Athens Holiday – The Greek Capital

This metropolitan capital is also the largest and one of the oldest cities in Greece.  Athens  is rich with ancient history, myths and a contemporary touch of bars, café and restaurants.  Athens  is also the  city  of Olympics, architecture and holiday in  Athens  is nevertheless a complete adventure in itself, with  Athens  offering breathtaking archaeological rich places, beaches and crowded shopping areas.

Following are some of the tourist spots or attractions one must visit when holidaying in  Athens :

Acropolis

Acropolis is one of the major tourist spots as it stands high up on the hills, giving a spectacular view of the Greek capital. The structure is loaded with archaeological values and its origin goes back to 510 BC. The attraction is also worth paying a visit when holidaying in  Athens , due to the amazing temples surrounding it. Every year huge crowd of tourists and visitors come to acropolis when on a holiday in  Athens . Never miss acropolis when in  Athens .

Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

This tourist spot is a great way to enjoy holiday in  Athens  by viewing sunset, also you get to experience archaeological rich monuments surrounded with striking sea view. The place is a quite a hit among foreign tourist and local visitors.

National Archaeological Museum

This popular tourist spot was structured in year 1889 and is home to some of the most amazing ancient artifacts and proof of really old civilizations. The museum is loved by many who plan a holiday in  Athens  just for its history and archeological richness. The museum has mask of Agamemnon that goes 3,600 years back. Greek sculptures, Cycladic idols, pottery and ancient jewelry, coins as well as a 2000 years old finding of a computer.

The Plaka

Plaka is loved by tourist and visitors and is a major way to wind down when holidaying in  Athens  and experiencing the thick and thin of  Athens’s  archeology. This 19th century narrow streets going down the acropolis is filled with shops, cafes, boutiques and local building. This tourist spot is round the clock surrounded with tourist and local visitors. You can always found good souvenir to take back to your country from souvenir shops on Plaka.

Piraeus

This attraction is found at the suburbs of  Athens  and has tourist and local visitors of  Athens  all dinning at best and sophisticated dine outs, taverns and sea food restaurants. Piraeus is not exactly a part of  Athens , but can be reached by ferries and is worth paying a visit, when relishing an exotic holiday in  Athens .

Kessariani

Maintained and run by a group of monks, the monastery is a regularly visited by tourist holidaying in  Athens , due to its historic and amazing built and background. The building built in 11 century got its mosaics in 16th or 17th century. This orthodox monastery is surrounded with pleasing scenery, flourishing gardens and enjoyable views.

Time to visit or holiday in  Athens 

The best time to holiday in  Athens  would be anytime other than months of summers, which are hot and humid enough to make the holiday a disappointment. Thus, it is better to visit  Athens , for that fun and enjoyment, in the months of March and October. Spring and autumn is always good time to tour  Athens .



Athens Concert Hall

Usually people who visit Athens are more impressed with the antiquities and the famous monuments like the Acropolis and the Parthenon and don’t get me wrong I am impressed too… how couldn’t I be, but there are more things to Athens than people think so, theatres, cinemas, shopping malls and the Concert Hall of Athens which is not too far from the center of town and boats state-of-the-art technology and acoustics.

It was designed by a consortium of foreign and Greek consultants to correspond to the stringent demands of contemporary audiences and performers and can be considered one of the finest in the world.

Apart from the main hall Filon tis Mousikis – Friends of Music- which seats an audience of 2.000 it contains a smaller hall seating 500 people, a music library, recording studios, a restaurant and a foyer in which exhibitions of various kinds are held. It also houses an ultramodern conference centre.

The Megaro schedules concerts of all kinds from classical music of all periods to jazz and folk preformed by world class soloists, groups orchestras, operas and ballet companies throughout the year, except in summer.

It started operating in 1991 and it is an important cultural center of the whole Europe. Its superb acoustics have been acclaimed both by the public and by renowned performers of the music and art world.

The Athens Concert Hall has welcomed top class artists, music ensembles, composers, conductors and performers in an artistic trajectory that has left its mark in the country’s culture scene.

