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Athens travel review: A city steeped in history and culture

By Bill McCarthy | Travel | Published:

Bill McCarthy enjoys a short break in the heart of Athens.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident with ancient monuments, the most famous of all being the Acropolis

It’s the city that never sleeps, the home of modern civilisation, home of the Acropolis and Parthenon and the home of a million taxis.

Or so it seems, I don’t think I have seen so many taxis, even in New York

Athens is a wonderful city, steeped in history, alive with culture and with a diverse and as it seemed to us, young, population.

The birthplace of democracy, it is often referred to as the cradle of western civilisation and is one of world's oldest cities, its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years.

A stunning night view of the Acropolis from Athens city centre

Classical Athens was a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum.

It seems hard to believe Greece itself was in such dire straits and needing a bailout just a few short years ago.

In the teeming thriving metropolis sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean and Aegean sea, that seems a distant memory.

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The bustling Monastiraki Square is a busy shopping and leisure centre

We spent two memorable days the heart of the city at the Athens Tiare Hotel, on historic Omonia Square, a central as you can get in Athens and the oldest square in the city

The hotel stands proudly overlooking Omonia, also known as Concord Square. The hotel is within easy reach of landmarks, museums, cultural centres, wining and dining, shopping and anything you may desire.

A two-minute walk from the city’s subway, you can buy a 10 Euro ticket from the airport and arrive at the square via one change on metro in around 40 minutes.

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From here most of the major attractions are within easy reach, even walking distance for this wishing burn off the excess calories from the excellent Greek street food.

The 10-storey hotel dominates the square and offers various accommodation, from comfort through to family and executive quality rooms. All have been refurbished and our deluxe room featured comfortable king-size bed, huge wall mounted flat-screen TV, drink making facilities and a state of the art bathroom with high end power shower with massaging jets.

Exceptional comfort.

A De-luxe room with city view is comprehensively equipped

We stayed on B&B basis, with breakfast served in the cafe-style Artensis restaurant on the mezzanine floor. It offers a comfortable ambiance, offering a chic, modern dining area, with a fantastic view over the square.

Other facilities include free computer and printer use at the business centre, small library and fitness centre as well as a ground floor lobby lounge and bar with outside area, that also proved popular with passers-by, stopping off for a coffee or early evening tipple.

Importantly the whole building was spotlessly clean for our visit with the staff courteous and helpful. You can see why it would be equally popular with tourists and business users.

The cafe-style restaurant overlooking the main square

Within minutes you can take a journey through ancient civilisation to the modern days, and enjoy landmarks, museums, cultural and government centres, shopping and an impressive flea market.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident seemingly everywhere in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Acropolis and Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilisation. Other archaeologically important sites such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch and the Tower of the Winds are nearby.

An informative and comprehensive view of the city can be had on one of the many open top city tour buses. A multi-lingual commentary gives passengers all the information about the city and its origins.

A spectacular view of Athens from the Acropolis

The metro also takes you in two stops to Syntagma Square with many cultural and civic buildings nearby the very heart of Athens, and to Monastiraki Square, the historic core of the city, which is jam packed with shops, open air stalls and that flea market. This station also features ancient Greek ruins, while the metro itself can take you even further afield to the historic Port of Piraeus, one of the trading hubs linking Europe with Africa and Asia.

Be prepared for a real hike however if you decide to visit the Acropolis of Athens on foot. The word acropolis means the highest point and there are many others in Greece.

It is the home of several ancient ruins, including the most famous of all, the Parthenon, a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, who the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power.

Hugely popular, even in early May literally thousands were queuing to see the iconic landmark. At 20 euro, it is a price worth paying for surely must be one of the wonders of the ancient world.

As said earlier, it is quite a hike up the hill from the city centre, but buses and taxis, would cut that journey by two thirds.

A fantastic thriving capital city with a terrific transport infrastructure. Everything is near at hand and one of the most important historical and archaeologically important sites in the world. I would go again.

Bill McCarthy

By Bill McCarthy
Chief Sub-editor - @BMcCarthy_Star

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