Welcome to my place . . . Athens
There's much more to the city than just the Acropolis, says Dubliner turned Athenian Ruth Gallagher
Ruth Gallagher (right), visiting the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio with Irish friends Claire Flynn and Lisa Foley
Ruth Gallagher grew up in Rathmines in Dublin and moved to London after finishing a law degree at Trinity College.
“I got offered a training contract with an American law firm in London and qualified into our shipping litigation department in 2015. Shipping is a huge industry in Greece. I moved here three years ago, as shipping lawyer, with the same law firm, to work with our Greek clients.”
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Athens?
The Acropolis – as obvious as it may seem. There is a reason this rocky outcrop has inspired the people who live here for thousands of years. Climbing to the top of the Acropolis and wandering around the Parthenon and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre, with the views of all of Athens and the coast, is very humbling. The Parthenon, which dominates the city, can also be seen from one of the many rooftop bars dotted around downtown Athens.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are ...
The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation Centre: this new cultural centre/complex was gifted to the Greek state in 2017. It houses the Greek National Opera and National Library of Greece in a beautiful complex designed by Italian architect, Renzo Piano.
The complex also contains a canal, running track and herb gardens, where free yoga, pilates and tai chi classes are offered to the public, as well as open-air concerts and movies with views of the Faliro Delta and Piraeus.
Swimming in the Athenian Riviera. The waters past Vouliagmeni (on the southern coast of Athens), all the way to Cape Sounio, could give the Greek islands a run for their money. My favourites are Liminakia (which has an awesome reggae bar and rocks for cliff jumping/diving) and Cape Sounio, with views of the Temple of Poseidon.
A balmy summer evening walk starting at the Acropolis Museum and making your way towards downtown Plaka and Anafiotika, soaking up the smells and sounds of Athenian life.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Athens?
Athens is full of amazing restaurants, it’s impossible to pick just one. Athenians take their meals seriously and they can often turn into a four- or five-hour affair.
Some restaurants to look out for are Seychelles, in Kerameikos, for affordable but divine Greek cuisine with a modern twist. Avli, a little courtyard hidden in a downtown back street in Psirri, with traditional mezedes, raki and kilo wine. [In tavernas wine is ordered by the kilo (about a litre), misokilo (half) or tetarto (250ml].
For Michelin-starred dining, Varoulko Seaside, in Mikrolimano marina in Piraeus is hard to beat.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Athens’s place in history?
The Acropolis Museum, nestled in its foothills, is an award-winning museum which takes visitors on a journey through the beginnings of the Parthenon to the present day.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Athens?
Any local produce, such as Greek cheeses, honey, olive oil and pistachios. Greece’s climate produces some of the best-quality food in the world.
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