* Prices may differ from that shown
Its the city in which government never care about enviroment!!! Nothing to breath? Read the GREENPEACe site- DIOXIN SCANDAL - and this is just one drop of the chemical poison in Athens and all around Greece - NOBODY cares here about enviroment - never go if you dont want to get more chemistry in your organism!! Better to Spain! On the beach the locals burn a lot of chemical rubbish and you cant breath from poison smell - it will stay in your lungs the whole day!!! May be on the islands is better, try althou ask youself - why I need to??
Taken from my blog post: http://thereisanotherworld.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/athens/)
Athens groans and creeks like a rusting vintage car. It's treasured and priceless sure, but far from pretty. Exhaust fumes pour and imperfections are abound. Of course, the story of the Greek Capital far pre-dates any 1920's Bentley. And it was this - the history - that most come eager to focus on. Contemporary Athens is sadly too overrun with pollution and social problems.
The National Archaeological Museum houses by far the most supreme and complete collection of Greek antiquities and relics found anywhere in the world. The halls are boundless and immaculate. Even without extensive prior knowledge it's possible to learn a great deal from just a two hour visit to this museum. Time is consistently split between gaping in wonder at each monumental exhibit, and reading with amazement the accompanying description. Some visitors devote an entire day to gaining even a small understanding of the magnificence and grandeur contained within this giant building.
But back to the city. Whether it be from a high vantage point or down at street level, Athens does little to quell initial impressions. Modern Athens is a southern European city at its worst. There are fleeting hints of intrigue, but the majority just doesn't warrant the hassle.
The exception to this is certainly the Acropolis, which towers over the decaying burghal spread like a beacon of ancient promise above a swell of modern sameness. It may be several thousand years old, but it seems to whisper innovation more than anything noisy and boisterous below.
There is some scaffolding, not to mention a typical over abundance of, yet I find when a creation this sublime is only metres away, it's difficult to aim attention at anything else.
If I sounded harsh on Athens, it may be because I've failed in suitably articulating how arresting the primary wonders are. Like many capital cities around the world, I believe Athens probably showcases both the best and worst of the country as a whole. Overdevelopment is one perspective. The beautiful simplicity of a sunlit heirloom of history sitting next to the deep blue expanse of the Athenian sky is another - and surely the more noteworthy.
I visited Athens in 2004, a year that the Greeks were incredibly happy, what with hosting the Olympics and winning Euro 2004, they had every right to be louder and happier than ever! I spent a couple of months in the city and explored many districts including the suburbs. Athens is a very multi-ethnic city, too much for some Greeks some might say.
As one of the oldest cities in the world, it's very much a place to be and the pollution of the past isn't so much of a problem these days. The city is well connected, take the metro down to Pireas and board one of the many boats heading to various islands at all different times of the day. A train line connects to Kalamata in the south and Thessaloniki and Istanbul in the north, whilst bus lines travel to much of the rest of the country.
Many of the districts, I spent time in are unlikely to be visited by an average tourist and whilst I thought they were pleasant, none of them stood out as hidden gems. Of course the number 1 destination is Acropolis, looking over the city majestically and it's a fine remnant of the past with the wonderful streets of Plaka taking up the area between Monistaraki and the mountain itself. Here you'll find nice little streets with pushy waiters trying to get you to go into one of the many tavernas, the standard of food is quite high and it's tempting to go in when you see someone tucking into their dinner on a table outside!
Another popular haunt and well worth a visit are the markets between Omonia and Monistaraki, a place that people often fail to go to but that's well worth the visit is Atsos Lykavittou (Mt Lycabettus) where you get a great view of the city from a different angle and can include Acropolis from a distance in to your photo.
It wasn't really beach season when I went there, so I didn't hit any of the plentiful beaches nearby but did enjoy hanging around the more seaside orientated Glyfada and Vouliagmeni.
I went here recently for four nights on a family trip away. We booked this on lastminute.com and so weren't really sure what to expect- we hadn't specifically target Athens, it just came up as a destination when we entered Newcastle as a starting destination.
I was very happy to find that Athens was a fantastic place to be and whilst different to what expected (I am not quite sure what I expected) it was amazing. There are few things in particular that I thought were great about Athens. Firstly and rather obviously, the weather was pretty fantastic- even in Easter it was hitting the high 20's which meant both that -shirts and shorts were the order of the day, but also that I came back a very nice colour.
The next great thing was the sheer amount of ancient things around. All around the city, wherever you walk you see evidence of the civilisations that made this place so famous. There is such an abundance of this that it is not closely monitored so you can just walk up to things and have a look.
Finally the city boasts the most amazing landmark I have ever seen- the Acropolis. You can see this in the picture and it provides stunning views of the city from all directions. It is quite a walk to get up to which means that it takes the good part of a day, but I can't think of a better way to spend a day.
