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.
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.
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.
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 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 [wiki=0098274c0d52855f22f0b34537035b5a]Piraeus[/wiki], 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 [wiki=bc1536852c18f519735b628f5813e0f9]Acropolis[/wiki]- The ancient "high city" of Athens, crowned by marble temples sacred to the city's goddess Athena.
* [wiki=2846b1e921af391b8be4b67f489af8ad]Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio[/wiki]- 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.
*[wiki=da5596d888fa406012aebd145aaf08a9]Kolonaki[/wiki]- Upscale residential area northeast of Syntagma with many cafes, boutiques and galleries.
*[wiki=ea56cba9c1da202b27af59df5c4fa41a]Metaxourgeio[/wiki]-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.
*[wiki=ab336aa5c92a03e70f4355ca00826eb4]Omonia and Exarheia[/wiki]- Formerly seedy district, north of Psiri, somewhat revitalized by the metro, it is now home to Greece's students, anarchists and the celebrated National Archeaological Museum.
*[wiki=8634328037eeb734cd0d5a3f315bf36c]Pangrati and Mets[/wiki]- 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.
*[wiki=1ccef033d32887ba4fcfccbb4de74d08]Psiri[/wiki]- Former industrial district located north of Monastiraki, now full of trendy and alternative restaurants, cafés, bars, small luxury hotels and shops.
*[wiki=7222ad97ba2ac31c2617a0d58899e38f]Syntagma Square[/wiki] (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.
*[wiki=588b5ee617c25acebdc4f3b4d1aff348]Kifissia[/wiki]- Suburb at the northern terminus of Line 1 (Green), known for its high-end shopping.
*[wiki=52e7792d1a0ff5bacdd45b6bfc3138d4]Nea Smyrni[/wiki]- Suburb about 5 km south of downtown Athens, known as a modern European district.
*[wiki=0098274c0d52855f22f0b34537035b5a]Piraeus[/wiki]- 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.
*[wiki=8c2e4ad921a8704ae75215a815de6edb]Zografou[/wiki]- 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.
Athens airport is a major hub in the Aegean, Balkan and East Mediterranean regions. Air Canada, US Airways and Delta maintain non-stop flights from North America, while a large number of European carriers fly directly into Athens.
By regional coach
Regional coaches (KTEL) connect Athens to other cities in Greece. The fleet of buses has recently been upgraded, which makes the journey pleasant and safe. For some destinations one can also use the buses of the railroad company (OSE, see next paragraph) that might be international, but can also be used for in-country transport.
At times there are collaborations with companies from adjacent countries such as Turkey, Bulgaria,Serbia, FYROM and Albania, so your best move will always be to ask on both the bus and the train companies about your available options.
The national, state owned, rail service, Trainose, [url=http://www.trainose.gr]]connects Athens to other cities in Greece -however, do not expect the diversity and complexity of railroads you usually find in other European countries; the national railroad system is poor in Greece, in effect having only two train lines. One goes south to the [[Pelopponese[/url]] and the other to the north, connecting Athens with the second major city in Greece, [wiki=6ca5bea86fe229aa3c559cd8cb5fe493]Thessaloniki[/wiki]. From there the line continues further to the north(Belgrad,Skopje and Sofia) and all the way to the east, passing through many other cities of northern Greece. Be advised that there are two kinds of train you can use; the cheaper night train, that stops in most stations from Athens to Thessaloniki and nearly makes the trip in 6-6.30 hours, and various day trains that make the trip in 5.20 hours. Both offer first and second class seats, a snack bar wagon and safe luggage transport (for a small extra fee, ideal if you are carrying a lot of them). Beds or international trains are no longer available, yet there are international bus lines operated by Trainose. Tickets are available in the company's site, where there are occasionally offers of tickets with extra discount.
The port of [wiki=0098274c0d52855f22f0b34537035b5a]Piraeus[/wiki] acts as the marine gateway to Athens, and is served by many ferries. Cruise ships also regularly visit, especially during warm months. Generally, pedestrian ferry users will be closer than cruise passengers to the Metro station providing access to Athens; walking distances can vary considerably.
