Athens has been called the cradle of western civilization and the birthplace of democracy due to its cultural and philosophical achievements during its classical era, circa the 5th century B.C., but the city of Athens can be traced back over 4000 years when the high ground above modern Athens was settled during the Neolithic era as a fort located in the present acropolis (high city). By the Classical Period (around 500B.C.) Athens occupied an area of two kilometers that covered the present Monastiraki district, the hill of the Pnyx, and the Acropolis. The origin of the name Athens is proto-Greek, but by the classical period a myth had solidified: The citizenry held a contest between the goddess Athena or Athene and Poseidon to name the city. Poseidon struck the ground and produced a stream and Athena created an olive tree. The citizens choose Athena’s gift and named her the patron of the city. Classical Athens became one of the wealthiest city states in Greece and one of the most important centers of learning in the ancient world, with Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Athens was also the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, and Sophocles, turning the city into a Mecca of Arts, Philosophy and science.
The Romans ruled Greece for over 500 years but allowed ancient Athens to remain as a free city due to their admiration for Athenian schools. The city declined as a center of pagan learning once the Romans adopted Christianity, but again rose to prominence during the Byzantine period (9th to 10th century). After a period of Prosperity during the crusades, the city suffered a long period of decline under the Ottoman Empire until the wars of Independence against the Ottomans at the beginning of the 19th century, culminating with Greek independence in 1832. Athens hosted the first Olympic games of the modern Era in 1896. The population of the city swelled after the wars against the Turks in the 1920′s and after World War II. By the 1980′s vehicular congestion and factories contributed to air pollution and congestion problems, so the city decided to close or move factories and to start building the Athens Subway. The excavations for the subway revealed several archeological treasures and the city had cleaned up significantly by the time Athens hosted the Summer Olympic Games of 2004. Athens today is a treat for the traveler, with over 3000 years of visible history from the Acropolis, from classical Greek temples to Ottoman and Byzantine buildings, dotted with trendy lounges and cafés, Athens is a charming, modern metropolis that should not be missed.
Athens is served by The new Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, opened in 2001 as part of the city improvements for the 2004 Olympics and considered one of the most efficient airports in Europe. A central rail station connects Athens with Thessaloniki and Istanbul and also with Eastern Europe. Rail service in Greece is basic compared to the rest of Europe. Athens is a major port, offering ferries to all the major islands in the Aegean Sea and cruise ships to Europe and Africa. Long distance buses serve the capital and cover all destinations on mainland Greece. Once you arrive, use the modern metro, including the Airport line to the city center.
Things To Do:
Athens is a great place to explore by foot, start at the highest point (Acropolis) and work your way downhill, following the newly developed archeological walk that connects the Acropolis with several quaint districts further downhill. The acropolis was the site of the original bronze era fort and home of the most famous classical monuments in Athens, such as the Parthenon, the Erectheion and the Temple of Athena Nike (the goddess of Victory and Athena’s last name, not the shoe). Don’t miss the new Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009, at the foot of the Acropolis rock, offering artifacts from all the eras of the Acropolis. Visit the Ancient Agora, a beautiful green space, dotted with temples and offering excellent views of the Acropolis. Lycabettus Hill for amazing views of the city. Visit the Plaka or the Kolonaki district for shopping and cafés. Have a souvlaki, a Greek traditional sandwich and then hit the town at night, Greeks like to party and to sip ouzo, you will find many discos and pubs in the center of Athens and also in the coastal zone. Have a drink in the waterfront district of Glyfada, home to some of the best night clubs in Athens, including Balux, waterfront nightclub and lounge.
Athens has long warm summers that begins from May and lasts till late September. It has short but significant winters lasting from late November until early March. The monsoon season begins from the month of October to mid April. Spring time i.e. from June- September is the best time to visit Athens.
There are more than 300 hotels in the Greater Athens metropolitan area, ranging from low-budget hotels to mid-range hotels to luxury hotel stay. These hotels also have the car-rental services that will take you around the city.