Athens Syntagma Square – Athens City Center

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The heart of present day Athens is fashionable Plateia Syntagmatos which lies below the imposing mass of the Old Royal Palace. Plateia Syntagmatos, which translated means Constitution Square, commemorates the constitution granted by Othon I in a proclamation from the balcony of the Palace on the night of 3rd September 1843.

The OLD ROYAL PALACE, which since 1935 has housed the Parliament, was designed as the residence of King Othon, at his own and his father’s expense, by the Bavarian architect Friedrich Garther and built between 1834 and 1842.

At the foot of the west facade of the Old Palace is a large square bounded on three sides by walls on which, in evocation of the ancient custom of hanging the victor’s shield in the temple, are set bronze shields flanked by the names of the many victories won by Hellenic arms since National Independence. Built into the center of the retaining wall is the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, a relief impressive in its simplicity, which depicts a dying hoplite. This work is by the sculptors Constantinos Demetriades (1881-1943) and Phokion Rok (1886-1942), and was unveiled on 25th March (National Independence Day) 1932.

South of Plateia Syntagmatos lies Leophoros Amalias, which is so called after King Othon’s consort, who, with the horticulturist Friedrich Schmiedt, created the delectable retreat adjoining the Old Royal Palace that we know today as the NATIONAL GARDEN. The National Garden is open daily from sunrise to sunset and the shade of its multitudinous trees provides a cool and peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.

On the east side of the Garden are the busts of Capodistrias and Jean-Gabriel Eynard, a great Swiss philhellene who donated large sums of money to the cause of Greek Independence. Both these busts are the work of the famous Pelopennesian loannis Kossos. Other busts in the National Garden are those of three leading Greek poets of the 19th century: Dionysius Solomos of Zante, who is considered the national poet; Aristotle Valaoritis, also a native of the Ionian Islands, and Jean Moreas, which was the nom-de-plume of loannis Papadiamantopoulos, an Athenian who lived the greater part of his life in Paris.

Contiguous to the National Garden is a large public park called ZAPPEION after the brothers Evangelos and Constantinos Zappas of Epirus, who donated it with its splendid exhibition hall to the Nation. On either side of the entrance to the exhibition hall stand statues of the donors, that of Evangelos by loannis Kossos; that of Constantinos by Georgios Vroutos. Among the many pieces of statuary by famous sculptors is the bust of loannis Varvakis by the master Leonidas Drossis. Varvakis is best known as the founder of the renowned boys’ school, the Lykeion Varvakeion, for the endowment of which he bequeathed his huge fortune. Other busts include those of Constantinos Paparrighopoulos, the greatest historian of Modern Greece, of Stephan Dragoumis, the most prominent political personality during the Macedonian struggle (1903-1909), and of George Souris, the leading satirical poet of his times.

A short distance from Plateia Syntagmatos, on the right of Odhos Panepistimiou, we come to a Renaissance edifice of Italian inspiration. This is the NUMISMATIC MUSEUM, which contains a rich collection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins, cameos and seal-stones. Built by the noted architect Erst Ziller in 1878, it was the private residence of the illustrious archaeologist Henry Schliemann.

Still keeping on the right-hand side we come to a five-storeyed building situated at the corner of this street and Odhos Omirou. Here are the premises of the ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, built entirely in marble. The classical motif of the magnificent bronze door with its richly painted and gilded surround and the ceiling coffered in a delicate blue and gold deserve the greatest admiration. Besides creating the first National Archaeological Museum the Society, which was founded in 1837, has excavated sites all over the country.

Immediately after the Archaeological Society’s premises stands the ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL. As the Latin inscription shows, the cathedral was begun in 1853, completed in 1887, and dedicated to St. Dionysius Areopagite. It is a three-naved basilica designed by Leo von Klenze (1784-1864), Bavarian Court architect and master-plan ner of modern Athens, and built under the direction of Lysander Kaftanzoglou (1811-1885), the outstanding Greek architect of the period.

