The City of the Gods
Welcome to Athens. Planning a trip to “the Historical capital of Europe” can be part of the fun, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover—how to get here, what to expect from the weather, how to hire a taxi and much more. In this section, you'll find essential information to help you make the most of your visit.
The urban complex of Athens – Piraeus (The port) spread in Attica region, which is surrounded by four mountains, in the west, east and north. The Saronic Gulf defines Athens south.
Athens is built around several hills. Lycabettus is one of the highest hills of the main city and overlooks the entire basin.
The name of the city of Athens, and the protected goddess Athena has always been associated with the city, appear to be Greek and possibly non-Indo-European origin, since it is a relic of the pre-Hellenic language substrate, spoken in Attica region, by the inhabitants of Greece, before the advent of Greek tribes.
In mythology, it is said that the city has the name of the goddess Athena, after the fight with Specifically, the first king of Athens, Cecrops, who was half man and half snake, had to decide who would be the protector god of the city. The two gods Poseidon and Athena would make a gift to Cecrops and whoever had the best, he would become protector. Appeared both in front of Cecrops and first Poseidon struck his trident into the ground and appeared a stream with salty water. After Athena struck her spear into the ground and appeared a little olive tree, symbolizing the peace and prosperity. Cecrops, surprised and impressed by Athena's gift and decided to choose her gift and her, as protector goddess of the city.
“Athens is one of the world's oldest cities, dominates the Atticaregion, and its certified history stretching over 3,400 years.”
The earliest human presence, located around 11th–7th millennium BC. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that came out in combination with the naval development of the port of Piraeus. Athens was the centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum. The ancient Athens, is widely referred to, as the “cradle of Western civilization” and the “birthplace of democracy”. That was the result of the cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the known Europe.
Nowadays, Athens, is not only a cosmopolitan metropolis, but also is the center of economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece. Athens is ranked the world's top 40 richest cities by purchasing power.
Weather in Athens
Weather in Athens is characterized by the alternation of prolonged hot, dry summers and mild wet winters. A guide to the seasons can help you plan your clothing equipment. Spring in Athens brings fresh flowers, light winds and rain, with the season's temperatures ranging from cool to warm. Summer is characterized by bright, sunny, hot and dry days and later sunsets. The fall season is cool and rainy, so it's wise to wear layers. The winter months are cold and wet, - snow is very rare for Athens- with less daylight, though the sky is often sunny and clear.
For your stay you can choose either one of the extravagance hotels, offers a lifestyle and epicurean experience, charm, leisure and glamor combined with high standard service and cosmopolitan atmosphere or one of inexpensive pensions or youth hostels, offers neat linens and a typical stay. Most hotels offer a balcony or window and is very possible depending on location to have a view of the Acropolis or Syntagma Square.
Athens and generally all Greece is in the Eastern European Time Zone (Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours during daylight saving time, all over the year).
Getting to Athens and navigating the city is not a big deal—and it's even easier with these tips.
Welcome to Athens International airport Eleftherios Venizelos. The airport is located at Spata—35 km away of the center of the city- and opened to the public in 2001. It is big, beautiful, modern, and it is one of the best and least complicated and synchronous airports in the world.
Getting to the city
By train: The Metro will take you to Syntagma or Monastiraki station, where you can connect with other trains on the metro railway system and will cost about 8 euro for a single route.
By taxi: the fare is about 35€, for a single drive to hotels located in the centre of Athens.
By bus: For many travelers, buses are an affordable and convenient travel option. The bus stop is just outside the arrivals building, and bus drops you just in the “heart” of the city, -in Syntagma square-.
By car: Rent a car desks and limo services, are in the airport area and provide so many types of cars in order to choose, according your taste, needs, and “wallet”. Use Google Maps for driving directions to Athens. Also, make sure you know where to park: You may want to use a site like www.parkaround.com to compare parking rates and locations.
One day visit
It's too many things that can be seen in Athens to fit in a short stay. However, in circumstances where the time is short, it is possible “to get a bit of capital”. Provided, of course, to wake up early and you feel like moving as fast as you can.
Start your outing from the Acropolis. It is a good idea to visit the area by Metro – line 2-.
In Metro station "Acropolis" you can admire the impressive ancient findings revealed the excavations due to the construction of the Athens Metro.
As you exit the station, the first view of the Acropolis, is in front of you. At your left, spreads a pleasant paved street without cars, --Dionysius Areopagite Street--, with beautiful neoclassical houses of 19th and 20th century. Follow the paved paths and leave the signs lead you to the road that climbs the Acropolis. Just before, on the right you will see the Theater of Dionysus, the oldest of the major theaters of the world, the birthplace of the ancient drama. Also on the right the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built in the 2nd BC century by the Roman Patrician Herodes Atticus. The theater is distinguished for its impressive acoustics, and even if today is being taken place concerts, ballet theatres etc.
