Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, and next to Rome there are no cities with so much documented history. Athens was the world’s center of education and philosophy, and the hometown of thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, Archimedes and Pericles, and the city is considered the birthplace of democracy.
Although Athens has grown to become a large and polluted metropolis with approx. three million inhabitants, it is still compulsory for a serious tourist to visit this once-powerful city state, which is now again showing itself in European cultural life. In summer, it can get uncomfortably hot in Athens, so visit the ‘City of Fathers’, as Athens is often called, in the spring or fall. Another advantage of these seasons is that there are fewer tourists there then.
Athens is a great starting point for both island hopping in Greece or an exciting metropolitan weekend with good food and countless attractions.
Get to know Athens
Athens is the capital of Greece and the country’s supremely largest city. About half of all Greeks live in or around the city. Athens is located to the south of the country on the Mediterranean coast, and surrounded by mountains on three sides.
Greece may be most associated with its ancient achievements from antiquity, but in early 2000 the country really hit the big drum again. First to shock everyone with becoming European champions in football in 2004, and the same year that Athens hosted the Summer Olympics. The last time the Athens hosted the Olympics was in 1906. Then they won the somewhat surprising Melody Grand Prix in 2005.
Unfortunately for both Greece and Athens the success cost more than it tasted. From 2010, there has been a financial crisis in the country.
The Athens area has been inhabited for around 8,000 years, and here the first Olympic Games were organized in 776 BC. Athens was a powerful city state that was still at odds with neighboring Sparta. The Golden Age of Athens as a maritime nation was 500-400 BC, and the names of philosophers and statesmen such as Socrates, Plato, Pericles and Sophocles are still remembered.
The Romans plundered Athens in 88 BC, erecting several of the largest buildings in the 100’s. The city lost its significance when it became an outskirts of the Byzantine Empire, which in turn was replaced by the Ottoman Empire and ruled from Istanbul. This is one of the reasons for the ingrained reluctance many Greeks to this day feel for Turks.
The Greek struggle for independence took place in the early 1800s, and in 1834 Athens was declared the capital of the new independent Greek state. The Greeks brought in Otho of Bavaria as king. During World War II, Greece was invaded by Germany, and in the years after the war a bitter civil war raged.
In 1967, the military seized power through a coup, suppressing the Greeks in a brutal regime for the next seven years. In 1975 Greece became a republic and adopted a new democratic constitution, and six years later it joined the EU.
Upon arrival in Athens, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the heat, traffic noise, pollution and ugly city streets. There are few parks or open spaces where you can breathe and breathe. But with a good city map it is easy to get around. Buy a weekly ticket for the dog tag, and you can use the city’s new efficient subway, trams and buses as much as you want.
- Abbreviation: ATH
- Country: Greece
Syntagma Square in Athens
Athens does not really have a clearly defined center, but the Syntagma Square ( Plateia Syntagmatos ) is well regarded as the main square in modern Athens. Here is the Greek Parliament building, which used to be a royal castle. This is also a hub for the city’s public transport, with its own metro station. Here is also the entrance to the large green park facility “National Gardens”.
Plaka and Lykavittos
From Syntagma Square you can easily reach Athens’ oldest districts, such as Plaka. This is the historic center located just below the Acropolis. Here lies the city’s oldest street, Adrianou. A maze of car-free alleyways and alleys meanders between tavernas, small shops, bars and restaurants. This is naturally the tourists’ favorite area, and for that reason it is teeming with souvenir shops and tourist menu at the eateries.
Athens’ highest point is Lykavittos, (also called Lycabettus ) located east of the Plaka area. At the top, 270 meters above sea level, there is a restaurant where you can have a drink, while all of Athens is at your feet with a 360 degree panorama. On a clear day you look all the way to Piraeus. The slickest ones can go up the very steep hill and zigzag stairs to the top, the smaller ones can take the gondola track from Ploutharou.
Between Lykavittos and the National Gardens lies the fashionable district of Kolonaki, a prosperous area known for its shopping streets, museums and galleries. Here you come to shop for fashion clothes and jewelry, especially in the street Voukourestiou. In Kolonaki you will find the Byzantine Museum, the War Museum and the Art Museums of Benaki and Goulandris ( Museum of Cycladic Art ).
Monastiraki and Psirri
North-west of Plaka lies Monastiraki, which is perhaps best known for its large flea market, or antique market, Agora. If you are going to buy sovereigns in Athens, you will certainly find it cheaper in one of Monastiraki’s base stores than in the much more touristy Plaka.
West of Monastiraki again you have Psirri, which is a relatively uninteresting neighborhood during the day as seen from a tourist’s point of view. But it is definitely worth coming here in the evening as it changes to one of Athens’ trendiest nightlife areas. Feel free to take a roundabout in the Anargyron pedestrian street, along with Athens’ locals.
Athens’ downtown areas are sprinkled with several high hilltops, and the most famous of these is of course the Acropolis, located at a height of 150 meters in the middle of the city. This was the centerpiece of Ancient Athens, the very fortress that ravaged the city.
Centrally located in the Acropolis lies the famous Temple Parthenon, built 500 BC in honor of the goddess Athena, after which the city is named. Here you can also see the remains of Dionysos Theater, and the Erechteum Temple.
Facts about Athens
Athens (or Athens if you will) is the largest city in Greece and the country’s capital and political center of power. Athens has a long history and is part of the cradle of Europe.
|Population||About. 750,000 inhabitants within city limits, 3.3 million with suburbs. There are also some unregistered people living in and near Athens.|
|Time Difference||Greece is one hour ahead of Norway.|
|Currency||Euro. Most credit cards (Visa, Mastercard Diners, AmEx) are accepted in most places. ATMs are available almost everywhere.|
|Tips||Here it is normal to round up the amount, although tips are often included in the restaurant. At smaller tavernas / restaurants you can find in Greece that the host is down – if he thinks you are a nice customer !!|
|Embassy||The Norwegian Embassy is located at Vas Sophias Avenue 23 and has a telephone +30 21 0724 6173. www.norway.gr|
|Tourist||At the airport, or Tsocha 7|
|Emergency||171 (Tourist Police), 166 (Ambulance), 199 (Fire)|
|Holidays and Holidays||January 6, Ash Wednesday or Kathari Deftera (introduction to the fast), March 25 (release day), May 1, August 15, October 28.|
|Visa||Not required for Norwegians.|
|Vaccinations||No vaccines are required.|
|Water||Tap water is considered safe to drink, but can taste chlorine.|
|Nearest major cities||Piraeus, Corinth, Lamia|
|Safety||Slightly violent crime, but pay attention to pickpockets and scammers, especially in the Omonia area.|
List of Athens Acronyms
The most commonly used abbreviations about Athens is ATH which stands for Athens. In the following table, you can see all acronyms related to Athens, including abbreviations for airport, city, school, port, government, and etc.