Adjoining this edifice is the OPHTHALMIC HOSPITAL, a Byzantine-style construction designed by Theophil Hansen (1813-1891, the younger of two Danish brothers, both distinguished architects), in 1847, and completed by Lysander Kaftanzoglou four years later.

Just beyond the Ophthalmic Hospital is an ensemble of neo-Classical buildings: on the right the Academy, in the middle the University, and on the left the National Library. All three were gifts to the Nation from wealthy patriots; they are the most sumptuous monuments of Modern Greece.

The HELLENIC ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, a meticulously accurate reproduction of an edifice of the Classical period erected in the graceful Ionic order by Theophil Hansen at the expense of Baron Georgios Sinas, was begun in 1859 and completed in 1875.

The nine sculptured pediments and all the statues before the Academy are the work of the Athenian master Leonidas Drossis. The relief in the central pediment, which portrays The Birth of Athena, and the two gigantic statues of Apollo (right) and Athena (left) standing on tall columns, one on either side of the principal facade, are particularly impressive. The seated figures flanking the short flight of steps leading to the portico represent the philosophers Socrates (right) and Plato (left).

The portico consists of a double row of columns. The coffered ceiling is painted in bright blue and gold and the door opening into the vestibule has a surround of classical inspiration executed in brilliant color and gilding. A statue of the donor Baron Sinas stands on the right of the vestibule, while the interior of the Academy Hall is decorated with eight superb panels by the Oldenburg painter Christian Griepenkerl (1839-1916), depicting scenes from the Myth of Prometheus.

Visitors to the University will be surprised to see a statue of William Ewart Gladstone, standing on the right of the lawn surrounding the forecourt. The dedication on the plinth of this statue immortalizes the prominent part played by the great British statesman in the deliverance of Epirus and Thessaly from Turkish oppression, and their return to the Motherland in 1881.

The statues at the top of the steps leading to the entrance commemorate the great philologist Korais (1748-1833), ardent patriot and “father” of the Modern Greek literary language (right), and Capodistrias (1776-1831), first Head of State (1827-1831) and one of the major architects of modern Greece.

The UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS was founded in 1836, and was initially established in a large house which Schaubert and Cleanthes had built in Plaka (the old quarter of Athens) when they first came to Athens in 1831. This building, at the corner of Odhos Prytaneiou and Odhos Tholou, is still standing and is converted into a museum devoted to the earlier history of the University. The present University buildings were designed by Christian Hansen and the foundation stone laid by King Othon in 1839. The central building was ready for use in 1842, but owing to lack of funds, the buildings as a whole were not completed until 1850.

A colonnade with a handsome portico in Pentelic marble fronted by two Ionic columns with gilded capitals, and a coffered ceiling in blue and gold in harmony with the classical motif of a painted and gilded door surround, gives access to the interior of the main building.

On the upper part of the wall a fresco by the celebrated Austrian painter Karl Rahl (1812-1865) shows the resurgence of arts and sciences under King Othon. Statues of two national heroes, Patriarch Grigorios and the martyred poet Rhigas Pheraios, stand respectively at the right and left angles of the facade.

The NATIONAL LIBRARY, which is built of Pentelic marble on a foundation of poros, consists of a central building in the form of a Doric temple, with two wings. It was planned by Theophil Hansen in 1887 and the work executed under the supervision of Ernst Ziller, at the expense of the Valianos brothers of Cephalonia in 1901. A statue of one of these munificent benefactors, Panayis, stands outside the central building, and those of his two brothers Andreas and Maris inside the entrance hall. All three statues are the work of Georgios Bonanos.

The eminent philologist Andreas Moustoxidis on the island of Aegina formed the nucleus of the Library in 1827. The books were brought to Athens in 1833 and stored in the beautiful church of St. Eleutherius (the “Little Cathedral”). In 1842 they were removed to the first floor of the central building of the University – which had just been completed – where they remained until the National Library was inaugurated in 1903.

In recent years many fine nineteenth century buildings have been demolished and unimaginative concrete structures built on the sites, so that with the exception of the Ionian Bank of Greece on one corner of Odhos Pezmazoglou and the former buildings of the Arsakeion College for Girls (founded in 1836) on the other corner over the Doric portico, built at the expense of Apostolos Arsakis of Epirus in 1848, nothing remains of the splendid buildings that once lined both sides of this street of central Athens.

