Athens, named after the Goddess of wisdom Athena, is the capital city of Greece, and one of the oldest cities in the world. In preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games a lot of money was spent on regenerating the city and it is now a great place to go for a holiday. Gone are the days when Athens was just the best place to fly into before catching a boat to the Greek Islands, the city now exudes a certain charm and character which attracts holidaymakers from across the world.
One of the main attractions of a holiday in Athens is that the city is quite compact and most of the tourist attractions are accessible on foot from the central area around the Acropolis. As you will soon discover, walking is the best way to soak up the atmosphere and you also avoid the roads which can be a bit of a nightmare.
As well as the many museums in Athens, including the National Archaeological Museum, there are also street markets to explore, vine-covered tavernas where you can sit and relax with a bottle of wine and a Greek salad, plenty of souvenir shops and something historic to see at every street corner.
As well as its obvious historic importance Athens is also Greece's commercial centre and the nearby port of Piraeus, on the outskirts of town, is one of the largest and most significant of all the Mediterranean ports. Couple all of the above with attractive pedestrianised streets, leafy parks, great shopping, pine-covered hillsides, numerous bars and restaurants and a lively nightlife scene and it is easy to see why Athens has become a popular Mediterranean holiday destination in the last few years.
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There are some great beaches within easy reach of Athens allowing you to enjoy the benefits of a major city combined with the obvious attraction of a Greek beach holiday. Travel a few miles along the south-east to the district of Glyfada where there are some excellent beaches although many of them are private so you may have to pay to enjoy them. To the north-east of Athens, close to the Marathon district, the beaches are beautiful and generally quieter while to the east you will also find nice beaches, but here they are a lot more crowded. The best way to explore the beaches on a holiday in the Athens area is by hopping on a bus and seeing where it takes you.
The best way to explore Athens is on foot as so many of the city's attractions are located close to one and other. Start with a visit to the world-renowned National Archeological Museum before a visit to the Panathenaic Stadium which dates back to 330 BCE and hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Even today this 70,000 seater stadium is used for concerts and large events. Obviously no trip to Athens would be complete without seeing the city's most famous landmark, the Acropolis, and a great place to view it is from the monument on Philopappou Hill opposite. Plaka is another popular area of Athens and is home to a variety of museums, churches, galleries, tavernas, cafés and restaurants, but if its upscale boutiques, gourmet restaurants and trendy nightspots you are looking for then there is no better place than Kolonaki, one of Athens' most attractive neighbourhoods. Finally, make sure you find enough time on your holiday in Athens to visit some of the fantastic beaches that line this beautiful stretch of the Greek coastline.
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