Greece’s heart beats in Athens, its lovely capital, a bustling metropolis with many different facets, which depict its long past and interesting present. A week in the city won’t be enough to explore its antiquities, its quaint neighborhoods (Plaka, Psyrri, Mikrolimano, Thission), its prestigious museums (The New Acropolis Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine Museum, Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art) and its icon and landmark, the Acropolis, with the Parthenon, Propylaea, the temple of the Athene Nike and the Erechtheion.
At close proximity, the seaside suburbs along the Sunshine Coast (Paleo Faliro, Alimos, Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza), the magnificent temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounio, the beautiful beaches (pebbly, rocky, sandy), the small islands that dot the Saronic Gulf and the endless possibilities for evening entertainment, are all the perfect elements that make up an exciting travel package for your city stop.
Athens is the starting point for the most amazing holidays in Greece. Combine your stay with 2-day or 3- day trips to nearby towns in the Peloponnese, Viotia, Evia, Thessaly regions, which are rich in historic and archaeological marvels. You may also opt for a yachting cruise and enjoy deluxe vacations at the most secluded beaches and coves.
The whole center of Athens is a marvelous tourist attraction, with impressive archaeological sites scattered close to the Acropolis hill, such as the ruins of the Roman Agora, the temple of Olympian Zeus (6th c. B.C.), Hadrian’s Arch (131 A.D.), the ancient Theatre of Dionysos (5th c. B.C.), the Asklepieion (5th c. B.C.), the Stoa or Portico of Eumenes (2th c. B.C.) and the Odeion of Herodes Atticus (161 A.D.). Its modern center is Syntagma (Constitution) square, with the monument of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by the Evzones in traditional costume. Next to it, the refreshing National Garden (40 acres), the impressive neoclassical style, Zappeion Mansion (1874-1888), the Presidential Mansion (1897) and finally, the Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaro), which hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
All these and much more can be admired through a panoramic tour, which will give you a complete overview of both historic and modern Athens.
Some ideas for trips:
Acropolis and the New Museum: The Acropolis is a universal symbol of Greek Antiquity; it’s the Sacred Rock of Athens, a unique monument of thought and the arts. Standing on a rocky promontory 156 m above the valley of Ilissos, it covers a surface area of less than 3 ha. You will be amazed by the Parthenon, built by Ictinus, the Erechtheon, the Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis designed by Mnesicles and the small temple of Victorious Athena (goddess of victory in war and wisdom). The visit to the Acropolis rock is combined with the marvelous New Acropolis Museum, with impressive collections like the Parthenon Frieze, the Archaic Collection, the Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, the Propylaia and the sculptures from the parapet of the temple of Athena Nike, and finally, the Caryatids – or “Korai” of the Erechtheion. The museum also provides a Restaurant on the second floor, with panoramic views of the Acropolis and a 700 square meter public terrace commanding a breathtaking view of the historic hills of Athens.
Plaka district: This is one of the most attractive districts, characterized by small winding streets, neoclassical mansions and houses with red tile roof and balconies with bougainvilleas, geraniums and jasmines, hundreds of small shops and restaurants and an island-like atmosphere. Nothing here reminds you of a large metropolis. There are plenty of museums (Children's Museum, Kanellopoulos museum, Museum of Greek popular instruments), monuments and archaeological areas (Lysicrates monument/ 334 BC, the Greek and the Roman agora, Hadrian's Library and the bath of the winds, Attalos Portico, and many more) and of course, Anafiotica, an amazing place with small Cycladic-style-whitewashed houses which were built by builders who came here in the 19th c. from the island of Anafi, to construct the Palace of King Otto.
The sanctuary of Poseidon, Cape Sounion: This Doric Style temple was built in the middle of the 5th c. BC, by Iktinos, the architect of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens’ Ancient Agora. It stands proudly on top of a hill 65 m above sea level, offering an amazing view the islands of Kea, Kythnos and Serifos to the southeast, Aegina and the Peloponnese to the west. The temple is reached after a 58 km drive along the coastal road, passing seaside resorts, small bays and lovely beaches. You will see the ruins, the 16 remaining- 20 feet tall and three feet in diameter- columns of a peristyle, a fortified tower and a 6th-century temple dedicated to Athena, located on a hill 500 meters northeast of the temple of Poseidon.
Saronic islands: A perfect idea for side tour is sailing to the Saronic Islands, Poros, Aegina, Agistri, Hydra and Spetses, which are usually combined for island hopping. All of them and each one separately, are bound to amaze you with their natural beauty, their clear blue sea, the local attractions and archaeological sites. In Aegina, the temple of Afea is arguably the jewel in the crown of the island, being one of the oldest of Greek Doric temples. In Spetses, Bouboulina’s Museum, housed in the 300 year-old mansion, recounts the story of the Greek War of Independence with emphasis on the life of the heroine Laskarina Bouboulina. Hydra, this cosmopolitan island of the artists, hosts two important museums, the Museum of History & Archives and the Ecclesiastic & Byzantine Museum.
