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Athens, Greece

Athens (Greek: Αθήνα, Athína), is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization.

Districts

The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Ymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills the seven historical ones are:

Acropolis

,

Areopagus

, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill),

Pnyx

, Lykavittos (Read more

Athens, Greece

Destination:
Athens (Greek: Αθήνα, Athína), is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization.

Districts

The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Ymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills the seven historical ones are:

Acropolis

,

Areopagus

, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill),

Pnyx

, Lykavittos (Lycabettus), Tourkovounia (Anchesmus), the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens' boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city's ancient (and still bustling) port.
Places of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos). This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki and Thissio to the west, Kolonaki to the northeast and Omonia to the northwest.

 

  • The Acropolis— The ancient "high city" of Athens, crowned by marble temples sacred to the city's goddess Athena.
  • Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio— Charming historic districts at the foot of the Acropolis, with restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city's Roman era.
  • Kolonaki— Upscale residential area northeast of Syntagma with many cafes, boutiques and galleries.
  • Metaxourgeio—The district of Metaxourgeio, located northwest of Psiri, has become a bohemian enclave as well as a haven for art and culture. As part of the area's continual transformation, the principal gallery of the city, The Municipal Gallery, was relocated in October 2010 to Avdi Square, which is the main square of the area. Avdi Square is a large, public space that is well suited to artistic expression of all kinds.
  • Omonia and Exarheia— Formerly seedy district, north of Psiri, somewhat revitalized by the metro, it is now home to Greece's students, anarchists and the celebrated National Archaeological Museum.
  • Pangrati and Mets— These adjoining pleasant residential neighborhoods south of Lycabettos and east of the National Garden are rarely frequented by tourists, but they do include a few hotels and a number of good traditional tavernas.
  • Psiri— Former industrial district located north of Monastiraki, now full of trendy and alternative restaurants, cafés, bars, small luxury hotels and shops.
  • Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos)— Dominated by the old Royal Palace, Syntagma Square is the business district of Athens, complete with major hotels, banks, restaurants and airline offices.
  • Kifissia— Suburb at the northern terminus of Line 1 (Green), known for its high-end shopping.
  • Nea Smyrni— Suburb about 5 km south of downtown Athens, known as a modern European district.
  • Piraeus— The ancient port six miles southwest of Athens, Piraeus is known today as an independent, heavily industrial municipality, whose modern-day port serves almost all of Attica's ferry connections to Crete and the Aegean Islands.
  • Zografou— Suburb 5 km east of downtown Athens on the slopes of Imitos, known for the many university (NTUA) buildings and several quirky bars and taverns sprinkled about.
  • Glyfada— Suburb south of Athens connected by tram. Glyfada (Pronounced GLI'FADA) combines shopping with many small cafés and restaurants. Located along the ocean and sports some beaches and beach bars.

Understand

The first pre-historic settlements were constructed in 3000 BC around the hill of Acropolis. The legend says that the King of Athens, Theseus unified the ten tribes of early Athens into one kingdom (c. 1230 BC). This process of synoikismos – bringing together in one home – created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility. By the 7th century BC, social unrest had become widespread, and the Areopagus appointed Draco to draft a strict new code of law (hence "draconian"). When this failed, they appointed Solon with a mandate to create a new constitution (594 BC). This was the great beginning of a new social revolution, which was the result of the democracy under Clisthenes (508 BC). During the Middle Ages, Athens experienced a decline, but re-emerged under Byzantine rule. Athens was thriving and prosperous during the Crusades, actually benefiting from the Italian trade during this period. However, this fruitful period was shortlived, as Greece suffered badly under the Ottoman Empire, only to recover in the 19th century as the capital of independent Greece.

Architecture

Athens was just a small provincial village when it was chosen in the 1830s to serve as the national capital of the modern Greek State. Although it had a prestigious past, the city's political, economic, and cultural importance had declined over the centuries, leaving behind only its classical ruins as a reminder of better times. With the decision to move the national capital from Nafplio to Athens, architects and city planners were hired to build a new city next to the classical ruins, with grand neoclassical homes and public buildings, large city squares, green spaces, and wide avenues, making a conscious, decisive turn from the city's Ottoman past. The city regained its importance in Greek civilization, and by 1900 had evolved into a very attractive cosmopolitan city, with abundant neoclassical architecture harking to the nation's past.
The 20th century however, marked the rapid development of Athens. The city suffered minor damage during WWII, and suffered extensive urban planning in the decades that followed, as the nation rapidly industrialized and urbanized. In the 1960s and 1970s, many 19th century neoclassical buildings, often small and private, were demolished to make way for office buildings, often designed by great Greek architects. The city also expanded outward through rash development, particularly towards the west, as its population grew by absorbing job-seekers from the provinces. With the onset of the automobile, public officials reduced the city's public transportation services without foreseeing the traffic gridlock and smog that would menace the city by the 1980s.
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city's reality led to a rude awakening among local and national officials and, coupled with the country's newfound remarkable prosperity, large scale projects began to slowly regenerate the city and undo some of the damages of recent decades. Over the course of the next 15 years, money was poured into new transportation infrastructure projects, the restoration of surviving neoclassical buildings, the gentrification of the city's historical center and the renovation of many former industrial areas and the city's coastline. The restoration of charming neoclassical buildings in the city's historical center has been accompanied by the construction of attractive post-modern buildings in newer districts; both of which have begun to improve the aesthetic essence of the city. Athens today is ever evolving, forging a brand new identity for the 21st century.
But, there is a piece of famous architecture in Athens, and it is named The Parthenon. The Parthenon sits at the top of the Acropolis, a very important hill in Athens, which now serves as the city center. The Parthenon was built to honour the goddess Athena/ Athene, patron of Athens and goddess of war, wisdom and crafts. She is a maiden goddess.

