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
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
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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
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
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
The Acropolis, Athens
> Unique blend of ancient history and bustling metropolis
> Cradle of Western civilization
> Fantastic sightseeing opportunities including the Parthenon and
> The Monastiraki flea market is great for bargains and unusual
> 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
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