I'd been to Athens before, but not since 1973 so I was fully expecting a lot of changes, and to a greater extent I was right.
For example, I was probably amongst the last tourists to be allowed full access to wander all over the famous Parthenon on the Acropolis hill. Since then it has been fenced off and variously concealed behind one piece of scaffolding or another, and is rumoured to stay that way for decades.
I remember that summer of '73 with some trepidation - it was damned hot to be in a city and the traffic was truly awful, with blue fumes from two-stroke 'pop-pops' everywhere.
Since then, cars have got a lot cleaner, but regrettably more numerous. Of course, going there in the October half-term holiday helps with the air-quality too!
WHERE IS IT?
It's the capital of Greece and lies in the province of Attica along with its seafront neighbour, Piraeus, the gap between them having 'healed up' since I was there last, and the metro takes 20 minutes from central Athens to the port area of Piraeus. Getting to Athens from southern England takes anywhere between 3.5 to 4.0 hours depending on flying conditions, so there's a hint of the 'long haul' to the flight, complete with movies. Greece has never been 'big' on railways so it would be a real labour of love to get there by train.
The newer Athens International Airport is a lot slicker than the old Kalamaki on the coast, but its new location feels a long way from town (more like London to Gatwick) as even our unhindered return taxi ride took 40 minutes. Fortunately, the outer tendrils of the Metro and a new Airport Express line connect you to the centre, the latter running down the centre of the motorway for several kilometres.
THINGS TO DO
Acropolis - Probably the most famous and obvious of Athens' antiquities, is the Acropolis (high city), famous for its Doric temple, The Parthenon, which as I said before is no longer available for scrambling all over. It does indeed seem that there will be restoration work here for years to come, so getting a shot without some modern day machine in the picture can be tricky. Of course, the Acropolis hill isn't just all about The Parthenon. For a start, there are The Caryatids, that line of classical ladies holding a roof up with their heads, as if still waiting for their husbands to come back from a tool hire shop with Acro-Jacks and RSJs.
As you can see, I don't take my culture too seriously.
If you want to see a much more intact Doric temple, that didn't get half blown apart when in use as a gunpowder store, get off the Metro at Thission and pay 4Euro to enter the old Agora (market area). If nothing else there's a magnificent view of the Acropolis from here, and hardly a crane in sight! The temple is in quiet gardens, the tranquillity of which is only broken by whistle blowing, followed by 'Come out of there!' in English every time someone strays onto something they shouldn't. This is remarkably easy to do, as it's not obvious where you shouldn't be treading sometimes. It's a curious sight to see a modern metro train snaking its way to Piraeus past the structure.
Of course, the 2004 Olympics put Athens back into everyone's consciousness, but if you don't want to trek out to the new Stadium area to marvel at new buildings, why not visit the 'old' stadium, host to the first Olympics of the 'modern' era, i.e. 1896? This is a slim horseshoe shape of a building, designed mainly for various versions of the 100 yards dash and throwing things from the heavy and blunt to the lightweight and sharp. Nonetheless, it seems to fit better in its central location, and 100-odd years of Athenian traffic pollution have toned it in nicely.
If it's a view over the city you want, forget the Acropolis, it's not that high, but Mount Lycabettus is. Fortunately, there's a 'funny-cular' railway to the top, although the 30 minute wait is not so funny. I always like cable cars, and in particular their cables to look reassuringly new, and this one doesn't disappoint, although one slight let down is that it's in tunnel all the way up.
At the top, there's a small church, a restaurant with 'views over the city' prices and a café. The view from here is much more dramatic, and even looks down on The Acropolis which is not that far away. Be prepared for a lot of steps though - even getting to the base station of the cable car involves several (and I do mean several) flights of stairs from the main street at Vassilissis Sofias (Metro stop - Evangelismos).
Since Athens is a largely 'low-rise' city, the view appears to be an even carpet of mostly white buildings with the streets dividing them up. Detaching yourself for a moment, it's alarming to consider all that infrastructure down below, water mains, phone lines, sewers, electricity supplies and to muse on their fragility compared to how much they are depended on.
Another tourist magnet is the Guard ceremony outside the Parliament Building, famous for its Evzones, the Greek guards with pom-poms on their shoes and a nice line in ballet tutus. Under no circumstances cast aspersions. This would be tantamount to going into a Hereford pub and calling the SAS a bunch of nancy-boys - you do so at your own risk. Some of the assembled crowd are Greeks don't forget.
The Archeological Museum is well worth a visit and this can be found on 28th October Street, which runs parallel to 3rd September Avenue. Whatever happened to the 7 weeks in between is anyone's guess (yes, I'm joking). The museum deals with all the eras of civilisation to have been found in the current Greek domain, not just the bits we were told about at school whilst 'doing the ancient Greeks'. Keep hands and elbows off anything that looks remotely like it needs polishing otherwise you'll get told off you naughty person. Outside the museum is as good a spot as any to catch the sight-seeing tour bus of which I'll speak later.
