Athens – A Walk On The Wild Side

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 Athens  is known for archeological sites and history. If you want a break from history,  Athens  has much more to offer travelers.

 Athens 

You’ve seen the Acropolis, you’ve hit the museums and you’re trying to figure out if it is time to head to the islands. Wait! You’re missing much of the modern charm of  Athens .

There is a conundrum with many historically significant cities. Guidebooks tend to send you off to every site with any potential historical significance, but leave out any mention of the modern attractions of the city. In the case of  Athens , slavishly following your guidebook is a very bad choice and you’ll be the worse for it.

As with any  city , there are two good ways to see the charms of modern day  Athens . The first is to get out and just start walking. The second is to befriend some local residents and let them show you the city. Either way, you’ll do fine in  Athens .

The charm of  Athens  is found in the hubbub of daily life on the streets. The city and residents exude energy and character. If you get off the tourist tracks, you’ll find little neighborhoods with outdoor cafes and no tourists. This is where the action is in true  Athens . Just plop yourself down at a café and start people watching.

One particularly good spot is in the Plaka neighborhood. A nineteenth century quarter, Plaka has a mix of Turkish and Greek influences. From Plaka, you can head to the shopping bazaars found throughout the city. The bazaars in Athinas and Eolou are a bit touristy, but no excessively. With a mideastern feel, you can sit down and drink tea with local shop owners while they hock their wares.

From there, the city is wide open. If you dare, grab a taxi and tell the driver you just want to see the real city. It will be the ride of your life.

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3 Star Hotels in Barcelona Centre

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Barcelona, as one of Spain’s most important and largest cities, offers the visitor an abundance of cultural things to see and do. Famous sights include the impressive Sagrada Família, the bustling Ramblas, several outstanding Gaudí buildings and a good selection of museums and galleries. Also, a rather unique characteristic of the city is the fact that it also lies on the coast and offers the rarity of sandy beaches and sunbathing; an ideal situation for those looking for culture as well as a bit of sea-side relaxation.

Of course accommodation will play a relatively large part in how much you enjoy your visit. A 3-star hotel will usually provide at least the minimum in the services and amenities expected for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Like many major cities, there is a good choice of 3 star hotels in Barcelona. They can be found all over the city, but for convenience it would probably be best to stay in a hotel in or close to the city centre, so that you can easily discover Barcelona on foot, even though the city’s public transport system is both cheap and efficient.

The centre of Barcelona is quite compact, making it viable to explore on foot. Furthermore, the centre is well connect via the city’s comprehensive metro network. In the centre you will find the Cathedral, Gaudí’s La Pedrera, the main shopping centre, some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes and many of the museums, such as the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Picasso Museum, the Maritime Museum and much more.

The following Barcelona hotels are well located in the city centre, one near Plaza Catalonia, one close to the Sagrada Família and the other directly on the Ramblas.

3-star Hotel Gran Ducat Barcelona: This hotel is a modern place to stay and run by friendly, professional staff. Located just off Plaza Catalonia, you will be close to where the Ramblas begin and where the city’s main shopping area can be found. There are 64 good-sized guest rooms in total, all en suite, air conditioned and well equipped with today’s mod cons.

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Cheap Flights to Athens

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A glorious and magical  city  worshipped by gods and humans alike,  Athens  happens to be one of the most famous vacation destinations in Europe. With the sun shining over the city all year through, the climate is one of the best in that part of the world, making it an ideal place for tourism. There are several cheap flights to  Athens  plying on a regular basis, board one and embark on a vacation of a lifetime. This enchanting birthplace for civilization is laden with breathtaking views. If it’s not the magnificent landscapes that inspire you, the ancient and contemporary architecture will.