Cruise passengers on larger ships, docked near the recently expanded Terminal B, usually reach the main cruise Terminal A by port shuttle bus; otherwise, it can be a non-trivial walk. Smaller cruise ships (e.g., 1300 or fewer passengers) may dock near the Terminal A. From Terminal A, pedestrians face a safe, level walk north (harbor on your left) of over a mile to the Piraeus Metro station (look for the pedestrian overpass); taxis are readily available to go there, but are not inexpensive.
Public transport in Athens has improved by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. The simple €1.20 ("integrated") ticket lets you travel on any means of transport - metro, suburban trains, trams, trolleybuses, buses - with unlimited transfers anywhere within Athens (except the metro airport line east of Doukissis Plakentias and the airport buses) for 70 minutes, and you can also get a €4 ticket valid for 24 hours or a €10 weekly (5-day) ticket. Workers at the public transport are lately often on strike, causing major troubles on traffic of Athens. Make sure that you are informed before your arrival because there is a strong possibility that you reach the airport and have no means to go downtown, or vice versa.
Athens Metro system [url=http://amel.gr/index.php?id=77&=&L=1],]opened in 2001 (and followed by a restoration of the old Line 1) and currently being extended, is a wonder to behold, and puts many better-known metro systems to shame. Many metro stations resemble museums as they exhibit artifacts found during excavations for the system (i.e. Syntagma). Greeks are very proud about the new subway system. You should not even think about littering and by all means avoid any urge for graffiti -- you will be intercepted by security at once. You are also not allowed to consume food or drink in the subway system. During rush hour, when it could become very crowded, you would have to leave your personal space at the door. There are three lines:
* Line 1 (Μ1 - Green[url=http://www.stasy.gr/index.php?id=1&no_cache=1&L=1/]ISAP[/url[/url]): Piraeus - Kifissia, connects the port of Piraeus and the northern suburbs of Athens via the city centre. Note that line 1 is a rather old line going back to 1869 (lines 2 & 3 are the new subway system of Athens).
* Line 2 (M2 - Red[url=http://ametro.gr/page/default.asp?id=4&la=2]]Attiko Metro[/url]): Anthoupoli - Agios Dimitrios connects western and southern Athens.
* Line 3 (M3 - Blue[url=http://ametro.gr/page/default.asp?id=4&la=2]):]Egaleo - Doukissis Plakentias - International Airport connects the south-western suburbs with the northern suburbs (Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias stations) and the International Airport.
Tickets[url=http://www.athenstransport.com/english/tickets/]:]Metro uses the "integrated" ticket that costs €1.20 as of September 2014 (half price for seniors over 65 and youth under 18). Tickets can be purchased over manned booths or automated vending machines (some of which accept banknotes) in every station. You must validate your ticket prior to going to the platform. There currently are no turnstiles controlling access to the trains, so in theory you could try to ride for free, if however you're caught without a properly validated ticket you'll be asked to pay a hefty 60x the normal fare [currently €84[/url]. Greece's latest economic misadventures have led into intensified inspections in a try to raise more cash; keep in mind that refusing to pay the fine on-the-spot guarantees that you will be escorted away to the nearest police station for a background check and potentially notify your home embassy.
From the moment of validating your €1.20 ticket, you can use it to ride any "Metro" train to every station (except the Airport) or any of the buses or tram (see below) for the next 70 minutes. It's perfectly fine to reverse direction of travel with the same ticket, as long as you are below the 70 minutes mark; if your last trip is expected to go beyond it, you must validate your ticket for a second and last time just before the mark. In more recent times, as a sign of solidarity to those most affected from the financial crisis, many Athenians elect to "drop" their still-good 70-minute tickets in convenient locations near the station entrance for the next person to pick. While you might feel tempted joining or trying to benefit from them, keep in mind that giving away or accepting an already-used ticket is illegal and you can get fined for fare evasion (see above) or station littering.
If you plan to do multiple trips within a day, it makes more sense to buy a 24-hour ticket (which again, works for all destinations except the airport) for €4. This needs to be validated only once, at the start of the first trip. The standard fare to or from the Airport is €8 (half price for seniors over 65 and youth under 18), €14 for a return trip within a week, €14 for a one-way trip for a 2-person group, and €20 for a one-way trip for a 3-person group.
Subway is daily from 05:30-00:00, except for Fridays and Saturdays when it runs until 02:00. Riding late at night is very safe (stations and trains are heavily monitored and policed) so you should not have a second thought about it.
