Athens Tourism

Tourist information about Athens
Athens tourist guide.

Tourist Information about Attica
In the center of Greece’s mainland lies the prefecture of Attica, known worldwide for its capital, Athens. This unique place reflects the whole history of Greece since it remained the cultural center for many centuries. In this guide you will get all the necessary tourist information that will help you plan your explorations for your holidays in Athens and the surrounding Attica region.

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Athens is a highly significant part of Greek history, as it has been the foundation of European development, culture and the Western civilization. The places you must visit is the Parthenon of Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill, to enjoy the panoramic view of Athens. There are also many museums with unique exquisite exhibits, as the new Acropolis Museum and the National Gallery with its wonderful permanent collection. You should stroll in the National Garden, the Plaka district with the traditional market Monastiraki, visit the Panathenaic Stadium and many other interesting sites on the surrounding suburbs or the other busy streets of Athens. These are some of the most beautiful spots you should not miss when you are on holidays in Athens.

The prefecture of Attica has so many more interesting places, with important monuments of the Greek history, especially from ancient times. So, if you saw everything in the historical center of Athens, a tour of the suburbs, will bring you closer to other historical locations, like Marathon, where the famous battle took place. You can visit  the museum to see important findings. Another equally significant place is Sounion, where you can admire the Temple of Poseidon (5th century BC) and remember the tragic story of the return of Theseus, while enjoying  the magnificent sea view. Another suggestion is to visit the temples of Dimitra and Artemis, in Eleusis and Brauron, respectively.

Piraeus is the most important port of Attica, that has long been a center of many industrial and shipbuilding companies. Piraeus has kept the color and scent of an old era in the suburb of Castella, the Municipal Theatre and the Tinaneio Garden. From the port of Piraeus you can take a ferry boat or other ship to the Greek islands of the Aegean sea and Argosaronikos.

On your sightseeing in Athens, influences and signs of ancient Greek culture is still alive and visible everywhere. Despite this, tourism in Athens and Attica doesn’t mean only touring the sites of Archaeological interest. If you get to know the different spots of Athens, you will discover that they have much more to offer than a stop at the archaeological sites, so be prepared for unprecedented and exciting experiences.


 

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The most up to date guide of Athens
This website is not a classic travel guide. You will find Articles about the history and mythology of Athens along with useful information about the weather, maps and detailed presentation of all the sights, monuments, archaeological sites and neighborhoods of Athens.
We live, work and enjoy Athens every day, so we can be the best assistants for your memorable stay in Athens. Visitors will find all the necessary advice for Athens, written by real Athenians. If you don’t have a hard copy or other printed material, get some maps below.

Maps of Athens. Interactive maps of Athens from Google

 


 
General Information
Athens, Acropolis and city view

Athens became the capital of Greece in 1834 after Nafplio and Aegina, is located in the Attica basin surrounded by the North west of the mountain Aigaleo, mountains of Parnitha and Penteli to the north, northeast and Mount Hymettus to the southeast. The Saronic Gulf surrounds the east coast of Athens and Attica. If you look at the map of Greece, Athens is located almost in the middle of mainland Greece between regions of Central Greece to the north and the Peloponnese in the south. West of the Attica peninsula is the island of Evia and further eastward lies the Aegean Sea with the beautiful Greek islands.

Athens has grown in years to become the city we know today, a major European capital that hosted the 2004 Olympics with great success. The infrastructure of Athens has developed very quickly in the last 10 years with new highways, a new airport, new metro lines, a new tram line, the new suburban railway line, Attica road, huge shopping malls, stadiums and sports centers. The port of Piraeus has become one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean. Because of this new infrastructure and fast access by trains, metros, and by vehicle, the population started moving to the suburbs, as many Athenians prefer to live outside of the city center to the suburbs and regions that a few years ago were tourist resorts.

Most people love to hate the Greek capital. On the one hand, is a city with a wide variety of things to see and do. From Athens you can also go in most parts of Greece: by plane, train, boat or bus. On the other hand, is a huge, bustling, populated concrete jungle with about half the population of Greece to live here (nearly 5 million). Athens also has a problem with traffic congestion and pollution, particularly smog.

