ATHENS

How to reach it

Athens, the capital of Greece, a multi-cultural city that is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. A city everybody must visit at least once in life. 

The easiest way to reach Athens is by plane thanks to the Venizelos international airport which is connected with direct flights to major European cities but also offering many international flights beyond the European limits. Air Companies from all over the world fly to Athens, creating a traffic volume of over 26 million passengers. 

For sea lovers, those wishing to arrive in Athens by car, they could choose to arrive through the Italian ports of Ancona, Bari or Brindisi, well connected to the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa. Driving from Patras to Athens the road is comfortable and fast, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful scenic journey as Korinthos Canal.

Coordinates: 37°59′03″N 23°43′41″E

Region: Attiki

Capital: Athens

Area: 40 km2 

Urban Area: 412 km2

Peak: Mount Lycabettus 300 m

Main Port: Piraeus Port

Airport: Venizelos ATH

History

The Name

According to Greek mythology, the first city of Athens was Phoenician and Cecrops was the king who founded it. The city of Athens was officially created the day the Gods decided to have a contest: the growing city would be named after the deity who would offer to mortals the most useful gift. The deity would, therefore, become the patron god of the newly named city. The contest took place between the god of the sea Poseidon and the goddess of wisdom Athena. Poseidon offered a horse, which symbolized strength, while Athena offered an olive tree, for peace and prosperity. The town was finally named after Athena.

Prehistoric Times

The Acropolis hill saw its first inhabitants during the Neolithic period. This rock offered a great position with great visibility towards land and sea and was therefore early used as a military fortress. In 1,400 BC, Athens became a Mycenaean city, prospered and evolved into a religious center dedicated to the goddess Athena. A dark age followed in which Greece remained from the 12th till the 8th century BC. It is believed that this was the time when king Theseus, a semi-existent and semi-mythical person, ruled the town.

Archaic Times

Ancient Athens emerged economically during these centuries but it lost the control of the entire Attica, now divided into minor kingdoms. Athens regained the power over Attica in the 7th century and gradually became the cultural and artistic center of the country. For a century, the city was ruled by military generals and aristocrats. The hierarchy of each citizen depended on his wealth, which meant that poor people had no rights and slavery was a commodity.

In the 8th century BC, Solon, an Athenian poet, and lawmaker opened the path to democracy and abolished injustice to the less fortunate by declaring all Athenians (besides slaves) equal by law and abolishing any inherited title and privilege. The Oracle of Delphi, the most powerful in ancient Greece, declared at the same time the Acropolis as the province of the Gods.

Classical Times

After the Persian Wars (490-479 BC), Ancient Athens developed as the leading city-state in Greece. This period is the peak in the history of Athens. The 5th century BC is known as the Classical Century or the Golden Age of Pericles, the man who dominated on the political scene of Athens at that time. This was a time when Athens obtained the great fleet in Greece, traded its products all over the Mediterranean and took advantage of the Treasury of the Delian League to build the Acropolis. That time, with the initiative of Pericles, a new regime was formed: democracy. In this regime, every citizen had the right to speak his opinions in public meetings and vote for public affairs.

This economic wealth of Ancient Athens brought cultural prosperity. New philosophical ideas emerged by brilliant philosophers, like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and many sciences and arts flourished. Political gatherings were held in the Ancient Agora and many public buildings were constructed. Also, a new form of art was formed, theatre, that was originally part of religious ceremonies and then obtained an educational character. In fact, the theatre was so important for ancient Athens that by law proposed by Pericles, the state had to pay the tickets for the less-privileged citizens so that every Athenian would attend the theatrical plays.

The Decline of Athens

The golden age of Athens was stopped after a defeat against Sparta during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). Athens then fell under the rule of Phillip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great but remained nevertheless the cultural center of Greece.

The next threat came from the Romans, whose empire was now ruling the Western Mediterranean and slowly moving east. After several attacks, they finally defeated the Macedonians. Ancient Athens did not suffer a lot from the Roman occupation since it was a city admired and respected for her culture, her arts, her philosophy, and literature, hence the Pax Romana that was established.

