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Athens

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*'''Electra Palace Hotel''', [http://www.electrahotels.gr/electra-palace-athens/index.html]. A unique neoclassical building with 135 rooms and 20 suites. There is a view to Acropolis and the hotel is located in Plaka destrict the centre of old Athens.
 
*'''Electra Palace Hotel''', [http://www.electrahotels.gr/electra-palace-athens/index.html]. A unique neoclassical building with 135 rooms and 20 suites. There is a view to Acropolis and the hotel is located in Plaka destrict the centre of old Athens.
 
*'''O&B Athens Boutique Hotel''', [http://www.oandbhotel.com]. A small boutique hotel in the centre of Athens, located next to the most interesting spots of the city for sightseeing, shopping, entairtenment, etc.
 
*'''O&B Athens Boutique Hotel''', [http://www.oandbhotel.com]. A small boutique hotel in the centre of Athens, located next to the most interesting spots of the city for sightseeing, shopping, entairtenment, etc.
 +
* <sleep name="The St George Lycabettus Hotel Athens" address="2 Kleomenous Street, 106 75 Athens, Greece" phone="+30 210 7290711 19" fax="+30 210 7290439" email="[email protected]" url="http://www.sglycabettus.gr/"> The St George Lycabettus Hotel Athens is Ideally located in Kolonaki, in Central Athens. This Athens boutique hotel offers great views of the Acropolis. </sleep>
  
 
====Sea-side====
 
====Sea-side====

Revision as of 10:49, 7 August 2008

For other places with the same name, see Athens (disambiguation).
Athens is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.

Athens (Αθήνα, Athína), is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization.

Districts

The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Hymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills [the seven historical are: Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill), Pnyx, Lycabettus, Tourkovounia (Anchesmus)], the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens' boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city's ancient (and still bustling) port.

Most things of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos). This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north. Further afield is the port of Athens, the Piraeus.

  • the Acropolis - the ancient "high city" of Athens, crowned by marble temples sacred to the city's goddess Athena
  • Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio - charming historic districts at the foot of the Acropolis, with restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city's Roman era
  • Kifissia - the northern part of Athens, rarely visited by tourists
  • Nea Smyrni - at the southern part of Athens, a modern European district
  • Kolonaki - upscale residential area with many cafes, boutiques and galleries
  • Omonia and Exarheia - formerly seedy district home to Greece's students, anarchists and the National Archeaological Museum, now somewhat revitalized by the metro
  • Pangrati and Mets - these adjoining pleasant residential neighborhoods south of Lycabettos and east of the National Garden are not much frequented by tourists, but they do include a few hotels and a number of good traditional tavernas.
  • Piraeus - the ancient port of Athens, Piraeus is today an independent, heavily industrial municipality located southwest of Athens, whose modern-day port serves almost all of Attica's ferry connections to Crete and the Aegean Islands.
  • Psiri - up and coming former industrial district, full of trendy or alternative restaurants, cafés, bars, and small shops
  • Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos) - dominated by the old Royal Palace, Syntagma Square is the business district of Athens, complete with major hotels, banks, restaurants and airline offices

Understand

View of part of the city center
Old Athens

The first pre-historic settlements started being constructed in 3000 BC around the hill of Acropolis. The legend says that the king of Athens Theseus unified the ten tribes of early Athens into one kingdom (c. 1230 BC). This process of synoikismos – bringing together in one home – created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility. By the 7th century BC social unrest had become widespread, and the Areopagus appointed Draco to draft a strict new lawcode (hence "draconian"). When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to create a new constitution (594). This was the great beginning of a new social revolution which had as result the estabilishment of the democracy under Clisthenes (508 BC). The Golden Age of the Athenian history came after the Greco-Persian wars where Greeks won. The destruction of major buildings of the city by the Persians and especially of the buildings of the Acropolis was the reason of the construction of the famous buildings which exist till now including the Parthenon and others. Under the Hellenistic Age the slow decline of Athens started due to the transfer of the cultural centres to Greek cities of Anatolia. The Romans did many good things for Athens such as grantings. Due to roman grantings many buildings of Athens were completed or constructed (Temple of Olympian Zeus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus). When Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire forbade the fuctioning of the Academy of Athens, Athens became a minor city of mainland Greece. Under the Ottoman rule Athens was a simple village. Athens came again on the surface when it was chosen as the new capital of new formed Greece due to its glamourous history.