Continuing along Odhos Panepistimiou for a short distance, we turn right into Odhos Patission. A few hundred meters further down, on our right, stands a construction in the finest Pentelic marble, in which two educational institutions of University status are established: The POLYTECHNIC SCHOOL (Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Naval, Chemical and Mining Engineering, Architecture, and Topography) and the SUPERIOR SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS (Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Engraving, etc.). Two wings in the Doric order serve as propylaea to the central building of two storeys, the lower erected in the Doric order, the upper in Ionic. This edifice is the work of Lysander Kaftanzoglou, who built it between 1862 and 1880, and owes its name -METSOVION POLYTECHNEION- to the fact that the principal donors Nicholaos Stournaras, Michalis Tositsas and his widow Helen, were natives of Metsovo in Epirus.

Secret Italy – City Breaks On the Road Less Travelled

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You probably already know the top five cities of Italy: Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice and Naples. But if you’re looking for a different side of Italy, city breaks in the less visited areas may be just the ticket.

Ranging in size, these places offer a great glimpse into authentic Italian life, perhaps unlike the hurried pace and bustling crowds you’ll find in Rome, Florence or Milan. Here are five other places to consider visiting in Italy – city breaks on the road less travelled!

Turin

Also known as Torino, the home of the Fiat automobile plant and the Shroud of Turin is an interesting yet often overlooked area in Italy. City breaks in the Piedmont region can be wonderfully relaxing here, nestled between the foothills of the Alps and the Po River. It’s an excellent base to stay in between exploring the nearby hills and vineyards.

With its Baroque architecture (extending to its elegant bars and cafes), arcaded shopping promenades and smaller museums of Italy, Turin offers a relaxed ambience. You can wander around Piazza Castello and Palazzo Reale, which feature lovely fountains and are ringed by grand buildings. Then, take a walk through Il Quadrilatero – a maze of meandering back streets with wonderful markets and charming churches. You’ll also want to visit the Borgo Mediovale, a recreation of a medieval village by the river, complete with a castle.

Perugia

Umbria is one of the country’s more overlooked areas, often overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, Tuscany. But if you’re looking for an interesting place to relax without forgoing sophistication in Italy, city breaks in Perugia – Umbria’s largest city, located almost at the very centre of the country – are ideal.

A lively walled medieval hill city with historic buildings, busy squares, and modern shops, Perugia is home to a university as well as an Italian language centre catering to foreigners. From here you can also explore other Umbrian attractions such as Assisi, Spello, and Gubbio.

Brescia

For many visitors, the Lombardy region usually means Milan, but if you’re looking for something a little quieter, you may want to go east to the small city of Brescia – often overlooked in the excitement over the country’s fashion centre. Located between Lakes Garda and Iseo, Brescia is the gateway to the Valcamonica – a UNESCO site with the largest collection of prehistoric rock art in Europe. This is also the place where the annual Mille Miglia car race begins and ends. Places to see in Brescia include the castle, Roman ruins, Renaissance squares, and a medieval city centre named Piazza della Vittoria – where the famous car race starts.

Padua

Also overshadowed by a more popular neighbour, Padua is a wonderful place to spend a more laidback holiday. This small walled city located between Verona and Venice boasts Europe’s first Botanical Gardens – the Orto Botanico – and is also the home of many frescoes by Giotto.

Lecce

Because of its wealth of Baroque monuments, Lecce is often called the Florence of the south. For those visiting southern Puglia, making Lecce your base offers the advantage of a mild climate, accommodations that is inexpensive compared to other cities, and a -charmingly compact city centre.

There’s definitely more to see than the top four big cities in Italy; the less-visited areas will definitely give you a more complete view of the country in all its beauty.

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A Guide to Athens City

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Why go to  Athens 

 Athens , the capital of Greece, is often referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization. Despite the recent economic downturn, tourism in Greece continues to grow and the 2500 old  Athens   City  remains one of the main draws.