We also went to The National War Museum, also near Evangelismos metro station but were perplexed by the sight of pre-school children being dragged around in groups, although they did at least find the caricatures of Hitler and Mussolini funny. What else they made of it is anyone's guess.
The museum is free entry and on about four galleried floor. We started at the top and worked down. The most alarming aspect was the decided 'anti-Turkish', and in the Cypriot Room, 'anti-British' tone of the displays, which given the new age of 'all being Europeans' was disappointing. They say it's the victors that get to write history, but now I'm not so sure.
I'm not quite sure why the National Greek War Museum sees fit to have an annexe dedicated to Cyprus, a separate sovereign state - how would it be if a US museum had an annexe for Britain?
If you've time, I'd also recommend a visit to the port area in Piraeus. There's a real buzz to the place when you get there, and it still feels very 'Greek' as opposed to cosmopolitan. If you find the bustle too daunting take a trolley bus (yes, them!) to Microlimano (Little Port) for a quiet waterside lunch. You really do need to go into an eatery as there's no public waterfront promenade - it's all bagged by restaurants.
If general meanderings are your forté, the Plaka district, reputed to be the oldest part of the city is still very picturesque, having been largely pedestrianised. Yes, it's full of browsing tourists these days, but since you are one, you can't really complain.
Predictably, easting out here involves saying 'no thank you' a thousand times as various waiters try to entice you in. Of course, being October at the time, waiters outnumber tourists so this may not be such a problem when the place is heaving. Be suspicious as many such places are not that good, and I make a rule never to go into anywhere that has fading colour photos of dishes. However one or two, notably Byzantino gets a lot of local custom too, with prompt if a little brusque service.
Whilst on the subject of food, I have never, ever, had to complain about tepid Greek food, which so many travellers hold up as a shining example as to why they stick to chicken and chips instead of that 'oily foreign stuff'. They are missing so much.
Wander too far in The Plaka and you'll find yourself in Monastiraki instead - there's nothing wrong with that. This is an equally pleasant area for strollers. Do bear in mind that everything and everywhere I'm talking about could be made unbearable by the heat if you visit in high summer.
One restaurant (Baïraktaris) we frequented about 4 times there, had pictures of the owner with a selection of famous and worthy Greeks, although Prince Philip isn't among them, innit?
I was somewhat puzzled to be ushered inside most places, instead of being seated outside, but it soon becomes apparent why. Those sat nearest the thoroughfare are pestered constantly with a barrage of 'iffy-looking' items for sale. I had to smile - last year it was sports socks, this year, it's headbands with an LED headlamp. Just what you need when eating by candle light, and wow, what a fashion statement, especially for fans attending a retrospective of Torchy, The Battery Boy!
Wandering around Monastiraki at night is fine, if you keep your money where you can feel it, and you'll be rewarded with the most staggeringly-beautiful view of The Acropolis, flood-lit from below.
Probably our most memorable meal was at a side street café in central Athens which we had previously read about, and then not realised we'd stumbled upon. (Barba Yannis - Emmanouil Benaki Street).
It had plenty of authentic Greek atmosphere, i.e. no ambience, fluorescent lights, a high ceiling and a radio commentary on the latest match! We sat down and waited a while until it dawned on us that this was the place with no menu. Just as this thought process was sinking in, over came the waiter - "You want eat, you come now", ushering us over to the 'fish and chip shop' fitments.
This is where some knowledge of Greek, in particular food items came in handy.
Pointing to the meatballs and saying 'Einai keftedes;" (Are those meat balls?) helps, otherwise you'll have to decycpher such delights as 'lamp chopes' or 'tsikken oven-stylee' as described by the cook. Note - the Greek question mark looks like our semi-colon.
Being armed with the vocabulary that comes with 20 years of frequenting Angelo and Maria's Greek restaurant in Ealing was finally paying off! Well, it must have worked because we got what we asked for! Wine was straight from a barrel on the bar, and served in aluminium half-litre beakers. Don't ask for types of wine, unless you meant "is it red or white?"
If you fancy making use of the bucket and spade, take a modern tram from Syntagma Square to the resort of Glyfadha. I went there 30 years ago, and although already a resort, I couldn't only get my bearings by the one remaining old building, a church. The locals love the place and aspire to live there, but once you've seen one row of 'prestige' shops, United Colours Of Benneton, Lacoste etc. you've seen them all. As with all such places, malls etc, you begin to wonder where the locals actually get to buy anything useful that isn't a fashion item or shoes.
I obviously can't do full justice to a tour guide of Athens as I was only there for four whole days, but even so, we packed a lot in, both via the eyes and mouth, it has to be said!
