Athens City Breaks
Enjoy authentic Athens with a HomeAway city break
HomeAway travel expert
Athens is a 7,000-year-old mishmash of ancient monuments, upmarket modern suburbs and the gateway to the Greek Islands. Throughout its history, it has been an important city and trading post for the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilisations; each has left its unique imprint on one of the most ancient and fascinating cities in Europe. Modern day Athens is built on the legacy of these ancient and once great civilizations.
Where better to start a visit to Athens that at the Parthenon? It's one of the iconic wonders of the ancient world and that enduring symbol of western civilisation. Athens is definitely a city for culture buffs and for anyone interested in history it's heaven. But there is more to Athens than just its distant past. Today it is a vibrant and colourful city with bustling street markets, upmarket shopping districts and trendy bars. And with regular routes across the Aegean why not combine your city break with a day on an island beach?
Top five picks for city breaks in Athens
Parthenon and the New Acropolis Museum
Dominating the Athenian skyline is the imposing Acropolis citadel. Amongst temples and sanctuaries dedicated to Athena, Nike and Zeus is the breathtaking Parthenon, temple to Athena, Athens' patron Goddess. The Parthenon hails from a classical Greece dominated by Athenian democracy and is often seen as the enduring symbol of ancient Greece. Over time the temples have fallen into disrepair and the Parthenon was heavily damaged in 1687 during the Venetian siege. Today the Parthenon is being painstakingly restored with many of the heavy marbles having been replaced with casts. To see the originals and learn first-hand from archaeologists visit the New Acropolis Museum, a short walk down Dionisiou Areopagitou. After your visit, head to the winding streets of Plaka and eat at one of the many family-run restaurants.
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Follow the streets of the Plaka area from the Acropolis Museum and after a short walk you will come to Monastiraki Square. Once home to one of Athens' largest monasteries, today all that remains of this is the small church and a nearby Mosque. Monastiraki has always been a commercial hub and today it's home to an eclectic flea market where you can buy anything and everything; think Athens' answer to London’s Camden! Around the square you'll find streets mixing high street shops and individual boutiques. Scratch the surface and you will even find the ruins of Hadrian’s wall: it's not just Britain that had one!
Kolonaki and Mount Lycabettus
Draped around the lower reaches of Mount Lycabettus, Kolonaki was once the preserve of the elite (think Park Lane in London), and today it still has a feel of glamour. Sitting in Kolonaki square sipping a coffee and watching the world go by, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Paris. Stroll the beautiful streets window shopping in the boutiques and designer stores, before ascending Mount Lycabettus by foot or the funicular railway to visit the church at the top. This is one of the highest points in Athens with panoramic views right out to Piraeus and the Aegean beyond. Close by is the Museum of Cycladic Art with stunning examples of early art works and pottery from the Cyclades.
Explore the Ancient Agora
Whilst the Parthenon held the idols to Athena, it was at the Agora where the business of the city and state took place. It was the focus of polity, the social and commercial hub, and the seat of the judiciary, as well as serving as the religious and cultural centre. Democracy can trace its history back to streets which we can still walk down today. Whilst some buildings and structures have been restored, the vast majority is in ruins having been gradually abandoned during the Byzantine era. It is a fascinating area to scratch the surface of Athenian history and wonderful for taking a walk or even a picnic on a hot day.
Relax in the National Gardens
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and the beating sun with a trip to the quiet and shade of the National Gardens. Formally the gardens of the King, today they are a tropical paradise lined with palm trees. Though you can escape the modern city there are still archaeological remains strewn throughout the gardens. If you have the family with you, then head to the duck ponds or the small zoo. There are many animal attractions but be sure to see the turtles! If animals aren’t your thing, then the Botanical Gardens are well worth a look to simply relax in the shade during the midday sun.
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