AthensAthens is one of the oldest cities in the world and is considered the cradle of Western culture. If you think of the Greek capital, immediately the Acropolis (literally: high town) comes to mind, the most famous monument of classical antiquity, towering above the Athenian plain. Even though you may know them from pictures, once you see them for real, they make an unforgettable impression. For this sanctuary alone already, Athens is well worth a visit!
Athens never got stuck in antiquity, and it did evolve into its own modern culture and society. The vivid, sometimes chaotic metropolis offers more than just history and culture. Near the Acropolis, you will find the Plaka for example, an old charming neighbourhood full of picturesque houses and a maze of narrow alleyways. Here are the most hotels, restaurants and shops where you can find nice souvenirs.
Another way to have a good impression of the city is by passing through the market at the Monastiraki Square, where you can witness the bustle of Athens in close-up and taste the best olives. Do you rather fancy shopping, Glyfada gives you the opportunity to indulge yourself. The trendy shops near the beach are especially popular with the young, fashionable people, but please note the opening hours, because in the afternoon, even modern Greeks have a siesta.
The wonderful climate there causes for a different life pace anyway. During daytime it's best to enjoy the sun on the beach , because the town comes only to life in the evening! First go to the Vlachika district, where you eminently can experience Greek cuisine in its full glory, before visiting a traditional bouzoukia at live performances or any of the trendy nightclubs. In Athens, you don't get a chance for a dull moment.
HistoryAccording to myth, the city owes its name to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. In a duel to become patron saint of the city she defeated Poseidon, god of the sea, by giving the city the olive tree.
The first people probably started to live here around 3500 BC, but only since 1000 BC it has developed into a major city-state and the founder of democracy. Around the fifth century BC, it enjoyed a major economic and cultural prosperity, bringing forth big names such as Socrates, Plato and Herodotus.
During this period, also known as classical antiquity, the most prominent buildings were constructed, such as the Parthenon, and it reveals itself as the highest civilization of the (western) world.
In the 2nd century BC However, it lost its leading role to the Romans, who looted the place, and from the beginning of our era, the city really kept on declining. During the Middle Ages, it is no more than a forgotten place, and in the fifteenth century it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. When Greece eventually won their struggle for freedom in 1829, Athens only counted 4000 inhabitants. But when the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 , that number has risen to 100,000.
In the 20th century, Athens was developing rapidly, but it also experienced less attractive moments. Like during the German occupation in World War II, the bloody civil war and the subsequent dictatorship until 1974. Throughout the century, large migrations to the capital were mainly of peasants and Turkish Greeks. The fast established residential areas are not really a pretty sight, and even the infrastructure seems to succumb to the immigration. Fortunately, Athens was renovated over the last decade (including for the Olympics 2004), and road and metro have greatly improved, giving it the cosmopolitan look a metropolis deserves.