Of all Europe’s historical capitals, Athens is probably the one that has changed the most in recent years. But even though it has become a modern metropolis, it still retains a good deal of its old small town feel. Here antiquity meets the future, and the ancient monuments mix with a trendier Athens and it is precisely these great contrasts that make the city such a fascinating place to explore. The heart of its historical centre is the Plaka neighbourhood, with narrow streets mingling like a labyrinth where to discover ancient secrets.
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Athens’ heyday was around 400 years BC, that’s when most of the classical monuments were built. During the Byzantine and Turkish eras, the city decayed into just an insignificant little village, only to become the capital of newly-liberated Greece in 1833. Ahead of the 2004 Olympics, almost the entire infrastructure was transformed: the Metro, trams, new ring roads and viaducts have eased the pressure of the heavy traffic.
Athens is still a rather messy and chaotic place—it wouldn’t be Athens otherwise—and despite all the improvements, still retains a great deal of its oriental charm. The whole coastal stretch from Piraeus to the old Hellenikon airport has been improved with new plantings, viaducts and paths for walking. The Plaka district is becoming more and more popular and it is on the way to catching up with Psyrri, Gazi and Rouf as regards restaurants. Discover the beauties of the Anafiotika district, at the feet of the Acropolis, and visit the ancient village still housed in the midst of the city. In Exarchia, there is still a somewhat in-your-face anarchic atmosphere around the Technical University. Meanwhile, Kolonaki is becoming more and more chic.
Dive in perhaps the most historically rich capital of Europe and discover its secrets. Athens' past and its landmarks are worldly famous, but the city offers much more than the postcards show: it is a vivid city of culture and art, where the streets have as much to show for as the monuments and antique statues. The difficult years it has known with the economic crisis have only deepened the city's artistic soul and not a day goes by that Athens does not amaze its visitors.
National Archaeological Museum
The Acropolis and its surroundings
Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
Food is at the centre of all activities in Greece and you will soon find out why. The Greek cuisine, Mediterranean at heart and influenced by their Turkish neighbours is fresh, honest, filling and absolutely gorgeous. Whether you are in for a tour of the best Greek Tavernas in town, looking for the most tasty Gyros or want to try the new Greek cuisine, you might take the local rhythm and spend a lot of time around the table. Good news, in Athens and in the whole country you can eat at any time of the day and late at night. Tavernas and Ouzerias (where you can drink local cocktails and usually hear traditional music) are also a key place for social life.
GOSTIJO Kosher Restaurant
CTC - Restaurant Urban Gastronomy
Drinking coffee in Greece is an institution, and Athens is no exception. You will find the cafes and their terraces full of people, laughter, cigarette smoke and animation everyday and all year long. Cafes here are the place to meet up with friends, to relax, to have long conversations about life and politics, or to play backgammon (when in Greece, call it "Tavli"). To the local Frappé and Freddo Capuccino or Espresso are added more and more coffee specialities and you can choose to sit at a trendy or alternative cafe, at a traditional kafeneio, or even at one of Greece's coffee chains.
The Dark Side of Chocolate
Athens' bar scene is a never ending surprise, and as it is custom in Greece, the nightlife extends way beyond the first morning lights. The Greeks know how to drink and to party, and Athens is the living and breathing image of this happy and joyful spirit.
From alternative bars to fancy clubs, pubs and traditional "ouzerias", follow the flow and experience one of the best nights of your life.
A for Athens Cocktail Bar
It is almost unbelievable that Athens is not yet consecrated as one of the best fashion and shopping destination of Europe. It has everything the other capitals are so proud of—international brands, luxury products and major names, designer shops, smaller and more original boutiques—showcased in pleasant streets and neighbourhoods, usually with lower prices than cities such as Paris, Milan or London. Although the city was hit hard by the crisis and many small shops had to close, it still offers plenty of shopping opportunities, in and around the centre.
Athens Heart Mall Emporiko Centro
Passport / Visa
Greece can be visited visa-free for up to 90 days by citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Israel, UAE and most countries in America. If you are unsure whether or not you need to apply for a visa, we recommend contacting the embassy or consulate in your country. International (non-Schengen) travelers need a passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the end of their trip in order to enter the Schengen zone. Citizens of Schengen countries can travel without a passport, but must have a valid ID with them during their stay.
Best Time to Visit
Greece is a tourist destination beloved worldwide, and summer is the most crowded season of all, especially in July and August. Spring is, perhaps, the best season to travel to Greece, as the main cities such as Athens are not so crowded and the prices are quite a bit lower. June and September are the best months to visit Athens and its near-lying beaches full of entertainment. If you are a hiking lover, don't miss Athens in autumn.
Athens International Airport
Athens International Airport (ATH) is located at Spata, 33 kilometres (20 miles) southeast of Athens. A taxi ride to the city-centre will cost a flat rate of 38 euros between 5am and 12am and 54 euros between 12am and 5am. The fixed fares include the basic fare, VAT, extra luggage charges and road tolls.
The Metro is another option to go to the centre and the journey to Syntagma takes around half an hour. Airport buses are made available to Syntagma (X95), Pireaus port (X96), Kifissou Avenue (X93) and Elliniko (X97). The travel time to Syntagma and the other areas in town takes around 1 hour and around 1,5 hours to Pireaus port. Check the hours on: www.athensairportbus.com/en
Address: Athens International Airport, Athens
Phone: +30 21 0353 0000
The Metro stations are well worth seeing as they are kept spotlessly clean. At the Syntagma and Acropolis stations you will find a large collection of antiquities on display.
There is a tram from the centre (Syntagma) running along the coast to Glyfada (50 minutes) and Voula (60 minutes).
Buses, trolley buses and the Metro run until around midnight. The tram runs between 5:30am and 1am (until 2:30am on Friday and Saturday). Airport buses all run 24/7. The airport bus tickets are not valid on other public transport services but only for a single journey.
Ferries out to the island leave from the harbour in Piraeus or from Rafina.
There are lots of taxis, but it is normal to share one with other tourists in order not to be surprised if the driver picks up additional passengers along the road who are going in the same direction. The drivers have taximeters and fixed prices.
Stamps can be bought in most tobacconists and kiosks selling postcards.
Athens Central Post Office is located in Syntagma Square.
Address: Eolou 100, Athens
Phone: +30 21 0335 3383
The main pharmacy in Athens is Mpakakos Georgios.
Address: Agiou Konstantinou 3, Athens
Phone: +30 21 0523 2631
More Information: Closed on Sundays.
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Country code: +30
Area code: 210