The archaeological promenade, a 2.5 miles long, treeline walkway now connects the Acropolis to the city’s major ancient sites making the visit to these places infinitely a much more pleasant experience.

While for most visitors  Athens  may be about its historical monuments the  city  has much more to offer.  Athens  promises one of the most happening nightlife options in Europe with everything on offer from the modern tavernas in the former district of Gazi to the sophisticated lounge-bars and eateries of Kolonaki.

 Athens  is well connected by Europe’s largest passenger port, Piraeus. The port serves more than one million of visitors who have the option of taking ferries, catamarans and hydrofoils to the various Greek islands. Piraeus is the gateway for short cruises around the Greek Islands and many companies stop here en route to their Mediterranean and world cruises. Visitors can disembark and explore the hilltop Acropolis, the Parthenon and Delphi.

When to go to  Athens 

 Athens  invites visitors all year round. For sightseeing, the best time to visit is during spring and autumn when the days are warm and sunny. The temperatures sore from mid-June to late August, while the whether remains unpredictable November and February ranging from bright to rainy to occasional snow.

How to reach

Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines operate direct flights from several countries. The cost of flights to Greece is highest from July and August when most Europeans take their holidays. For the rest of the year, prices vary according to demand.

Cruises

Cruise ships disembark passengers at the  city’s  port, Piraeus, which is about 8miles from  Athens   city   centre . Shuttle buses ferry passengers from the port to the city centre. Their frequency and cost depends on the cruise ship company involved. The metro (green line) also runs from Piraeus to Monastiraki, below the Acropolis and taxis are also available.

Transfers

 Athens  International Airport is about 17 miles north-east of the  city . The metro connects to Syntagma and Monastiraki in the city centre. Besides there are airport buses, operated by  Athens  Urban Transport Organisation that run to and from the  city . Taxi services are also available.

Getting around

 Athens  is best explored on foot, however, public transport system is both efficient and cheap. It includes buses, trolley buses and the metro. You can also hire a car in  Athens   city   centre . However, roads are congested and parking is difficult and expensive.

Accommodation

There are several options available including Greece villas, hotels and guesthouses. The peak months are July and August and so if you are visiting during this period, it is advisable to book accommodation in advance.

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Collecting Ancient Athenian Coins

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Coins issued by certain cities or empires took the leading role in dictating which coins were readily acceptable for trade in the Mediterranean lands. One such   city  was  Athens , which established the “Attic standard” that was to be adopted later by Alexander the Great. Silver was used to pay civil servants, soldiers and mercenaries, and it is believed that the latter is the reason that many Greek silver coins were struck in the first place. The non-Greek lands of the Near East issued large quantities of silver coins, most notably the Parthians, Sassanians and Baktrians. These coins vary in style and fabric, the thickness and purity of the planchet on which the coin was struck, and are relatively under valued compared to the more widely collected issues of Greece proper.

In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of warfare and wisdom. Later known as Minerva by the Romans, she was the goddess of not only wisdom and battle, but of certain crafts and the protector of all cities and states. At birth, according to one myth, she sprang from the forehead of Zeus, the king of the gods, fully grown and dressed in armor. Athena is usually shown wearing a helmet and a magic shield called the aegis. The goddess Athena was not only wise in war but also in the arts of peace. She supposedly invented the plow and taught men how to yoke oxen. Athena’s chief symbol was the owl and in Greek mythology, the owl is firmly linked with Athena who is usually picture with her owl perched on her shoulder. Some say that is why the owl, in modern times, associated with wisdom.

Athenian coins were used in exchange throughout the Greek world, hoards have been found as far away from  Athens  as Babylon, Afghanistan and Iran. The quantity of Athenian coins minted in last half of the fifth century BC, reflect the changed and powerful position of  Athens  in the eastern Mediterranean, from a small  city-state  defending itself on land against the onslaught of Darius at Marathon,  Athens  grew to be the  center  of an empire whose power was dependent on its control of the sea. From being a partner in and administrative head of the Delian League,  Athens  became its leader and its many  city-state  members paid  Athens  tribute.

