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Athens , is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization.
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Points of Interest in Athens
At first glance, Athens seems entirely to be composed of nasty, four- to six-story concrete buildings, lacking character and badly in need of a paint, but if you look beyond that, you will find little gems tucked in among the grey. The areas at the foot of the Acropolis, Anafiotika, Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio are home to many wonderful Neoclassical buildings, trendy and traditional cafes and shops, narrow winding streets, and incredible views of the Acropolis. Little Greek Orthodox churches are tucked in among the concrete, often in the most unexpected places. These are usually beautifully decorated with icons and brass fixtures inside, but make sure you're appropriately dressed (no short sleeves or bare legs is a good rule of thumb, as a mark of respect).
- For the best views of Athens, head to the top of Lycavittos Hill. You can either walk from Kolonaki (the path starts 15 minutes from Evangelismos metro stop, and will take 30 minutes to talk up the winding, but paved and not steep, path) or you can take the funicular railway (6.5€ for a 2 way trip) from the top of Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki. Either way, be sure to wear flat shoes, and bring lots of water in the summer! From the top you can see the whole city, the port of Piraeus and, on a clear day, the island of Aegina and the Peloponnese. Have a drink at the cafe there, and pay a visit to the chapel of St George.
- If you're lucky enough to be in Athens for the Easter Weekend, you'll see the spectacular sight of hundreds of people making their candlelit way down the hill on Easter Saturday night as part of the Easter Vigil procession.
- There is a ticket available at relevant sites that give admission to the most popular sites such as the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus for €12. If you're a student, almost all admission costs are waived.
- The Acropolis, a Unesco World Heritage Site, was the ancient fortified town of Athens, dating back to the Late Bronze Age, and the site of the best buildings of the Greek Classical age: the Parthenon, the Erectheion, the Temple of Athena Nike. Acropolis dominates the Athenian sky and symbolizes the foundation of modern culture and civilization. As the most famous landmark of entire Greece, Acropolis is the eternal symbol of democracy, education and inspiration. If you attend a university in the European Union, bring your ID and you can enter for free. The normal entrance price is 12 euros. This ticket also gives you entry to the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora, and the nearby Theatre of Dionysus. If possible, get there early to avoid heavy crowds, and summer heat when relevant.
- The Ancient Agora— The site of the Ancient Agora in a very green space and a very beautiful view of the Acropolis. You will see the Temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved ancient Greek temple, the Attalos Stoa, the museum of the agora which is a reconstructed ancient building. From the agora you can walk towards Acropolis. Extension of the agora is the Roman Forum.
- Syntagma Square— Check out the Parliament building and the newly restored Grande Bretagne Hotel. Also, catch the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament every hour on the hour. Their uniforms and walking style is fun to see but make sure you don't stand on the wrong side of them if you want to take a picture. If you accidentally do so, they will knock their gun and, as they are not allowed to speak, someone else from the guard will kindly ask you to change position.
- The Kerameikos— The site of the ancient cemetery of Athens. It also houses the Dipylon Gate, where the Panathenaic procession would begin. It has a museum showcasing many of the grave stele and other archaeological items found on the grounds.
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus— Only the ruins remain today. The column that has fallen and can still be seen on pieces was brought down during a thunderstorm about a century ago. The 1896 Olympic Stadium and Hadrian's Arch are located nearby,
- Panathinaiko Stadium— The stadium that housed the first modern day Olympic Games of 1896. Its an enormous, white, marble stadium, with a horseshoe configuration stadium.
- Lycabettus Hill— A 200m hill bordering the Kolonaki district. You can reach the top by walking or by a funicular railway [small ticket charge]. There is a cafe-restaurant with a great view of Athens towards the sea. From halfway up looking towards the sea there are astonishing views of the Parthenon with the blue of the sea glimpsed between its columns.
Museums and Galleries
Because of its antiquity and influence, Athens is full of museums and galleries. The major ones are the National Archeological Museum near Omonia, the New Acropolis Museum by the Acropolis, the Benaki and Museum of Cycladic Art in Kolonaki, the Agora Museum near Monastiraki, and the Kanellopoulos and Folk Art Museums in Plaka. Details of these and others will be found in the district sections.
