A bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis, Athens is the epicenter of the economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life of Greece. Located at the crossroads of three continents, Athens has been a melting pot of cultures over the centuries. Today, it is Greece’s capital with an overall population of more than 3 million people. As Greeks are known for their hospitality since ancient times, visitors are sure to receive a warm welcome here.
Athens is also an ideal congress destination, combining state-of-the-art infrastructure, excellent congress facilities and easy access from all over the world with world-class cultural attractions, modern amenities and diverse entertainment.
Past & Present
Boasting a history of 2.500 years by preserving various monuments along with some world class museums, Athens is an attractive destination with a vibrant contemporary cultural life. The founding of Athens dates back to mythological times. The city’s history is still evident in the form of many Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine monuments.
A hub for the arts and philosophy during Antiquity, Athens was the home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. The city was also the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, and Sophocles among many other prominent philosophers, writers and politicians. The city is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of Europe.
The heritage from its classical era is still evident in the city via a number of ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon on the Acropolis, widely considered a prime landmark of Western civilization. The city also retains numerous Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of remnants of the Ottoman era, projecting the city’s long history across the centuries.
Landmarks of the modern era are also present, dating back to the establishment of the Modern Greek state, such as the Greek Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy of buildings (Library, University, and Academy) at Panepistimiou Street.
Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896. Having hosted the Olympic Games again in 2004, the city has proven to meet the requirements of one of the most demanding events, delivering an impeccable result.
Landmarks & Museums of Athens
Being one of the most historically significant cities in Europe, Athens has much to offer to those who are interested in exploring traces of the world’s cultural heritage. Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied Athens, and erected some splendid monuments. The capital of Greece integrates its ancient and medieval history into the contemporary era. Such monuments can be found all around the city center, side by side with contemporary constructions such as buildings, roads and train stations.
The Acropolis is arguably the most well-known monument of Greek civilization. Its main building, the Parthenon, was dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron Goddess of the city and was completed in 432 BC. Unfortunately, like most ancient monuments, the state of the Acropolis has deteriorated over the centuries through vandalism and pillaging. Nevertheless, just at the end of the hill, stands the Acropolis Museum. It is there that numerous pieces of information are provided so as to grasp the history throughout the years.
Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus
Before starting the climb to get the Parthenon, it is impossible to miss a monument as impressive as Hadrian’s Arch. Constructed in 131 AD by the Roman Emperor, it was created to form an entrance for the new city and separate it from the old one. From the side of the monument that faces the Acropolis one can see the inscription “This is Athens, the former city of Theseus” while on the other side “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.
Behind Hadrian’s Arch stands the imposing temple of Olympian Zeus. The building process started in the 6th century BC, only to be completed in the 2nd century AD by Emperor Hadrian. Originally consisting of 104 Corinthian columns, only 16 remain today. Inside the temple, Hadrian built an enormous gold and ivory statue of Zeus. To this day it is not certain when the destruction of temple took place. It could have been brought down during the Germanic invasions of the 3rd century AD or even by a powerful earthquake. In any case, ruins of the temple must have been used later on as building materials of other Athenian structures.
The Ancient Agora, which means “market” in modern Greek, is situated at the footsteps of the Acropolis and in ancient times it served as the commercial centre of the city but also as a political, cultural and religious centre. Today it resembles a park and is a peaceful area that can be explored either on foot or by bicycle giving people a vivid visual of the everyday life of an ancient Athenian.
Originally built in the 4th century B.C. for the athletic competitions of the Great Panathinaia (ancient Greek festivities), the “Kallimarmaron” Stadium was the venue of the first modern Olympic Games, in 1896. A creation of the Athenians, as its name proudly proclaims, the Panathenaic Stadium has been the venue for noble competition and fair play, of mind and of body, since Antiquity.
Herodes Atticus Theatre
Built at the base of the Acropolis, the ancient amphitheatre of Herodeion, also known as the Odeon of Herodus Atticus, is one of the best places to experience a live classical theatre performance. This ancient theater was built in the Roman times, in about 161 A.D. by the Roman philosopher, teacher and politician Herodes Atticus. It was built in the memory of his wife Aspasia Regilla who died in 160 AD and is still used for various performances.
