Travel Guides: Athens
Athens is the capital of Greece. Athens had a glorious evolving, especially in ancient Greece, being inhabited by humans since the Bronze Age and governed until around 1000 BC by Ionian kings. The Acropolis in Athens was placed in 1987 on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list.
Athens was originally inhabited about 6,000 years ago by pelasgiens and later by Ionians who settled in this natural fortress, the great rock of the Acropolis or the city from above, as the Greeks call it. The city has developed and has been dedicated to the goddess Athena. It saw the first flowering in the Mycenaean era (1600-1100 BC). At the end of the sixth century BC tyranny (perhaps royal) was replaced by a democratic regime which led to a civilization unparalleled in human history.
In the fifth century BC under the enlightened rule of Pericles, Athens reached the pinnacle of cultural, economic and military which made this period to be called “the golden age of Athens.” During the Hellenistic and Byzantine period, Athens played a secondary role. After the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman ruling in 1834, Athens was proclaimed the capital of Greece.
The town takes its name from the goddess Athena, in Greek mythology, symbolizing wisdom. Legend says that the gods Ares and Athens founded the city and strove to grasp it. Ares gave residents a horse for war, and Athens has tamed the horse and gave the olive tree.
The original name was Ἀθῆναι-Athenai, plural Ἀθηνά-Athene, goddess name in the local dialect. The customary to call a polis (city-state) with the plural form is specific to other cities (for example, Thebes and Μυκῆναι Θῆβαι-Mykenai) because these cities have incorporated more settlements.
Athens stretches across the central plains of Attica, known as a basin. It is surrounded by Mount Aegaleo in the west, Mount Parnitha north and northeast, Mount Penteli Hymettos Saronic Gulf to the east and south-west. Athens it is still difficult to expand due to geographical barriers mentioned above, although the metropolitan suburbs are still expanding.
The capital is crossed by the river Kifissia which flows into the Gulf of Thessaloniki and Faliro. The soil is rocky and not very fertile; the hills are masses of limestone. The climate of Athens is a specifically Mediterranean and dry. It has a low humidity throughout the year. Rainfall is particularly in October until April. Spring and autumn are considered ideal seasons for outdoor activities.
Athens in 2001 had a population of 745,514 inhabitants in an area of 39 km². The metropolitan area covers an area of 412 square kilometers and the number of inhabitants in 2001 was 3,130,840. The metropolitan area of Athens was the twelfth in the European Union, according to Eurostat.
But the number of people in Athens is higher because of many immigrants from countries like Albania, Romania, Moldova, Pakistan and some African countries and other countries. Athens expansion started in 1950 – 1970 and continues today, and the capital has engulfed several villages in the north and east. One can say that the ancient port city of Piraeus was not part of Athens.
Most people are in suburbs of Athens, which is found and moreover, the Olympic Complex. Next is the capital and many beaches. Athens is part of the metropolis and port city of Piraeus, one of the most transited in Greece. Athens has a well established transport, which lists all public transport buses, trolleybuses, trams, metro and suburban trains.
Metropolitan subway system is well developed. Transport company (in Greek: Αττικό Mετρό) has two of the three metro lines. The lines were built mostly in the 1990s, the number of passengers who traveled daily by rail was 550,000. But the subway is in constant expansion. Power transmission network in Athens (ISAPI), operates in particular the Metro Piraeus – Kifisia with 22 stations and a length of 26 km.
This line that connects the city of Corinth and Venizelos Airport is another area subway line. In Athens are a number of 300 bus lines, the network was present throughout the metropolis. The company that is responsible for this mode of transport, has a fleet of 35 vehicles, with 65,000 daily passengers traveling with a length of 27 km.
Athens is currently the center of the national railways, roads, highways and maritime transport in Greece. Athens has rail links with Thessaloniki and Sofia in addition to national ones. Also, most highways meet in Athens in Greece, but Athens is the connecting roads and highways to the suburbs of the city. Through Piraeus located in the southwestern part of the metropolis, the ferry carried about with most Greek islands and other countries in Europe. In Piraeus are many cruise ships for transit. This port in 2007 had over 20 million passengers.