Olympic Games

Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympic Games which, to the defiance of critics, were a spectacular success. While most of the sporting venues were located outside the city proper -in various locations throughout Attica- the entire urban area of Athens underwent major lasting changes that have improved the quality of life for visitors and residents alike. Aside from the excellent transportation infrastructure that was completed in time for the 2004 Olympics (from new freeways to light rail systems), the city's historic center underwent serious renovation. Most notable among the city's facelift projects are the Unification of Archaelogical Sites -which connects the city's classical-era ruins and monuments to each other through a network of pleasant pedestrianized streets- and the restoration of the picturesque neoclassical Thissio and Pláka districts.

Architecture

Satellite view of Athens

Athens was just a small provincial village when it was chosen in the middle of the 19th century to serve as the national capital of the modern Greek State. With a prestigious past, the city's political, economic, and cultural importance had declined over the centuries, leaving behind only its classical ruins as a reminder of better times. With the decision to move the national capital from Nafplio to Athens, architects and city planners were hired to build a new city next to the classical ruins, with grand neoclassical homes and public buildings, large city squares, green spaces, and wide avenues. The city regained its importance in Greek civilization, and by 1900 had evolved into a very attractive cosmopolitan city, with abundant neoclassical architecture harking to the nation's past.

The 20th century, however, was not as kind to the city. The city suffered some damage during WWII, and suffered terrible urban planning in the decades that followed, as the nation rapidly industrialized and urbanized. In the 1960s and 1970s, countless 19th century neoclassical buildings were torn down to make way for massive concrete apartment blocks that characterize much of the downtown area until today. The city also expanded outward through rash development, particularly towards the west, as its population grew by absorbing job-seekers from the provinces. With the onset of the automobile, public officials reduced the city's public transportation services without foreseeing the traffic gridlock and smog that would menace the city by the 1980s.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city's reality led to a rude awakening among local and national officials and -coupled with the country's newfound remarkable prosperity- large scale projects began to slowly regenerate the city and -as much as possible- undo the damages of recent decades. Over the course of the next 15 years, millions of euros poured into new transportation infrastructure projects, the restoration of surviving neoclassical buildings, the gentrification of the city's historical center and the renovation of many former industrial areas and the city's coastline. The restoration of charming neoclassical buildings in the city's historical center has been accompanied by the construction of attractive post-modern buildings in newer districts; both of which have begun to improve the aesthetic essence of the city. Athens today is ever evolving, forging a brand new identity for the 21st century.

Climate

Spring and late autumn are the best times to visit Athens. Summer can be extremely hot and dry during heatwaves, but these rarely happen. Winter is definitely low season, being chilly with the occasional rainy or snowy day, but also an ideal time to save money while enjoying the city without countless other travellers and tourists.

Whilst peak hour can still be a bit smoggy on the main roads, on most sunny days the skies are azure blue. The main bad impression of the pollution of Athens is given because Athens is enclosed by mountains and a basin is created which does not let the smog leave.

Get in

By plane

The new Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport [3] 27 km (17 miles) east of the city center, near the suburb of Spáta, opened in 2001 as part of the infrastructure improvements in preparation for the Olympics and is now one of the more attractive and efficient major European airports, though some old Athens hands say they miss the "Port Said" atmosphere of the old Hellenikon. The airport has excellent public transit connections to the city (see below) and the usual array of food stands, duty-free shops, and other airport services.

You are going to need euro coins if you want a trolley for your luggage; trolleys are available at the airport and they use coins the same way supermarket trolleys do. You insert your coin, and you get it back by placing the trolley back to its original position- so, be advised, and make sure you carry the correct currency.

Athens airport is a major hub in the Aegean, Balkan and East Mediterranean regions. Continental, Delta and Olympic maintain non-stop flights from North America, while a large number of European carriers fly direct into Athens.

