Things to do in Athens
The word acropolis literally means in Greek "upper city." While resting in Athens, take a hike to visit this historical destination. This outcrop of ruins emerged as a political center during the Mycenean period (15th-12th centuries BCE). During the 8th century BCE, the Athenians constructed this temple to honor their patron goddess Athena. The Acropolis then emerged as a political center in the Mycenean period (15th-12th centuries BCE).
The Parthenon, dedicated to Athens’s patron goddess Athena, is the pinnacle of the Acropolis—historically, artistically, and physically. This monument was designed by Iktinos at the height of Periclean democracy. Today, the Parthenon is recognized worldwide as a classic symbol of Western civilization. Although it took just nine years to build, many layers of the monument’s design went into its construction. The temple is predominantly Doric, but it also possesses Ionic architectural features. The Doric relief slabs portray mythic battle scenes between mortals and deities. The east pediment tells the detailed story of Athena’s birth, of when she sprang from Zeus’s head.
The National Garden is a lush oasis from the stark white architecture of Athens. The rows of palms that line the garden resemble the columns of the Parthenon. The National garden features a botanical garden, a turtle pond, romantic footbridges, vendors selling shiny oversized balloons, and a mini-zoo. The National Garden is a great family destination.
Not all of the art in Athens is ancient; this stunningly renovated Neoclassical mansion holds the world’s third largest collection of graphic M. C. Escher prints and a permanent exhibit of the work of Op Art pioneer Victor Vasarely.
Perched on the edge of a cliff, this 444 B.C. temple with 15 still-standing Doric columns was dedicated to the god of the sea (a sort of consolation prize for not having the Parthenon named for him).
This art and history museum is taking over Athens, with a large modern art and architecture annex on Pireos Street near Gazi; a complex of Neoclassical mansions near Kerameikos Cemetery housing a world-class collection of Islamic art (as well as part of the ancient city walls of Athens); the Koul
Athens’s New Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 with at least two missions: to display Acropolis artifacts in a modern setting and to regain the missing Parthenon Marbles, removed from the ancient building in the early 1800s by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum in England shortly after.
Perhaps the second most important venue for diligent tourists (after the Acropolis), the recently renovated mammoth museum has the amazing Greek collection you’d expect, from Neolithic clay figurines to the treasures unearthed at Mycenae to the crowd-pleasing prehistoric antelope fresco from Sant
One of the most recent naturopathic products to sweep the globe is mastiha, or mastic; the chewy resin, which comes from trees grown and harvested only on the Greek island of Chio, reportedly has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
The road from central Athens to the sea is lined with open-air clubs that rage all night long to the strains of Euro pop. This glitzy option, where most of the action takes place around a pool above the beach, looks like the backyard of a drug kingpin’s Miami mansion.
Arguably the prettiest shop in Plaka, the city’s tourist hotbed, this store and gallery forgoes kitschy souvenirs for ceramic plates from the island of Rhodes and intricately carved wooden frames and trays from Epiros.
This is one of Athens’s oldest venues for rembetika, the “Greek blues,” born out of the misery surrounding the population exchange of the 1920s (when hundreds of thousands of Greek Christians were forcibly resettled here from Turkey), the German occupation, the dictatorship, and other da
An entire floor of the eight-story flagship bookstore of the publishing giant Eleftheroudakis is devoted to travel books on Greece; another one is exclusively for crime fiction (in Greek, English, Spanish, and Italian)—just the thing for beach reading.
If touring ancient sites all day drives you to drink, bypass the touts luring you into Plaka’s mediocre restaurants and slip into this narrow, 100-year-old hideaway, allegedly the second oldest bar in Europe.
The nouveaux riches of Athens love anything foreign—cars, TV shows, even coffee (some of Kolonaki’s snootier cafés refuse to serve café frappés, opting for the chic Italian import, cappuccino freddo).
One of the great pleasures of the Athenian summer is enjoying a movie (and a souvlaki and a beer) alfresco at one of the open-air cinemas. The swankest is the Aegli, in the leafy Zappeio Gardens near Syntagma Square, which often plays Hollywood blockbusters with Greek subtitles.
Athens is full of jewelry stores whose creations range from whimsical to wow. Lalaounis is one of the most serious (you get buzzed in at the door) and famous.
The shores south of Athens are known as the Athenian Riviera, with beaches spanning roughly 25 miles. One of the nicest of these belongs to the Astir Palace resort, on its private peninsula south of Athens.