By suburban rail
The Suburban Railway [url=http://www.trainose.gr/]](Proastiakos by Trainose) is a new addition to Athens's network. The main line starts from Piraeus, passes through the main line train station of Larissis in Athens, and forks at Neratziotissa west to Kiato and [[Corinth[/url]] and east towards the Airport.
The new Athens Tram [http://www.tramsa.gr/index.cfm?lang_id=1] connects the city centre with the southern suburbs and has connections with the metro lines. There are three tram lines:
* Line 1 (T1): Syntagma - Palaio Faliro - Neo Faliro connects the city centre with the Peace and Friendship Stadium.
* Line 2 (T2): Syntagma - Palaio Faliro - Glyfada connects the city centre with the coastal zone.
* Line 3 (T3): Neo Faliro - Palaio Faliro - Glyfada runs along the coastal zone.
A single ticket costs 60 cents.
Athens is served by a network of diesel buses, natural gas buses and electric trolley buses run by the Athens Urban Transport Organisation [url=http://oasa.gr/].]As of 1st September 2014, there is no bus only ticket since the integrated ticket has been priced down to 1.20€, the bus only ticket's price. The Integrated ticket allows for multiple trips within 70 minutes and is available in most kiosks and all metro stations. Use a €5 ticket to travel to or from the airport, which can also be bought from the airport bus driver. If you tend to stay for more than a week then a weekly pass for €10 is the most cost-effective. It gives you unlimited rides on almost all public transit (bus, tram, train, subway) for 5 days. You only need to validate once, before first use. Buses will not stop unless you signal the driver by raising your arm.
Night buses. As of March 2006 the night bus routes are:
* X14 Syntagma Square to Kifissia.
* 11 Ano Patissia - Neo Pangrati - Nea Elvetia (trolley bus).
* 040 Piraeus to Syntagma Square.
* 500 Piraeus - Kifissia (night only).
* X92, X93, X95, X96, X97 (the [[Athens#By_plane|airport buses[/url]]).
At the airport you can pick up a multitude of public transport maps, especially for buses, tram and trolleys that cover the whole of Athens, and parts of Attica like Sounio and other ports. These maps can be found in display stands. They are blue and marked with big Numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in different colors.
Canary yellow taxis are a common sight in Athens and are a reasonably priced way of getting around (if you can avoid the traffic jams). The starting fee is €1, after which the meter ticks up at €0.34/km ("rate 1") or €0.64/km ("rate 2"), with a minimum fare of €3.10. Rate 1 applies through Athens city limits, including the airport, while rate 2 applies outside the city and from midnight to 5 AM. Legal surcharges apply for calling a cab by radio (€1.60), trips to or from the airport (€3.20) and heavy bags (€0.32). Tipping is not necessary, although it's common to round up to the nearest full euro.
Taxi fare fraud is not as widespread as it used to be, but it still happens, so insist on the meter and make sure the rate is correct. At busy tourist locations cab drivers can try and con you with a set rate that is ridiculously high (e.g. €20 for a short trip). In these cases it is best to find another and again insist on the charge shown on the meter. If you feel you have been overcharged, ask for a receipt (they are obliged to give one) and take the plate number, then phone the tourist police to report the driver on 171.
Be aware that the taxi drivers rarely obey all of the rules of the road. Expect that if you are leaving Athens on an early flight, that the driver will likely drive aggressively to get you there as quickly as possible.
Taxis are considered as fairly cheap in Athens. As such you can expect to share the ride during rush hours if you can find one, and at night after the Metro has shutdown. As such if you hail a taxi which is already occupied (Free Taxis have a brightly lit TAXI sign on top of the cab) the driver will ask where you want to go to before he will let you in to join the other customers. Strikes by cabbies and public transit are common so be prepared and watch the local news.
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.
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 [wiki=2846b1e921af391b8be4b67f489af8ad]Plaka,[/wiki] especially its upper reaches, and in much of [wiki=da5596d888fa406012aebd145aaf08a9]Kolonaki,[/wiki] 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.
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.
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 [wiki=5cb21f208f3433e447f3ca3a39d5f0f6]Kolonaki[/wiki] (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 [wiki=5cb21f208f3433e447f3ca3a39d5f0f6]Kolonaki[/wiki]. 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.
*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.
