For the best views of the Acropolis, climb Philopappos just before sunset. Turn back and watch the Parthenon turn from white through gold to pink and then watch the floodlights come on. One of the best free views in the world.
Walk up the Dionysou Areopagitou (a wide pedestrian road between the Acropolis and the new museum) and up through the park
Spend Sunday mornings in Athens in the slightly seedy area of Plateia Avissynias, as the area comes alive with Athen's notorius Monastiraki Flea Market.
Part treasure-trove, part bizarre bazaar, you'll find trinkets and old junk you never knew you needed, as well as antique shops that are are here all week. Rub shoulders with the locals who get there early to scoop the best buys, and bring your haggling skills.
Cafes and bars bordering the market overspill onto the street at weekends, and add to the festive ambience as you sift through the stalls.
It makes for a colourful, slightly manic morning, and your rummaging may be rewarded with a treasure or two - I came away with some antique pink Turkish bottles, and bags of old ornate jewellery - I managed to resist the ancient gramophone that I was told still works!
Plateia Avissynias & Ermou
An easy stroll up this pine-covered hill offers one of the best views of the Acropolis, and is known as the 'hill of muses' for inspiring poets with its beauty.
A maze of paths winds lazily to the top and is well-shaded - ideal for coping with the blistering August heat. Most people come here for the views of the Acropolis opposite and southern Athens stretching to the sea, but you'll come across many more historic sights on your travels.
Highlights include the cave where Socrates was imprisoned, the Pnyx, a limestone theatre carved into the hillside, and the birthplace of Athenian democracy, and the Neo-Classical Old Observatory.
If you have time, make sure you catch a performance of traditional Greek dance at the Dora Stratou Dance Theatre, and a enjoy a coffee at the Loumbardiaris cafe.
Just below the Acropolis lies this enchanting area of whitewashed cottages which were built by migrant workers from Anafi island when Athens was first established as capital of Greece. Although the city is busy and loud, the old-fashioned style and quiet alleys make Anafiotika feel like a tiny island village.
Between Lysicrates Monument and Kanellopoulos Museum, Plaka.
Heading to the top of the Hill of the Muses (Museion) offers a great perspective on the Acropolis, Athens’ most famous landmark. There are no large structures between the two hills and fewer coach trips around so it’s the ideal spot to appreciate the sight from a distance – and snap a photo or two.
You can get free maps, useful illustrated leaflets and small books at the GNTO offices in Athens at 26 Amalias Street. You can also download free maps of Greece from several interesting websites.
Plaka is one of the most popular spots in Athens. Since Melina Mercury cleaned up the area from the noisy bars and night clubs, today Plaka is a quiet small Greek village inside the overcrowded Athens center.
Best time to enjoy Plaka is early spring and late October when the tourist wave has gone. There are many places and museums to visit in Plaka among them the museums of Greek folk art, the Children's Museum, the Frissiras Museum of Greek painting and the Greek music instruments museum. In Plaka you can see also the Roman bath of the Winds and the Lysicrates monument, next to it was the Capuchin Monastery where Lord Byron stayed. Across the Adrianou street and on the steps of Plaka you will find many shops, cafes and restaurants.
If the fug of central Athens is getting to you then try this little stroll for a head-clearing day. Catch the metro down to Piraeus, soak up the hustle and bustle of the big ferry port for a full five minutes before quickly heading off round the peninsula towards the quieter and more upmarket Zea Marina for a trendy coffee overlooking the yachts and fishing boats.
Then continue strolling round the bay, stopping to admire the coastal views of the seaside districts of Athens (Glyfada, Vouliagmeni) until you reach the mikrolimano (little harbour). Sadly all the traditional fishing boats have mostly disappeared but in their place is a superb range of seafood eateries and coffee bars, where anybody who is anybody can be seen hanging out with their parea (groups of friends).
As the sun begins to sink down you can then complete the loop by walking to the metro station at Faliro (past the stadium of Olympiakos football team) and hopping off again at Thisseio station to catch a moonlit stroll around the Acropolis and sip raki in Monastiraki until the sun comes up again. Bliss.
All stations are on the Greek metro map (green line) - Piraeus is the terminus so you can't miss it. Zea Marina can be found by following the brown cultural signs for Piraeus museum
The Acropolis and the museums are free on Sundays all day.
And if you have a European student card you get in for free at other times. I have a rather dodgy looking student card from five years ago for a language school I worked at in Spain, and that was good enough for every place I went to in Greece (Mycenae, Corinth, etc...).
For the compulsive browser and more modern antiques lover, Monastiraki flea market on a Sunday is a must. At the lower reaches of feel-good Plaka – the city’s longest continuously inhabited area – this is Athens at its most Oriental and where most of its African, Middle Eastern and Balkan communities stop to sell their wares.
Around Lfestou & Pandrosou, Monastiraki; Open: 7am-3pm Sun; Nearest metro: Monastiraki
The city centre’s largest green belt – are much beloved by Athenians seeking respite from the searing summer heat. Home to about 7,000 trees and 40,000 plants form across the world, the gardens were originally designed for the Greek royal family (ingloriously kicked out of the country in 1974) and were the first major gardening project in Athens.
Leof Vas Amalias 1; Tel: 210 721 5019; Nearest metro: Syntagma; Open: 7am-sunset daily; Admission: free
Take in Athens’ archaeological sites with a stroll along the cobbled causeway that connects them in a giant, car-free park. The best starting point is Dionysiou Areopagitou, the stupendous boulevard beneath the Acropolis. This idyllic walk is the stuff of dreams. Unbeatably atmospheric, it takes you through the core of ancient Athens, past all its ancient gems down to the necropolis of Kerameikos and the ghostly remains of a more modern age – the gasworks at Gazi.
Nearest metro: Acropolis
You don't need a car to visit Hymettos. In fact it is probably easier without one. Simply take the bus from the central terminus on Panepistimiou to Kaisariani. Stay on all the way to the other end, then get off at the Kaisariani cemetery, about 20 minutes away, and follow the main road up to get across the ring road. The mountain is the big rock ahead of you. Can't miss it, guv.
Remember that the 12 euro (£8) admission fare for the Acropolis is also valid for the ancient Agora, the Temple of Zeus (Olympeion), the Roman Agora, the Theatre of Dionysus (at the foot of the Acropolis) and the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos and its little museum. Visit the Acropolis first to get this multi-ticket, if you go to the other sites first you'll pay individual admissions, which works out more expensive. EU students get everywhere for free, non-EU students get concession tickets, usually half price.
If you are lucky to know a local, or daring enough to drive yourself, it's definitely worth visiting Hymettos mountain, particularly its north-east side (drive up from the Katehaki or Papagou exits of the ring road - Attiki odos). Discover a Byzantine church, a traditional monastery and other archaeological sites of interest, have a drink in a cafe nearly hidden between the trees, enjoy some of the greatest panoramic views of Athens, do the bike or footpaths, or check for events/activities taking place throughout the year. Hymettos is also renowned for its marble and thyme honey, as well as for being Greece's most crazy mountain, (ie "trelos" or "trelovouno" in Greek) probably because of its propensity to change colour under shifting sunlight.
As you stroll through central Athens, make sure you find yourself in front of the parliament building exactly on the hour (every hour) to watch the change of the presidential guard, the infamous Evzones. You can get very close to the "action", there are no fences or ropes to keep spectators away. It should give you very good photo or video opportunities. Beware not to get in the way of the marching Evzones though, they are not allowed to stop! Keep a reasonable distance and enjoy the ceremony.
Syntagma square, infront of the parliament building and the "Monument of the Unknown Soldier"
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