athens-greece-guide

Athens

Athens Greece Guide offers all the facts you need to know about the Capital city of Greece. Essential information  about places of interest with local guides of all the municipalities, maps, history, museums, accommodation, eating out, entertainment shopping beaches, islands and day trips near Athens

Athens the capital of Greece since 1834 after Nafplion and Aegina, situated at the basin of Attica surrounded from the North west by the mount Aegaleo, the mountains of Parnitha and Penteli continue to the North, North east and the mount Hymettus closes the bow to the south East. The Saronic gulf finally surrounds the east coasts of Athens and Attica.
The infrastructure of Athens has been developed very fast within the last 10 years with new highways, a new airport, new metro lines, a new tram line, a new railway the Proastiakos rail, huge shopping centres, stadiums and sport centres and the port of Piraeus has been developed to one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean.
Due to this new infrastructure and the quick access by rail ,metro and car a kind of dis urbanisation has began in Athens as many Athenians prefer to live out side of the city centre in suburbs and areas that a few years ago were holiday resorts. Athens has very good transport services, the visitor can use the bus, trolley tram or the metro and of course taxi. Since the distances to most of the main sights of Athens are not far, walking is a good idea and a good way to get to know Athens. Of course you will not be able to see Athens within one or two days unless you want to get some pictures of the Acropolis and pack for the Greek islands, but Athens has a lot of attractions that someone will need at least one week or more. there are many museums in Athens like the National Archaeological museum of Athens one of the most important museums in the world, exhibition centres, shopping malls, theatres and concert halls and of course the famous nightlife of Athens equivalent with the nightlife of Paris and London.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN ATHENS

There are many places to visit in Athens that sometimes you can spend the whole day just strolling around. A place like that, is Monastiraki and its famous flea market with all kind of old and new stuff, a place that first was used by the rag and bone men of Athens as their main market place. Just across Ermou street from Monastiraki is the area of Psiri with numerous restaurants, bars , cafes and taverns with Greek live music both Monastiraki and Psiri is something like the Camden market in London. But do not forget the beaches of Athens. From the Lycabettus hill you can have an amazing panoramic view of Athens. The coastal road from Faliro to Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and further until Sounion is full of sandy beaches, yacht marinas, hotels, sport clubs, a worth seeing Riviera of Athens. From the port of Athens, Piraeus you can visit the beautiful Greek islands of the Aegean world famous for their nature, history and tourist attractions like Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Santorini, Mykonos and many others. The brand new pedestrian streets around the Acropolis, the numerous museums, highlighting the New Acropolis Museum,the art exhibitions, the cultural complexes and the festivals, the lively gastronomic landscape, the lively downtown neighborhoods, make the center of Athens the strongest attraction for visitors to the city. Increasingly hip in recent years the area of Gazi has become an all year round hot spot. Especially in the summer, the main road and the square of the metro station resemble an island. Restaurants and bars set tables outside, everyone is on the street, in a perpetual motion. Metaxourgio, which follows closely with more alternative and art profiles, the timeless village of art and entertainment in Psyrri area in Monastiraki, which along with the night spots now gives reasons for all-day walks.Athens with its unique cultural potentials and its constantly evolving accommodation, food and night landscape has become a popular year round destination for both tourists and Greeks from the provinces. Piraeus the port of Athens, beyond the main port of the country has hidden secrets both in terms of eateries, cafes, attractions and entertainment. 

HISTORY

In the 5th century BC. the city of Athens is growing rapidly. The city of the Goddess Athena, under the leadership of the famous Rhetor Pericles, will be able to experience the greatest glory that a city would ever know! Pericles will be the one who will highlight it and through his policy Athens will enter the so-called “Golden Age”.
The Parliament, Arios Pagos (highest court), Theater, arts, concepts that will not only affect the whole of Greece but will shape the whole world in what it is today. The most important of all, of course, and what shows that the culture of Athens has reached its zenith, is the birth of Democracy! Huge works will be created during that period which are expected to radically change the image of the city and the history not only of Greece but of the whole world.
Many leading Greeks will live in the same period, Sophocles (496 – 406 BC), , Euripides (480 – 406 BC), Thucydides (460 – 395 BC). X.), the leading Greek historian, Aristophanes (450 – 380 BC), perhaps the greatest comedian poet of Ancient Athens and many many others. …read more

