Athens is a city that has two faces: on one hand are myths, legends, history, philosophers and poets; on the other – chaos, filth and the particular mentality that we can only understand if we live in contact.
The city took its name from the goddess Athena, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, and today is one of the Europe’s most visited capitals by young people from all over the world. You can define a mix of eastern and western, with its flea markets very similar to the classic suk and its disadvantaged semi-destroyed buildings, including the squares, parks and balconies covered with flowers that decorate the town. Athens has a surface that is just slightly over 400 sq. km and the population reaches 3 million. The time zone is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There are several important squares, but the main squares of the city are the Platia Syntagma and the Platia Terma Omonias. From these squares you can visit the Parliament and the Monument of the Unknown Soldier.
The neighborhood just right for the couples is the Plaka, with its kiosks and taverns in the open air with tables in straw, with the strolling mandolin players who come here to make it even more romantic. If you are a lover of souvenirs or objects that are special and typical, the best place is Monastiraki with its many boutiques.
The Piraeus at night becomes a meeting place for young people with numerous discos and night clubs. Almost all hotels in Athens are of middle category, it’s easier to find hotels in low level than those with extra luxury. If you are looking for a hotel where at least you can have clean bed-linen, just get one for less than 3 stars. Prices vary for a double from 30 to 70 euros per night, but there are also many famous hotel chains with higher prices. Regarding the hostels they are closer to the center and the Spartans, with prices starting from 15 euros.
Even though there is little or nothing remained in the shadows of the Acropolis, once it could have lots of colorful buildings, interesting bronze statues and the great architecture in marble. The city, or rather, the history, began in 510 BC, when the Delphic Oracle announced to Pericles to dedicate the city to the gods, and did so. The masterpiece was the Parthenon, the largest Doric temple in Greece, entirely made of Pentelic marble except the roof. The temple was built on the place of 4 buildings, all dedicated to the worship of Athena. The Parthenon is perhaps the symbol of Athens and of all Greece, in the past the marble that gleamed to the reflections of the sun, showed the Greek people their majesty. On the front are designed in relief of the battle scenes, including the Trojan war, inside are the spectacular treasure of Delo and the famous statue of Athena.
Today of all of its splendour has remained very little. The most sacred place of the Acropolis, and the most famous is the Erechtheum. Very interesting is the portico supported by eight girls entirely of marble. The legend tells of a battle between the two gods for the dominance of Athens, which is still visible; in fact are the hole in the ceiling that testifies to the trident stuck by Poseidon and the olive tree just outside that marks the point where Athena set foot on the ground. With this name it’s useless to ask who won the battle. It is worth visiting the Museum, which houses the collections of statues and sculptures coming directly from the same archaeological area. The Acropolis is located in Dionysiou Areopayitou and can be reached on foot, climbing from Plaka, but also with the metro, getting off at Acropolis. The best period to visit the Acropolis is immediately after the winter or in spring. The cost of the ticket is 12 euros, except for certain days of the year in which admission is free of charge. To make a good tour in Acropolis we recommend that you wear comfortable clothing and with sneakers because there is much to walk and even to climb. From the Acropolis itself you can easily reach the Ancient Agora and vice versa.
It’s certainly one of the most distinctive and strangest throughout the city. The streets are composed of narrow alleys, all balconies of the houses are covered with flowers and bougainvillea and the walls of the houses are cube-shaped and white. Do not miss the church of Agios Georgios, the church of Agios Simeon and the museum that is located inside the old university.
In these gardens are there are trails, lakes and oasis, all surrounded by trees and subtropical plants. They were designed for the Queen Amalia and since then they are a point of reference to get away from the chaos and smog of the city.
Tower of the Winds
The Tower of the Winds is located on the site of the Roman Agora, is made of marble and is octagonal in shape. This tower was built in the first century BC by the Syrian astronomer Andronicus and had different functions. The Tower was an indicator of the winds, a water clock , a sundial, a compass. Also on each side it was decorated with a figure flying elegantly that represented the cardinal points. Nearby it is also worth a visit to the Gate of Athena Archegetis.
The Ancient Agora, better known as the market, was the main square of the city, with its political activities, social and administrative, and where St. Paul, during his days, tried to convert people to Christianity.
In the area you can visit the Museum of the Agora, The Temple of Hephaestus, the Altar of the Twelve Gods, the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, where in practice Socrates spoke to the crowd, the church of the Holy Apostles, and the reconstructed Stoa of Attalus. The Temple of Hephaestus was built before the Parthenon, between 449 and 444 BC and still remained intact.
The Stoa of Attalus is of the 138 AD, constructed by the king of Pergamum is the only ancient palace restored in Athens. Once inside you could find bronze statues representing the Gods. The Altar of the Twelve Gods was a sanctuary and was built in 521 BC. The Ancient Agora is situated near Piazza Ayiou Philippou, it can be reached with the metro and get off at Monastiraki.
Discovered in 1861 during the construction of Pireos, Keramikos from the 12th century BC. It was the city cemetery. Its walls were built by Temistocle in 479 BC and still today there are the ruins. Through the door came the pilgrims in the Holy city for the annual procession at Eleusis.
The best point to observe Athens from the top, is easily accessible by a cable car that climbs up behind Kolonaki and crosses a tunnel until you reach 273 meters in height. On clear days you can see in the distance the island of Aegina and the Peloponnese, but the best of the hill is in the evening, when it is illuminated and a breathtaking beauty, more than the Parthenon.
On Sunday morning is the unmissable trip to Plateia Monastirakiou, where you can wander around the flea market. The street is one of the most chaotic, can be found from bars to restaurants, from street vendors to the shops more specific.
At the Mitropoleos Stalls are two cathedrals, Mikri Metropolis and Megali Metropolis. The first dates back to the 12th century and6 the second cathedral was built in the second half of 1800, which hosts the important events, such as weddings and funerals . Monastiraki, during the years of Ottoman domination, was the commercial center of the city. Now it is a very lively neighborhood where there are people of all types, many stalls and itinerant merchants and the place is very lively and cheerful. It is certainly the ideal place for those who like noisy places and rich folklore. You can find everything, from the classic souvenirs such as magnets, hats, cups and symbols of the place, up to Cuban cigars, Iranian caviar, shoes and blenders used, which is also the Roman influence.
The area flanks the Roman Agora and includes the remains of the library of Hadrian and the curious Tower of the Winds, an hydraulic clock of the Hellenistic age. In the center of the square of Monastiraki is the Pantanassa Church, which belongs to the monastery that gave the area its name. Also Known by the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary , is believed to have been built in the 10th century.
It is situated in front of the underground station. At Monatiraki stops the homonymous metro, but can be easily reached from the main squares of the city. Going along the Athinas will lead you directly to Omonia Square following along Mitropoleos Street and along Ermou Street you will reach Syntagma Square.
The Plaka is the most touristic area in ancient Athens, most of the roads are closed to traffic, and it is very romantic for couples who love walking in the small squares and shops. In the area there are a number of incredible churches, including the beautiful Rangabas.
Among the other churches of Agios we mention Nikodimos and Metohi Panaghiou Tafou, the most famous in Athens due to the procession of Good Friday. The Plaka is located below the Acropolis and is crossed by two main arteries, Kydatheneon and Adrianou.
Adrianou is a long pedestrian street that runs along the Acropolis and Ancient Agora reaching to the Monastiraki district.
There are many restaurants and bars in the area, with cheap prices, allow you to eat while admiring the Parthenon, making dinner very romantic. After dinner, thanks to the many shops along the streets, you can walk under the stars. The Plaka is situated in the southern area of Athens, very close to Syndagma Square and Omonia Square. It can also be reached by subway, getting off at the same station.
The Theater of Dionysus rises on the south-east of the Acropolis, which was built by Licurgo between 342 and 326 b.c. The Theater, entirely in stone and marble, could contain 17,000 seats arranged in 64 files. Today of all the files only 20 remain.
Situated near the Theater of Dionysus is a cave that had become a temple, now it houses the Panagia Hrysospiliotissa, in other words, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Cave.
The National Archaeological Museum
Renovated during the Olympic Games in 2004, the National Archaeological Museum is among the 10 most important Museums in the World, contains all the paintings, sculptures, and especially all the cultures that have passed over the years in Greece.
It contains the most beautiful collection in the World of Ancient Greek, jewelry from Troy, Cycladic statues of Amorgos, many of which are in natural size, sarcophagi, the marble statue of Delo and the Collection of Thira, with beautiful frescoes found in Santorini. The Museum is divided into three sections but it is so large that it would take at least 2 days to visit it all. On the ground floor we find the prehistoric section and the section of the sculptures, on the first floor instead is the collection of ceramics. Of these, that of Mycenae is certainly the most important. Located in room 4, it offers all the relics found in Royal tombs from Schliemann in 1876. Don’t miss the Funeral Mask and the silver pitcher in the shape of bull’s head with horns of gold. Among the most important sculptures do not miss the Boy of bronze and the monument of Poseidon, built around 450 BC.
The Benaki Museum is the oldest museum in Greece, founded in 1931 by Antoine Benaki, which transformed his house into a museum and donated it to Greece. Inside there are over 20,000 objects, a Byzantine collection and many aspects of the Greek culture and history. Among the most indicative objects are the Karaghiozi puppets and the works of El Greco. Also you can admire the relics from the Bronze Age, from Mycenae and from Thessaly, as well as exhibits from the Egyptian funerary portraits from the Fayum.