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Ancient and modern, old and new, bustling and peaceful, the birthplace of philosophy and democracy; this is Athens! Looking for cheap air tickets to Athens? You may have heard a lot about the Greek capital, but once you set foot on this sacred land, you will forget everything and you will just let go in the magnificent charm of the city. Crowded and chaotic as it may seem at first, Athens remains original, beautiful and extremely interesting. A wealth of ancient wonders of UNESCO-listed architecture such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon and a number of majestic ancient temples, remnants of one of the world's greatest civilisations, blends with the rejuvenating energy of the bustling streets of modern Athens, the extraordinary spirit of the Athenians that seem to enjoy life despite difficulties and will do everything in their power to make you feel welcome. The result is more than rewarding; temples and monuments of the radiance of ancient Greece, world-class museums and art galleries and countless choices and possibilities in nightlife and dining, under the clear skies of the Mediterranean. A trip that everyone should experience in their lives, book your flights and accommodation in Athens now!
Athens knew its most glorious times during the 5th century BC, commonly referred to as the Golden Age of Athens, that gave birth to the city’s greatest classical monuments and set the base for the development of democracy, philosophy, arts, theatre and literature.
The years that followed, Athens fell under the Byzantine and, later, the Ottoman rule, losing its former charm and power. Ever since the liberation from the Turks though, Athens began to rise again as the capital of the newly-founded Greek state.
The hosting of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games was a significant milestone in the history of modern Greece, leading the way to a new era of development and progress. Never forgetting its origins and history, modern Athens keep honouring its glorious past, while looking towards the future. The eternal rock of Acropolis stands proud over the centre of Athens, topped with the legendary Parthenon, looking over the modern metropolis.
Visitors in London are happily amazed to discover its many beauties and hidden gems, tightly bound to the unique state of mind and lifestyle of the Athenians. It is true, Greece has been going through some tough times and it’s likely you will see some grim faces during the morning metro ride.
Head a bit further out to the streets of Athens and you will soon find out that everything can be overcome over a cup of coffee; Athenians never miss a chance to drink a cup of coffee and chat!
Athens is where it all started; the cradle of the western civilisation, the birthplace of everything that makes a society decent and just. Beyond that, Athens ranks among Europe’s best destinations to go out, dine, have fun and meet new friends, along with cities like Barcelona and Paris. Why not travel to Athens to see for yourselves?
The airport of Athens (Διεθνής Αερολιμένας Αθηνών "Ελευθέριος Βενιζέλος") is located 30 kilometres south of the city centre and is served by buses (X Lines), metro, railway and suburban railway.
Getting around Athens
Athens’s public transportation network consists of bus and trolley networks, metro (2 Lines), electric rail (1 Line), tramway and suburban railway. Fares start from 1.40€ and minimum taxi fare costs 3.16€.
The beating heart of Athens lies in the area around Omonoia, Syntagma and Monastiraki. Crossing the Omonoia Square and continuing across the Panepistimiou Street, you will arrive at the Syntagma Square. This is where all Athens’s important events traditionally take place; celebrations, concerts, performances and demonstrations – it was one such demonstration that resulted in the establishment of the first Greek Constitution, back in 1844, after which the Syntagma Square was named (Syntagma = Constitution).
The square stretches in front of the Old Royal Palace, today serving as the seat of the Greek Parliament. Nearby, there is the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, guarded by the Evzones, wearing traditional costumes that are based on the uniforms of the fighters of the Greek War of Independence. You can catch the changing of the guard every hour; visit a Sunday in 11:00 to watch the ceremonial changing of the guard, accompanied by the military band.
- The paved Ermou street is the most popular market street in Athens and a favourite meeting place among the locals, who gather there not only to shop, but also to go for a walk, drink their coffee and catch up. The Ermou street ends at the Monastiraki Square, famous for its flea market. A few steps down the Athinas road, the Central Market of Athens is the place to be if you wish to witness the traditional food market of Athens and buy quality meat and vegetables!