From the airport you can reach the city

  • by Metro [4] to the city center for € 6. Group tickets (2 or 3 persons) are also available and they provide some discount (see below). The airport Metro line is an extension of Line 3 (blue line) that takes you to the downtown Syntagma and Monastiráki stations. Those taking the Metro from Athens to the airport should note that not all trains go to the airport; typically the airport trains run every half hour, while trains in the intervals don't go the whole route. Airport trains are indicated on the schedule and by an airplane logo on the front of the train, they are also announced by the signs on the metro platform. It's useful to go to the Metro station the day before, explain to the agent (most speak English) when you need to be at the airport, and ask what time you should catch the airport train from that station. You can also get this information at the airport metro station, which has a desk staffed most hours by someone who speaks English. It's possible but not necessary to buy your ticket in advance; buying in advance though means you won't risk missing your train if you find at the last minute you don't have change for the ticket machines and have to stand in a line to buy it from the agent.
  • by suburban railway to Larissis Railway Station for € 6. Change from there to Line 2 of the subway that takes you to
    • the downtown Omónia and Syntagma stations
    • northern Greece and the Peloponnese, by train
  • by bus: X92 to Kifissia, X93 to Kifissos Coach Station, X94 to Ethniki Amyna metro station (subway Line 3), X95 to Syntagma Square (subway Lines 2 and 3), X96 to Piraeus (subway Line 1) and X97 to Dafni metro station (subway Line 2) for €3.60. It takes 45 min to 1.5 hrs depending on traffic. Buses, unlike Metro, operate 24 hours a day.
  • by taxi for € 30-35: If you take a taxi be careful. Make sure that the meter is switched on and shows tariff 1 (tariff 2 applies after midnight and is twice as expensive)

It is advisable to grab a free copy of city transport map in the airport – in the city, it helps a lot.

If you stay in Athens for a short time, consider leaving most luggage in a baggage storage. It is run by Pacific Travel [5], is located in the end of left-hand wing, arrivals level. Storage time differentiates between 6 / 12 / 18 / 24 / 36 hours, then x24hr; sizes vary to Small, Medium and Large. The only inconvenience is that same queue is for collecting and for leaving – allow extra time before your flight. No automatic lockers found in the airport.

By regional coach

Regional coaches (KTEL) connect Athens to other cities in Greece. The fleet of buses has recently been upgraded, which makes the journey pleasant and safe. For some destinations one can also use the buses of the railroad company (OSE, see next paragraph) that might be international, but can also be used for in-country transport. At times there are collaborations with companies from adjacent countries (Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania) so your best move will always be to ask on both the bus and the train companies about your available options.

By train

The national rail service, OSE, [6] connects Athens to other cities in Greece -however, do not expect the diversity and complexity of railroads you usually find in other European countries; the national railroad system is poor in Greece, in effect having only two train lines. One goes south to the Pelopponese and the other to the north, connecting Athens with the second major city in Greece, Thessaloniki. From there the line continues further to the north and all the way to the east, passing through many other cities of northern Greece and eventually reaching Istanbul. Be advised that there are two kinds of train you can use; normal, slow, type of train equipped with beds, and the so called new 'Intercity' type which is more expensive because of a 'quality supplement fee' that grows with distance. For example, travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki by the 'Intercity' type will save you one hour at most, but the ticket will be almost double the price. 'Intercity' tends to be more reliable, yet more 'bumpy' than the normal train.

Get around

Public transport in Athens has improved by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. The €1 integrated (flat fare) ticket lets you travel on any means of transport — metro, suburban trains, trams, trolleybuses, buses — with unlimited transfers anywhere within Athens (except the airport line east of Doukissis Plakentias) for 90 minutes, and you can also get a €3 ticket valid for 24 hours or a €10 weekly ticket.

By metro

Athens Metro map

The new Athens Metro system [7], opened in 2001 and currently being extended, is a wonder to behold, and puts many better-known metro systems to shame. Many metro stations resemble museums, as they exhibit artifacts found during excavations for the system (i.e. Syntagma). Greeks are very proud about the new subway system, so do not even think about littering and by all means avoid any urge for graffiti- you will be intercepted by security at once. You are also not allowed to consume food or drink in the subway system. There are three lines:

  • Line 1 (Μ1 – ISAP): Piraeus – Kifissia connects the port of Piraeus and the northern suburbs of Athens via the city centre.
  • Line 2 (M2 – [8] Attiko Metro]): Agios Antonios – Agios Dimitrios connects western and southern Athens.
  • Line 3 (M3 – [9]): Egaleo – Doukissis Plakentias – International Airport connects the south-western suburbs with the northern suburbs (Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias stations) and the International Airport.

