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Athens Travel Information

A holiday to Athens can be anything you want it to be. Cultural interest evidently ranks high on every visitor's list of things to do and not surprisingly, the first site many want to explore is the mighty Acropolis majestically overlooking the city.


At the foot of this most important hill, the ancient district of Plaka is a real treasure trove with traditional tavernas, picturesque churches and shops cramming the twisting narrow streets.

For a contrast, the wide avenues of the modern part of Athens offer exquisite shopping opportunities and elegant cafes with inviting terraces.

A short drive away from Athens is a superb stretch of coastline, known as the Athenian Riviera. Glyfada, the closest holiday resort to town and to the airport is a lively centre complete with good beaches, excellent nightlife and an international golf course.

A few minutes drive along the coast, Vouliagmeni with its magnificent yacht marina is another charming seaside resort, quieter than its neighbour and a superb choice for beaches, watersports and fine restaurants.

Dominated by two hills – the Acropolis and Lycabettus – Athens, with an area of 15 square miles and a population of around 750,000, is as famous for its terrible traffic congestion and terrible air pollution as it is for its ancient ruins. Modern, largely concrete and expanding rapidly in all directions, it embraces some rather run-down districts, although some main squares and streets were renovated – and buildings restored – in time for the 2004 Olympics, particularly around the Acropolis.

Syntagma Square, opposite the Parliament building, is the centre for tourists as well as business; everything traditionally visited in the city is within about 1 mile West of here, and can be most conveniently reached on foot. Around the base of the Acropolis lies the Ottoman-influenced Plaka district, a picturesque and mainly pedestrianised area with some residential streets but mostly souvenir shops, restaurants, tavernas and markets; in places, it has the atmosphere of an Arab souk.

Neighbouring Psiri and Thisio, while not quite as picturesque, are more popular with the locals, with cool cafes and impressive views of the Acropolis. Omonia Square, North West of Syntagma, is the centre of the red-light district and the area should be avoided at night: it attracts drug addicts, pickpockets and beggars that live in the underground station. Conversely, Kolonaki in the centre of Athens, at the foot of Lycabettus Hill has chic boutiques, trendy bars and is home to Athen’s rich and famous.

Large parks include Green Park, Lycabettus and the National Gardens – however, stray cats and dogs can be a problem. Because of the heat, spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit; Athens definitely looks better before the long summer drought.

In the South East of mainland Greece. 6 miles North East of the port of Piraeus. 20 miles West of Rafina. 16 miles West of the airport. Athens is in a bowl formed by the surrounding mountains, straggling West to the sea.

Places to Stay
There is accomodation of all types, from 5 star international hotels to backstreet pensions. Many hotels have been renovated or upgraded for the 2004 Olympics. There are a few but increasing number of boutique and trendy options.

Things to Do
Daytime: a wealth of ancient sites, such as the Acropolis, the Agora and the temple of Olympian Zeus; a plethora of world-class museums, many (such as the Acropolis, Agora, Kanellopoulos and the renowned National Archaeological Museum) housing finds dating from the city's classical past; walking tours of the city; Benaki Museum for ancient and modern Greek art; the Byzantine Museum; Parliament buildings with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (guarded by soldiers in local pom-pom costume); open top bus tour; sweeping views from the top of Lycabettus Hill – cable car or stiff walk; two parks (Kifissia Park and the National Garden and Zappeion Park) offer respite from the city's chaos; Attica Zoological Park; Hellenic Cosmos, a virtual-reality presentation on ancient Greece. The architecturally stunning new Acropolis museum opened June 2009.

Nightlife: nightclubs, discos, bars, Greek dancing and singing, cinemas (mostly English language films which are subtitled), theatres (mostly Greek), rock concerts, opera, ballet, "son et lumiere" at the Acropolis nightly (April to October).

Must Do
In Plaka, the new museum of Greek popular art is worth a visit for authentic goods or visit Monastiraki's bizaar-like market open daily with a special grand flea market on a Sunday.
Nightlife is lively with plenty of bars and good restaurants serving Greek and international cuisine and inexpensive tavernas.
The Athens Festival has ancient dramas, opera and ballet performed in the open air theatres, or go and see the Son et Lumiere shows at the Acropolis on summer evenings.

Must See
The Acropolis is a must with the Parthenon open daily. The entrance fee guarantees a view of the temple of Athena Nike, the Erectheum with its graceful porch of the Caryatids.
Also see the Temple of Olympian Zeus - standing beside the National Gardens.

Various eating places vary from the traditional Greek tavernas to chic restaurants and include French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese menus. Fast food of the ubiquitous international chains. Street barrows selling grilled corn on the cob, sesame bread rings and chestnuts. Traditional Greek food like souvlaki and slow-cooked lamb. There are ‘gyros’ which are doner kebab eateries on every corner.

There is everything from department stores which include M&S and BHS. Shops (jewellery, ceramics, leather goods etc) to delicatessens, antiques and book shops. There is a central market selling cheese, olive oil, olives, dried fruit and spices as well as huge meat, fish and fresh fruit; an overpriced flea market in Monastiraki - Plaka, selling leather goods, t-shirts, beads; Sunday morning flea market at Piraeus metro station. Gold is a good buy. Ermou Street has mainstream shops, Kolonaki has chic boutiques and the Old Town has souvenir, icons, silversmiths and designer shops.

Half day: Cape Sounion; Temple of Poseidon; Mount Parnitha National Park for walking trails. Full day: Aegina Island from Piraeus Port (35 mins by hydrofoil) for local tavernas and beaches; coastal resorts of Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni, all at least 10 miles from the city centre.

A very comprehensive and relatively cheap system of public transport serves the city, but suffers from overcrowding, especially at rush hours. An efficient modern Metro service. Extensive network of buses and trolley buses; tickets are available from kiosks or booths at bus stations. Trains (tickets at stations). Airport bus approximately every 20 minutes; the journey should take 45 minutes, but allow up to 1 and a half hours in peak traffic times. Taxis: flag them down, shout your destination and hope they'll take you; there are often other passengers, but the price is not split. Taxi rank at Syntagma Square and several other places.

The Athenian metro system is inexpensive, fast and a great way to avoid any traffic congestion.

Who is it for?
Athens is for all ages and budgets; particularly for those with an interest in cultural history – and with strong legs. This city may not be suitable for people with mobility difficulties and anyone with respiratory problems should be very wary, even on the outskirts and particularly in the height of summer.

Athens by Hessle Travel

Getting There
There are various flight options to Athens with direct flights from London Airports and Manchester. You can also fly from your local airport with one change in various cities. The flight time to Athens is approx 4 hours.

Athens - The Acropolis
The Acropolis, Athens

> Unique blend of ancient history and bustling metropolis

> Cradle of Western civilization

> Fantastic sightseeing opportunities including the Parthenon and Acropolis

> The Monastiraki flea market is great for bargains and unusual souvenirs

> Historic Plaka is home to an array of tavernas buzzing with the sound of bouzouki music

> The tree lined boulevards teem with twenty first century life whilst nudging shoulders with historic sights

> Shoppers will appreciate the wide choice on offer - shoes and leather goods are good buys

Daily average temperatures (Approx) 'C

JAN 13 FEB 14 MAR 16 APR 20 MAY 25 JUN 30 JUL 33 AUG 32 SEP 29 OCT 23 NOV 19 DEC 15

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