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Sightseeing in Athens

Sightseeing in Athens - Hotel Pythagorion

Most of modern Athens dates back only to the 19th century- so not much history there; but if you’re the kind who likes to explore, you’ve come to the right place. Athens has dozens of monuments which are just the thing for all those photographs you’ve got to take to show the folks back home. The pedestal upon which some of the most astounding landmarks are mounted is the flat topped Acropolis , which was constructed in the 5th century as a tribute to the goddess Athena (after whom the city is named).

Visible from almost every place in the city, the Acropolis is adorned and dominated by the graceful Parthenon - one of the architectural masterpieces of all time. The Parthenon has been used (and abused) by different dynasties over the years for different purposes. Turned into a swarming brothel by the Romans and revered as a mosque by the Ottomans, the Parthenon has certainly served its historical purpose- and still continues to do so.

Designed by Ictinus, this elegantly proportioned temple was completed in 438 BC and was originally colored in blue and red with a roof of pure marble. Today, the colonnaded remains are a golden-whitish hue, yet as arresting as the younger Parthenon must once have been.

A must-see exhibit tucked into one of the corners of the Acropolis is the Museum of Akropolis . The museum houses an impressive collection of Greek artifacts, including caryatids (statues of traditional Greek priestesses) and other treasures. The Ancient Theatre of Dionysos , where every Athenian citizen took his turn in the chorus of Greek tragedies, is on the southern slope of the Acropolis. Also on the slope below the Parthenon is the Temple of Hephaistos , a solid structure which lacks much of the beauty of the Parthenon itself.

Cluttered around the hillock are the Propylaia , the majestic entrance to the Parthenon, the Naos Athenas Niki - the Temple of Athena Nike - and the Erechtheion , the tomb of Erectheos, who ruled Athens.

Once you’ve done the mandatory round of the Parthenon and its surrounding monuments, head for some of the lesser known but equally fascinating archaeological ruins at the National Archaelogical Museum or the Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art , which holds a collection spanning 5000 years.

Other major museums in the city include the Byzantine Museum, the Athens City Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Greek Folk Art Museum.

If you want to get a taste of 19th century Athens as it was before modernity descended upon it, go to the Plaka in the Old City - a beautiful quarter with colorful walkways and some of the surviving neoclassical structures that once adorned the heart of the city. Among the best monuments in the Plaka are a 19th centuries Demotic School, as well as a house which played host to Bavaria’s King Ludwig, the lunatic ruler who visited Athens in the early 19th century. The Plaka’s nightlife is legendary, and you may well find yourself spending more time here than you catered for. Another major hangout for tourists, who just like to stroll along and take in the local air, is the other really formidable hill in the city – the Likavitos . The best time to get a view of the city from here would be at sunset.

At the heart of Athens is Constitution Square, near which are the Parliament buildings as well as several museums. From the top of the Parliament, you can view the daily changing of the guard- an impressive ceremony.

These are Athens’ main sights- the `must-sees’; but tucked away in the smaller streets, amidst modern buildings, are a huge number of Byzantine churches, shrines, parks and gardens- great places to get a feel of some of Athens’ lesser known treasures.

General info about Athens

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Athens(Greek: Αθήνα,Athína), is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 4.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization.

Districts

The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Ymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills [the seven historical are: Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill), Pnyx, Lycabettus, Tourkovounia (Anchesmus)], the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens' boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly intoPiraeus, the city's ancient (and still bustling) port.

Satellite view of greater Athens (looking northeast with Mt Ymettos on the right, Mt Parnitha in left background, and Piraeus Port in the foreground)

Places of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos). This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki and Thissio to the west, Kolonaki to the northeast and Omonia to the northwest.

