The Ultimate Athens City Guide for 2021

Athens is the capital of Greece, and also is the most populous city of the country. With its population around 4 million residents, Athens is the 4th biggest capital of Europe. Athens resides in the south of Greece, in the Attica region. The city is considered as the historical capital of Europe with its vast background which involves settlements as early as in the Neolithic Period. Beginning with the Hellenistic Period, Athens’ fame as the cradle of civilization had been strengthened through its culture and values. Throughout millennia, many conquerors have invaded the beautiful capital. Since 1834, Athens is the capital city of modern Greece, and it slowly has become the metropolis that it is now.

Why Athens?

            This question has countless answers. To start with, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. So, it has an unbelievable cultural, architectural, political, historical and artistic value to the entire population of Earth. Athens is the city that introduced democracy to the world around 500 B.C. in the form of direct democracy which involves eligible citizens casting their votes directly in the law making process. The city is among the birthplaces of astronomy, mathematics, geometry, philosophy, drama, and many more. Amazing literature of Greek mythology accompanies city’s visitors at every step over the hills of the capital. With historical richness bursting out at every corner, Athens also is a city that experienced a very wide spectrum of architectural styles. The first European Capital of Culture also has its very own cuisine. Involving modern art and entertainment activities, too, Athens is a city that everyone should visit.

Where to Visit in Athens?

            With its vast history, Athens lures millions of tourists every year. Thousands of years of civilization spread over the ground of Athens provide visitors with breath-taking sights and stories. There are many magnificent remains in the city that led philosophy and science in the antiquity that blows its visitors’ minds. Acropolis is the most famous one of these attractions. The remains and monuments inside the site are from between 510 and 400 B.C. and the place is surely wonderful. Best sights from (and of) the remains are during sunset which offers picturesque views the capital below. Acropolis museum is another touristic destination. The museum involves countless remains gathered from the Acropolis site. There are many important remains that are on display in this museum like Athena Nike Relief. With over 4000 pieces of remains, Acropolis Museum displays artifacts from a wide period of time involving Greek Bronze Age, Roman and early Byzantian periods. Another attraction of the Greek capital is Agora which showcases the Royal Stoa which is supposedly the place where Socrates’ trial was held in 399 B.C. Hephaestus Temple is also close by and offers brilliant views over the hill it is situated.

When to Visit Athens?

            Athens is a city that is rich in every context. The city is full of great beaches, clean waters, vibrant nightlife, top tier shopping places and countless historical sites. So, anytime of the year is a good time to visit Athens, because the Greek capital has no shortage of offerings to its visitors. Usually, it is suggested to visit Athens in spring or autumn. Between the months April and mid-June, Athens enjoys spring. During these 8 to 10 weeks and in fall, Athens’ weather temperature usually is around 20 Celsius degrees. When there is no rain, these sunny but cool days are perfect for walking through the city stopping by at every attraction. Still, hotter summer days can also be preferred since Athens also has nice beaches. However, the crowdedness of the city definitely increases in summer. Athens usually is more quiet and calm during winter while still offering great views to its visitors. Also, if the aim is a calm vacation without the hasty tourist crowds, Easter week in April might be a good time to visit Athens when usually streets of Athens are very calm and silent.

How Long to Spend in Athens?

            In a city as big and dense as Athens, it would be impossible to be able to see everything in a very limited timespan. However, sometimes trips that involve multiple places might lead people into spending less time in some cities. In Athens, 1 to 3 days would be enough to scratch the surface and get a glimpse into the soul of the city. Yet, to be able to enjoy the city to the fullest, a few more days would certainly be helpful.

            If the time is too limited, only the essentials can be visited. These would be the most famous and important sites that are within close range. Syntagma Square –the city centre-, Panathenaic Stadium –home to the first modern Olympics-, Temple of Zeus –which has a view of the Acropolis-, Hadrian’s Arch, Acropolis and Parthenon would take up most of the day. Squeezing the Acropolis Museum and the Ancient Agora into the first day might be an option but it would be better to spread these visits to multiple days in the city. Herakleidon Museum might be a valuable addition into a tourist itinerary. Ornamenting the trip with walks around the streets of Greece would complete the visit and provide a more sincere experience of the city.

Transportation in Athens

            Athens’ transportation is well-organized and efficient. The city is the 4th biggest capital of Europe with a population over 4 million people. So, the city has understandably a complex and extensive transportation system. Athens, in terms of transportation, offers its visitors the use of buses, streetcars, subways, trolleys and suburban trains. The airport of the city is located 20 kilometres to the east. The trip in-between the airport and the city centre is provided by buses, metro lines and suburban train line. These buses work for 24 hours. In the city centre, buses usually work until midnight. There are also trolleys and subway lines that connect different parts of the city. 5 bus lines in Athens work hours a day.