Much of Athens' infrastructure got a real shot in the arm from the 2004 Olympics and for a city with such good public transport, it's perplexing to see Athenians clinging to their bloody cars in such huge numbers. The Metro consists of three colour-coded lines and is very easy to navigate. The trains are larger than London's actual deep level 'tube' cars; more like the District Line. It's clean, spacious, uncluttered by advertising and not too stuffy. Station names are also 'westernised' . Oh joy of joys (not) - mobiles work down there! However, the Hellenic equivalent of "Hallo! I'm on the train!" isn't half so annoying when you can't follow it.
A visit to certain of the Metro stations is like a visit to an archaeological museum. Wherever the excavators came across a site of historic importance, they've done their best to incorporate the findings into the structure of the station, hence at Monostiraki, you'll find a Roman conduit exposed with a raised walkway for you to inspect more closely without touching. They say today's cities are built on the rubble of yesterday's and at Evangelismos station, there's complete wall of strata exposed behind plate glass showing the different levels of civilisations; Christian tombs, Roman wells, ancient water courses etc.
Yes, a ride around the Metro can be very educational, and possibly the best 3 Euro worth in Athens. That's all a day pass to the entire Metro, tram and bus system costs. Don't forget to have it validated on first use at a ticket barrier thought - failure to do so can lead to a fine of 60 times the flat fare and with its being so cheap, it would be churlish to try and cheat the system.
Also representing excellent value for money is a ride on the 'hop on, hop off' sightseeing bus (Route 400). This costs 5 Euro but includes the 3 Euro day pass for the rest of the system so if you make good use of it, the value for money is astounding. The only downside is that the sightseeing bus is only a normal single-decker, not the more usual open-top double-decker.
As a bit of a transport fan, it's good to see my old mate the trolley bus in full swing. Some of these are brand spanking new, so Athens' commitment to them is obvious. Some of them are a kind of hybrid, capable of operating without wires. I witnessed a trolley bus lowering its poles, right in the centre of Omonia Square, and then move away down 3rd September Avenue, to the sound of a diesel engine. Athens is yet another city to rediscover trams, and a limited network links the outskirts of Piraeus to central Athens at Syntagma Square and the seaside resort of Glyfadha. Apparently the track is a bit lumpy in places, as it was hurriedly finished in time for the Olympics, although I'd had the best part of a carafe of 'house white' when I tried it so any instability could have been down to me.
Most buses have rolling destination displays inside showing the next stop, although you do have to be able to read the Greek alphabet for this one. I can read Greek, although some, nay most of it is still "all Greek to me" after I've read it!
Getting around Athens on foot is pretty easy as with one or two notable exceptions it's not very hilly, and even then, the steepest hill (Lycabettus) has a funicular to get you to the best view over Athens. My major beef would be the state of the pavements (sidewalks) - these vary from spacious and smooth to narrow and ankle-breaking. They also serve as impromptu motor cycle parks which means stepping out into the road a lot. Athenian drivers will stop at traffic lights but don't be surprised if they are no respecters of the actual stop line - they edge forward towards pedestrians crossing in a most intimidating way. I don't recall seeing one solitary pedal cyclist in central Athens and now I know why.
I couldn't in all honesty call Athens 'disabled-friendly', although given the state of the pavements in places, it's a wonder anyone is able-bodied for long! This is especially true at night as side streets tend to be lit from overhead in the centre, so, thanks to the many parked cars, the pavements are frequently plunged into darkness by their shadow.
Thankfully, you don't seem to run a high risk of 'treading in something nasty' though. Dog-walkers don't seem to be much in evidence.
Yes, the buses 'kneel', Metro trains usually load at the exact platform height and yes, some Metro stations have lifts as well as escalators, but like London, there's no universal 'disabled-friendly' facility. You still have to 'mind the gap', as some Metro stations were built on curves in less enlightened times.
WHERE WE STAYED
Our hotel for this stay was The Art Hotel, Marni Street. This was a short walk to the central Omonia Square, and therefore close to the Metro. I've written about this separately so I won't dwell on the fact except to say that the rooms were good, if a little small, and the people were wonderful. The walk back to the hotel at night involved short one-sided conversations with a lot of young ladies standing on street corners, but there was no menace to the enterprise, which brings me to...
A SAFE PLACE?
Like anywhere prone to getting crowded, it pays to know where your wallet is, especially after dark but on the whole, Athens seems to be a largely low-crime-rate city where you can relax a bit. Unlike some cities further east, say Istambul, you're not forever being invited inside shops, and most of the leaflets being handed out are for the information of Greek-speakers.
The biggest threat to your safety would be the traffic, or rather Athenian drivers. They seem to park where they feel like it, and not with much precision either. Anywhere that isn't the obvious centre of the road will do it seems, and you can score more points by blocking the pavement entirely making pedestrians walk out and around.
From a health point of view, asthmatics may find the air quality in the city centre distressing, as my wife will confirm. Even I noticed it, as the previous week I'd been recovering from a bad cold, with only the residual cough to get rid of. Being in Athens set back my progress to being totally cough free for all the time we were there.