Validate your ticket at the validation machines upon entering the station. The standard metro fare (as of January 2005) is €0.80 for trips between all stations except the Airport line east of Doukissis Plakentias. The standard fare to or from the Airport is €6, €10 for a return trip within 48 hours, €10 for a one-way trip for a group of 2 persons and €15 for a one-way trip for a group of 3 persons.

By suburban rail

The Suburban Railway [10] (Proastiakos) is a new addition to Athens's network. The main line starts from Piraeus, passes through the main line train station of Larissis in Athens, and forks at Neratziotissa west to Kiato and Corinth and east towards the Airport.

By tram

The new Athens Tram [11] connects the city centre with the southern suburbs and has connections with the metro lines. There are three tram lines:

  • Line 1 (T1): Syntagma – Palaio Faliro – Neo Faliro connects the city centre with the Peace and Friendship Stadium.
  • Line 2 (T2): Syntagma – Palaio Faliro – Glyfada connects the city centre with the coastal zone.
  • Line 3 (T3): Neo Faliro – Palaio Faliro – Glyfada runs along the coastal zone.

A single ticket costs 60 cents.

By bus

Athens is served by a network of diesel buses, natural gas buses and electric trolley buses run by the Athens Urban Transport Organisation. A standard bus ticket costs €0.80(It is called the Integrated ticket and costs 0.80 cents for multiple trips within 90 minutes , its color is dark orange and availble in most of the kiosks) . Use the €3.20 ticket to travel to or from the Airport. If you tend to stay here for a while (more than a week) then a weekly pass for €10 is the most economical. It lets you get unlimited ride on almost all public transit (bus, tram, train, subway) for 7 days. And you only need to validate once; no more worry about looking for the orange box to validate your ticket on a packed bus during rush hour.

Nightbuses. As of March 2006 the nightbus routes are:

  • X14 Syntagma Square to Kifissia
  • 11 Ano Patissia – Neo Pangrati – Nea Elvetia (trolley bus)
  • 040 Piraeus to Syntagma Square
  • 500 Piraeus – Kifissia (night only)
  • X92, X93, X95, X96, X97 (the airport buses)

By taxi

Canary yellow taxis are a common sight in Athens and are a reasonably priced way of getting around (if you can avoid the traffic jams). The starting fee is €1, after which the meter ticks up at €0.34/km ("rate 1") or €0.64/km ("rate 2"), with a minimum fare of €2.65. Rate 1 applies through Athens city limits, including the airport, while rate 2 applies outside the city and from midnight to 5 AM. Legal surcharges apply for calling a cab by radio (€1.60), trips to or from the airport (€3.20) and heavy bags (€0.32). Tipping is not necessary, although it's common to round up to the nearest full euro.

Taxi fare fraud is not as widespread as it used to be, but it still happens, so insist on the meter and make sure the rate is correct. If you feel you have been overcharged, ask for a receipt (they are obliged to give one) and take the plate number, then phone the tourist police to report the driver on 171.

Be aware that the taxi drivers rarely obey all of the rules of the road. Expect that if you are leaving Athens on an early flight, that the driver will likely drive aggressively to get you there as quickly as possible.

Expect to share the ride during rush hours if you can find one and at night after the Metro has shutdown. Strikes by cabbies and public transit are common so be prepare and watch the local news.

By bicycle

Athens is certainly not the city to go around with a bicycle, as it has not any bicycle lanes and the car drivers tend to drive quite aggressively. Nevertheless (or maybe because of this) riding a bicycle in Athens has become lately some sort of a political (counter-)action, especially by young people with an alternative lifestyle. In general, tourists not familiar with the terrible athenian traffic are not advised to use a bicycle as a principal means of transport. Small rides are safe though in the long network of pedestrian streets around the Historical Centre of the city and can be quite enjoyable indeed.