Olympic Games

Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. While most of the sporting venues were located outside the city proper - in various locations throughout Attica - the entire urban area of Athens underwent major lasting changes that have improved the quality of life for visitors and residents alike. Aside from the excellent transportation infrastructure that was completed in time for the 2004 Olympics (from new freeways to light rail systems), the city's historic center underwent serious renovation. Most notable among the city's facelift projects are the Unification of Archaelogical Sites - which connects the city's classical-era ruins and monuments to each other through a network of pleasant pedestrianized streets- and the restoration of the picturesque neoclassical Thissio and Pláka districts.

History

Athens first appears on the pages of history around 1400 B.C., at which time it was already a major cultural center of the Mycenaean civilization. The Acropolis and remnants of the Cyclopean Walls attest to its status as a Mycenaean fortress city. In 1200 B.C., many Mycenaean cities were destroyed and resettled by invading bands of Dorians, but Athenian tradition maintains that Athens escaped this fate and retained a "pure Ionian bloodline." Beginning as early as 900 B.C., Athens became a leading trade center within the Greek world, owing to its central location, possession of the heavily fortified Acropolis and its quick access to the sea.
By the beginning of the 6th Century B.C., the foundations of democratic reforms were laid in Athens by Solon, and full democracy was achieved by 508 B.C. under Cleisthenes. By this time also, the Athenian navy had grown large and powerful enough to assist the Ionian regions of Asia Minor in their rebellion against Persian rule, which lasted from 499 to 493 B.C. The revolt ultimately failed, however, and Athens' support of the rebels incensed King Darius of Persia to the point of launching an all-out invasion of Greece in 492 B.C. Athens and Sparta led a coalition of Greek city-states against the invaders and defeated them, but Athens was nonetheless sacked twice by the Persians before the war's end.
Following the Greco-Persian War, Athens entered the Golden Age of Athenian Democracy, during which time it was the clear cultural leader of the Greek world. Philosophy, drama, history-writing, artistry, and political reform all entered their "heyday." Athens also became the head of the Delian League, which began as an alliance to continue the fight against Persia, but soon became little more than a tool by which Athens promoted its own imperial ambitions. Sparta soon chafed at this situation, and the two cities — once allies, now rivals — fought the lengthy Peloponnesian War between 431 and 404 B.C. Athens was finally defeated by the militaristic Spartans, and though it remained an important city-state, it failed to become the center of a great empire.
In 338 B.C., Macedonia defeated an alliance of Greek city-states and conquered all Greece, including the city of Athens. Athens remained under Macedonian rule until the Romans defeated them in 197 B.C. While under Rome, Athens was a free city with a much-admired school system and received special favor from Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century A.D.
Athens passed from Roman to Byzantine rule when the empire split in Late Antiquity, declined during the Middle Ages and benefited from trade with Italy during the Crusades. In 1458, it fell to the Ottoman Empire and did not again become part of an independent Greece until 1832. In 1834, it became Greece's capital, and in 1896, it hosted the first modern Olympics. In 1922, after the Greco-Turkish War, many Ionian refugees flooded into Athens, and the city also grew exponentially during the 1950's and 60's. Today, it is a metropolis and a major world tourist attraction.

Climate

Spring and late autumn are the best times to visit Athens. Summer can be extremely hot and dry during heatwaves, but this rarely happens. Winter is definitely low season, with the occasional rainy or snowy day, but also an ideal time to save money while enjoying the city without countless other travelers and tourists.
In the summer, the weather will be too hot for much action, and in winter, you will only end up slogging through the cold, gloomy weather and atmostphere. That just is not what a vacation should be like!
Whilst peak traffic hour can be a bit smoggy on the main roads, on most sunny days the skies are azure blue. The main reason attributed for the pollution of Athens is because the city is enclosed by mountains in a basin which does not let the smog leave. The government's ban on diesel vehicles within Athens and the early 1990s initiatives to improve car emissions have greatly contributed to better atmospheric conditions in the basin.
The climate of Athens falls within the subtropical Mediterranean classification and has hot, dry summers and mild, moderately rainy winters. In general, spring and late autumn are the most pleasant times of year and the best tourist seasons. If you travel to Athens in the summer, watch out for the occasional heat wave, prefer the cooler evening hours for outings, and have a cool room to retreat to each day. If you tour Athens during wintertime, the city will be in its slow season, but at least it will be less crowded. You will also have to bear with, or schedule around, some days that are cold, rainy or even see snowfall.

