Orthodox Easter is just around the corner, and the city of Athens is getting ready to welcome the Holy week as the households start to prepare the local seasonal delicacies, and the local churches are being spruced-up in anticipation of all the religious festivities to come.
Athens is a beautiful destination for Easter as it combines mild and pleasant weather with a rich tradition and culture, therefore ticking the ‘setting’ box on your checklist, but also it doesn't fail to please on the spiritual front either.
The city and its suburbs are brimming with intricate orthodox churches that ‘come to life’ during the period of Easter; their bell towers chime, their stalls gradually become filled with people of the faith who come to hear the sermons, while the interiors glimmer with the light of thousands of candles, each presenting a wish or hope or prayer.
‘Key’ spots in the Centre:
Walking down the centre of Athens you will undoubtedly run into a church whether you have pursued it or not; there are that many! However, here are some mentions of a few that are considered landmarks around the centre, and that are worth checking out, while you are on the move, exploring the city:
Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (in Monastiraki) currently under exterior renovations is the resting place of two saints that were killed under the Ottoman Empire. Right next to it you will find the small church of Panayia (Theotokos) Gorgoepikoos dating back to the 12th century and considered a Byzantine relic; there is evidence to support that the current structure was built on the remnants of an ancient temple.
If you are strolling down Ermou str. for some high-street shopping, at the end of it you will find the quaint and charming small church of Panayia Kapnikarea, that provides a pleasant stop for passers by who can sit on its perimeter and rest their feet for a few moments before hitting the shops again.
Caption: Panayia Kapnikarea church
Agia Irini (in Syntagma, parallel to Ermou str.) which is located on the homonymous Agia Irini square, a location that is a ‘must’ for Athenians as it is surrounded by all-day cafes, restaurants and bars.
Tip: Be sure to check this location out during the evening as well for a night-life feel!
The city centre’s hidden gem is definitely the elusive Panayia Hrysospiliotissa church which is found at the base of the Acropolis, in a small cave, behind the Theatre of Dionysus. Not many people know the existence of this secluded church, but it is a real treasure once you find it!
Hint: you can reach it by following a rocky walk path.
Caption: the Theatre of Dionysus, Acropolis.
‘Key’ spots in the Suburbs:
Apart from the churches of the city centre, a venture out into the southern suburbs close by (Lagonisi-Saronida-Anavyssos-Sounio) is worth the drive as the suburb landscape allows for public buildings, such as churches, to be built on spectacular locations:
Agia Marina church is an imposing whitewashed coastal church in the area of Lagonisi, that is only a tens of meters from the sea.
Saronida boasts a phenomenal location for its main church, found at the top of the area’s hill, the church Ieros Naos Kimisseos Theotokou, is graced with immaculate panoramic views of the Saronic gulf below.
Caption: the panoramic views of Saronida
Agios Nikolaos in Anavyssos is also worth mentioning as it is a small chapel overlooking the glistening blue beach of Agios Nikolaos. This is a popular choice for vintage or rustic style weddings & baptisms due to its weathered exterior and rural design that adds to its simplistic beauty.
Caption: View of the cape
Finally, reaching the southernmost tip of the Athenian Riviera, Sounio there is the coastal church of Agios Petros, which is located beneath the historical ancient temple of Poseidon. This is perhaps one of the most majestic locations in the greater region of Attiki, combining natural beauty, with historical, archaeological and mythological significance.
Caption: Temple of Poseidon
From Sounion’s cliff you will be able to experience endless views into the deep blue Aegean sea; take a deep breathe and feel the aura of the inspiring ancient place.
Tip: While exploring the suburbs, be sure to taste some local fresh fish as, along the coast, there are various tavernas that serve their ‘catch of the day’.