Visitors to the eternally fascinating Greek capital city of Athens embark on a journey into the birthplace of western civilisation, witnessing some of the earliest periods of modern human building. Don't be fooled into thinking that Athens is all about dusty relics; this vibrant city is cutting-edge in almost equal measure, with shopping, nightlife, a sporting scene, and enough cultural and artistic offerings to match any modern city.
You cannot deny or ignore the influence of history on this great city. Standing proudly above it all is the Acropolis of Athens, the most important ancient site not just in Athens, but in all of Greece. The white marble of the Parthenon glimmers in the sunshine.
Tour the historic triangle made up by the ancient neighbourhoods of the Plaka, Psyri and Thission, diving in and out of boutiques and department stores and stopping off occasionally for a bite of something quintessentially Greek with a cool drink. Syntagma Square holds people-watching opportunities and architectural wonders above street level, and there are numerous museums in Athens that are worthy of exploration. Then, when the sun disappears for the day, be prepared to jump into the heady and famous nightlife of Athens.
Staying in central Athens hotels is advisable if you would prefer to be within walking distance of the major historical sights. Districts to look out for include the Plaka, Syntagma, Psyri (also spelled Psiri, Psyrri, and Psirri), and Monasteraki. Some of the historic central areas, such as the Plaka, are closed to traffic, which enables a better night's sleep. Syntagma, on the other hand, buzzes with cars, motorbikes, and nightlife. If you would prefer to stay outside of Athens then car hire is available for you to get around and visit the sites.
There are budget hotels in Athens, even in the central areas. Luxury hotels are dotted around the city, though mostly concentrated on the central areas. Four- and five-star Athens hotels tend to grant the finest views of the Acropolis of Athens, and rooftop pools and sunny terraces are common in the most exclusive establishments.
You'll find properties from well-known names such as Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Melia, Radisson Blu, Westin and Holiday Inn as well as a huge range of locally-run and managed hotels. The grandest property is the magnificent Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens with views over the parliament buildings and the city's main square.
Top five attractions
Acropolis of Athens
Sitting high on a rocky outcrop, you cannot miss the Acropolis. Of all the major remains within the huge complex, the Parthenon is a must. The wider complex includes the Roman Agora and the nearby Acropolis Museum.
A vast collection of Greek art spanning the ages is on display at the impressive museum, which can be found in Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, opposite the National Garden.
National Archaeological Museum
Many treasures of ancient Greece can be seen at this museum. It certainly makes you appreciate how much less civilised we would have been without the ancient Greeks.
Panathenaic Stadium (Panathinaiko Stadio)
The first stadium of the modern Olympic Games - and a beautiful vision in marble - this venue dates back more than 2,000 years. The minimal entrance fee is great value.
Spend a few hours wandering around the maze-like cobbled streets of the Plaka, an ancient neighbourhood now filled with busy cafés and souvenir shops.
Apokries; January/February/March: A week-long Greek carnival that has its origins in celebrating Dionysus (Bachus), the god of wine and joy. Children and adults get dressed up for the festivities. Hire costumes and join the fun.
Athens Festival; May-October: One of the biggest and best festivals in Greece. Cultural performances can be seen at many city venues, including some free outdoor events. Since the festival runs between late spring and autumn, it is unlikely to impact on demand for accommodation.
Athens Marathon; October/November: Fancy running the ultimate classic marathon? Start in the town of Marathon and climb up hill for most of the course. If that sounds too taxing, simply cheer the competitors on from the side lines. Book hotels early during this event.