Precipitation and Temperature

Average annual precipitation in Athens is 16.3 inches (414 mm), which is somewhat lower than other parts of Greece and much lower than in western Greece. The Greek city of Ioannina, for example, receives 51 inches (1,300 mm), and Agrinio receives 31 inches (800 mm). Most of the rain falls between October and April, with July and August having the least amount of precipitation. In the winter, snow storms are not very common, but when they do occur, they can cause major disruptions to traffic and city life.
January is the coldest month, with an average high of 56º F and an average low of 44º F. July and August have the hottest weather, highs of 92º F and 93º F respectively, with both months having average lows of 75º F. However, western parts of the city tend to be even warmer, and Athens' infamous heat waves often top 100º F. Interestingly, the World Meteorological Organization recorded the highest temperature on record in all Europe in Athens on July 10th, 1977- a scorching 118.4º F.

Man-made Problems

Industrialization, in combination with a geographical "heat enclave", has made Athens a city that suffers significantly from the "heat island" effect. Thus, the built up urban sprawl of Athens is a bit hotter than the immediately surrounding rural areas. This situation even leads to certain Athens-based meteorological stations having their readings thrown off, and it certainly increases energy usage and expense.
Smog is a major problem in Athens, although a ban on use of diesel-fueled vehicles within the city limits and various car-emissions initiatives implemented in the 90's have helped the situation somewhat. The main cause of the smog is that industrial and vehicular pollution get trapped inside the mountains surrounding the basin in which Athens in situated. On sunny days, the skies are blue and clear, but on certain days around rush-hour traffic time, the roads get rather smoggy.

Literature

The Greeks virtually founded all of Western literature, and ancient Athens was the center of this literary activity from very early on, though Homer's epics Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod's poetic account of the Greek pantheon were written before Athens' rise to literary prominence.
The earliest example of a famous Athenian author is Thespis, an award-winning dramatist of the 6th Century B.C. who invented the style called Greek tragedy, but no clearly genuine example of his works survives. In the 5th Century B.C. came the Age of Pericles, wherein Athenian drama had its "heyday" and multitudes of new theaters were erected. The most famous dramatist of this era was Aeschylus, who introduced dialogue and character interaction to essentially create the modern idea of dramatic literature. Only seven out of dozens of his plays survive, including Agamemnon, The Persians, and Seven Against Thebes.

Other important ancient Greek writers of Athens include:

  • Sophocles, author of Oedipus Rex, who was a rival of Aeschylus and did much to develop irony as a literary technique.
  • Aristophanes, a comic playwright who led the "Old Comedy" style of ancient Athens. He wielded ridicule to the point that his contemporaries even came to fear him. Eleven of his 30 plays still survive.
  • Menander, famous practitioner of "New Comedy" in Athens. He was extremely popular in both Ancient and Medieval times, though his over 100 works are now mostly fragments. His comic play Dyskolos, however, has survived largely intact.

For those who would like something more modern to read that connects to Athens, consider any of the following:

  • Timon of Athens, by William Shakespeare, first published in 1623. This is a historical fiction about an Athenian named Timon, who was very generous but lost all of his money to corrupt people who bled him dry.
  • Ashes, a novel published in Greek in 2007 and translated into English. It is set in Athens just before the 2004 Olympics held there, and is in the crime thriller genre. The author is Sergios Gakas.
  • Tides of War by Steven Pressfield. This novel chronicles the Peloponnesian War but through the account of a fictional Athenian soldier, Polemides. Pressfield has written other classical history novels in the past, so this is from a seasoned author.

Also well known is the Biblical account of St. Paul's visitation to Athens and his speech concerning their superstitious belief in every god, to the point they even erected an altar to "the unknown God," whom Paul then preaches to them. The sermon is recorded in Acts 17 and involves teaching on the doctrines of Creation and the Resurrection of Christ. The latter doctrine led to many scoffing and a few converting. This was the beginning of the church in Athens, which is still a Christian city to this day.


Source:
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Athens, Greece: Port Information


Piraeus has big cruise ships dock with two terminals. Piraeus center is within one mile, and Athens is within eight miles. Many kinds of transportations are available here. You can find Hop on/off buses near the terminal that will take you to Athens. Or you can use cruise shuttles. There are also many taxis outside the terminal. If you would like to visit Piraeus, we recommend you to go by train. It is right beside the terminal.

Get around Athens, Greece


Public transport in Athens has improved by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. 

By bicycle

Athens is certainly not the city to go around with a bicycle, as it does not have much bicycle lanes and the car drivers tend to drive quite aggressively. Nevertheless (or maybe because of this) riding a bicycle in Athens has become lately some sort of a political (counter-)action, especially by young people with an alternative lifestyle. In general, tourists not familiar with the terrible Athenian traffic are not advised to use a bicycle as a principal means of transport. Small rides are safe though in the long network of pedestrian streets around the Historical Centre of the city and can be quite enjoyable indeed.
BikeSurfAthens- Pay-what-you-want bike borrow.  

