Athens is a city steeped in history, yet it's also a vibrant modern capital with world-class facilities and a seductively laid-back vibe.
Many people arrive in Athens simply to spend a convenient night on their way to the popular holiday spots of the Greek islands. Yet stay a little longer and you’ll discover an astonishingly beautiful city packed with ancient monuments, fascinating culture and friendly people. Don’t be put off by its reputation for uncomfortably hot weather – plan your days sensibly and you can still take in all the sights without suffering sunstroke
Mornings are the coolest and least crowded time to visit the major archaeological sights. Take a walk up Pnyx Hill, the setting for the world’s first democratic gatherings addressed by famous orators such as Demosthenes and Pericles, then follow in the philosophical footsteps of Socrates and Plato through the passages of the Ancient Agora, one of the city’s most important markets and meeting places.
The Acropolis is one of Athens’ most recognisable landmarks, and the steep climb is rewarded by some of the best views across the city to the sparkling Aegean sea in the distance. Take time to explore the remains of ancient temples dedicated to the gods and deities of Greece’s Golden Age, most notably the world-famous Parthenon and the painstakingly restored Temple of Athena Nike.
When the temperatures start to soar, head for the air-conditioned galleries of the New Acropolis Museum, an award-winning modern building housing around 4,000 priceless artefacts dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Back in the centre of Athens, sip a cool drink and watch the world go by in vibrant Syntagma Square before checking out the Stoa of Attalos, an ancient covered walkway of former shops which offers a refreshing respite from the heat of the sun and includes a small but fascinating heritage museum.
As evening falls, head for Avissynias Square, home to the quirky Monastiraki Flea Market, where street artists and musicians entertain the crowds of bargain-hunters and the restaurants keep the supply of delicious Greek specialities and local wines flowing. The Greeks know how to have fun, and if you’ve still got the energy, the clubs and bars of Omonia Square will keep you going until the early hours.