Until recently, tourists would dash into Athens for a quick visit to the Acropolis and the Parthenon before heading for the islands. But, with no disrespect to Pericles, Athens isn’t all about the Acropolis anymore. A major makeover prior to the 2004 Olympics added squares and pedestrian walkways, revamped hotels, even created subway stations that double as museums. Today this ancient city is a vibrant megalopolis with nonstop nightlife, creative cuisine, and sites both ancient and modern. In the thousands of sidewalk cafés, courting teenagers, young professionals, and old men shuffling their worry beads all bask in Athens’s modern-day renaissance.
- A stroll inside the Syntagma Square (a.k.a. Constitution Square) metro station, where artifacts uncovered during the building of the subway, from skeletons to pre-Christian plumbing, are displayed.
- The changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square’s pink Parliament Building. Every Sunday at 11 a.m., the Evzone guards—soldiers chosen for their height and, it’s rumored, good looks—in ceremonial dress (yes, that means a pleated skirt and pom-pom-toed shoes) perform an elaborately choreographed ceremony.
- Wandering the alleys of Anafiotika, a whitewashed, 19th-century village along the northern slope of the Acropolis that was built by refugees from the Cycladic island of Anafi. It’s a quiet, homey oasis in the heart of teeming Athens.