On foot

Athens offers some of the best and worst urban walking in Europe. Several major streets have been recently pedestrianized, and a mostly car-free archeological walk which starts at Vasilisis Amalias Street, passes in front of the New Acropolis Museum, Acropolis, Herodion Theatre, Thiseio (Apostolou Pavlou Str), Ermou Street and ends at the popular area of Kerameikos (Gkazi) where numerous bars and clubs are located. Pleasant walking can also be had in Plaka, especially its upper reaches, and in much of Kolonaki, and the National Garden can provide a welcome respite from the heat and noise of the city center. On the other hand, Athens' horrendous traffic can make crossing the street in many areas a hair-raising proposition, and even walking down many major streets can be an unpleasant experience of noise and pollution. Cars and motorbikes parked blocking the sidewalks (illegal but ubiquitous) can also make a stroll difficult. Fortunately, much of the traffic-plagued area of the city can be avoided by judicious use of the new Metro, which goes most places a visitor would want to see or to walk around in.

You can now visit the Acropolis, walk along the picturesque streets of Plaka or the hills around the Acropolis at your own pace, with i Pod Pocket tours audioguides. It’s informative and fun! They are available for rent at Athens Hilton Hotel, Sofitel Athens Airport, King George Palace and Baby Grand Hotel.

What to see in Athens, Greece


At first glance, Athens seems entirely to be composed of nasty, four- to six-story concrete buildings, lacking character and badly in need of a paint, but if you look beyond that, you will find little gems tucked in amongst the grey. The areas at the foot of the Acropolis, Anafiotika, Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio are home to many wonderful Neoclassical buildings, trendy and traditional cafes and shops, narrow winding streets, and incredible views of the Acropolis. Little Greek Orthodox churches are tucked in amongst the concrete, often in the most unexpected places. These are usually beautifully decorated with icons and brass fixtures inside, but make sure you're appropriately dressed (no short sleeves or bare legs is a good rule of thumb, as a mark of respect).

  • For the best views of Athens, head to the top of Lykavittos Hill. You can either walk from Kolonaki (the path starts 15 minutes from Evangelismos metro stop, and will take 30 minutes to talk up the winding, but paved and not steep, path) or you can take the funicular railway (7€ for a 2 way trip as of Aug 2012) from the top of Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki. Either way, be sure to wear flat shoes, and bring lots of water in the summer! From the top you can see the whole city, the port of Piraeus and, on a clear day, the island of Aegina and the Peloponnese. Have a drink at the cafe there, and pay a visit to the chapel of St George.
  • If you're lucky enough to be in Athens for the Easter Weekend, you'll see the spectacular sight of hundreds of people making their candlelit way down the hill on Easter Saturday night as part of the Easter Vigil procession.
  • There is a ticket available at relevant sites that give admission to the most popular sites such as the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus for €12. If you're a student, almost all admission costs are waived; but the cards are properly looked at and one out-of-date won't pass. This ticket is good for four days, and re-entry is allowed so you can visit the same sites more than once without paying extra.
  • Athens Open Top Bus Tour, Departs: Syntagma Square, 17. 90 minutes. If you wish to dedicate your sightseeing efforts to the centre of Athens then the standalone Athens Open Tour is just the ticket. This hop-on hop-off service provides unlimited, excellent value transport around the Greek capital's essential landmarks and attractions. €15.00.  

Landmarks

  • The Acropolis, a Unesco World Heritage Site was the ancient fortified town of Athens, dating back to the Late Bronze Age, and the site of the best buildings of the Greek Classical age: the Parthenon, the Erectheion, the Temple of Athena Nike. Acropolis dominates the Athenian sky and symbolizes the foundation of modern culture and civilization. As the most famous landmark of entire Greece, Acropolis is the eternal symbol of democracy, education and inspiration. If you attend a university in the European Union, bring your ID and you can enter for free. The normal entrance price is 12 euros. This ticket also gives you entry to the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora, and the nearby Theatre of Dionysus. If possible, get there early to avoid heavy crowds, and summer heat when relevant.
  • The Ancient Agora— The site of the Ancient Agora in a very green space and a very beautiful view of the Acropolis. You will see the Temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved ancient Greek temple, the Attalos Stoa, the museum of the agora which is a reconstructed ancient building. From the agora you can walk towards Acropolis. Extension of the agora is the Roman Forum.
  • Syntagma Square— Check out the Parliament building and the newly-restored Grande Bretagne Hotel. Also, catch the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament every hour on the hour. Their uniforms and walking style is fun to see but make sure you don't stand on the wrong side of them if you want to take a picture. If you accidentally do so, they will knock their gun and, as they are not allowed to speak, someone else from the guard will kindly ask you to change position.
  • The Kerameikos— The site of the ancient cemetery of Athens. It also houses the Dipylon Gate, where the Panathenaic procession would begin. It has a museum showcasing many of the grave stele and other archaeological items found on the grounds.
  • The Temple of Olympian Zeus— Only the ruins remain today. The column that has fallen and can still be seen on pieces was brought down during a thunderstorm about a century ago. The 1896 Olympic Stadium and Hadrian's Arch are located nearby,
  • Panathinaiko Stadium— The stadium that housed the first modern day Olympic Games of 1896. Its an enormous, white, marble stadium, with a horseshoe configuration stadium.
  • Lycabettus Hill— A 200m hill bordering the Kolonaki district. You can reach the top by walking or by a funicular railway small ticket charge. There is a cafe-restaurant with a great view of Athens towards the sea. From halfway up looking towards the sea there are astonishing views of the Parthenon with the blue of the sea glimpsed between its columns.

