Information and facts about Athens Greece
Most people have a love-hate relationship to Greece's capital.
On one hand it is a city with a wide variety of things to see
and do. From here you can also get to most places in Greece: by
air, train, boat or bus.
On the other hand it is a huge, busy place with about half of Greece's
population living there (close to 5 million). There are places you do not want to be alone at night, and Athens has a big problem with traffic jams and pollution, especially the smog.
It is a fascinating place, though. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and walking through its ancient Agora or on the Acropolis,
it does make you feel you are walking on, if not sacred, very important ground.
The Athenians are now living better after the Olympic games many things have been improoved. This means that a lot of buildings have been renovated, and big projects have been carried out. The infrastructure of the city has been modernized with new highways (Attiki odos) that circulating Athens from Aspropyrgos to the new Airport at Spata and goes until the western suburbs of Athens.
Many historic areas of Athens have been made for pedestrians only like the whole Area around Acropolis from Dionysiou Areopagitoy street until Thission and Keramikos.Plaka is also 90% pedestrianised as well as the Ermou street the main shopping street of Athens.
The port of Piraeus has been modernized as well with parking areas around the port and new docks for the Greek ferries and Cruise ships.
Athens is often mentioned in Greek mythology. The ancient Athenians believed that they originally came from Attica and were not an immigrated people. To support this, they would refer to their first king, Cecrops, who was a man-snake born out of the earth. He had been the ultimate judge, when the goddess Athena and the sea god Poseidon competed in becoming the patron of the city, a competition Athena was to win, naming the city.
The greatest hero of Athens was
Theseus, whose wicked stepmother was the infamous
Medea, hated by the Athenians and forced to flee. The hero had
managed to stop the yearly tribute of youngsters to king
of Crete by killing the
Minotaur, and his bones were kept in a special monument here.
died in Athens, and
was brought before the Aeropagus here after revenging his murdered
Many historical personalities were also born here, and even more lived and worked here. Socrates wandered the streets, discussing philosophical questions with those he met. Demosthenes preached against the Macedon-ians, and Plato and Aristotle taught here. Pericles made his time a golden one, and Alcibiades was admired and hated. Later on, St. Paul was to preach a new religion called Christianity. The list could go on forever...
There are evidence of ancient settlements in Athens from the 7th millennia BC. Athens was not always the most important city of Greece, and its greatest rival in antiquity was Sparta and the Persians.
The great orator Demosthenes warned the people of Athens about the Macedonians, and he was right: in 322BC Athens was conquered by them.
The Turks invaded Athens in 1456, and the city stayed under Turkish rule for about 350 years. In 1834 Athens was declared capital of Greece - then, only about 6000 people lived there.
In 1941 the Germans occupied Athens and during the two months the Greeks resisted and over 300 000 people died of starvation. The old film footage of Hitler walking on the Acropolis is a bitter memory of this time.
Athens was also a battlefield during the civil war 1946-1949. The junta took over in 1967 and Greece was a dictatorship until 1974. In 1981 Greece joined the EU.
What to See
first place you should visit when in Athens is of course the Acropolis.
Standing up there, on the sacred rock as the Greeks call it, you can
practically feel the magnificence of ancient Greece. Don't think you'll be
alone there though.
Other archaeological sites are the agora, the market, with the temple to Hephaistos still in quite good shape, as well as the temple to Zeus and the arch of Hadrian.
Museums of interest are, amongst others, the Acropolis museum, the National Archeological museum , the Folklore museum, the Ceramics museum (Keramikos), the Byzantine museum, the Music museum, the War museum, the Benaki museum etc. All in all, there are about 50 museums in Athens. A popular place for shopping or food and drink is Plaka, just below the Acropolis. It is considered quite a touristy area, but the fact is that you here can get an idea of old Athens, with low buildings and little streets.
In Monastiraki there is a bazaar which is quite incredible, in Hephaestou street and around the small square of
At the Syntagma Square you can visit the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. Here you can see the guards in their impressing uniforms, the Evzones, and if you are lucky you will see the slow and complicated change of guards. You can also feed pigeons here. Interestingly, there used to be a tomb to the unknown hero in ancient Athens
The opera, Megaron Mousikis, holds many wonderful performances, but even lovelier is the Herodes Atticus theatre just below the Acropolis.