Passing the Odeon and going a little further down, you will see on your left Filopappou Hill, and the beautiful church of Agios Dimitrios or Loumbardiaris.
To the right, the road leads to the Acropolis. Explore this fascinating area and its monuments. Admire the Propylaea, the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.
Follow the road leading to the Roman Forum, the construction of which was completed in 11 BC and includes many important monuments and buildings. Then enter the narrow streets of Plaka, the oldest of Athenian neighborhoods, with beautiful houses and gardens with flowers. Navigate the streets and witness the ancient, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments.
If you get tired of walking and you want to stop, the picturesque tavernas of Plaka, commonly found in quiet footpaths and alleys, is the best place for a short stay and a good choice for a quick lunch.
Then follow the road drives down to Monastiraki. You can visit the Ancient, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments located around Monastiraki Square, visit the Abyssinia Square, known for its antique shops, or simply wander the streets with numerous small shops and old houses.
In the evening, we recommend a stroll in Kolonaki, the old aristocratic neighbourhood of Athens, that offers a wide array of choices, of high-end restaurants, chic cafes and bars and trendy boutiques.
Top 10 attractions
The Acropolis:The Acropolis area is a complex of temples built on a huge rock structure, and symbolizes the Golden Age of Pericles. The earliest finds, date back to Neolithic era (3500 BC). The area is a complex of temples built on a high rock structure, symbol of the Golden Age of Pericles. The main temple “Parthenon”, dedicated to the goddess of wisdom Athena – also protector goddess of the city- . The Acropolis rock is still considered as sacred ground and the Parthenon as a magnificent example of ancient Greek architecture and geometry. Through the centuries, the Acropolis and the temples of the ancient gods had a very stormy history. Some of them were transformed into Christian churches, the Holy rock was used as a fortress by the Turks and in the 19th century a large part of the Parthenon marbles were taken to Great Britain where they still remain. In fact, the Acropolis remains the most outstanding historic site in Athens.
The new Acropolis Museum:The Acropolis Museum, one of the most significant in the world, includes unique masterpieces, mostly original works of archaic and classical Greek art, directly related to the sacred rock of the Athenian Acropolis. These are free votive sculptures and sets of architectural sculptures that decorated the buildings erected in different historical periods of the Acropolis. Part of the sculptures of bronze objects and vessels were transferred from the National Archaeological Museum where kept. Inscribed projects (dedications, honorary decrees, lists of offerings to the goddess Athena, building inscriptions of the Erechtheion) were transferred from the Epigraphical Museum and currencies from the Numismatic Museum of Athens. Important is, the gap in the Acropolis Museum of original sculptures of the Parthenon. These sculptures are located in European museums and university collections (British Museum, the Louvre, etc.). The Acropolis Museum and its activities are closely tied up to the archaeological site and the restoration works that carried out in the monuments of the rock and the slopes of the Acropolis.
The Lycabettus Hill:Lycabettus Hill is considered one of the romantic areas of Athens and undoubtedly features the best view of the city. Its height is 277 meters and is the highest hill in Athens, stands out for its panoramic views of the whole capital. At the top of the hill illuminated Athens, is unfolded before your eyes and the moon shining in the Attic sky and awaken the most loving feelings. The most beautiful images that fill the eyes of every visitor is the total view of the Acropolis up to Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf. Using the telescope, you can easily see Aegina island in the heart of the Saronic. At the top of Lycabettus is the church of St. George.It is said that in ancient times here was the temple of Zeus. During the Frankish domination, the position of the church got by the little chapel of Prophet Elias and then replaced by the small church of St. George's. It is a small white church, built in 19th century, that contributes to the romantic atmosphere that prevails. We recommend you to ascend by cable car. The starting point is at the end of Aristippou road in Kolonaki and serves the tourist needs, during the summer months until midnight. The trip is short and pleasant. Definitely, is the best place to see the summer sunset in the city.
