Nestled in the heart of Greece, Athens stands as a captivating blend of ancient history and vibrant modernity. Renowned as the cradle of Western civilization, this city boasts a rich tapestry of archaeological wonders, from the iconic Acropolis perched atop its rocky prominence to the majestic Temple of Olympian Zeus. Athens invites visitors to stroll through its charming neighborhoods, where cozy cafes and traditional tavernas are located. This fascinating city has a lively atmosphere, exemplified by bustling markets, contemporary art galleries, and a dynamic nightlife scene. Athens, with its timeless charm, promises an enchanting journey through the ages, where the past seamlessly integrates with the present, offering a multifaceted experience for every avid traveler.
Suggestions for museums, sightseeing and restaurants-bars can be found in the following links:
Athens is a museum lovers paradise, as there are over 80 museums representing the country’s history and culture. Besides archaeology and history museums, visitors can enjoy a wide range of art and cultural museums. From ancient exhibits to modern art, Athens has something for everyone. There’s no way you can see all the museums in Athens on a short break though. The best museums in Athens include the National and Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis Museum, the Benaki Museum, the Goulandris Art Museum, the National Gallery, the Byzantine and Christian Museum and many more.
Athens is a sprawling city established among seven historic hills and surrounded by remarkable mountains. Inhabited for more than 3,000 years, it is widely known as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. Consisting of a large city center, an urban district and metropolitan area, Athens presents a blend of historical and modern features.
The city is famous for its archaeological ruins and monuments. However, Athens is not just about ancient ruins. This bustling city is also an important center for culture and sports.
Don’t miss out on the following walking experiences.
1. Ascend the steps of the Acropolis to the Parthenon.
The greatest symbol of the glory of Ancient Greece, the Acropolis rises spectacularly in the center of Athens. In the reign of Pericles, in the 5th century BCE, the hilltop was deemed a religious sanctuary. Just as pilgrims of millennia past made their way to worship here, you can ascend the marble steps on the west side to find yourself dwarfed by the towering columns of the magnificent Parthenon. An excellent idea would be to complete your experience by seeing a concert or play at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
2. Gaze over the city from Filopappou Hill at sunset, where the mythical battle of Theseus and the Amazons took place. It is one of Athens’ best parks, studded with small ruins connected by beautiful stone paths that are themselves a minor architectural marvel. Keep in mind that to the north, the Hill of the Pnyx, offers equally compelling views and is never too busy.
3. Visit the birthplace of democracy in ancient Agora following in the footsteps of Socrates and his various political and philosophical cohorts at the Agora, the heart of ancient Athens’ civic life and the birthplace of democracy. In the stately Stoa of Attalos the Agora Museum displays unusual finds from ancient daily life. You will also get to see the Temple of Hephaistos is exquisite and very well preserved.
4. Enter ancient Athens at Kerameikos, the city’s ancient necropolis- home to the Street of Tombs, where classical elites were interred. The small on-site museum will guide you through the ceremonial history of the city.
5. Watch the changing of the guard in Syntagma Square in the very heart of Athens, where the Hellenic Parliament building stands. Try and catch its ceremonious changing of the guard. In summer, the guards have to be dabbed at with tissues, as they are unable to move from their positions protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On the hour they can move in perfectly choreographed synchronicity, kicking their legs high as they march to change guards.
6. Definitely spend some time on the winner’s pedestal at the Panathenaic Stadium.
With its rows of white Pentelic marble seats built into a ravine next to Ardettos Hill, this ancient-turned-modern stadium is a draw both for lovers of classical architecture and sports fans who can imagine the roar of the crowds from millennia past. A ticket gets you an audio tour, admission to a tiny exhibit on the modern Olympics (mainly eye-candy games posters) and the opportunity to take your photo on a winners’ pedestal. The stadium – built in the 4th century BCE and restored for the first modern Olympic games in 1896 – was first used as a venue for the Panathenaic athletic contests. During Hadrian’s inauguration in CE 120, a thousand animals were sacrificed in the arena.
