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Parthenon and Herodium in Athens, Greece

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Discover the birthplace of western civilisation on holidays in Athens, where ancient temples overlook bustling shopping streets and family-friendly Greek tavernas. This European city is one of the most intriguing places to visit, with its ancient historical sites mixed in with the modern day city going about its daily business.

Why go?

Jam-packed with world-class tourist attractions, a great climate and good value hotels and restaurants, Athens makes for a great getaway.

Athens swells outwards from the Acropolis, a flat-topped hillside that's crowned by the tall white pillars of the Parthenon. In its shadow is Plaka, a warren of music-filled streets lined with restaurants, bars and gift shops. You can stop here for an icy-cold beer, or buzz straight down to the Ancient Agora to wander among crumbling stone ruins. Modern Athens begins at Syntagma Square, with the National Gardens and the Greek Parliament both just a stone's throw away.

There are many museums in the city, including the flagship Museum of the Acropolis with its new modern building at the foot of the hill. And you can visit the ancient Olympic stadium where London received the torch in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

Arriving at Athens Airport, a walkway connects the airport terminal with the Athens Metro system, which leads directly to central hubs like Syntagma Square. Taxis are the best option if you want to avoid rush hour on the Metro. Cars wait by the arrivals area.

Public transport The Metro is fast and easy, serving destinations across the city. Listen out for the music piped into downtown stations. Taxis Bright-yellow taxis are a common sight across Athens, and they're easy to flag down. Just ask for the meter to be switched on before you start moving.
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When to go?

With daily services from several UK airports, you can visit the Greek capital at any time of the year.

Summer is the time when most tourists descend on the city, including large numbers of cruise ship visitors. Temperatures can exceed 30 degrees Celsius, making walking around the key sites uncomfortable, so travel prepared. Spring and autumn are delightful times to visit and winter can also offer days of clear blue skies, although you will need to wrap up well in the evening.

What's on?

If you are looking to coincide your city break to Athens with one of the many events that takes place each year, here’s what’s on offer.

Athens Epidaurus Festival; June to August: This major festival takes place every year in the city and is a three-month long arts festival covering everything from modern dance to ballet, live theatre to music concerts. Check out the online guide for events taking place during your planned visit.

Independence Day; March 25: The nation celebrates Independence Day with huge parades in the capital which are well worth seeing.

The Carnival; March/April: This festival is celebrated with three weeks of dancing and feasting in the run up to Easter.

What to do?

If you are looking for some great things to do on your break in the city, why not try some of our suggestions?

Families: At Hellenic Cosmos, a hands-on museum about ancient Greece, almost everything is interactive. Take the kids on a walk through ancient Olympia, or step inside the towering Temple of Zeus.

Active types: Love your sport? Then you'll get a kick out of visiting the U-shaped Panathinaiko Stadium, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games. Built from pearly white marble, it could once seat up to 80,000 people.

Shopping: Kolonaki is the trendiest shopping district in Athens, and a great place to spend an afternoon searching for that new leather handbag. Keep your eyes peeled for bow-topped designs by local icon Vassilis Zoulias.

Romance: If you're looking for romantic weekend breaks in Athens, you can't beat a Greek spa overlooking the Athenian Riviera. Have a long soak in the silky, magnesium rich waters, then sip a fruity cocktail as you watch the sun setting over the city.

Free & cheap: Athens' Central Market gives you a flavour for the real Greece, and it's one of the city's cheapest places to eat and drink. Even if you're not hungry, it's worth having a good mooch around!