CONCLUSION - THE 'GOING BACK?' FACTOR
Yes, I'd go back as we really didn't see that much of what the city is famous for, but not for a while. I had hoped to find it more 'foreign' like it used to be, but TV coverage of Paula's marathon in 2004 had already disabused me of this notion, there being not one single Greek sign that wasn't also translated into English to be seen.
However, as my wife says "So many Greek islands, and so little time".
I could apply that to Athenian restaurants!
When we travelled to Cyprus at the end of February we couldnt get a direct flight on the days we had chosen but had to change in Athens. We decided to put in a stopover on the way back home and visit the Greek capital, we had already been there in the 1970s but thought that after thirty odd years our memory could do with some brushing up.
We took a taxi to our hotel and looked attentively out of the window while moving from the outskirts to the centre. Athens proper isnt a very big city, it has only 750 000 inhabitants, but one cant notice where the city begins and ends, what appears to be one city is a conurbation of several independent cities and towns with a population of approximately four million people, more than one third of the Greek population lives there.
It was only after WW2 that Athens began to grow or rather to explode as people migrated from the villages and islands to find work, this means that most of the houses in the suburbs are relatively new and not very pretty.
We had chosen a hotel between Syntagma Square and the Plaka, the historical centre, from there we could reach all the sites on foot. We set out at about 7pm, it was already dark and we looked closely at the buildings and the (elegant) shops we passed so that we wouldnt get lost and find our way back to the hotel. Its easy, though, to find the Plaka, one has only to stay on the main street (most of which is a pedestrian precinct) and walk slightly down, the Plaka is at the end, the Monastiraki Square is its heart.
One doesnt have to concentrate too much on where one puts ones feet on the pavement, I didnt notice any dog poop, in fact the whole city was very clean, we even saw a sweep at work in the evening, a positive consequence of the Olympic Games in 2004 for which Athens was completely overhauled. Athens wanted to have the centenary Olympic Games in 1996 but didnt get them because the environmental and infrastructure problems were too great. Should you know Athens from before the Olympic Games in 2004 and found the city ugly and un-livable then, think again or better: come again, its really nice now.
The traffic seems civilised to an observer, its fast but there isnt any unnecessary honking, basic traffic rules are obeyed and crossing the street at a zebra crossing is no attempt at suicide (any more). Sadly, though, the number of casualties is extremely high, much higher than in other European countries. The other day I read that the police have become very strict and make the Greeks pay high fines if they dont use safety belts or crash helmets, the number of casualties is already decreasing.
While walking in the direction of the Plaka we saw a bright light from the left whenever there was an opening in the row of houses. It came from the Acropolis! The Acropolis (literally: upper town, there are many acropoles in Greece) is a flat topped rock of 150 m (512 ft) of blue limestone with some temples on top, the whole site is illuminated, very impressive, we had planned to climb up the following morning.
The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens, the houses are simple and a bit run-down, the streets are closed for traffic and people just mill around. There are shops selling tourist stuff, theres a big flea market all the year round and loads of cafés and restaurants. I read in a guide book that if you sit in one of these cafés long enough youll see that everyone who comes to Greece will walk down the streets of the Plaka sooner or later, the description culminates in the sentence, These streets below the Acropolis are a major crossroads of civilisation.
We were hungry and went to one of the restaurants, to us they all looked alike, they all had tables outside and offered the same food. The menus are short, they contain only a few dishes, the typical Greek food like moussaka, souvlaki, pastitsio. The service was very quick, although it was February and there were hardly any tourists, the waiters had a lot to do, the tables inside and outside in the street were all crammed full with Greeks. We saw that as a good sign, one should always eat where the locals go and indeed we couldnt complain, the food was good and the price low.
We were sitting outside, I had a light summer coat on, I cant say that it was extremely cosy but the idea of eating in the open at the end of February kept me warm! While we were eating, a constant stream of people trying to sell something passed our table, pre-school gypsy children, men from Sri Lanka, Greek musicians and singers from the Balkans, when they didnt sell anything or didnt get any money they moved on.
As we wanted to see Athens by day we skipped the night life and went back to the hotel, the following morning we went back to the Plaka and from there through one of the entrance gates into the area of the Acropolis (April October daily from 8am to 7pm, November March from 8.30am to 3pm, entrance fee 12, half price for senior EU citizens over 65; the ticket is also valid for some other archaeological sites). We didnt stay in the lower part and look at the temple and the other buildings there but climbed up for about ten minutes, got out of the enclosed area , crossed a street and came to another entrance gate. About 50m below it is a small house where visitors have to leave their bags and rucksacks (free), a wise decision when thousands of backpackers come in high season; at the end of February we were there with, say, 150 other tourists, wonderful!
