- The largest city (and capital) of Greece, Athens is home to 3.1 million people
- The city is named after Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.
- One of the oldest cities in the world, with origins dating back to 3000 BC
- Host of the first modern summer Olympic Games in 1896 (and again in 2004!)
- Nicknames: Cradle of Civilization, City of the Violet Crown
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Spoken languages: Greek is the primary language
- Best time to visit: late April to mid-June, or in the autumn (Sept to Nov)
- Arriving via airport: taxi will cost about 35 EUR (45 minute ride)
WHERE TO STAY
Good neighbourhoods to stay in (everything available within walking distance): The Plaka, Makrianni, Thission, Syntagma, and Monastriraki.
- Yellow trolleys and blue buses are a convenient for getting around. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks.
- You can ride the Athens Coastal Tram between Syntagma Square and the beaches of Glyfada and Voula (tickets are 1 EUR and available at kiosks).
- Taxis are also readily available, although they have a dodgy reputation.
- Renting a car is not recommended – traffic in Athens is chaotic and rules are not obeyed.
- Drinking age is 18 (16 under supervision), although this is hardly ever enforced!
- Last call is never (the party often goes on until the last customer wants to go).
- Main scene: the majority of nightlife is located in central areas, such as Psiri
- Hip/local scene: some of the coolest clubs are in the narrow streets around Platia Iroon.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Academy of Athens is a beautiful neoclassic building established in 1926. It is the main scientific establishment in Greece, and is named in the tradition of the ancient Academy of Plato.
- The Acropolis is one of the most familiar and unique landmarks in the world. If visiting during the summer months, go early in the day to avoid the intense heat.
- Syntagma Square: with the Greek Parliament in view, this square has been at the center of political protests in Greece for over a century.
- The Plaka is the oldest district of Athens, and is home to many excellent restaurants and artisans’ workshops.
- The National Archaeological Museum: you would be hard pressed to find a better collection of ancient Greek sculptures, pottery, and artifacts. Avoid visiting on a Sunday (only a few of the galleries are open).
- From Panathinaikon Stadium and Syndagma area all the way to the Gazi area.
- Walk along the waterfront for beautiful views (especially at sunset).
- Check out The Plaka in the early evening.
- One of the best times of year to visit is during Easter, which is a feast more important than Christmas in Greece. You will get the the chance to experience the cultures and witness Greek traditions. One unique tradition is Holy Saturday: people attend church at 11 PM, bringing their baptismal candles to be lit with the Holy Flame.
- Greeks are generally very warm and hospitable. When meeting someone on friendly terms, they often embrace; sometimes they may also kiss each other on the cheek.
- If you want to escape the searing heat, take a day trip to one of the neighbouring islands: Aegina, Poros or Hydra. Take the Flying Dolphin from the Port town of Piraeus.
- Where to find good cheap eats: take this chance to enjoy some authentic Greek souvlaki. Cheap, delicious food is available almost on every corner.
- Dangerous areas: Avoid going out in the evening near Omonoia Square. Stay alert in Athens, as it has become a haven for pickpockets.
RECOMMENDED ATHENS GUIDE BOOKS
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days