About Athens - Athens
The richness of Athens past is reflected in an eclectic mix of styles that has classical monuments coexisting happily with Byzantine churches and the neoclassical architecture of the nineteenth century. South along the coast but still inside the city limits are a string of beach resorts—Glyfa, Voula, and Vouliagmeni—which also feature golf, tennis, and boating. To the east of Athens is the Mesogeia, or middle land, famous for its vineyards and olive groves. To the north is the plain of Marathon, where Greece defeated Persia in a famous battle in 490 BC. Afterwards, a heroic messenger ran 26 miles to bring news of the victory to Athens, giving the name "marathon" to foot races ever after.
The outstanding feature of the Athenian skyline is the Acropolis plateau, with the Parthenon sitting on top. Other superb archaeological sites are all around. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a majestic amphitheatre, was restored with new marble some 50 years ago. Plays are performed there every summer in conjunction with the International Athens Festival. Athens’ oldest and most picturesque neighbourhoods are clustered around the Acropolis. The best known and oldest of these is Plaka, where the Monastiraki flea market is found. With its narrow winding streets lined with colourful cafes, bustling tavernas and picturesque craft shops, this district evokes the romantic, carefree flavour that has attracted visitors to Greece for centuries.
Athenians say their city is always in season. The favourable climate makes for a long season for outdoor recreation. Beaches are open from April to October. Golf is playable year round, with numerous new courses opening in and around Athens in recent years. Fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and cycling all remain attractive, but try to avoid the summer heat. Greece’s best kept secret is its skiing. As Europe’s visitors typically flock to the renowned alpine resorts, Mt. Parnassus, about 75 miles from Athens, costs about half of comparable resorts in Switzerland, France, or Italy. Snowboarding is not as well developed, but beginning to catch on.
While hectic traffic and scarce parking discourage driving in the city, Athens is highly walkable, with pedestrian-only zones throughout the city centre. Public transportation is quite good with its trams and refurbished Metro inexpensive and running frequently (not to mention the vastly improved air quality since the recent expansion of Metro service). Taxis are not guaranteed to have English-speaking drivers, but the good news is that they are inexpensive, plentiful, and usually honest.
The ideal time to visit Athens is from April through June, or in September just before the rainy season begins. During the winter months there are moderate temperatures, but it is when Athens receives most of its rain. In the winter months, temperatures average between 43 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius) and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).
HOW TO GET THERE
There are dozens of flights to Athens every day from all the major European capitals and North American cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Montreal.
From the UK London airports, check out discount airline Easyjet and Swiss International for frequent flights and good value. Check out Aegean Airlines and Alitalia as well.