Huge sums must have been necessary for the commercial activities of  Athens  port  city , Piraeus, construction atop the Acropolis and in the city, financing of the Athenian fleet, and perennial warfare. The money was derived not only from annual tribute received from the Delian League  city-states , but from rich silver deposits  Athens  owned and mined at Laurium, close to Cape Sunium as well. The mines provide the silver that paid for construction of the fleet that destroyed the Persians at Salamis in 479 BC.

Common to all issues of the coin are the goddess Athena, in profile on the obverse, and the owl, her constant companion, standing on the reverse, a sprig of olive leaves with a berry above its shoulder. Variations in design exist among denominations of the coin.

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Athens Concert Hall

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Usually people who visit Athens are more impressed with the antiquities and the famous monuments like the Acropolis and the Parthenon and don’t get me wrong I am impressed too… how couldn’t I be, but there are more things to Athens than people think so, theatres, cinemas, shopping malls and the Concert Hall of Athens which is not too far from the center of town and boats state-of-the-art technology and acoustics.

It was designed by a consortium of foreign and Greek consultants to correspond to the stringent demands of contemporary audiences and performers and can be considered one of the finest in the world.

Apart from the main hall Filon tis Mousikis – Friends of Music- which seats an audience of 2.000 it contains a smaller hall seating 500 people, a music library, recording studios, a restaurant and a foyer in which exhibitions of various kinds are held. It also houses an ultramodern conference centre.

The Megaro schedules concerts of all kinds from classical music of all periods to jazz and folk preformed by world class soloists, groups orchestras, operas and ballet companies throughout the year, except in summer.

It started operating in 1991 and it is an important cultural center of the whole Europe. Its superb acoustics have been acclaimed both by the public and by renowned performers of the music and art world.

The Athens Concert Hall has welcomed top class artists, music ensembles, composers, conductors and performers in an artistic trajectory that has left its mark in the country’s culture scene.

It is very easy to reach the Concert Hall of Athens since there is a metro station named after it which is only a few meters away. It is really easy to find it if you have a Metro Map. Buses and taxis are also available in the area.

As far as accommodation is concerned, there are many Concert Hall Hotels, meaning hotels close to “Megaro Mousikis” to choose from. Athens Hotels are among the best of Greece.

I went there many times for several performances and I even got the chance to see a classical concert dedicated to Antonin Dvorak, a famous musician. The Concert Hall of Athens really impressed me so I thought that I should really share this with you. Don’t miss an excellent opportunity to visit a place like this one!

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Breathtaking Historical Athens

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The history of  Athens  dates back over five millennia and one can therefore imagine the rich culture, art and civilization that it must possess. Tourists like to visit  Athens  for its range of absorbing museums, to explore ruined temples and relish the exquisite Greek cuisine.

On an  Athens  tour one must explore the splendid Parthenon, considered perhaps, to be the finest of all Greek temples. The adjoining area too has a collection of temples which can be explored. Another captivating temple is the Temple of Olympian Zeus built by the Romans.

Being an ancient  city ,  Athens  naturally is home to a number of renowned museums. You would require almost a day to view the famous collection of ancient Greek artifacts on a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. The Theatre Museum and the Numismatic Museum are worth a shot for their fascinating displays.

You will be surprised by the rich cultural life that  Athens  is proud of. You must on a visit to  Athens  see productions of ancient plays in their original settings. It is an experience by itself to explore the many shops and classy restaurants of Kolonaki. A taste of Greek coffee on the streets of Plaka will impress you. One historical site which one must not miss is ‘The Acropolis Hill’ or also called the ‘Sacred Rock’. The area is home to three important temples: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Nike in honor of the goddess Athena. These and many other  Athens  sites you can take pleasure in while enjoying the hospitality of  Athens  hotels.

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The Political Polarity That Was Athens and Sparta

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Around 800 B.C.E. the Greek populous started to coalesce into communities which were called poleis. The polis was a city state with its own governing body and typically a military. Each polis varied considerably from other poleis. A polis could have anywhere from one thousand to tens of thousands of citizens between its main urban center, and its surrounding towns and agricultural developments. The poleis of Sparta and Athens were two of the largest and most powerful city states in ancient Greece. These two poleis were also among the most competitive, mostly with each other, and influential in the ancient Greek world.