Peace lasted until the 3rd century AD when Greece was invaded by the Goths. While Christianity was spreading across the Empire, Saint Paul came to Greece in 51 AD to preach his famous sermon to an Unknown God. Emperor Constantine, I moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium in 324 A.D. and named it Constantinople.

Byzantine Times

The Roman Empire finally was divided into two parts: the Roman Empire at the west and the Byzantine Empire at the east. As it happens with all empires, and after years of power and wealth, the Roman Empire started its downfall, ceding its power to Byzantium. At that time, the Parthenon Temple became a church of Agia Sofia. Athens remained the center of Greek education and culture until 529 AD when Emperor Justinian banned the teaching of classical philosophy. Athens was invaded, between 1200 and 1459, by many western tribes: Franks, Catalans, Florentines, Venetians and finally by the Ottomans who ruled for over 400 years.

Ottoman occupation & Indipendence

The Acropolis was then turned into the headquarters of the Turkish ruler and the Parthenon became a mosque. After the Greek Independence of 1821, the city of Athens crossed a period of re-organization under the rule of the foreigner King Otto, the first monarch of the new nation. He ordered his architects to build impressive Neoclassical buildings in the town center, including his Royal Palace, which now houses the Greek Parliament.

Today, the Parliament and the Presidential Mansion are guarded by a special military unit. In fact, every Sunday morning, people are gathered to watch the official changing of the guards. A walk around Athens will bring you to many ancient sites and famous places that are worth to visit.

Where to Sleep

If you are going to visit Athens this guide will help you to decide where to stay. For those that  wants to enjoy the heart of the city, walking through the streets and feeling the history in the atmosphere, the desirable areas to stay are Plaka, Koukaki, Syntagma and Monastiraki. All of them border the Acropolis and the archaeological park around it. Whatever you need as shops, restaurants, the metro, buses, taxis and nightlife is within walking distance. There are several hotels in Plaka, between Syntagma Square and the Acropolis.

Athens is an amazing city worth to be lived also on summer. The best areas where to stay during the warm season are along the seaside, as Alimos, Glyfada, Voula & Vouliagmeni. All of them offer hotels, apartments and suites different categories and budget. 

Properties Travellers Love

Things to see/do

The city of Athens was in ancient times one of the major centers of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean area, but it has left a deep trace in the cultural and political history of Europe and the Western world.
Athens was the first city – state in the history of mankind to adopt a democratic political system. It is also considered the cradle of theatre, philosophy, historiography, pedagogy and politics, understood as the active participation of citizens. 

The Athens of today is an astounding city that changes visibly, day by day more and more free from the annual air, acoustic and visual pollution. The Athens of today is entering a new era that sees it as the absolute protagonist in Europe but also worldwide as one of the most loved and desired tourist destinations by every traveller.

It doesn’t matter if it is your first time visiting the city of Athens or you are a repeater, exploring Athens is a never-ending journey, there are always new experiences to live, new places to visit or historical locations to live again and again. Athens offers relaxing & scenic neighbourhoods, nightlife, good shopping market and unlimited historical spots to discover. 

The unmissable things to visit in Athens are:

  1.  The Akropolis. 
  2.  The Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena.
  3.  The Akropolis Museum, a journey through all the centuries and the history of Greece.
  4.  The National Archaeological Museum.
  5.  The temples of Zeus, Athena Nike, Hephaestusn & Erechtheion,  
  6.  Visit Panathenaic Stadium, a modern reconstruction of an ancient stadium built for the Panathenaic Games in 330 BC.
  7.  Walking in Plaka & Monastiraki.
  8.  Watch the sunset from the peak of Athens, Mount Lykabettus.
  9.  Live the change of the Guards.
  10.  Visit the Theatre of Dionysus.
  11.  Taste Street food.
  12.  Walk in Marina Flisvou and Visit Onassis Boat Museum.
  13.  Discover Glyfada, luxury shopping & nice restaurants.
  14.  Watch the sunset from Cape Sunion
  15.  Visit the Attica Zoo Park. 
  16.  Visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.