HISTORICAL CENTRE OF ATHENS GREECE

historical center of athenThe historical centre of Athens is the most important area of the city for the thousand of tourists who are visiting the Greek capital in order to admire the shrine of Democracy the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the museums and the monuments and theatres from the glorious past of Athens. The Pedestrianisation of the historic centre that is surrounded from the triangle between Plaka, Dionysiou Areopagitou street and Keramikos includes almost all the magnificent sights of Athens. At Dionyssiou Areopagitou one can go walking from Syntagma square or by metro to the Acropolis station, a few meters away is the new Acropolis museum and opposite is the Ancient theatre of Dionysus, a little bit further is the Herodes Atticus Odeon and after that is the way on the Acropolis. The hills of Filopapos and Pnix are near by as well as the ancient Agora, the temple of Hephestus the oldest neighbourhoods of Athens Plaka, Anafiotika and Monastiraki on the north west slopes of the sacred rock. An amazing planning that give the opportunity to the visitor to see within a few hours the most important sights of Athens. But Athens has more attractions to offers as we can see in the article about the sights of Athens. 

The atmospheric pedestrian streets around the Acropolis, the big exhibitions, the rich potential of the museums, highlighting the New Acropolis Museum, the cultural complexes and the festivals, the lively, even in times of crisis, gastronomic landscape, the lively downtown neighborhoods, make the center of Athens the strongest attraction for visitors to the city. Increasingly hip in recent years, Gazi has become an all year round hot spot. Especially in summer, the main road and the square of the metro station resemble an island. Restaurants and bars set tables outside, everyone is on the street, in a perpetual motion. Metaxourgio, which follows closely with more alternative and art profiles, the timeless “village of art and entertainment” in Psyrri, which along with the night spots now gives reasons for all-day walks, the idiosyncratic and forever young Exarchia, the Syggrou Avenue with the dynamic cultural package of the House of Letters and Arts, the museums and cultural centers of Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, and the ever-changing Piraeus Avenue are some of the neighborhoods of the wider city center that keep our interest constant. 

WHAT TO SEE

The Acropolis of Athens

On a sunny day walk up the sacred rock of  Acropolis and visit Parthenon the world famous landmark of Athens. Τhe Acropolis of Athens is the main attraction of the capital of Greece. On the rock that dominates the centre of the capital, the ancient Greek culture was expressed in the most ideal way and some of its top monuments were built, such as the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the temple of Nike, the Erechtheion and others.

plaka athens Visit Plaka the oldest and most attractive neighbourhood of the Greek Capital, stroll around the narrow streets and enjoy the neoclassical mansions, climb up the steps to Anafiotica and explore a hidden small village in the heart of Athens!! Plaka used to be called by the Greeks the neighbourhood of the gods, today Plaka is one of the main attractions for the tourists, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops all can be find here. Anafiotica is a must see area just over Plaka and under Acropolis to the east .

Anafiotika is like a small island within Athens, builders from the small island of Anafi build their traditional white washed houses in the tiny winding streets and steps of this area when they were building the royal Palace.
Today the Palace is the Greek Parliament and rights on its front is the Parliament square or Plateia Syntagmatos in Greek , the most central place of Athens.

The Panathinaikon stadium where the first Olympic games took place located a few minutes walk through the National Gardens or through Zapeion. Athens has many neoclassical buildings like the Athens Academy, the National Library, The Historical museum, the Archaeological museum and many others mainly at the streets of Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Athinas, Patission (28 October street), around Omonia square and in the area of Plaka where located the first university of Athens and many neoclassical houses .

Omonia Square has been characterised as the “navel of Athens” as it is a key point of the city. This is where the main streets of Athens start, such as Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Athinas, Pireos, Agiou Konstantinou and Third of Septemvriou street, which is why it is a place where everyone passes every day. A few meters from the square located the City Hall, in Kotzia Square and immediately after the Varvakeios Agora, the busiest in the city. In the area of ​​Omonia located also the National Theater, on Agiou Konstantinou Street.