Beaches of Athens

            A trip to Athens in summer is best when it involves some swimming and sunbathing. While at the centre, it might feel like the closest beach is a thousand miles away, but that is definitely not the case. All around the coast of Attica, there are great beaches for all tastes. Some of these options are luxurious, flashy, while others are empty, peaceful and calm. Tourists might choose amongst these options according to their own interests. For instance, Astir Vouliagmeni in the upscale neighbourhood of Vouliagmeni in the southern suburb of Athens is a very luxurious and prestigious option. The beach provides free WiFi across the shore. There are all kinds of food and drink options near-by. The beach, though, has an entrance fee. Kavouri shore is also located in Vouliagmeni, and it involves several sandy beaches. This part of the coast has free sections for those who do not want to pay and enjoy the sea.

What to Eat in Athens?

            If one wants to explore Greek cuisine, Athens is the right place to do so. Athens hosts many top notch restaurants that offer delicacies from different cuisines; but the city also has the best restaurants that serve Greek dishes. Traditional Greek breakfasts are a must for people who want to enjoy Greek cuisine. These breakfasts typically involve jams, honey, different kinds of pastry and pies. Acropolis Museum might be a good option for this type of a breakfast to start the day. Later, famous Greek yoghurt that contains walnuts and honey might be enjoyed while walking around the Syntagma Square. Also, the most popular street food of Athens, koulouri –some sort of a bagel-, must be tried. Main dishes of Athens usually involve dishes based on olive oil like most Mediterranean and Aegean cuisines.

Quality of Life

            Quality of life in the beautiful city of Athens, according to its residents, increases regularly. Now that the financial crisis is in the rear-view mirror, the Mediterranean country puts things back on track. Athens is still one of the safest capitals around the world. Integration of newcomers into the society has been exemplary in the recent years. Infrastructure of the city keeps developing every day. Health services are one of the main contributing factors that lead Athens’ residents to feel better in the city. Transportation of the city is, as mentioned, efficient and widely used. Cost of living is lower than most Eurozone countries. Cultural and historical heritage of the Greek capital perfectly blends into the city and makes outdoor activities much more interesting. Long story short, quality of life offered by Athens can compete with any city around the world.

Cost of Living in Athens

            Due to the recent crisis that Greece went through, cost of living in Athens is still relatively low compared to other Eurozone countries and capital cities. Yet, the end of crisis predictably, started the rise in prices throughout the country. According to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey of 2018, Athens is ranked 112th among 209 cities worldwide which means that the Greek capital is still much cheaper than some other European capitals. Naturally, cost of living differs in-between the districts of Athens. Athens is a big capital with around 4 million residents. So, not all the parts of the city are equal in every way. Islands are usually more expensive than the city centre since the services are limited. In terms of accommodation, city centre as in most capitals is the most expensive part. Yet the cost of food and transportation is quite cheap. In general, cost of living in Athens is relatively lower than other Eurozone country capitals.

Day Trips from Athens

            Athens is not only full of attractions, but it is also very close to other places that are full of attractions. If the visitors have some extra days to spend, the countryside and the islands of Greece are always waiting. One of the most popular choices is a daytrip to Delphi which is home to the Temple of Apollo and to the Oracle of Delphi. This site is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Delphi Archaeological Museum is also a great place to stop by while there. Byzantine Saint Lucas Monastery from the 11th country is also close by. Along the hills of the Peloponnese, Epidaurus and Mycenae lie. With a trip to these places, tourists can visit the sanctuary of Asklepios and the city of Mycenae where Agamemnon of the Iliad and Odyssey is buried. Beautiful town of Nafplio is also close by.

What to Pack for Athens?

            According to the season, needed items in Athens differ dramatically, but most of the time, travellers have similar needs. Naturally, clothing is the most important part and depending on the season, swimsuits or winter coats are not to be forgotten. During summers, Athens is usually pretty hot even in nights. So, carrying large cardigans or jackets would probably be a waste of space. A light and thin jacket would do the job perfectly. Also, a hat and a sunscreen for a summer trip are essential. As always, carrying a smaller backpack is a good idea since nobody likes to run around with a huge luggage or a heavy backpack. A camera is a pretty important when going into a city as dense with amazing things to see as Athens. Comfortable sports shoes that can protect the feet from all the walking around the ruins of antiquity might make the trip many times better.

Enjoying Athens

            Athens is a city in which it is almost impossible to get bored. Therefore, leaving the city do the job is enough to enjoy Athens. In this amazing Mediterranean capital, in every corner there is an attraction. It is a good idea to do some exercise before visiting Athens, because once there, it is hard to stop for a rest since there are countless things that attract attention and interest. Walking around the streets of Athens that are blended with history dazzles the visitors. With one eye glaring at the Acropolis that watches over the city 24 hours a day, it is inevitable to effortlessly enjoy Athens.

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