- As you explore the city centre, you will notice a small paved area between Monastiraki and Athinas street. This is the Psyri district, an area widely known for its quaint cafes, tavernas and restaurants, art galleries housed in renovated neoclassical buildings and a culture of its own. At night, Psiri comes alive and becomes one of the city’s favourite hotspots, offering a wide variety of nightlife choices, from cocktail bars to alternative clubs where people dance the night away.
- Head back to Monastiraki and explore the streets that lead to the Roman Agora, Thissio and Plaka. The winding cobblestone streets of Plaka are the most touristic spot in Athens, but they’re also the most beautiful one! Feel free to wander and get lost inside this fascinating maze of narrow streets, historic buildings and island-like atmosphere. On your way, you will come across ancient sites, byzantine churches, museums and historic 19th-century architecture, as well as countless faces, idyllic bars and ouzeri – local taverns that serve ouzo and other types of drinks and mezedes (local finger food). Make a well-deserved stop to enjoy your coffee, drink and food and keep walking!
By now, you should have reached the Acropolis of Athens, the sacred rock that looms 156 metres over the city and houses Greece’s most precious historical, architectural and religious structures. The Parthenon is the ultimate highlight here, the epitome of the glorious past of ancient Greece that paved the way for the development of arts, culture and innovation.
Apart from the Parthenon, there are many other ancient sites to see on the Acropolis rock. The most famous of them is the Erechtheion, an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, lined with six caryatids that serve as columns.
To complete your experience of travelling back to ancient Greece, you should by all means visit the Acropolis Museum, on the feet of the Acropolis rock. Inaugurated in 2009, this fabulous museum focuses on the items found during archaeological excavations around the Acropolis. Starting from the ground floor, you will be brought to a middle floor, where five of the six original caryatids are kept. The sixth caryatid was removed by Lord Elgin, along with other items and pediments from the Parthenon, the so-called “Elgin Marbles”, and is now kept in London’s British Museum.
Some of Athens’s other important museums are the following:
- The National Archaeological Museum houses a fine collection of archaeological items of Athens, reflecting 7,000 years of Greek history. Highlights include the gold funeral Mask of Agamemnon, the Antikythera Mechanism, the earliest portable astronomical calculator retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, and the bronze statue of Zeus of Poseidon.
- The Museum of Cycladic Art boasts a large collection of 3,000 items of Cycladic art and hosts many interesting temporary exhibitions all-year-round
- The Benaki Museum is a privately-owned art museum that houses a vast collection of paintings, ceramics, furniture and religious art that span a period of time from antiquity to modern times. The museum has expanded into many branches.
Leaving Acropolis and heading to Syntagma again, continue walking at the left of the Parliament Building and you will soon reach Kolonaki, a charming district that once housed the aristocracy of Athens. The streets of Kolonaki today are filled with restaurants, cafes and some of the city’s most prominent fashion boutiques.
Not too far from Kolonaki, Exarcheia is a must-see neighbourhood of Athens. Enjoying the status of Athens’s underground district, this is the place of alternative bars, studios and art galleries, incredible street art and a countless list of amazing pocket-size cafes and taverns, music and comic book shops, parks and lively squares. A night in Exarcheia is never the same as the next one and this is what makes Exarcheia so exciting.
Leaving Athens city centre, take the Syggrou avenue to get to the southern sea-side suburbs of Athens. The road will lead you by the monumental Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest and most imposing ancient temple in Greece!
The construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus began during the 6th century BC; it was completed 700 years after, when Hadrian decided to finish what was started, in 131 AD. Only 15 out of the 104 gigantic Corinthian columns of the Temple have survived.
Since you’ve completed your exploration of the city centre of Athens, you can go on discovering more districts, suburbs and neighbourhoods of this large metropolis. South, in Palaio Faliro, Glyfada and Varkiza, the port of Piraeus or North, in Kifisia and Marousi, each and every quarter of Athens has its own charm, style and personality. All you need is time, comfortable shoes and your biggest smile!
The official language of Athens is Greek; English is also widely spoken by the locals in a fairly good level.