What to do
Athens Greece has such a wide variety of things to do that it almost is no idea to write it all down. For example, you have all the sights and the museums, concerthalls and theatres. Then, there are many cinemas, a great nightlife, bazaars , fashion shops and super modern shopping malls. Go up to the Lycavitos hill and get a wonderful view. You can go to Athens Riviera from Paleon Faliron up to Kalamaki ,Alimos ,Glyfada ,Vouliagmeni and Varkiza for some sun and sea. You can visit as well the National gardens that are located next to the Parliament at Syntagma square.
There are several beaches at Athens Riviera The most popular ones are in Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Nea Makri, Crysi Akti (Golden Coast ), Lagonisi, Kavouri and Alimos. Most of the beaches in Athens are organize and you have to pay a small entrance fee to these beaches - this is to keep them clean since it has millions of visitors every summer.
Jazz bars, discos, bouzoukia clubs, heavy metal bars - it's all here. There are places all over Athens, but the most frequented areas are Syntagma, Kolonaki and Glyfada. Almost in every square in all Athenian suburbs there are Cafeterias and bars that during the night are becoming music bars with professional DJ's..
Food and restaurants
Just like the bars, the restaurants and taverns are everywhere in Athens. The Plaka area is probably the most picturesque, but also the most visited by tourists. Keep a lookout for the places with lots of Greeks in them - that applies all over Greece. In Syntagma and Kolonaki there are also many places, and in Glyfada and Vouliagmeni you are close to the sea, and the atmosphere is usually a little bit more sophisticated. The area Psiri not far from Acropolis is very expensive with lots of lovely places with live music day and night. In Athens you will find a plethora of fast food like Mc Donald's ,Wendy's the Greek chain of Goody's ,Pizza hut ,Starbucks , and many other famous chains but the most typical fast food in Greece is the souvlaki .But as I said, there is a place in every corner and you can get absolutely anything you want.
Being Greece's capital you can find everything if you for shopping in Athens. The big shopping street is Ermou, just off Syntagma square, Glyfada and Kolonaki are the exclusive quarters with many boutiques and shops. In Plaka you'll find lots of souvenirs from all over Greece, and the biggest department store is Vassilopoulos. In Monastiraki there is a great flea market every day and many antiquity shops. These are just a few example though, there are shops just about everywhere. At Athinas street you will find many interesting shops that sale herbs and many shops that sale dry fruits and nuts also at the same street located the main fish and meat market of Athens both are worth visiting
In Athens while the overcrowded buses usually just pass the bus stops,
leaving you there with a long face, the new
Athens Metro is an excellent way to get around (it is also very
beautiful, worth a visit just to see it). There are also electric trams and
trolleys that are quite efficient to take you all the way to the Athens
You can rent cars and bikes but it is not recommended - the people in Athens drive like absolute madmen ,read about driving in Athens to see what I mean. Taking a taxi can also be quite a horrific experience and there has also been reports of taxi drivers trying to overcharge foreigners. Make sure the taximeter is on and running properly and you won't have a problem.
In general, be careful when crossing the streets - green lights does NOT mean that you can cross the road without looking!!!..
In March 2001 the new airport Eleftherios Venizelos at Spata was opened. It is
hypermodern and with the new road connections through the Attiki odos and Metro,
suburban rail . Without traffic jams it takes about 45 minutes to get there from
the centre of Athens by the express buses (X 95 Airport Syntagma square ) (X 96
Airport Piraeus) , but unfortunately sometimes especially on weekdays pick
hours, traffic jams are more rules than exceptions. But with the new extensions
you can use the Suburban train (Proastiakos) until Neratziotisa station
and continue with the Athens Metro that goes to Syntagma (blue line) or to
Omonoia from Doukissis Plakentias station (green line) .
If you are coming from the islands the ferry boats will stop at Piraeus, Port Rafina (Cyclades Andros) or Agios Konstantinos from the Sporades islands. Train (OSE) runs through the whole of Greece - starting in Thrace, through Thessaloniki , Larisa to Athens, and is also connected with the Peloponnese.
Facts about Athens
Size: 476 sq. km
Population:close to 5 000
Airport: E.Venizelos Spata
Subway: Attiko Metro
Tram, Buses, Trolleys
Trains: 145 (Domestic) 147
Depends where you are
International code: 0030
Local code: 210
Ambulance First Aid: 199
Port Police: 4511311(Piraeus)
Tourist Police: 171 (urgent), 9239224
Hospitals Clinics Pharmacies: 1434
Tourist info: 3310561
4115200 (Ermis) 5152899 (Ikaros)