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Holidays to Athens
Athens - for a good old time
There's a lot to like about Athens; the birthplace of democracy, the inspiration behind the Olympics and the site of the real philosopher's stone is not only a cultural heavy hitter, but it's a city where food and the fine art of bar hopping is easily indulged in.
Ideal for cheap city breaks, Athens is home to the Parthenon, it's the site of the Acropolis and it's where you'll find a people proud of their contributions to the world. Notwithstanding the odd euro drama or two.
There are Roman and Byzantine monuments galore and the medieval Daphni Monastery is rather awe inspiring. Athens is home to the National Archaeological Museum, featuring what many describe as the world's largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, as well as the new Acropolis Museum.
The climate makes for pleasant getting about and you'll find a taverna and restaurant on every second corner. Many of them quite good! If you fancy a new year's getaway, New Year breaks in Athens are made easy by the forgiving climate.
The metro system is modern and convenient, the pollution of the late 70s has been abated by a series of good programs and the Athens of today is a comfortable, well-developed city. For a good old time, you can't beat a European city break in Athens.
Eating out in Athens
Cheap, expensive and everything in between.
Eating out in Athens is much more than a Yeeros on the way home from the pub. Yes, lamb and olives are popular ingredients but modern Greek cooking takes in seafood, mezze platters and beautiful salads. Eating out is how Greeks entertain themselves; a night out at a restaurant 2-4 times a week is very common, which means you'll find every price point you want!
The budget options - take a punt on almost any taverna that seems to be primarily stocked with locals and you'll be fairly safe. A good one is Paradosiako, on the corner of Voulis and Nikodimou in the Plaka. Family run and serving a great line in fresh seafood, octopus (of course) and daily specials. Oinomagerio Paradosiako in the same area is also good, with a more meaty feel to it.
Mid price options - if you want the full Greek experience try The Hani in Adriano Street. The food is Vyzantino in recipe source and you'll get live acoustic music too. Thespidos is in a quieter location but you can sit outside with a view of the ruins and feast on salad and mezedes. Old Taverna Stamatopoulos on the corner of Lissiou and Flessa streets just above Adrianou street is worth a shot if you want a classic Greek restaurant. During summer you can dine on the roof garden and in the winter the fun moves inside.
Splurge - you're spoilt for choice in Athens. One of the hippest places at the moment is Balthazar at 27 Tsoha, in Ambelokipi. It's clubby, elegant and very now. The food style is Med/Greek/modern. Plenty of seafood dishes to choose from as well as lamb and the desserts are worth saving room for.
What to wear, when to go
Athens gets hot in summer which means your daytime activities will be restricted, but you can let it hang out all night long! Summer temps get up to the early 30s, while winter gets as low as 6-7C. Spring and autumn are cool and December has the most rain. Tailor your activities to the season - go for a nightlife feel in summer and 'do' the monuments and heritage sites in the cooler months.
Athens is living history
Athens today is a very different city from what it was just 20 years ago. Athens was polluted, grimy and corrupt; today much of the industrial and vehicular pollution has been regulated and cleaned up. The 2004 Olympics delivered massive infrastructure investment and a new appreciation for dining out and entertainment seems to have struck the Athenians.
The Parthenon - yes, you've done it to death in school, but a visit to the Parthenon whilst in Athens is a must do. Come to the Acropolis and see the Parthenon up close to get a real appreciation for Greek civilisation. Make sure you check out the Acropolis Museum.
The Agora-Athens Central Market - you may not be much of a supermarket shopper but don't worry; this is no supermarket with a clean up on aisle five waiting. if you can rise and shine, an early morning visit to see the trucks unload with fresh fish, meats and produce is an exciting time. The place bursts with energy and the raucous shouts, the frenetic atmosphere and the madness will leave you breathless. The restaurants and cafes here are good and generally cheap. Better yet, it backs on to the Athens Chinatown and the main shopping precinct of Eolou street.
Psiri - this fun neighbourhood is full of alleys, tiny streets, cafes, ouzeries, clubs, restaurants, quirky shops and boutiques, theatres and more. It's worth just wandering around to get a feel for Athens per se. It's a buzzy precinct and you can spend all day here and then enjoy some nightlife.
Mount Lycabettus - this symmetrical little mountain in the middle of Athens is worth the climb. Not only is there the most marvellous view from the top, there's also a refreshing cafe and an amphitheatre which has hosted some of the top acts in the world.
The Temple of Poseidon - you've seen the movies, now see the real thing. On a hill at the tip of the Attiki Peninsular is the Temple of Poseidon, God of the Sea, which boasts not only the carved graffiti of Lord Byron but the best sunsets in Greece besides Santorini.
The must see - is the National Archaeological Museum . You are in one of the world centres for old stuff after all. The museum houses some of the most important collections in the world. You'll find ancient Greek sculpture, jewellery, pottery, and the Antikythera Device, a 2000 year old computer found in the shipwreck off the island of Antikythera. Is it real or not?