ATHENS

Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years, and the earliest human presence around the 11th–7th centuries BC.Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the seagoing development of the port of Piraeus.

Info Athens

introduction

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years, and the earliest human presence around the 11th–7th centuries BC.

Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the seagoing development of the port of Piraeus. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy,largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent and in particular the Romans.

In modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece.

Athens is recognised as a global city because of its geo-strategic location and its importance in shipping, finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, culture, education and tourism. It is one of the biggest economic centres in southeastern Europe, with a large financial sector, and its port Piraeus is the largest passenger port in Europe, and the second largest in the world.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of Ottoman monuments.

Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery.

info
POPULATION : City: 664,046 /  Metro: 3,753,783
FOUNDED : 
TIME ZONE : EET (UTC+2)  Summer: EEST (UTC+3)
LANGUAGE : Greek 99% (official), other 1% (includes English and French)
RELIGION : Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%
AREA : 412 km2 (159 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 70 m (230 ft) - 338 m (1,109 ft)
COORDINATES : 37°58′N 23°43′E
SEX RATIO : Male: 49.34% 
 Female: 50.66%
ETHNIC : Greek 93%,  Others 7%
AREA CODE : 21
POSTAL CODE :  10x xx, 11x xx, 120 xx
DIALING CODE : +30 21
WEBSITE : www.berlin.de/en/

Tourism

Athens has been a destination for travellers since antiquity. Over the past decade, the city's infrastructure and social amenities have improved, in part because of its successful bid to stage the 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek Government, aided by the EU, has funded major infrastructure projects such as the state-of-the-art Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, the expansion of the Athens Metro system, and the new Attiki Odos Motorway.

Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1834, include the Hellenic Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy, consisting of the National Library of Greece, the Athens University and the Academy of Athens. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it welcomed home the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens is home to the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world's largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, as well as the new Acropolis Museum.

Athens is home to 148 theatrical stages, more than any other city in the world, including the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus, 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 open air garden cinemas. The city also supports music venues, including the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Moussikis), which attracts world class artists. The Athens Planetarium, located in Andrea Syngrou Avenue, is one of the largest and best equipped digital planetaria in the world.

History

The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist, which has been dated to between the 11th and 7th centuries BC. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years. By 1400 BC the settlement had become an important centre of the Mycenaean civilization and the Acropolis was the site of a major Mycenaean fortress, whose remains can be recognised from sections of the characteristic Cyclopean walls.

By the 6th century BC, widespread social unrest led to the reforms of Solon. These would pave the way for the eventual introduction of democracy by Cleisthenes in 508 BC. Athens had by this time become a significant naval power with a large fleet, and helped the rebellion of the Ionian cities against Persian rule. In the ensuing Greco-Persian Wars Athens, together with Sparta, led the coalition of Greek states that would eventually repel the Persians, defeating them decisively at Marathon in 490 BC, and crucially at Salamis in 480 BC. However, this did not prevent Athens from being captured and sacked twice by the Persians within one year, after a heroic resistance at Thermopylae by Spartans and other Greeks led by King Leonidas, after both Boeotia and Attica fell to the Persians.

The decades that followed became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, during which time Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations of Western civilization. The playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides flourished in Athens during this time, as did the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates.

By the mid-4th century BC, the northern Greek kingdom of Macedon was becoming dominant in Athenian affairs. In 338 BC the armies of Philip II defeated an alliance of some of the Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively ending Athenian independence. Later, under Rome, Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools. The Roman emperor Hadrian, in the 2nd century AD, constructed a library, a gymnasium, an aqueduct which is still in use, several temples and sanctuaries, a bridge and financed the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

By the end of Late Antiquity, the city experienced decline followed by recovery in the second half of the Middle Byzantine Period, in the 9th to 10th centuries AD, and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade. After the Fourth Crusade the Duchy of Athens was established. In 1458 it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and entered a long period of decline.

Following the Greek War of Independence and the establishment of the Greek Kingdom, Athens was chosen as the capital of the newly independent Greek state in 1834, largely because of historical and sentimental reasons. At the time it was a town of modest size built around the foot of the Acropolis. The first King of Greece, Otto of Bavaria, commissioned the architects Stamatios Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert to design a modern city plan fit for the capital of a state.

In 1896 Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games.

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 tourists.

Athens has a subtropical Mediterranean climate. The dominant feature of Athens's climate is alternation between prolonged hot and dry summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall.

Winters are mild and rainy, with a January average of 8.9 °C (48.0 °F); in Nea Filadelfeia and 10.3 °C (50.5 °F)

Athens holds the World Meteorological Organization record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe, at 48.0 °C (118.4 °F), which was recorded in the Elefsina and Tatoi suburbs of Athens on 10 July 1977.

 ClimateJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
 
Daily highs (°C)121316202631333329231814
Nightly lows (°C)55710141821211713107
Precipitation (mm)5747413123116614536869

Geography

Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica that is often referred to as theAthens or Attica Basin (Greek: Λεκανοπέδιο Αττικής). The basin is bounded by four large mountains: Mount Aigaleo to the west, Mount Parnitha to the north, Mount Pentelicus to the northeast and Mount Hymettus to the east. Beyond Mount Aegaleo lies the Thriasian plain, which forms an extension of the central plain to the west. The Saronic Gulflies to the southwest. Mount Parnitha is the tallest of the four mountains (1,413 m (4,636 ft)), and has been declared a national park.

Athens is built around a number of hills.Lycabettus is one of the tallest hills of the city proper and provides a view of the entire Attica Basin. The geomorphology of Athens is deemed to be one of the most complex in the world because its mountains cause a temperature inversion phenomenon which, along with the Greek Government's difficulties controlling industrial pollution, was responsible for the air pollution problems the city has faced. This issue is not unique to Athens; for instance, Los Angeles and Mexico City also suffer from similar geomorphology inversion problems.

The Cephissus river, the Ilisos and the Eridanos stream are the historical rivers of Athens.

Economy

Athens is the financial capital of Greece, and multinational companies such as Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola and Coca-Cola have their regional research and development headquarters there.

Subdivisions

The municipality of Athens, the city centre of the Athens Urban Area, is divided into several districts:Omonoia, Syntagma, Exarcheia, Agios Nikolaos, Neapolis, Lykavittos, Lofos Strefi, Lofos Finopoulou, Lofos Filopappou, Pedion Areos,Metaxourgeio, Aghios Kostantinos,Larissa Station, Kerameikos, Psiri,Monastiraki, Gazi, Thission,Kapnikarea, Aghia Irini, Aerides, Anafiotika, Plaka, Acropolis, Pnyka, Makrygianni, Lofos Ardittou,Zappeion, Aghios Spyridon,Pangration, Kolonaki, Dexameni, Evaggelismos, Gouva, Aghios Ioannis, Neos Kosmos, Koukaki, Kynosargous, Fix, Ano Petralona, Kato Petralona, Rouf, Votanikos, Profitis Daniil, Akadimia Platonos,Kolonos, Kolokynthou, Attikis Square, Lofos Skouze, Sepolia, Kypseli, Aghios Meletios, Nea Kypseli, Gyzi, Polygono, Ampelokipoi, Panormou-Gerokomeio, Pentagono, Ellinorosson, Nea Filothei, Ano Kypseli, Tourkovounia-Lofos Patatsou, Lofos Elikonos, Koliatsou, Thymarakia, Kato Patisia, Treis Gefyres, Aghios Eleftherios, Ano Patisia, Kypriadou, Prompona, Aghios Panteleimonas, Pangrati, Goudi and Ilisia.

