Athens Greece Culture

Athens city break guide
May 13, 2016 – 09:05 am
National Archeological Museum

Why go?

Often referred to as the cradle of Western civilisation, Athens is a 2, 500-year-old hotch-potch of concrete upon brick upon stone. Despite recent bad press due to Greece’s economic woes, and harshly imposed austerity measures which have had an extremely negative impact on average Greeks, the great city remains a must-do for culture buffs.

The ultimate Mediterranean cruise: Experience an extraordinary two-week luxury journey around the southern Mediterranean in the company of some of our best-loved contributors, including cartoonist Matt Pritchett, art critic Alastair Sooke, wine correspondent Victoria Moore and historian Dr Bettany Hughes.

Since 2004, the newly-inaugurated Archaeological Promenade, a 2.5-mile long, pedestrian-only, tree-lined walkway skirting the foot of the Acropolis and linking all the city’s major archaeological sites, has made the city centre infinitely more walkable and reduced the notorious traffic congestion and exhaust fumes.

But visitors don’t come here just for the ancient monuments. Despite the current economic crises, contemporary Athens boasts one of the most happening nightlife scenes in Europe, which now centres on the urban-chic bars and cafés between Syntagma and grungy Monastiraki (at the foot of the Acropolis), and the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Metaxourgiou, known for its art galleries and hip eateries. And somewhat surprisingly, more and more new bars and restaurants keep opening, even in times of strife.

Often referred to as the cradle of Western civilisation, Athens is a 2, 500-year-old hotch-potch of concrete upon brick upon stone.


Athens is served by Piraeus, the largest passenger port in Europe and the major node for the countless ferries, catamarans and hydrofoils that serve the Greek islands. The port has 11 modern berths for cruise ships; during the 2004 Olympics, the world’s largest cruise ship, the Queen Mary II, docked here and served as a floating hotel. Since then, the number of cruise ships passing through Piraeus has increased exponentially. In 2012, it was the world’s fourth most visited cruise port, receiving 2, 067, 000 passengers.

Piraeus is a major embarkation/disembarkation point for short cruises round the Greek Islands, and many companies include it as a port of call on their Mediterranean and world cruises. The main draw is the chance to explore the city’s splendid hilltop Acropolis, home to the majestic fifth-century BC Parthenon, and also to make excursions inland to the much-photographed archaeological site of Delphi.

Telegraph Tour with Bettany Hughes: Take our special invitation to explore the Golden Age of Classical Athens on a six-day miniature odyssey with the well known historian and broadcaster. The small-group tour is led by expert archaeologists and includes privileged access to key sites.

Tourism accounts for approximately 18 per cent of Greece’s GDP, so if you come here on holiday you’ll be helping the local economy.

Athens’s city centre is a pleasure to explore on foot and most of the main attractions lie within walking distance of one another.

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