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Athens, the birthplace of civilisation
At some point in your life you should get to Athens. It is, after all, the birthplace of democracy and Western civilisation and the gatekeeper of invaluable treasures from past millennia. Read more.
Athens, the birthplace of civilisation
At some point in your life you should get to Athens. It is, after all, the birthplace of democracy and Western civilisation and the gatekeeper of invaluable treasures from past millennia. The expansive metropolis is bound by three mountains and sprawls over seven historical hills including the iconic Acropolis, Lykavittos and Areopagus. Relics from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras are retained in this vibrant city that hosted the first modern-day Olympic Games more than 100 years ago. Those who live in Athens have an unmatched passion for their city and it rubs off on many a traveller.
A city fit for the goddess Athena
Any visit to Athens should begin with The Acropolis. Climb the olive-grove covered hillsides then step through the Propylaia Gateway to this ancient high city, crowned by the iconic Parthenon Temple, the Temple of Athena Nike and other temples sacred to the goddess Athena. Take in the panoramic hilltop views of Athens and on the stroll back down be sure to enjoy the charming historic neighbourhoods of Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio at the base of the hill. Monastiraki is also home to a Sunday morning flea market in Avissinias Square with an abundance of curios, books, clothes and trinkets. Be sure to stop by the state-of-the-art Bernard Tschumi building which houses the long-awaited Acropolis Museum, a modernist building displaying a permanent collection of surviving relics of the Acropolis, including pieces returned from foreign museums. The district is known for Europe’s longest and possibly most beautiful pedestrian promenade. The car-free archaeological walk takes in many significant ancient sites and restored residences. The ancient Agora marketplace is also worth a look, once the heart of public life in the days of Socrates and Plato, you’ll now find temples, a concert hall and colonnaded arcades among the excavations.
Eat and drink
When hunger sets in grab a traditional souvlaki from one of the vendors found just about everywhere. As well giving you a taste of a local favourite, souvlaki is highly economical and is a great snack for those not so accustomed to the late night dining habits in Athens. Don’t expect dinner service in many restaurants before 8pm. Instead, grab a drink and socialise, Greek style. When the time for food does arrive be sure to order a selection from the menu as most dishes are intended to compliment each. Try a traditional taverna in Kolonaki for authentic Greek food, or mingle with other tourists in the ever popular Plaka neighbourhood. The ancient port Piraeus is perfect for a waterside bite or beverage. Athens buzzes all night long with clubs and bars generally opening after midnight for the post-dinner crowd. Gazi, Psirri, Metaxourgio and Exarcheia tend to be the hippest areas for drinking and dancing. After a long night out sip on a frappé to get you through the morning.
Getting there and around
Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is a major hub in the Aegean with a large number of direct international flights as well as onward connecting flights to a list of Greek Islands and other domestic destinations. From the airport, walk across the skybridge to the metro stations and you can get to the city in around 40 minutes by train. There is also an express bus with various routes throughout Athens, most taking a little over an hour. Taxis are relatively cheap if shared and are the easiest way to get door-to-door delivery to your hotel. The free city maps provided at the airport will come in handy for exploring in Wi-Fi free zones. Many of the major attractions in Athens are within walking distance of each other. The hilly nature of the area can turn a walk into more of a hike at times, so the metro is a great option for longer distances. Metro stations often display artefacts found during excavations so are worth a visit even without the need to travel far.