Day trip (from Athens) to Vravrona (updated: 2014-12-10)

If you're looking for ideas for day-trips from Athens, and you are not eager to get on a boat, this  is worth you consideration. Vravrona is nowadays a small settlement of country houses, in the east coast of Attika (east of Athens),  where some Athenians spend their summers, close to the city. You may also see it referred as "Brauron" by scholars of ancient Greek. The place stands out from all other settlements in east Attica due to the presence of a significant, two and a half thousand years old ancient Greek sanctuary, dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and a small but interesting archaeological museum with findings from this area. You may combine your visit here with swimming at the sea (or a  nearby hotel's pool) and a lunch or dinner in a seaside taverna. Depending on how you get here you may need to do some walking (see detailed directions on how to go to Vravrona at the bottom of this post).

Vravrona Archaeological Site - View from the fence
The site is nestled between a rocky hill, a small stream which in ancient times created a verdant wood –suitable for the goddess of hunting– and the seaside where the stream ends up. Archaeologists believe the cult of Artemis and this particular temple to have been really important in ancient times. A sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia (Artemis of Vravrona) had been erected on the Athens Acropolis and every 5 years a large procession from Athens to Vravrona took place in honor of the goddess The archaeological site had been closed to the public for conservation work for a number of years but it is now (12/2014) back open (Winter Hours: Tue-Sun: 08:00am-2:45pm, Tel: +30-22990-27020). In the pictures below you may catch a glimpse of the overall site and the arcade (stoa), which is the most significant remainining edifice, the way they looked from the surrounding fence when I visited in 2012. The museum does a good job presenting the site, the excavations and various findings and it'll take you 40-60 mins to tour (Tue-Sun: 09:00-16:00 from June 8 till Oct.31; call for winter hours as they may change. Ticket price: 3€, 2€ reduced for EU seniors, free for all under 18, Tel: +30-22990-27020).
Artemis herself (Diana was her Roman equivalent) was not only the goddess of hunting but also of nature, children and especially girls, and nursing and you can see signs of all this from the findings displayed in the museum. As for the stream, it is still present but the area is now a "wetland", not a "hunting ground" :) Follow the path that starts beyond the entrance of the museum to reach the site's rear side and the stream / wetland.
Vravrona Archaeological Museum entrance
Bronze cauldron - Vravrona Archaeological Museum
Duck-shaped vessel - Vravrona Archaeological Museum

Statue of Goddess Artemis - Vravrona Archaeological Museum

Votive relief picturing goddess Artemis - Vravrona Archeological Museum

Ancient Greek babies statues! (Artemis was the protectress of children) - Vravrona Archeological Museum

Feeding bottles for ancient Greek babies - Vravrona Archeological Museum 

Vravrona Archaeological Site - under works...

The Stoa (arcade) of the temple at Vravrona Archaeological Site - View from the rear fence / access from the path behind the museum

Now that you're done with the educational part of your day trip it's time to hit the beach! There are 2 options nearby: Either continue south (from the road that took you to the museum) to what I call "Beach No.2" in the map below (also referred to as Chamolia) or go back north, to the beach in front of the "Mare Nostrum Hotel" ("Beach No.1"). Both offer shallow and usually calm  and clean waters that will allow you to relax and enjoy your time here. The above said hotel also has a pool that can be accessed by non-guests for a small fee.
Vravrona Bay - View from the road near Mare Nostrum Hotel
Finally, there are various options for lunch or dinner in the area but the best value seems to be offered by a small seaside restaurant called "Artemis", which you'll find if you deviate from the main road, just before you get to the Mare Nostrum Hotel, to the right (towards the sea). They have a reputation, which we were happy to confirm, for some very tender, well-fried calamari rings (probably as good as you can get in a fish-tavern). We also got an excellent, succulent boiled octopus appetizer and a, rather boring, Greek salad. Together with 2 portions of squid rings and a bottle of beer, a dinner for two here cost us 36.5€. A fresh, fried cod fish cost us 23 Euros on a separate occasion (in 2014).

