"The cradle of Western Civilization, whose legacy echoes down the ages, and plays host to a vast number of iconic cultural sites. An eclectic blend of ancient and modern, Athens is fascinating, exciting and unique."
An eclectic blend of ancient and modern, Athens is a place that needs no introduction, being the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and theatre. It is not known as the cradle of Western Civilization without reason, making it the ideal holiday destination for anyone with an interest in history. Visitors can walk the same streets that iconic figures like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Pericles walked; see the many beautiful monuments and pieces of art, which have played such a crucial role in Western culture. Athens is also vibrant, modern and fun, with an exciting night scene, plenty of family activities and great shopping experiences. The chance to visit the Acropolis during the day is an experience that everyone should venture out to on their city break.
Athens Travel Guide
At A Glance:
The capital of Greece and its largest city, it has a population of around three-and-a-half million. Located on a large peninsula, it is surrounded by a number of mountains, including Mt Egaleo to the west, Mt Parnes to the north, Mt Pentelikon to the northeast and Mt Hymettus to the east, all of which play an essential role in Greek mythology. It is situated on the southern coast of Greece and is surrounded by the Aegean Sea. It has a hilly topography, best defined by the famous Acropolis, which sits in the very centre of the city.
With its hot, dry climate for most of the year, the best time to visit is between the first week of May, and the end of June, when temperatures range between 21 degrees and 28 degrees and the weather is pleasant without being scorching hot. Athenian weather can be very hot during August, reaching highs of 38 degrees, meaning that some tourist spots, located high up on hills may be difficult for older or younger people to reach. The weather becomes cooler again in September, October and November, which are also good times to visit.
History & Culture
Its history is rich and potent. For more than 3,000 years there has been a settlement on the Acropolis, with Greek mythology claiming that it was formed after a competition between Athena and Poseidon, over who would become the patron of the city. The eventual winner, Athena, offered the inhabitants an olive tree, and since ancient times a tree has grown on that spot. The city itself is most famous for the democratic reforms that took place during the 6th century BC, when Cleisthenes, a local aristocrat offered the citizens democratic rights, and they cast out the Spartan-supported dictator. This foreshadowed the most successful period in the city state’s history when they stood up to the power of the mighty Persian empire. The first moment in the Greco-Persian war was the battle of Marathon, where the Athenians defeated the Persian hordes on a beach close to Athens, and one heroic citizen ran the first marathon to Sparta to get help, perishing upon completing it. This led to the battle of Salamis 11 years later, when the heroic Themistocles, persuaded the Athenians to abandon the city and evacuate to the nearby island of Salamis, from where they defeated the entire Persian navy, thus saving Greece from conquest. Later Athens was defeated in the Peloponnesian wars, against their great rivals for Greek hegemony, the Spartans. It is a place famed for its many famous sons including Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Thoucydides, Pericles, and Themistocles to name but a few. Suffice to say, anyone even vaguely interested in history, art, philosophy, science or politics, simply must visit Athens once in their lives.
Its food culture is rich and varied, featuring a number of local classics, including Briam, a vegetarian dish, which involves roasting a load of vegetables together; tomatokeftedes, an appetizer made up of spicy fried tomato balls; retsina, a traditional liquor produced in the region; along with many other Greek staples, like kebabs, salads and delicious wines. Athens is also an international city and you will find a wide variety of restaurants serving cuisines from around the world.
The Allou Fun Park, a theme park with a wide variety of games and incredible experiences, is a great way to entertain the younger members of the family in Athens. The Cultural Park in Mesogeia, a large area, includes art workshops, and is a place where you can learn about Greek culture and folklore. The Museum of School Life and education, also includes a load of exhibits about how education has progressed throughout the ages and The Children’s Museum in Plaka, is both educational and a fun experience, where children develop their observation skills. Athens is a city that will both entertain and educate children on their family holiday.
Events & Festivities
A spectacular city, Athens has a plethora of fascinating cultural events throughout the year, including The Athens Epidaurus Festival, which runs from June to August and holds a variety of musical, theatrical and dance events, in the many open air theatres that populate the city; the Rockwave music festival, in June, which is a three day homage to contemporary Greek music; and the full moon festival, which is held in late August and celebrates the moon’s most prominent and brightest period, with a plethora of events, including music, dance and food.
Tours & Attractions
There are many companies that provide exciting and educational walking tours around Athens’ most famous monuments, ideal for people who want to get to know the city and skip those frustrating queues. Visitors, who want an experience where they are in control, should head to the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum; the ruins of the Agora (the ancient marketplace); the Temple of Hephaestus; and the Temple of Zeus. There is also a great selection of things to do slightly further outside the city, like visiting the place where the battle of Marathon happened.
A cosmopolitan city known for its social scene, it has something for everyone, including bars/clubs playing internationally renowned tracks; cosy venues offering great local music, both contemporary and classic; trendy bars, featuring long cocktail menus; chilled-out pubs with a relaxed atmosphere; as well as gourmet restaurants with Micheline star menus and friendly tavernas, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink.