Visiting Athens

Athens is the capital city of Greece, a Mediterranean country which has much to offer the visitor from anywhere around the globe. There is history to be learned about here through trips to the landmarks that have been preserved in the area over the centuries. There is natural beauty to experience in the landscape surrounding the major city. And there is modern activity including entertainment, dining and shopping that can be enjoyed throughout the city. The smart traveler will want to make sure to create an Athens itinerary that includes the best of both historic and modern attractions in the area as well as the best of urban and natural activities. This will provide a complete view of what Athens is like and really give you something to remember even after you’ve returned home.

Where to stay: There are many different types of accommodations to choose from. Here are some of the top places that you might choose to stay at during a trip to the area.

Cecil Hotel. There is a part of Athens called Old Athens where you can immerse yourself in historic charm. If this appeals to you then you might want to stay in this well-known hotel in that area of the city.
Adams Hotel. Although it says hotel in the name, this is basically a bed-and-breakfast. It’s a family run place where you can essentially live with a modern Greek family who will pamper you in proper style. This one is great for honeymooners in Athens.
Grand Bretagne Hotel. If you’re looking to spend your time in a five-star luxury hotel that still manages to have historic charm, this is the one for you.

Historic Athens: You will want to make sure that you take the time to seek out several of the different historic landmarks that are available for you to see in Athens. This is a city which has been the center of much history and that should be honored and explored while you are visiting Greece.

Acropolis. This historic location is probably the most famous landmark in Athens and tops the lists for famous historic landmarks all throughout the world. The Parthenon is the major building that you’ll want to see here. It was built in the BC era to honor the goddess Athena.
Ancient Agora. This is an archaeological park that was the market center of Athens at the turn of the twentieth century. It is home to numerous historic buildings and landmarks sites.
Hadrian’s Arch. People who go to Athens often make sure to check out this impressive marble city gate.
Parliament Building. Most of the historic landmarks that you will see in Athens are really ancient, dating back to the days of the Greek gods. Here’s one that’s not quite so old and represents the political history of the area in the nineteenth century.
Temple of Olympian Zeus. If you don’t know anything at all about Greece, you know that the basics of Greek mythology including the ancient worship of the God Zeus. Come see what that was all about at this historic landmark that is over 1500 years old.
Theatre of Dionysos. Back in the BC era, the people of Greece were known for their hedonistic enjoyment of life. This included the Dionysian Festival which was basically a big celebration of merriment. It took place here in an area that is preserved for visitors to enjoy today.

Modern Athens: In addition to the historic attractions in the area, there are some modern attractions that you’ll want to see in Athens.

2004 Summer Olympics. Athens was home to the summer Olympics in 2004 and that caused the city to make a big push into modern attractions. Many venues were constructed specifically for the event and much of the area’s public transportation and public spaces were modernized. The Athens Olympic Sports Complex is the main building to see if this part of the city’s recent history interests you but there are many other venues that participated in the event as well.
Constitution Square. This is basically the city square where you can find modern life happening in Athens today.
National Archaeological Museum. This is an attraction that’s modern but it reveals the history of the area. It is considered one of the top museums in the world so you’ll want to check it out if at all possible during your stay in Athens.
Night tour. Athens is known for having a beautiful city view at night when all of the buildings in the urban area are lit up. Consider booking a local tour to see the area during the evening hours.
The Plaka. This is actually a historic neighborhood around the Acropolis but it is considered a modern part of Athens because it’s such a tourist-oriented area. It is here where you will go to pick up your Greece keychains and other cheesy souvenirs.

Natural Athens: In addition to the attractions and historic landmarks that you will be seeing during your stay in Athens, you are going to want to try to see some of the natural beauty surrounding the area as well. Here are some top spot for walking, hiking and checking out the views:

Beaches of the Aegean Sea. Enjoy the warm water Mediterranean beaches of this area while you are in Athens. You can also go sailing here.
Lycabettus Hill. This is a wooded area that you can climb (or cable car) to the top of in order to get a view of the entire city of Athens.
Mount Parnitha. This forested mountain range is home to a national park where you can enjoy numerous outdoor activities and the scenic beauty of Greece. There are trails for hiking and biking at all different skill levels.

Where to eat: Whether you’re jaunting through the historic landmarks or visiting the urban areas of Athens, you’re going to get hungry during your trek through the city. Make sure that you enjoy some of the best restaurants in the area while you are there.

Balthazar. If you want to go celebrity hunting at one of the finest restaurants in Athens, this is the place. You’d better have packed your black tie.
Puerta de Espana. This place combines Spanish and Greek flavors to create unique dishes that you probably can’t find anywhere else in the world.
Ideal. This is a hip, historic restaurant where people go to get the Greek equivalent of “comfort food”. If you want to be fed a home-cooked Greek meal, this is your place.
Tavernas. That isn’t the name of a restaurant, it’s a word referring to a certain kind of restaurant and it’s a restaurant that you should try once during your stay. It’s essentially the Greek equivalent of a tapas bar; it’s open late and has small-plate meals for you to enjoy. It’s a great way to try a lot of Greek cuisine without spending a fortune.

Greece is a beautiful country offering a lot to experience. Book the right accommodations, find some great restaurants and make your way through the modern and historic attractions throughout the city. Take lots of pictures!

Creative Commons License Photo credit: Chris Fleming