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Monastiraki square by night

The Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Plaka, Anafiotika, Monastiraki. The famous ‘historic triangle’ of Athens is full of surprises.

You are in Athens. Whether as a quick stop before you embark for an exotic Greek island, for a business conference, or just a brief holiday escape, Athens promises unforgettable experiences filled with history, culture and a thousand images that will excite your senses!

The Acropolis, the sacred rock of humanity
Centuries separate the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis from the city that pulsates at its feet, lively and vibrant. And yet, the timeless history of humanity and creation will unite Athens and the Acropolis forever. The iconic Parthenon, its silhouette forever defining the perpetually blue Attica skyline, is the place where it all began; philosophy, democracy, the sciences and the theatre. The cluster of temples, shrines and ruins that you’ll encounter at the Acropolis, creations of the Golden Age of Pericles (5th century BC), form the cornerstone of European culture. It’s not surprising that the Acropolis has been a Unesco World Heritage Site  since 1987.

Anafiotika: an island beneath the Acropolis
A microcosm, a window onto the Athens of a hundred years ago, is carved into the northeast side of the hill of the Acropolis and looks as if it has been borrowed from a postcard of the Cyclades. You’ll get lost in its labyrinthine pathways, wandering among the charming homes, quaint patios and whitewashed streets, barely wide enough for two. You’ll inhale the smell of jasmine and roses, as you take in  the panoramic view of Athens this area offers you.

Plaka: The district of ‘Old Athens’
Shaded squares, flower-filled patios and well-kept gardens, ornate cornices and neoclassical tiles. Plaka is like an open-air museum, with its monuments like Lysikrates, the Roman Agora, the Tower of the Winds and Byzantine churches. You’ll be overwhelmed by the plethora of souvenirs, works of art, traditional Greek products, clothing and handmade leather sandals.

Cafes, restaurants with tables on their terraces, tavernas and mezedopolia hidden in the alleyways, are all jam-packed with tourists and locals alike, eating and drinking side by side. On the sidewalks of Plaka, it’s as if the clock stopped at the end of the 19th century, an ambience that charms thousands of visitors that fill its sloping streets. This diligently preserved settlement begins on the east side of the Acropolis and spreads north of the Sacred Rock, ending in the Roman Agora. For Athenians, it is the “district of the gods”.

Ancient Agora: The heart of the city
Scholars from the School of Fine Arts sit inside the Ancient Agora for hours trying to recapture a piece of antiquity. Classical, Hellenistic and Roman eras are all represented here. Walk upon the same pavement as that of the Panathenaic procession. Listen to the echoes of ancient Athenians that once voted against their political opponents, the roar of the fans at the athletic competitions, the sounds of ceremonies where gods and heroes were worshipped, the chisels sculpting some of the most important buildings in history, the footsteps of Romans and the concerts in the music conservatory.

Monastiraki: Where East meets West
A bustling crowd of young people of all backgrounds and cultures pours out from the metro station, with its neoclassical facade, into Monastiraki – one of the main meeting points in the city. This metro station has great archaeological significance. During the construction works, artefacts from the 8th century BC through to the 19th century AD were unearthed. Of particular interest is the brickwork tunnel covering  the ancient Iridanos River – the glass pedestrian bridge allows you to admire it from above.

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Piece by piece you’ll put together the colourful puzzle that is this neighbourhood. At the Pandrossou Street market, among the dozens of tourist shops, you’ll find some of the oldest jewellers in the city. Everyone stops for a souvlaki near the square. On Hefaistos Street, the city’s flea market, you’ll find leather sandals, hats, clothes, replicas of archaeological artefacts and musical instruments. In Avissinias Square, you’ll go antique hunting. The elegant pedestrian avenue of Adrianou is also full of surprises, featuring  stores with designer clothes and accessories, vintage shoes and handbags, cafes and restaurants, all within sight of the Acropolis.

Ermou: the commercial face of Athens
The most famous pedestrian avenue in the centre of the city is a shopper’s paradise. Families, groups of friends, mothers and daughters, young professionals and international tourists of all ages, weave in and out of the shops on Ermou that sell anything you need, but are especially known for their clothing and shoes. About midway is the church of Panagia Kapnikarea, which was built around 1060-1070, street performers and vendors gather to entertain passersby. Choose one of the stylish coffee houses in the arcades to take a break between shopping.

Syntagma Square: Where history is made
This square is the central hub of the historic centre. Walking in front of the monument of the Unknown Soldier, built in 1932, you’ll feed the pigeons like everyone else and wait patiently for the kilted Evzones to perform the changing of the guard, which happens on the hour. Behind them is the imposing Hellenic Parliament building. Built as a palace by the architect Friedrich von Gaertner for the first kings of early modern Greece who began their period of sovereignty in 1843, it has been home to the Greek Parliament since 1935.