It is very easy to reach the Concert Hall of Athens since there is a metro station named after it which is only a few meters away. It is really easy to find it if you have a Metro Map. Buses and taxis are also available in the area.

As far as accommodation is concerned, there are many Concert Hall Hotels, meaning hotels close to “Megaro Mousikis” to choose from. Athens Hotels are among the best of Greece.

I went there many times for several performances and I even got the chance to see a classical concert dedicated to Antonin Dvorak, a famous musician. The Concert Hall of Athens really impressed me so I thought that I should really share this with you. Don’t miss an excellent opportunity to visit a place like this one!



Athens – A Walk On The Wild Side

 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.



One M&T Plaza

Many talk extensively about New York and how it has evolved to be the most commercialized metropolis in the United States. The State of New York includes Buffalo, the silent sibling who has contributed to the state’s growth in an almost invisible way. Among the many things in Buffalo that attract tourists to get a glimpse of a more laid-back atmosphere in cacophonic New York, the One M&T Plaza stands tall in the city center. It’s not an exceptionally tall building, nor is it an architectural marvel. But then, why is it so popular among the many who visit Buffalo?

Standing just 317 feet tall and housing 21 floors, the One M&T Plaza was built in 1966 and is the current home to the M&T bank’s corporate headquarters. The building was designed by Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, the same people who designed the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. This is probably one reason for its immense popularity. During holidays, the building’s top band is illuminated, creating a very celebratory mood around the place. On normal days, this band is simply illuminated in white. Hockey season sees the building colored in blue and gold, cheering on the Buffalo Sabers.

The land space used to build the One M&T Plaza was the highest real estate transaction ever made during that time in Buffalo. Its construction required an entire city block to be demolished. The One M&T Plaza has a promenade facing the Main Street and hosts various lunchtime concerts in summer. A farmer’s market can be found between the plaza and Lafayette Square, mostly during late spring, summer and early autumn. The One M&T Plaza is located nearby to everything in central Buffalo.

If you are in Buffalo for business, you’d most likely to have to pay a visit to the One M&T Plaza’s promenade for a business lunch. Whether you are traveling for leisure or business, choose a Buffalo hotel with a good reputation to avoid hassles. Try the Millennium Airport Hotel Buffalo for a difference, as they offer modern amenities,excellent services and very cozy accommodations for all their guests.



Take a Stroll at Athens Greece

A  city  that was built by gods for gods with a long glorious history, and a  city  that has been worshipped by its people is nothing less than  Athens , Greece.  Athens  is said to be the birthplace of democracy and civilization. The place where many great philosophers were born and where the culture began. In such a city you can wonder in its alleys and feel the ancient spirit. Did you know that Acropolis is considered to be one of the 7 wonders of the modern world? The better way to discover all secret paths of  Athens  is to take some  Athens  private tours and live this lifetime experience.

Whatever your taste is,  Athens , Greece has something special that will draw you back time and time again. When in  Athens  you have to do lots of activities such as visiting the archaeological monuments, the famous sites, and taking a stroll to Plaka, Monastiraki, Thisseion and Psyrri. Have the opportunity to admire the neoclassical buildings in the small alleys the well-preserved architecture in many beautiful buildings. Athens   city  truly has something for everyone.

Take a private walking tour around ancient sites of Acropolis museum, Plaka, Monastiraki and Philopappos hill. In  Athens   city , you will admire The Greek Parliament, the  Athens  Academy and University and so many interesting sites. Do not miss also visiting the museums which hosts unique treasures of greek cultural inheritance such as the Museum of Acropolis, the Archaeological Museum etc. The exhibits in greek museums are always interesting and have something to add to your knowledge. This information from the past may be sound strange but is the truth and the history of Greeks can’t be learn by once.

The sun in  Athens   city  is shining all year around so you don’t have to worry about the climate, which is considered one of the best in Europe. So, embark on a journey full of positive energy and joy for the upcoming sun and the very interesting thing you will see and visit. Ask locals for some traditional taverns with local folklore dancers and local wine.

Last but not least is  Athens  nightlife. Your choices here are innumerable as long as you want to entertain yourselves by numerous ways in this vibrant city. Bars, clubs, traditional taverns and the famous “bouzoukia” are always there to entertain you.

