Athens is Greece’s most popular destination and a symbol of Greece past and present. It played host just a few years ago to the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens’ history spans more than two thousand years and today it is home to more than one-third of the country’s residents. Its heyday dates back to the 5th century BC in the days of Pericles at the height of the city’s architectural, cultural and intellectual accomplishments. Athens has since been subject to thousands of years of occupation and rule by the Romans, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Since its independence from Turkey in 1834, Athens has modernized significantly into a gridlocked and polluted metropolis. The marvels of Classical Athens are unfortunately surrounded today by the unsightly scenery found in other urban centers. But Athens is still a must for any visit to the Grecian homeland. The city not only offers landmark ancient sites, monuments and world-renowned museums, but also quaint neighborhoods lined with great restaurants, cafes, tavernas, markets, touristy beaches, open-air concerts and plays, as well as a wild nightlife scene that will leave you panting for more.
The most famous sites of Athens no doubt include the Acropolis, the ancient fortified town of Athens that sits atop a flat-topped rock that rises more than 500 feet above sea level. The Acropolis is also where the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the Greek Goddess Athena, is located. The Temple of Poseidon, just outside Athens, is another famous Athenian monument and was built as a dedication to this Greek sea god. There are many other neoclassical buildings that can be found in various district or areas in Athens, including in Plaka, Anafiotika, Monastiraki, and Thiseio. Plaka is an interesting 19th century quarter where you’ll find Turkish, Greek-Island, and Neoclassical architecture as well as a labyrinth of streets, restaurants, tavernas, cafes, shops, churches and little museums dedicated to traditional art, music, and ceramics.
Athens is also where you’ll find the world-famous National Archaeological Museum, which has a collection of the world’s finest Greek antiquities. In its collection lists the famous Mask of Agamemnon, a gold mask believed to be the mask of the Greek leader Agamemnon from Homer’s Iliad.
For some shopping, the Bazaar is worth checking out. It is a popular market in Athens that is lined with markets and small shops. To get in on the nightlife, the Psyrrí is the place to be. At night, the Psyrrí’s bars, restaurants, and cafes are packed. The Gázi and the Exhária quarters are other places you could go as alternatives to the Psyrrí.
The best time to visit Athens might just be in the summer when you can catch open-air concerts and plays as well as summer festivals like the Herodes Atticus Theatre, an annual venue of classical music concerts, and dance and theatrical performances.