The initiative My city with a bike taken by the General Secretariat for The Youth and several NGO's offers free conducted tours with free bikes every Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm all year round except for the rainy days. All you have to do is book 10 days in advance either by email ([email protected]) or phone (8011 19 19 00).

You can also rent a bike in heart of the town for 1hour or more and for many days low cost! go around Greece or islands etc.. at http://www.acropolis-bikes.gr


You can also rent a bike or join a conducted tour at http://www.pamevolta.gr

On foot

Athens offers some of the best and worst urban walking in Europe. Several major streets have been recently pedestrianized, and a mostly car-free archeological walk has been implemented connecting the Acropolis and nearby sites. Pleasant walking can also be had in Plaka, especially its upper reaches, and in much of Kolonaki, and the National Garden can provide a welcome respite from the heat and noise of the city center. On the other hand, Athens' horrendous traffic can make crossing the street in many areas a hair-raising proposition, and even walking down many major streets can be an unpleasant experience of noise and pollution. Cars and motorbikes parked blocking the sidewalks (illegal but ubiquitous) can also make walking unpleasant. Fortunately, much of the traffic-plagued area of the city can be avoided by judicious use of the new Metro, which goes most places a visitor would want to see or to walk around in.

You can now visit the Acropolis, walk along the picturesque streets of Plaka or the hills around the Acropolis at your own pace, with i Pod Pocket tours audioguides (www.pocket-tours.gr) [12]. It’s informative and fun! They are available for rent at Athens Hilton Hotel, Sofitel Athens Airport, King George Palace, Baby Grand Hotel and Profil Voyage, travel agency [13]

See

The Erechtheion at the Acropolis

Athens is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.


At first glance, Athens seems entirely to be composed of nasty, four- to six-story concrete buildings, lacking character and badly in need of a paint, but look beyond that and you will find little gems tucked in amongst the grey. The areas at the foot of the Acropolis, Anafiotika, Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio are home to many wonderful neoclassical buildings, trendy and traditional cafes and shops, narrow winding streets, and incredible views of the Acropolis. Little Greek Orthodox churches are tucked in amongst the concrete, often in the most unexpected places. These are usually beautifully decorated with icons and brass fixtures inside, but make sure you're appropriately dressed (no short sleeves or bare legs is a good rule of thumb, as a mark of respect).

  • For the best views of Athens, take the funicular railway from the top of Ploutarchou Street in Kolonaki (make sure to wear flat shoes, and bring lots of water!) and see the whole city, the port of Piraeus and the island of Aegina from the top of Lycavittos Hill. Have a drink at the cafe there, and pay a visit to the chapel of St George.
  • If you're lucky enough to be in Athens for the Easter Weekend, you'll see the spectacular sight of hundreds of people making their candlelit way down the hill on Easter Saturday night as part of the Easter Vigil procession.

Landmarks

  • The Acropolis, a Unesco World Heritage Site, [14] was the ancient fortified town of Athens, dating back to the Late Bronze Age, and the site of the best buildings of the Greek Classical age: the Parthenon, the Erectheion, the Temple of Athena Nike. If you attend a university in the European Union, bring your ID and you can enter for free. The normal entrance price is 12 euros. This ticket also gives you entry to the Kerameikos, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora, and the nearby Theatre of Dionysus.
  • The Ancient Agora - the site of the Ancient Agora in a very green space and a very beautiful view of the Acropolis. You will see the Temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved ancient greek temple, the Attalos Stoa, the museum of the agora which is a reconstructed ancient building. From the agora you can walk towards Acropolis. Extension of the agora is the Roman Forum
  • Syntagma Square - check out the Parliament building and the newly-restored Grande Bretagne Hotel. Also, catch the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament every hour on the hour. Their uniforms and walking style is fun to see but make sure you don't stand on the wrong side of them if you want to take a picture.
  • The Kerameikos - the site of the ancient cemetery of Athens. It also houses the Dipylon Gate, where the Panathenaic procession would begin. It has a museum showcasing many of the grave stele and other archaeological items found on the grounds.
  • The Temple of Olympian Zeus - only ruins remain. The 1896 Olympic Stadium and Hadrian's Arch are located nearby.
  • Panathianiko Stadium - the stadium that housed the first modern day Olympic Games of 1896. A huge white, made of marble with a horseshoe configuration stadium.
  • Lycabettus Hill - A 200m hill bordering the Kolonaki district. You can reach the top by walking or by a funicular railway [small ticket charge.] There are restaurants and cafés and a great view of Athens towards the sea. From halfway up looking towards the sea there are astonishing views of the Parthenon with the blue of the sea glimpsed between its columns.