Museums and Galleries

Because of its antiquity and influence, Athens is full of museums and galleries. The major ones are the National Archaeological Museum near Omonia, the New Acropolis Museum by the Acropolis, the Benaki and Museum of Cycladic Art in Kolonaki, the Agora Museum near Monastiraki, and the Kanellopoulou and Folk Art Museums in Plaka. Details of these and others will be found in the district sections.

Arts and Culture

The visual arts enjoy a big share in the Athenian cultural and everyday life. Next to big institutions such as the National Gallery and the Benaki Museum, a big number of small private galleries are spread within the city centre and the surrounding areas, hosting the works of contemporary visual and media artists. In recent years a number of bar galleries have sprung up, where you can have a drink or a coffee whilst visiting an exhibition.

  • The National Art Gallery is located at Michalakopoulou Street, close to Evangelismos metro station and is one of Greece's main art institutions and features paintings and works of art from some of Greece's and Europe's best from the 19th and 20th centuries. Emphasis is given to popular Greek contemporary artists including Giannis Tsarouchis, Domenikos Theotokopoulos (a.k.a. El Greco), Theodors Vrizakis, Nikolaos Kounelakis, Nikiforos Litras, Konstantinos Parthenis, Maleas, Giannis Moralis and others.
  • The City of Athens Technopolis, an industrial museum of incomparable architecture - among the most interesting in the world, has been transformed into a multipurpose cultural space. The centre has assisted in the upgrading of a historic Athens district and the creation of yet another positive element in Athens' cultural identity. Technopolis is located at Peiraios Avenue & Persefonis Street, right next to the Kerameikos metro station (line 3).

Parks

Parnitha National Park has well-marked paths, gorges, springs, torrents and caves do the protected area. Hiking and mountain-biking in all four mountains remain popular outdoor activities for many residents of the city. The National Garden of Athens is a peaceful and beautiful park in the centre of Athens, where visitors can enjoy their walk and spend hours of relaxation. The Garden encloses luxuriant vegetation, plenty of flowers, some ancient ruins, two duck ponds and a small zoo. In addition, there is a children’s playground and a café as well. It's located between the Parliament and Zappeion buildings.The landmark Dionysiou Aeropagitou street has been pedestrianised, forming a scenic route. The route starts from the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, continues under the southern slopes of the Acropolis near Plaka, and finishes just beyond the Temple of Hephaestus in Thiseio. The route in its entirety provides visitors with views of the Parthenon and the Agora (the meeting point of ancient Athenians), away from the busy city centre.The hills of Athens provide also green space. Lycabettus, Philopappos hill and the area around it including Pnyx and Ardettos hill are all planted with pines and other trees and they are more like small forests than typical urban parks. There is also Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars) of 27.7 hectares near National Archaeological Museum which is currently under renovation.

Disabled Access

Most attractions in Athens offer free or discounted admission for disabled people living in the European Union (badge or card required). The discount is not advertised and you have to ask staff to get the information. You will also be offered assistance and lifts access if necessary.

What to do in Athens, Greece


Athens is a city that offers the tourist a great variety of activities to take part in, many of them quite unique and memorable. While it would be nearly impossible to make a full list of things to do in Athens, we offer below a look at eight of the most popular options:

  • Attend the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, which runs from May to October (all summer long) and includes a wide array of events. There will be many musical, drama, and cultural activities, and you should not miss seeing a performance in the ancient theater located in Epidaurus.
  • Relax on the more than 20 beaches of Attica. Most of them are located to the south of town, such as Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Cape Sounion, and Legrena; but some also lie to the northeast, including Schinias and Marathon Beach.
  • Watch a Greek basketball game. There are two teams in Athens, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, that rank among the elite basketball teams in all of Europe. You can buy tickets to either of their stadiums right in town and get a taste of how basketball is played in modern Greece.
  • Visit the 'Panatheniac Stadium in Athens. It was built in 1896 to host the first modern Olympic games and is still the place where the torch-passing ceremony is held before every Olympics. It was reconstructed from the remains of an ancient stadium and is made entirely of marble. The stadium is sometimes used to honor victorious Greek athletes, to hold musical and dance concerts, and for other special events, so you may have a chance to visit it — though it's hard to predict what event will be held there at the time.
  • See the National Garden, a public park that covers 38 acres in central Athens, just behind the Greek Parliament Building. Not only is there abundant and diverse greenery and a relaxing environment, but the garden also contains ancient ruins, busts of famous Greek politicians and poets, a duck pond, a botanical museum, a cafe and a children's area.
  • Volunteer at the Sea Turtle Rescue Society Archelon in Glyfada, not far from Athens. You will have to work for free and at your own costs, but if you want a chance to see and take care of injured sea turtles, this is an opportunity to do so.
  • Take a helicopter tour of Athens to get a panoramic view of such sights as the Stadium, the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Port of Piraeus. The tour can last from a half hour to an hour, and you will see Athens in a unique way "from a bird's eye point of view."
  • Take off from Athens on a ferry cruise of the Greek islands. You will visit sandy beaches, sheltered coves, and whitewashed island houses on such Aegean isles as Syros, Santorini, and Mykonos.

