One of the largest municipalities in Greece, Kallithea is in the south of Athens bordering the Saronic Gulf and Athens’ historic centre.
In 2016 Kallithea got a shot in the arm when the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre was unveiled close to the Faliro Bay in the south of the suburb.
This ultramodern facility was designed by Renzo Piano and is made up of a landscaped park around stirring new venues for the Greek National Opera and National Library.
By the water, Kallithea’s waterfront was revitalised at the advent of the 2004 Olympics and has a waterfront plaza, while down in Faliron are cafes and restaurants next to the dazzling superyachts at the Flisvos Marina.
All the while, the timeless Acropolis and the other monuments of ancient Athens are moments on the 550 bus, by tram or taxi.
The Best things To Do in Kallithea:
To the north, Kallithea borders the centre of Athens, putting the marvels of this ancient city in your grasp.
And if there’s one place you have to begin your journey back to ancient Athens it’s the Acropolis.
This rocky citadel, commanded by ancient temples needs no introduction and is up there with the world’s most identifiable landmarks.
At the top is the Parthenon, a lasting symbol for Athenian democracy and western civilisation.
The sculptures that adorned this monument are held as the apogee of Ancient Greek art, and many are waiting for you at the Acropolis Museum.
But the Parthenon is one of many things to see up here, like the Propylaea monumental gateway, the Erechtheion, feted for its caryatids, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
2.Stavros Niarchos Park
It’s no secret that Athens has a shortage of public green spaces, which is partly why this new cultural complex for the National Opera and National Library of Greece has been welcomed with open arms.
On a gentle gradient are fountains, a “Great Lawn” for public performances, play areas, a 400-metre seawater canal, a circular labyrinth and paths along little geometric planted with endemic species.
It’s a scented wonderland with lavender, boxwood, thyme, olive trees, roses boxwood, cistus, rosemary and many more herbs and trees.
The garden climbs 32 metres, leading seamlessly to the green roof of the cultural centre, where there’s a panoramic view of Athens, the Acropolis and the Faliro Bay and down over the plaza between library and opera house.
Also at the summit is the “Lighthouse”, a 900-square metre terrace clad with photovoltaic cells that power the complex.
A superlative partner to the Acropolis, this museum designed by Bernard Tschumi opened in 2009 below the southeastern slope of the citadel.
The museum is built over the ruins of Roman and Byzantine Athens, and in there are hollows and glass floors on ground level revealing the streets below.
The museum has been designed to be repository for every artefact found on the Acropolis, and has the original sculptures from the hills temples, like the caryatids of the Erechtheion and the friezes on the Parthenon.
The museum leads you on a chronological trip beginning with discoveries from the Archaic period, through the sculpture of the Erechtheion, the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike.
But the pinnacle in all senses is the Parthenon, which has the same layout as the temple, and together with the frieze and Things, has space for the Elgin marbles should they ever be returned to Athens.
4.Summer Nostos Festival
For eight days at the end of June the Stavros Niarchos Foundation puts on an a free multi-disciplinary festival at the complex.
There are guided tours, movie screenings, lots of things for kids get up to and all kinds of performances, workshops, lectures and exhibitions.
In 2017 more than 130 international and 160 Greek artists took part in the event, which involved installations, ballet performances, live music, dj sets and also three races, including a six-kilometre run from the Panathenaic Stadium to the SNFCC. Renzo Piano came to discuss his philosophy and work with the critic Michael Kimmelman, there was a recital by the violinist Leonidas Kavakos and a live show by the American alternative rock group Yo La Tengo.
Garry Kasparov also came to play simultaneous chess matches against young hopefuls.
Nerou (Water Plaza)
One of the best places to hang out by the water and watch the sun set, the waterfront on the Faliro Bay was revived for the Athens Olympics after a few decades of disuse since the 1970s.
The beach volleyball events took place here, and there are two indoor arenas: The Sports Pavilion, which hosted the taekwondo and handball events, and the Peace and Friendship Stadium, renovated for the Olympics and staging the volleyball.
On the east side, by the Sports Pavilion is the Water Plaza, a paved public space where you can pause by the sea and watch the crowd of yacht masts in the marina and at the sailing club next door.
The Water Plaza is also the location for the Heavy by the Sea and Ejekt music festivals in summer.
6. Benaki Toy Museum
Seconds on the tram from Stavros Niarchos Park is a branch of the Benaki Museum that opened at the castle-like Kouloura Mansion in 2017. The basis for the exhibition is the toy collection of Maria Argyriadis, which she built from the early 1970s to 1991 when she donated it all to the Benaki Museum.
In amongst the 20,000 toys are some special exhibits, like a doll designed by the movie set designer Dionysis Fotopoulos and a wooden horse given by Eleftherios Venizelos, leader of the Greek national liberation movement, to his grandson.
There are toys here going back to antiquity and from as far afield as Africa, Asia, the Americas and all corners of Europe.
7.Greek Cruiser Georgios Averof
Moored beside the marina is the former flagship of the Greek navy, which had a very eventful career and is affectionately called “Uncle George”. The Georgios Averof is a Pisa-class armoured cruiser launched in 1907, built in Livorno for the Italian Navy but acquired by Greece in 1909. This vessel was Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis’ flagship in the First Balkan War, and served in the First World War, Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 and then took part in the evacuation to Egypt after the German Invasion of Greece in 1941. Since 1984 the ship has been a museum, and you can scurry around the engine room, mess, officers’ quarters and out onto the deck.
A useful piece of trivia: The Flag of Greece flying on the Georgios Averof is the second largest in the country behind the one on the Acropolis.
On the Philopappos Hill, traditionally known as Hill of the Muses, a monument endures for Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a Prince of the Kingdom of Commagene.
Alive in the 1st and 2nd centuries he was one of the preeminent Greeks in the Roman Empire.
His death in 116 AD sent shockwaves through the Imperial family and the citizens of Athens, and his wife Julia Balbilla commissioned a tomb monument for him on this hill southwest of the Acropolis.
On the upper level the monument has statues of Antiochus IV, King of Commagene on the left and Philopappos in the centre.
Below them is a frieze showing Philopappos as a consul in a chariot, preceded by lictors (bodyguards).
9.Theatre of Dionysus
Under the dominant southern ramparts of the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus is a performing arts venue of incalculable importance.
The world’s oldest theatre, performances took place at this location as long ago as the 6th century BC. The Theatre of Dionysus is the very place where the Greek tragedy was born, and the great playwrights of the era like Sophocles, Aeschylus, Menander, Aristophanes and Euripides would enter plays into the Festival of Dionysia, which took place at this very venue.
Look for the marble thrones at the lowest tier, which were reserved for dignitaries and were inscribed with the names of the people who sat in them.
On the western shore of the Faliro Bay are the ovular natural harbours of the city of Piraeus, where Athens’ navy was stationed in ancient times.
Now Piraeus is the eastern Mediterranean’s top container port, and the second largest passenger port in the world, with ships, hydrofoils and catamarans departing for islands all over the Aegean.
The city also has an Archaeological Museum to rival those in Athens, featuring the dazzling bronze statues, the Piraeus Apollo, Piraeus Athena and Piraeus Artemis, recovered a little way off the coast in 1959. If you’re flush for cash, get a table at Mikrolimano, one of the ancient harbours, and look up at the amphitheatre of houses on the slope.
Or battle up to Kastella, the most endearing neighbourhood in the city and with uplifting panoramas from its hilltop