Museums and Galleries

The Old Parliament of Greece

Given its antiquity and influence, Athens is full of museums and galleries. Here are a selection of 'must-sees' - district articles will hold additional possibilities:

  • National Archaeological Museum of Athens [15] - This is the largest and most popular of Athens' many museums, and is usually very crowded. Its vast collection includes treasures unearthed from Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann; a staggering array of sculpture including the earliest known Greek figurines dating from around 2,000 BC; frescoes from the volcanic island of Santorini; as well as remains of Antikythera mechanism, the oldest known mechanical computer; and so much more that it is recommended visitors make several visits to absorb it all.
  • Greek National Gallery [16] Exhibits Greek art from the 18th to 20th Centuries as well as some El Greco and Post-Byzantine art
  • National Historical Museum - situated in the old parliament building. Contains a large collection of historic documents such as the first constitution of Greece, furniture, equipment from the revolution. If you are lucky you may see the old session room.
  • Numismatic Museum [17] - the building of the museum is one of the most beautiful in Athens, built by Ernst Ziller and was used as the residence in Athens of Schliemann. The collection contains thousand of coins ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval and more contemporary European and Greek.

Do

  • Near Athens, in Glyfada (50 min by tram from the center), there is the Sea Turtle Rescue Society Archelon. They are regularly looking for volunteers who are willing to work on their own costs and are able to take care of injured Sea Turtles.
  • Attend an event at the Athens and Epidaurus Festival [18]. It runs during the summer and offers a wide spectrum of events covering almost every taste. Try to attend a performance at the ancient theater of Epidaurus -a truly unforgetable experience.
  • Every Sat/Sun you can join a free bike tour of the old area of Athens. To take part in this, you should contact the NGO Anthropos[19] or call 210 8838914 but you can just turn up if you aren't able to contact them in advance. Groups meet at 10:40am outside Thissio metro station.
  • If the weather is good, head out of town on buses A2, B2 or E22 from metro station Sygrou to the beaches to the south of Athens. Just get off wherever the sea takes your fancy. Be aware though that beach-side cafes can hit you hard with prices of food and drinks. If you are the only person getting on the bus, be aware that you need to flag the bus down to get it to stop or it will just fly on by.

Buy

Although a huge city, Athens has relatively few shopping malls or large department stores: the small, family run shop is still the rule. Souvenirs are of course available everywhere that tourists go. Other shopping opportunities are antiques, museum reproductions, embroideries and other folk art goods, and Greek food and drink products. Here is an overview of the Athens shopping scene; detailed listings will be found on the relevant district pages:

  • Plaka is lined with souvenir shops, most of them selling cheap souvenir knick-nacks, though there are a few higher-quality shops here and there.
  • Kolonaki is the upscale, hip, and artistic shopping area.
  • For a more reasonable price tag, Ermou Street, beside Syntagma Square. Turn right off Ermou at the MAC makeup shop and you'll find yourself on Aghiou Markou and other small streets which are home to incredibly cheap shoes, bags, jewellery, gifts, homewares, and so on.

Eat

  • For quick, decent and low-budget meals that do not fall into the commercialized fast food category, make try 'souvlaki' (pronounced soo- VLAH-kee), mainly grilled meat (pork, chicken, it's your choice) vegetables (tomato and onion slices) and greek 'tzatziki' (pronounced tzah-TZEE-khee) which is yogurt enriched with garlic and cucumber. All the above (often accompanied by french fries) are gently (or hardly) wrapped inside a thin slice of pan bread, named 'pita' (PEE-tah). Prices of 'souvlaki' vary according to the confidence and/or nerve of the cornershop owner, but usually you can get one from €1.70 to €2.20; add some soda, salad and french fries and you can have lunch for no more than €7. You can get souvlaki just about everywhere, especially where tourists roam, though they are a bit more expensive in those regions. You can ask any Greek person about them; they all know. Two rival souvlaki stands in Plaka which are reputed to be good are Savvas at Mitropoleas86-88 and O Thanasis at Mitropoleos 69; the latter is called by some the best in Athens.

