First Cemetery of Athens
Many visitors pay homage to the great and the good buried at Père Lachaise in Paris
and Highgate Cemetery in London
. But the Athenian equivalent is strangely overlooked by—or even unknown to—most visitors. Even the locals only come to lay flowers on a relative’s gravestone or to attend a funeral. This is very much still a working cemetery (though you have to be famous, brilliant, or very well-connected to be buried among the likes of Melina Mercouri, Demis Roussos, and George Seferis). The ornately carved marble tombstones are laid out among rows of fragrant bitter orange and towering cypress and pine trees. Generally, the more powerful (or rich) the deceased, the more elaborate the mausoleum. The arcane numbering system of the graves is almost impossible to navigate, so just wander at will and admire the craftsmanship, history, and ghostly presence of countless Greek heroes. You don’t need to understand the epitaphs to appreciate the soulful atmosphere. Afterwards, take time to get lost in the surrounding streets, too. Mets is a charming residential neighborhood full of century-old townhouses, Bauhaus flats, and refreshingly unfashionable cafes.