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Athens

 

Athens

Athens being Europe’s historical capital holds a rich history, dating from the
first settlement in the Neolithic age. During the Golden Age of Pericles (5th Century
BC) Athens’ values and civilization reaches a worldwide importance. Throughout
the years, a huge number of conquerors occupy the city, and construct exceptional,
marvellous monuments - an uncommon palimpsest in history. In 1834, Athens becomes
the capital of the contemporary Greek state and two centuries since that it becomes
a striking modern metropolis with unsurpassed charisma.

A big part of the historical centre of the city has been altered into a pedestrian
zone (the largest in Europe) with length around 3- kilometres -leading to some
of the most significant archaeological spots.


Walking around Acropolis

The tour begins with the temple of Olympian Zeus (6th c. B.C.), which forms the
emblematic entrance to the city. The temple is one of the prime in antiquity
and is near by Hadrian’s Arch (131 A.D.) From there, walk continues along
Dionysou Areopaghitou Street (on the south side of the Acropolis) you pass through
the olden Theatre of Dionysos (5th c. B.C.) where most of the plays by major dramaturges
like Euripides, Aeschylos and Aristophanes were acted upon. Continuing, you
will arrive at the remnants of the Asklepieion (5th c. B.C.) and the Stoa of
Eumenes (2th c. B.C.) which is next to the Odeion of Herodes Atticus (161 A.D.)
which nowadays happens to host performances of the Athens Festival.

From there you can climb over to the holy rock of Acropolis, which is one of
the most significant masterworks of universal architecture and art; and the
most notorious is the Parthenon temple. Aside from this, also remarkable are
the temple of the Athene Nike, the Propylaea and the
Erechtheion, while you should not miss visiting the Museum, situated close to
the Parthenon. What is more, you can enjoy a stunning view of the metropolis from
the top of the rock.

The new Acropolis Museum is just 300m away from the sacred rock of Acropolis
and is one of the most important modern architectural works in the capital. It
is constructed of steel, glass and concrete. It encompasses 4,000 invaluable
finds from the monuments of Acropolis that signify its history and stand for the
most significant religious centre of ancient Athens.

Walking down from Acropolis you will see the world’s most ancient law court - Areios
Pagos,. Opposite to it the Philopappou Hill is located. It has beautiful
cobbled small roads and the Roman monument by the same name is on the top. Close
by this is the Pnyx, where the ancient Athenians used to assemble and apply
their democratic rights.

Continuing along the pedestrian road you will reach the Ancient Agora, which
was the commercial, political and religious centre of ancient Athens. A visit
to the archaeological site will enable you to become familiar with the workings
of Classical Athenian democracy.

From there, via Ermou Street, you will arrive at the largest cemetery of the
ancient city –Kerameikos. You will be able to observe the impressive tomb
sculptures and stelae. Moreover, the Iridanos River, which is sacred in
antiquity, runs through the archaeological site.

However, enchanting Athens does not restrict this tour only to these exceptional
archaeological sites.

The neighbourhoods of the historical centre

The “core” of the historical centre is the Plaka neighborhood (located on the
eastern side of the Acropolis), which has always been inhabited ever since
antiquity. While walking through the narrow labyrinthine streets lined with houses
and mansions since the Turkish occupation and the Neoclassical period (19th
c.), you will get the feeling of travelling with a “time machine”. You will come
across ancient monuments, such as the Lysikrates Monument, erected by a wealthy
contributor of theatrical performances, as well as, the Roman Agora with the
famous “Tower of the Winds” (1st c. B.C.) You can see Hadrian’s Library (132
A.D.), scores of bigger and smaller churches, proper masterpieces of Byzantine
art and architecture, as well as remains existing ever since the Ottoman period
(Fetihie Mosque, Tzistaraki Mosque, the Turkish Bath near the Tower of the
Winds, the Muslim Seminary, et al.). You can also get to visit some interesting
museums (Folk Art, Greek Children’s Art, Popular Musical Instruments, Frysira
Art Gallery, etc.). A lot of picturesque tavernas, cafés and bars are located
along the way; as well as, shops offering souvenirs and traditional Greek
products.

Walking down from Plaka you will reach Monastiraki. It is a distinctive area of
“old” Athens, with narrow streets and small buildings where the city’s traditional
bazaar (Yousouroum) is held. Close to it is the Psyrri area, a traditional neighbourhood
which throughout the past few years has become one of the most important
“centres” of the city’s nightlife, with plenty of bars, tavernas, ouzeris,
clubs, etc.

Nevertheless, the “heart” of the historical centre happens to be the
traditional commercial neighbourhood that spreads out over the streets
surrounding Ermou Street (the city’s best-known commercial street with more
than 2,500 shops). On the western “border” the area of Athinas Street lies,
where the foodstuff commerce is held and strongly reminds of the Middle East.
Here are positioned neoclassical mansions like the Town Hall, the Municipal
Market (where meat, fish and vegetables are sold) and the spacious Kotzias
Square.