For listings of specific restaurants, see the individual district sections, especially Kolonaki and Plaka.

Drink

  • Greeks love to socialize, and Athens buzzes long after its other European counterparts have conked out. 8 pm is the earliest most Greeks will consider going to eat out, and clubbers start to get ready at about midnight. Note that many Athens clubs relocate to the beach during the summer months. Cafes spill onto the streets and the sound of lively conversation is everywhere in the evenings.
  • Have a frappé, the delicious Greek version of cold coffee. Being a Greek invention, it is absolutely nothing like the frappé you find in other countries of the world. Served sweet, medium, or without sugar, with or without milk. Delicious with Bailey's, too.
  • Single male, beware of any friendly stranger approaching and starting conversations. You might be led to a pub where outrageous bill is asked to be paid. This kind of pub scam has been happening for years, while police can do little to help you if you have paid. Two such places are "Pub Love" and "New York Pub", both located in the same street in Plaka.
  • A 'club zone' is located in the coastal zone, running to the east- if you go there and you are lucky, you can actually get to listen to non-Greek music. There are also many clubs and pubs in the center of Athens.
  • Go to the Psyrrí area (Monastiraki or Thisseio stop, Lines 1 and 3 and Line 1 respectively) for a number of smart bars and small clubs.
  • Ouzo is probably what comes to mind when you think of Greece’s national drink, and it’s true, ouzo can be found almost anywhere. If the cloudy licorice flavored liquor isn’t for you then try another of Greece’s favorite drinks, red vodka. Ursus is a vodka made with berries that tastes best when mixed with sweet juices. At nine euros a bottle, red vodka also makes a good gift for the friends that share your discriminating tastes.

Sleep

Athens has a wide variety of accommodation options, from camping and hostels, right up to 5 star luxury hotels.

Budget

  • Arta, Nikitara St., a few steps north-east from Omonia, [1]. 35 euros for a double with ensuite, possible to negotiate discounts.
  • Hostel Aphrodite, corner of 12 Einardou Street & Michail Voda 65, Tel: +30 210 8810589[20]. A cheapie backpackers hangout not too far from Larissa train station and Victoria Square. €12 for a 6 bed dorm, €14 for a 4 bed dorm, and more. Air conditioning in a room is available for extra €3 per person.

Mid-range

  • Hotel Acropolis House [21] Off Syntagma Square. The staff are very friendly and the hotel will hold your baggage if you are departing later in the day. Price for a room for two, bathroom ensuite is €87 (includes breakfast).
  • Peri's Hotel [22] Great place to stay. 10 min driving distance from the airport.
  • Zinon (BestWestern chain) [23] Decent choice when everything else booked in advance: huge and impersonal hotel; quite old building with recently refurbished interiors and western management results in low rates and a good service. But it's Omonia--don't plan to leave your room in evenings, it's quite dirty and the only Russians-run food outlets are nearby. Travellers mix: majority are elder, retired people (and families) from US / Canada / Australia.
Internet connection is declared to work for every room. WiFi is good strength but very unstable. LAN outlet is in every room--but not supported, according to reception (and not tried). Single €60, double €80 (breakfast included).
For those needing official booking confirmation for arrangement of visa, the hotel itself can't provide it--you can only print email confirmation of booking from BW chain's global web site.
  • Elysium (BestWestern chain) [24] [email protected] Cheap-and-chic boutique hotel, 16 rooms. For those needing official booking confirmation for arrangement of visa, same problem as with Zinon.
  • Tony Hotel: 26Zaharitsa Str., Koukaki, +30 210 9235761, +30 210 9230561, fax +30 210 9236370, [email protected], [25].
  • If you are on a budget, a good hotel in the center is the Hotel Plaka, in the heart of the tourist district. Do book well in advance though as it is deservedly very popular. The Hostel Aphrodite, not too far from Larissa train station, is not particularly recommended if you are looking to get to sleep before 2 AM. Air conditioning in a room is available for extra €3 per person.