  • Omonoia, Omonoia Square, (Greek: Πλατεία Ομονοίας) is the oldest square in Athens. It is surrounded by hotels and fast food outlets, and contains a train station used by the Athens Metro and the Ilektrikos, named Omonoia station. The square is the focus for celebration of sporting victories, as seen after the country's winning of the Euro 2004 and the Eurobasket 2005 tournaments.
  • Metaxourgeio (Greek: Μεταξουργείο) is a neighborhood of Athens. The neighborhood is located north of the historical centre of Athens, between Kolonos to the east and Kerameikos to the west, and north of Gazi.Metaxourgeio is frequently described as a transition neighborhood. After a long period of abandonment in the late 20th century, the area is acquiring a reputation as an artistic and fashionable neighborhood following the opening of art galleries, museums, restaurants and cafes.  Local efforts to beautify and invigorate the neighborhood have reinforced a sense of community and artistic expression. Anonymous art pieces containing quotes and statements in both English and Ancient Greek have sprung up throughout the neighborhood, bearing statements such as "Art for art's sake" (Τέχνη τέχνης χάριν). Guerilla gardening has also helped to beautify the area.
  • Psiri and Gazi – The reviving Psiri (Greek: Ψυρρή) neighbourhood – also known as Athens's "meat packing district" – is dotted with renovated former mansions, artists' spaces, and small gallery areas. A number of its renovated buildings also host fashionable bars, making it a hotspot for the city in the last decade, while live music restaurants known as "rebetadika", after rebetiko, a unique form of music that blossomed in Syros and Athens from the 1920s until the 1960s, are to be found. Rebetiko is admired by many, and as a result rebetadika are often crammed with people of all ages who will sing, dance and drink till dawn.

The Gazi (Greek: Γκάζι) area, one of the latest in full redevelopment, is located around a historic gas factory, now converted into the Technopolis cultural multiplex, and also includes artists' areas, small clubs, bars and restaurants, as well as Athens's "Gay village". The metro's expansion to the western suburbs of the city has brought easier access to the area since spring 2007, as the blue line now stops at Gazi (Kerameikos station).

  • Syntagma, Syntagma Square, (Greek: Σύνταγμα/Constitution Square), is the capital's central and largest square, lying adjacent to the Greek Parliament(the former Royal Palace) and the city's most notable hotels. Ermou Street, an approximately one-kilometre-long (0.62-mile) pedestrian road connecting Syntagma Square to Monastiraki, is a consumer paradise for both Athenians and tourists. Complete with fashion shops and shopping centres promoting most international brands, it now finds itself in the top five most expensive shopping streets in Europe, and the tenth most expensive retail street in the world.  Nearby, the renovated Army Fund building in Panepistimiou Street includes the "Attica" department store and several upmarket designer stores.
  • Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thission – Plaka (Greek: Πλάκα), lying just beneath the Acropolis, is famous for its plentiful neoclassical architecture, making up one of the most scenic districts of the city. It remains a prime tourist destination with tavernas, live performances and street salesmen. NearbyMonastiraki (Greek: Μοναστηράκι), for its part, is known for its string of small shops and markets, as well as its crowded flea market and tavernas specialising in souvlaki. Another district known for its student-crammed, stylish cafés is Theseum or Thission (Greek: Θησείο), lying just west of Monastiraki. Thission is home to the ancient Temple of Hephaestus, standing atop a small hill. This area also has a picturesque 11th-century Byzantine church, as well as a 15th-century Ottoman mosque.
  • Exarcheia (Greek: Εξάρχεια), located north of Kolonaki, is the location of the city's anarchist scene and as a student quarter with cafés, bars and bookshops. Exarcheia is home to the Athens Polytechnic and the National Archaeological Museum; it also contains important buildings of several 20th-century styles: Neoclassicism, Art Deco and Early Modernism (including Bauhaus influences).
  • Kolonaki (Greek: Κολωνάκι) is the area at the base of Lycabettus hill, full of boutiques catering to well-heeled customers by day, and bars and more fashionable restaurants by night, with galleries and museums. This is often regarded as one of the more prestigious areas of the capital.

Urban and suburban municipalities

The Athens Metropolitan Area consists of 58 densely populated municipalities, sprawling around the municipality of Athens (the city centre) in virtually all directions. For the Athenians, all the urban municipalities surrounding the city centre are called suburbs. According to their geographic location in relation to the City of Athens, the suburbs are divided into four zones; the northern suburbs (including Agios Stefanos, Dionysos, Ekali,Nea Erythraia, Kifissia, Maroussi, Pefki,Lykovrysi, Metamorfosi, Nea Ionia, Nea Filadelfeia, Irakleio, Vrilissia, Melissia,Penteli, Chalandri, Agia Paraskevi,Galatsi, Psychiko and Filothei); the southern suburbs (including Alimos, Nea Smyrni, Moschato, Kallithea, Agios Dimitrios, Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Glyfada, Argyroupoli, Ilioupoli, Voula andVouliagmeni); the eastern suburbs (including Zografou, Dafni, Vyronas,Kaisariani, Cholargos and Papagou); and the western suburbs (including Peristeri, Ilion, Egaleo, Agia Varvara, Chaidari, Petroupoli, Agioi Anargyroi and Kamatero).

The Athens city coastline, extending from the major commercial port of Piraeus to the southernmost suburb of Varkiza for some 25 km (20 mi),  is also connected to the city centre by a tram.

In the northern suburb of Maroussi, the upgraded main Olympic Complex (known by its Greek acronym OAKA) dominates the skyline. The area has been redeveloped according to a design by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, with steel arches, landscaped gardens, fountains, futuristic glass, and a landmark new blue glass roof which was added to the main stadium. A second Olympic complex, next to the sea at the beach of Palaio Faliro, also features modern stadia, shops and an elevated esplanade. Work is underway to transform the grounds of the old Athens Airport – named Elliniko – in the southern suburbs, into one of the largest landscaped parks in Europe, to be named the Hellenikon Metropolitan Park.

Many of the southern suburbs (such as Alimos, Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Voula,Vouliagmeni and Varkiza) host a number of sandy beaches, most of which are operated by the Greek National Tourism Organisation and require an entrance fee. Casinos operate on both Mount Parnitha, some 25 km (16 mi) ] from downtown Athens (accessible by car or cable car), and the nearby town of Loutraki (accessible by car via the Athens – Corinth National Highway, or the suburban rail service Proastiakos).

Internet, Comunication

There are many free wireless hotspots across the city. Wi-Fi internet connection is available at Syntagma Square, Kotzia Square and Theseion. 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.

The mobile network (3G/4G/4G+/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. Also, public phones are found all over the city and phone cards are available from most kiosks.