The city with distinct aspects is at once appealing and exciting. A walk around the famous historic triangle of Plaka, Thission and Psyri overwhelms you, a stroll in the old neighborhoods reveal the coexistence of different eras, and the mansions of yore, some well-preserved and some worn out by time present a striking contrast to the modern. The Greek capital dates back to mythological times and as a result the place is dotted with stamps of antiquity all through its surface. The city that you see in its entire splendor is a consequence of several influences, including ancient and medieval Greek, Roman, Byzantine and the contemporary era. Do a wise thing, come to the Greek capital equipped with a rather long stay, reason? The historical attractions are one too many. Start your journey with the South Slope of Acropolis, go on to the ancient Agora, visit the temple of Olympeion Zeus, spent a few hours admiring the Hadrian’s Arch and Library, go atop the Hill of Areopagus, the Hill of Philopappou and that of the Nymphs, and see Kerameikos. Attractions like Lysicrates’ Monument, Panathenaic Stadium, Roman Agora, Temple of Hephaestus, and the Tower of the Winds is also not to be missed.

Museums and art galleries showcasing creative arts are omnipresent throughout  Athens  with some giving a great insight into Greek archeology, history, modern art, while others dedicated to ceramics, music, railway etc. One of the unique selling points of  Athens  as a tourist destination is its close proximity to the whitewashed Greek islands. Enjoy one-day getaways, charming villages, ancient historical cities and equally fascinating and picturesque countrysides, each one with a varied color, culture and character. If you happen to be visit  Athens  with family, fret not. The city presents myriad options for all of you to enjoy together. These include parks and gardens, National Zoo, planetariums, educating and entertaining cultural centers, go-karting areas, and amusement parks. Places to stay and crash in are as varied as the attractions of the city itself. You can opt to stay at a luxurious five-star hotel, book yourself a bed and breakfast, stay in a holiday home or an apartment, or check into a cheap hotel accommodation. Culinary delights and gourmet foods can be relished and savored at any of the several world-class restaurants, or try a meal at the local eating joint, which is equally scrumptious and satisfying. For a prefect start to your holidays in Europe, come to  Athens  first.

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Seven Things to Do in Athens, Greece

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 Athens  is best known for its role in classical history and for the tourist this is still the primary appeal. Other Greek destinations have overtaken  Athens  in promoting the nightlife and beach holidays, but  Athens  still reigns supreme for its history and tradition. However,  Athens  is also a modern  city  and the capital of Greece, so it still offers plenty more than just the ancient ruins of its glorious past.

Here is a list of seven of the more popular sights and activities for tourists visiting  Athens :

  • The Acropolis. This has been the heart of  Athens  from antiquity and remains so today. The Parthenon, a massive marble temple in the center of Acropolis, is visible from almost everywhere in the city. The Acropolis actually has more than this and is a whole complex well worth exploring in detail.

  • Plaka. To get a sense of the modern city, visit the Plaka district. Full of souvenir shops, small cafes, restaurants and other local attractions, this is where you should go to get a feel of modern  Athens  and its people.

  • Psirri. This district has been fully renovated since the 2004 Olympics and is now the  center  of the  Athens  nightlife. If you want to find a party, head on down. The Gazi district is also happening, but is more popular with the gay scene.

  • Anafiotika District. To get a feel for the real city and escape the tourists in Plaka, visit this district. A maze of tiny, winding streets and alleys, this is more like the real  Athens  and is very picturesque.

  • National Archaeological Museum. This is an absolute must for those interested in Greek history and features the largest collection of ancient Greek artifacts anywhere. These come from all over Greece, not just  Athens  and Attica.

  • The Agora. Outside of, and below, the Acropolis, this was the marketplace of ancient  Athens . Some of the ancient buildings still stand and some of the newer additions are quite notable in their own right.

  • Delphi. Along the same theme of ancient Greece, you can take a day trip from  Athens  to visit the ruins at Delphi, home of the famous Oracle. The organized tours are expensive, so consider just renting a car and going on your own.

Modern  Athens  is still a dynamic  city  in its own right, but no one denies that the primary tourist draw is the ancient ruins. For history buffs this place is wonderful while for others a brief visit will probably be satisfactory.

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Greece Flights

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Athens, the capital of Greece is well connected to major international cities. The International Airport of Athens’, Eleftherios Venizelos, was inaugurated in March 2001 and was built to cater to the needs of a modern world. It is located 23 miles northeast of the city. It has 157 check-in counters and two runways that are 2.5 miles each. The airport can accommodate close to 600 flights a day. It has conference facilities, a post office, a hotel, courier service, banks, currency exchanges, ATMs and many stores and restaurants.

