Thousands of years ago, in pursuing “the good life”, the Ancient Greeks were ahead of their time with their holistic thinking – viewing the world from an integrated point of view, not just looking at the parts or events of our lives as being separate. They thought that nothing and no one was unrelated, that everything was connected.
Today’s numerous health organisations and institutions are encouraging us to revisit this concept and adopt its basic principles for better quality of life. We all know that being physically active and healthy eating are good for our bodies. But health experts and scientists today argue that our physical and mental health are closely linked – so physical activity and a balanced diet can be very beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing too. Let us share the Greek path to this direction with you.
A recent survey has shown that Greece is among the top 20 countries in the field of nutrition as the contemporary Greek cuisine combines many flavors and benefits health. But what were the nutritional habits in ancient Greece? Ancient Greek nutrition appears to have been fairly well-rounded, closely matching modern nutritional recommendations. The wide variety of natural food products available would have allowed for a versatile diet. A desirable balance among grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy was likely easily attainable for the average citizen in ancient Greece. Grain products provided a base for the average Greek citizen’s nutrition. Fruits, vegetables and legumes made up the next largest food group. Sweet fruits like pomegranates, figs, grapes and raisins served as excellent snacks and side dishes. Honey was used as a sweetener, as at the time, sugar was still unknown in Greece. With more than 180 nutrients, it is a food of high nutritional value, so it is no wonder that Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended honey to all his patients.
On the contrary, Ancient Greeks avoided drinking milk as it was considered barbaric, but of course, it was used in the production of cheese. Afterwards, milk was popularly believed that it’s rich in calcium and essential for strong bones and healthy teeth. However, in the last few years, several studies have highlighted again the negative side to dairy. Also, meat was very expensive and a sign of wealth, so the main source of protein was the fish. This is all very interesting considering the latest debates regarding the nutritional benefits of animal meat and products.
Possibly no other civilization has held fitness in such high regard as ancient Greece. The idealism of physical perfection was one that embodied ancient Greek civilization. Appreciation for the beauty of the human body and the importance they placed on health and fitness throughout society is one that is unparalleled in history. The Greeks believed the development of the body was equally as important as that of the mind. Physical well-being was necessary for mental well-being, with the need for a strong, healthy body to harbor a sound mind. This idealistic fitness situation existed most strongly within Athens, which has been characterized as a democratic society most similar to the United States.
Most impressive is that training was a total discipline, combining elements of biology, physiology, ergometry and sports medicine, and was fully integrated with philosophy and politics. Many founding medical practitioners facilitated the growth of fitness throughout ancient Greece, including the likes of Herodicus and Hippocrates. Athletic training, what we now know as “sports science,” was considered equal in status to medicine. A structured training regime in ancient Greece included three stages: warm-up, training and cool-down – much in line with current advice from the American Heart Association.
Different forms of exercise were expected to yield different results on the athlete’s body. Running slimmed the body and inflated the muscles, due to its emphasis on breathing. Wrestling increased body heat, as well as the density and mass of muscles. The pankration was thought to dry out the flesh because it was more intense and shorter in duration. Lifting exercises and running were believed to cleanse the body from toxins through sweating.
A post-workout massage followed, at the hands of a professional who used a variety of techniques described in some detail by Galen. Medical writers also praised the benefits of various types of baths − not only for cleaning but also for soothing tired muscles and inducing euphoria in the athlete: a kind of rejuvenating spa. For us today, a myriad of landscapes and ecosystems create infinite options for activities on land or at sea. Surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving, mountain biking and trekking along paths of exceptional beauty provide unique rejuvenating powers. More indulging experiences for the body, such as hammam, sauna, massage and similar relaxation treatments are also available today at high-quality level spas and beauty corners all over Athens and its surroundings.
Mind and body, viewed as two sides of the same coin, should be treated with care and respect as it is our purest instrument. This idea was again strongly advocated by Pythagoras, who influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. He believed that people needed to take some time each morning to center themselves before engaging with other people: “It was essential to not meet anyone until their own soul was in order and they were composed in their intellect”.
According to Pythagoras and his holistic outlook on life and human existence, the entire universe was vibrational and that we could be “tuned” to be in sync with that larger rhythm. For that reason, his disciples would listen to the music/vibration of the lyre as a means to re-tune themselves. All this echoes the modern-day rebirth of awareness, or mindfulness, which allows for making better choices leading to a mindful and healthier way of living. In the final analysis, the greatest challenge in our life is to discover and embrace our core essence. The Greeks taught us that if we take care in nurturing our authentic selves through natural approaches, we will realize our highest potential. Their insights into the integration of body, mind, and spirit are still relevant and present.
Get inspired and learn how to treat yourself and your body with our Wellness Weekend in Athens.
Beyond the Acropolis: interesting detours in and outside the city center.
Goulandris Museum of Natural History
Address: 13 Levidou street, 145 62 Kifissia Tel.: +30 210 8015870
Tuesday to Friday 09:00 – 14:30
Tel.: +30 210 8015870
Saturdays and Sundays 10:00 – 15:00
Public Holidays CLOSED
Entrance fee for Goulandris Museum of Natural History 6 €
Reduced entrance fee 4 €
The Museum’s complex includes two interconnected buildings: the Goulandris Natural History Museum which is home to zoological, botanical, marine, rock, mineral and fossil specimens, with new samples constantly enriching the museum’s collections, and the Gaia Centre for Environmental Research & Education, which provides the unique opportunity to the visitor to get acquainted with Earth, the diversity of its landscapes, flora and fauna, via new interactive technologies, and understand the impact of human activity on the environment.
Both are significant cultural centers devoted to the study, preservation and protection of the natural environment through research, education and exhibitions.
Moreover, the Gaia Centre includes two state-of-the-art laboratories of Soil Ecology, Biotechnology and Bioanalytical Chemistry which deal with the research of vital natural resources: soil, water and air, and their impact on human health and nutrition.
OPENING HOURS From sunrise to sunset and the entrance is free.
Situated between the municipality of Kifisia and Marousi, the 950-acre park used to be the garden of Syggrou’s family villa, currently belonging to the Institute of Agricultural Studies.
The estate features various facilities and activities, such as a gardening school, poultry farming, beekeeping, sericulture and stock farming.
The park’s flora is dominated by pines, but you will also find firs, almond trees, cypresses, vineyards and other plants. It is particularly safe for families with young children and there are numerous footpaths suitable for rollerblading, running and biking. The park also includes football, basketball and volleyball courts.
Amidst the trees you will find the only orthodox Gothic style temple in Greece, St. Andrew’s chapel, located next to Ernst Ziller’s mansion.
Tatoi Ex-Royal Mansion and Estate
Address: Forest Service of Parnitha
142 Thrakomakedonon Ave. 13601 Acharnes 13601. Tel.: 0030 210 2434061-3
Tatoi Estate offers an unexpectedly refreshing escape into the wild as it is only a 10-minute drive from Kifissia. It’s a great open space to bike and stroll around exploring the estate, which is beautiful in a wild, natural way. The most important historical monument of Parnitha National Park area, is the palace of the former royal family at Tatoi. This palace has been the main residence of the former royal family of Greece. In 1973 a new referendum caused the compulsory expropriation of the entire estate and in 1975, when regality was permanently abolished, this estate was left to be regulated. In 1994 a regulation made the whole estate become public.
After this regulation, the former owners have turned to the law and the case was closed in 2002 after a decision of the European Court of Human Rights, saying that the former kings should receive 4,000,000,000 drachmas and thus making Tatoi Public Property permanently. The palace complex includes numerous outbuildings, such as personnel quarters, outposts, storehouses, apiaries, stock farms etc., which are now derelict. Nevertheless, they can still be preserved and become excellent places for historical museums, environmental education centers, natural history museum, recreation grounds, etc.
Southern suburbs & Piraeus
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC)
Night view of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre
Address: Syggrou Avenue 364, 17674 Kallithea
OPENING HOURS Stavros Niarchos Park: From 01/04 to 30/10 06.00-00.00 – From 01/11 to 31/03 06.00-20.00
Reading Rooms: 06.00-00.00
Public PCs: 09.00-00.00
SNFCC Visitors Center: 09.00-22.00
Lighthouse: 06.00-00.00 (except when it is closed for events) Entrance is free, except for some events.