Piraeus/ Passalimani/ Mikrolimano: Some people call it the “Cote D‘ Azur” of Attica and undoubtedly, this is considered the most cosmopolitan area of Piraeus, the biggest port of Greece. Starting from the bay of Zeas (or Pasalimani), you will be amazed by the beautiful horse-shoe like marina with the impressive yachts and the Naval Museum. Here, at the numerous bars and cafeterias, you can take a cocktail, snack or coffee, relax and unwind and then, continue to the hill of Kastella and Mikrolimano area, where the fish taverns, bars and cafeterias line up, one next to the other, offering all kinds of entertainment and plenty of dining options.
Get the Taste
From small traditional taverns in Plaka to fusion restaurants awarded with Michelin stars, Athens has everything for everyone. Mediterranean, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Arabian, Argentinian, Ethiopian, Oriental… your palette will surely be satisfied.
First and foremost, taste the dishes that our country is most famous for. For starters, choose tzatziki (yoghurt with garlic and cucumber crumbs), taramosalata (cod roe creamy dip), fried cheese saganaki, octopus (grilled or boiled in oil), meat balls, spicy cream cheese, red sweet bell peppers, dakos (dry barley rusk, soaked in olive oil and topped with diced tomatoes), fried squid, fried zucchini flowers. As main dish, the menu is endless: pastichio (baked pasta dish with a filling of ground, spiced minced meat), "moussakas" or "mouzaka" (aubergine, potatoes and spiced minced meat), stifado (game- rabbit, venison etc.- stew with pearl onions), souvlaki (grilled meat on a skewer), kokoretsi (seasoned lamb innards) and gyros (grilled meat stacked on a skewer, slices and served with tzatziki, tomato, onions on pita bread.
For meat- dishes and traditional cuisine, Plaka is quite notable, as it keeps its traditional flair, reminding of an island atmosphere. For fish and seafood, Mikrolimano in Piraeus is a must, hosting some of the best fish restaurants, serving daily catch fish and seafood.
There are also high-end gourmet and ethnic food restaurants in and around Athens, with most popular being Kolonaki Square and the suburbs of Kifissia, Glyfada and Kefalari.
Nightlife in Athens can be anything but boring. Night clubs and seaside bars, tavernas and gourmet restaurants, lively quarters filled with cafes, offer a wide range of choices for your entertainment. Gazi is the new cool place to be in Athens, full of restaurants, cafes, music, and art by the old city gas-works which has been turned into a museum-cultural center that may be unique in all of Europe. Psirri is also a revamped area, which has evolved into one of the most lively spots in town, with scores of bars, tavernas, ouzeris, clubs, etc. Glyfada is the seaside night spot, with plenty of food and drink options.
Sea & Sun
Athens is just 30 minutes from the seaside resorts that dot the Sunshine Coast, all through the southern tip of Attica Region.
Some beaches are free for the public but offer no special facilities (Batis, Edem, Ellinikon, Glyfada, Lagonissi) and some are organized with showers, bars, umbrellas and sunbeds, to which there is an entrance fee (Alimos, Varkiza, Vouliagmeni, Astir Beach Vouliagmeni).
All the organized beaches offer water sports (skiing, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing) and some of them are open all day long but in the evenings they are transformed into beach clubs for night entertainment.
Further down, from Lagonissi to Cape Sounio, the beaches are all free for the public and some of them offer umbrellas and sunbeds, at extra charge.
From open air markets(Plaka, Monastiraki)to mega shopping malls (The Mall Athens, Athens Heart, Athens Metro Mall, Attica, Avenue, Factory Outlet, River West, West Plaza, Golden Hall, McArthurGlen Designer Outlet), Athens has everything a shopacholic’s heart might desire.
For modern fashion stores, more or less 2.500 shops of all kinds, spread out over the streets Ermou, Mitropoleos, Athinas. Some are also located in Panepistimiou and Stadiou Avenues. For high-end shopping, Kolonaki square it considered the elite shopping district, just 10 minutes walk from Syntagma square.
However, when it comes to traditional shopping, all roads lead to Plaka, where you will find ethnic clothes, souvenirs, local crafts, in little stores that line up along the cobbled streets of this amazing quarter. Further down, at the bazaar in Monastiraki (also known as Yousouroum) you will find from junk to antiques, jewelry stores selling handmade gold and silver pieces, old coins, stamp and print shops, worry beads, furs & leather items, backgammon sets, ancient Greek bottle openers and cigarette lighters, Byzantine Icons, paintings, statues, postcards, handmade natural soap bars, something that will always remind you of your visit here.
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