Since the age of Pericles, this imposing natural fortress dominates the scene from whichever angle you view it. From central Athens, the walls of the Acropolis (acro - edge, polis - city) peek downtown buildings, an ancient backdrop to a modern Metropolis. Miraculously after 2,500 years, the Periclean Acropolis is still standing despite the ravages of modern pollution which have sent the remaining statues and frescoes inside the Acropolis Museum. Nonetheless, there is still a feeling of wonderment when one views the once pagan site and the view from up there is a panoramic one. A further attraction in this sprawling capital is the tiny Chapel of St.George atop Lycabettus hill sitting right in the centre of the city. This quite high hill (909 ft) looks like fairyland at night and walking up there can be quite a strenuous exercise. Steps from Xenocratous Street and Ploutarchou, lead up to the funicular railway which takes visitors to the top for a fee. Once up there one can admire the slightly fuzzy view over the city, or on a windy day, the panorama right across the city to the nearest islands.
Leading down from Lycabettus, at the base under the funicular is one of the smartest districts of Athens, Kolonaki or Little Column, a name derived from a small ancient column in its main square.
Kolonaki Square is great for people-watching, the darlings who have nothing better to do with their time, to visitors, to all sorts of passers - by. Coffee shops line the sides of the square and some great restaurants dot the area. Also to be found there are the smartest fashion shops in town.
This is an adventure. From street-eating, buying a Koulouri (sesame seed bread ring) from a street vendor, or Galaktoboureko (delectable custard-filled flaky pastry topped with a dusting of icing sugar), to Tyropitta (cheese pies ) or souvlaki (kebabs), now known in most European capitals, one may eat a full meal just by traversing the streets. Restaurants galore are now added to the traditional tavern where a cheap meal still usually can be had. Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Russian, you name it, the capital has a restaurant serving their cuisine. Greek wines are measuring up to. Once producing only a lowly cousin to retsina, the resinated wine which is an acquired taste - but good, nowadays Greek wines are becoming noticed internationally and some are very good indeed. Athens has over 44 museums in which to while away an hour or two. The most famous is the National Archaeological Museum which is not only on a convenient trolley bus route (the No.8) but houses a treasure trove of ancient artifacts which bedazzle. This museum would take weeks in which to see everything, but a few hours will suffice the visitor who will get a flavour of just how vast and magnificent the collection is.Shopping in the capital varies from the very up-market boutiques selling everything from Stephanel, to Gucci, to Max Mara, to local Greek designers, now making a name for themselves abroad. The most famous shopping street is Ermou, off Syntagma, the main square, and opposite the Parliament building. There is even a McDonalds on the corner. Beginning with boutiques, the further one moves away from the square, the cheaper and more varied the shopping becomes. On, past the small Byzantine church of Kapnikarea, one nears Monastiraki and the Flea Market. Best on Sundays, it is still a fascinating area with anything from souvenirs in all their myriad form, marble chess sets, copper pans, ceramic pots, to junk and antiques. Old coins and stamps, furniture which has seen better days in some old neo-classic mansion, baskets and junk, piled haphazardly between office furniture, all go to make this area one of the most fascinating in the city.
Nearby is Keramikos, the ancient and very beautiful cemetery with funeral monuments, erected by wealthy Athenian families of the 4th and 5th centuries BCFrom Monastiraki square itself, a hubbub of activity at any time, one reaches the area directly below the Acropolis, the neighborhood of Plaka a distinct part of the old city. Lying under the shadows of the Acropolis walls, its winding narrow streets, some only fit for one person at a time to get through, Plaka has been restored to its former glory. The charm of its pastel hued walls and wrought iron balconies, geranium spilling onto stone steps, small churches every where, each with their own congregation, and taverns and souvenir shops vying for the visitors attention. The higher reaches of Plaka is called Anafiotika, a white washed 19th century village clinging to the north-eastern slopes of the rock. Wandering through these streets one could imagine one was in a small Cycladic island, so similar is the architecture. Built by two immigrants from the island of Anafi, who needed to house their families, gouged from the walls of the rock and in keeping with the style of their island homes, this small area has never lost its charm.
Several points of interest lie in this area. Roman AgoraIn the Aerides area, the tower of the winds is an octagonal marble edifice with each side facing the points of the compass adorned with a marble frieze.Beside the Aerides, once a covered market with colonnades, some still intact, the Roman Agora was probably built around 17 BC and AD 2 and funded by Julius and Augustus Caesar.Gypsy street vendors here will show you delicate lace cloths and colorful embroidery and you are nearing the Monastiraki area once more.From Monastiraki, Metropoleos Street leads to the largest Cathedral in a square of its own, and back into Syntagma Square and the Parliament building. There are many areas of Athens worth viewing provided one has the time. The area of Metz behind the Marble Olympic Stadium, used for the first Olympic Games of modern times in 1896 is a quiet and quaint area with good restaurants and taverns.Pangrati is great for shopping, Kaisariani main square has a plethora of fish taverns, and Kaisariani itself, a green belt very near the centre, has a Byzantine Church and monastery which is a small museum. In or near Athens, one may play golf, swim and sunbathe at the numerous beaches which line the Athens coast, some as near as half an hour's drive from the city centre. One may water ski, play tennis, sail, ski, visit three islands on a unique one day cruise, spend a day at Delphi, an afternoon at the ancient temple on Cape Sounion, take a Flying Dolphin (Hydrofoil) to the nearer islands, or just laze on a beach. Monte Parnes or Parnitha has skiing in the winter and hosts a casino at its peak, easily accessible from central Athens. Night life has night clubs, taverns, restaurants, a magnificent Concert Hall worthy of any European capital, an Opera Company (the Lyriki Skini), theatre and cinema, indoor and outdoor, including the ancient Herod Atticus theatre. Variety is the key, ancient or modern, it's all here, in some cases as it has been for thousands of years, in others, perhaps since last month. Whatever you find in Athens, you certainly won't be bored.