Athens was a largely agriculturally based polis in Attica, off of the Aegean Sea. It was dependent on slaves to do the manual labor of the polis, from working the fields, to working in the homes of Athenian citizens. Athens was a democratic city state whose society revolved around politics, as it was the primary day to day activity of the male citizens. Athens hosted a powerful navy which was influential on more than one occasion for fighting off Persian invasions.

Sparta is in most ways the opposite of Athens. Sparta is also heavily dependent on slaves, or ‘helots’ as they are called. Helots primarily work the land which was conquered by Sparta for agricultural production. Sparta is a highly militaristic polis, having its entire society based around warfare. For more of the antiquity of Greece than any other polis, Sparta maintained the definitive hoplite infantry force in Greece.

The attitude of both of these great poleis was vastly different. Athens was the sophisticated, innovative, and cultured democratic polis. Sparta was completely militaristic. It was traditional, simple, and straight forward. At birth newborns in Sparta were judged as being big and strong enough to become a Spartiate warrior, or a child was judged incapable, and it was left in the mountains to die. At age seven children were taken into state-run educational systems where men were trained for war. Athens young men were largely dedicated to battle, not to the degree of Sparta, but there was a large factor making up for this fact.

Pericles, an Athenian Strategos, had urged the married women of Athens to bear more children. Athens population was much greater than Spartas to begin with, and had a much larger birth rate. Spartiates were to get married between age twenty and thirty, but until age thirty, they were to remain living in the barracks. “Men living in the barracks were only permitted to meet their wives surreptitiously-a fact that may account in part for the notably low birthrate among Spartiate couples.” To compete with Athens, Sparta’s’ militarism was necessary to keep up, but they did even manage to surpass the Athenians land forces.

Both poleis had forms of government to match their respective differing attitudes which further high lights the polarism of these two city states. Spartan government is made up of two kings, of equal power, each with their own royal family and line of succession. Under them is a council of twenty-eight elders, who put issues forward for a strictly ‘yes’, or ‘no’ vote, with no discussion, by an assembly made of all Spartiate warriors over thirty. There was also five ephors, who were elected officials with the task of supervising the educational system, and to protect the traditions of Sparta. The ephors had the power to remove a king from command if necessary. If anything, the Spartan government, and society overall was primarily static, and compared to such a polis as Athens who was a quickly changing and open cosmopolitan city state, Sparta could be called stubborn.

Athens’s form of government changed from time to time, but primarily Athens was ruled by nine Archons who exercised executive power in Athens. They had one year terms, and once their term was over they were lifetime members of the Areopagus Council. The council had a large influence on the judicial matters of Athens. This council was the party responsible for electing the Archons. The political atmosphere in Athens did change considerably, because of its open and democratic nature, and more than one politician caused political reform. Politics and discussion went hand in hand. Athens also hosted some of the most well known philosophers in history, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, which were all very political thinkers.

Athens and Sparta were two fundamentally different city states functioning In the same ‘country’, which at times could have been said to not have been big enough for the two of them. With each polis striving to expand outside of Greece, as well as each trying to control the various smaller and less powerful poleis of Greece they were fierce competitors. This elicited more than one armed conflict, including the twenty-seven year long Peloponnesian war. Though on a few occasions Athens, Sparta, and various other unfriendly poleis banded together to fight invading Persians, the two poleis were both too fundamentally different, competitive, and patriotic to allow any strong unity between them beyond peace and trade treaties. They both existed as communities adapted to survive independently from other city states, and when their interests merged either it was to protect Greece itself from foreign powers, or it meant conflict as they fought over resources and other goals.