The first attraction after the entrance is the Theatre of Dionysos, we only looked down at it from above, I dont know if its possible to get in. This is where all the plays of the great Greek dramatists like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed, small as it is, it impressed me most from all the buildings on the acropolis.
At the top of the hill there is a monumental gateway called the Propylaea, behind it to the left is the Erechteum with columns sculpted as figures of women and at the centre is the Parthenon or Temple of Athena Pathenos. Why was I not impressed? The Acropolis has been a building site since 1975, the word most often used on the placards explaining whats what is dismantled, the stones are taken away, cleaned, impregnated with chemical stuff so that they can withstand pollution and are then placed again where they belong. One tiny temple at the near right of the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, has disappeared completely for restoration theres simply not enough to see for me at the moment. I doubt, however, that Ill live long enough to see the Acropolis in its full glory.
We stumbled around a bit, tried to imagine what the site looked like when the temples were new and complete but couldnt, looked down at the city and found it much too large and then went back out. We followed the fence until we came to the first entrance gate where we had got in in the morning, got into the site again and had a close look at the best conserved temple of the whole of Greece, the Temple of Hephaistos, imagining the Athens of the 5th century BC when it was a centre of literature, philosophy and the arts. Maybe Sophocles, Aristotle and Plato - to name but a few - walked around philosophising just where we were walking?
Had we been to Athens for the first time we would have gone to the National Archaeological Museum in the afternoon, but we had already seen it and had been to the Archaeological Museum of Nicosia only three days ago and four month before that to the one in Heraklion, Crete, both tiny in comparison but as we had studied the artefacts profoundly there we felt we had got enough information on the art of the classical period of Greece and the surrounding countries for the time being, one can only take in so and so many pots and vases.
We went to a café at the foot of the Acropolis instead, the sun was shining brightly, I drank a Nescafé Frappé for the last time (Ive learnt to love this stuff, deffo a reason to go back to Greece or Cyprus) and we watched the Atheneans parading by. It was Saturday afternoon, I expected everyone to be dressed up and made up, well, maybe they were but if so, I didnt notice it. This was Athens, the capital, but the people looked plain if anything, nearly everyone, young or old, male or female was wearing jeans and inconspicuous jackets or anoraks, no interesting hairstyles to speak of. I didnt see dyed hair, gel, piercings, tattoos, cant say that I like all this but I think people wearing these things just belong to a capital, dont you? Two months later I was in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, a village compared to Athens, I also saw mainly jeans but they were worn in a different way, the Atheneans lacked the certain something the provincial Sardinians had. Interesting observations!
When it was getting a bit chilly, we walked back in the direction of our hotel but went a bit further to the Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament building. By chance we were there a bit before 5 oclock when the changing of the (two) guards took place at the tomb of the unknown soldier (the big ceremony takes place every Sunday at 11am). Im hopeless at such occasions, I have severe probs suppressing silly giggles, pomposity always gets to me. You cant imagine the way the soldiers are dressed! Pompons on their shoes, white tights and a miniskirt! And the choreographic performance until theyve changed places! Hilarious.
From there we walked a bit into the Venizelou street in the direction of Omonia Square, now this is a street fitting for a capital, wide pavements, stately buildings (the National Library, the University, a church on the right) if youre into shopping, youll head for Attica on the other side of the street, the largest, most complete and most modern department store of the country. As shopping is a necessity for me, not a pleasure I only peeped in, imagine a big department store in Oxford Street, London, and youve got it. A brochure informed me that it contains 300 shops in the shop and has 800 different brand names on offer, if you bring enough money with you, youll certainly be happy there.
We spent the evening in another café also sitting outside but near an electric heating system, read, relaxed and discussed what we had seen and what we hadnt. We came to the conclusion that two days were enough for Athens, on the second day a first time visitor could see a museum or two and visit Piraeus, the city with the harbour that has merged with Athens or go on an excursion.
For us it was a short but pleasant visit, we may not wait another thirty years before we go back!
Athens is a great city. It is the most colourful place I have seen in my life. It is safe, has exellent public transport ( visit the museum-like metro stations! it´s a MUST)is loud, ancient, modern....just different and interesting. Many people complain about pollution and traffic but...I was recently informed by statistical data that other cities ,like London, are even more polluted. The problem is that most people visit Athens in the Summer and this is the time when the problem is evident. You should visit the city in the Winter, Autumn or Spring, you will be surprised from tha nice, mild and sunny weather. Athens is a city that never sleeps. You can walk around during the night and feel safe as all streets are full of people and cars. You can find everything in Athens, ancient temples, byzantine churches, roman ruines etc. Visit Plaka and have a glass of red wine, go to lycabetus hill and have a coffee whith the most beautiful view of the city. Go to the beach of Vouliagmeni and enjoy the sea. Visit tha parliament (syntagma square), the national garden, the zapeion, tha national museum, tha museum of cycladic arts,go to monastiraki for shoping and and and ..I am sure you will enjoy Athens as much as I did!!