7. Visit the miraculous Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris at the foot of Filopappou Hill. This 16th-century church is certainly one of the loveliest churches in Athens, with a timber roof, marble floors and a scent of incense. A great 1732 fresco of St Dimitrios, astride his horse in a pose copied from ancient images of Alexander the Great, adorns the interior. The churchyard, with its wooden gate and bells, conjures Japan – a touch by modernist architect Dimitris Pikionis. In 1648, the church was the site of a reported miracle. The Turks, ensconced on the Acropolis, prepared to fire a cannon on worshippers gathered in the church, but the gunner was killed by lightning, saving the congregation, hence its name, Loumbardiaris (“of the cannon”).
8. Visit Monastiraki Flea Market on Saturdays which takes place between the Monastiraki and Thisseio neighborhoods. Traders open up their secondhand stores to flog a jumble of flea-market finds, vintage clothing and oddities ranging from vintage magazines to mid-century furniture and strange bric-a-brac.
In Athens you will find everything from cocktail bars to rooftop terraces with Acropolis views and courtyards that will make you feel like it is summer on a Greek island (the beer’s on tap and the wines are perfectly chilled). There are places where bartenders and chefs are reinventing classic cocktails and Greek meze and some gems where you can listen to authentic Greek music.
Athens is a city that does not sleep, so you can carry on the fun as long into the night as you want. It’s worth booking a table or you can just leave it to chance and bar-hop. All the downtown neighbourhoods are within walking distance. There are even experience providers that can put together a night out at some of Athens’ best bars.
The labyrinth of little streets below Syntagma Square, in the heart of Athens, is filled with some of the most popular bars in town. You will be fully rewarded at bars with little pavement tables on the likes of Kalamiotou, Voulis and Lekka streets and especially in Agia Irini Square, a favourite downtown Athens hangout.
A classic, much-loved district of Athens’ so-called historical centre and a popular place for an evening walk by the archaeological sites of the Roman and Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library as well as the Stoa of Attalos and Temple of Hephaestus. Falling between Ermou and Adriannou Streets, and up to Mitropoleos Square, Monastiraki has an atmosphere that is especially magical as night falls and the lights of the Acropolis gradually take hold. Setting out from Monastiraki metro station, you’ll find a variety of places to enjoy a day or night in Athens.
One of Athens’ oldest neighbourhoods is Psyrri, where you will encounter dozens of workshops and small craft & designer studios, as well as street art, cosy and traditional cafes, new age meze tavernas and alternative bars with bohemian or rock character. Walking down Ermou, Evripidou or Athinas streets, you’ll enter Psyrri by heading towards Iroon Square and Agii Anargyron.
Just by Psyrri, you’ll find another gem of an Athens nightlife spot. Keramikos is named after the pottery workshops found here in antiquity and has quickly matched (and in many ways overtaken) neighbouring Gazi – famously, the location of Athens’ gasworks from 1862-1984, the Technopolis cultural centre and a host of clubbing venues – with young Athenians looking for a night out. Found between Tsaldari, Thermopylon, Konstantinoupoleos and Iera Odos, Keramikos is known for its idiosyncratic bars and music venues.
Athens’ most historic district is Plaka, good both for the day and the night. The narrow streets (especially Lyssiou, Mnisikelous, Kydathineon and Navarhou Nikodimou) are filled with handsome neoclassical houses, flower-filled courtyards and restaurant-bars with small terraces with views of the Parthenon. The tables often spill out into little cul-de-sacs and the mood is casual and relaxed. If you feel like something traditional, there are plenty of classic tavernas with live Greek music.
Koukaki, under the Acropolis, is a great new entry on the Athens nightlife scene. Located by Philopappou Hill, just past Plaka and Anafiotika, atmospheric Koukaki has grown slowly and steadily into a popular hangout for young Athenians, with new bars to complement the growing number of delis and restaurants, especially on Mouson and Panelotiou streets. The neoclassical buildings give it the aura of the old Athens.