With its first settlements beginning around 3000 BCE, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. Characterized by its resilience, the city has been invaded, occupied, and destroyed numerous times over by conquerors, empires, and armies throughout the centuries.
Originally a centre of Mycenaean civilization, Athens was ruled by kings until 1400 BCE when social unrest pushed through a new constitution that laid foundations for democracy.
When Cleisthenes came to power in 508, he set up electorates to choose representatives in the city’s governing council, marking the birth of democracy.
Athens’ Golden Age began in the 5th century BCE, which was a time of advances in architecture, art, drama, and philosophy. The city was home to great minds such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates.
Wars with Sparta, northern Macedonian domination, and the conquests of Alexander the Great marked the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE for Athens until the Romans subsumed the city into its empire in the 2nd century.
Under Ottoman rule from 1458 to 1833, Athens suffered the looting, destruction of ancient monuments, and general decline. The War of Independence in 1833 liberated Greece as a country and Athens became its capital.
The Germans occupied Athens during the Second World War. Afterwards, the city experienced a large population spike. Greece joined the European Union in 1981, which helped investment, but in recent years the city has struggled with traffic, pollution and economic instability.
Book a flight to Athens today to take a trip to the cradle of Western civilisation.
The city at the cultural core of Ancient Greece, Athens is a place of mythological gods, the birthplace of democracy and philosophers Plato and Aristotle, the site of the first modern Olympics, and home to incredible monuments like the Parthenon.
Athens today is as culturally vibrant as its past with bustling streets and cafes, a plethora of theatres, and a nightlife that would make the Olympian gods blush.
So plan your weekend in Athens now!
Situated atop a 150m-tall rock, Acropolis is a breathtaking elevated fortress of marble temples and theatres that has withstood numerous wars, invasions, and reconstructions.
The remains include the Theatre of Dionysus (500 BCE), which is dedicated to the god of wine and fertility, the Erechtheum temple (400 BCE), and the Parthenon temple (438 BCE), which is dedicated to Athena, the goddess of protection for Athenians.
The structure’s intricate carvings and unique form of deterioration reveal historic periods of distinct religious and political domination from Persian invasion to the Peloponnesian War to Roman conquest.
Though a mere shadow of its intended glory, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and its 15 remaining columns are worth a visit. When construction began in 520 BCE, the temple was to be the largest dedication to the king of the Olympian Gods in all of Greece.
However, after numerous starts and stops due to a lack of finances (or, as in the period of democracy in Athens, a sense that the temple was a flashy display of government’s abuse of power), it was not completed until 131 ACE.
As Athens suffered various attacks and changed from one empire to the next, so did the temple, losing and gaining columns, statues, and a host of names and purposes.
Filled with relics from all over Greece dating from prehistoric times to Late Antiquity, the National Archaeological Museum is worth a visit. Its more than 20,000 exhibits include ceramics from civilizations of the Neolithic era, ancient Greek sculptures from 700-500 BCE, and Mycenaean art that includes the gold funeral mask of King Agamemnon.
In the middle of town lies this peaceful green getaway, a 15.5-hectare public park complete with duck ponds, a botanical museum with plants and flowers from around the world, a zoo, cafe, playground, and of course some ancient ruins.
Designed by the first queen of Greece, Amalia, the National Gardens is a place to escape the grind of the city and stroll, sit, write, people-watch, and be inspired.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
Construction of the goddess Athena's ancient temple began in 447 BC, and it is one of the most famous buildings of ancient Greece.
The largest ancient temple in Greece took over 700 years to build, but only 15 of the original 104 columns still stand.
This theatre hosted plays written by famous ancient Greek playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides during the Golden Age.
The stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 was built on the site where the ancient games first began.
See a formal changing of the guard every hour, or watch a full ceremony on Sundays at 11 a.m.
This museum dedicated to the art of making jewellery has a permanent collection of more than 4,000 jewels.
Go beyond the ruins to visit the city of Athens during its heyday with an interactive virtual reality tour.
One of the greatest museums in the world, this landmark is home to the world's largest collection of ancient Greek artefacts.
The most advanced digital planetarium in the world lets you go on a 3-D virtual reality tour of the galaxy.
You can swim year-round at this lake beach, where the water is known for its healing properties.
Take the Metro Blue Line to this ancient cemetery to escape the city noise and lose yourself among the ancient statues.
Visit this small restaurant for a tasty and tempting burger.
Enjoy art exhibits and live performances at this building, which has a courtyard that dates back to 1870.
Take a short detour from Ermou Street along Aiolou to find the hidden bakeries and pastry shops along Kolokotroni.
Enjoy drinking a kir royal or glass of wine in the outdoor garden of this hidden bar.
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The weather in Athens is hot and dry during the summer, with averages reaching more than 30Â°C during June, July, and August. December through March is the rainy season, and almost half of the days during this period receive rain. The Mediterranean climate makes late spring and fall the most pleasant times to visit, but a more important element to consider when planning your trip to Athens is political unrest. Pay attention to the news before leaving on your holiday so you will know about any demonstrations happening in the city before you arrive.
Hop on a ferry and visit the legendary Greek islands of the Saronic Gulf. Savour the native pistachios of Aegina, the island that was once a city-state and Athens’ great rival.
Continue on to Poros, the pine forest-covered island of the god of the sea Poseidon, full of great cafes and restaurants.
Cars are prohibited on Hydra, as only donkeys cart goods around this rocky island known as an artist hub.
Many islands are a short trip Athens and can be seen in a day. Look for all-inclusive island cruises for a guided tour.
Just under the Acropolis lies the Plaka, the oldest neighbourhood in Athens with a village feel thanks to its street vendors selling flowers and crafts, and musicians turning sidewalks into recital halls.
Sit in an outdoor cafe and watch the eclectic crowd of internationals and Athenians alike pass by. Packed with jewellery and souvenir shops, the Plaka is also home to the Frissiras Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Painting.
Once centre of political and social life for Ancient Greece, the Central Market of Athens is now a busy food market teeming with sights, smells, and tasting opportunities.
Where Socrates and St. Paul once drew crowds with their speeches, modern shops now burst with different meats, fresh fish and seafood, dried and juicy fruit, spices, olive oils, and cheeses. A handful of inexpensive restaurants serve up favourite local dishes.
Athens is a town known to have one of the most active nightlives in Europe. With hoards of bars, venues, and clubs to choose from, there is always something going on that will please every musical taste and partying style.
For live Greek Laika music, check out the club Perivoli T Ouranou or any tavern, most of which will feature live music. Enjoy classical music or ballet at the Herod Atticus Theatre and jazz at the Half-Note Jazz Club or Parafono.
Summer months mean outdoor concerts, films, and massive discos by the beach.
Athenian Callirhoe Hotel is a 4-star boutique that offers comfort and style with its avant-garde feel and excellent amenities. Located within walking distance of the Acropolis and the major shopping districts, the hotel also has two restaurants, one on the rooftop garden with spectacular views. Rooms are equipped with air conditioning, high-speed Internet, a flat screen TV, and soundproofed windows.
With its unique minimalist design, Fresh Hotel is a relaxing urban resort right in the heart of the city. Just a short walk to Omonia square, Fresh Hotel also has its own Magenta Restaurant that serves an America-style breakfast and excellent Mediterranean cuisine at night. The Air Lounge Bar on the roof is a great place to sip cocktails and enjoy the view.
Situated in a classical 19th century building near the famous Omonia Square, Chic Hotel offers 21st century accommodations complete with free wireless Internet connection, LCD televisions, and soundproofed windows. Chic’s spacious rooms also feature orthopaedic queen-sized mattresses.
Steps from the beach in the coastal region of Glyfada lies the London Hotel. Many rooms offer views of the Argo Saronic Gulf and the island of Aegina, and all have wireless Internet connection and air conditioning. Glyfada itself is full of great shops, restaurants, and entertainment, and a nearby tram stop will take you into the centre of Athens.
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Visitors can choose between a metro, bus, and tram system. The Attiko Metro serves downtown Athens and can also take you to the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.
The Athens Tram SA serves the south-western suburbs and the Saronic coastline, and yellow trolleys and blue buses also run throughout the city. Always purchase tickets before boarding.
Taxis are bright yellow and a good option for downtown travel. Fares start at €1 with a minimum charge being €2.50.
A series of buses pick up at the arrivals curb and will take you to various destinations in Athens like the Metro station, Syntagma Square, or the Piraeus port.
If you are only riding Express bus lines you can buy a 24 hour ticket for €3, valid for all public transportation. Taxis will cost around €17-20.
Find a great deal on car hire in Athens and plan a trip to neighbouring Adelphi or the beaches of the Vouliagmeni Peninsula. Get yourself a map and plan routes ahead of time.
As Athenian drivers are quite aggressive, drive defensively.
Park in your hotel or a garage, as downtown parking is difficult.
Gas stations do not accept credit cards and cell phone use while driving or driving under the influence of alcohol are illegal and may result in fines.
There are many ATMs around Syntagma Square, and the National Bank of Greece has a 24-hour automatic exchange machine.
The international dialling code for Athens is 00 30 (210).
For modern twist on traditional Greek food, the restaurant 48 (Armatolon ke Klefton 48) is a must. It maintains the feeling of the art gallery it once was, with tall ceilings, dramatic lighting, and a designer courtyard and pool. 48’s menu changes depending on what local markets are selling, but regular plates include gazpacho with basil sorbet and grilled lamb sheftalia.
Since 1865, Damigos tavern (Kidathineon 41) has been a destination for authentic Greek food in Athens. Located in Plaka, this inexpensive tavern has an old world feel full of wine barrels and even an ancient Greek column. Great dishes include the fried cod, eggplant, and grilled sardines. Accompany your meal with wine from the owners’ family vineyard and don’t leave without a piece of baklava for dessert.
A mix of Greek, French, and Asian cuisines, Spondi restaurant (Pyrronos 5) has been acclaimed for its innovative gourmet dishes and excellent service. Down to earth yet refined, the restaurant decor mimics the rocky Greek islands and also has a garden terrace. Try the sea urchin or roasted scallops for starters and the duck with aniseed or veal sweetbread as a main course. A sommelier help you pick from an array of local and foreign wines.
Locals and tourists alike flock to Paradosiako (Voulis 44A) to get their fill of delicious Greek home--cooking at an incredible price. What this tavern lacks in ambience it makes up for in flavour, with house favourites such as the fried anchovies, grilled calamari, Greek salad, and baked potato served with a tasty meatball.
Athens has good medical facilities and well-stocked pharmacies. Ask your Social Security centre for the European Health Insurance Card that covers emergency care.
Compulsory vaccinations include yellow fever for travellers coming from central Africa or northern South America. Recommended vaccinations include tetanus, polio, diphtheria, and pertussis. The drinking water throughout Greece and its islands is potable.
While Athens is one of the safer cities in Europe, do not walk alone at night, wear expensive jewellery that may attract attention, or carry large amounts of cash.
Districts to avoid are Monastiraki, Omonia, and the areas around the Larissa and Peleponnisos stations.
Beware of increasingly common scams that involve overpriced tour packages or overly friendly locals in bars who are ultimately after your wallet.
Always carry a copy of your passport or another form of identification on your person and store the original in the hotel safe.
Ambulance/First-Aid Advice: 166 or 112
Doctors, Hospitals, and Pharmacies: 1434
SOS Doctors: 10 16
Fire department: 199
Clinics: Errikos Dunant General Hospital, 107 Messoghion Av: (210) 697 20 00; Red Cross Hospital: (210) 642 40 00.