Athens Travel & Vacations
Athens the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. In many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization. Athens is big, brash and frenetic, but has a wonderful charm all of its own. All too often tourists' perceptions are clouded by the fact that they overnight in Athens on their way to or from the Greek islands, and so the extent of their Athens experience amounts to a quick view of the mostly grotty town of Piraeus, a cheap hotel, and maybe the Acropolis in scorching summer heat if they're lucky. Athens, however, has a lot more to offer.
Spring and late autumn are the best times to visit Athens. Summer can be extremely hot, 40 degree days, sometimes compounded by humidity.... but you can be lucky! Winter is definitely low season, being somewhat chilly with the occasional rainy day, but also an ideal time to save money while enjoying the city without countless other travellers and tourists.
Athens has something of a reputation for being Europe's smog capital, the most polluted city on the continent.... While this was once true (and the memory dies hard), it is now quite undeserved. For the last decade or more, massive clean ups have been in force, older vehicles and buses were withdrawn from the roads, industries were moved out of the city centre and the Metro has been expanded. Whilst peak hour can still be a bit smoggy on the main roads, most days the skies are clear and azure blue.
The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Hymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are eight hills (one more than Rome!), the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens' boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city's ancient (and still bustling) port.
Most things of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos). This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north. Further afield is the port of Athens, the Piraeus....
- Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos) - dominated by the old Royal Palace, Syntagma Square is the business district of Athens, complete with major hotels, banks, restaurants and airline offices
- the Plaka - just below the Acropolis, tourist central and full of special charm, the Plaka is the old Turkish quarter and the core of contemporary Athens
- the Acropolis - the ancient "high city" of Athens, crowned by marble temples sacred to the city's goddess Athena
- Monastiraki - the bustling market district
- Kolonaki - a high class residential area with many cafes, boutiques and galleries
- Psiri - up and coming, full of stylish cafés, bars and small shops
- Omonia - a somewhat seedy district, sometimes notorious for pickpockets and prostitutes (be careful here!), Omonia is nonetheless an important transport hub, especially for buses
- the Piraeus - the ancient port of Athens, still bustling with trade and transport connections - ferries to the Aegean islands depart from here....
Niels Elgaard Larsen,
Paul James Cowie,
Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0.
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Museum of Cycladic Art
Psyrri is the up-and-coming social hub of Athens.
Kolonaki is Posh Central. Come here for first hand experience of the sport of "people watching" and marvel at the spectacle of elegantly dressed people of all ages lounging in the cafes on the main square, sipping Frappé and gossiping. Here is where you'll find your designer goodies, should you be so inclined. Shopping addicts will love Kolonaki, or for a more reasonable price tag, Ermou Street, beside Syntagma Square. Turn right off Ermou at the MAC makeup shop and you'll find yourself on Aghiou Markou and other small streets which are home to incredibly cheap shoes, bags, jewellery, gifts, homewares, and so on.