Tip: Make sure you carry a mosquito repellent with you if you stay in the area for dinner

View Vravrona (Brauron) day trip map in a larger map

Getting to Vravrona from Athens

Vravrona is around 40kms away from Athens. There are various options for getting here and I present them all below but you should plan for more than an hour (or even two!) of travel if you don't use a car. So, the best option (45minutes travel) is to either hire a car or get a taxi if you can split the cost.

Public transit: Starting from Nomismatokopeio Metro Station (Line 3) you may catch urban Bus 304. Terminal stop is in front of Mare Nostrum Hotel. Buses leave from 5:35 and approximately every half an hour till 21:15. Return buses from Vravrona to Halandri (Nomismatokopeio Metro Station) from 05:00 till 22:15.

Bus 316 (same starting and terminal stop) has very few routes but the last one is at 23:15. You will need to walk to the archaeological site (almost 2kms if you choose this option). The urban bus is the cheapest option but you should plan for 1.5hour of travel overall.

-A slightly faster option, but considerably more expensive (around 20€)  would be to get to the airport with one of the (more expensive) Express Buses (X93, X95) from Athens to the airport, or go to the airport via Metro Line 3 and catch a taxi to Vravrona from there.

-Similarly, KTEL (intercity) buses with their starting point at Mavromataion St. & Alexandras Avenue (Plateia Egyptou) in Athens (see here) leave every 30min or so for Markopoulo (2012 ticket price: 2.70€). From there, you can get a taxi-cab to the archaeological museum (11km / 15min. away). You will need to walk from the museum to the beach, about 2kms, if you choose this option.

By car: Follow Attiki Odos (Athens' Ring Road) all the way to Markopoulo. About 2kms after the end of Attiki Odos (see map above from this point on), you will see a sign pointing left and a traffic light where you turn left to Markopoulo. If you miss this there’s another one after 300 m (300yards) where you may also turn left. You will stay on the road that has most of the traffic, following signs to Mare Nostrum Hotel and then (left turn) on the road to Porto Rafti. 2kms on the road to Porto Rafti and after having passed some big box shops to your right (the last one being “Caldera” swimsuit factory to your right), the road has a median lane with a sign for a left turn. Stop and carefully turn left here, following the road (Leoforos Vravronos) to Vravrona. After 6kms, and having passed several road-side carts selling fruit and vegetables, the road splits. The left branch will get you in front of Mare Nostrum Hotel after 1.7km. The right one gets you to the archaeological museum and site (1km) and then to the 2nd beach of Vravrona (2kms more).

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To Kafeneio: Another Plaka restaurant presentation

To Kafeneio

Address-Area: 1 Epiharmou St. [Plaka neighbourhood], Athens
Tel: 210-32.46.916
Last Visit: 2012-03-24
Cuisine: Greek, traditional with a twist
Overall opinion: Positive / neutral
Methods of payment: cash / credit; Visa, AmEx, Mastercard, Diners
Working hours: Open from 09:30 for coffee. Restaurant hours: 11:30am - 01:00am (call for reservation, esp. for Friday night or Saturday)
Website: www.tokafeneio.gr
Accessibility: Only the outdoor tables on the pedestrian street (it has a slight downward slope); WC only accessible by walking downstairs

Indicative order:
Eggplant rolls (bourekia melitzanas)
Grilled feta cheese (saganaki) sprinkled with honey
Mushrooms (manitaria tou oneirou)
Kavourmas (meat dish w/ tomato sauce)
Meatballs with red curry sauce (Keftedakia tou Nikou)
Chocolate Fruit Passion w/ strawberry 
Kormos sokolatas (chocolate with biscuit "mosaic")
1/2 litre of aged Agiorgitiko wine
Bread for 2
Price: 40.10Euros (around 20€/person, incl. dessert)

