Athens in the snow is quite a sight to behold. I’m not one to use phrases like, ‘once in a lifetime’ but witnessing the city under a blanket of snow might be exactly that, for me at least. As I took a taxi out to the airport on Tuesday, my driver, a life long Athens resident, explained that the last snow to blanket the city was in 2004. In the year that they hosted the Summer Olympics, that storm had brought 50cm of snow to the Capital.
Having spent the weekend there, I’d noticed that the air was freezing. Athens is one of those cities that you always expect to be hot, so when sub-zero temperatures take hold everything feels that much more intense. Snow began falling on Monday evening and the city quickly emptied. It felt like everyone went into hiding. I was fascinated by the spectacle, not at least because it happened to be my first snow of the season (up until January the Northern Alps have experienced almost no natural snowfall). Athens in the snow? Are you kidding? I wandered around the grounds of the Acropolis, slipping every few metres on the marble that remains for the most part of the year untouched by precipitation. I captured a few shots on my phone, grabbed some food whilst people watching and then headed back home.
Waking up the next morning I was curios to see whether there was any sign of the snow lingering around. I did a social media search, which I often find the most useful for up-to-the-minute searches (#athens, #snow, Athens in the snow, etc) and saw that a couple of people had shared images of the early morning snow. What i’ve started to notice in my time in the city is the relatively small scale of it. In the summer it is extremely hot, so it is not that realistic to cover on foot, but in the winter it’s great. With hardly anyone on the road, I was able to fit my Sony a7II and 70-200 lens into a small backpack and run to the three main hills – Filopappou, Areopagus and Lycabettus – in order to capture Athens in the snow.
This is probably my favourite hill for views of Athens. There are a variety of paths that are great for running, with the short climb awarding you with one of the best vantage points. Unlike Lycabettus, where you are looking down on the city, Filopappou puts you up close with the Acropolis and offers you an incredible place to see the sunset looking out to sea (like this one here). Every time I’ve ventured up here i’m always amazed by the sights of the city and happy with the lack of people that seem to make the trip up there.
Peaceful is not a word i’d associate with Areopagus Hill. Photographed here from Filopappou Hill (it’s the little mound dead centre), it has a metal staircase and hundreds of people to boot. It’s surprising really as the view of the Acropolis is certainly sub par, as far as Athens views are concerned. The thing I do love about this vantage point though, is the connection with the city. When you’re stood up there it certainly feels like you’re in the heart of Athens.
Athens can be so pretty from up on Lycabettus Hill (like here). The highest point of the city gives you a view from the Gods. The hill can be seen perfectly from Areopagus (above image) and involves a good climb to get up there. I personally like the view from the road about halfway up. I photographed a recent sunset from there (you can see here) and it’s really spectacular. It’s about 2km from the other two hills, and I noticed the speed of the melting snow on Tuesday morning. Yes, Athens had a cold snap but the sunlight was determined to melt it all away. Moving quickly and working with a 200m lens, allowed me to look down on some of the cities highlights, like the Panathenaic Stadium (there’s an amazing running track around the top of the structure. It hurts though as that straight goes on forever).
Interested in seeing a bit more of Athens on foot?
Lets face it, you’re probably not going to be so lucky to witness Athens in the snow. The majority of tourists come closer to the spring and summer, where this route could easily be done in the morning or evening. The downtown section from Areopagus to the foot of Lycabettus can feel like a bit of a slog with all the traffic, but you’re soon up above the chaos. I didn’t expect this blog to morph into a tale of running but it really was the best way to see all of Athens blanketed in the snow.
Athens in the snow – my route
Here’s a look at my running route. It’s also available on Strava.