Entertainment

Theater and Performing Arts

Athens is home to 148 theatrical stages, more than any other city in the world, including the famous ancient Herodes Atticus Theatre, home to the Athens Festival, which runs from May to October each year. In addition to a large number of multiplexes, Athens plays host to a variety of romantic, open air garden cinemas. The city also supports a vast number of music venues, including the Athens Concert Hall, known as the "Mégaron Musikis", which attracts world-famous artists all year round.

What to eat and drink in Athens, Greece


Eat

There are few things the Greeks are more famous for than their food, and Athens is considered one of the best places to find authentic Greek food. Tourists, as they wander from point to point, will want to stop and refresh themselves with some delicious Greek cuisine, but for many, the food itself is one of the main reasons for coming.
One "must-try" Greek menu item, so common it has been called the "Greek hamburger," is a souvlaki. Souvlakia are grilled kebabs of beef, lamb, pork or chicken that are wrapped in pita bread with tomatoes, onions and lettuce. They are dipped in a yogurt flavored with garlic and cucumber called "tzatziki." Many of the best souvlaki shops in Athens are found along Mitropoleos Street.
Street foods of various kinds are also popular. Look for koulouri, a sesame-seed bread ring, galaktoboureko, a custard-filled pastry with icing on top and tyropitta, which are a kind of cheese pie. At a "psarotaverna," you will find all manner of seafood; at a "psistaria," you will encounter mostly grilled meats; "tavernas" give you an informal and inexpensive (but authentic) Greek meal; "estiatorion are the more expensive restaurants that serve full-course meals; and there are plenty of fast food and foreign cuisine places to eat as well. Finally, note that Greek food in general has an abundance of olive oil, fish, lamb and very distinctive spices.
A full-course Greek meal will begin with mezedes (hor d'oeuvres) both hot and cold, such as mashed eggplant, caviar spread, dolmadakia, meat/rice rolled up in grape leaves, and deep-fried squid or zucchini. Seldom is soup served as an appetizer, but some soups are full meals. Main dishes are usually casseroles, grilled fish, grilled meats or meat stews. Salads of vegetables or boiled dandelions will be served with the main dish, and vegetables will be cooked into the casseroles. Cheeses are served with bread, both regional cheeses and the more common feta, kasseri, graviera and manouri. For desert, look for baklava, a rich pastry with nuts and honey/syrup between the layers, kataifi, a delicate pastry with sweet syrup poured over it, or fresh fruits in the summertime. Also be sure to try Greek coffee and to specify you want bitter, sweet or semi-sweet when ordering.
Some of the most popular restaurants to try out in Athens include:

  • Varoulko Seaside in Pireas Port, widely acknowledged as the best seafood place in the Athens area.
  • Funky Gourmet, which offers "creative Mediterranean cuisine" like botargo (Greek caviar) with white chocolate.
  • Trapezaria, just north of the National Garden, for traditional but seasonal Greek foods.
  • Psarras in Plaka, which has been serving authentic Greek food since 1898 in a romantic setting near the Acropolis.
  • Cafe Avissinia, which is Greek with some Anatolian influences.
  • Tzitzikas kai Mermigas, or "Grasshopper and Ant," for modern Greek taverna food.
  • Melilotos, set on a walking-only street only five minutes from Syntagma Square. You will find a different menu every day depending on which fresh ingredients are available.

Drink

  • Traveller's diarrhoea is a concern shared by tourists everywhere and may compel them to buy bottled water. However, drinking bottled water is not essential because the tap water in Athens is safe to drink and has no undesirable flavours.
  • Greeks love to socialize, and Athens buzzes long after its other European counterparts have laid their heads down to sleep. 20:00 is the earliest most Greeks will consider going to eat out, and clubbers start to get ready at about midnight. Note that many Athens clubs relocate to the beach during the summer months. Cafes spill onto the streets and the sound of lively conversation is everywhere in the evenings.
  • Have a frappé, the delicious Greek version of cold coffee. Being a Greek invention, it is absolutely nothing like the frappé you find in other countries of the world. Served sweet, medium, or without sugar, with or without milk. Delicious with Bailey's too.
  • A 'club zone' is located in the coastal zone, running to the east- if you go there and you are lucky, you can actually get to listen to non-Greek music. There are also many clubs and pubs in the center of Athens.
  • Go to the Psyrrí area (Monastiraki or Thisseio stop, Lines 1 and 3 and Line 1 respectively) for a number of smart bars and small clubs. It is the area immediately north of Ermou street between these two metro stops.
  • The area north of Ermou street between Monastiraki and Syntagma has seen a considerably rise in the number and quality of bars during recent years. Aiolou and Kolokotroni streets both offer a fair variety of cafés and bars. All the bars on Karytsi square (a small square at the end of Christou Lada street, behind Klafthmonos square on Stadiou avenue) can get very busy on Fridays and Saturdays, with visitors having their drinks even on the streets outside from spring through autumn, when the weather is nice.
  • The area around the Kerameikos station, called Gazi (Γκάζι, gas) has been the gay village of Athens for quite a few years. Since the opening of the metro station, in 2007, the neighbourhood has attracted all kinds of crowds. This is a home to dozens of bars, cafés and clubs, gay or not, as well as to small theatrical scenes, the latter one especially to the northeast of the area, towards Metaxourgeio.