Arts and Culture
The visual arts enjoy a big share in the Athenian cultural and everyday life. Next to big institutions such as the National Gallery and the Benaki Museum, a big number of small private galleries are spread within the city centre and the surrounding areas, hosting the works of contemporary visual and media artists. In recent years a number of bar galleries have sprung up, where you can have a drink or a coffee whilst visiting an exhibition.
- The National Art Gallery is located at Michalakopoulou Street, close to Evangelismos metro station and is one of Greece's main art institutions and features paintings and works of art from some of Greece's and Europe's best from the 19th and 20th centuries. Emphasis is given to popular Greek contemporary artists including Giannis Tsarouchis, Domenikos Theotokopoulos (a.k.a. El Greco), Theodors Vrizakis, Nikolaos Kounelakis, Nikiforos Litras, Konstantinos Parthenis, Maleas, Giannis Moralis and others
- The City of Athens Technopolis, an industrial museum of incomparable architecture - among the most interesting in the world, has been transformed into a multipurpose cultural space. The centre has assisted in the upgrading of a historic Athens district and the creation of yet another positive element in Athens' cultural identity. Technopolis is located at Peiraios Avenue & Persefonis Street, right next to the Kerameikos metro station (line 3).
Parnitha National Park has well-marked paths, gorges, springs, torrents and caves do the protected area. Hiking and mountain-biking in all four mountains remain popular outdoor activities for many residents of the city. The National Garden of Athens is a peaceful and beautiful park in the centre of Athens, where visitors can enjoy their walk and spend hours of relaxation. The Garden encloses luxuriant vegetation, plenty of flowers, some ancient ruins, two duck ponds and a small zoo. In addition, there is a children’s playground and a café as well. It's located between the Parliament and Zappeion buildings.The landmark Dionysiou Aeropagitou street has been pedestrianised, forming a scenic route. The route starts from the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, continues under the southern slopes of the Acropolis near Plaka, and finishes just beyond the Temple of Hephaestus in Thiseio. The route in its entirety provides visitors with views of the Parthenon and the Agora (the meeting point of ancient Athenians), away from the busy city centre.The hills of Athens provide also green space. Lycabettus, Philopappos hill and the area around it including Pnyx and Ardettos hill are all planted with pines and other trees and they are more like small forests than typical urban parks. There is also Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars) of 27.7 hectares near National Archaeological Museum which is currently under renovation.
Most attractions in Athens offer free or discounted admission for disabled people living in the European Union (badge or card required). The discount is not advertised and you have to ask staff to get the information. You will also be offered assistance and lifts access if necessary.
Spring and late autumn are the best times to visit Athens. Summer can be extremely hot and dry during heatwaves, but this rarely happens. Winter is definitely low season, with the occasional rainy or snowy day, but also an ideal time to save money while enjoying the city without countless other travelers and tourists.
Whilst peak traffic hour can be a bit smoggy on the main roads, on most sunny days the skies are azure blue. The main reason attributed for the pollution of Athens is because the city is enclosed by mountains in a basin which does not let the smog leave. The government's ban on diesel vehicles within Athens and the early 1990s initiatives to improve car emissions have greatly contributed to better atmospheric conditions in the basin.
- Near Athens in Glyfada (50 min by tram from the center), there is the Sea Turtle Rescue Society Archelon. They are regularly looking for volunteers who are willing to work on their own costs and are able to take care of injured sea turtles.
- Attend an event at the Athens and Epidaurus Festival. It runs during the summer and offers a wide spectrum of events covering almost every taste. Try to attend a performance at the ancient theater of Epidaurus -a truly unforgettable experience.
- Every Sat/Sun you can join a free bike tour of the old area of Athens. To take part in this, you should contact the NGO Anthropos  or call 210 8838914 but you can just turn up if you aren't able to contact them in advance. Groups meet at 10:40AM outside Thissio metro station.
- If the weather is good, head out of town on buses A2, B2 or E22 from metro station Sygrou, or the tram from Syntagma to the beaches to the south of Athens. Just get off wherever the sea takes your fancy. Be aware though that beach-side cafes can hit you hard with prices of food and drinks. If you are the only person getting on the bus, be aware that you need to flag the bus down to get it to stop or it will just fly on by.
- Take a day trip to the beautiful archaeological site of Delphi, using the long distance bus service.
