Despite being the oldest, continually inhabited city in Europe, Athens today has all the characteristics of a modern metropolis, and the glitz of any major European capital you care to mention. Boasting world-class art and archaeological collections, a myriad of ancient Greek ruins, international performing arts venues, a vibrant music scene, a thriving café culture and gastronomic scene, Athens fully warrants its reputation as one of the world's great capitals. It is also, lest we forget amid the high and ancient culture, a shoppers' paradise, where international brand names, high-quality jewellers and antique sellers clamour for your attentions.
Athens is served by Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, located 27km north east of the city centre. The airport is super-modern and benefits from new road connections as well as Metro and suburban rail services to get you to the city.
Another option is the Suburban train network, which you can take until Neratziotisa station. From there you need to catch a connecting Metro that goes to Syntagma (blue line) or to Omonoia from Doukissis Plakentias station (green line) in the centre of the city.
If you are coming from the islands and your ferry arrives at Piraeus, the main harbour of Athens, this is 11km southwest of central Athens and a 15-minute Metro ride. If you've landed at the port of Rafina, there is a bus stop up the hill from the ferryboat pier where you can catch a bus into the city centre, with a journey time of 1 hour.
Athens is a true all-year-round destination. But despite the summer months being the most popular, there are reasons why you should avoid this time of year – namely, the weather. Temperatures get up to 40C in the shade, and the air becomes so thick with humidity and pollution that even doing nothing is uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Spring and autumn are cheaper, and still popular, especially in March and October, when the weather is at its most temperate. In winter, Athens is still relatively warm – although there is a tendency for rain – whilst tourist numbers are lower, meaning you have more of the city to yourself, and quicker access to the city’s attractions.
It doesn’t have to be the first place you visit, but the one must-see in Athens is the Acropolis. Just looking up at it from the city streets gives you a sense of the magnificence of ancient Greece. Other archaeological sites include the agora, the temple to Zeus and the arch of Hadrian.
Museums of interest include the Acropolis museum, the National Archeological museum , the Folklore museum, the Ceramics museum (Keramikos), the Byzantine museum, the Music museum, the War museum, the Benaki museum, and so on. There are quite simply too many to name.
As you may have guessed, you could spend weeks in Athens exploring its ancient history. But the city is also a modern one, with conventional attractions that will ensure your trip is not just one big history lesson.