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Athens – What To See And How To See It

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There are so many aspects of current civilization that were birthed in ancient Athens. Among these are theatre, philosophy, democracy, classical art and even the Olympic games. Athens is located on the southern coast of Greece and has existed for over 7,000 years providing a rich culture expressed in a diverse setting. The term diverse fits as you will find ancient relics and sites in some of the same areas where there are trendy boutiques and sidewalk cafes all mixed in together. This mixture of the very old and the new create a very unique experience provided nowhere in the world like it is provided in the ancient city of Athens. You will need to be sure your passport is up to day so if you need to add passport pages, be sure to go online and access a passport site to help you with this so you can be on you way.

World travel requires a passport but computers have simplified all passport needs. Even if you have to get an emergency passport, an online passport is available to help you. No one plans to have their travel documents lost or stolen but if this happens, help is as close as the nearest computer.

Athens is a city that contains many sites that make history come alive so this is certainly the ideal place for lovers of history to visit. High on top of the Acropolis you will find the Parthenon. This famous sight has earned the honor of being named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Investigating these ruins takes you back to sights names in Greek Mythology related to gods and goddesses, the titans and many other mythological characters. Admission to this site also opens the Theatre of Dionysus, the Roman Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus to the traveler.

Being the birthplace of the performing arts, it is no wonder that the arts and culture are very important to the Athenians. While the National Gallery is certainly large and well known, many smaller art galleries populate the city. Athens is also host to approximately 148 theatres so if you are in the mood for a show, the difficult part will be which performance to see. Among the theatres is the famous Herodes Atticus Theatre.

Using a bike or even walking around this city is a wonderful way to see the sights. Green space is always welcome when you travel to big cities and the National Garden of Athens provides an exceptional treat. Within it can be found a small zoo, ponds with ducks, colorful flowers and beautiful landscape with no shortage of a shady tree to relax under and consider the sights of the day.

For those who would like to shop till your drop, your experience will be a little different in Athens. Rather than large malls and strip centers, you will find street vendors selling custom crafts rather than name brand items. Some of the most visited markets are found on Plaka, Kolonaki and Ermou Street. You will find endless selections of shoes, purses and jewelry if you visit here and the quality will certainly not disappoint you.

Authentic cuisine is always interesting in a foreign city and Athens is no exception to this rule. Known for their souvlaki, which is comprised of grilled meat, veggies and a special yogurt sauce, this Athenian staple is considered a treat by all who try it.

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A Change of Pace in Athens Greece

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When someone mentions a holiday in Greece, the first thing that pops up in most people’s minds is sandy beaches and sparkling clean water. With a coastline 13,676 kilometers long, there is certainly a beach to suit every taste. However, Greece is also known for its capital  city ,  Athens ; a buzzing metropolis that never sleeps. Apart from the many fine hotels that are available, there is also alternative accommodation such as studios or apartments for a more affordable stay. For the tourist who wants to experience this city up close and work up a sweat at the same time, the best way is to rent a bike.

There are many cycling enthusiasts willing to take the challenge in a foreign country. Greece has many cyclists of its own and a plethora of agencies renting bikes or offering bike tours. All you have to do is decide how you want to do it; on your own or with a group. Since  Athens , like any big metropolis, has constant traffic congestion, cycling will certainly give you the freedom you’re looking for. Once you have studied your maps, you will be ready to zip in and out of traffic and discover secrets of the city that are off the beaten track.

Right in the heart of this modern city lie the ruins of an ancient civilization. As you head towards the city centre, you cannot miss the majestic hill of the Acropolis, a world heritage site. Sitting proudly at the top of the hill, is the famous columned structure of the Parthenon, which was built in honor of the goddess Athena. The hill and surrounding area abounds with the splendid remains of the past such as the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, the Erectheion and the Agora, the marketplace of ancient  Athens . All roads and narrow alleys lead you to these proud remains and reveal the mysteries of a distant world that is set amidst a modern city.

Along the way, you will find people and places to accommodate you on your tour. There are many roads that are off limits to cars as well as wide pedestrian pathways that are bicycle-friendly. Of course, during high season, the streets are dotted with people from all walks of life who come here to see the sights and experience the culture. The cafes and many eateries overflow with tourists while the locals, most of them fluent in English, are friendly and welcoming. Various artists and musicians are also there to entertain the crowds and shops spilling over with beautiful souvenirs.

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