The Acropolis is one of the world’s most beautiful and important ancient sites, the soul of the city that gave birth to western consciousness, and from which developed modern western philosophy, democracy,science and art. Central Athens also has many other archaeological sites and outstanding museums – don’t miss it! Athens is a magnificent city to visit – but plan carefully, if you don’t your stay can easily become unnecessarily difficult and uncomfortable, some suggestions are below.
Where to stay
The total population of Greece is 11 million, and nearly 4 million of those live in metropolitan Athens. It’s mostly a sprawling modern city often immersed in a haze of pollution from the heavily congested traffic under a ferociously hot sun in the height of summer. Fortunately many of the sites and museums are located in the central area, reducing the need to travel far providing you choose a hotel close to the places you want to visit. For most this means close to the Acropolis, which is one of the pleasantest areas of Athens to stay anyway.
Hotels around Omonia square are often cheaper but used to be an option for people on a tight budget. These days it’s not a safe area to stay in, don’t be tempted by the cheap hotel rates on offer. This is the nightlife area of Athens, noisy 24 hours a day and always polluted from the dense traffic.
If you stay further out you’ll need to consider how you’ll get to and from your hotel to the central area and sites.
The austerity measures of the past 5 years have affected Athens greatly, there are high levels of homelessness and unemployment with the inevitable result that areas that were once safe to walk in need to be approached with more caution and there is a big problem now with pick-pockets on the buses and metro, especially on routes which are likely to have tourists on board. Take the same precautions you would in any large American city or Rome.
Best times to visit the sites
Our travel advice page has information on temperatures, planning your day, what to wear etc
Places to visit (follow links for more information)
The Acropolis was and is the spiritual heart of Athens, dominated by the temple of Athena Parthenos – the Virgin Athena – known these days as the Parthenon. Wikipedia
New Acropolis Museum The museum opened in 2009, still without the original Parthenon friezes which remain in the British Museum. Acropolis Museum website
The Theatre of Dionysios. There are other more imposing theatres in Greece but this is where the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophenes were originally performed.
The Agora was both a place of public assembly and a Marketplace. It was here that the citizens of Athens first came to vote for or against proposals for governing the city; attending was considered an obligation. Although the remains generally are no more than foundations the Temple of Hephaistos is in an excellent state of preservation and the site is unique record of city life in ancient Athens. Wikipedia
The National Archaeological Museum has a vast and rich collection of antiquities from Neolithic pottery to huge classical statues Athens survival guide
The Cycladic Museum has an outstanding collection of Cycladic art, some of the beautiful and haunting marble figurines are 5,000 years old . Cycladic Museum
Where to eat
The Plaka is an area full of restaurants, busy all year but heaving with the influx of tourists in the summer months. The restaurants specialise in Souvlaki, Gyros and grilled meats but have a full range of traditional Greek food.
There are more pleasant outdoor restaurants among the small lanes on the slopes of the Acropolis above the Plaka if you can take the trouble to search them out after a hot day trekking round sites and museums.