It's an exciting city, though. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and walking through the ancient Agora and the Acropolis, makes you feel that you are walking on a very sacred and of unique beauty place.

The Athenians everyday life became better, especially after the Olympics where many things have been improved. Many of the buildings have been renovated, and major projects are executed. The city's infrastructure has been modernized with new highways (Attiki Odos), which extend from Aspropyrgos until the new airport at Spata and continues to the western suburbs of Athens.

Many historic areas of Athens are available only by walking as the entire area around the Acropolis to the street Dionysius Areopagite, Thisseio and Kerameikos. Plaka has also been paved by 90% and Ermou, the two most commercial streets of Athens.
The port of Piraeus has been modernized with new parking areas around the harbor and new docks for ships, ferries and cruise ships.


 

The history of Athens starts 3.000 years ago, when, during the prehistoric times of the first inhabitants created the first settlement in the rock of the Acropolis. It took hundreds of years, until the sacred rock of the Acropolis found its glory in the golden age of Pericles (495-429 BC) the construction of most of its monuments like the Parthenon were created by Iktinos and Kallikratis, and decorated by the sculptor Phidias. During thousands of years, Athens lived times of glory and decline. It became the capital of Greece in 1834 primarily for its location and its historical importance. Athens is often mentioned in Greek mythology. The ancient Athenians, according to the myths, were born from Attica and were not immigrants. For this purpose, they reported that their first king, Cecrops, was the man-serpent born of the earth. He was the judge of the mythological race of the goddess Athena and the sea god Poseidon over who would become the patron of the city, a race eventually won by Athena giving its name to the city.

The greatest hero of Athens was Theseus, whose stepmother was the famous Medea, who was hated by the Athenians and forced to leave town. The hero had managed to discontinue the annual tax paid by the Athenians to King Minos of Crete. Oedipus died in Athens, and Orestes was trialed by the judges of ‘Areios Pagos’ after his revenge for the murder of his father Agamemnon.

Many historical figures were also born in Athens and even more have lived and worked here. Socrates wandered the streets of Athens, discussing philosophical issues with people he met. Demosthenes declared his “fiery speeches” against the Macedonian Philip, Plato and Aristotle taught here. Pericles created the golden era, and Alcibiades was admired and hated. Later, Saint Paul preached Christianity. The list of distinguished personalities could go on forever.

There is evidence of ancient settlements in Athens, from the 7th millennium BC. Athens was not always the most important city of Greece, its biggest competitors in antiquity was Sparta and the Persians. The great orator Demosthenes warned the people of Athens about the Macedonians, and he was right: Athens in 322 AD was conquered.

The Turks invaded Athens in 1456, and the city remained enslaved for about 350 years. Athens in 1834 became the capital of Greece, then, only about 6000 people lived there.
In 1941 the Germans occupied Athens and over 300,000 people died of hunger. Athens was also a major battleground during the civil war from 1946 to 1949. Read more about the history of Athens here.


 
Parthenon of Athens Acropolis

Athens attractions: The largest ancient monument in Athens is of course the Acropolis. Over the sacred rock, you can almost feel the grandeur of ancient Greece.
Other interesting archaeological sites are the ancient Agora, the Temple of Hephaestus, still in very good condition, as well as the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch.

The New Acropolis Museum

In Athens you will find the main museums of Greece as the new Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum, the Folklore Museum, the Ceramics Museum, the Byzantine Museum, the Music Museum, the War Museum, the Benaki Museum, etc. In general, there are more than 50 museums in Athens waiting for your visit.

A popular place for shopping and food and drink is Plaka, just below the Acropolis. Considered quite touristic place, but the fact is that here you can get an idea of old Athens, with traditional buildings and small streets. In Monastiraki there is the famous ‘Giousouroum’, a bazzar with antiques and other objects.

Sintagma - The Monument of Unknown soldier

In Syntagma Square you can visit the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’. Here you can see ‘Euzonoi’ the presidential guard and if you are lucky, you will see the slow and complicated change of guard in front of the monument.