- EasyCruise, ☎ +30 211 2116211. Syngrou Avenue 362, Kallithea, 176 74 Athinai. The infamous cheap flight company now runs a variety of cruises from Greece [Athens] to Turkey and surrounding islands such as Mykonos, Paros and Syros. For the classic enthusiast, their tour company visits Acropolis, Epidavros, Nemea, Mycenae, Corinth, Olympia and Delphi.
- Watch a basketball game. The two major teams of Athens greater area belong to the elite of Europe and they offer high quality basketball. Panathinaikos dominates the euroleague the last 15 years and its main opponent Olympiakos is also a member of the Europe's top fly teams. Tickets are available out of the stadiums.
Theater and Performing Arts
Athens is home to 148 theatrical stages, more than any other city in the world, including the famous ancient Herodes Atticus Theatre, home to the Athens Festival, which runs from May to October each year. In addition to a large number of multiplexes, Athens plays host to a variety of romantic, open air garden cinemas. The city also supports a vast number of music venues, including the Athens Concert Hall, known as the "Mégaron Musikis", which attracts world-famous artists all year round.
- For quick, decent and low-budget meals that do not fall into the commercialized fast food category, try a souvlaki' (pronounced soo- VLAH-kee), mainly grilled meat (pork, chicken, it's your choice) vegetables (tomato and onion slices) and Greek 'tzatziki' (pronounced tzah-TZEE-khee) which is yogurt enriched with garlic and cucumber. All the above (often accompanied by French fries) are wrapped inside a thin slice of pan bread, named 'pita' (PEE-tah). Prices of 'souvlaki' vary according to the confidence and/or nerve of the cornershop owner, but usually you can get one from €1.70 to €2.20; add some soda, salad and French fries and you can have lunch for no more than €7 - if you ask for a take away, the price is considerably cheaper than if you sit at a table. You can get souvlaki just about everywhere, especially where tourists roam, though they are a bit more expensive in those regions. The best souvlaki stands in central Athens are both in Monastiraki, adjacent to each other and just off the main square in front of the Metro stop: Savvas at Mitropoleas 86-88 and O Thanasis at Mitropoleos 69.
- If you're interested in a sandwich, cheese pie, spinach pie or the equivalent of a fast snack, try Grigoris (Γρηγόρης) or Everest, two chains of fast food to be found in most districts of Athens and the rest of Greece. Goody's is the Greek equivalent of McDonald's and offers a fair variety of tasty meals, including pasta, different salads, burgers etc.
For listings of specific restaurants, see the individual district sections, especially Kolonaki and Plaka.
Athens currently has only one kosher restaurant, Gostijo, a Sephardi restaurant located in Psiri.
- Greeks love to socialize, and Athens buzzes long after its other European counterparts have laid their heads down to sleep. 8PM is the earliest most Greeks will consider going to eat out, and clubbers start to get ready at about midnight. Note that many Athens clubs relocate to the beach during the summer months. Cafes spill onto the streets and the sound of lively conversation is everywhere in the evenings.
- Have a frappé, the delicious Greek version of cold coffee. Being a Greek invention, it is absolutely nothing like the frappé you find in other countries of the world. Served sweet, medium, or without sugar, with or without milk. Delicious with Bailey's too.
- A 'club zone' is located in the coastal zone, running to the east- if you go there and you are lucky, you can actually get to listen to non-Greek music. There are also many clubs and pubs in the center of Athens.
- Go to the Psyrrí area (Monastiraki or Thisseio stop, Lines 1 and 3 and Line 1 respectively) for a number of smart bars and small clubs. It is the area immediately north of Ermou street between these two metro stops.
- The area north of Ermou street between Monastiraki and Syntagma has seen a considerably rise in the number and quality of bars during recent years. Aiolou and Kolokotroni streets both offer a fair variety of cafés and bars. Magazé, 6dogs, Booze and all the bars on Karytsi square (a small square at the end of Christou Lada street, behind Klafthmonos square on Stadiou avenue) can get very busy on Fridays and Saturdays, with visitors having their drinks even on the streets outside from spring through autumn, when the weather is nice.
