Last weekend, the World Travel Awards bestowed honours upon the best airlines, attractions and destinations around the world. The winner of ‘best European city break’ was deemed to be Athens – a city which expects to receive around 32 million tourists this year, three million of whom will be Brits.
With the debt crisis finally behind them, Greece has seen an influx of foreign visitors and the capital has once again become a must-see destination. With so much interest surrounding the city, we take a look at the best things to do in Athens.
Another winner on the night, the Acropolis was awarded ‘Leading Tourist Attraction’, cementing its status as a must-see for anyone visiting the area. The pick of Athens’s Ancient Greek remnants is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, because of its strategic position, was home to some of the most important and sacred buildings.
Many make the mistake of thinking the Acropolis is just the Parthenon, but it’s actually an entire city made up of various different buildings. Granted, the Parthenon is the highlight and one of the most perfect structures ever built, but the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion are also beautiful sights.
The walk from street level up to the Acropolis has recently been renovated, making it a much more pleasant journey which has become part of the amazing experience. Just don’t make the trip in the middle of the day or you’ll be stifled by the heat.
Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
The strength of the museums in Athens is another big reason why it was announced as Europe’s leading city break destination and this example is arguably one of the best in all of Greece. This is the largest of the museums founded by Antonis Benakis (there are others dedicated to contemporary and Islamic art) and features artefacts from throughout history.
From prehistoric art to children’s toys used during the 20th century, the fascinating exhibitions will take you on a journey. Even if you are not the sort of person to usually enjoy museums, there is so much to see and the artefacts are so diverse that you can’t help but find something that piques your interest.
Athens Central Market
One of the best ways to observe life in Athens is to visit its largest market. In the times of Plato and Socrates, there were actually three different ‘Agoras’ (as they are known) but this one on Athinas Street is the only one still in operation and open to the public.
Arrive in the morning to experience the excitement in the air and a cacophony of voices as vendors lay out their prices and locals attempt to haggle them down. You’ll find everything from fresh fish to fresh fruit and quality meats. If you have nowhere to cook any of the ingredients available, take a seat in one of the meat market restaurants to sample some of the produce on sale.
This is Athens’s oldest neighbourhood and the perfect place for a pleasant afternoon stroll or delicious evening meal. The picturesque streets are nestled beautifully below the Acropolis and they feature a range of charming restaurants, quaint shops and artisan workshops.
The area is also where you will find Cine Paris – one of the many open-air theatres in the city and one which dates back to 1920. Why not take a seat with the rest of the crowd after your meal and enjoy a movie under the stars?
Temple of Olympian Zeus
If you’re not already ‘templed-out’ from the Acropolis, take a visit to the largest temple in the city, dedicated to God of all Gods, Zeus. Situated directly in the city centre, you can’t miss its 15 columns (there was originally 104) or the 17-metre-high base on which they stand.
Although started by Peisistratos in the 6th century BC, it was only finished by Emperor Hadrian in AD131. That 700 years of construction makes Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia look like a quick build.
Incidentally, if you have already visited the Acropolis, your ticket will also cover entry into this colossal monument.
If you would like us to help you plan your Athens city break, call us on 0800 988 3369 or click here to send an online enquiry. Remember, we can tailor-make the trip to your requirements so you can enjoy the perfect holiday.