The Concert Hall has many wonderful performances. During summer many shows and concerts take place at Heroon Atticus theater under the Acropolis, at Lycabettus Hill and other places around the city centre.



 

The historic center of Athens is the most important area of the city for the thousands of tourists who visit the Greek capital to admire the cradle of democracy, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, museums monuments and theaters, the glorious past of Athens. The paves of the historic center surrounded by the triangle between Plaka, Dionysius Areopagite street and Kerameikos, includes almost all the wonderful sights of Athens. You can go to Dionysius Areopagite street on foot from Syntagma Square or by the metro station Acropolis. A few meters away is the New Acropolis Museum opposite the Theater of Dionysus, next to it is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and then is the road to the Acropolis. The hills of Filopapou and Pnika, is close to the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion) located on the north side of the Acropolis. The oldest neighborhoods of Athens such as Plaka, Monastiraki and Anafiotika are located in the north western and north eastern slopes of the sacred rock. The historic center of Athens has a good design that gives visitors the opportunity to see within a few hours the most important sights of Athens. But Athens has more attractions to offer as we can see in the section on the sights of Athens if you continue reading.

Sintagma - The Monument of Unknown soldier
Plaka is often referred to as the neighborhood of the Gods, today is one of the main attractions for tourists; restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, you can find them all here. Anafiotika is an area you should see, beneath the Acropolis and over Plaka to the east. Anafiotika is like a small island in the city center. Traditional white houses, made from builders of the small island of Anafi when they came to Athens to build the Royal Palace in the era of the first Otto of Bavaria King of Greece. Today the palace is the Greek Parliament. Just in front of the Parliament is Syntagma Square in central Athens. Next to the Parliament is the National Garden and Zappeion. Next to Zappeio is the temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. The Panathenaic Stadium, where the first Olympics took place, is a few minutes’ walk from the National Park, either through Zappeion.

Monastiraki in Athens

Monastiraki is one of the favorite locations for the Athenians in winter and summer. Even in winter the slightest sunshine tables of ‘Andrianou’ street  is crowded. In the “Giousourum”, the bazar’s old name, and in Abyssinia Square you will find antique shops with antiques and old furniture, old books bookstores, shopping stores with cheap clothes and souvenirs. A little further is Thisseio with many trendy bars and cafes overlooking the Acropolis. The Psirri district has become fashionable for night outings with lots of restaurants, coffee bars and ouzo. Kolonaki keeps its old glory with cafes around the homonymous square, various celebrities like it too. At Kolonaki lies the funicular to Lycabettus , one of the landmarks of Athens that worth going to and enjoy the panoramic view of Athens. You should also pay a visit to the Planetarium at the Eugenides Foundation on Siggrou 387 street, the Concert Hall, the National Observatory (Visitors Center at Penteli), Gazi and Kerameikos archaeological site. Of course you cannot see Athens within a day or two because Athens has so many attractions that you need at least one week or more. There are many museums in Athens, including the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, one of the most important museums in the world, the New Acropolis Museum, exhibition centers, shopping centers, theaters and concert halls and of course the famous nightlife equivalent to the nightlife of Paris and London.


 


Athens has many neoclassical buildings such as the Academy of Athens, the National Library, the Historical Museum, the Archaeological Museum and many other mainly in the streets of Panepistimiou, Stadiou, Athinas, Patission around Omonia Square and Plaka, where the first University of Athens is, and many neoclassical houses.


 
Lycabettus Hill, Athens

Athens has an excessive variety of things you can do. For example, you can visit all the sights and the museums, the theaters and nightclubs. There are many cinemas, a never stopping nightlife, bazaars, super stylish fashion shops and shopping centers.

You can go up the hill of Lycabettus for a breathtaking view. You can visit the Athenian Riviera from Paleo Faliro up to Kalamaki, Alimos, Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza for sun and sea. You can also visit the National Gardens next to Parliament in Syntagma square.


 
Athens beaches, organised beaches in Attica

Athens beaches with crystal blue water.