Monastiraki –The flea market— :If you stand in the center of Monastiraki Square and turn around 360 degrees, you will see within a few blocks of the history of Athens. In the heart of the Athens center, Monastiraki a unique blend of styles, eras and cultures, stays vibrant and always dynamic - and steadily dedicated to trade and the reunion of people. Recently renovated, the square was paved with mosaic blocks of marble, sculpted stones and cast iron, symbolizing the "flows" and the variegation of the Mediterranean peoples. The works for the new metro station (opened in 2004) have encountered great difficulties because of the crossover with the river Eridanus, the sacred river of the ancient Athenians. In the modern city, the only uncovered part of the river was located in the neighboring archaeological site of Kerameikos. The traces of lost riverbed that were discovered again is partly visible in a special exhibition area with archaeological finds into the station and through an open exhibition on the same square. In the heart of the square The Mosque is standing still, since1759. Its use as a handicrafts museum starts after the first repair in 1915 and since 1975 it houses a remarkable collection of pottery from Greece, Cyprus, Ottoman and modern Turkey. Next to the mosque is preserved part of the Roman Library wall, built in 132 AD as an offer to Athens by Hadrian, the Roman emperor. The entrance of the library is in front of the Roman Forum, founded by Julius Caesar in 10 AD as an extension of the ancient Athenian Forum. During the Ottoman era, Monastiraki consisted of a central grain, vegetables, meat and fish market, housed in sheds and constructed over the ruins of the library and a Byzantine church was built at its center. The small church of Pantanassa is what is left today of the Byzantine era nunnery, which operated during the Ottoman domination, and was located in the area of today's square. The name "Monastiraki" established during the Revolution.
Plaka – The oldest and historical neighbourhood— :The Plaka is one of the most attractive areas of Athens. Built by the slopes of the Acropolis, Plaka attracts its visitors, Greeks or foreigners. Its neoclassical mansions and houses with red tiled roofs, small uphill streets with stairs, balconies with bougainvilleas, geraniums and jasmine, are those characteristics that captivate people to lost in the small and narrow streets. Plaka is mentioned several times in Greek literature as the neighborhood of the Gods, and that's because over Plaka dominated by the sacred rock of the Acropolis and the gods. Plaka even today is romantic especially some sunny winter days without crowds of tourists going up and down the stairs. The Athenians enjoyed the sunshine especially in the cafes of Hadrian Road near the Stoa of Attalos, Filomusi Square and Thissio overlooking the Ancient Agora and Acropolis. As a main tourist attraction of Athens Plaka has many tourist shops mainly shops of Greek art and images, fur shops and jewelry stores.
Thission – The temple of Hephaestus—:Thissio, the district of Athens that is located northwest of the Acropolis. It got its name from the nearby Temple of Hephaestus (also known as "Thissio", incorrectly thought by the reliefs of the feats of Theseus founded there. References for the area exist from antiquity as always belonged to the city center of Athens. The area today is a famous for its nightlife and is full of cafes, bars, small taverns, especially during the summer season. The area is serviced by Metro Station "Thissio". The temple of Hephaestusis one of the most well maintained ancient temples, due to the conversion into a Christian church. According to Pausanias-an ancient Geographer and Historian- in the church were worshiped together Hephaestus, protector of metallurgists, and Athena Ergane, the protector of potters and cottage industry.
Syntagma square and the Parliament:Syntagma Square is located in the heart of the city, in front of the Greek Parliament. The historical importance of Syntagma Square is immense for Athens and Greece in general. Until 1843, it was called as the Palace Square, and to the place of the current parliament were the palaces of King Otto. The current name of the square is due to the Constitution was given by Otto after a large popular rebellion that remained in history as the "Revolution of the 3rd of September". In the eastern part of Syntagma Square stands the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial that represents a military tomb of unidentified soldiers who offered their lives to the numerous wars of our history. The attraction of the square is the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Presidential Guard. Also, the Greek Parliament is located there.
National Garden of Athens and the Temple of Olympian Zeus: National Park has an area of 288 acres (28.8 hectares) and is located in the center of Athens. It is the first park done in modern Greece and the first garden of the capital. It has European park features such as excellent gardening, gravel paths, studied drawing and connection with the city. Located in the same area in ancient times was the sacred grove of Lyceum, dedicated to the god Apollo. Surrounded by the avenues of Queen Olga, Queen Amalia, Queen Sofia and Herodes Atticus street, while the northwest side dominates the Greek parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In this park, the visitor can admire hundreds of species of trees, shrubs and other plants, many species of birds, lakes, various buildings (Children's Library, Botanical Collections building, traditional cafe), archaeological remains (mosaic Roman villa, scattered marble architectural), a sundial, decorative elements (pergolas, ponds), and many statues of great Greek poets and writers of the past. The Temple of Olympian Zeus or Olympieion is an important temple in the center of Athens located in the opposite of the south eastern side of the National Park. Although the construction began in the 6th century BC, was not completed, till the years of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD . It was the largest temple in Greece during the Hellenistic and Roman times. The temple is dedicated to the father of all the ancient Greek gods, Zeus.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus:The Herod Atticus Odeon is an ancient roman theatre, located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens. It was built very rapidly at the expense of Herodes Atticus in the 2nd century AD in honor of his wife Aspasia Annia Rigillis, death in 160 AD. The theatre was primarily built for musical events and was named Odeon. The need for this construction came after the collapse of the old Conservatory which was built in the center of the ancient agora of Athens by General Agrippa, around 15 BC, and that replacing even older Odeon of Pericles, that had been set fire by Sylla in 85 BC. The space reserved for the public had 32 rows of marble terraces and its capacity was of about 5000 spectators. Like the theaters of the Roman era, the orchestra has semicircular shape. The stage building was raised on depth and had three floors, two of which are still preserved to a height of 28 meters. The Odeon was roofed by wooden ceilings of cedar wood. Various indications show that solely operated for 105 years since the 3rd century, in 267 AD, as many buildings of Athens, were destroyed by the Heruli Raiders. Also, that time, from the various findings of the excavations, such as human and bulls’ skulls, it is probable that the site was used for gladiatorial contests and bullfights.
The Theatre of Dionysus: The theater of Dionysus is located on the south side of the Acropolis was the center of theatrical performances were held in ancient Athens. Celebrations dedicated to Dionysus -protector god of wine and scenic art- called “Great Dionysia” and were celebrated in late March or early April. There, all Athenian citizens attended theatrical competitions which had been financially sponsored by affluent citizens.The plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and other famous writers were first played in this theatre. The ruins of an ancient temple of Dionysus are situated in front of the theatre, which obtained its final form at the end of the 4th century B.C.
Most visitors imagine Athens as a city that never sleeps – and this is a fact. Athens is famous for its extremely strong and multidimensional night life, which is not limited to the weekends but follows intense rhythms everyday. Entertainment proposals are many, and can be satisfying for all the trends and tastes and cover the entire city.
Forget all that apply, to other capitals of Europe. The Athenians usually go out for fun just before midnight and the fun lasts until the early hours. Of course there are bars and bar-restaurants that open early, but again "normal" time for them is after 10pm.
The new hot spot area that has so many small bars and cafes frequented by mostly young people such as artists and designers, is Gazi. If you have more glamorous mood, head into the big clubs. It might be strict enough, at the face control, but when you get in, you will dance under rhythms of International and Greek music.
Typical and cheap, the famous souvlaki with pita. Small shops throughout the city offer “the Greek answer” to fast food. Other options are the small taverns in areas such as Psyrri, Exarchia, Monastiraki, Gazi. You can visit them for a beer and a snack or for lunch or dinner.
One of the oldest and finest neighbourhoods of Athens–Kolonaki- is famous for all time favorites for drinking and dining, which range from multiethnic cuisine to high end restaurants and several Italian restaurants and stylish bars, which are very beloved for the Athenians. Some are expensive others are reasonably priced, these restaurants and bars are the best choice for classy entertainment, as located in the best area – in the heart of city- to enjoy sophisticated flavors and luxurious surroundings.
Did you know that?
“Greeks go to eat quite late than European standards. Therefore, few restaurants you will find full in Athens before 10pm , while dinner lasts until after midnight.”
However, if you wish to dine earlier, no problem, as most restaurants are open from 8:00 in the evening or earlier.
The ancient Athenians ate reclining on couches and accompanied the meal with music, poetry and dance. Their basic philosophy on food, as in the rest of their lives was "well-being", the philosophy of Epicurus, according to which main purpose of life is the welfare, and the parallel development for the body and spirit. For this reason the Greek philosopher Epicurus considered as the father of gastronomy.
Most medications recommended by the famous healer of antiquity Hippocrates, contained wine.
Greeks are traditionally listed in the top 5 of long-lived people in the world. Secret of longevity of the Greeks considered the high consumption of olive oiland generally the "Mediterranean" – diet which is known as the “Cretan” diet.
In Athens and throughout Greece, the euro is the standard currency. This converter allows you to determine the value of other currencies compared with the euro.
Of course, there are so many places where you can exchange your currency for euro such as Banks, Currency exchange offices etc.
Athens is one of the safest European large cities, but visitors should still use common sense to protect themselves and their property. Your hotel concierge should be able to answer questions on this topic, and will be helpful if you need more information about.
Power sockets in Greece deliver 220-240 volts at 60 hertz, and you may need a converter to use your electrical and electronical devices here.
If you have a laptop or a tablet with you, wireless Internet is available throughout Athens, including in hotels, coffee shops, parks, Metro Stations etc. At some locations, you have to pay for WiFi.
Here are some important phone numbers to keep in hand during your visit in Athens
FIRE BRIGADE: 199
CIVIL PROTECTION: 112
The drinking age in Athens —and throughout Greece—is 18, and smoking is banned in public places throughout the City, including bars, restaurants, Public Transport and taxis. Cigar smoking is permitted at many bars and restaurants in specific areas. In Athens, those who are 18 or older can purchase tobacco and cigarettes.