Our top sights, highlights, and exclusive tips
Athens: The ancient city that still bursts with life. Start your Athens tour on the Acropolis, where the ancient ruins will make you feel like you’re walking among gods, before heading to the chaos of the Varvakeios food market, packed to the brim with cubes of tangy feta. Refuel with Lukumades, honeyed dough balls that are so good Aristotle wrote about them. Unwind in Plaka, where locals play at being Socrates by putting the world to rights over moussaka and Mythos beer—it’s easy to see why people have stayed here for 5,000 years.
National Archeological Museum
If you’ve seen a big important building with columns at the front, it’s a copy of the Parthenon. Built 2400 years ago and dedicated to Athena, this temple’s soaring columns and magnificent gables were originally built as a celebration of Athens’ victory over the invading Persians. Catch the best view of the temple at sunset for an effect that Mark Twain compared to a “pink sugar loaf”.
The Acropolis is the hill that dominates the center of Athens, studded with ancient ruins. After scaling its craggy 490-foot peak and seeing the Parthenon, head to the southern slopes and look down on the Theater of Dionysus, the god of drinking, fun, and the theater. This magnificent ruin was once home to the Greek tragedies of Sophocles and Aeschylus, to name a couple.
No trip to Athens is complete without seeing the Plaka, known as “the Neighborhood of the Gods” due to its proximity to the Acropolis. With winding cobbled streets, hole-in-the-wall shops, and tavernas, Plaka feels more like a village in the islands of Kefalonia or Crete rather than part of Greece’s largest city. Follow ancient stone staircases to secluded tavernas for an ice cold glass of Ouzo under the shade of an orange tree.
The sprawling neoclassical facade of this museum is a clear continuation of the columned temples that define the ancient Athenian style. Make sure to see the Funeral Mask of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks during the Trojan war. As well as mythology, this museum is a journey into Athenian genius. Don’t miss the Antikythera Mechanism, the world’s oldest analog computer—those ancient Athenians were really ahead of their time.
This trendy neighborhood is where the young Athenians come out to play. Walk the tree-lined streets, where every corner will have an open-air artwork adorning a wall. You’ll notice that many of these works have mysterious heritages and unknown artists, much like their older counterparts in the museums. End a day here with the hip youngsters, enjoying lively cocktail-fuelled conversation and mezedopoleio, Greek-style tapas. Psyrri shows that even ancient Athens is young at heart.
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