Athens exudes a unique charm, its lively character winning over
tens of thousands of visitors every year. Street markets,
vine-covered tavernas, souvenir stalls and ancient monuments are
dotted among high-rise buildings in this capital city, which one
out of four Greeks call home. For tourists the greatest advantage
is that most attractions are accessible on foot in the central area
around the landmark Acropolis.
Athens was named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who
according to mythology won the city as prize after a duel against
Poseidon. The city can chart its history back thousands of years
and is regarded as the cradle of western civilisation; the place
where democracy was invented and philosophy, art and architecture
were refined. After a classical golden age when it was home to
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the city declined in the Middle
Ages, dwindling to nothing but a town with a few thousand residents
gathered in the colourful area that is now known as the Plaka,
until its rebirth as capital of an independent Greece in 1834.
Nowadays the city is busy and bustling. While the pollution,
frantic gridlock and dingy buildings is of great contrast to the
open beauty of Greece's coast and islands, Athens is truly the
heartbeat of the country, and ancient wonders like the Acropolis,
the Parthenon, and the Temples of Zeus and Hephaesus ensure that
Athens will always have its attractions.