I have lost count of the people (even Greeks) who have advised me never to visit Athens. I am glad that I followed my gut instinct and ignored them totally. We went to Athens at the beginning of February this year and loved it. The weather was mild - it was great eating al fresco in our T-shirt sleeves as we thought about all our friends in Blighty freezing to death! Athens is a great city in an undersold and understated kind of way. We arrived on Saturday night and decided to do as many of the touristy bits as we could on Sunday. We were staying at a great hotel about 4 minutes away from the Parliament building in Syntagma Square so it was not too much of an effort to watch the changing of the guard. At precisely 10:45, and led by a band, the guards march triumphantly down the street lead by a variety of soldiers in some amazing uniforms. The ceremony lasts no more than half an hour and was excellent - and quite stirring - especially when they played the Greek National Anthem. We went down to the metro and took the tube to the Acropolis (which is free on Sundays). The Parthenon is really amazing and I would advise latching onto an English speaking tour group if you can!! There's also a good museum up there which contains some of the Acropolis artefacts that are still in one piece (or have not been stolen by certain other countries which shall remain nameless). Straight down the hill and you come to Monastiraki with some fairly touristy shops which are good if you like buying souvenir t-shirts or iconic wood blocks! It reminded me of a smaller Camden or Greenwich. There is a Sunday fleamarket there in which a strange combination of people sell a wierd variety of goods (we even saw a stall which sold old Greek phonecards for collectors). Athens is a great city to get around - the transport system is highly organised and easy to follow. The other thing I liked about going in February was that in every restaurant (and there were
some good ones) we went to, we were the only non-Greeks there and we did not feel any the less welcome. Indeed, on our first night we had the treat of enjoying the local people of all generations enjoying a dance and singing along to their favourite songs played by a bouzouki player and a guitarist and this was NOT set up for the tourists! We were even told off (nicely) because we did not join in, but we did not want to appear impertinent and anyway, we've all got two left feet each!! Go to Athens and go independently. Go in the winter when it's not full of tourists (like you) and the weather's bearable. It's also the cheapest time for hotels and flights. It's also the time when the majority of Athenians are "at home" for the winter so you can enjoy the same things that they do. Next time, I want to visit some Rembetika clubs (Greek version of 'blues' from the refugees from Asia Minor who came over in the 20s) and get into it a little more. Go there and enjoy an unpretentious and easy city!!
Everybody should go to Athens at some point!!!!IT is amazing how you feel that you travel back in time and how much you learn!! Ok, it is not the most beautiful city of the world. Greece is great, but Athens is not beautiful. It is very interesting though. Akropolis and Parthenon, surrounded by the old town of Plaka, are the most important reasons for visiting athens. Whilst on Akropolis, you can see the whole city underneath. Reading and learning about the history of the town is fascinating!!! The National Museum is one of the best museums i have ever seen. It would be better though if you had a guide with you ,because the most interesting thing is the story that lies behind every exhibit. Sunio is a lovely place to go too, the temple of Apollo is a wonderful architectural structure. And of course, don't forget to see Athens by Night. I can tell you that much: Greeks know how to have fun!!!
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Athens is a unique city. The city centre contains many of the historical sites within a relatively small area. It is like stepping into a theme park based on historic ruins. The old and new stand side by side. If pollution is one factor that puts you off visiting then just remember that is that it doesn’t appear in the top 20 most polluted cities (but London and New York do!) Usually I stay with a friend who lives in the city but if you are booking a hotel in summer, make sure it has air conditioning. You will need it! The only hotel I have used is the Astor, just off Syntagma Square. It is in a perfect location for visiting the sites. Food in the city is fantastic. Make the most of the chance to sample some Greek specialities such as Okra in tomato (perfect for vegetarians) and pastitsio (for non-vegetarians). Of course you will find differing versions of Greek salad in almost every restaurant – some are more generous with the feta cheese than others. It is worth bearing in mind that tap water is safe to drink and in summer make sure you have plenty. So what makes the city such a special place to visit? Try these for starters: · The Acropolis/Parthenon – when you look at it, you will wonder just how did they managed to build such a structure without the marvels of modern machinery? It is best to go early in the day before the mass influx of visitors. · The Ancient Agora – this was the old market area where you would have found the famous philosopher Socrates. Now you can admire the ruins. · Hadrian’s Arch – remember the saying that all roads lead to Rome. Well in the time of Hadrian, if you had followed the road from here you would have! · Lycabettus Hill – the highest area in the city, the summit of which is reached by a funicular railway. You will get some fantastic views of the city on a clear day. · Plaka – this is the oldest district of the city and is the
perfect place to find a café to sit and watch the world go by. You will also find places such as: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus, the National Archaeological Museum and the Panathinaikon Stadium. Of course the city will host the Olympics in 2004 and so there is much work being done to improve public transport in time. The new airport has opened and can only improve services into the country. CONCLUSION The best time to visit the city is outside of July and August when the temperatures can be in the high forties (yet the Olympics are being held in August!). There are plenty of archaeological monuments to see and the variety of food on offer is incredible.