- The area around the Kerameikos station, called Gazi (Γκάζι, gas) has been the gay village of Athens for quite a few years. Since the opening of the metro station, in 2007, the neighbourhood has attracted all kinds of crowds. This is a home to dozens of bars, cafés and clubs, gay or not, as well as to small theatrical scenes, the latter one especially to the northeast of the area, towards Metaxourgeio.
- Balux, Vassileos Georgiou B No. 58 Asteria, Glyfada,. Arguably one of the best bars in Athens for the specific style, to call it a bar is an understatement. Balux is large complex set right on the water in Glyfada, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. It is open during the summer for swimming in the ocean or pool all day and turns into a lounge and full club at night. Where Athens' wealthy go to party.
Clubbing & Night Life
Athens is famous for its vibrant nightlife. The Athenians like to party and will do so almost every night of the week. The choices are plenty and they appeal to all tastes and lifestyles. In general, things get started pretty late: after midnight for bars and clubbing and after 10:00 p.m. for dinner at the city's tavernas, Athens Restaurants and bar-restaurants.
Hip areas include Gazi, Psirri, Metaxourgio, Exarcheia, Monastiraki, Theseion and Kolonaki. Traditional Greek evenings can be spent in Plaka.
Until recently at Psirri, some of Athens' hottest clubs and bars were to be spotted. During recent years Gazi has seen some tremendous change. Most of the galleries, mainstream bars, restaurants, clubs and Greek nightclubs here (featuring live Greek pop singers), are trademarked by their industrial design as many of them are housed in remodelled—and once abandoned—factories. Gazi is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods of Athens nightlife. You can get there by metro line 3 at Kerameikos station.
Plaka - Monastiraki are two ancient, historic and all-time classic Athenian neighborhoods popular with visitors, they do not have many big dance clubs and bars, but offer lively, traditional places to enjoy Greek culture year-round as well as several rock and jazz clubs.
You will find plenty nightclubs with live Greek music along Syggrou Avenue and at the industrial strips of Iera Odos and Pireos Street in Gazi. In the summer months, the action moves to Poseidon Avenue and the coastal towns of Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni. Kolonaki is a staple dining and entertainment destination, catering to the city's urban working professionals who enjoy an after work cocktail at many of its bars that are open - and busy - until after midnight, even on weekdays. The clubs here are also very chic. Exarchia is where to go for smaller more bohemian style haunts that cater to artists and college students. At the foot of Strefi Hill is where you will find most of the bars and clubs, many of which play rock music. An alternative option of Athens nightlife.
Although a huge city, Athens has relatively few shopping malls or large department stores; the small, family run shop still conquers all. Souvenirs are of course available everywhere that tourists go. Other shopping opportunities are antiques, museum reproductions, embroideries and other folk art goods, and Greek food and drink products. Here is an overview of the Athens shopping scene; detailed listings will be found on the relevant district pages:
- Plaka is lined with souvenir shops, most of them selling cheap souvenir knick-nacks, though there are a few higher-quality shops here and there. Prices can be high for quality items.
- Kolonaki is the upscale, hip, and artistic shopping area. Another is Kifissia.
- For a more reasonable price tag, try Ermou Street, beside Syntagma Square. Turn right off Ermou at the MAC makeup shop and you'll find yourself on Aghiou Markou and other small streets which are home to incredibly cheap shoes, bags, jewellery, gifts, homewares, and so on.
- The Mall at the Metro Station "Neratziotissa" (Line 1) is the biggest shopping mall in Athens with a large variety of shops, cafés and restaurants and, arguably, one of the most "hi tec" cinemas in the city. You can go there by using metro line 1 or the Suburban Railway (Nerantziotissa station).
- The Golden Hall is a shopping mall at Kifissias avenue in Maroussi and includes shops with luxury brands, as well as luxury cafés, bars and restaurants.
- The Athens Heart is a shopping mall close to the center of Athens.
- Street vendors, with their wares laid out on blankets on the pavement, can be found in many places where tourists congregate, especially in Plaka and Monastiraki. Their goods are mostly forgeries, cheap knock-offs, and illegal CDs. These vendors are unlicensed, which is in violation of Greek law, and you may notice them vanishing as soon as a policeman is in sight, to reappear the instant the police have gone. They are best ignored. (This warning doesn't apply to vendors of fruit, nuts, etc. from street carts, who are usually legitimate.)
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Athens on Wikivoyage.