Walking along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (pt.1)

Previous posts presenting Athens streets have proven to be quite popular, so here is a short (photo-) essay in three parts, presenting one of the central avenues of Athens. Vassilissis Sofias (Queen Sophia’s) Avenue, is one of the largest and oldest avenues of the capital of Greece and probably the most beautiful one. Travel guides often refer to it as Museum Lane due to the high concentration of museums nearby. There are four museums along it (Theocharakis, Benaki, Byzantine & Christian, War) and another two on adjacent streets half a block away (Cycladic Art and National Gallery). As a mostly wide-paved, tree-lined boulevard, it is much more pleasant to walk than the average Athens street. Here are some of the main spots of interest, starting from Syntagma Square, with the Grande Bretagne Hotel on your back and walking upwards.

The start of Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece - The Greek Parliament to the right, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the left and Hymittos Mountain in the far background. The Grande Bretagne hotel is behind me.

On your right hand side there’s the city’s largest block, with the building of the Greek Parliament (initially built as a Royal Palace in 1843) standing prominent over the city center. Look carefully and you can spot the largest concentration of Stalinists, Maoists and Hitler-lovers in the western world! 

Flower-shops right next to the Parliament building, Athens, Greece; they have been in operation in this same location since around 1930.
The side-entrance of the Greek Parliament, on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.
Tourist bus in front of the National Garden

Right after the Parliament, in the same block, is the National Garden. It’s the most interesting urban park in Athens and you’ll come to appreciate its shade and calmness if you walk around this area in the summer. One of its entrances is on Vassilissis Sofias, right across Sekeri St.. Continuing on the right, at the corner with Rigillis St. you’ll see the Sarogleio Mansion, built in 1932 to house the Greek Armed Forces Officers’ Club. Soon after, you’ll come across the Byzantine & Christian Museum and the War Museum before reaching Evangelismos Metro Station (Metro Line 3). 

The Sarogleio Mansion - Greek Armed Forces' Officers Club

Byzantine & Christian Museum, Athens, Greece
The War Museum, with old military aircraft in the front-yard, Athens, Greece

Going back to the beginning, on the left hand side of the avenue this time, Vasilissis Sofias starts with various buildings of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in various architectural styles, and a large mansion housing the Embassy of Egypt, the first in a long string of foreign embassies all along, or near, Vassilissis Sofias. At the corner with Merlin St. sits the Theocharakis Museum of Visual Arts while two roads later you have the main building of the Benaki Museum (at the intersection with Koumbari St.) and the Cycladic Art Museum at 4 Neofytou Douka St. These are all part of the -still partly upscale- Kolonaki neighborhood.
The Embassy of Egypt is the first one in a long series of embassies along and near the avenue

One of the entrances of the Cycladic Art Museum

You'll also see various old mansions or upper-class apartment buildings which are for the most part well maintained. Most of them are occupied by foreign embassies, law offices, doctor’s offices, maritime companies and the like.

A sculpture adorning a front-yard, at the posh Kolonaki area, along Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece

The only eye-shore in this otherwise pleasant route is the building housing, among others, the Embassy of the fellow-bankrupt Republic of Argentina, right after Evangelismos Metro Station.

The building housing the Embassy of Argentina (and some other offices)
Athens Metro sign, marking Evangelismos Metro Station, Athens, Greece - less than half-way along Vasilissis Sofias Ave.
But, let's make a pause at Evangelismos Metro Station and come back in December for "part 2" of my photographic walk along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.

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A difficult, if necessary decision: deleting a restaurant from my food guide

Even if I keep updating the "cultural events" page, my first major move after two-and-a-half months of blogging abstinence is to delete a post of a restaurant presentation. One of the advantages of having an online travel guide vs. a printed one, is the ability to make changes instantly and at zero nominal cost. 

However, the psychological cost of deleting something that you have worked for and enjoyed is a different question. So, it took me a while to make up my mind about this one. One of the Athens areas I know quite well food-wise is the neighborhood of Ambelokipi. I have listed various restaurants around here, even though the area doesn't have any real interest for visitors who try to squeeze as much as possible into their tight schedule. The Metro provides easy access though, and there are a few hotels around, so the possibility of dining here isn't that far-fetched, especially if you want to get the feeling of a 'real' Athens neighborhood.

Three and a half years ago, when I wrote that post, this place served authentic Greek food that was homely and tasty, but recently it underwent some design changes for the worse and the food has also taken a downturn. I will be mostly sorry for deleting the comment of a Greek-American reader who had told me how much he used to like to dine there and had been looking forward to revisiting. 

But so be it! The writer in me is sorry, but the blogger has no other choice.

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Cheap flights from the USA to Athens

News site Quartz, recently teamed up with flight search engine Hopper, to present a tool that helps you find cheap flights from some major US airports to select destinations (US and international), with Athens being one of them.

The results aren't really that surprising - if you want a cheap summer flights to Athens you're out of luck - but the tool does help you to come up with some ideas and focus your search a bit if you're not really set on certain dates. 

For five US airports (Baltimore, Boston, LA, Miami and NY LaGuardia) the cheapest Athens flights can be found in the fall. For another ten (Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas, Houston Bush, NY JFK, Newark, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington Reagan, Washington Dulles) the cheapest flights are during the winter. So, if you're a New Yorker start your search by LaGuardia in the fall and JFK or Newark in the winter, not that the one is necessarily cheaper than the other (different airlines use different hubs). So, maybe this is just a publicity trick and I took the bait! But it's a good reason to start you thinking about a non-summer vacation to Greece, especially if you're less tolerant to heat and you live in a place that enjoys a reasonable amount of sunshine in itself.

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