Dionysiou Areopagitou street

The pedestrianised Dionysiou Areopagitou street is one of the most beautiful walking routes in the city, overlooking the Parthenon on one side and the magnificent mansions on the other. Here is the New Museum of the Acropolis, next to the metro station Acropolis (which is also interesting, as it has on all levels casts from the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon). With the unification of the archaeological sites, the shaped road
is connecting the archaeological sites of the Olympion, the Theater of Dionysus, the Theater of Herodes Atticus, the Acropolis and the Areios Pagos.

Sightseeing map of central Athens

Moving around Athens

By car or bike

Driving in Athens should be treated with great respect; The unusually high traffic density and the seemingly chaotic driving behavior require the driver to be able to concentrate and react..
On a motorized two-wheeler it is probably easier to get through rush hour traffic and to weave past columns to the left and right. You can rent scooters everywhere, you should prefer the scooters with large wheels, as they have a higher driving stability, which can be decisive in dusty Mediterranean countries.
But nobody should be frightened: There are relatively few accidents and these are often mild due to the low average speed.

By Electric scooter

Electric scooters are ideal for visiting the historical centre of Athens you can find them mainly around the Acropolis, Syntagma square and Plaka. Electric Scooters work as follows: users who want to use them download the application of the companies from the internet, enter their mobile phone number and after doing so, receive a code which they scan on the skate which in turn unlocks and is now ready for use.

By Taxi

The taxi prices in Athens and Greece in general, are very low, even many Greeks prefer to ride a taxi instead of another public transport. Anyway you should be aware of several scams by some drivers who promest to give you a cheap flat rate and they are usually meant differently. You should only drive on a taxi with the taximeter on unless you know your way around. You can hire up a taxi almost everywhere by picking up your hand like in most of the cities around the world, (you can notice that the taxi is free for hire by the taximeter that is lit on). From ports, airports and train stations you shoud wait your turn on the quay at the taxi stand. If you thing that you have been charged over the limit you should ask for an invoice.

By Tram and trolley bus

The tram is might slower than the metro, but it has the advantage of going to to places where the metro has not yet stations. Most importent is the best way to reach the most beaches of the south suburbs like Phaliro, Alimos, Kalamaki Glyfada and Voula.In fact you can see a lot of Athens in a very relaxed way.There are several tram lines and stops in Athens and Piraeus.Some of the oldest tram lines are the one from the main train station of Athens that takes you up to Omoneia square and Syntagma and the line of Patision street that takes you to several suburbs of east Athens.

By bus

Regular buses run mostly every 20 minutes and go almost everywhere. They are ideal for urban areas.In Athens there are almost over 440 bus routes in the city alone. Of course, there are also intercity buses that serve the Attica region, Peloponesse and the rest of Greece (KTEL). The main stations are in Kifissou avenue and Liosion Avenue.

By Metro

LINE 1 Green Line: It started its operation in 1869. Today it extends in a length of 25.6 km from Kifissia to Piraeus. It serves 24 stations. It is connected to LINE 2 at Attiki and Omonia stations, to LINE 3 at Monastiraki station and to the Suburban Railway at Neratziotissa and Piraeus stations.

LINE 2 Red Line: It extends in a length of 17.5 km from Anthoupolis to Elliniko. It serves 20 stations. It is connected to LINE 1 at Attiki and Omonia stations, to LINE 3 at Syntagma station, and to the Suburban Railway and OSE at Larissa station.

LINE 3 Blue Line: It extends to a length of 21.9 km (and an additional 21.2 km between Douk. Plakentias and the Airport). It serves 20 stations and an additional 4, which it shares with the suburban rail. It is connected to LINE 1 at Monastiraki station and to LINE 2 at Syntagma station.