Prices in Athens

PRICES LIST - EUR

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter€1.25
Tomatoes1 kg€1.30
Cheese0.5 kg€8.00
Apples1 kg€1.25
Oranges1 kg€0.80
Beer (domestic)0.5 l€1.10
Bottle of Wine1 bottle€7.00
Coca-Cola2 liters€2.00
Bread1 piece€0.65
Water1.5 l€0.85

PRICES LIST - EUR

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2€25.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2€35.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2€53.00
Mac Meal or similar1 meal€6.00
Water0.33 l€0.50
Cappuccino1 cup€3.10
Beer (Imported)0.33 l€4.00
Beer (domestic)0.5 l€3.50
Coca-Cola0.33 l€1.45
Coctail drink1 drink€10.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets€15.00
Gym1 month€40.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut€11.00
Theatar2 tickets€45.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.€0.30
Pack of Marlboro1 pack€4.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack€7.00
Tampons32 pieces€3.90
Deodorant50 ml.€4.30
Shampoo400 ml.€3.90
Toilet paper4 rolls€1.75
Toothpaste1 tube€2.40

PRICES LIST - EUR

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)€73.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1€31.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)€77.00
Leather shoes1€88.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter€1.47
TaxiStart€3.00
Taxi1 km€0.70
Local Transport1 ticket€1.20

Tourist (Backpacker)  

45 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

147 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

Athens airport is a major hub in the Aegean, Balkan and East Mediterranean regions. American, Air Canada, United Airlines and Delta maintain non-stop flights from North America, while a large number of European carriers fly direct into Athens.


The airport

The new Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport 27 km (17 miles) east of the city centre, near the suburb of Spáta, opened in 2001 as part of the infrastructure improvements in preparation for the Olympics and is allegedly now one of the more attractive and efficient major European airports, though some old Athenian hands say they miss the messy atmosphere of the old Hellenikon. The airport has excellent public transit connections to the city (see below) and the usual array of food stands, duty-free shops, and other airport services.

There is a Tourist information station in Arrivals that will have the latest literature put out by the Tourist Information Department; this is useful for getting information of arranged local festivities in Athens and Attica. They will also have a printed brochure of Ferry information from Piraeus and other Attica ports.

There is also a small museum on the top floor that has an interesting history on Athens as well as a space put aside for temporary exhibits.

Trolleys are available at the airport, you will find them in the baggage hall on arrival and they use coins the same way supermarket trolleys do. To release a trolley a Euro coin needs to be inserted, and you get it back by placing the trolley back to its original position.

If you stay in Athens for a short time, consider leaving part of your luggage in a baggage storage. It is run by Pacific Travel [www], and is located in the end of left-hand wing, arrivals level. Storage time differentiates between 6 to 36 hours and sizes vary from small to large. The only inconvenience is that the same queue is used for collecting and for leaving – allow extra time before your flight. No automatic lockers can be found in the airport.

There is free Wi-Fi in the airport, which is limited to 45 minutes, with no promise of security.

There are indoor glass purpose-built 'smoking rooms' inside the airport, both in the departure desk area and also for passengers on landing before luggage retrieval.


From the airport to the city

From the airport you can reach the city:

  • By Metro to the city center for €10 (one way). Group tickets (2 or 3 persons) are also available and they provide some discount (see below). The airport Metro line is an extension of Line 3 (blue line) that takes you to the central Syntagma and Monastiráki stations.

At the airport, both metro trains and suburban trains pass from the same platform. If you are travelling to the city centre, you should take the metro trains.

Don't forget to validate your ticket before going down to the platform and boarding a train (there are validation machines at the top of the escalators in the ticket hall). Failure to validate your ticket at the start of the journey can mean a fine of up to €200. The ticket inspectors are rigorous and won't hesitate to call for police assistance if you start to object.
Those taking the Metro from Athens to the airport should note that not all trains go to the airport; typically the airport trains run every half hour, while trains in the intervals don't go the whole route. Airport trains are indicated on the schedule and by an airplane logo on the front of the train, they are also announced by the signs on the metro platform. It's useful to go to the Metro station the day before, explain to the agent (most speak English) when you need to be at the airport, and ask what time you should catch the airport train from that station. You can also get this information at the airport metro station, which has a desk staffed most hours by someone who speaks English. It's possible but not necessary to buy your ticket in advance; buying in advance though means you won't risk missing your train if you find at the last minute you don't have change for the ticket machines and have to stand in a line to buy it from the agent.
  • By Suburban Railway' to Larissis Railway Station for €6 via change at Ano Liossia Station. Suburban trains are not as fast as the metro trains. A Change at Ano Liossia to Line 2 (red) or Doukissis Plakentias to Line 3 (blue) of the metro can take you to:
    • The Omónia and Syntagma stations (Line 2).
    • Northern Greece and the Peloponnese, by train from Larissis station (Line 2).
    • The Monastiraki and Syntagma stations (Line 3).
  • By bus: X93 to Kifissos Coach Station, X95 to Syntagma Square (Lines 2 and 3), X96 to Piraeus Port (Line 1) and X97 to Elliniko metro station (Line 2) for €6.00. It takes 45 min to 1.5 hrs depending on traffic. Buses, unlike Metro, operate 24 hours a day.
  • By taxi: If you take a taxi be careful. According to a new law applied recently, taxi drives to the centre cost €38 during the day and €50 during the night. Ask if the price includes toll costs.

It is advisable to get a free copy of the city transport map in the airport – in the city it is extremely helpful.

Be aware that Greece has a long tradition of labour unionism and Greeks are never shy to go on strike, especially in view of the difficult economic situation the country has been in. Inform yourself of possible strikes in advance using relevant websites.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

The national rail service, Trainose, 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 and the other to the north, connecting Athens with the second major city in Greece,Thessaloniki. From there the line continues further to the north and all the way to the east, passing through many other cities of northern Greece and eventually reaching Istanbul. There are two types of train you can use; normal, slow, type of train equipped with beds, and the so-called new 'Intercity' type which is more expensive because of a 'quality supplement fee' that grows with distance. For example, travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki by the 'Intercity' type will save one hour at most, but the ticket will be almost twice the price. 'Intercity' tends to be more reliable, yet more 'bumpy' than the normal train. As of late 2014 there are international trains to Belgrade, Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria via Thessaloniki.

Transportation - Get In

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, Macedonia and Albania, so it's advisable to ask on both the bus and the train companies about the available options.

There are two KTEL coach stations, one at Liosion (near Aghios Nikolaos station on the Green line) and the other at Kifissou Avenue .

Transportation - Get In

By boat

The port of Piraeus 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 usually reach the main cruise terminal by port shuttle bus; otherwise, it can be a non-trivial walk. Smaller ships (e.g., 1200 or fewer passengers) may dock near the terminal...an easy walk. From the terminal, pedestrians face a safe, level walk of over a mile to the Piraeus Metro station; taxis are readily available to go there, but are not inexpensive.

 


Transportation - Get Around

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 3-day "tourist" ticket for €20 that includes one round-trip to the airport.

Transportation - Get Around

By metro

The Athens Metro opened in 1869 (Line 1) and in 2000 (Lines 2 & 3) which is 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). You are not allowed to consume food or drink in the metro system. During rush hour, it can become very crowded. There are three lines:

  • Line 1 (Green line):Piraeus – Kifissia, connects the port of Piraeus and the northern suburbs of Athens (Kifisia station) via the city centre. Be sure that you keep an eye on your personal stuff when using this line and be prepared for people getting in the train and asking for money.
  • Line 2 (Red line): Anthoupoli – Elliniko connects western and southern Athens via Athens centre.
  • Line 3 (Blue line): Aghia Marina – Doukissis Plakentias – Airport connects the western suburbs with the eastern suburbs (Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias stations) and the International Airport.