Presentation / Ambience: Housed in an old coffee-shop (hence the name “kafeneio”) built of stone and wood, with tables laid out at levels, in one small hall, indoors. Old wooden furniture and decorations create a folkloric atmosphere. Some extra lighting inside would have been welcome. There are about 6 tables outdoors, in the calm, sloping, pedestrian street. They don’t have much of a view, except for a peek-through at the Scholarhio tavern across the corner on the busy, pedestrian, Tripodon St.  
Overall it is an interesting case of a restaurant, not only for the architecture of the building and for serving as a coffee place in the mornings but also for its efforts in the food and wine department.
Beautiful table-top tile decoration, Kafeneio restaurant - Athens

Food / Drinks: Overall food quality is very good here and the chef does not seem to be afraid to stray a little from the standard Greek fare, although the restaurant is located in the heart of the country’s tourist zone. We love the Indian-influenced, red curry-sauce meatballs and the armyrikia greens which are really hard to find. We also liked the kavourmas dish which is a traditional combination of “cheap” cuts from (mainly) beef and lamb, made extra tasty by cooking in a red tomato sauce, sprinkled with grated feta cheese, parsley and spices. The chocolate fruit passion dessert was excellent (and I don’t even like strawberry!) but the “kormos sokolatas” and a cappuccino coffee (we’ve had it on a separate occasion) are the only unremarkable items we’ve come across here, in the otherwise excellent diners we’ve had.
The owners make an effort to incorporate organic ingredients in their kitchen.
Wine-wise, this is one of the few tavern-restaurants that seem to actually care about wine, offering several options of wine in the carafe, with the name of each chateau / variety displayed in the menu, instead of the generic “house wine” label found elsewhere. They also age some barrels of wine in their own cellar and there’s a small number of interesting, Greek wine bottles.
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to hold the same high regard for beer.

Service: We haven't encountered any problems here nor have we noticed anything we didn't like.

Location / Getting there: In the middle of the Plaka neighborhood, across the street from the perennial “Scholarchio” which I have also presented in the past. Syntagma, Monastiraki and Acropolis Metro stations are at about equal distance. You pick a map and you walk, trying to find the corner of Tripodon St. and Epicharmou St.. To Kafeneio is the only establishment at the small, pedestrian Epiharmou St.

To Kafeneio business card
The comparison with the nearby Scholarchio tavern is inevitable, so there you have it in brief: To Kafeneio is a bit more expensive (but not too much), and its food is generally more imaginative while it has a good wine selection. Ambience-wise, it is more quiet and the service seems to be more up to today’s standards. On the other hand, Scholarchio has a slightly better view, and looks busier (it has more tables). The food is more “traditional”, typical Greek; it's OK but not to get wild about. Its small menus give you the chance to sample various Greek dishes for a low price.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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Greek Salad Alert!

We interrupt this staycation / vacation to bring you a special food bulletin! As I've told you before, I never write a restaurant presentation if I haven't visited a place at least twice. However, some small exceptions may be in line, and this is one of them. I know that the so-called "Greek salad" -we call it horiatiki (village salad)- is at the top of many people's gastronomic checklist when visiting Greece. However, as it's something of a summer staple many restaurant owners don't pay much attention to it and finding a Greek salad that goes above average is a real challenge. 

Well, to make a long story short, last night we just had the best Greek salad we've ever had in Athens and one of the top three ever. The people responsible for this can be found at Melilotos restaurant, in the heart of Athens, not far from the Monastiraki area. The salad we had is a rather bold variation of the typical Greek salad but it stays clearly within the range of what one might expect of it. Its ingredients were tomatos, cucumbers, small black olives (but not Kalamata olives), a very discreet amount of spring onions, a sweetened balsamic vinegar from the area of Zitsa / Ioannina (mostly known for its white sparkling wine), some crunchy lasagna leaves(!) from the island of Chios, xinomyzithra cheese (instead of the typical feta) and (another surprise) fresh spearmint leaves that blend surprisingly well and add an extra flavor to the mix!

Melilotos is located at 19 Kalamiotou St., Athens. It's very close to Kapnikarea church at Ermou St. and not far from Monastiraki (and Syntagma) Metro Stations. I'll make a fuller presentation in the future (after a second visit) but for the moment I think I've given you enough of a motive to visit it.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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