Beaches

athens beachThere are numerous beaches in Athens and in the peninsula of Attica. All of the beaches of Athens are well organised . Most popular are the beaches in Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Kavouri, Glyfada. Alimos is the nearest to the centre of Athens. All of those beaches are in the coast line of the south suburbs of Athens and you can get there by tram (until Voula) or by bus. On the east coast of Attica there are many sea resorts very popular among the Athenians with nice beaches, to name a few, Marathon, Rafina, Nea Makri, Agios Andreas, Porto Rafti, Loutsa and Sounio at the southernmost peak of Attica.

Eating out

There are restaurants of all kinds to cater to every taste, from African to Chinese, French to ethnic cuisine, and of course, lots of taverns and restaurants with really good Creek food. The ancient Creeks were renowned for their culinary skills,just as the French chefs are now, and the whole tradition of food as a pleasure shared with friends continues today. Don’t be put off by the package tour versions offered in some of the hotels, but search around for yourself, its not difficult to find. For Greek cuisine , Athens  in the right place, all kind of restaurants with local, international and ethnic cuisine, grill houses, Greek souvlaki shops, pizzerias, hamburger, you name it, are to be found everywhere in Athens. For fish food you should try the fish taverns in the area of Piraeus at Peiraiki and Tourkolimano. Along the Poseidonos avenue at the coast there are numerous restaurants, bars, taverns and live music clubs.

Shopping

The trade triangle of central Athens,lies between the three endpoints of Omonia Square, Syntagma Square and Monastiraki. You can find everything here, from absolutely chic and expensive branded goods to the cheapest Far East imports. The opening times vary greatly. Some shops are sometimes open late (until 9 p.m.), which is very convenient, but you should consider a lunch break, which can sometimes go from half past one to half past three. Many Kiosks are open 24/7 but not all over Athens. There are mini markets everywhere and you can buy basic items like bread, milk, sweets etc. Athens Greece is a paradise for shopping, all kind of shops are to be found in the most famous shopping areas of Athens the Ermou street, Aiolou street and in the area of Kolonaki. For books and music instruments at Solonos and Academias street. Many shops are on the two main streets that heading to the Parliament square Panepistimiou and Stadiou. But the most famous market place for the tourist is Monastiraki and the flea market. Worth of a visit is the Athens market at Athinas street and the small shops at Evrypidou street.

PLACES TO VISIT AROUND ATHENS AND ATTICA

Historic monuments, national parks, wonderful small towns with luxury villas and fine eateries you will find in Nea Makri, Marathon, Lagonisi, Saronida etc. A huge coastline with sandy beaches, the outskirts of Athens hide many interesting surprises for excursions of historical, gastronomic and nature interest, within a radius of just 60km from the city center.

A visit to the temple of Poseidon in Sounio is a must for all visitors to Athens. On the southeast coast, a few kilometers from Sounio, Lavrio still emits the sence from its mining past, from the impressive industrial facilities of the mining Company of the 19th-20th century in the picturesque town to the ancient remains near the town.

tomb of marathonNot to mention the sanctuary of Artemis in Vravrona, the Amphiaraion temple at Oropos. The archeological sites in Marathon, including the tomb of were the Athenian soldiers of the famous battle agains the Persians, were buried.

The area of ​​Marathon, in fact, offers by itself a complete excursion package that combines nature, the coastal pine forest and the wetland of the Schinias-Marathon National Park, as well as entertainment and sports in the summer beach bars.

The paths and monasteries of the mount Hemettus and the fir-covered slopes of Parnitha are offered for day trips and hikes, while at the foot of mount Parnitha the former royal Tatoi Estate is a very popular family destination.

Eleusis, with its important ancient heritage, is firmly on the agenda at the end of the summer thanks to Aeschylus, the local festival, while the Attica beaches in the Corinthian Gulf, Loutraki, Kinetta, Agioi Theodoroi have wonderful beaches and tourist resorts.

If you like to eat what the Greeks love most (traditional countryside grill taverns) try those in Vari, Hasia, Kalivia, Stamata ) and for seafood in Peraiki, Pachi, Rafina and in Salamina. For the wine enthusiasts there are wineries to visit in the area of Spata, Koropi, Mesogeia ( all near the Athens airport)

ISLANDS NEAR ATHENS

athenns greece aeginaThe main islands of the Saronic Gulf are within easy reach of Athens, either by ferry or hydrofoil. The ferry boats take about 1 hour to Aegina, 2 1/2 hours to Poros and between 4-5 hours to Hydra and Spetses, while the hydrofoil (flying dolphin) will take I hour to Poros and just under 2 hours to Spetses. However you will pay about twice as much for the flying dolphin.