There are 5 international airports in Greece. They are situated in the major cities of the country namely, Athens, Corfu (Ionian), Heraklio (in Crete), Kos (Dodecanese) and Thesaloniki (near the region of Halkidiki). Some Greek islands are not directly accessible by flights. The best way to travel to these Islands is by organizing for a cab transfer from the Athens airport. The airfares to Greece between June and September and during holidays are comparatively more expensive. The weekend flights are also expensive. Of recent, many charter flights have begun operating to and from Greece. Most charter flights operate during summer.

Olympic Airways is the national airline of Greece. It operates daily flights from New York City and Boston to Athens. The approximate flight time from Athens to Los Angeles is 15 hours and from Athens to New York, 13 hours; Most European airlines connect North American cities with Greece via major European cities. Direct flights also operate from major European cities to Macedonia International Airport in Thesaloniki, Northern Greece, as well as to Corfu (Kerkira), Grete and Rhodes.

American and Canadian citizens entering Greece for a period of less than 3 months require a valid passport. There is no need to get a visa, though. Passport and visa requirements vary for tourists of different nationalities, and should be checked well in advance of the trip.

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Athens – A Gourmet Delight

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If you want to experience Greece, then Athens is the city for you. Imagine going to the Parthenon on top of Acropolis Hill to enjoy the breathtaking view. Acropolis is known to be the Sacred Rock. It is situated on top of 512-foot limestone rock. Acropolis was originally built in 1500 BC.

Erechtheum is another impressive sightseeing spot. It is a temple that is built to honor Greek gods: Athena and Poseidon. The Propylea is a huge ancient gateway. It is situated right next to the Temple of Athena Nyke or Wingless Victory.

At night, you can find astounding sound and light show in the Acropolis. This show is held every night in English, and it is performed every night, except on the full moon night. The show lasts for around 30 minutes.

After the show, you can walk to the Plaka which is full of cafes and restaurants. Even if you don’t speak Greek, there is no need to worry. Most waiters can speak and cater English speaking customer. The food here is delicious and inexpensive.

In the afternoon, if you don’t have too much time for all of the sightseeing in Athens, you can stop at the souvlaki shop for gyros and authentic Greek salad. In case, you want to eat on the go, you can buy cheese pie, spinal pie, Piroski bread from the street vendors.

Syntagma Square is another area that is known for great foods. There are many great cafes in this area. Metax is a sweet brandy which is often served here.

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Things to Do in Athens

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There is an abundance of places to go and things to do in the  city  of  Athens , Greece. You should have no trouble filling your time in  Athens  with wonderful memories and beautiful snapshots. Here are some places to get you started:

Make sure that you see the Acropolis and the Parthenon. This is known as one of the many wonders of the ancient world. Not only is this a great place to spend your time, but also your money. There is a ticket you can purchase that allows you to see the other major archaeological sites as well.

Traveling overseas is an expensive thing to do, even if you budget wisely, but that doesn’t mean that you need to limit the sightseeing that you do to bare minimum.

In an ideal world you will make time to visit the Theater of Herod Atticus, Theater of Dionysious, and the Ancient Agoraare during your vacation in  Athens  since each of these places will have its own merits that you will want to uncover.

Make sure that you set aside ample time to explore these areas so that you do not feel too rushed.

The National Archeological Museum in  Athens  is only a short walk from Syntagma. It will likely take you a half hour to an hour to comfortably complete the walk. It may seem like a long walk, but when you get there you will find that it was more than worth your effort to get there.

There is no better museum on the planet to see a collection of ancient Greek sculpture. Jewelery, pottery, and items found in a shipwreck off the island of Antikithera are also on exhibit at the National Archeological Museum.

Even if you are not a history buff or the slightest bit interested in history, you will have a difficult time not finding just about everything in the National Archeological Museum fascinating.

