mystery of Athenian street art. No one has ever seen the artist while working on them and some believe that it’s not the same person who does them, even though the style of both murals looks similar.

The list is endless. Hope with his conceptual works, and B with his yellow girls dancing on the walls of Ierofanton Street at Gazi are must-sees. No matter how big or small, these wonderful paintings are out there. Keep your eyes open and don’t forget to look through rusty doors of abandoned plots, or inside outdoor parking lots, cause, Athenian street artists love restricted places.

Words – Philippa Dimitriadi / Photos – Eftychia Vlachou

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.

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Creative Gastronomy in Athens

Ancient ruins where time stands still in the capital of Greece rub shoulders with a signature cuisine that has successfully adapted to the global evolution in gastronomy with creativity and in good taste. Athens currently treasures “coolinary” venues as attractive as its archaeological heritage.

Far from becoming weighed down by traditional cuisine and local products, Athens has managed to craft its own gastronomic discourse beyond both private homes and the street food championed by souvlakia – those at O Kostas are sublime! – and the offerings to be had at the Athens Street Food Festival. Nowadays you can feast handsomely in restaurants with fully-fledged table service off the tourist track, as well as drink a toast to Greece making “suitable progress” at Baba Au Rum, one of the best and prettiest cocktail bars in the world.

Taking pride in a paradoxically rich land, Greek chefs prove to be deeply knowledgeable about Mediterranean cuisine in all its immensity. This forms the base on which they craft the creative gastronomy which endows the city with the culinary diversity it deserves. Be it in the guise of showcooking, with the kitchen in full view of the dining tables, displaying fancy avant-garde techniques with final flourish on the table, or as a subtle, elegant exercise, yet equally compelling on the palate.

The standout signature restaurants of Athens are, however, few and far between. One’s choice of venue depends on each person’s penchant when it comes to haute cuisine – finger food, tasting menus and endless yet memorable servings. In terms of value for money and the requisite balance between dining-room and kitchen, the best of the pack is Aleria. The warm welcome, the nod to Virginia Wolf and an unimpetuous menu bathed in the native blue and white make this restaurant a flavourful concentration of classicism and modernity, as invested in their well executed dishes. With the return of the good weather, lunching or dining in their inner patio is a delightful experience.

A stone’s throw from the Michelin one-starred Aleria is Funky Gourmet, a two-star which explores molecular cuisine to the deepest depths, sparking surprises at table on account of their explosive bites. An alternative halfway between the previous two eateries is Hytra, a panoramic restaurant with a reasonably priced menu, exquisite confectionery and an on-site cocktail bar for guests eager to prolong their meal with an after-dinner drink or those who just come for a tipple.

Lastly, the long-standing Spondi is a classic of eminently trustworthy contemporary cuisine, as attested by the string of distinctions and awards they have earned in the course of time.

Where to Sleep

Located in the emblematic Syntagma square, which most rooms and suites with a terrace look onto, the NJV Athens Plaza, a hotel which is part of the LVX Collection, allows you to escape from the urban hubbub and admire the Acropolis from a distance. This is the ideal accommodation if you want to be in the heart of everything, as it is very near the big shopping precincts and the city’s major attractions. Their bar with a view is one of the most evocative and sought-after common areas.

Book your Vueling to Athens and discover the most creative facet of their cuisine.

Text by Belén Parra of Gastronomistas.com

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Athens in Five Districts

Although the economic crisis has left its mark in the capital, as some buildings along its central streets have become noticeably decadent, Athens is well worth visiting, and enjoyment is to be had in its marked array of contrasts.

If you’re on a weekend getaway, the best thing is to organise your short stay by touring specific districts in the capital. And, the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get around is undoubtedly by metro.

1. Plaka

One of the most authentic districts in Athens, with a rich Byzantine and Ottoman legacy. Indeed, this is the city’s oldest quarter and all the historical architecture is strictly protected.

Its siting at the foot of the Acropolis, its quaint, Bohemian atmosphere, its narrow, cobbled streets and the absence of cars make this one of the favourite districts among sightseers. It is a veritable oasis in the heart of a chaotic city.

Plaka is full of street markets, shops and bars. It is the ideal area for buying traditional products and antiquities, or for tasting local cuisine. However, keep an eye on the prices! This quarter is your springboard for seeing ancient monuments, notably theAcropolis,the Acropolis Museum and the Roman Agora.

2. Monastiraki

Northwest ofPlaka, between theAgoraand theAcropolis, lies one of the city’s major commercial hubs. Monastiraki is also the name of one of the oldest and most centrally located metro stops in Athens. It also features the added value of an unusual display – the archaeological finds that emerged during the construction of the underground.

The city was also the site of a Turkish settlement for over 300 years, so that nowadays you can still see the influence of that culture in such spots as the Tzistarakis Mosque or the Turkish baths.

Landmarks in the historica lMonastiraki Square include such emblematic buildings as the Church of the Pantanassa, the Tower of the Winds and Hadrian’s Library, in addition to the Pazari or flea market with the most diverse wares on display in its open-air stalls.

Adrianou Street is a pleasure to stroll along, as it is lined solid with interesting shops and bars. Highly recommended is Collage, a cafe-restaurant where you can eat great food, listen to live music or sip a fine cocktail on their terrace, soaking up the cool ambience all the while.

3. Gazi

This is the most stimulating, switched-on area of the city. It revolves around Technopolis, its cultural centre, the largest in Greece, housed in a former gasworks. The district started coming to the fore after the 2004 Olympic Games. This is the most chameleon-like district of Athens with a proliferation of endless pop-ups. The cultural and leisure activities hosted here draw the most avant-garde, cosmopolitan movements to this part of town.

Gazi has undergone marked changes. Where prostitutes and illegal immigrants once roamed, we now see haute couture fashion parades, while brothels have given way to cultural centres. The once abandoned 19th-century buildings have been refurbished as innovative restaurants noteworthy for their striking post-industrial decor. Standout examples are Hoxton and Gazi College.

For enthusiasts of vintage decoration and second-hand objects, Gazi is teeming with stores to browse through.

4. Anafiotika

This quarter has an unusual history. In the 19th century, King Otto of Greece commissioned his palace to be refurbished by prestigious architects from the Cyclades Islands. They chose to settle in the Anafiotika quarter but, feeling homesick for their native land, they decided to build their new homes in the traditional Cycladic-island style. The result is that we can now admire the typical blue-and-white houses lining cobbled streets with a pronounced seafaring air. Together with the squares, viewpoints and gardens, the complex has become one of the most picturesque areas in Athens. It stands out as a pretty “island” in the urban sprawl, affording idyllic views of the city and acting as a vantage point for gazing at some unforgettable sunsets.

5. Kolonaki

This is the city’s chic district with its upmarket luxury and designer stores. The neoclassical and Modernist architecture endows the area with a distinguished, stately air which becomes evident as soon as you set foot in it.

Located here are some of the city’s trendiest bars, pubs and discos. Mind The Gap is ideal for having a bite or your first drink of the evening, while Dybbuk is perfect for dancing to good music until daybreak. Athenians love enjoying their social life, both during the day and by night, a fact we became aware of when experiencing the congenial atmosphere in the local venues, which always seem to be packed.

This district is adjacent to the famous Syntagma Square and is distributed around the foot of Lycabettus Hill, an excellent vantage point for taking in 360° views of the city.

Athens is a destination that should take pride of place on your calendar! Make sure you book your Vueling soon!


Text by Tensi Sánchez of ilovebilbao.com

Images by Aurora Loudeiro

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