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What to see and do in Athens – notable attractions and landmarks

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Athens is a vibrant combination of ancient and modern. Most of the attractions are found in the center of the city in the area around the Acropolis, and while this does dominate the interest of the tourists, it does no harm to the pleasant atmosphere around the wholly modern and lively areas further afield. Glyfada and Vouliagmeni are home to beautiful marinas, chic restaurants, beaches, bars and traditional tavernas.

Margarita & Marianna Lyra

My Destination local expert on

Athens

Plaka

 

Plaka is the historic center of Athens, the heart of which is undoubtedly the Acropolis. Widely considered as the birthplace of classical Greece, the Acropolis is a sightseers dream as it stands in all its stony-white glory on a hill overlooking the city. At 3000-years-old, the Acropolis is the subject of many small museums in the area around the hill. The large numbers of tourists who come to this part of the city are catered for by the restaurants, pedestrianized streets, and souvenir shops.

 

Kolonaki

 

Athens’ most high-class area is found just north-east of the center of the city in Kolonaki. Kolonaki is where the city’s leading politicians, actors, high-profile journalists, and businessmen live and enjoy their free time. This is the area to visit for a touch of class. Kolonaki is full of posh cafés and restaurants, which gives the area a smell of coffee and fresh bread and offers a break from shopping at the expensive fashion boutiques. The bars and clubs are the most exclusive in the city and are targeted towards these said crowds.

 

Metaxourgenio

 

North-west of the center, Metaxourgenio is the creative district of Athens and attracts students, hipsters, and art-lovers. This is one of the younger districts of the city, having undergone gentrification to make it the haven for art and culture that it is now. The district is home to art galleries, such as the Municipal Gallery on Avdi Square, which is itself a public space that the locals have devoted to artistic expression. At night, fashionable crowds flock to the many bars the keep the district ticking until the early hours.

 

Syntagma Square

 

Syntagma Square marks the center of Athens. As the business district of Athens, this area is known for its banks, large office buildings, and, above all, the old Royal Palace – now the Greek Parliament building. There are large areas dedicated to pedestrians only, which are often busy in this pulsating part of the city. The National Historical Museum, on Stadiou Street to the north-west of the square, documents the rich history of Greece and even exhibits the first constitution of Greece. To get away from the buzzing throngs, visit the green retreat of The National Gardens behind the Parliament building.

 

Psirri

 

Psirri is largely unknown to tourists as this area has not changed to cater for visitors. This makes Psirri an ideal location for an evening out with friends or family. Any one of the many restaurants playing live Greek music are popular among locals; they will often begin dancing spontaneously, staying true to Greek traditions. There are also many trendy bars in the area and small luxury hotels. The allure here is not limited to the evening, however, as this neighbourhood of narrow streets is dominated by workshops and crafts stores.

 

Pireas

 

Pireas is the ancient port of Athens, some 40 minutes from the center of the city by car. While the main reason for visiting is to board a ferry, the area of Mikrolimano represents one of the best reasons to visit Pireas. The curved marina of this sun-spoilt corner of Southern Athens offers some calm and cosy places to eat by the bay. One of the highlights of a trip here is the chance to relax in Mediterranean sun while overlooking the dozens of ships setting sail below.