Splurge

City

Hotel Grande Bretagne and near the smaller King George Palace
  • Grande Bretagne Hotel, reservations: +30 210 333 0832, [26]. The best city hotel in Greece. 321 rooms including 59 suites, among them the Royal Suite (400 m²). Prices from €300 ($470). Provides a magnificent view of Syntagma square, the Parliament and from the third floor Acropolis.
  • King George Palace, [27]. near Grande Bretagne with excellent view.
  • Hilton Athens, [28]. The biggest hotel with the biggest pool in Athens. 14 floors and wonderful view. Also the "Milos Restaurant" is one of the best seafood restaurants in the world, also listed in Forbes.com.
  • Electra Palace Hotel, [29]. A unique neoclassical building with 135 rooms and 20 suites. There is a view to Acropolis and the hotel is located in Plaka destrict the centre of old Athens.
  • O&B Athens Boutique Hotel, [30]. A small boutique hotel in the centre of Athens, located next to the most interesting spots of the city for sightseeing, shopping, entairtenment, etc.
  • The St George Lycabettus Hotel Athens, 2 Kleomenous Street, 106 75 Athens, Greece, +30 210 7290711 19 (, fax: +30 210 7290439), [2]. The St George Lycabettus Hotel Athens is Ideally located in Kolonaki, in Central Athens. This Athens boutique hotel offers great views of the Acropolis.

Sea-side

  • Astir Palace [Arion Resort & Spa and The Westin Athens Astir Palace Beach Resort] - a complex of three hotels (the last is under renovation) run by "Starwood Hotels" on a private peninsula. It is located on the southernmost point of the Athenian limits in Vouliagmeni. Beautiful beaches and good facilities.
  • Grand Resort Lagonissi, [31]. Out of the city limits, located on a private peninsula with bangalows with private pools. Extraordinary beaches and restaurants.
  • Grecotel Cape Sounio, grecotel.com. On cape Sounion near the Temple of Poseidon. It is generally far (~69 km) from the centre of Athens but the location is excellent. Bangalows with private pools.

Stay Safe

While Athens is generally a very safe city, there have been reports of pickpockets on the Metro and in other crowded areas. Street crime is rare; when it happens, it's most commonly purse-snatching from women walking away from banks and ATM machines.

The "friendly stranger" bar scam has been reported from areas of central Athens frequented by travelers, including Omonia, Syntagma, and Plaka.

Athenians hold negative perceptions for the areas from Omonoia Square to Karaiskaki Square and the area near Larissis train station (in the western areas of the city proper) and they will advise you to avoid these areas late at night. The National Garden in Athens and the back streets of Piraeus are probably also places where it's unwise to wander around late at night.

Special care should be taken in crossing streets in Athens' chaotic traffic, even if you have the walk light.

Athens is one of the most political cities in Europe. Demonstrations and riots are common and accepted as part of everyday life and democracy by most Athenians. Keep abreast of news of demonstrations, and avoid them if you don't want to run the risk of being arrested or tear-gassed.

Anarchist and leftist groups often target police, government, and corporate targets during the night. It is unlikely that tourists would be hurt, as the anarchists usually take care to only damage property as opposed to people. Nonetheless, parking by McDonald's, police stations, or banks could get your car damaged.

Get out

Piraeus, the harbour of Athens, and Rafina (on the east coast of Attica) are the departure points for a large number of ferry services to the Greek Islands and other destinations in the eastern Mediterranean, including ports in Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and Cyprus. Fast hydrofoil and catamaran or helicopter services also take you to the Greek Islands. Italy is easier approached by boat from Patras (take a train or a bus to Patras) An up-to-date site with International ferry schedules is here and Domestic and International ferry schedules is here.

The port of Lavrion in southern Attica is being increasingly developed as a ferry port, especially for Cyclades routes.

The closest islands, suitable for a day trip, are located in the Argosaronic (or Saronic) gulf: Hydra, Aegina, Poros, Spetses and Salamina An up-to-date site with domestic ferry schedules is here or here with domestic schedules . .

Day trips to the Corinth Canal, the theatre at Epidaurus and to the ancient sites of Olympia, Delphi and Mycenae are easy with a rental car. Other towns along the Peloponnese such as Nafplion are charming and worthwhile.



This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!