For those of you that already can’t get enough of history, you will probably want to camp out here and never leave. There is such a vast array of exhibits at the National Archeological Museum that you can’t help but get carried away and want to spend all day there.

Regardless of how you feel about shopping, no trip to  Athens  is complete without a trip to the Angora-Athens Market. Completely regardless of your tastes and preferences of fish, meat, and vegetables you will find that the most likely place around is the Central market on Athinas Street.

Make a stop at the market whenever it fits into your day. Early in the morning trucks unload and you can join most of the Athenian shoppers around midday.

During this time you will get to feel like you are a native to  Athens . Make sure that you ask the locals about their favorite foods at this market. They shop here all the time and can point you in the direction of some foods and finds that you would not have an opportunity to try any other time.

Even if it is something that you are not entirely comfortable with, try to give new foods that you find at this market a try if you want to have a real Greek experience during your stay in  Athens .

If you are able to, you may seriously wish to consider taking some time to climb Mount Lycabettus. If you choose to put in the effort a breathtaking view and outstanding cafe will await you. If you are not able to make the trek but do want to see the top of the mountain you can take a train close to the top of the mountain. Many visitors say that walking down the mountain is a lot of fun, even if the climb up the mountain was difficult.

You will likely walk through a neighborhood or two on your way down the mountain. Each of these tiny neighborhoods have their own townspeople with aspects of their Greek culture that is unique to their neighborhood.

If you have been fascinated by Greek ways up until this point in your trip you may want to consider trying to spend some extra time on your stroll down the wonderful Mount Lycabettus.

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The Land of Athena

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Have you ever been to the land of Athena? Come join us on our tour to Athena. We begin the tour at your luxurious Grande Bretagne Hotel. From your balcony, you can see The Changing of the Guard which takes place in front of the Parliament. It is quite a unique show! Fifty two National Guardsmen (in white uniforms) accompanied by a marching band, walk down the street. From the identical vantage pointe you can view the Changing of the Guard which is in front of the Unknown Soldier’s monument. This is a wonderful event to witness on Sundays! I have seen this event countless times. The King George Palace also stands across from the Parliament. This hotel can be seen with a similar vantage point, but the Grande Bretagne Hotel is a bit more regal in appearance. In addition, the national gardens are across the street at the Syntagma Square which is where Athenians take a walk and relax during the summer days.

The real estate areas of these properties are called Herodou Atticou which is the most expensive in   Athens . Impressive views of the Acropolis will be seen on top of a beautiful hill with the  city  of  Athens  as a backdrop. Do you enjoy taking photos? This is definitely the spot. Let us go to the entrance of the Acropolis and tour the Parthenon (constitutes a masterpiece of architecture that is renowned worldwide), and the Temple of  Athens  Nike, and other fascinating and historic sites on the “Sacred Rock” overlooking the  city  of  Athens . Did you know that the Acropolis was for many centuries the most important religious  centre  of the  city  of  Athens ? The archeological sites are universal symbols connected with the birth of democracy. And did you also know that  Athens  received its name because of Athena who as become the goddess of wisdom and peace in ancient times? Obviously there is much to see and ponder about in  Athens , especially The New Acropolis Museum is housed on the grounds of the Acropolis and is one of the best museums in the world. This new museum is set in a characteristic neoclassical building. It contains recently a refurbished collection of ancient Greek art and artifacts including more details about the goddess of Athena. This is a must see! You will be amazed at these antiquities.

We also won’t let you miss the other sites: The Dionysus Theatre, the Stills of Olympian Zeus, the Roman Agora, the Greek Agora and the Keramikos. The Museum of Cycladic art and The Benaki Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are also quite significant. How about the Kallimarmaro Stadium? It was originally made out of marble. The Marathon runners of the 2004 Olympics ended their journeys in this stadium. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit in the stands of this stadium? Let’s go in and sit!

In addition, did you know that there is a monument across from the Hilton Hotel? Another important monument we will see is the Marathon man which is made of fiber glass and is located across from the hotel. The “Marathon Man” was built in dedication to the Greek soldier Philidippides who in 490 BC ran from the town of Marathon to  Athens  (about 26 miles) to announce that the Persians had been defeated. He shouted “Nenikikamen” which means “We won” in ancient Greek and then he collapsed of exhaustion and died.

