Visiting Athens is rewarding on many different levels, but you have to know your history. Athens, the capital of Greece, is one of the premier destinations throughout the world and quite possibly the most storied city in all of Europe.
Sitting at the basin of two intersecting mountain ranges and perched just a few kilometers from the Aegean Sea, this modern-day metropolis is home to year-round beautiful weather, ancient monuments, and a past that includes the origins of Western civilization and some of the most influential people in history.
Greece’s official capital, Athens, has been inhabited continuously for 7,000 years and has been a celebrated travel destination since its genesis.
Creating a better atmosphere
By the late 1970s, Athens had over-exerted itself. The combination of pollutant-spewing vehicles and businesses combined with the geographical realities of the city’s location – being essentially located in a valley surrounded by mountains – made the smog clouds that filled the city every day almost unbearable.
Over the next 10 years, Athens’ government put in place two main regulations that ultimately led to a significant reduction in the city’s pollution problems.
First, they banned diesel consuming vehicles inside of city limits.
Then, in the early 1990s, the city took considerable steps towards improving car emissions.
The games that started here came back with a kick
After one more giant boon to the local economy – the 2004 Olympic Games – Athens was back on top as a high-tech, high-speed, modern European city.
In preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games (the first time the city had hosted the games since the very first Olympic Games in 1896), over 7 billion euros is estimated to have been spent on various necessities, including building a brand new, state of the art airport, the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, a new sports stadium, high-speed light rail, and freeway improvements.
This made for a highly successful Olympic Games, and after the games ended, Athens was left with a brand new destination; one with the infrastructure accommodations of a large cosmopolitan city.
This was a major improvement for the residents and a huge incentive for travelers wishing to explore the city comfortably.
Today’s travelers have a lot to explore
Today, Athens has a large tourism industry, and many of the city’s ancient and modern landmarks see over a million visitors per year.
The city features architecture from thousands of years of rule by different civilizations, including ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine monuments throughout the city.
Perhaps the most famous monument of them all is the Parthenon, a must-see on any exploration of the city.
This structure was built around 438BC and was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, who – according to Greek mythology – outbid the Greek god, Poseidon, to be the city’s patron.
According to the myth, Athena won-over the citizens of Athens by extending an olive branch, which symbolized peace and prosperity.
Because of this, the Parthenon is also the symbol of Greek democracy. A tour in Acropolis is a must! Check this Acropolis small group guided tour as it is combined with a skip the line ticket, and it is one of the best out there.
Another popular ancient monument to visit in Athens is the Theatre of Dionysus.
This monument, just like the Parthenon, is located on the Acropolis of Athens, one of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the city.
The Theatre of Dionysus was built around 600BC and used to host music, feasting, and fighting, centering around the Festival of Dionysia of Athens.
You’ll dig what they’ve dug up
Athens is one of the most important and active cities in the world for archeology research and is home to some of the most important museums in Europe centered on archeology.
The most prestigious of these museums is the National Archeology Museum.
Here, you can see the world’s largest collection of sculptures, metalwork, and other pieces of art from Greek antiquity.
Other great archeological museums to visit in Athens include the Benaki Museum and the Acropolis Museum.
Celebrating Greek culture
The museums in Athens city include more than just archeological treasures, however.
At the Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments, you’ll find popular Greek instruments, such as drums, mandolins, clarinets, zithers, and hand organs.
The museum is also a research facility and gives lessons and workshops to kids focusing on making musical instruments.
Another “National” museum that is well worth visiting on your trip is the National Gallery of Art.
This museum features painting, sculptures, and engravings that trace the history of Greek culture and art, from antiquity up until the contemporary works of today.
Making a day out of it
Of course, there are many things to do in Athens apart from visiting their wonderful museums.
Go shopping at one of the city’s many shopping districts, which include everything from street vendors and mom and pop shops, to upscale shops and department stores.
You can lay back and relax in one of the city’s several open-air garden theaters or visit the city’s famous planetarium.
If you’re in town on a Sunday, it is quite an experience to travel down to the center of the Athens city, to the Parliament building, and watch the changing of the guard ceremony, known as Evzones.
Then, there are always beautiful sandy beaches just kilometers outside of the city on Athens Riviera, like Kokkino Limanaki and Alimos.
Making a night of it
At night, there are many adventures you can get embark on.
The city has a world record 148 stages where you can find any type of entertainment you desire; from plays to musical exhibitions.
The city’s biggest concert hall is Megaron where either music, opera, dance, or lectures can be seen on a nightly basis.
Before you go to the theater, though, you must experience one of Athens’ crowd-pleasing restaurants.
Enjoy Greek, French, Mediterranean, Italian, and many other fares at the many savory restaurants in the city.
A large tradition of pleasing travelers
Athens, Greece has been satisfying and thrilling visitors for thousands of years.
Traveling to this historic city can be one of the most culturally enjoyable experiences of your life.
Knowing your history of the city before you visit will help you to appreciate where you are when you’re visiting the various monuments and landmarks throughout the town. Make a plan, including the historic, cultural, and modern delights, and you’ll be guaranteed to have the experience to last a lifetime in Athens.