If you want to enjoy the sun and sea or you like swimming you can visit the beaches of Athens. There are many beaches near Athens, the most popular of these are in Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Nea Makri, Kavouri  and Alimos which are nearer to the center of Athens. You can book a Hotel near Athens beaches. Most of the beaches of Athens are well organized under the supervision of EOT with millions of visitors each summer. You will have to pay a small entry fee for using them. There are also many beaches in Athens and generally in the peninsula of Attica with free access. All these beaches are along the coast in the south suburbs of Athens and you can go by tram (up to Voula) or by bus. On the east coast of Attica many sea resorts are very popular among the Athenians with beautiful beaches, to name a few, Marathon, Rafina, Nea Makri, Agios Andreas, Porto Rafti, Loytsa and Sounion at the southern part of Attica. Find all hotels near Attica beaches and book a room with a sea view.


 
Athens nightlife

Fun never stops in Athens

Theatres, ‘Bouzoukia’ -live music nightclubs with the most famous Greek singers, bars, nightclubs, music halls, live stages and various other music scenes are all here. There are crowded places around Athens, but the busiest areas are around Kolonaki, Glyfada and the beach. Almost in every block all around Athenian suburbs there are cafes and bars, many of which have professional DJ’s performing all night.


 

Just like bars, restaurants and taverns are everywhere in Athens. The Plaka perhaps is the most picturesque and receives the most tourists. The Psiri is not far from Monastiraki and has many charming shops, eateries, taverns and restaurants with live music day and night. In Athens you will find a wide variety of international fast food and coffee chains like the Greek Goodys, the American McDonald's, the Pizza Hut, the Starbucks, and many other famous eatery chains.

The most typical and national fast food in Greece is souvlaki. In every corner of Athens you will find souvlaki, cheese pies, donuts and many bakeries and patisseries, restaurants with every kind of local, national and international cuisine. Grills, souvlaki, Bougatsa and donuts shops are all around Omonia. Pizzerias, Fast foods, ‘ouzeri’ (traditional cafes, where you can drink ouzo or tsipouro with ‘mezes’ – small bites of local recipes) and cafes are everywhere in Athens.

In the last few years many ethnic cuisine restaurants have opened with exotic flavors from China, India, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Middle East and Turkey. You'll also find steak House restaurants of Argentine and American style. Meat lovers can find traditional taverns at Vari, Aspropyrgos, Mantra, Thrakomakedones and Chasia. For fresh fish and seafood you should visit the port of Piraeus and especially Peiraiki or Pasalimani and Mikrolimano.


 
Athens shopping

In Athens you can find all kinds of shops, from chic boutiques and fashion shops at Kolonaki, fine jewelry stores in Voukourestiou and the surrounding streets near Plaka, like Ermou, Mitropoleos and Stadiou streets near Syntagma square, many shops are in Aiolou and Patission.

Elegant shoe shops are found in Kolonaki and Ermou. The main commercial center is in the triangle between Ermou, Aiolou and Acadimias streets. There is also the mall “Attica” at Panepistimiou street.

In Athens you will also find several multinational commercial chains like Carrefour, Praktiker, IKEA, all in shopping centers outside Athens center, like in Maroussi, Redi and other areas of Athens. At Athinas street there is the central meat market of Athens.


 
Athens metro station

The new Athens Metro is an excellent way to go in most parts of Athens. The bus line 400 is the best way to see all the sights. There are also city buses, trams and trolleybuses, which are quite fast and safe for city exploration. The Railway is linking Athens and Piraeus to Corinth and Kiato. There are many taxi companies available on call. Since the distances of most of the main sights of Athens are small, a good idea to experience Athens is walking. However if you prefer driving, you can rent a car and drive in Athens roads.


 

In March 2001, the new airport - Athens International airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" opened at Spata. It is super modern and with the new road links via Attiki Odos, the Athens Metro and suburban rail you can go to it from anywhere in Athens. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the center of Athens with the express buses (X 95 Airport to Syntagma Square ) (X 96 Airport to Piraeus port), sometimes longer because of traffic.

Piraeus port

If you come from the islands, you can get the Train to Athens from Piraeus port, or KTEL buses from Rafina port. If you come by train you can use the Metro lines or trolley from Larissis Station to downtown. From the port of Piraeus you can take a ferry to the beautiful islands of Greece.