After visiting the above venues, we will visit Lycabettus Hill, passing through the Kolani Square which is in the Soho area of  Athens . Athenians gather in this square to have Greek coffee and chat in the nearby cafes. It also has some of the best shopping stores of known fashion designers. The drive up Lycabettus Hill is the tallest hill in  Athens . It reaches 277 meters and on its peak lays a small white Greek Orthodox Church of St. George which was built in 1852. Near the Greek Orthodox Church stands the St. George Lycabettus is another luxury property. This is another photo opportunity! We then head to the Plaka area where you can spend more time shopping and eating. According to a recent theory, the Plaka owes its name to the large stone slab found in the area of the Church of St. Alexandria. Plus, the best eatery is on the top of a hill, called the Csarda Taverna.

After spending some more time in the Plaka, we travel to the outskirts of  Athens  towards Cape Sounion along the coastline of  Athens . Before reaching Cape Sounion, we will stop at Lake Vouliagmeni which stands at 40 centimeter in elevation and its water maintains a constant 2.4 degrees year-round Celsius temperature. Due to the healing properties in the water, the Athenians swim here all year round.

Cape Sounion has the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon which was built in 444 BC. The view from the temple is spectacular. I never tire of the views. Here you will be able to enjoy the most beautiful sunset. There is a lovely taverna called Akrogiali in Palea Phokea on the way to the cape where we can enjoy lunch or dinner over-looking the blue waters of the Saronic Gulf. The five star Recital Cape Sounion Hotel is located in one of the world’s most celebrated archeological sites. This is another one of our most traveled Luxury Greece tours. After seeing Cape Sounion, you will return again and again as we do!

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Balkan Holidays – 10 City Breaks in the Balkans

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A city break is an ideal way to learn something of a different culture in a few days. A city break gives you a chance to absorb a new experience. The Balkan region has a diverse mix of geography, history and culture.

City breaks in the Balkans offer something for everyone no matter what your age, taste, or whether you are part of a group or travelling alone.

Here are 10 cities that reflect the character of the Balkans.

1. Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade is known for being a vibrant and trendy city and has a reputation for offering a vibrant nightlife the best features of which are the barges spread along the banks of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

Belgrade boasts two opera houses, a number of museums, including the National Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There is also some stunning architecture

A former river island, Ada Ciganlija, on the Sava river, is Belgrade’s biggest sports and recreational complex. It is the most popular destination for Belgraders and visitors alike during the city’s hot summers.

2. Bucharest – Romania

Bucharest is known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Epoque buildings and a reputation for the high life, which at one time, earned it the nickname of “Little Paris”.

Bucharest has much historical charm – from the streets of the Old City Centre, which are slowly being restored, to the grand architecture of the Royal Palace and the lush green of Cismigiu Park. The city also claims a large number of museums, art galleries, exquisite Orthodox churches and unique architectural sites.

3. Dubrovnik – Croatia

Dubrovnik is one of the world’s finest and best preserved fortified cities and features two kilometres of walls, some 6 metres thick in places lined with turrets and towers, that run around the city. George Bernard Shaw said in 1929: “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik”.

4. Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana is a charming city, the numerous parks and a vibrant cultural scene. There are numerous art galleries and museums and a mediaeval castle located at the summit of the hill that dominates the city centre.

Ljubljana Zoo covers has 152 animal species. An antique flea market takes place every Sunday in the old city. Tivoli Park is the largest park in in the city, has 3 main avenues, planted with chestnut-trees.

5. Sarajevo – Bosnia

Sarajevo is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated around the Miljacka river, commonly known as the Sarajevo River. This river is one of the main features of the city. In December 2009, Lonely Planet listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010

A great way to get around this city is on the electric tram system. Sarajevo was the first city in Europe to have a full-time operational electric tram network running through the city.

6. Skopje – Macedonia

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and the Memorial House of Mother Teresa commemorates this. There are many old churches and mosques to visit for those who love history and architecture.