Validate your ticket at the validation machines upon entering the station. Failure to do so will entail a hefty fine if you are caught by ticket inspectors. The standard metro fare is €1.40 (as of June 2016) for trips between all stations except the Airport line, east of Doukissis Plakentias. This allows travel with all means of public transport and unlimited transfers for 70 minutes.

A 24-hour ticket for all public transport in Athens, apart from the Airport line, costs €4.50. This needs to be validated only once, at the start of the first journey. The standard fare to or from the Airport is €10 (as of February 2016), €14 for a return trip within 48 hours, €14 for a one-way trip for a 2-person group and €20 for a one-way trip for a 3-person group.

There are often multiple entrances to the stations and often they go straight to the platform, so remember which entrance is for which. It is open from 05:00 to midnight.

Transportation - Get Around

By suburban railway

The Suburban Railway (Proastiakos by Trainose) is a new addition to Athens's public transportations network. The line starts at Piraeus, passes through the main line train station (Larissis) in Athens, and forks at Ano Liosia west to Corinth and Kiato and east towards the Airport.

Transportation - Get Around

By Car

The new Athens Tram connects the city centre with the southern suburbs and has connections with the metro lines. There are three tram lines:

  • Line 3 (T3):Peace and Friendship Stadium – Asklipeio Voulas Hospital connects Faliro with the southern suburbs and runs along the coastal zone.
  • Line 4 (T4): Syntagma – Peace and Friendship Stadium connects the city centre with Faliro.
  • Line 5 (T5): Syntagma - Asklipeio Voulas Hospital connects the city centre with the coastal zone and the southern suburbs.

Ticket prices are the same with Athens Metro (€1,20 for 70 minutes)

Transportation - Get Around

By bus

Athens is served by a network of diesel buses, natural gas buses and electric trolley buses run by the Athens Urban Transport Organisation [www]. The integrated ticket costs €1.20 and allows for multiple trips within 70 minutes, including transfers to the Metro or Tram and it's available in most kiosks. Trips to the Airport cost €5. If you tend to stay for more than a week then a weekly pass for €14 is the most cost-effective. It gives you unlimited rides on almost all public transit (bus, tram, train, subway) for 7 days. You only need to validate once, before first use. Buses will not stop unless you signal the driver by raising your arm. Note that there are not arrival time signs in any of the stations.

Transportation - Get Around

By taxi

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 €1.19, after which the meter ticks up at €0.34/km ("rate 1") or €0.64/km ("rate 2"), with a minimum fare of €3.20. Rate 1 applies through Athens city limits, including the airport, while rate 2 applies outside the city and from midnight to 05:00. Legal surcharges apply for calling a taxi 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 drivers try to con 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 the driver will 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 car) 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.

Transportation - Get Around

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.

The initiative My City with a Bike [www] taken by the General Secretariat for The Youth [www] and several NGO's offers free conducted tours with free bikes every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00 all year round except for the rainy days. Booking 10 days in advance is required, either by email ([email protected]) or phone (8011 19 19 00).

Transportation - Get Around

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 centre. 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 pavements (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.

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Shopping

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:

  • Plaka is lined with souvenir shops, most of them selling cheap souvenir knick-nacks, though there are a few higher-quality shops. Prices can be high for good quality items.
  • In Athens, the Flea Market has two meanings. The sign next to Monastiraki station at the beginning of Ifaistou Street claims that you are entering "the Flea Market of Athens." The street is lined with second-hand and surplus shops of every description. Few of them are of much interest to the visitor, though towards the west end of the street there are some interesting shops selling old books, posters, and Greek and other music recordings. The real Flea Market is held on Sunday mornings in Plateia Avissinia at the western end of Ifaistou Street. There is incredible assortment of used objects, antiques, and junk.
  • Vrettos distillery (see below, under Drink) sells bottles of its own ouzo and other liqueurs.
  • Among all the souvenir and second-hand stores in the area, Martinos at 50 Pandrossou (tel. 210/321-3110)stands out as a genuine antique shop, offering top quality items from Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. Prices are also top of the line, so this is a shop for knowledgeable antique buyers in the market to do some serious spending. Remember that taking antiques out of Greece and into your own country may be subject to the laws of both countries and be sure you're familiar with them before taking anything old home.
  • PublicSintagma Square. Mahoosive shop selling CDs, DVDs, PCs, electronics,books, comics, stationary etc.
  • Kolonaki is the upscale, hip, and artistic shopping area. Kolonaki offers the usual range of shops for an upscale neighbourhood; art galleries, hip clothing boutiques, and antique stores are common. The area is small and along with the small streets north of it, including Skoufa, Anagnostopoulou and the pedestrianized Tsakaloff, are ideal for simply wandering around.  Plateia Kolonaki(Kolonaki Square) There are also plenty of shops along Patriarchou Ioakim and Haritos streets and their cross streets.
  • Another area is Kifissia.
  • For a more reasonable price tag, try Ermou Street, beside Syntagma Square. Turn right off Ermou at the MAC makeup shop and you'll find yourself on Aghiou Markou and other small streets which have a wide range incredibly cheap shoes, bags, jewellery, gifts and homewares.
  • The Mall at the Metro and Suburban Railway Station "Neratziotissa" (Line 1) is the biggest shopping mall in Athens with a large variety of shops, cafés and restaurants and, arguably, one of the most "hi tech" cinemas in the city. Access by metro line 1 or the Suburban Railway (Nerantziotissa station).
  • The Golden Hall is a shopping mall at Kifissias avenue in Maroussi and includes shops with luxury brands, as well as luxury cafés, bars and restaurants.
  • The Athens Heart is a shopping mall close to the centre of Athens.
  • 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.)
  • Laiki (People's market), Divaki Pindou and Ioanni Theologou. A fruit, vegetable and fish market. Good fun.

Restaurants

  • 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 or chicken) 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 cost from €1.70 to €2.20, and another €5 for drink, salad and French fries for a total no more than €7. Take away is cheaper than if you sit at a table. You can get souvlaki just about everywhere, especially in tourist areas. The best souvlaki stands in central Athens are both in Monastiraki, adjacent to each other and just off the main square in front of the Metro stop: Savvas at Mitropoleos 86-88 and O Thanasisat Mitropoleos 69.
  • If you're interested in a sandwich, cheese pie, spinach pie or the equivalent of a fast snack, try Grigoris (Γρηγόρης) or Everest, two chains of fast food in most districts of Athens and the rest of Greece. Goody's is the Greek equivalent of McDonald's and offers a fair variety of tasty meals, including pasta, different salads, burgers etc.
  • Ta Duo Adelfia (Τα δύο αδέλφια), Papagou. The best souvlaki in this part of Athens. A giro will cost around €2.
  • ThanasisGrigori Kousidi. Good souvlaki, try there "pitta kalamaki kotopoulo me sauce" (Chicken kebab wrapped in a pitta with sauce). A guro will cost about €2.20.
  • Anatolitiki Kebapcorner of Formionos and Ymmitou, Pangrati. Neighborhood taverna offering kebaps (Aaatolian and Armenian style), chicken giros (giro koutopoulo), other wonderful foods from Ottoman cooking. The Giaourtlou Kebap is a unique dish originating in Turkey, it is a must try at this restaurant. The owner goes weekly to buy the freshest Dodoni feta from Preveza. The horiatiki salads are worth the visit. very reasonable.
  • Karavitis33 Arktínou (near Pafsaníou), +30 210 75 15 155. a severely traditional taverna where the speciality is stamnaki, or beef, potatoes and cheese cooked in tomato sauce in an individual clay pot. The fried zucchini here are also always good. Mostly patronized by Greeks, but there is an English-language menu.
  • Barba YannisEmmanouíl Benáki 94,  +30 210 33 00 185. Old fashioned simple taverna, popular with students and working people; seems to be always open.
  • LefkaMavromiháli 121+30 210 36 14 038. A long-established traditional taverna with spacious outdoor seating. Closed Sundays.
  • Ideal (also spelled Inteal'),  +30 210 3303000. Panepistimiou 46. A restaurant where local employees go during lunch break, therefore try to go before the closing of the offices.
  • Rosalia,  +30 210 3302933. Valtetsiou 58, - Exarxeia. A tavern that serves simple, traditional Greek meals.
  • Yantes,  +30 210 3301369. Valtetsiou 44 - Exarxeia. A tavern with a garden serving organic dishes.
  • Filippou+30 210 72 16 390. 19 Xenokratous. A long-established taverna serving some of the best and most authentic food in Athens. Seating is indoors and outdoors, though it's hard to find a seat in the latter during pleasant weather.
  • To KioupiPlatía Kolonakíou,  +30 210 36 14 033. Known among some expatriates as "the hole in the ground," this is a basement taverna serving authentic, inexpensive traditional Greek fare.

For listings of specific restaurants, see the individual district sections, especiallyKolonaki and Plaka.

  • Κωστας (Kostas), 5 Pentelis (take Metropolis from Syntagma Square, turn left on Pentelis). Kostas was recommend by a local as "the best Souvlaki in Athens."
  • McDonalds. It's the same everywhere, but here it has a slight Greek slant.
  • PALLS30 Apollonos st.,  +30 210 3246008. original falafel and bagel

At the end of Mitropoleos, just around the corner from the Metro station, is a trio of famous souvlaki shops — Thanasis, Savvas and Bairaktaris (Μπαϊρακτάρης) — which are, depending on who you ask, the Mecca or the Hades of souvlaki lovers. At any of the three, if you take a seat and ask for a souvlaki, you'll be served a plate with meat, pita and chips for around €9. But, if you ask cashier for a pita-souvlaki, you'll get the same stuff in a sandwich to take away for around €1.70.


Budget

Adrianou, which runs along the north side of the Acropolis from Thissio in the west to Plaka in the east, is packed with tavernas. Many are touristy and a little on the pricy side, so try to pick one that also has locals as customers. Expect to pay a little extra at any place that has views of the Acropolis.


Mid-range

  • Vyzantino, at Kydathineon and Adrianou, at the epicenter of the Plaka tourist-quake, is significantly better and more authentic than the seemingly identical restaurants which line the streets of this intersection. Large portions of traditional Greek fare served in a pleasant outdoor seating area. Service is generally fast but can slow down when the tour groups crowd in.
  • Platanos (4 Dioyenous, tel +30 210 322 1065) is one of the oldest tavernas in Plaka with a pleasant outdoor terrace under a huge plane tree, though some old Athens hands have complained that the food has become lacklustre recently.
  • Damigos,  +30 210 322 5048. Also called Ta Bakaliarakia (which means "codcakes") (41 Kydathineon, claims to date back to 1865 and though it's recently been refurbished, it still looks very old. This is a really good, traditional, simple restaurant with authentic food, specializing in the eponymous codcakes, and serving excellent wine from the family vineyards. Formerly it was mostly closed in the summer months, but more recently has opened in June.
  • Zeus Xenios (pronounced and sometimes spelled Zefs in modern Greek), at the very top of Mnesikleous Street, literally in the shadow of the Acropolis, offers quieter and less expensive dining than the many touristy tavernas lining Mnesikleous whose touts will try to snare you as you walk up the hill. The view isn't as spectacular as you might expect, but the outdoor seating is very pleasant and the traditional Greek dishes include some unusual ones, like grilled peppers in yogurt sauce. The price includes a bottle of water, an appetizer plate and garlic bread.
  • Avalon,  +30 210 3310572. Leokoriou 20 (at corner with Sarri street) - Psiri. Open until 01:30.
  • Pairs Keròs,  +30 210 3212858. Taki 16 (on Psiri square). Refining "mezedopolio" with live music every evening. Open also on lunch hours.
  • Orea Penteli,  +30 2103218627. On Psiri square. Another "mezedopolio" with live music in an old restored building.
  • Skolion,  +30 210 3246098. Katsikogianni 5. On Agii Anargiri square -- Psiri. A "mezedopolio" where local singers sing rempetika music.
  • O&B Athens All Day Bar Restaurant,  +30 210 3312950. Leokoriou 5 - Psiri - Thisio. Next to Ermou Street. The Bar - Restaurant of the O&B Athens Boutique Hotel, offers gourmet Greek food and all day food and coffee.

Splurge

  • Cafe Avissinia. Is quite a remarkable restaurant, serving refined and creative innovations on traditional Greek dishes in a chic setting. Located on the square of the same name which is the venue of the main Athens flea market, this is an interesting place to come for lunch, where you can sit enjoying the upscale food and ambiance while looking out on the gritty bazaar of the Flea Market. Moderately expensive, and unfortunately no open wine, though they do have a short but well-chosen list of Greek bottled wines. Open for lunch and dinner. Those considering walking there for dinner from Plaka or the Monastiraki Metro should be aware that the intervening area, while fine by day and not known to be particularly dangerous even at night, it does take on an uncomfortable "Bladerunner" atmosphere after dark.

Kosher dining

Athens currently has only one kosher restaurant, Gostijo, a Sephardi restaurant located in Psiri.

Sights & Landmarks

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 among 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 among 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 Lycavittos 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 (€6.5 for a 2 way trip) 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 within four days. If you're a student, almost all admission costs are waived.


Acropolis

The Acropolis of Athens was the ancient fortified town of Athens, dating back to the Late Bronze Age. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic role and the many iconic buildings of the Greek Classical age, among them the Parthenon, the Erectheion, the Temple of Athena Nike. The key landmark of Athens, visible from afar, Acropolis dominates the Athenian sky and symbolizes the foundation of modern culture and civilization. The main archaeological site is surrounded by a large public area, a plethora of trees with beautiful stone-paved paths, designed by the Greek architect Pikionis. Many portions of the site are undergoing major, needed renovations. Some views will be marred by scaffolding.