All in all,  Athens  is a divine  city  with lots of choices and places to have fun making your trip memorable.



Cheap Flights to Athens

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.



Athens National Archaeological Museum

Soon after leaving the Polytechnic on our right we come to the formal gardens in front of the gracious facade of the National Archaeological Museum, planned by Ludwig Lange of Darmstadt, in 1860. The foundation stone was laid in 1866, but work was soon suspended owing to insufficient funds. It was not until some twenty years later, after Demetrios Bernardakis had donated the princely sum of a quarter of a million gold drachmas for this purpose, that building was resumed and the project finally completed under the supervision of Ernst Ziller in 1889.

During more than eighteen centuries of foreign domination, from the Roman conquest to the expulsion of the Turks, Greek art was the object of both envy and abhorrence. The Roman emperors despoiled Athens of her greatest masterpieces of sculpture for the adornment of Rome and Constantinople; while the Early Christians in their determination to efface every trace of “pagan” art, the brutish soldiery of the Middle Ages, who melted down priceless bronze statues for cannon, all contributed to the systematic destruction of Greek painting and sculpture, so that when Greece finally achieved independence it seemed inconceivable that a single example of ancient art should have survived on its native soil. In spite of these immeasurable disasters the National Archaeological Museum of Athens possesses the world’s finest collection of Greek antiquities, among which works of art from Neolithic times to the Roman period are fully represented.

We now enter into the Museum. The beginnings of Greek art are vividly exemplified in the unrivalled prehistoric collection housed in three rooms immediately opposite the entrance hall. In these rooms are displayed exhibits from the Neolithic Age, the Helladic Bronze Age, in which the principal is the golden treasure of Mycenae, found in graves excavated by Schliemann near the Acropolis of Mycenae in 1876 and enriched by later excavations and, finally, the Cycladic Bronze Age which contains objects of the same epoch (second millennium) from the islands of the Cyclades.

From the Mycenaean Hall we return to the entrance hall, and pass into the room on the right. This is the first of seven rooms of Archaic sculpture from the eighth century BC to the eve of the Classical period (480 BC). Then follows a succession of rooms, each opening into the next, and containing rare examples of sculpture from Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times.

Left of the staircase leading to the upper floor of the Museum, where a vast collection of Ceramics from Neolithic to Classical times has been assembled, is the splendid Karapanos collection of antiquities, principally small bronzes, from the Archaic period to Roman times, donated in 1902. On our left as we prepare to leave the Museum is the sumptuous collection of objects, particularly jewelry, of all periods from the Bronze Age to Byzantine times, presented to the Nation by Helen Stathatos in 1957.

The National Archaeological Museum also maintains an Epigraphic section, entrance to which is from its side, facing the Polytechnic School.

After leaving the Archaeological Museum we turn right and continuing along Odhos Patission we soon reach a square, beyond which is the large park of pedion tou areos. Before the main entrance to the park stands a bronze equestrian statue of King Constantine I by the Italian master Paricci.

Left of this statue a road through the park leads right to an avenue flanked by marble busts of the principal figures of the War of Independence. At the end of this avenue we take the left-hand path for the church of the Taxiarchi, in the garden of which is the oldest monument of Modern Athens. This is the memorial raised in honor of the Sacred Band, a body of students recruited from among the Greek population of Moldo-Vlachia (in present-day Romania). On the outbreak of the Greek revolution of 1821 these young men placed themselves in the van of the Greek troops that had entered these provinces. Though filled with patriotic fervor they were mostly untrained and poorly armed, and in their eagerness to engage the enemy they advanced too far ahead of the main body. On June 7th 1821 they were surprised by a strong force of Turkish regulars against whose disciplined attack the heroism of their small numbers was of no avail. Before the main body of Greek troops, from which their impetuosity had isolated them, was able to come to their assistance, the Sacred Band was annihilated (battle of Draghatsani).

Seven years after the battle the commander of the Greek forces, Prince Alexander Ypsilantis, a Greek officer who had reached the rank of major-general in the Russian Army, died in Vienna. After resting for more than a hundred and thirty-five years in the Austrian capital, his mortal remains were brought to Athens and reentered close by the monument to the Sacred Band. A masterly statue showing him lying in state marks his grave.

