Athens is where European civilization first bloomed. At the same time, the prolonged rule of the Ottoman Empire in the city gave it indelible cultural influences from the east. The result is Athens’ alluring Mediterranean culture and architecture, a must see modern marvel that should be on every avid world traveler’s bucket list.
The city’s railway, metro, trolleybuses, trams, and buses are at your disposal. Tickets are available at street kiosks, train stations, and metro stations. If you’re planning to stay for a while, This Is Athens advises getting yourself one of the three to five-day passes that are available for discounted rates.
The King George with its Neoclassical moldings and Greek antiques in every room is one of the top hotels in the city. It has stunning views of the famed Acropolis as well as other nearby Athenian attractions. A true luxury hotel with oak floors, raw silk bed covers, and silk damask curtains. The minibar is even filled with luxury goodies from gourmet grocer Agreco.
AthensWas Hotel – Staying here puts you in the neighborhood of Plaka, which is right in the middle of Athens. It’s a decidedly more boutique experience than any of the other luxury hotels in the area. The rooftop bar is a comfortably chic spot to chill with a bottle of red, with an up-close view of the Acropolis in the background. Warren Platner coffee tables and Le Corbusier armchairs offer a decidedly modern, European atmosphere in 20 of its rooms.
O Gyros pou Girevis – Another advantage of staying in Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighborhood, is that it’s home to the best gyros in the city. Moist pork or chicken meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie until it’s crispy, and then wrapped in a flatbread along with tomatoes, onions, and a yogurt-garlic-cucumber sauce called tzatziki. If you’re going to eat at just one place in all of Athens, make it this one.
The Acropolis – As the very symbol of not just Athens but Greek civilization itself, to say that the Acropolis is a sight to behold would be an understatement. This natural hill rises 500 feet above sea level and houses several ancient, extant temples, the greatest of which is the Parthenon at the top. These temples are some of the most beautiful ancient structures in the world.
What makes these temples a must visit is the place they hold in modern culture. Even if you don’t know much about Greek history or mythology, it is likely you will recognize these structures from films, television, and games. Tributes to Greek mythology can be found just about anywhere and on any platform. Slingo has many games dedicated to Greek gods including Kronos Unleashed, Zeus God of Thunder, and King of Atlantis. Each game is a colorful reinterpretation of significant figures from Greek mythology to appeal to fans of history and online gaming. This is why it’s hard to catch sites like the Acropolis devoid of tourists. The well-preserved temples as seen on the big screen have inspired people to travel to Greece.
ONE DAY TRIPS FROM ATHENS
Delphi – The ancient seat of the Oracle of Delphi arguably held more power than Athens itself. The Temple of Apollo is where competing generals and leaders sought advice about the most important strategic decisions. The still intact temple can be visited in the foggy mountains near Athens.
Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon – This trip takes you across great coastal roads to a striking ruined temple surrounded by Greece’s fabulous natural landscape. Set your arrival at sunset to see some of the best views the country has to offer. You might even get to spend time at one of the many beaches on the way here.
WHEN TO GO
The Telegraph suggests going on May or early June to avoid the summer crowds while still being able to enjoy the perfect weather. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to enjoy the olive and grape harvests, Autumn would be your best bet, and it is also the perfect hiking weather as the summer heat has abated by then.
HOW MANY DAYS NEEDED TO TAKE IT ALL IN
Two to four days should give you enough time to get a fill of the many ancient structures and cultural attractions in the city.
WHAT TO BRING
A good camera – You’re going to want to capture all the beauty of Athens that you can possibly cram into high-res pictures. While a picture can never do justice to any of Athens’ marvelous attractions, it’s always nice to have a souvenir.