Athens is the capital city of Greece, and is located on the main land in southern Europe. Athens is also the largest city in Greece, dominating the Attica region. Athens has a long and colourful history, and is understood to be one of the oldest named cities in the world. Athens takes its name from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and courage.
Its original settlement, the Rock of Acropolis, has been inhabited continuously for around 5000 years and was the leading city of Ancient Greece from around 1000BC. In around 500BC, Athens developed what is believed to be the first democratic system in the world. Athenian Democracy, as it is known, laid the foundations for democracy as we know it today.
Classical Athens had many ups and downs with wars and invasions, but remained a powerful state. The Mines of Laurion are considered a major contributing factor to Athens’ rise, where Athenians were mining Copper, Lead and Silver and used the proceeds to fund their large sea fleet.
Piraeus, the city’s nearest port was incorporated into Athens in around 500BC which opened up new trade opportunities and made many merchants and craftsmen very wealthy. This helped the city to expand and become what it is today. Piraeus still stands as the largest port in Europe and second largest passenger port in the world.
Athens is a beautiful city and the the memories of the classical era are very visible and well represented by the ancient monuments which surround the city. Athens’ streets, shop doors and its Metro are all decorated with colourful and joyous artwork.
From The Airport
The airlines operating from the United Kingdom to Athens are British Airways, Easy Jet and Ryan Air. Athens International Airport is around 35km from the City Centre, and 50km from Piraeus Port.
Taxis charge a flat rate of €38 from the airport to the city centre.
If you prefer to keep the cost down you can take the Metro using the ‘blue line’, and changing to the ‘red’ or ‘green lines’ to reach your destination. The metro lines are simple to follow, and the city is easy to move around with just these 3 lines in operation.
The trains are bursting with people at all hours of the day, there are different variations of tickets you can purchase depending on your journey needs.
Beware of pick pockets as there are many especially on the packed metro trains.
From Piraeus Port
The most efficient way of getting to Athens’ city centre from the Piraeus Port is via metro lines. The journey takes around 30 minutes. Enter the Piraeus station on the Green Line, located right next to the port, and get on the train towards Kifissia station.
Things to do
The Acropolis and Slopes
The Acropolis of Athens is the picture that immediately comes to mind when you think of Ancient Greece. An ancient citadel, the Acropolis stands at the top of the hill where Athens began. The Acropolis and its monuments are a UNESCO world heritage site and are now protected. Due to thousands of years of atmospheric pollution and erosion, many of its original antiquities have been moved to the Acropolis Museum for protection and preservation. Entry to the the Acropolis and Slopes is by combined ticket costing €30 which can be purchased on the website of the Ministry of Culture and Sports www.etickets.tap.gr
Akropoli and Monastiraki are the metro main stops for both the Acropolis and the Acropilos Museum
The Acropolis Museum
Housed inside the Acropolis Museum for preservation are many of the original artefacts from the Acropolis. One such artefact, or artefacts, are the original Caryatids from the Slopes of the Acropolis. They have sustained damage over the millennia, and so are now specially preserved at the museum.
There are Caryatids to be seen on the Slopes, but these are in fact replicas. The museum has ongoing restoration projects for many of the Acropolis’ monumental structures, but only the imagination can get an inkling of what they really looked like in their heyday. Entry to the museum costs just €10, and there are stations for donations to be made in order to continue these important restoration and preservation projects.
The Parthenon is the former temple on the Acropolis which was dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens consider their patron. This classical temple is regarded as the most important symbol of Ancient Greece, as it was constructed at the height of the Athenian empire.
Ancient Agora & Roman Agora
The Ancient Agora was the central public space in Ancient Athens, and was the epicentre of all creative, cultural and political acticity in the city. When Athens was invaded by the Romans, they built a new Odeon which served the same purpose and encroached on the existing Agora. They are a beautiful illustration of the many civilisations that have passed through and helped to shape Athens as we know it today.
The National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is also one of the world’s most important museums, and is not to be missed. It houses some of the most important artefacts of Greece from prehistory to late antiquity, and is the largest museum in the world dedicated to it. The museum tells the stories of Greece over the ages, and of its allies, supporters and contributors. The nearest station for the museum is Viktoria.
Where to eat & drink
Monastiraki is a buzzing area with many shops, restaurants and a flea market to be enjoyed. There are many places to stop and eat. One of our favourites is Atlantikos, a very nice relaxed and hip sea restaurant. It is a little off the beaten track, but when on the quest for a great meal it is worth the bother. Highlights on the menu include their shrimps, Sardines and freshly caught sea bass.
There are not many establishments reserved only for drinking in Athens, but one that stands out is the famous Brettos in Akropoli which is both a bar and distillery. The bar boasts a beautiful colorful display of bottles and some very large barrels.
Other things not to miss…
Syntagma is another vibrant and interesting quarter with some interesting churches. The Church of the presentation of the Virgin Mother of God, it is one of the most important monuments of Byzantine architecture in Greece, and this church is situated in Ermou Street, Syntagma. It is dedicated to the Presentation of Virgin Mary, and is known as the Panagia Kapnikarea. Photography is not permitted inside the Church.
The Metropolis Cathedral of the Annunciation, in Metropolis Square, also in Syntagma, is another interesting cathedral.
Watch: Mainland Greece
Destination Guide: Greece and the Greek Islands
Images and travel guide by Neda Dorudi ©
Edited and published by Sofi Pickering on behalf of Pilot Film & TV Productions ©