On the south side of the park, facing Leophoros Alexandras, is a more recent war memorial. This impressive monument in Pentelic marble was designed by Phaidon and Ethel Kydhoniates. It was erected to commemorate the valiant part played by the fighting men of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand in the defense of Greece during the Nazi invasion of 1941, and was unveiled in 1952. Three cenotaphs bearing respectively the arms of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, precede the statue of a lion seated before a tall column on which stands the figure of Athena Promachos: the splendid statue is the work of Vasileios Phalireas.

Park Hotel, Zafolia and Art Hotel are among the best hotels in Athens.



The Acropolis – Athens, Goddess Athena

Archaeologists tell us that the original city of Athens was situated on the Acropolis. Even in classical times, the Athenians still referred to this area as “the City.” The city of Athens and its patron goddess emerge into the light of history as inseparably coupled. In Mycenaean times each city was built around a central palace, and each palace was under the protection of its patron goddess. Athena was the goddess of the palace on the Acropolis. The names of the city and its goddess are essentially the same: Athena was Athens, and Athens was Athena. She was “The Athenian.” The ancient Athenians seem to have exhibited, during much of their history, precisely those virtues which they traditionally attributed to her. This may be because, when the Athenians imagined their goddess, they did so in their own image.

According to the myth, Zeus fell in love with a beautiful titaness, Metis (“Cunning Intelligence”). Although she repeatedly changed her shape to avoid his unwelcome attentions, as was his way, he persisted. In the end he caught up with her and raped her.

An oracle then announced that Metis would bear Zeus two children: first a daughter then, a son, and the son would be mightier than his father. Just as Zeus had once overthrown and dispossessed his own father, Chronos, so he was destined in his turn, to be overthrown by his own son. In a desperate attempt to avoid sharing his father’s fate, Zeus gave Metis a potion of drugged ambrosia, and then swallowed her whole.

Some time afterwards a terrible headache came upon him. In great pain, he sought the advice of Hermes, whose only suggestion was that Hephaestos, the smith of the gods, should open his head in order to allow the cause of his pain to escape. Zeus was so desperate that even this drastic remedy was preferable to doing nothing, and Hephaestos was duly summoned to cleave open Zeus’ head with his mighty axe. When he did so, to the astonishment of all the immortals, Athena sprang out with a great war-cry, fully-formed, wearing armour and bearing arms.

Zeus’ daughter not only became the patron of many arts at that time normally considered masculine preserves, such as ceramics, she was also credited with a distinctly unfeminine warlike nature. When the Olympian gods were faced with a titanic struggle against the giants, Athena played a major role in the war, defeating the giant Enkelados in single combat. She came to be depicted not merely as a virgin goddess, but, as an ancient Roman writer put it, as a virago: as a female capable of playing a leading role in a world dominated by men.

It came to be said that the reason for the birth of this goddess lay in a wager between Zeus and his consort, Hera, as to which of them could generate the better progeny entirely alone and unaided. By herself, Hera managed to produce only the crippled god, Hephaestos and a monster; while Zeus was able to bring forth, in Athena, one of the greatest of the Immortals.

This seems to have been a picturesque reference to a widespread belief, which was to appear later in the works of the philosopher Aristotle: that the father alone is responsible for generating his children, and for providing them with their inherited characteristics, and that their mother affords them nothing more than a temporary shelter and sustenance in her womb during her pregnancy.

This is a striking example of the strong climate of male chauvinism which dominated the early classical period in ancient Greece, which is very evident in myth and legend.



Balkan Holidays – 10 City Breaks in the Balkans

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.



Athens – The Destination

Athens was named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, which is certainly fitting for the birthplace itself. Evidence of its ancient heyday is everywhere, in the remnants of monuments, statuary and sacred sites that are still revered as survivors of one of history’s most important eras.

