Athens Guide

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.

How to get to Athens

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.

When to visit Athens

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.

Things to do in Athens

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.

Beaches


There are several good beaches accessible from Athens city centre. The most popular ones are in Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Nea Makri, Crysi Akti (Golden Coast ), Lagonisi,  Kavouri and Alimos.

Nightlife


Athens is brimming with jazz bars, discos, bouzoukia clubs, heavy metal bars  and much more. The most frequented areas for night-time entertainment are Syntagma, Kolonaki and Glyfada.

Restaurants


Just like the bars, the restaurants and taverns are everywhere in Athens. The Plaka area is probably the most picturesque, but also the most visited by tourists. In Syntagma and Kolonaki there are also many eateries, and in Glyfada and Vouliagmeni you are close to the sea. Psiri, not far from the Acropolis, has lots of lovely restaurants with live music day and night. However they are inevitably very expensive owing to their plum location.

Shopping


The big shopping street is Ermou, just off Syntagma square. Glyfada and Kolonaki are the exclusive quarters with many boutiques and shops. In Plaka you'll find lots of souvenirs from all over Greece, and the biggest department store is Vassilopoulos. In Monastiraki there is a great flea market open every day and many antiquity shops.

What's on in Athens

April


Athens Holy Week. Easter is the most important religious festival of the year in Greece. During Holy Week, church bells and hymns can be heard all over the city and the aroma of traditional Easter food wafts out from homes and local bakeries.

June – July/August – October


Athens Festival. The two-phase cultural showcase has been held every year since 1955 at the magnificent 2,000 year old Herod Atticus Odeon, built in 161 AD, as well as other venues throughout the city.

May – September


Lycabettus Hill Festival. A perfect way to spend the balmy summer nights in Athens in stunnings surroundings is to attend some of the shows at this annual contemporary arts festival. The various performances take place in the open-air theatre atop the hill which provides magnificent views across Athens.

June


Rockwave Festival. Since it was first held in 1996 this festival has become one of Europe's most popular annual live rock music events, drawing renowned performers and crowds reaching tens of thousands.

 

Athens Web Sites



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