At first sight Poros sees to be surrounded by mountains, as though the sea is a big inland lake, this gives a sensation of calm, which the busy harbour- front tends to dispel.However it’s cheap and easy to hire a bike (motorized or otherwise) and pedal your way to peace around the island. There are lots of little deserted bays ideal for swimming and picnicking. Galatas, just ten minutes away by sea-taxi, has wonderful lemon groves which one ascend on donkey ride
The restaurant at the top does a very nice line in fresh lemon juice culled from the trees you’ve just passed through. Poros harbour-front comes into its own in the evenings, with the yachts bobbing at anchor and the unmistakable smell of octopus cooking on charcoal from the little ouzeries. There seem to an unfair amount of sky and stars in a Poros night, which has its own compelling atmosphere. It is hard to describe, you’ll just have to experience it. In contrast,

SPETSES ISLAND NEAR ATHENS GREECE Spetses has quite a robust feeling to it. The people were (and are) shipbuilders of repute, tough sailors and quite possibly pirates too. The indomitable Bouboulina is their heroine in the struggle against the Turks. Her house can be seen in the Dapia by the port. Spetses always brings John Fowles to mind, he wrote “The Magus” here, and you can see why. There’s a definite feeling of cloven hooves disappearing among; the pine trees. There are only a few cars on Spetses, and due to the narrow streets, most of the transport is on motorbike or horse-drawn carriage.
The old harbour has charming old houses and is quieter than the lively central square. There are some lovely shore-side restaurants and bars. Sea-taxis take you to several different spots for a day of swimming, a meal or a snack at the beach side tavern, and pick you up in the evening.

GETTING AROUND ATHENS

ATHENSHow to get arround in Athens takes a while to learn and this is where we can give you some hints to cut down on wasting precious time (and money) during your stay.There are buses from the airport which go right into the centre of Athens, you pay Drs 160 for this (at night Drs 200) buying your ticket on the bus. Don’t forget to validate your ticket in the little orange machine once inside, it is easy to do and there are directions. If you are confused at first, someone is sure to help you.
The tickets for city buses are available at most kiosks (periptera) or at booths near the bus stations. You can find the timetables below.
There are mini-buses which take you round the center of Athens and they use the same Drs 75 tickets, you can find details of their routes on the little map at the bus stops, which are red to differentiate them from the other buses.
There is also a taxi rank at the airport prices are fixed including luggage and airport surcharges. It is a good idea to ask the taxi-driver approximately how much you will have to pay to your destination.

AIR POLUTION 

Athens reputation as the most polluted city in Europe is based more on myth than on fact. An environmental study compiled by the United Nations, and excerpted by the Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea (The News), finds that many other European cities have equally serious environmental pollution problems.
Carbon dioxide levels while high in Athens, are also raised in such cities as Paris and Oslo.
Nitrogen dioxide pollution, monitored over the ten-year period, found the same levels prevalent in London as in Athens. While similarly high averages were to be found in Frankfurt and Oslo, with the highest of all of them in Prague! Of course the problems in Athens are exacerbated by its geographical position, situated at a basin among the surrounding hills, combined with the high temperatures of mid-summer.
Given that the number of cars in Greater Athens doubled between 1981 and 1990, the government’s success in controlling lead and carbon monoxide levels at below those set by the EU, must be seen as an achievement.
Measures mirroring those taken by the Greek government are likely to be taken up by other European cities, such as Paris, where the problems of smog are on the increase.

Accommodation

When you first arrive in any city your first concern is accommodation. This may have already been arranged in advance, but if not we provide a short list of hostels and hotels, some near the airport, to get you settled in before you start to look around and see what the city of Athens has to offer. Choose a hotel carefully with your map in hand and request upper floors to avoid noise.The Creek National Tourist Board has a comprehensive list.