A Poseidon adventure in art

In Greek mythology, Poseidon is the god of sea, so it is only fitting that the astoundingly wrought bronze statue of him was raised from the bottom of the Aegean Sea, where it lay for centuries after a shipwreck off the Cape of Artemision. The two-meter tall figure stands with arms extended and leaning forward on its left leg. The right hand once held a trident, and the unknown sculptor clearly was a master in accurately duplicating the complicated balancing act that goes into the seemingly simple motion of throwing a spear.

This work of art is one of the many stunning bronzes at the National Archeological Museum in Athens. The museum’s collection – which includes pieces that date all the way back to the prehistoric period – offers the best collection of Greek art in the world. Renovations closed the museum for a year and half, but it was reopened just in time for the 2004 Olympic Games.

At 260 feet above the city, the Acropolis (“high city”) is not only the highest point in Athens, but for many people it is the high point of any visit to Greece. It is the oldest known settlement in Greece and was a sacred site for ancient Athenians.

During the period of 448 to 420 B.C., the distinguished Athenian statesman Pericles commissioned the construction of four new monuments on the Acropolis at the site of former ruins. The Athenian sculptor Phidias presided over the construction and interior design. The Ionic Erechtheum includes the Porch of Caryatids, with its column in the shape of monumental female figures that identify remains a mystery. The Ionic Temples of Athena Nike, dedicated to the cult of Athena as the goddess of victory, was built during the Peloponnesian War, its frieze depicts the Greek victory over the Persians in the battle of Plataea. The Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis with rows of both Doric and Ionic columns, replaced an earlier version destroyed by the Persians. And of course, the Acropolis remains home to what’s left of the Parthenon.

The Parthenon, designed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, took 15 years to complete. It was the closest to Pericles’ heart: Among various friezes depicting life among gods, the large statue of Athena represented his homage to the goddess and to the greatness of Athens.

Even in A.D. 131, savvy developers like the Roman Emperor Hadrian recognized the importance of signage. “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus,” reads the inscription on Hadrian’s arch, situated at the foot of the Acropolis and once the marker between Hadrianopolis and the Athens city limits. The side facing the Acropolis and ancient Athens reads, ” This is Athens, the city of Theseus.”

Like all the surrounding monuments and the Athens infrastructure itself, Hadrian’s Arch has undergone a major facelift. The 60-foot high archway, constructed of Pentelic marble, upheld by columns with Corthinian capitals and topped by a series of Corinthians columns, lost a bit of structural stability in the mid-18th century, when 8 of its columns were removed.

Restorers shored up the arch, cleaned away centuries of pollution and repaired its cracks, just in time for the 2004 Olympic Games.

The Evzones

The Evzones were once the elite soldiers of the Greek army. Today they are the presidential guards, a ceremonial unit that maintains watch over The Parliament, The Presidential Mansion and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The soldiers wear a traditional and highly photogenic uniform comprising a scarlet cap with a long black tassel, a cotton tunic, black knee tassels above white stockings, red clogs with black pompons and a woolen kilt called a fustanella. The fustanella has 400 pleats, one for each year that the Greeks were on the occupation of the Ottoman Empire. Bearing leather cartridge belts and rifles with a bayonet, the soldiers maintain strict physical discipline as they stand at attention and resist tourists’ attempts to distract them.

A changing of guard is performed daily before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but on Sundays, the complete ceremony – involving an army band and dozens of soldiers – is conducted.

Alice in Wonderland

Imagine Alice in Wonderland’s tumble into a magical world, and you will have an idea what this-off-beaten-path attraction in the Village of Paiania is like. Far larger than a rabbit hole, Koutouki Cave is a natural wonder that will awe you with its colors and formations. In 1926, a goat disappeared from its herd where it was grazing on the slope of Mount Ymittos. A search turned up a small crevice, and a brave soul descended by rope into the abyss below. The goat had not survived the fall, but its intended rescuer returned with a story of a beautiful underground chamber.

The vertical cave consists of a 38.5 meter shaft that opens onto a large cavern with a diameter of about 60 meters. Guided tours take visitors in through a man-made entrance and lead them on a path through stalactites and stalagmites formed by mineral deposits from water seeping through the limestone of the mountain. The tour ends with a light show accompanied by classical music. It’s just a short taxi ride from Athens to nearby Paiania.