Many famous worldwide artists have attended the music festivals over the years. The Skopje Jazz Festival is part of the European Jazz Network. The Blues and Soul Festival in early July is part of the Skopje Cultural Summer Festival and the May Opera Evenings have been one of the most visited events in Skopje.

The City Park is home to the main museum, several monuments, small lakes, cafes and restaurants. The city Zoo and stadium are also here along with several nightclubs.

7. Sofia – Bulgaria

Sofia is nestled in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, which makes it an ideal location for hiking and skiing. The city of Sofia is a lively, bustling and cosmopolitan city with many nightclubs, live venues and traditional Bulgarian taverns and restaurants. Many famous musicians have played in Sofia.

Sofia houses numerous museums and art galleries, including the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men.

The city has many places of special interest, museums and churches, and has a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Boyana Church

8 Split – Croatia

The city is located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and offers great links to surrounding seaside towns and to the numerous Adriatic Islands.

The city centre is taken up by the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, which is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Athens – Greece

Athens is home to the world famous Acropolis? The Parthenon and the other main buildings on the Acropolis were built by Pericles in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens. You could spend some days exploring this and it is best to start early on the hot summer days.

The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. It is now a pedestrian area of restaurants, tourist shops, and cafes and is an enjoyable place to relax.

The National Archaeological Museum ranks among the top ten museums in the world.

10. Istanbul – Turkey

Istanbul, the historic city that stands in Europe and Asia and has the status of 2010 European Capital of Culture is an ideal venue for a city break.

In Istanbul’s steep and bustling streets, and visitors can spend hours buying or viewing the wonderful products on offer in the markets, where bargaining is essential. The Grand Bazaar, has over 4,000 craft shops, selling carpets, pottery, jewels, and antiques in its labyrinths.

There are many monuments and historical sites including the Hagia Sophie and one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture, the “Blue Mosque”

Be sure to take a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait, and enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the city especially at sunset.

There are many more places in the Balkans that make it ideal for a short city break.

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Athens, A Trip To Antiquity

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Anyone who studies the classics or has a unique interest in history of philosophy should venture to the great metropolis of  Athens . The first step in planning such an adventure is obtaining a US passport. After that feat is accomplished then  Athens  is only a plane ride away.

Passports

Passports have been around for quite a while, they originated in France and then the US picked up on them. They became valid travel documents permitting travel to foreign lands. They are required today in order to travel to another country. They used to be somewhat difficult to obtain, now through technology and the internet they are readily available as well as ll the other passport services that may be needed.

 Athens 

 Athens  is named after the warrior Goddess Athena. She is the patron deity of this ancient thriving metropolis. Greek myths of the clash of the titans versus Olympic Gods have permeated literature and other aspects of world culture. There are very few people who are completely unfamiliar with any Greek myth. History books are full of ancient epic battles involving the Athenians and surrounding ancient peoples.

Sites

There are many sites to visit in  Athens , each rich with history and culture. The Parthenon is perhaps the most famous of the Athenian ruins. Its is the temple to Athena that stands on the top of the great hill, or Acropolis. There is also Syntagma Square, The National Archaeological Museum, and Mount Olympus. These are just a few of the many sites that  Athens  has to offer.

Parthenon

The Parthenon is one of the most famous sites of  Athens . It is atop the hill, Acropolis. This structure was built in honor of the great Goddess Athena who was the cities deity. The Parthenon has had many uses since it was temple to Athena. It has been a church, a Muslim mosque, and was even a munitions depot when the Turkish occupied Greece. Through all that it has remained almost in tact.

Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is the central of the  Athens  business district. Syntagma translated means constitution. So it is constitution square, where government buildings are and fountains and even Greek guards. Syntagma Square is where all major filming and photo shooting is done in Greece.

National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum is the countries largest museum. It was originally constructed to hold the excavated finds from the nineteenth century, but since then it has grown. It now holds over 11,000 exhibits from Ancient  Athens  and beyond. The items featured range from pre-historic collections to the Bronze Age and also feature items from Egypt as well.

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