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Before you hurry onto a yacht or plane to any number of beautiful Mediterranean islands, discover the wealth under your feet: the Greek capital, birthplace to the most influential ideas of early Western civilization and inspiration to scholars worldwide. As it dispels a reputation earned in the 20th century as a crowded, depreciated metropolis, Athens has revitalized itself in the world of fashion, shopping and the arts, and refurbished luxury hotels thanks in large part to the 2004 summer Olympics. Experience the city as it hovers at the precipice of a mini, modern Golden Age, and explore the myriad of activities inspired by its rich history, culture and location.
1 Koumbari Street
Though ancient Greek history is well-known, Byzantine history is much less celebrated. Explore the era that links ancient and modern times, where Greece's oldest museum, a breathtaking neoclassical structure in the center of the city, features more than 30,000 items that illustrate Greece's distinct history, including Byzantine artifacts, the permanent Childhood, Toys and Games exhibit and extensive collections of Coptic, Chinese and Islamic art. Relax at the cafe, which features a terrace overlooking the garden, then browse the gift shop full of decorative objects, tools, jewelry and handmade goods.
Acropolis Donyssiou Areopagitou
Purchase a ticket for the Unification of Archeological Sites and step into a world of antiquity. This is Acropolis: one of the world’s most revered sites of ancient urban ruins. Enter through the Beule Gate and marvel at the Propulaea’s ancient Doric and Ionic columns. Imagine life in the second century as you visit the Temple of Athena Nike. Though little of it remains, current Athenian government promises that by the end of 2006, the temple will be rebuilt with sections returned from the Acropolis Museum, and the rest will be laser-cleaned to remove soot. Athens wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Parthenon’s legendary columns, constructed in the 5th century BC. Take a picture in front of the Erechtheion, which faces the larger, though some say, less beautiful, Parthenon. Don’t let the six beautiful maidens on the Porch of Caryatids fool you—though these decorative columns look like the real thing, the originals are actually in the Acropolis Museum. When you enter the site, ask the ticket takers for an English-language guide.
National Archeological Museum
44 Patission Street
Called the most important museum in all of Greece, the National Archaeological Museum will be closed for a much-needed expansion until 2007. Millions have flocked to its corridors to view the Mycenaean collection at this 19th century building. Anafiotika This charming village-within-a-city, whitewashed and flush with ceramics and bougainvillea, sits at the northeast base of the Acropolis and was home to many stone workers from the islands in the 19th century. Visit some of the oldest churches in the city, such as the 18th-century Ayios Georgios tou Vrachou or the 14th-century Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros.
43 Robertou Galli Street
Tel. +30 210 923 3182
If you've been to Athens and want to see the Acropolis from a different perspective consider dining at this modern Athenian restaurant. Great views and food.
Armatolon and Klefton 48,
between Leoforos Alexandras and Mt. Lycabettus,
Inspired by the setting -- this cavernous space was previously home to an art gallery -- French-trained chef, Christoforos Peskias has created a menu with definite visual appeal. Rather than fusing Greek recipes with exotic ingredients, he has recreated ordinary dishes like bakaliaros (deep-fried cod) and the ubiquitous Greek salad with new ingredients. Reservations essential. Closed on Sun.
Chef-owner Chrisanthos Karamolengos's stellar fusion cuisine and his conversion of industrial space into stylish surroundings have made him hugely influential on the local culinary scene. Popular dishes include pheasant sausage with parsnips in Madeira; pork tenderloin with apricot and ginger; shrimp rolls with a sesame-and-tomato paste sauce; and a Greek version of sushi -- raw squid and trout roe on eggplant puree. The restaurant is divided by partitions (hence the name, "Left-Right") and a glass runway affords a peek below into Athens's best wine cellar. In summer, tables move outside and the menu switches to simpler taverna fare. Reservations essential. Closed on Sun. No lunch.
152 Ermou St. Gazi
For fusion of Mediterranean cuisine by an Italian chef, Interni is a stylish restaurant that will impress you. It is located in the center of the city, at 152 Ermou St. Call for reservations: 210-346-8900. Young Aphrodites with Gucci bags congregate upstairs at Interni, Athens hot, new Northern Italian dining spot featuring Japanese/Italian décor. The daily specials are the way to go.
Tel. +30.210 .965.3563
One of the city’s most beautiful sites is occupied by Island, a very successful summer restaurant and nightclub attracting Athens' more fashionable crowd from May to October. The setting couldn't be more picturesque; Island is located on a seaside cliff south of the resort town of Vouliagmeni within landscaped gardens. The talented chef Yannis Geldis celebrates creative Mediterranean cuisine. His heart, though, seems to belong to seafood. Don't miss the splendid risotto with salmon and balsamic vinegar.
Center of Hellenic Tradition
36 Pandrassou Street & 59 Mitropoleos
With high-quality souveniers and handicrafts, including ceramics, paintings, posters, blown glass and more, this the spot to gift-shop for friends and family back home.
National Welfare Organization (Ethnikos Organismos Pronias)
6 Ypatias and Apollonos (Plaka)
Support disadvantaged and rural Greeks find work by buying authentic embroidery, copperware, flokati rugs and more.
8 Ivikou and Eratosthenous Streets
A Greek skin care line gaining notoriety around Europe, Korros uses principles of homeopathy in creating its line of eye, face, and sun products. Find the best product for your skin based on your complexion and age. Passion flower and iris florentina are used for skin firming, for example, and Alpine herbs and lecithin are used as anti-aging agents.
The best English-language daily here, Kathimerini is published with and inserted in the International Herald Tribune every day. Click on the Arts & Leisure link to get updates on traveling entertainment troupes and music festivals taking place nationwide.
Best Cultural Guide
Easy to navigate and filled with the best information on Events, Archaeological sites, Monuments and Museums
Athens International Airport
In addition to checking arrival and departure times, the site shows which interesting cultural exhibits are on display at the sleek, modern terminal.
Agiou Dimitriou 9, (Kifissia)
Tel. +30 210.8015830
The chic 30-something professionals in the media tune into Alekos Metropolitan (not to be confused with Alekos Island, a chill and nice gay bar in Kolonaki).
Stamatopoulou Palia Plakiotiki Taverna
26 Lysiou Street (Plaka)
Enjoy a wonderful night of traditional performances in this early 19th century house. The shows often involve audience members. Three guitarists and a bouzouki (long necked guitar-like instrument with a sharp, metallic sound) player jam the night away.
Dexameni Square (Kolonaki)
Greeks are fond of the outdoor movie theater, and this one, in a bougainvillea-draped courtyard, is regarded as one of the best. This is also a good chance to see Greek families and young couples. Greek and American movies are shown, call ahead for showtimes.
10 Iraklidon (Thisson)
A fusion of café, bar and art gallery, Stavlos caters to all ages with entertainment of all kinds. Their calendar stays hip and diverse with all kinds of happenings during the week, such as art exhibits, concerts and films.
Vasileos Georgiou 11,
Luxurious Akrotiri has as much of a reputation for chef Christophe Clessienne's smart food as it does for its model-look-alike clientele, sea views, and a poolside dance floor.