Night life

Athens is famous for its vibrant nightlife. The Athenians like to party and will do so almost every night of the week. The choices are plenty and they appeal to all tastes and lifestyles. In general, things get started pretty late: after 00:00 for bars and clubbing and after 22:00 for dinner at the city's tavernas, Athens Restaurants and bar-restaurants.
Hip areas include Gazi, Psirri, Metaxourgio, Exarcheia, Monastiraki, Theseion and Kolonaki. Traditional Greek evenings can be spent in Plaka. A young group of locals have also started running a bar crawl through the most atmospheric areas in the city centre, stopping for drinks in a variety of neighborhoods combined with local ghost stories, called the Athens Ghost Crawl 19
Until recently at Psirri, some of Athens' hottest clubs and bars were to be spotted. During recent years Gazi has seen some tremendous change. Most of the galleries, mainstream bars, restaurants, clubs and Greek nightclubs here (featuring live Greek pop singers), are trademarked by their industrial design as many of them are housed in remodelled and once abandoned factories. Gazi is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods of Athens nightlife. You can get there by metro line 3 at Kerameikos station.
​Plaka - Monastiraki are two ancient, historic and all-time classic Athenian neighborhoods popular with visitors, they do not have many big dance clubs and bars, but offer lively, traditional places to enjoy Greek culture year-round as well as several rock and jazz clubs.
You will find plenty nightclubs with live Greek music along Syggrou Avenue and at the industrial strips of Iera Odos and Pireos Street in Gazi. In the summer months, the action moves to Poseidon Avenue and the coastal towns of Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni. Kolonaki is a staple dining and entertainment destination, catering to the city's urban working professionals who enjoy an after work cocktail at many of its bars that are open - and busy - until after midnight, even on weekdays. The clubs here are also very chic. Exarchia is where to go for smaller more bohemian style haunts that cater to artists and college students. At the foot of Strefi Hill is where you will find most of the bars and clubs, many of which play rock music. An alternative option of Athens nightlife.

 

 

Shopping in Athens, Greece


While exploring ancient ruins and viewing the scenic beauty of Athens may take up a good deal of your vacation time, the city also offers a wide selection of shopping opportunities. In general, you will find a large number of quaint shops selling specialty items like antiques, museum reproductions, embroidery, folk art and Greek-style snacks and drinks to keep you "well fueled" as you continue to shop.
To make it easier to know where to go for what, here's a brief overview of places to shop while in Athens:

  • Malls and Department Stores. While Athens has fewer shopping malls and large department stores than most other big cities, there are still a sufficient number. Some of the most famous establishments include: Athens Heart, a four-level mall containing 80 branded stores; Athens Metro Mall, with 90 stores carrying all major brands, 18 places to eat, five theaters, a supermarket, a bank, and a play area; and Attica, which is considered by many to be the most fashionable place to shop in the city.
  • Plaka, an area of Athens with an overabundance of souvenir shops, numerous vendors selling wares out in the street, and occasional street performers. It's a popular gathering place at night, and there is a great diversity of goods sold along the streets, which are lined with one specialty shop right after the other.
  • Kolonaki which is the most renowned of all Athens' shopping areas. It has many "chic" outlets selling top brands, upscale coffee shops, expensive boutiques, and fur coats and gloves on display in its Syntagma Square. There are also some bargains on ceramic, clay or bronze handicrafts and a number of good stops where you can sample Greek "luxury food." You can also schedule an appointment with the fashion designer Christoforos Kotentos if you want to buy designer clothing.
  • The Ermou Walkway a street open only to pedestrians that is lined with shops on both sides. There are many branded clothes for sale, especially women's clothes, and the price is generally lower than in Kolonaki.
  • The Monastiraki Flea Market in Monastiraki Square nearby the subway station. It is open every day, but Sunday is the day it gets especially crowded with bargain hunters. It's an open-air market that sells valuable antiques, unique souvenirs, and all manner of goods at all price levels. You can actually haggle over the price here without seeming rude, and the sheer size of the flea market means you can explore it for hours on end.
  • Street Vendors in any part of town, but especially in Plaka and Monastiraki. Beware of forgeries, but there are also legitimate goods to be found. If the vendor seems to disappear whenever a policeman walks by, take that as a clue. There is no legality issue, however, with those selling fruits, nuts, and produce out of street carts.