Located between the lively commercial zone of Kallithea (literally meaning ‘beautiful view’) and Faliro bay, this is the new home for the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera as well as a 210,000 m² park with a rich variety of flora, including 16 tree species and 161 shrub species. Its creator, world-famous architect Renzo Piano, wanted to combine the urban setting with a touch of nature in order to reconnect the residents and visitors of the centre with what was missing from the area. With playgrounds and open-air cinema in the summer, numerous events with well-established international artists, courses and exhibitions, as well as sports facilities, this is the place to be in order to feel rejuvenated only a few bus stops away from the city centre (there is a FOC shuttle mini-bus that runs from Syntagma Sq. every 20-30 mins.). In Christmas time, the Centre features avant-garde light installations, an ice-skating rink positioned on the canal, and many art workshops for families, live music events etc.
Museum Ship Averoff
Address: Flisvou Marina, 175 10, Athens
OPENING HOURS Monday to Friday 09:00 – 14:00 Saturday – Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Adults: €2; Seniors & Students: €1.50; Children: Free
The Averof Museum of Athens: The Averof Warship is probably the most impressive surviving naval vessel of the Hellenic Navy. It was constructed at the Orlando Shipyards, in Livorno Italy, and was partly paid with the will of Georgios Averof, a major Greek benefactor. The rest of the amount was covered with a loan that Greece receives from foreign countries. The Averof warship was launched in 1911 and remained active for more than 40 years. It took part in four different wars, the two Balkan Wars, and the two World Wars, and was the leadership of the Hellenic Navy, providing many victories against the enemies. This warship is connected with major moments of the Greek history. Have in mind that the Averof warship defeated, in the First Balkan War, the Turkish fleet who would navigate in the Aegean Sea. This ship also sailed to Constantinople at the end of the First World War and showed the Greek flag. Moreover, it carried the Greek troops in the Turkish coast to win the Asia Minor back. Furthermore, the Averof warship transferred the exiled Greek government from Egypt back to Athens, when the Second World War ended. In 1952, the Averof warship was withdrawn and moored in the dockyards of Poros. Some decades later, in 1984, it was decided that the ship would turn into a museum and works of restoration started. Today, the Averof warship is moored in Trocadero Marina, Paleo Faliro, a few minutes from the center of Athens. It functions as a museum that honors all Greeks who died in sea fights in order to defend their country. The visitors can get historical information on the Hellenic Navy and technical information on navigation. The museum also organizes exhibitions and seminars with themes related to the Greek or international nautical history.
Benaki Toys & Games Museum (Kouloura Mansion)
Address: 14 Poseidonos & Tritonos, Palaio Faliro
OPENING HOURS Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 General Admission: €9 (reduced €7)
The Kouloura Mansion, designed in a neo-Gothic style, was built in the 19th century. The building is one of the few remnants of this era that has survived. Donated by Athanasios and Vera Kouloura, it is situated on Poseidonos Avenue in Palaio Faliro and is the designated home of the vintage collection of Toys and Games, featuring handmade dolls in traditional Greek costumes painted by hand, wind-up and mechanical toys made of tin and wood, Karaghiozis shadow theater puppet figures, and other exhibits that visitors will be able to view at the museum.
Zea Marina is located in Athens near the main port of Piraeus. It is an ancient port as in the ancient years it was one of the main harbors for the warships of the Athenian fleet, with docks for 196 triremes, due to the natural safety of the Harbor.
Piraeus is the largest Greek port and the starting point for millions of tourists every year to the Aegean islands, the Saronic Gulf and the island of Crete. The area extending downward the marina from Mikrolimano until the Piraiki coast is the most commercial, lively and crowded area of Piraeus. Wonderful little harbors with beautiful restaurants, coffee shops and bars, offer entertainment during your free time.
The Marina, fully organized, offering facilities and services of high standards, was totally renovated for the 2004 Olympic Games and it is one of the mega yacht marinas in the vicinity of Athens. The Marina has a berthing capacity of 670 yachts up to 120 m and 6 m draught. Within the marina shore area of 40.000 sq.m., 4.780 sq.m of building installations offer modern and high standard services, such as restaurants, refreshment bars, cafés and commercial shops. In the environs of the marina there are athletic installations and the Greek War Naval Museum.
The marina has capacity for about 670 yachts, in both permanent and floating pontoons. Distribution of berths is based on the dimensions of the boats. Moorings are available for short and long term stay and boats up to 80 meters long and 8 meters draught can be accommodated. At all berths electricity is available (220V and 380V) as well as fresh and drinking water, while permanent laid moorings guarantee the safety of boats moored here.