Venizelos International Airport – this is the most important airport in Greece with a total traffic of 17 million passengers in 2007, and a number of 560 flights per day. It is located at a distance of 35 km. Athens is one of the centers of the world in terms of archaeological research. There are several main institutions dealing with research and use of historical vestigial such as University of Athens Archaeological Society, which includes several museums.
At the same time the city has several laboratories, including the Demokritos laboratory for Archaeometry. Athens is known worldwide as a pillar of the various conferences and research seminars. The most important goal in Athens is the Acropolis with the Parthenon as the primary point of attraction. Modern Olympic Games were held for the first time in the summer of 1896. Between 13 and 29 August 2004 Athens has hosted the XXVIII Summer Olympics.
The city has many monuments of ancient Greek art, the most important of all being Acropolis. However the most important structures / buildings (ancient ruins) of the city date back to classical Greek culture, from fifth century BC. In addition there are many other sights to visit, but still start the city tour at Acropolis placed at a height of 156 meters above sea level.
First we have to buy a ticket, which will allow us to visit several places (Dionüszosz Theatre, Temple of Zeus at Olympia, new and old Roman Agorele Hadrianus library), but this ticket is only valid for the day it was bought. As visitors we enter through the gate of Beule. Looking down from the Acropolis toward the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, we can see the ruins of Medieval Dionüszosz Theatre and the Acropolis is right Herodes Atticus Theater (Odion Irodou Attikou).
On our way to the Temple of Zeus we pass by the Arc de Triomphe of Hadrianus, where Acropolis is seen in a totally different angle. It is worthwhile to look more closely the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, because it was the largest existing temple in ancient Greece. On top of that we have the opportunity to see first Olympic Stadium with a capacity of over 50,000 spectators, built between 1894 and 1896, for organizing the first modern Olympics, which really gives us a very impressive sight.
Athens lies in the plains of Attica, neighboring with Aegaleo west mountain, Mount Parnitha north, north-east Pentreli mountain, Mount Hymettus Saronic Gulf in the east and south-west. Athens is one of the most important European centers. The climate is Mediterranean. Main attractions: Temple of Zeus, the Parthenon, Constitution Square, the Royal Palace (now the parliament of Greece), National Garden, Stadium Kallimarmaro (where they were held for the first modern Olympics in 1896), the National Archeological Museum (where you can find the largest collection of Greek art), the Benaki Museum (including the new gallery of Islamic art), the Byzantine Museum, Athens Planetarium (considered one of the most beautiful buildings), the National Library and Academy of Athens.
Acropolis is the most representative monument for Athens, representing the pinnacle of artistic development in the fifth century BC. Buildings erected here, architectural wonders, exactly reflects the passage of time over Greece. Temple of Zeus, designed by the architect Libon, dates from around 450 BC and was originally built in the Doric style. Subsequently, to give a touch of sumptuousness of the temple, a statue was introduced, the work of sculptor Fidias.
The Greek capital, Athens is a modern metropolis and at the same time the place where was born Classical Greece and, therefore, Western civilization. Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, and with this event, the city has undergone a positive transformation: the metropolis full of pollution and congestion, Athens has become healthier, more sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Now visitors can admire the historical attractions of Athens and at the same time to enjoy the new metro, excellent infrastructure, pedestrian areas and the atmosphere of a modern capital.
The historic center is the most important area of Athens and the place where thousands of tourists come to admire the Acropolis – the symbol of democracy, the hill where the Parthenon and other important sites are located. The climb may be a little difficult, but fully worth the effort. Archaeological Sites of Athens were joined by a promenade that surrounds the historic center, on one side Avance ancient places and other modern cafes, galleries, renovated buildings and exhibits of modern art. Maximum tourist area of Plaka is bordered to the south west of Monastiraki, Kolonaki and Omonia to the north east.
It is believed that prehistoric settlement was formed around the Acropolis hill, in 3000 BC. According to legend, in 1230 BC, King Theseus of Athens met the ten tribes, forming the largest and richest Greek state. In prior centuries BC Athens had several social problems, culminating in the birth of democracy. In medieval times the city declined, but it emerged victorious, with the Byzantine era. A new decline was brought about by the Ottoman Empire; Athens regained a glorious city in the nineteenth century as the capital of Greece.
