Athens, chosen city of the gods

The most important surprises in Athens can of course be found in the Downtown area. Barely 20 minutes by car from Civitel Olympic, in the very heart the city, lies the vibrant Syntagma (Constitution Square) where the change of the guard takes place throughout the day and is worth seeing. Syntagma also boasts the main metro station of Athens where many ancient finds unearthed from this site during the metro's construction are on display.

The square is indeed the best place to start discovering Athens by foot, walking down Ermou, the most notable shopping street in the city named after the god Hermes. Right in the middle you will find the 1000-year-old church of Kapnikarea, an awe-inspiring byzantine treasure. A left turn will take you to the more recent yet impressive main cathedral of Athens, the Metropolis. This is where the Plaka, the oldest quarter of Athens begins, taking you on a maze of streets filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, museums and renovated neoclassical houses. The top part of Plaka, known as Anafiotika, was settled by islanders from Anafi a couple of hundred years ago and still retains the island character.

After exploring Plaka, head down a few minutes to Monastiraki square where you peer down at the ancient Eridanos river that was recently rediscovered, and visit the old mosque converted into a cozy ceramics museum. Monastiraki is also famous for its flea market, and running parallel to it is one of the loveliest pedestrian streets in the city, called Adrianou. This street pays tribute to the Roman Emperor Hadrian's Library, parts of which still lie off Monastiraki Square. After a leisurely lunch in Plaka and an iced coffee (Frappe) on Adrianou street, you can access the ancient agora, the lovely museum inside it and the temple of Thisseo which is smaller but equally impressive with the Parthenon on the Acropolis.

A walk to the Acropolis is a must of course, both for its magnificent ruins and the amazing panorama of the city. This must be combined with a visit to the modern Acropolis Museum which employs natural sunlight to unveil the best of Classical Athens. The whole Monastiraki-Plaka-Thisseo area is full of archaeological treasures, parks, museums, restaurants, coffee shops and attractions that delight the visitor. Elsewhere in the city the National Archaeological Museum and the different locations of the Benaki Museum will also astound you.

If you like outdoor nature, head to the Lykavitos Hill overlooking the upscale suburb of Kolonaki and make your way to the Church of St. George on the hill. For more professional hiking, make your way to the nearby Imittos Mountain just above the University City a few minutes from the center, which harbors some byzantine ruins, monasteries, bird-watching towers and rocky yet negotiable slopes to climb.

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