The Acropolis, a Unesco World Heritage Site, [url=http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/404]] 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[/url]. 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 Archeological Museum near [wiki=d7c71d1c11d3c1e1d1e35cceed38b540]Omonia[/wiki], the New Acropolis Museum by the [wiki=c47f8871970840cdd5b59c1812bd52b1]Acropolis[/wiki], the Benaki and Museum of Cycladic Art in [wiki=5cb21f208f3433e447f3ca3a39d5f0f6]Kolonaki[/wiki], the Agora Museum near [wiki=1712ebcb2c302734cbd6dfeafbc2a257]Monastiraki[/wiki], and the Kanellopoulos and Folk Art Museums in [wiki=a382d048164c2851a41b5f623b4cc329]Plaka[/wiki]. Details of these and others will be found in the district sections.
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.
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.
Near Athens in Glyfada (50 min by tram from the center), there is the Sea Turtle Rescue Society Archelon. They are regularly looking for volunteers who are willing to work on their own costs and are able to take care of injured sea turtles. http://www.archelon.gr/eng/volunt.php?row=row2
* Attend an event at the Athens and Epidaurus Festival [http://greekfestival.gr/]. It runs during the summer and offers a wide spectrum of events covering almost every taste. Try to attend a performance at the ancient theater of Epidaurus -a truly unforgetable experience.
* If the weather is good, head out of town on buses A2, B2 or 122 from metro station Sygrou, or the tram from Syntagma to the beaches to the south of Athens. Just get off wherever the sea takes your fancy. Be aware though that beach-side cafes can hit you hard with prices of food and drinks. If you are the only person getting on the bus, be aware that you need to flag the bus down to get it to stop or it will just fly on by.
* Watch a basketball game. The two major teams of Athens greater area belong to the elite of Europe and they offer high quality basketball. Panathinaikos dominates the euroleague the last 15 years and its main opponent Olympiakos is also a member of the Europe's top fly teams. Tickets are available out of the stadiums.
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.
Although a huge city, Athens has relatively few shopping malls or large department stores; the small, family run shop still conquers all. Souvenirs are of course available everywhere that tourists go. Other shopping opportunities are antiques, museum reproductions, embroideries and other folk art goods, and Greek food and drink products. Here is an overview of the Athens shopping scene; detailed listings will be found on the relevant district pages:
* [wiki=a382d048164c2851a41b5f623b4cc329]Plaka[/wiki] is lined with souvenir shops, most of them selling cheap souvenir knick-nacks, though there are a few higher-quality shops here and there. Prices can be high for quality items.
* [wiki=5cb21f208f3433e447f3ca3a39d5f0f6]Kolonaki[/wiki] is the upscale, hip, and artistic shopping area. Another is [wiki=9655b0031c5099e69a8ae6b94f7cdeb2]Kifissia[/wiki].
* For a more reasonable price tag, try Ermou Street, beside Syntagma Square.
* Street vendors, with their wares laid out on blankets on the pavement, can be found in many places where tourists congregate, especially in Plaka and Monastiraki. Their goods are mostly forgeries, cheap knock-offs, and illegal CDs. These vendors are unlicensed, which is in violation of Greek law, and you may notice them vanishing as soon as a policeman is in sight, to reappear the instant the police have gone. They are best ignored. (This warning doesn't apply to vendors of fruit, nuts, etc. from street carts, who are usually legitimate.)
For quick, decent and low-budget meals that do not fall into the commercialized fast food category, try a souvlaki' (pronounced soo- VLAH-kee), mainly grilled meat (pork, chicken, it's your choice) vegetables (tomato and onion slices) and greek 'tzatziki' (pronounced tzah-TZEE-khee) which is yogurt enriched with garlic and cucumber. All the above (often accompanied by french fries) are wrapped inside a thin slice of pan bread, named 'pita' (PEE-tah). Prices of 'souvlaki' vary according to the confidence and/or nerve of the cornershop owner, but usually you can get one from €1.70 to €2.20; add some soda, salad and french fries and you can have lunch for no more than €7 - if you ask for a take away, the price is considerably cheaper than if you sit at a table. You can get souvlaki just about everywhere, especially where tourists roam, though they are a bit more expensive in those regions.
For listings of specific restaurants, see the individual [wiki=f89f49c0af75c122fb696f4772c5e460]#Districts|district sections[/wiki], especially [wiki=5cb21f208f3433e447f3ca3a39d5f0f6]Kolonaki[/wiki] and [wiki=a382d048164c2851a41b5f623b4cc329]Plaka[/wiki].
