Overnight stay in Athens
A trip to Kythera can be combined very well with an overnight stay in Athens. This city with between 4 and 5 million inhabitants is the bustling heart of Greece. Hated and loved by the Greeks . Almost every one of them has some kind of connection with Athens and during Christmas they travel in large numbers from the islands to the city to visit family and friends. While in the heat of summer the Athenians leave the sweltering city to go for a long vacation to the islands or the countryside. The city is left behind almost empty.
In the old centre of the city there is a lot to see , but of course the highlight is the Acropolis with the Parthenon. The history of the Acropolis , the religious center of Athens , begins over 2000 years BC . In the 6th century BC the Ancient Temple of Athena was built in honor of the patron goddess of the city, Athena. According to mythology, the town was named after her, after she had won a contest with the god of the sea, Poseidon. He gave the city water (salt water, he was, after all, the god of the sea) and Athena gave the city an olive tree , which by the way can still be seen on the Acropolis. To the anger of Poseidon the residents decided in favour of the gift of Athena and made her patron deity of the city.
In 480 BC the Persians destroyed the Acropolis . But under the leadership of Pericles, the monumental rebuilding started soon after. In a short time one of the highlights of classical architecture, was built, including the Erechtheion , the Propylaeën , the Temple of Nike and the Parthenon.
Until the 17th century, according to tradition, the buildings on the Acropolis stayed intact. But several explosions and subsequent raids of foreign visitors have severely damaged the Acropolis . Since 1975 there is a great restoration project with the goal of undoing the damage inflicted by time , wars and bad restorations.
In the 19th century the Greek Government decided to build a museum where the riches of the Acropolis could be exhibited. This museum soon proved to be too small soon. After years of discussion it was finally decided that a new museum had to be built. Finally in 2007 the impressive New Acropolis Museum was opened . If you want to combine your holiday on Kythera with a visit of the Acropolis and the new museum we advise you to take enough time, at least 2 days.
– National Archaeological Museum – is considered one of the most important museums in the world. A fantastic collection of Greek treasures from prehistory to late antiquity . With lots of highlights including the Golden Mask of Agamemnon , the youth and the Antikythera and the Antikythera mechanism( the first computer … )
– Benaki Museum – housed in a neoclassical building in the district of Kolonaki, the museum gives an excellent overview of Greek art from 3000 BC until the 20th century.
– The Ancient Agora – located in the Thissio neighborhood east of the Acropolis . The Agora was the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural center, and the seat of justice. The site was occupied without interruption in all periods of the city’s history. It was used as a residential and burial area as early as the Late Neolithic period (3000 B.C.). The agora was probably laid out as a public space in the 6th century BC and then became the heart of the Athenian public life. After a series of repairs and remodellings, it reached its final rectangular form in the 2nd century BC. Extensive building activity occurred after the serious damage made by the Persians in 480 BC, by the Romans in 89 BC and by the Herulae in 267. While after the Slavic invasion in 580, it was gradually abandoned. From the Byzantine period until after 1834, when Athens became the capital of the independent Greek state, the Agora was again developed as a residential area. Nowadays the Agora Museum is located in the beautifully restored Stoa of Attalus ( from the 2nd century BC ).
– Several monuments located near the Acropolis:
– Odeon of Herodes Atticus – built in the 2nd century AD and originally an indoor theatre with 5.000 seats . Now it is an outdoor theatre where often ancient Greek tragedies are staged under the stars .
– Arch of Hadrian – also from the 2nd century. It formed the entrance of the Old ‘ Greek’ Athens to the New ‘ Roman’ Athens . Directly next door is the Temple of Zeus. Its construction began in 500 BC, but only in the 2nd century AD it was completed by Emperor Hadrian.
– In the Plaka you will find the Tower of the Winds, this octagon (eight sided) building was built in the 1st century AD by the astronomer Andronikos and housed a hydraulic clock. Each side of the building represents a wind direction.
– Panathenaic Stadium – already in the 4th century BC, on this location a stadium existed where festivals were held in honor of the goddess Athena and also the Panathenian games, the Athenian version of the Olympics. The Romans later organized gladiator games in the stadium. In the 19th century, it was completely renovated in the original style, entirely in marble. In 1896 here the first modern Olympic Games were held. The stadium can accommodate 80.000 spectators. And it also has a world record for the most attended basketball game ever, which was played here in the 1960s .
– Mount Lykavittos – the highest point of the city, located in the center next to the Kolonaki district, with spectacular panoramic views over the city. Mythologically, Lykavittos is credited to Athena, who created it when she dropped a mountain she had been carrying for the construction of the Acropolis. For experienced hikers there is a beautiful trail which leads to the top of this hill. Everybody who wants to take it easy can take the funicular railway. On top there is a church , a restaurant and an open air theatre where festivals are held throughout the summer as part of the Athens Summer Festival. The Kolonaki district is also the hippest area of modern Athens with many galleries, restaurants, antique and fashion shops.