  • The Acropolis — the ancient "high city" of Athens, crowned by marble temples sacred to the city's goddess Athena.
  • Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio — Charming historic districts at the foot of the Acropolis, with restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city's Roman era.
  • Kolonaki — Upscale residential area northeast of Syntagma with many cafes, boutiques and galleries.
  • Metaxourgeio — The district of Metaxourgeio, located northwest of Psiri, has become a bohemian enclave as well as a haven for art and culture. As part of the area's continual transformation, the principal gallery of the city, The Municipal Gallery, was relocated in October 2010 to Avdi Square, which is the main square of the area. Avdi Square is a large, public space that is well suited to artistic expression of all kinds.
  • Omonia and Exarheia — Formerly seedy district, north of Psiri, somewhat revitalized by the metro, it is now home to Greece's students, anarchists and the celebrated National Archeaological Museum.
  • Pangrati and Mets — These adjoining pleasant residential neighborhoods south of Lycabettos and east of the National Garden are rarely frequented by tourists, but they do include a few hotels and a number of good traditional tavernas.
  • Psiri — Former industrial district located north of Monastiraki, now full of trendy and alternative restaurants, cafés, bars, small luxury hotels and shops.
  • Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos) — Dominated by the old Royal Palace, Syntagma Square is the business district of Athens, complete with major hotels, banks, restaurants and airline offices.
  • Kifissia — Suburb at the northern terminus of Line 1 (Green), known for its high-end shopping.
  • Nea Smyrni — Suburb about 5 km south of downtown Athens, known as a modern European district.
  • Piraeus — The ancient port six miles southwest of Athens, Piraeus is known today as an independent, heavily industrial municipality, whose modern-day port serves almost all of Attica's ferry connections to Crete and the Aegean Islands.
  • Zografou — Suburb 5 km east of downtown Athens on the slopes of Imitos, known for the many university (NTUA) buildings and several quirky bars and taverns sprinkled about.

Eating Out in Athens

Eating Out in Athens - Hotel Puthagorion

As in the rest of Greece, in Athens too, you’re unlikely to have trouble finding a place to eat. The city’s streets swarm with ouzeries, tavernas, plush restaurants, bars and what not- serving everything from authentic Greek food to pizzas, burgers, pastas and whatever else you might care to sample. Traditional dishes like souvlaki, dolmades, tzatziki and moussaka are ubiquitous on local menus, and are usually good. Foodies are going to like Athens, but beware: too many tourists have complained that waiters in Athens have a tendency of getting you food you haven’t ordered- and then charging you for it. If you get something you didn’t order, don’t presume it’s a freebie.

Athenians like to party and the nightlife here is vibrant. Down every other lane is a bar, a dance club, or even a taverna where a rembetika band performs. Rock, jazz, pop, techno and blues are popular; foreign bands and accomplished DJs often perform. Casinos and strip clubs too exist in some parts of the city. Plaka and Kolonaki Square are among the most happening parts of Athens when it comes to nightlife. Athens also has plenty to offer those who prefer cultural performances; ancient Greek theatre, classical music, opera, ballet and folk dances are staged at venues like the Olympia Theatre, the Megaron Mousikis Concert Hall, the Athens Centre and the Dora Stratou Folk Dance Theatre’s venue on Filopappos Hill. In addition, Sound & Light shows explaining the history of the city are held regularly at the Acropolis. Details of events in Athens can be obtained from the EOT’s head office.

Shopping in Athens

Shopping in Athens

Athens’ stores sell some exquisite antiques and are generally reputed. Statuettes, glassware, ceramics and the like are great buys, but watch out for fakes- there are plenty of them floating around. Also keep in mind that you need the government’s approval to export antiques from the Byzantine and Hellenic ages.

Some lively and colourful flea markets include Ifestou and the Sunday Morning Flea Markets , where you can pick up anything from an interesting old icon to worry beads. Monastiraki and the Old City are, similarly, great for picking up some good bargains. Upmarket boutiques and lifestyle stores crowd Kolonaki , literally a byword for fashion in Athens. For handicrafts, check out the wares at the Centre of Hellenic Tradition or the authentic and reasonably priced Amorgos situated in Plaka. Other good buys in Athens are leather ware, glass, and jewelry. Jewelry, in gold or silver, is especially recommended-prices in Greece are lower than in the rest of Europe and the quality is world class. Bargaining can help you get a good deal sometimes in flea markets and the like, but prices in most shops are clearly marked and non-negotiable.