Museums of Athens
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. It was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, thus displaying their historical, cultural and artistic value.
Click here for the National Archaeological Museum website.
Byzantine & Christian Museum
The Byzantine and Christian Museum, which is based in Athens, is one of Greece’s national museums. Its areas of competency are centered on – but not limited to – religious artefacts of the Early Christian, Byzantine, Medieval, post-Byzantine and later periods. The Museum has over 25.000 artifacts in its possession, which date from between the 3rd and 20th Century A.D.
Click here for the Byzantine & Christian Museum website.
Museum of Cycladic Art
The Museum of Cycladic Art is dedicated to the study and promotion of ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus, with special emphasis on Cycladic Art of the 3rd millennium BC. It was founded in 1986, to house the collection of Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris, an extensive and unique private collection of prehistoric art from the Cycladic islands as well as ancient Greece.
Click here for the Museum of Cycladic Art website.
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum was founded in 2003 and completed in 2007 after decades of being born as an idea, as a place that would accommodate the missing Parthenon sculptures. Today it is focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies over the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.
Click here for the Acropolis Museum website.
The Benaki Museum ranks among the major institutions that have enriched the material assets of the Greek state. It houses 30.000 items illustrating the character of the Greek world through a spectacular historical panorama covering several periods ranging from the Prehistoric, Ancient and Roman periods to the Byzantine and the contemporary Hellenic period.
Click here for the Benaki Museum website.
Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center of the Foundation of Hellenic World
A living museum, an ultramodern cultural center, where visitors can learn about history, culture and sciences through interactive exhibitions, educational programs, virtual reality shows and documentaries.
Click here for the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center website.
Shopping, Gastronomy and Nightlife
One of the most popular places to go to in the center of the city is the Attica department store located in the center of Athens. One can find all kinds of products there from clothes, shoes, cosmetics, jewelry, bags and even home equipment and decorating items. You name it, it has it. Around it there are multiple coffee shops, theatres and museums offering a full evening of satisfaction all in one area. On the north side of Attica is the Kolonaki area, the best place for high end shopping in the city with all the big fashion names. On the south side of Attica, is Ermou street. A road full of fun, fresh brands and shops leading to the ultimate street shopping experience of Monastiraki. Plaka and Monastriraki are situated around the Acropolis and offer a unique experience combining walks through the old cobblestone roads and traditional flea markets and bazaars.
Greek gastronomy has recorded a history of around 4,000 years, with especial characteristics based on pure and unique quality goods produced on Greek soil. In fact, it was Archestratos who wrote the first cookbook in history (330 B.C.). In truth Greek cuisine has four secrets: good quality fresh ingredients, correct use of flavorings (herbs) and spices, the famous Greek olive oil and simplicity.
Olive oil, honey, salt and cheese may be the signature tastes one remembers after having a meal here but there are many more ways to impress your palette and satisfy your cravings. Due to the ever generous Mediterranean sea, a Greek table is almost never complete without various delicious fresh fish.
Finally when it comes to drinking, wine has been imbedded in the Greek culture since the ancient times and is still taken and drunk very seriously by Greeks today as there are hundreds of wineries around the country and countless wine bars in all cities and islands. Other famous Greek drinks include Ouzo, Raki and the mysterious Mastic that can only be produced in one island in Greece as the plants of its origin are unable to grow successfully anywhere else in the entire world for reasons still unknown to this day.
Athens Nightlife, Cultural Life and Entertainment
One of the main characteristics of Greek Culture tourists notice is the vibrant lifestyle and unique hospitality of Athenians.
From jazz bars to pubs and the clubs to the traditional Greek Bouzoukia, Athens is a vibrant city offering a wide range of options that appeal to all sorts of lifestyles and tastes.
Dinner in Greece is served relatively late compared to other countries, reservations are rarely booked before 9 pm and bars never close before 2 am. Clubs in Athens can stay open until the morning hours making every night into a special occasion where one can meet new people, as Greeks have a tendency to meet, greet and include people when they are having fun.
As a night starter, Greece is one of the few countries in Europe where all cinemas play films in their original language with complimentary subtitles, therefore allowing our visitors to enjoy the pleasure of a movie the same way they would at home country.