Where to stay :
The vast majority of hotels can be found in the center of Athens. Because of the crisis, the room rates dropped sharply in the past years. The best way to find a good hotel is to use a booking website like booking.com. Experience shows that a hotel rated with an 8 or higher, is usually a good choice.
The area immediately surrounding the Acropolis is the best choice to stay. The Makrygianni district, where the New Acropolis Museum is located is a quiet and nice neighborhood. The Acropolis and the busy center are right on your doorstep. Directly north of this area lies the beautiful Anafiotika district, named after the first inhabitants, from the island of Anafi. Its narrow alleys and cube-shaped houses create the atmosphere of a Cycladic village. The Plaka finally, is the most touristic part. But the area south of Mitropoleos street is very atmospheric and a largely pedestrian zone with good restaurants (Greek and foreign). Here you will also find a number of good hotels. Our personal favorite is Sweet Home Hotel, a small family hotel that is run by Afroditi and her husband. It is located in a beautiful old building with nice rooms and excellent service. But around the corner of Sweet Home Hotel , you will find several other hotels that are rated above average on booking.com (such as Hermes, Central, Omiros and Kimon ). If you choose to stay outside the city center, the neighborhood Palaio Faliro a good option. A nice area near the sea with lots of shops , restaurants and bars. With public transport you can reach within 10 minutes the city center. A simple but good hotel with airport shuttle in this neighborhood is Arma Hotel. Another good option here is Tropical hotel, located on Poseidonos Avenue , the busy coastal road .
Nearby the airport are a number of hotels available. A convenient choice for one night is Peri’s Hotel, with free transfer service from and to the airport. It is a simple hotel with a small family tavern/cafeteria just around the corner and on about 1 km walking distance a nice sandy beach. Other hotels near the airport are Pantheon hotel (about 5/10 minutes by taxi from the airport) and the 5 * Sofitel hotel located 100 meters from the entrance of the airport.
Where to eat:
At first glance it ‘s not easy to distinguish a good Greek restaurant from those that serves the standard ‘ tourist menus’. Most restaurants are relatively cheap. Below you will find a list of traditional and good restaurants in Athens:
– Avissynia cafe – Avisnia square 7/Kinetou street – very nice food , cozy interior and a roof terrace with fantastic views . Owner has released her own cookbook .
– Tzitzikas & Mermigas – Mitropoleos str 12-14 – around the corner of Sweet Home Hotel – cozy and typical Greek restaurant , not expensive .
– Strofi – Rovertou Galli 25 – according to tripadvisor one of the best restaurants in Athens
– Miniatoura – Romvis 21 , Syntagma – a tiny traditional family tavern only open during the day ( until 19:00 ) .
– Paradosiako – on the corner of Voulis and Nikodimou- small cozy restaurant .
– Saita Bakaliaro – at the corner of Kydatheneon and Sotiros – one of the traditional basement restaurants that specialize in bakaliaro (fried cod with garlic sauce )
– Psaras (fish reaturant ) – Erechteos 16 ( at the corner of Erotocritou and Erehtheos ) – charming restaurant located on the hill just below the Acropolis
– Scholarchio Yerani – Tripodon Odos 14 – in a beautiful corner of the Plaka – the waiter comes to your table with a large plate of mezzedes, from which you can make your own selection
– To kafeneon – across Scholarchio – the less touristy version , an atmospheric ouzerie with delicious mezzedes. Here Jamie Oliver recorded his mezzedes special in 2009.
Traditionally, Greece is one of the safest holiday destinations in the world. In recent years, however, Greece and Athens frequently have been in the news in negative manner because of the crisis and unrest . Outside the cities, in everyday life, you will not notice a lot of the crisis . In the center of Athens, however, there are often demonstrations. Virtually all demonstrations are peaceful and only a few lead to riots. The demonstrations are usually held at the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square. On days with large demonstrations, it is therefore wise to avoid this part of the center. For the rest, in terms of crime, you have to remain vigilant, like in any other metropolis.
Travelling in the city :
From the airport you can take a taxi, a bus or the metro to get to the center of Athens. In the center itself, the best way to move around is by foot.
Directly across the street from the airport is the metro/train station.With metro line 3 you will reach the centre in about 40 minutes (price € 8,00 for a single trip). On the website of AMEL you can plan your trip. Depending on your destination, you may have to change lines at Syntagma or Monastiraki station.
Bus number X95 runs from the airport to Syntagma Square in central Athens. A ticket for a single journey costs € 5.00.
You can also take a taxi from the airport. A ride to the city center will cost you depending on the destination and the moment of the day anywhere between € 35.00 and € 50,00.