Once it has been chosen as the capital – 1834, Athens has been improved with buildings in neoclassical style, large squares, wide boulevards and green spaces. Destruction during the Second World War was minimal and, in the decades that followed, urban planning has soared, the city modernizing. Only in the years 1980 to 1990 began to appear restoration projects of old buildings and improve the architectural aesthetics of the city.
The most notable neoclassical buildings in Athens are the Academy of Athens, National Library, the Museum of History and Archaeology Museum, among others. Greek cuisine is famous already, but Athens is more – a paradise of food from around the world, receiving many prestigious Michelin star restaurants. Like any self-respecting European capital, Athens has an attractive variety of museums, art galleries and exhibition centers.
No shopping lovers are neglected, the capital of Greece with an abundance of shops, areas are the most famous streets of Ermou and Aiolou, Monastiraki and Kolonaki area, streets and Academias Solon for books and musical instruments, Panepistimiou streets, and Evrypidou Stadiou.
Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio historic districts are located in the foothills of the Acropolis and abounds in the restored neoclassical buildings, pedestrian streets, shops, restaurants and ruins of the Romanian era. Kifissia is a less frequented area, but no less famous, mainly due to shopping and café with terrace. Nea Smyrni is a new district with European atmosphere and the Kolonaki district lately become a luxury, which is distinguished by cafes, boutiques and art galeriide. In this district you can visit the War Museum, Benaki Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art and the Greek National Gallery.
Omonia and Exarheia are for students, and anarchists, area attraction is the National Archeological Museum. Pangrati districts and Mets are less popular among tourists, but here you can also find several hotels and taverns. Former industrial district, Psiri now offers restaurants, shops and modern bars.
A pleasant surprise of Athens is the well organized beaches, located in the southern suburbs, the most popular of which are Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Kavouri and Glyfada. Other options will provide the east coast of the peninsula of Attica, with seaside resorts such as Marathon, Rafina, Nea Makri, Agios Andreas, Porto Rafti, Loutsa and Sounio. Athens is a good starting point for exploring the Attica Region, places such as Epidaurus, Corinth, Mycenae, Delphi and Marathon are near. On the other hand, the port of Athens, Piraeus is a rather old and dirty starting point also to the Greek islands.
Old Parliament is located on Stadiou Street in the same market with the statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis, Commander of the Revolution of 1821. The building was built in 1858-1874, was designed by French architect Boulanger. Old Parliament Building attractions are:
- Chamber I – weapons, medals, paintings and other objects from the Byzantine era.
- Chamber II – memories of the Turkish period, including documents belonging to Philiki Etairia secret society.
- Chamber III – Heroes of the Revolution of 1821.
- Chamber IV – paintings with scenes of war made by P. Zographos in order of Makryiannis, famous general.
- Camera V – objects belonging to Patriarch Gregorios Byron, and Napoleon‘s nephew’s ashes, Paul Bonaparte.
- Chamber VI – portraits of heroes and battle scenes from the period in which Greece is struggling to free themselves from Turkish oppression.
- Room VII and VIII – documents from the time of Kapodistrias, King Otto I and King George.
National Kapodistrian University of Athens is part of the so-called “Neo-classic trilogy” – Academy, University and Library. The University consists of several buildings arranged in a T-shaped and having two symmetrical courtyards. The building conforms to the aesthetic rules of early neoclassical period, but at the same time is adapted to Mediterranean climate.
National Kapodistrian University of Athens is ranked 117 in the world; it is the oldest university in the south and running continuously since it was founded in 1837. Temple of Poseidon in Sounion is one of the most important sanctuaries in Attica, and research has revealed artifacts from prehistoric times. Sounion Hiron – Sanctuary of Sounion is first mentioned in the Odyssey, as the place where Menelaos Onetorides Phrontes is buried, on his return from Troy. Poseidon’s Temple had 34 columns, 15 of which are standing today. On one of them, Byron has etched his name.