Safety in Athens, Greece


While Athens is generally a very safe city, there have been a huge number reports of pickpockets on the Metro (especially at the interchanges with the line from Airport), buses and in other crowded areas, including Plaka. You will notice that natives travel with their hands on their bags and pockets and keeping their bag in front rather than on their side or back, which unfortunately is not without reason. You will probably be warned about pickpockets by hotel staff and friendly waiters, but this may be too late. Be extremely cautious and split all your documents, cards and money into different places. Street crime is rare; when it happens, it's most commonly purse-snatching from women walking away from banks and ATM machines.
The friendly stranger bar scam has been reported from areas of central Athens frequented by travelers, including Omonia, Syntagma, and Plaka. Recently, there have been some reports of fraud. Usually, someone will stop you and ask for directions. A couple of other guys then show up claiming to be police, showing a badge (obviously a fake one). They ask if you were getting drugs from the other guy and then ask for your passport and wallet for verification. While you are busy trying to convince them that your passport is valid, one of them sneaks out some money from your wallet.
Another danger recently reported, especially by travelers boarding the Airport Express Bus in Piraeus X96, and at metro interchanges, is pickpocket gangs operating buses used by tourists. As the bus is boarding, a large group traveling together (who are reported often to be of various nationalities other than Greek) will divide itself in two, with half of them going on board and then stopping in the aisle to cause a jam-up among passengers trying to board through the door behind them, the other half then offering to help the jammed passengers lift their luggage on board. Just before the bus leaves, the half of this group on the bus gets off. Then, joining the other half outside the door, they all quickly disperse.
What has happened, of course, is that the passengers who were being "helped" with their luggage by some of this group were being pick-pocketed by others. The theft is particularly effective because it's directed at travelers who are leaving the country and are thus not likely to report it--many victims don't realize they've been robbed until they get to the airport or even until after they get on the plane. Some travelers have claimed that certain bus drivers are party to these crimes by neglecting to open the rear door of the bus for boarding passengers, thus ensuring a tighter and more confused crowd of jammed passengers trying to board through the center door, making the criminals' job easier.
A variation to this on Metro and escalators is when a gang tries to block part of a group from exiting the train so that one or two members are left behind and separated, thus the group is split and distracted for them to steal valuables. The gang may also try to help/split the group into individual people by helping with the luggage or simply forcing themselves inbetween at the escalators. This way, the tourists are focused towards the person standing between them making sure he does not steal, while another gang member you may not have noticed before would be stealing items from the last person in the group on the escalator. It would be best to wear tight pocket pants with valuables in front. Carry all bags forward. Keep values out of reach or very low in the bag with a noisy plastic wrapper on the entrances to the bag, so anyone reaching in would make lots of noise, zip up everything and lock if possible, and avoid bags with smooth zips, so when the gang tries to open the zip, you would feel a movement.
Athens is one of the most political cities in Europe. Demonstrations and riots are common and accepted as part of everyday life and democracy by most Athenians. Keep abreast of news of demonstrations, and avoid them if you don't want to run the risk of being arrested or tear-gassed.
Anarchist and leftist groups often target police, government, and corporate targets during the night. It is unlikely that tourists would be hurt, as the anarchists usually take care to damage only property as opposed to people. Nonetheless, parking by a McDonald's, police station, or bank could get your car damaged.
Likewise neo-nazi gangs, often supporters of the Golden Dawn party, have recently targeted attacks on immigrants from Asia and Africa. Also there has been few incidents of police arresting immigrant- looking people as illegal immigrants. While the incidents of tourists being mistaken as illegal immigrants have been just few, African or Asian looking people should be aware of this when walking in less tourist-populated areas of Athens, especially in the night-time.
In addition, you should be aware that Athens has many stray dogs. Though the large dogs are usually friendly, they may be alarming and unusual upon your first arriving into the city. Athenians feed and take care of them, and it is not unusual to see a shop owner offering plastic plates full of leftovers to the dogs on the street.
Many greeks are high passionate with their football teams and there is hostility between the major football club fans. You should never wear a Panathinaikos t-shirt in Piraeus greater area or an Olympiakos t-shirt in the Ampelokipi, Zografou and Gyzi districts.

Rough areas

Athenians hold negative perceptions for the areas around Omonoia Square and locals advise you to avoid these areas late at night. There are many beggars and homeless people who walk around the streets asking for money or food. Often they use children as sympathy tools. Vathis Square can be populated by druggies using even at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the roads on the right of the National Archaeological Museum appear as a gathering place for the beggars of the city - the density is enormous; the south end of 3 September Street should be avoided. Better to use the metro at Victoria Station for the National Archaeological Museum.
More recently, Sofokleous Street (a major street south of Omonia), especially the western part near Pireos Street, has gotten a reputation for crime and drugs; some Athenians will advise you to avoid it even during the daytime.
The back streets of Piraeus are probably also places where its unwise to wander around late at night. Some may also argue that wandering around the Zappeio gardens and the Pedion Areos parks at night time may not be wise.

Language spoken in Athens, Greece


While Greek is the main language used in Athens, most Athenians speak English and those in the tourist industry are likely to speak French and German too. Notices, menus and road signs are written in both English and Greek.

LOCAL TIME

6:25 pm
March 26, 2019
Europe/Athens

CURRENT WEATHER

15.75 °C / 60.35 °F
sky is clear
Wed

15.88 °C/61 °F
light rain
Thu

11.45 °C/53 °F
moderate rain
Fri

10.79 °C/51 °F
scattered clouds
Sat

7.53 °C/46 °F
moderate rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

EUR

1 USD = 0.89 EUR
1 GBP = 1.17 EUR
1 AUD = 0.63 EUR
1 CAD = 0.66 EUR

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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0 ||| Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 ||| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Erechtheion, Athens, Greece
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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 ||| Public domain Temple of Hephaestus, Athens, Greece
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