The Acropolis is open daily. Summer opening times: 08:00-19:00, Winter opening times: 08:00-15:00. Telephone: +30 210 3214172. The normal entrance price is €12. Concessions from that price are granted, as is free access to many categories of individuals, especially under-18s and European university students. This ticket also gives you entry to the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora, and the nearby Theatre of Dionysus within four days. If possible, get there early to avoid heavy crowds, and summer heat when relevant. There are also a limited number of free days for the public listed each year - check the website

From the Akropoli metro stop and New Acropolis Museum, walk west along Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and take the first right on to Theorias; from the Thissio metro stop west of Monastiraki, walk west to Apostolou Pavlou Street, turn left on it, and walk south to turn left on Theorias. From Plaka, you can walk south up steep Mnisikleous Street as far as you can go and turn right on Theorias. Following European regulations, disabled access to the Acropolis can be gained by means of special paths and a purpose-built lift on the north face of the hill, only for the use of those in wheelchairs. Acropolis is one of the world's most popular landmarks, so get there as early as possible to avoid heavy crowds, and summer heat when relevant.

A canteen with a wide range of food and drink is reached before you get to the ticket kiosk - but beware: refreshments are available only at exorbitant prices. You will definitely need a bottle of water with you in the hot summer, so either bring it with you or buy it from the kiosk on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, just outside the entrance. There are water fountains within the site, but the water isn't always cold.

Guides can nearly always be found offering to show you around - at a price - at the point where tickets are checked. An alternative will be a printed version of this article or ask for the free leaflet published by the Archaeological Resources Fund, which includes a ground plan of the site and valuable information on the various monuments.


Landmarks

  • Ancient Agora (just to the west of Plaka and easily walked to by following the pleasant section of Hadrian (Adrianou) Street leading west from Hadrian's Library). The site of the Ancient Agora in a green space with a 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.
  • Temple of Hephaestus. 5th century BC, at the Agora
  • Stoa of Attalus. Turned into a museum housing relics found in the Agora
  • Agias Apostoli. Shared ticket with Acropolis (€12).
  • Roman Agora (Roman Forum). At the west end of Plaka, houses the Tower of the Winds, an eight sided tower with a different wind deity on each side. Also located here are the remains of ancient shops and a fountain. Shared ticket with Acropolis (€12).
  • Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This ancient theatre is still used for concerts and plays.
  • Theatre of Dionysus. Another major ancient theatre
  • Kerameikos. The site of the ancient cemetery of Athens. It also houses the Dipylon Gate, where the Panathenaic procession would begin. It is a museum showcasing many of the grave stele and other archaeological items found on the grounds.
  • 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 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.
  • National TheatreAgiou Konstantinou 22. A low but imposing building erected between 1882 and 1890 by architect Ernst Ziller in the eclectic style of that age, commissioned by King George I.
  • 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.
  • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • Hellenic Parliament Building. Formerly the royal palace, lining the eastern side of the square and guarded by kilted and pom-pommed soldiers - the evzones (ev-zone-ees).
  • Hotel Grand Bretagne. Facing the northern edge of the square, the first and last word in opulence for Athenian accommodation, the result of many a world leader passing through Athens.
  • Daphni Monastery. A UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged by an earthquake in 1999 and closed to the public since.
  • Kaseriani Monastery and GardensKaseriani Monastery (It's easiest to take a taxi.),  +30 210 723 6619. A nice escape from the city in the foothills of Imitos. Walking trails. There's a functional monastery one can walk in, and several ruined chapels or basilicas up on the walks.

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 toEvangelismos 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. The centre has assisted in the upgrading of a historic Athens district. Technopolis is located at Peiraios Avenue & Persefonis Street, next to the Kerameikos metro station (line 3).

Parks

  • Parnitha National Park. 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(Between the Parliament and Zappeion buildings.). 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.
  • The landmark Dionysiou Aeropagitou street (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 street has been pedestrianised, forming a scenic route. 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 National Gardensbehind the Parliament building. dawn-dusk. Easily the coolest place to go to in order to hide from the blazing summer sun. Wander around, check out the quirky art that seems to sprout up every now and again, look on in disbelief at the "zoo", sit on one of the benches, marvel at the turtle pond, have a frappe in the cafe, and spot one of the resident tortoises exploring... it's a fun place to hang out.

The hills of Athens provide also green space. The following hills

  • Lycabettus.
  • Philopappos hill
  • 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.

Museums & Galleries

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

  • New Acropolis Museum.Designed by Swiss star architect Bernard Tschumi at a site south of the Acropolis, this long-overdue replacement for the musty old museum opened in June 2009. Located in Makryanni just below the Acropolis, it's easily accessed from the Acropolis station of the Metro. Entry is €5.
  • Benaki Museum of Islamic Art.22 Ag. Asomaton & 12 Dipilou Streets – Kerameikos. An excellent collection which anyone interested in Islamic art will want to see. The museum was opened in 2004 as a branch of the Benaki, but is in a different part of town in two connected buildings.
  • Kanellopoulos Museum. 12 Theorias & Panos Streets, Plaka. Tues-Sun 08:30-15:00. A small but excellent museum displays artifacts from Mycenean Greece on, and includes some wonderful Persian artifacts.
  • Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments. 1-3 Dioyenous, Plaka. A very interesting museum which includes exhibits of traditional Greek musical instruments, with recordings of most of them.
  • Museum of Greek Folk Art. 17 Kydathineon. An excellent museum of its type. Too often neglected by visitors to Athens, even though it is in the heavily touristed Plaka neighbourhood. Displays include artefacts, tools, primitive painting, folk pottery and interior decor. It is particularly strong on costume and embroidery.
  • National Historical Museum. Situated in the old parliament building on Stadiou Street a little northwest of Sytagma Square, this museum contains a large collection of historic documents such as the first constitution of Greece, furniture, equipment from the revolution. If you are lucky you may see the old session room.
  • Numismatic Museum. Situations just north of Syntagma Square, the building of the museum is one of the most beautiful in Athens, and was built by Ernst Ziller and was used as the residence in Athens of Schliemann. The collection contains thousands of ancient coins and ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval figurines.
  • Athens Municipal Art Gallery (Pinakothiki),  +30 210 3231841. On Pireos n° 51, near the Koumoundourou public square. Timetable: Monday - Friday 09:00 to 13:00 and from 17:00 to 21:00. Paintings of Greek painters of the half XX century are displayed.
  • National Archaeological Museum of Athens. This is the largest and most popular of Athens' many museums, and is usually very crowded. Its vast collection includes treasures unearthed from Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann; a staggering array of sculpture including the earliest known Greek figurines dating from around 2,000 BC; frescoes from the volcanic island of Santorini; as well as remains of Antikythera mechanism, the oldest known mechanical computer; and so much more that it is recommended visitors make several visits to absorb it all.
  • National War Museum2 Rizari,  +30 210 729-0543. Not in Kolonaki, but just across the street, the National War Museum is the only significant surviving public project of the military dictatorship which ruled Greece 1967 - 1974. The museum's displays are old fashioned and biased towards the more successful periods of Greek military history. The tanks, artillery guns and aircraft on display outside the museum form the most interesting part of its collection, and can be visited for free.
  • Benaki Museum. — Visit the beautiful Neoclassical main building which houses collections of Greek art, from ancient times through the Byzantine period and the modern state. Open late and for free on Thursday evenings. The museum shop is a good place to buy souvenirs. There is a small selection at high prices but the quality is excellent.
  • Museum of Cycladic Art. — Holds the second largest collection of Cypriot antiquities in the world outside Cyprus, after the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Some of the most popular exhibits include the Cycladic figurines, the idols from Early Bronze Age Cyclades, whose style greatly influenced modernist work in the 20th century, and Cypriot pottery and Ancient Greek artifacts, especially the ‘Scenes of Daily Life in Ancient Greece’ display, which is popular with families. They also sell great souvenirs, and lunch is available at the elegant Aethrion Café. If you are lucky, there may be a quirky temporary exhibition too (with no extra entry fee), as they hold not only archaeological, but modern and contemporary art exhibitions. Open late on Thursdays, closed on Tuesdays.
  • Greek National GalleryMichalakopoulou 1. — Located just south of Kolonaki proper, this museum exhibits Greek art from the 18th to 20th Centuries as well as some El Greco and Post-Byzantine art.
  • Park of Maritime TraditionPalaio Faliro. including the historical warships Georgios Averof and Velos
  • National Historical Museum of the Hellenic Air ForcePalaio Faliro
  • Vorres Museum, 1 Parodos Diadochou Constantinou St., Paiania, Attiki(Public transport: 25 St.Nomismatokopeio (metro station) - Peania - Varkiza (from St.Nomismatokopeio bus stop: 1st Agias Triados - from Varkiza bus stop: 2nd Agias Triados), 308 St.Nomismatokopeio (metro station) - Peania - Koropi (from St.Nomismatokopeio bus stop: 1st Agias Triados - from Koropi bus stop: 2nd Agias Triados), 307 St.D.Plakentias - Gl.Nera - Koropi (metro station) (from Koropi bus stop: 2nd Agias Triados - from St.D.Plakentiass bus stop: 1st Agias Triados)). Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 - 14:00, Weekdays by appointment only and for groups of twenty (20) persons or more.. The Vorres Museum is a diachronic museum of folk and contemporary art in Paiania, East Attica, Greece. Its grounds cover 320,000 m2 (80 acres) including several buildings, gardens and courtyards. Its collection includes over 6000 pieces covering 4000 years of Greek history and art. The museum has been donated by the Vorres family to the Greek state. Standard entrance fee: 5€, Reduced entrance fee: 3€ (students).

