City guide: Athens, Greece | Private jet charter
Athens, with an historical legacy of more than 3,000 years, offers visitors an extraordinary collection of cultural highlights including the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Today, Athens is a vibrant capital city with fantastic restaurants, Byzantine churches, five-star luxury hotels, an eclectic bar and café scene, and enigmatic neighbourhoods such as Plaka with its cobbled streets and classical mansions to explore. There are also great beaches to enjoy and relaxing gardens in which to escape the crowds.
Top five must-see sights and attractions
The Acropolis and Parthenon
The iconic Acropolis and Parthenon are both UNESCO Heritage sites created by Ancient Greek statesman Pericles and his chosen sculptor Phidias.
The most celebrated ancient landmark in Greece, the Doric-style Acropolis was constructed in white marble on a hill, 156m above the Greek capital. The Acropolis site is home to the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia and the Erechtheion – a temple on the north side.
Acropolis means ‘high point city’ in ancient Greek. The Propylaia is the beautiful gateway to the Acropolis, while the temple of Athena Nike is the site’s smallest temple. The nearby Acropolis Museum has over 4,000 objects on display, and is a highly recommended attraction.
Plaka is Athens’ oldest district, located on the slopes just below the Acropolis, the bougainvillea-lined cobbled streets are mainly pedestrianised. The main entrance is at the junction of Nikis and Kydatheneon streets.
There is an abundance of restaurants and street cafes. Visit Bakaliaraki – the oldest taverna in Athens – on Kidathinaion Street. The shops sell traditional and local Greek produce such as honey and olive oil, as well as local spirits and sweet wines. The area comes alive with street musicians and vendors, so go early to avoid the crowds. Head for the jewellery stores, craft shops and galleries and visit the area’s museums: The Jewish Museum, the Children’s Museum, the Music Museum and the Greek Folk Art Museum are all here.
Monastiraki Flea Market
The Monastiraki market is located near Monastiraki metro (and the square of the same name). At the weekends, the market is so extensive it spreads into the neighbourhoods of Thission and Psiri. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and pursue the selection of antiques, vinyl, musical instruments, jewellery, postcards and local traditional products.
Stop for an ouzo or two and some Greek coffee at one of the many tavernas and cafes in the area and head towards nearby the ruins of Emperor Hadrian’s library.
Athens National Garden
This 15-acre public park – with many exotic plants and trees – is the green lung of Athens and conveniently located in the centre of the city behind the Parliament building. It was the creation of Queen Amalia who commissioned the project in 1838 and was responsible for the planting of hundreds of plant and tree species.
This oasis of fresh air and greenery contains parks and gardens, a selection of ancient ruins, mosaics, duck and turtle ponds, and there is also a small zoo here. A summer café selling light refreshments and the ubiquitous strong Greek coffee alongside delicious pastries is open from sunrise to sunset. Do not miss the Botanical Museum of the National Garden inside the park, which showcases plants grown in the Gardens as well as providing information on its history.
Athens is dominated by the majestic, 300m-high Mount Lycabettus. This limestone mountain, peppered with scented pine trees makes a welcome escape from the heat of an Athens summer. As you would imagine, the views over Athens and the coast are stunning and the area is renowned for its amphitheatre that hosts summer concerts.
To reach the top of Mount Lycabettus you can simply walk up the hiking trails or take the funicular, which costs approximately €7 and will take you to the summit in 10 minutes. The funicular stop in the city is at Ploutarchou and Aristippou Streets. Probably the best and certainly the most romantic time to visit Mount Lycabettus is at sunset.
Probably the fastest way around the Greek capital is by metro – taxis are plentiful but so is the traffic. The Athens metro has three lines that all link to the tram, bus and suburban railway that operates daily from 5am to midnight. Tickets and passes can be purchased at any Athens metro or tram station.
Best time to visit
Spring: The best times to visit Athens are usually in spring between March and May. You will still experience the warmer weather but there are less crowds at peak tourist attractions.
Summer: Summers in Athens can be overbearingly hot but is the most popular tourist season – many of whom come for the summer festivals.
Autumn: If travelling in the autumn the months of September to November are the best. The weather during these months are often sunny with generally fewer tourists.
Winter: Visiting in winter between the months of December and February temperatures can be cooler in the evenings and early mornings so you will need layers and warm jacket.
Athens is an exciting city break destination, and a great starting point to seeing the Greek islands. A warm welcome, guaranteed sunshine, fabulous cuisine and an unbeatable historical legacy makes the Greek capital unmissable.
Walk among ancient antiquities at the Acropolis and the Parthenon; people watch at the local tavernas, explore the markets and museums. Then head down to the port at Piraeus and go island hopping to Aegina, Hydra or Angistri, or take a day trip to the Oracle at Delphi or the enigmatic Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
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