From an interactive geological museum to a minimalist multi-storey space with works from up-and-coming Greek artists, there’s far more to Athens than ancient monuments. 
ABOUT ATHENS 
Athens has been at the heart of western civilisation for centuries. It is infact, one of the world’s oldest cities. It is the birth place of democracy, the arts, science and the philosophy of western civilisation. Its recorded history spans nearly 3400 years and the area we now call Athens, has been inhabited by humans since the 11th millennium B.C.E. 
 
For anyone interested in western history, it is undoubtedly a MUST. 
 
It was home to Plato, Socrates, Pericles, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus. And the influence of ancient Athens on our modern society cannot be over stated. 
 
Today, under the shadow of the Parthenon, the contemporary urban scenery of the sprawling city reflects its exciting history, its multi-cultural modern personality as well as the infrastructure and facilities. 
 
It has, of course, the perfect Mediterranean climate: the legendary greek sunlight, and a unique combination of glorious history with modern, urban innovation. 
 
What one notices most, is the influence of the East—in the food, music, and clamorous street life. Nevertheless, it is wrong to suggest that Athens is a mixture of East and West: Athens is Greek and, more particularly, Athenian. 
 
Like many countries on the shores of the Mediterranean, its history has been tubulent. In 1458 Athens became part of the Ottoman Empire and remained under their rule until the successful Greek War of Independence that broke out in 1821 and the proclamation of the First Hellenic Republic in 1822. 
 
By the 17th century, Athens was little more than a village - and at that time, a lot of damage was caused to the city and its monuments by the Ottomans. 
 
They began the practice of storing gun powder and explosives in the Parthenon and Propylea. Propylea was destroyed in 1640, when a lightning bolt struck it, while Parthenon was severely damaged during the Morean War, when Athens was besieged by the Venetians and a shot fired caused a powder magazine to explode, giving Parthenon the appearance it has today. 
 
Between 1801 and 1805 Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire arranged the removal of many sculptures from the Parthenon. And there remain claims by many that the marble facade of the Parthenon (now in the British Museum) should be returned to Greece. 
 
However in 2009, the new Acropolis Museum opened.  
Although the "Elgin Marbles" remain in the British Museum, the Acropolis Museum offers archaeological walks and gallery talks, exhibition programs and school programs, fun games and creative activities, as well as music and other events that offer the young and the old exciting experiences in unique art and cultural setting. 
 
Athens enjoys a high standard hotel accommodation, modern means of transportation such as the cutting edge modern metro, the vibrant rhythm of life, the wide choice of opportunities for shopping, dining and night life and of course the warmth of the Athenians people feature Athens as the ideal all year round city break destination. 
 
The city of Parthenon is, in itself an open air museum. 
 
A large part of the town’s historic center has been converted into a 3 km pedestrian zone, one of the largest in Europe. It leads to the major archaeological sites (“archaeological park”), reconstructing – to a large degree – the ancient landscape. Either on foot or by bike, the ‘’Grande Promenade’’ around Acropolis is an unforgettable journey through history. 
 
But there is more! 
 
PLACES TO GO - SIGHTS TO SEE 
Discover a city undergoing a cultural renaissance, with young entrepreneurs delivering their vision via street art, pop-up galleries and modern architectural gems that stand alongside the capital’s most iconic ancient treasures. 
 
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center 
This glass-fronted architectural gem for fabulous views of the city and the sea from a reading room on the top floor. Situated next to the city’s waterfront at Faliro Bay, the building also houses the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. But is worth visiting even if you simply stroll around the 52-acre park, dotted with picnic spots and pathways that weave around a manicured Mediterranean Garden. 
 
The National Theatre of Greece 
Greece’s theatre scene was born in Athens, so no trip to the capital would be complete without a visit to the country’s national theatre. Don’t speak Greek? Fear not, for visitors can watch most major productions with English subtitles. 
 
Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery 
The buzzy, affluent district of Kolonaki is home to the greatest concentration of art galleries in the city, yet some of the best are tucked away. Discover this gallery’s unobtrusive entrance and you’ll be rewarded with a collection of contemporary Greek art from up-and-coming artists, often using traditional media such as painting, drawing and clay. 
 
Plaka 
Set below the Acropolis and Partneon, this is the old historical neighbourhood of Athens. The area is clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis and incorporates labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens. 
Syntagama Square 
Also known as Constitution Square, it is where the Athenians rose up against King Otto of Greece on 3 September 1843 to demand a constitution. The square is presided over by the Hellenic Parliament, erected between 1836 and 1842 as the Royal Palace for the first king of Greece, King Otto. In front of the Parliament building is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, watched over day and night by the “Evzones”, two Presidential Guards dressed in a curious traditional uniform. You can see the changing of the guard every hour on the dot, but the most splendid ceremony takes place on Sundays at 10 am. 
 
Goulandris Museum of Natural History 
Located in the affluent, leafy suburb of Kifissia, this interactive family-friendly museum gives the lowdown on the floral, animal and geological wealth of Greece and other countries, as well as offering thought-provoking displays that illustrate the impact of humans on Earth. Don’t miss: The district has some chic shops and restaurants, one of the oldest patisserie-cafes in the city, as well pop-up, open-air cinemas in summer. 
 