Places Near Athens

The region around Athens- known as the Prefecture of Attica- is known primarily for the fine grapes which are grown in its vineyards. At one time a major producer of honey, olives, grain- even marble and silver- Attica today is an interesting getaway from the heat and dust of the crowded capital.

One of the sights closest to Athens is the Monastery of Daphni, regarded as the best example of Byzantine architecture in the vicinity of Athens. Built on the site of what had once been a temple to the ancient Greek goddess Daphne, the monastery came into being when the Byzantine rulers of Athens banned pagan religions. A sanctuary for Greek revolutionaries during the early 19th century, the monastery is today best known for its beautiful mosaics. Further west from Daphni are the ancient ruins of Eleusis, once an important fortification which later became the epicentre of the cult of Demeter, a religion which was based on the worship of nature. The Sanctuary of Demeter and its surrounding ruins are worth a visit, and many of the archaeological finds from the area are housed in the nearby Museum of Eleusis.

To the south of Athens, on a wooded hill above cypress-fringed pastures, is another of Byzantine Greece’s important monasteries: the Monastery of Kaisariani .

This building, constructed in the 11th century over the ruins of an ancient Roman temple, still contains some remnants of its precursor. The monastery saw a period of prosperity during medieval times, when it was the cultural centre of Attica; today all that remains of the wealth is the building itself- a beautiful and quiet one, its interior decorated with splendid murals.

Much further a field, 42 km north-east of Athens, is probably one of the best-known sights in this area: Marathon . Mararthon’s claim to fame is its role as a battlefield for the Greek-Persian battle of 490 BC. But most people today- even if they don’t have a passing acquaintance with Greek history- known of a marathon as being a grueling race. All because of an Athenian soldier, Pheidippides, who ran all the way from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians. Marathon, still the starting point for an annual race to Athens, is one of Attica’s prettiest towns. The drive from Athens to Marathon passes olive groves, vineyards, pine woods and beaches; at Marathon itself is a small but interesting museum and a handful of ruins. Twelve km further north of Marathon is Ramnous , the site of two ancient temples to the Greek goddesses of Justice- Nemesis and Themis. Not much remains of the temples or the fortress which once was Ramnous’ main building, but the place is worth seeing anyway.

Across the Greek peninsula, east of Athens, is the archaeological site of Brauron (also known as Vravron). Established sometime in the 2nd millennium BC, Vravron has the distinction of being one of the oldest sanctuaries in mainland Greece. A series of Doric temples and shrines to the goddess Artemis mark the spot, and important artefacts recovered from the site are housed in the nearby Archaeological Museum. South of Brauron, on the southernmost tip of the Greek peninsula, is the Sanctuary of Poseidon and Athena at Sounion . A series of imposing Doric temples, of which only some ruins still stand, is the main sight in Sounion. Also parts of Sounion are the remains of a 5th century BC fortress, where excavations have revealed a central street, houses and water cisterns.

From Athens, there are regular buses to all these sights. Alternatively, you could hire a car and do your own touring.

About Pythagorion Hotel

Best Western Pythagorion hotel is a contemporary city hotel located in the historic centre of Athens next to the Neoclassic bulding of National Theater.

It is conveniently situated within a walking distance from Plaka and Monastiraki ,Greek Parliament on Constitution Square, the National Archaeological Museum and the National Library.

Thank to its downtown location , 200 meters from the metro station of Omonia and easily connected to Athens International Airport ΄΄El. Venizelos’’ and to all directions in Athens like the New Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon , Best Western Pythagorion is the idyllic choice for those who travel for business or leisure purposes.

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Pythagorion Hotel
28 Agiou Konstandinou Street,
Athens, Greece,GR-10437
MHTE: 0206K013A0029000

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