Temple of Hephaistos or Hephaisteion, and Thesseion erroneously called, was dedicated to the gods of crafts, blacksmith Hephaistos and Athena Ergane. The name comes from Thesseion falsely assume that the temple houses the remains of the hero Theseus, to the island of Skyros by Kimon, in 475 BC. Doric-style temple is one of the best preserved, being rescued by transformation in the Christian church – the seventh century until 1834 was Akamates St. George Orthodox Church. Temple columns are number of 6 X 13 and, although the same age, are much smaller than those of the Parthenon.
Hephaistos temple’s construction began in 449 and was completed in 415 BC, the building was designed by the architect of the Parthenon: Ictinus. Except for the lower step is limestone and marble more expensive decorative carvings, the temple was built of marble Penteli. The temple has 13 708 m from north to south and 31 776 m from east to west.
Dionysus Theatre is located on the southern slope of the Acropolis, dating from the fourth century BC and served for the staging of tragedies written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the comedy of Aristofanes. The Theatre accommodates 17,000 spectators in 64 rows of seats, of which only 20 have survived. Most spectators sat on the seats of limestone, only important people with 67 reserved marble thrones.
Dionysus Theatre is the oldest part of the architectural complex – Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theater of Dionysus and Eumenes’s Stoa – discovered on the southern slopes of the Acropolis. The importance comes from the fact that this theater was built when the tragedy was introduced in Athens. The first play was represented in 534 BC; Dionysus Theater became the birthplace of it in Europe.
Panathinaiko Stadium, Panathenaic or of all Athenians, was originally just a field naturally scooped between Agra and Ardettos hills, then the stadium was transformed by Lykourgos, in 330-329 BC. Between 140 and 144 Herodes Atticus restored the Stadium, giving it a horseshoe shape; it was discovered in 1870. The stadium has a track length of 204.07 meters and width of 33.35 m. Panathinaiko or Panathenaic, was rebuilt in 1896 for the first modern edition of the Olympic Games.
The only Greek contemporary art museum, Frissiras Museum was inaugurated in November 2000 by President Constantine Stefanopoulos, the Plaka district, in two buildings adjacent in neo-classical style. The museum collections are divided into paintings, drawings, sculptures and engravings belonging to major European artists, in “dialogue” with their counterparts in Greece.
The more than 3,000 works belong to artists like Hockney, Auerbach, Blake, Rustin, Pat Andrea, Dado, Segue, Rego, Velickovic, Arroyo, Adami, Diamantopoulos, Moralis, Theofylaktopoulos, Botsoglou, Dikos Vyzantios, Christoforou and young Kirby, Howson, Corpet, Martinelli, Smith, Pasieka, Marrey, Schauwecker, Lappas, Missouras, Manzavinos, Sacaillian, Daskaliakis, Bitsikas.
The Sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron was one of the most important sanctuaries in Attica and is believed that it was a religious center in Mycenae. Now they have left a temple, a Stoa and a bridge dating from the V – IV BC. According to legend, the temple priest’s wife was the daughter of Agamemnon, Ifigenia. Arkteia sanctuary was famous for a ritual by which young girls from different families participates in an Athenian ritual in the temple to propitiate the goddess Artemis.
Zappeion Exhibition Hall, Zappio or Zapio, was founded by the Greeks and Constantinos Evangelis Zappas born in Romania. The building is in the midst of the National Gardens, Athens Stadium and incorporates special features of neo-classical architecture. The Propylees were built in 437-432 BC threefold as the Acropolis entrance gate. The core of the building is a lobby whose wall had five gates previously.
To the west is a deep porch door with a 2 X 3 plant dominated by Doric columns. Near the gates are several structures, including the Pinacoteca. Since the thirteenth century, the propylee served as a residence for kings and soldiers, as well as defensive fortifications, for which suffered more damage. Piazza Omónias Plateia Harmony is made of square and surrounding streets; this area is one of the busiest in Athens – traffic, commerce and tourism.
In the middle is a fountain, and around buildings of major banks and institutions. The main attraction of this area is the National Archeological Museum, but you can also visit the National Theater and the Pinacoteca. Omonia Square was created in the nineteenth century to create a cosmopolitan atmosphere that contrasted with the atmosphere of “male” in the Greek capital. Near the square is the Exarcheia district dominated by the Polytechnic.11