The Panathenaic Stadium 
This is one of the most visited attractions in Athens. It is currently a multi-function stadium that was initially built as a race track in 330 BC for the Panathenaic Games. Dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, the Panathenaic Games was a popular event that took place once every four years, in which the inhabitants of Athens organized a religious festival with a sports competition and other cultural events. The Athenians also celebrated the Lesser Panathenaic festival once a year which was shorter and included fewer games and ceremonies. The Games counted with equestrian, athletics, combat competitions, as well as chariot racing and music and dance contests. 
Lycabetus Hill 
Lycabettus hill is the highest point in the centre of Athens. Thousands of Athenians and tourists climb up to the top every year in order to enjoy the view from its 277 metre high peak. You can dine in the cafe/restaurant at the top, or visit the church of St. George (Agios Georgios). There is a trail you can walk up, but most take the cable car. 
 
Agia Eirini Square 
If you want to step away from the touristic area, you can visit Agia Eirini Square near Ermou street. One of the most famous squares in Athens with cafes and bars. Named after the church of Agia Eirini, the most important orthodox church at the time when Athens became the capital of the newly liberated Greek state, in recent years Agias Eirini's Square became one of the hottest spots in town. Easy to approach no matter where you're coming from, and by what transportation means, self-contained and peaceful, with no bothersome thru-traffic, the square thrives with life most hours of the day. Bookstores, coffee-shops, eateries, bars, meeting places, a plant nursery, a haberdashery store, and one of the best souvlaki spots in town: Hoocut, for a gourmet version of the Greek specialty. For dessert, you can try Lukumades(fried dough balls) at 21 Aiolou street. 
 
And talking of food and enteratainment... 
 
FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT 
Well, I have to be honest, what's below comes from my friend Sia Elanaki - yes, she is Greek and for many years lived and worked in Athens, so she really knows what's good and what's not. 
 
"One of my favourite restaurants is "Kriti" restaurant (Cretan cuisine) in Kanigos square. The area itself is not great, you just go there for the food. The restaurant is well hidden but the food is amazing. If you visit you must try dakos, wrapped feta cheese with honey, Apaki (smoked pork meat)… Trip Advisor Reviews are here. 
 
Greek Cuisine Recommendations 
Well, perhaps you have already tried Souvlaki. And you probably know of Moussaka, which consists of sliced eggplant layered with onions and minced lamb and topped with bechamel. But there there is also Pastitsio, which is Pasta with mince and bechamel. Or my favourite: Gemista, stuffed vegetables (tomatoes or peppers) with rice and spices. 
 
And another favourite is Keftedakia, which is fried meat balls. 
 
Of course, you have to try Ntolmadakia : Stuffed vine leaves with rice, onion and spices. 
 
Cheese 
Try Feta or Saganaki (fried cheese). 
 
Coffees 
Try freddo cappuccino (espresso coffee mixed with ice and milk cream on top)or freddo espresso (without milk) or Frappe (it is stronger). You can have it with milk or without milk, sugar or no sugar. Believe it or not, the Greeks invented this long before Starbucks - and it's soooo much better... 
 
Roof top bars 
Galaxy bar at the Hilton hotel, 360 cocktail bar at Monastiraki or A for Athens Hotel. 
 
Another terrace bar, quite well hidden, is Vrysaki near Monastraki area. It's an art café-bar with a small terrace and view to Acropolis. 
I recommend to visit in the evening as too hot during the day. I usually go there when I am looking for a quiet place. 
 
OTHER AREAS TO VISIT 
The famous Athens Riviera 
Glyfada area, seaside area south of Athens. It's a well-to-do resort on the Athens Riviera, and it is where Greek tycoons, politicians and foreign oligarchs go for sun, sea and sand a short drive of the capital.  
 
To the uninitiated it’s a kind of Greek Marbella, with luxury boutiques, snazzy cocktail bars, a golf course and a string of private beaches.  
There’s enough nightlife, restaurants and shops in Glyfada that you’d only ever need to travel to Athens for sightseeing. Zisimopoulou street is the street with bars and cafes. Find out more about Glyfada here
 
Flisvos Marina 
Located in the area of Paleo Faliro, Flisvos Marina is not only the most modern yacht station in the region but also one of the most popular seafront promenades to go for an evening walk and catch the sunset. At about half an hour away from the city centre of Athens by car. It's easy to reach and it is also possible to get there by tram or bus. Here you will find many cafes, bars, shops and restaurants and is especially popular at the weekends. There is sports facilities, outdoor gym equipment, several places to get snacks and refreshments, as well as a floating museum, housed on Averof Ship
 
The area surrounding the Marina is particularly family-friendly, with playgrounds for children and an amusement park. There are several parks that are full of greenery and flowers, ideal for a stroll, and some of them are pet-friendly as well. For more information, click here." 
 
I could write more - there is a lot more to see, do and experience, but hopefully, I have given you the spark to explore more. 
 
And of course, if you want to book either a short 4-day night city break or a longer stay in Greece: 
 
Call 01234 581066 or 
E-mail: marco.williams@notjusttravel.com 
Tagged as: Travel News
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