Before Sunrise, Athens

Off the Beaten Path, Things to Do — By Paige Moore on August 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Early bird, worm-getters, this article is for you; the ones that lay in your hotel beds, eyes open, just waiting for a decent hour to rise. I’m here to tell you, get up! Athens is a night-town but there are some serious benefits to hitting the pavement before the workers of the sites, shops, and museums have their first cup of coffee. Seeing the sunrise over the Acropolis, motorcycle-free sidewalks, and a different perspective of the things seen in the harsh light of day are just a few of the many.

I, myself, hit the road by 5:45 to see what I might see.

5:45

Photo Op

The two hills having their morning chat: Acropolis and Lycabettus

I get sleepy by 10pm. This means I rarely get to enjoy the masterful lighting of Aeropagitou Street and ancient sites by French lighting designer, Pierre Bideau. In anticipation of the 2004 Olympic Games, his job was to give the illusion of life on the temples after dark. Seems the action continues well into the morning. Typical Athens.

6am

Buy Souvenirs

I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I saw the warm glow of the “Periptero” lights in the dark of Aeropagitou Street. This kiosk, by day, is swarming with tourists clawing after bottled water and snacks after their climb up the Acropolis. Books on history and mythology are stacked on stands below, plastic evzone dolls, “Athens” hats, acropolis fans, evil eyes or “matia” all dangle from above.

6:30 am

Drink a coffee

Everest franchise coffee shop on Athinas and Monastiraki Square

Walking all the way down Aeropagitou, you pass rows and rows of darkened windows and empty cafe chairs. How pleasant to finally find ever-open Everest bustling with activity, fueling the workers of the area with caffeine and cheese pies to start their day.

Take a Train

The Monastiraki Train Station

It would have interrupted the course of research, but had I wanted to jump onto the Kifissia/Piraeus railway, it starts running at 5am. It’s got the gentle click-clack, rock back essential for a nostalgic train ride. Runs over some very unusual ancient sites and goes through villages all the way to Kifissia, or take it south to the beautiful 19th century train station of Piraeus to watch the cruise and ferry boats pulling into port. Anyway, you’re sure to have a seat to yourself.

6:45

Watch someone else do the heavy lifting

Mussels to be unsacked and displayed

A meat market employee cleans the glass of his stall before the day.

Turning right from Monastiraki Square onto Athinas Street, you’ll come upon the Central Market. By 9am it will be overrun by restaurant owners and chefs looking to get the best cuts and freshest catches. Until then, there’s a lot to be done. Hanging pigs and goats by their feet are some of the less savory of the tasks. While you’re there…

Eat a Meal

There are three twenty four hour tavernas in the meat and fish markets. While they especially appeal to the sloshed and sloppy, slumping home from a hard night of socializing, their soups, fresh bread, and egg dishes would make a most unique breakfast and the perfect place to watch the filling of the market. My favorite is the established Papandreou.

If that doesn’t please your palatte, the Bakery of Psirri is not far away.

Myself, I didn’t exactly linger in any one place. But should you do so, have a meal, watch the wildlife…you’ll start to see lights switch on, signs flip over, and you can get on with a more usual day of sight-seeing. To get a few more ideas how to extend your day through the early hours, go to NileGuide Athens and see the Early Bird guide.

Urban Wildlife

Tags: Aeropagitou Street, Athens, Athinas Street, market, Monastiraki Square, morning, Sunrise, Train, walking