Things to do

  • 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.
  • Every Sat/Sun you can join a free bike tour of the old area of Athens. To take part in this, you should contact the NGO Anthropos [www] or call 210 8838914 but you can just turn up if you aren't able to contact them in advance. Groups meet at 10:40 outside Thissio metro station.
  • If the weather is good, head out of town on buses A2, B2 or E22 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.
  • Lake VouliagmeniVouliagmeni.Immediately to the south of town and very close to the sea, a rare geophysical formation is to be found that gave the suburb its modern name: Lake Vouliagmeni ("Sunk Lake"), a small brackish water lake fed by underground currents seeping through the mass of Mount Hymettus. It was once a large cavern that collapsed following an earthquake, probably during the early Middle Ages. The outline of the collapsed cavern roof can be clearly discerned from a distance. The lake stands at a 40 cm elevation, and its water maintains a constant 24 degrees Celsius year round. It continues deep inside the mountain in an underwater cave never fully explored, as its end seems impossible to trace even by employing sonar detection. Many underwater expeditions have been carried out in order to chart it, and a few amateur divers have drowned trying. Because of its constant and comfortable water temperature, the lake functions as a year-round spa, there is an entrance fee. In the area operates a restaurant-bar. 8€, children under 5 for free.
  • Glyfada Golf ClubK. Karamanli, Glyfada,  +30 2108946820fax: +30 2108943721. Mon 12:00 (winter schedule) or 13:00 (summer) to sunset, Tuesday to Friday 7:30 to sunset.
  • Nautical Club of VouliagmeniVouliagmeni (located on the eastern edge of the Mikro Kavouri, adjacent to the Astir Palace Hotel). The club admits members and their guests and operates a marina, a waterskiing school, junior and Olympic competition sailing boats and facilities, an open-air, heated swimming pool, two rocky beaches, members' indoor and outdoor lounges, a gym, and a restaurant. The pool hosts swimming, finswimming, synchronized swimming and water polo teams and the respective training schools for children.
  • 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.
  • Attend an event at the Athens and Epidaurus Festival. 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 unforgettable experience.
  • Take a day trip to the beautiful archaeological site of Delphi, using the long distance bus service.
  • EasyCruise,  +30 211 2116211. Syngrou Avenue 362, Kallithea, 176 74 Athinai. The infamous cheap flight company now runs a variety of cruises from Greece [Athens] to Turkey and surrounding islands such as Mykonos, Paros and Syros. For the classic enthusiast, their tour company visits Acropolis, Epidavros, Nemea, Mycenae, Corinth, Olympia and Delphi.
  • Football. Although not considered to be world class by any stretch of the word, the rivalry between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, known as the Derby of the Eternal Enemies (Ντέρμπι των αιωνίων αντιπάλων), definitely ranks among the most intense in the world, and watching a match between the two bitter rivals is arguably the best way to experience football culture in Greece. Panathinaikos has their home ground in Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium near central Athens, while Olympiacos is based in the neighbouring city of Piraeus.

Theatre 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.

Nightlife

  • 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. 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. It is nothing like the frappé you find in other countries. 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. Magazé,6dogs, Booze and 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.
  • BaluxVassileos Georgiou B No. 58 Asteria, Glyfada. Arguably one of the best bars in Athens for the specific style, to call it a bar is an understatement. Balux is large complex set right on the water in Glyfada, one of the trendiest areas of the city. It is open during the summer for swimming in the ocean or pool all day and turns into a lounge and full club at night. Where Athens' wealthy go to party.

The Plateia Exarcheia square and nearby streets like Solomou have lots of clubs and bars. You don't have to be a left-leaning student to feel welcome.

  • TaximiCnr. Harilaou Trikoupi and Isavron,  +30 210-363-9919.
  • Rebetiki Istoria181 Ippokratous,  +30 210 2587455. One of best rebetica clubs, often open in summer when most others are closed.

Kolonaki Square (Plateia Kolonaki; its official name is Plateia Filikis Etaireias, but no one ever uses it) is bordered with cafes whose customers tend to be mature Athenian movers and shakers for whom the area is the traditional in-town home. Most of these cafes serve desserts and/or light meals as well as drinks, and most of them are expensive. They tend to be liveliest late at night. One of the best established, and most prestigious, is Lykovrisi. Not many foreigners visit these cafes, but the visitor may find they make for interesting people-watching.

