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Athens
Athens
Athens
Athens

Athens is named after Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who is celebrated by an ancient temple on the Acropolis, rising proudly above the concrete jungle that is modern Athens. As a city state, Athens reached its heyday in the fifth century BC, with the construction of many of the great classical buildings regarded as icons of Ancient Greece. Democracy was born, drama flourished and Socrates conceived the foundations of Western philosophy.

Today, Athens remains a major European centre of culture, with its stunning classical sites and world-class museums. The Acropolis, crowned by four ancient Greek temples, the best known of which is the majestic Parthenon, has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nearby, the New Acropolis Museum opened in 2009, bringing 21st-century design into the Greek urban landscape with its high-tech structure and light and airy exhibitions spaces. And then there’s the more staid 19th-century neo-classical National Archaeological Museum, displaying the world’s finest collection of ancient Greek artefacts.

Athens’ two highest points, the Acropolis and Mount Lycavittos, are visible from most places in the city centre and are essential landmarks for orientation. Below the Acropolis, touristy Plaka merges into grungy Monastiarki, which in turn is linked to Syntagma (home to the Greek Parliament) by the pedestrian-only shopping street of Ermou. Between the pine-scented slopes of Mount Likavittos and busy Syntagma, you’ll find up-market Kolonaki, with its designer stores and foreign embassies, and west of Lykavittos, bordering on Omonia, the bohemian quarter of Exarchia.

Southeast of the city centre, a glorious stretch of coast affords dreamy views over the glistening blue Aegean Sea. Then there are the fabled Greek islands (the real reason why many visitors come here in the first place), served by regular ferries and catamarans from Athens’ port, Piraeus.

The city’s proud monuments are as dazzling as they have ever been, the sun is shining, and you can be sure that if you visit Athens now.

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