Athens Travel Guide
Few cities rival Athens when it comes to historical importance. As the sun rises over the smooth marble monuments of the Acropolis and fills the cobblestone streets along its base, the people of Athens emerge from their homes and head to local markets or sidewalk games of chess. Life moves more slowly, as if the entire city is reveling in blissful retirement from its glory days as a political and cultural powerhouse. But as the ... continue»
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The best time to visit Athens is in the fall and spring when the weather is agreeable and sunshine is pretty much a guarantee. Not to mention, crowds are thinner and hotel rates are cheaper. However, because of its Mediterranean location, Greece experiences warm weather throughout the year. Summer brings stifling heat and hordes of tourists, so we'd recommend avoiding Athens during this season.Best Times to Visit Athens»
Athens sprawls across the Attica Basin, a valley surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges and on the fourth by the Saronic Gulf. Constant expansion has introduced a sense of modernism to this ancient city. You will most likely spend the majority of your stay within central Athens near all of the city's well-known attractions.
As the most famous part of the city, the Acropolis refers to the hill in the center of the city upon which Athens' most renowned ancient monuments -- including the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Theater of Dionysus, the Agora Marketplace and, of course, the Parthenon -- are found. Once the political center of ancient Athens, the Acropolis monuments tower over modern Athens from their perch in the center of the city.
Makrigiani and Koukaki
Perched on the southern slopes of the Acropolis, the Makrigiani district is home to several luxury hotels and top-notch restaurants, as well as the New Acropolis Museum, which houses artifacts from the Parthenon and other nearby temples.
Southwest of Makrigiani is Koukaki, known as one of the city's most beloved neighborhoods. Sitting at the base of Filopappos Hill, the Koukaki district is popular among active travelers due to the several tree-lined paths leading up the hill to the Dora Stratou Theater or the summit of Filoppapos, which offers the best views of southern Athens and the Acropolis.
Sitting on the eastern slopes of the Acropolis, Plaka is the most tourist-heavy neighborhood in Athens. Its streets -- which have been inhabited for more than 5,000 years -- are speckled with ancient monuments, Victorian-era homes, Byzantine churches and mosques, as well as numerous cafés, restaurants and shops selling everything from antique treasures to tacky souvenirs. Also tucked away along Plaka's winding streets are popular sites like the 4th century Lysicrates Monument, the Roman Agora and the Museum of Greek Folk Art.
Northwest of Plaka along the base of the Acropolis is Monastiraki, a neighborhood made famous by its flea market. Described by writers as a neighborhood with a Middle Eastern vibe and street vendors galore, Monastiraki is also a great place to grab a drink and people-watch at a sidewalk café.
Just a short stroll north from Monastiraki, you'll find yourself in Psiri. Formerly run-down and forgotten, Psiri has become one of the most popular neighborhoods in Athens among younger travelers. Many of the abandoned warehouses and neglected homes have been transformed into trendy bars, bustling restaurants and jiving clubs.
West of Monastiraki and along Andrianou Street is the neoclassical neighborhood of Thissio, where views of the Acropolis are outstanding. Thissio is one of the best examples of the mesh between the old and the new -- After spending some time at the Temple of Hephaistos, kick back and enjoy the many modern hotspots, such as Stavlos, a restaurant housed in the former royal stables.
Follow the Archaeological Promenade from Andrianou Street past the Keramikos Cemetery and you'll find yourself in Gazi, commonly referred to as "Art City." According to Frommer's, Gazi earned its name from the plumes of smoke that once poured from the smokestacks of an industrial plant, which has since been transformed into the Technopolis, an art and exhibition center. The area is home to many trendy bars, art galleries, clubs and plenty of restaurants, and is also the center of Athens' gay culture.
Move onto Syntagma Square, Athens' political hub, to see the modernity of the city. As home to the new Parliament Building, visitors flock to Syntagma Square to witness the famous Changing of the Guards, who are dressed in colorful costumes. This is also home to most major banks, the central post office and several high-end hotels and restaurants. A short walk away is the National Gardens.
Mets and Pangrati
Mets and Pangrati are the only central neighborhoods outside the Acropolis' immediate vicinity that have a historical atmosphere. Sitting southeast of the National Gardens just below the Panathinaiko Stadium, both Mets and Pangrati are primarily residential, but the neighborhoods are also home to several traditional restaurants.
Vassilissis Sofias Avenue -- which branches off at Syntagma Square's northeastern corner -- is known as Museum Mile because of the large number of world-class museums such as the National Art Gallery, the Byzantine Museum, which showcases artifacts from medieval Greece, and the Benaki Museum, which features artifacts highlighting thousands of years of Greek history.
Kolonaki and Exarhia
A few blocks north of Museum Mile is the Kolonaki district, which is known for having the most upscale restaurants and boutiques in the city. Perched on the slopes of Lycabettus Hill with incredible views of central Athens, Kolonaki is often a great place for star sightings.
The Exarhia neighborhood, located northwest of Lycabettus Hill, offers a livelier atmosphere with numerous bars and live music venues. Meander this district's pedestrian streets, or climb Strefi Hill, for a panoramic view that extends to the coast. Exarhia is also home to the National Archaeological Museum, which Fodor's has labeled the most important museums in Greece.
Omonia, located northeast of the Acropolis along Patission Street, is dissected by the city's major streets -- including Panepistimiou and Stadiou Streets, which travel southeast toward Syntagma Square -- and features one of the main Metro stations. This area has become one of the busiest in the city simply because it can't be avoided. Over the past few decades, Omonia has seen the growth of Athens' international population and is now home to the city's Chinatown and Bangladeshi Quarter.
Northern & Southern Athens
Athens' northern suburbs -- specifically Kifissia -- mostly feature pricey houses and sophisticated restaurants, but there are also a few historic luxury hotels and several high-end restaurants. Sitting along the Apollo Coast in the south, the Glyfada and Vouliagmeni areas have several beautiful beaches, luxurious hotels, upscale shopping and a golf course. However, the Apollo Coast is several miles from Athens' main attractions and not generally convenient for tourists, though these areas are accessible via Metro and public buses.
Piraeus is Athens' main port, connecting the city with nearby islands such as Egina Island. Located approximately six miles southwest of central Athens and is easily accessible by Metro, Piraeus features a popular flea market, as well as numerous seafood restaurants, which overlook the Mikrolimano fishing harbor.
Athens is considered one of the safest major cities in Europe. As with most big cities, be wary of thieves near the main tourist attractions and on public transportation. Frommer's suggests that you "avoid the side streets of Omonia and Piraeus at night."
The best way to get around Athens is on foot; most of the major attractions are located within walking distance of one another. In fact, renting a car is little more than a nuisance, as traffic is heavy and parking hard to find. When coming from Athens International Airport (ATH), located just 20 miles southeast, you can take the metro or another form of public transportation.Getting Around Athens»