[wiki=1d695f80656385712963d4f50cf0fc23]Traveller%27s diarrhoea[/wiki] 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.
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 [http://www.athensghostcrawl.com/]
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.
Athens has a wide variety of accommodation options, from camping and hostels, right up to 5 star luxury hotels. For listings of specific hotels, see the individual [wiki=f89f49c0af75c122fb696f4772c5e460]#Districts|district sections[/wiki].
*Grand Resort in Lagonissi is one of the best luxury beach resorts near Athens Greece, offering endless choices of luxurious accommodation.
There are many free wireless hotspots across the city. Wi-Fi internet connection is available at Syntagma Square, Kotzia Square and Theseion. Recently, free internet access became available to a number of metro stations in Athens: Syntagma, Panepistimio, Omonia, Piraeus, Nerantziotissa and Doukissis Plakentias and even more stations will be added soon. Alternatively, you can go to one of the many internet cafés located in the center of the city. Many bars, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi for their guests.
Greece's mobile networks are second to none in terms of quality (one of the first countries to roll out LTE in Europe) and Athens is very densely covered. Prepaid connections from all major operators(Cosmote, Vodafone and Wind) are available in most stores and offer very reasonably priced voice and data packages; you will be asked to show a passport and have your details registered at the point of first purchase. Public phones are found all over the city and phone cards are available from most kiosks.
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 [wiki=6b718641741f992e68ec3712718561b8#Scams]bar scam[/wiki] has been reported from areas of central Athens frequented by travelers, including [wiki=d7c71d1c11d3c1e1d1e35cceed38b540]Omonia[/wiki], [wiki=ed32d16c8e34a2af5350aeb6c67cd851]Syntagma[/wiki], and [wiki=a382d048164c2851a41b5f623b4cc329]Plaka[/wiki]. 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.
Athenians hold negative perceptions for the areas around [wiki=ab336aa5c92a03e70f4355ca00826eb4]Omonoia Square[/wiki] 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 [wiki=0098274c0d52855f22f0b34537035b5a]Piraeus[/wiki] 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.
Athens is the primary entry point for international visitors of [wiki=6b718641741f992e68ec3712718561b8]Greece[/wiki]. Thus, getting out of Athens is a typical way to visit most attractions of [wiki=6b718641741f992e68ec3712718561b8]Greece[/wiki].
* Greek islands: During the summer (June, July, August), [wiki=7dab3f720fda8ad6ba599cfae7bb3a03]Greek islands[/wiki] are a must-go destination; the water is exceptionally beautiful and warm enough to swim. Also, a lot of touristic buisinesses (restaurants, hotels, nightlife) operate in the islands during this time. Boats depart from [wiki=a6a4a171f71de2f1fd23b0037c88fd21]Pireaus[/wiki].
** [wiki=cacca268a314789e4a4cc6034a68d1c9]Saronic Gulf Islands[/wiki]: These islands are within close proximity of Athens and can be suitable even for single-day visits.
*** [wiki=05ce6e9051390d71c67038c7f5f378bf]Aegina[/wiki] is 40 minutes / 1 hour away from [wiki=e14045c6b4fe1e65d04aade91b1f8c1b]Athens[/wiki]/[wiki=a6a4a171f71de2f1fd23b0037c88fd21]Pireaus[/wiki] via a boat. Huffington post named it "the most beautiful Greek island that you haven't heard of". In addition to enjoying the beach-type attractions, you can also find ancient Greek archaeological sites, such as the Temple of Afaia and the Kolona archaelogical site. Aegina has also been the first capital of the modern Greek republic (1826-1827). A lot of Athenians also visit [wiki=58b7713e2e1eda842d807efb159f4b56]Aigina[/wiki] on weekends throughout the year.
*** [wiki=0a79d2e788f647cf8c8bee8cad4bf94e]Hydra[/wiki] & [wiki=a93cd9ae8ce5c2316b51e1be94dea84c]Spetses[/wiki] are 2 beautiful, picturesque islands that are 1.5 and 1.75 hours away from Athens with a "Flying dolpin" (faster vessels) or 3 hours away via bigger boats that also carry vehicles.
*** [wiki=d6f04283f0bff2e0ab96823ec9adcd71]Poros[/wiki] and [wiki=a9524a6e31173df790ab27c09a662ccb]Salamina[/wiki] are two other Saronic islands.
** Aegean islands: The most popular [wiki=7dab3f720fda8ad6ba599cfae7bb3a03]Greek islands[/wiki] are farther away, and it takes about 4-5 hours to reach them with a high-speed ferry and 6-8 hours with a regular boat. Nevertheless, you can also fly to them.
*** [wiki=863b84e5b5c4a3476920d71c4a08a259]Santorini[/wiki] is frequently referred by travel guides as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The island offers a unique setting with stunning views and sunsets, as its main towns are located on top of a high cliff right next to the sea.
*** [wiki=fdd5174c1da55bd2c224abf3749a2c65]Mykonos[/wiki] is an Ibiza-like island that suits people seeking clubbing, posh or gay crowds.
*** [wiki=8df42fb3247f81ee0422c508ad3953b0]Paros[/wiki] & [wiki=ec463ceae0ca4cd80011c8a810fce3d1]Naxos[/wiki] are also popular destinations and you can visit them by doing island hopping, on the way to [wiki=863b84e5b5c4a3476920d71c4a08a259]Santorini[/wiki].
*** [wiki=3dd9ab27e061fb4fab78e42511023a08]Rhodes[/wiki] is also a very beautiful island with a lot of attractions, but it is essentially the farthest away from Athens.
* Arhaeological sites: Several important archaeological sites can be reached via the bus service or a rented car:
** [wiki=d790f3d8a7eea825451d99f84de35b85]Sounio[/wiki] is at the tip of the Attica Peninsula, about 1.5 hours away from Athens by car. There you can find the ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, as well as beautiful coastal and sunset views.
** [wiki=4c4a218db8e569d153acc8a4533c4ed8]Delphi[/wiki] is an archaeological site where prophecies were revealed by Pythia. It was considered as the "centre of Earth" duing the ancient Greek era. It is about 2 hours away from Athens.
** In [wiki=c6d984fc859de757340dd09bdf0674cc]Epidavros[/wiki] you can find an amphitheatre were ancient Greek tragedies were played. The amphitheater is admired for its exceptional acoustics. During the summertime, modern actors re-play ancient greek tragedies. Epidavros is about 2 hours away and it can also be reached by boat.
** [wiki=3b7ba4d0f1ae6d041859b4f6a5d2aa58]Olympia[/wiki] is the site of the Olympic games in Ancient Greece. It is about 3.5 hours away from Athens.
** [wiki=78fac87708780c9258f8c59e3321049f]Mycenae[/wiki] is an archaeological site reflecting one of the most important towns of the second millennium BC. It is about 1.5 hours away from Athens by car.
* [wiki=821e09c59f7f85ea87d19a0c05e40403]Meteora[/wiki] is a unique site where Orthodox monasteries are built on top of almost inaccessible large natural sandstone rock pillars. Meteora are about 4 hours away from Athens by car.
* Kessariani: (9km from Athens). There's a road beyond the bus terminus climbing up the verdant slope. After 3 km the Kessariani Monastery appears on the right. The serene monastery was dedicatet to the Presentation of the Virgin; it is now deconsecrated. A recess in the outer wall of the monastery on the east side of the first counrtyard contains the famous Ram's Head Fountain, a sacred spring in antiquity that was celebrated by the Latin poet Ovid in his Ars Amatoria. Ancient fragments dot the inner court-yard. In the Middle Ages the 11C building on the left was the monk's bathhouse. The adjoining wing has a gallery at first-floor levele serving the monk's cells. The church is decorated with murals, those in the narthex date from 1682; Opposite the church are the convent buildings. Leave the Monastery behind and take the path up trhough the trees to a sanctuary. Fine views of Athens, Attica and the Saronica Gulf. Continue up the road past the 11C Asteri Monastery. There are views of Athens and the Saronic Gulf as far as the Pelopponnese to the west, and of the Attic peninsula (Mesogia), its eastern shore ad Euboea to the east. The summit is prohibited.
* On the weekends you can visity the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in [wiki=064f7245e0c7a56c33080f3e342a2b3c]Glyfada[/wiki] from 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Just take the tram to Glyfada and get off at Paleo Demarhio.