A heady mix of ancient history and contemporary cool, Athens is the largest and capital city of Greece. Touted to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, it has a recorded history spanning over 3,400 years. The birthplace of the city’s historic intellectual and artistic ideas, Athens has now become an attractive modern metropolis with unrivalled charm. Having a large financial sector, the area is one of the biggest economic centers in Europe and is sometimes called a Beta global city. A historic town with a modern touch with a large number of young people and tourists squandering around the streets, Athens has equal measures of grunge and grace.
Pottery found on and around the Acropolis is evidence of the site being inhibited since before 3000 BCE. The earliest buildings belong to the Late Bronze Age, particularly when the Acropolis was the citadel in 1200 BCE. Athens expanded exponentially in 6th century BCE during the tyranny of Peisistratus and his sons. Under the Roman Empire the city flourished imperially. In the 4th and 5th centuries Athens was resurrected and the city’s old outer circuit of the walls was restored, and many new fascinating buildings were erected. Occupied by German troops during World War II, the population of the Athens metropolitan area increased magnificently in the 2oth century.
These layers of history are visible everywhere in the city, with its thousand-year-old Byzantine churches which sit unruffled in the middle of streets and attached to hillsides. Traces of Ottoman empire can be found in architecture and in food. The city bustles with energy in art shows, political debates and even on the walls of derelict buildings. Creative surges can be seen in the numerous graffiti spread over the city, as Athens has become one of Europe's most noted spots for street art. From impromptu dance shows to impeccable live music at charming restaurants, everyone gets rewarded here. Admire the stunning Temple of Poseidon at Sounion and the site of Ancient Eleusis or spend a relaxing day sunbathing at the very good beaches, such as those near the historical Marathon. Or a fun-filled and idyllic road trip to a thermally heated lake or a monastery with dazzling Byzantine mosaics can be taken with close friends and family. A vast variety of attractive sights, for the curious monument lover to the adventurous sporty tourist, Athens provides something for everyone. Don’t forget to visit the magnificent Acropolis, whose views take breaths away. Built in the 5th century BC, this temple city is visible from almost every part of the city and is the hub around which Athens still revolves.
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Situated at the foot of the Acropolis' southern slope, this fascinating museum displays invaluable treasures in its exhibitions. The surviving items date from the Archaic period to the Roman one but the majority emphasizes on the Acropolis of the 5th century BC due to the peak of the country’s artistic achievement. The museum excellently explores the history of this multi-layered city, from ancient ruins beneath the building, to the Acropolis itself.
The most famous monument of the country, the Parthenon attracts millions of tourists from across the world. Designed to be the pre-eminent monument of the Acropolis, this historic and dazzling structure glorifies the trajectory of ancient Greece. Literally meaning 'virgin's apartment', it was constructed as a temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the goddess embodying the power and prestige of the city.
Historically the most significant ancient site in the western World, Acropolis surrounds the Parthenon. It is visible from almost every point in the city and it proudly stands sentinel over Athens. Made out of beautiful white Pentelic marble which gleam in gentle sunlight, Acropolis’s monuments and sanctuaries shine brilliantly at night. A single sight of this magnificent structure leaves one dazzled.
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Dedicated to the potters who settled in the city around 3000 Bc, Kerameikos is a quiet and tranquil historic site. An important evidence of ancient life, it was originally utilized as a cemetery through the 6th century AD. From the grave markers to numerous marble stelae, a vivid portrait of history is brilliantly displayed.
Considered to be the bustling hub of administrative, commercial, political and social activity, Agora was the lively heart of Athens. Famous for being the site where Socrates expounded his philosophy and St Paul came to promote Christianity, presently the site is a tranquil respite. It is home to the magnificent Temple of Hephaistos and the 11th-century Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles which is famous for its brick patterns that mimic Arabic calligraphy.
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Byzantine & Christian Museum
Influenced from the 1848 Villa Ilissia, Byzantine & Christian Museum consist of outstanding exhibition halls, majority of them underground, which focus on religious art. Showcasing displays chronologically, emphasizing on ancient traditions and gradually transitioning to Christian ones, the museum also focuses on the flourishing of a distinctive Byzantine style. Don’t forget to check out the delicate frescoes and personal remnants of daily life.
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A haven for nature lovers, herb collectors and gambling fans, Mount Parnitha is one of the most beautiful and highest mountains in the country. Full of a vast variety of pine trees, 30 mammal species including deer, rabbits and foxes, 120 bird species and 800 different plant and herb species, the area is also home to a national park. Tourists can enjoy numerous bike rides on designated trails in the area of Agios Merkourios and explore the ancient caves.
Delphi is one of the most famous historic sites in Greece and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known as the sanctuary of Apollo and the shrine of his oracle, it is considered to be a significant tourist site in the country, attracting thousands of people from all over the world. The magnificent mountain view along with its historical value makes this site a must-visit.
A rare geological phenomenon, Meteora are a marvel of nature. Literally ‘hovering in the air', these giant rocks were the settlement of monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th Century. But during Turkish occupation, they climbed higher and higher up the rock face until they were finally living on the inaccessible peaks of these rocks. The Holy Trinity Monastery is decorated with wall paintings from the 18th century and takes you back to the magical time of monks living here.
The closest island to Athens, Aegina’s name was inspired by the daughter of the river god Asopos, whom Zeus fell in love with and took with him to the island. Boasting of beautiful sights and attractions, the island is home to the grand Aphea Temple which forms an equilateral triangle with the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. This triangle is also called the holy triangle of antiquity.
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A hustling commercial centre, Halkida’s history consisted of spawning several colonies around the Mediterranean. Evia's capital is full of charming restaurants and hotels. Gateway to the island, the area provides mesmerizing sights, from the old bridge coming to life to the waterfront glittering from gentle sunshine. The magnificence of Chalkida is corroborated with its mention in Homer's 'Iliad'.
Where the beautiful horizon meets the grand Aegean Sea, Cape Sounion is a temple dedicated to Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea. Surrounded with myth and historic facts dated from antiquity until the present times, the site is an architectural marvel. The temple is adorned with sculptures made of Parian marble which wonderfully display the labours of Theseus as well as battles with Centaurs and Giants.
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A small island in the Saronic Gulf, Agistri looks straight out of a picturesque postcard. With quaint hills full of oregano, figs and lemons growing among the pine forests and a rocky coast, the island provides ample opportunities to have family-friendly picnics in either the dense woodland or the sandy beach in Skala.