last week was my 2nd time in Athens, and this time I manages to see a bit more than the journey to/from the airport at break neck speed Athens is a hussly bussly sort of place, a real mish mash of busy roads, old and new building, interspersed with ancient monuments of a bygone age. Due to local tax loopholes there a loads of buildings have built, or nearly built with a permanent pile of rubble at the side. My first impression of Athens was very disappointing....2nd time is better as I managed to see some of nicer parts and found that like most big cities it has a very trendy happening area with all that you would expect Cubanito is a good place to go all the bazooki bars were closed for easter....a very important time of the year for Greece, bigger than Xmas and has very important family meaning to locals the Galaxy bar at the top of the Hilton has amazing views the Acropolis / Parthenon is worth a look... on my last visit I was taken to Man U and Panithenikos @ the Olympic Stadium - which was nice ! I have heard a rumour that due to the huge infrastructure work that needs done in Athens that the Olympic council is reconsidering them ! the new airport is good, no BA lounge yet, but all initial teething probs are sorted Greek girlies are luvvly !! taxi drivers are crazy
The trip to Greece, home of Homer, the Gods, Democracy, modern thought and a cast of characters too numerous to list and many with names too difficult to pronounce. The long awaited moment you have been saving for. But as you make your way through the Athens airport and then to your hotel downtown there is an uneasy feeling brewing inside. The traffic, the endless concrete of apartment buildings is not what they showed you on the tourist brochures. No men in skirts and pom-pommed shoes walking the streets of Athens. No sign of Anthony Quinn. Just a big sprawling, congested, noisy, chaotic, polluted city. You know that your Greek island paradise vacation awaits you but first you must survive this final test...Athens.
I have always wanted to see Athens and so on a recent holiday to Aegina, I took a boat trip to the Greek capital. On leaving the boat we were met with intense heat, the temperature had soared to over a hundred degrees and it was only June.
First on the agenda was the Acropolis, Athens most popular attraction. I don't know how many steps we climbed to reach the Parthenon but in such baking heat even a relatively fit person would feel like they are about to have a heart attack. It is essential to carry a bottle of water!
The Parthenon itself, built in 447 BC having taken nine years to build remains a majestic sight today - a powerful symbol of the glories of ancient Greece. Once at the top the views are tremendous, however one big negative aspect is the infamous city smog which spoils the landscape somewhat.
Another must to visit when only on a whistle stop tour is the Plateia Syntagmatos - this is the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The famous evzones (national guard) are on parade in front of the tomb.
The sights of Athens city centre are closely packed and most can be reached by foot, however be careful when crossing the road ( a zebra crossing means nothing ) and you literally take your life in your hands. I found this particularly hazardous, the traffic congestion is appalling.
Finally to say that Athens is the birthplace of European civilization, it has the worst European airport that I have ever encountered, no seats, non flushing disgusting loos, an archaic tannoy system and poor catering facilities.
I am glad that I have visited Athens but I wouldn't want a short break there. My advice would be to spend a day there whilst staying on the mainland or a nearby island.
Well, I have been this summer. I had my flight to and from Athens and I had to visit the city. This is my point. It's HOT but not that much. Just don't go out at 12:00!! Just try to visit places early at the morning or from 16:00 on. The Acropolis (and the Archeological Museum as well) is a must. Obviosly! Rest of the city; people, taxi drivers, transportation, trafic, polution, restaurants, accommodation, entertaintment .... TERRIBLE!!!!! Just as other cities in Greece as Volos, even worst!!! It's dirty, chaotic, boring, agressive ... just try to see the Acropolis and head to the islands as fast as posible!!!
"Athens (Greek Αθήνα Athína) is the capital and largest city of Greece. It is also known as the birthplace of democracy. Named after goddess Athena, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world with a recorded history of at least 3,000 years. Today, the Greek capital is Europe's 8th largest conurbation, a bustling and cosmopolitan metropolis with an urban population of 3.2 million people and a metro population of 3.7 million people. The Athens metropolitan area is the centre of economic, financial, industrial, cultural and political life in Greece. The city is also rapidly becoming a leading business centre in the European Union. The city proper has a land area of 39 km² while the urban agglomeration of Athens spans 412 km². Ancient Athens was a powerful city-state center of learning, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum. It is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European Continent. The classical era heritage is still evident in the city, portrayed through a number of ancient monuments and artworks, the most famous of all being the Parthenon on the Acropolis, standing as an epic landmark of western civilization. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896 and in 2004 it welcomed the Summer Olympics back home with great success."