Within Athens’ historical centre there are also the picturesque neighbourhoods
of Makriyianni (near the new Acropolis Museum stands), Ano Petralona, Theseion
(where you will be able to visit interesting museums and scores of cafés, bars
and restaurants). Other areas are Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio and Gazi , where
the former Gas works which has now been turned into a cultural centre of Athens’
municipality  called “Technopolis”.


Athens’ downtown

The key central squares of the metropolis are Syntagma and Omonia; they are
linked by Stadiou Street and Panepistimiou Avenue, along which some of the city’s
most stunning Neoclassical constructions have been built. Nearby is the
Syntagma Square the building of the Greek Parliament. In front of it the
Monument of the Unknown Soldier is situated and is guarded by the Evzones dressed
up in traditional outfits. The beautiful National Garden (40 acres) starts from
this square, south of which the impressive Zappeion Mansion lies. Thence you
can walk towards the Presidential Mansion (1897) and continuing you can reach
the Panathenaikon (Kallimarmaro) Stadium, where the first Olympic Games in
modern history emerged (1896). From there, passing by the Mets neighbourhood,
you will get to the the First Cemetery, the oldest one in Athens. It is an exterior
sculpture display with a rich collection of stunning monumental tombstones created
by some of the most significant sculptors of the 19th and 20th centuries.

From Omonia Square the Patission street begins. It is a busy street with interesting
buildings, the Neoclassical mansions of the Polytechnic School and the National
Archaeological Museum are located there; and the latter one being ranked among
the most important museums worldwide and hosts rare art treasures from the
Neolithic era up to the Roman period. Close to the museum is the Exarheia area.
It is a charming and very lively neighbourhood, which has become a meeting
point and home to many students and artists. From Exarcheia, crossing the
Neapoli neighborhood, you can climb the luxuriant Lycavittos Hill. From its top
you can enjoy the beautiful view of the entire city, all the way to the sea. Right
on the opposite side of the hill is the Kolonaki neighbourhood. The neighbourhood’s
boundary is Vassilissis Sophias Avenue, which is one of Athens’ most grandiose roads
with beautiful buildings, and plenty of museums (Cycladic Art, Benaki,
Byzantine and Christian Museum, War Museum, National Gallery). In Kolonaki, is thought
to be the most “aristocratic” area of the central Athens. There you can find a
lot of shops selling high couture, modern restaurants, bars and cafés.
Moreover, it is worth it taking a walk in the central streets with their art
déco, art nouveau and interbellum buildings.


Overwhelming views over the city of Athens.

Thanks to its rich morphology Athens owns lots of spots where you can enjoy
stunning panoramic views of the city. Allow yourself to get captivated by the
Athenian cityscape as seen from above.

 

The suburbs around

The southern suburbs are on the coast of the Saronic Gulf. If you visit them
you can take a walk along the seashore, while you will also come across plenty
of beautiful and free beaches, large shopping centers and nightclubs
(especially throughout the summer time). In the Maroussi suburb (north of the
centre) you can visit the Olympic Stadium of Athens, where most of the athletic
events were held in the 2004 Olympic Games. Another attractive suburb is
Kifissia (north of Maroussi) with its gorgeous villas and remarkable mansions.

If you wish to leave the centre, you may visit, the neighboring town of
Piraeus, which is Greece’s main port (which nowadays forms one large
conglomerate with Athens), the Daphni Monastery, one of the most important
Byzantine testimonials of the country (12th c.) with its distinctive mosaics.
Furthermore, you can visit the Kaisariani Monastery, which was founded throughout
the 2nd century, as well as, Poseidon’s temple (5th c. B.C.) on Cape Sounion
(58 km. south). While walking on this breathtaking route along the shoreline,
you can see the area of the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) with the Tomb of
Marathon, as well as, the archaeological sites of Eleusina, of Amphiareion, of
Vravron and Ramnous (close to Marathon). Moreover, it is worth seeing the
wonderful mountain massifs of Parnitha, Penteli and Hymettos, all appropriate
for hiking.

In Athens you can find hotel accommodations of high standard. Modern means of
transportation are used in the metropolis and you will find a wide choice of
opportunities for shopping, dining and nightlife. You will be satisfied by the
good service but above all the hospitality and warmth the inhabitants will
leave you impressed. In a nutshell, Athens is a European city combining the ancient
and the modern that captivates every visitor, during all seasons.


Links
Athens Municipality
Official tourist portal of the Athens Municipality
Modern architecture in Athens- Attica
Athens Archaeological Sites Unification Company (E.A.X.A.)
Athens Convention Bureau (ACB)
Athens News Agency
Special Olympics World Summer Games – Athens 2011