  • ShowroomMilioni 2 & Irakleitou. Nice cafe/restaurant. €5 for a beer.
  • Oréa Ellás ("Beautiful Greece") with two entrances 59 Mitropóleos and 36 Pandhróssou, Monastiráki (but just a minute's walk from Plaka; the cafe is upstairs) is a combination cafe and gift shop. The cafe, open all day but not after 18:00, offers coffees and alcoholic drinks and a limited range of snacks and sweets, in a wonderful old fashioned setting with stunning views of the Acropolis out the windows. The shop, called Kendro Ellinikis Paradosis (Centre of Greek Tradition) is an excellent place to buy souvenirs, which are more expensive but vastly better than the knick-knacks offered by the cheek-by-jowl tourist shops lining the street outside.
  • Ydria68 Adhrianoú,  +30-210-3251619. This sprawling cafe-restaurant that takes up a large part of Platía Paliás Agorás along Adhrianoú St. at the western end of Plaka, is a good place for daytime coffee or a before or after dinner drink. They also serve food, though if you're there for a meal you'll be directed to a different seating area, so tell the waiter when you arrive if you just want a drink. This is the most pleasant cafe in a square packed with them; despite the Plaka location it's relatively quiet, with snatches of views of antiquity from the mostly outdoor seating. Particularly popular with younger Greeks, though all ages and nationalities will feel comfortable. Prices average or slightly below for Plaka, which still means not cheap, though the ouzo comes in hefty shots, and if you order the giant "ouzo platter" (€25) of appetizers with them, it will easily suffice for three people.
  • Vrettos at 41 Kydathineon, Plaka is a very atmospheric 100 year old distillery which makes its own ouzo, brandy and liqueurs, and sets up a bar at night where you can order them by the glass. They also offer wine tastings selected from 100s of Greek wines between 10:00-16:00.
  • Costa. Standard stuff, but has a nice air conditioned and quiet upstairs seating area overlooking the square. €3-€4 for a coffee.
  • Pure BlissRomvis 24A, 10562 Athens,  +30 210 3250360 -2. A fun and quirky cafe tucked away in the back streets off Ermou. Fantastic decor, a cross between a traditional English tea room and a fairy grove. Friendly staff. Tables, or cushions on the floor. Coffee from around €3.

Cafes

  • PlayceStr. Papagou 128. A really nice cafe where you can play board games whilst drinking your coffee. Very popular.

Clubbing & 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 midnight 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.

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 area 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.

Things to know


Talk

While Greek is the official language in Greece, many Athenians speak English and those in the tourist industry are likely to also speak French and German. Almost all signs are written in Greek and English.


Orientation

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 are: Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill), Pnyx, 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 (signposted in Greek and English) now melt 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 to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north. Further afield is the port of Athens, the Piraeus.

The Athenian Acropolis is the ancient high city of Athens, a prominent plateaued rock perched high above the modern city with commanding views and an amazing array of ancient architecture, mostly from the Classical period of Ancient Greece, the most famous of which is the Parthenon. A visit to Athens is not complete without visiting the Acropolis - hundreds of tourists each day accordingly make the pilgrimage.

Gentrified during the 1990s and now very popular with tourists, Plaka is a charming historic district at the foot of the Acropolis, with its restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city's Roman era. Thissio, to the west side of the Acropolis, is very similar and now houses many restaurants and cafes. Between the two is Monastiraki, a very bohemian district increasingly popular with tourists, with stores selling a variety of items including antiques, cookware, souvenirs, arts and crafts, movie posters, punk culture, funky clothing, and pretty much anything you can think of. Another part of Plaka is Anafiotika and is located on the northernmost place. There you will find the first university of Athens before it was relocated in central Athens. Its an oasis of calm and quietness, and there are many green spaces which are part of the green space of Acropolis.

Plaka's boundaries are not precisely defined. Clear borders are the Ancient Agora and Plateia Monastiraki on the west, the Acropolis and Dhionysiou Areopayitou street on the south, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Leoforos Amalias on the south-east, and the west part of Mitropoleos street, up to the cathedral on the north (but Mitropoleos street and Leoforos Amalias, though boundaries, shouldn't be considered part of Plaka, since they have a modern and fairly non-descript atmosphere). The north-eastern and eastern boundaries are a bit less well defined, but if you're south of Apollonos street and west of Nikis street you'll probably feel like you're still in Plaka.

Syntagma Square is named after the Greek constitution (syntagma) that was proclaimed from the balcony of the royal palace that overlooks the square on 3 September 1843. The former palace has housed the Greek parliament since 1935.

Syntagma Square is a good point from which to begin your orientation in the city, and has been beautified within the last few years ago, and the the manic Athenian traffic has been re-routed. it contains cafes, restaurants, fast food outlets, a new metro stop, airline offices.. The square serves as an occasional rallying place for demonstrations and public celebrations.

Omonia Square (Plateia Omonias) is the centre of Athens, and is composed of the actual square together with the surrounding streets, open areas and assemblage of grand buildings that include banks and offices. The neighbouring area of Exarcheia(Εξάρχεια) to the north, dominated by the Athens Polytechnic and its famous band of anarchists, is a bohemian district with lots of bars and clubs visited by students, intellectuals and people who are into alternative culture. Kolonaki is in Athens near Lykavittos Hill. The district's borders are not very sharply defined; it covers the south and southeast slopes of Lykavettos Hill north of Vassilisis Sofias Avenue. Kolonaki is the posh area of central Athens. Traditionally the home of the in-town rich, it's the location of a number of foreign embassies and several prominent archaeological schools, including The American School and The British School. It also has the city's greatest concentration of trendy fashion boutiques, and many, mostly upscale, cafes, bars and restaurants.


Modern 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 Archaeological 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.

The ancient Olympic Games took place in Olympia from 776 BCE to 394 AD. It is a lengthy day trip from Athens to visit Olympia, but quite interesting.


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 new found remarkable prosperity, large scale projects began to slowly regenerate the city and undo some of the damage 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.

Safety in Athens

Stay Safe

While Athens is generally a 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 divide 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 tourists, 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 men then arrive claiming to be police, showing a badge (obviously a fake one). They ask if you were getting drugs from the other man 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 is pickpocket gangs operating in buses used by tourists, according to recent reports especially by tourists who have boarded the Airport Express Bus in Piraeus, and those at metro interchanges. As people are boarding the bus, a large group travelling together (who are often reported to be of various non-Greek nationalities) will divide itself into 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 in this group were being pick-pocketed by others. The theft is particularly effective because it's directed at those leaving the country who are thus not likely to report it—many victims won't realise they've been robbed until they get to the airport or even until after they have got on the plane. Some visitors 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 of this is found in the Metro and its escalators where a gang moves in to block a part of a group so that they cannot exit the train, leaving one or two members behind and separated from the rest, thus causing confusion and giving the gang an opportunity to steal valuables. The gang may also try to split the group into individual people by "helping" with luggage or simply forcing themselves in between people on the escalators. This way, the tourists are focused on the person standing between them, trying to make sure he doesn't steal anything, while in fact there is only one gang member stealing items from the person last on the escalator. It is best to wear pants with tight pockets, keeping all valuables in the front pockets. Carry all bags on the front. Inside the bag, valuables should be kept at the bottom with a piece of rustling plastic wrapper on top of the items in the bag, so that anyone reaching into it would cause 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 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 result in your car being damaged.


Rough areas

Athenians hold negative perceptions for the areas around Omonoia Square and locals advise you to avoid these areas late at night. Omonia is notorious for pickpockets and prostitutes, so keep an eye on your belongings.

There are many people who use drugs in the open even during the day and can be a harrowing site for those not used to it. It is strongly advised not to bring children here for too long. Particular places to avoid are roads right of the National Archaeological Museum and the south end of 3 September St.

There are many beggars and homeless people who walk around the streets asking for money or food. Often they use children as sympathy tools. Places to avoid are Vathis Square (can be populated by druggies using even at 17:00), the roads on the right of the National Archaeological Museum (almost a gathering place for the beggars of the city - the density is enormous) and the south end of 3 September Street.

The back streets of Piraeus are probably also places where its unwise to wander around late at night. 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. Some may also argue that wandering around the Zappeio gardens and the Pedion Areos parks at night time may not be wise.

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