Πέμπτη, 19 Μαΐου 2011

Top 10 Attractions at Athens

Many cities boast archaeological sites, monuments and artifacts. Key to a city like Athens, with such a vibrant and withstanding ancient past, is to evolve with the times, keeping history and heritage in tact, while maximizing functionality within its modern city framework. This vision, although part of original city planners as far back as 1833, was realized in contemporary form in 1985 when Melina Mercouri, then Minister of Culture, proposed that work begin to make this vision a reality. The Goal? To offer visitors and natives an aesthetically, environmentally and culturally improved Athens. The result: The Unification of Archaeological Sites, the plan that beautified the area surrounding the Acropolis transforming it into a large archeological park or open-air archeological museum. Alleviating the historic centre of traffic and busy car-filled streets, it replaced many streets of the historic centre with quiet pedestrian walkways graced with green-topped hills; historically significant ancient ruins and renovated 19th century neoclassical buildings. Today, visitors to the park can enjoy a walk among some of the world's most ancient treasures in a peaceful way. The park extends from Dionissiou Areopagitou Street, Apostolos Pavlou, Adrianou, Ermou and Vassilisis Olga streets and covers an area of approximately 4 km in length and 15,000 acres. Highlights of the sites along the way are: the Acropolis, The Ancient and Roman Agora, Hadrian's Arch, the Ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus, The Theatre of Dionysos and Philopappou Hill. Furthermore, the park integrated monuments of the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine period, areas of green including the National Garden, Zappeion, and the traditional neighbourhoods of the historical Centre of Athens namely, Plaka, Anafiotika, Thisio, Psirri, Metaxourgeio, Makriyanni and Koukaki.

The new Acropolis Museum
Acropolis Museum
Years in the making, this museum and its creative use of natural Greek light is the new gem of Athens and has been heralded as a masterpiece in itself. The permanent collections present finds and artifacts from the sacred hill of the Acropolis, while smaller «vignette» temporary exhibits offer insight on the whole. The cafe and museum shops are quite popular and are a must to visit as well.

National Archaeological Museum
One of the richest museums of ancient Greek art in the world, its collections span cultures that flourished in Greece from the prehistoric age and beyond. A bronze statue of Poseidon is here as are frescoes from ancient Thira. The National Archaeological Museum is a comprehensive museum that is often overlooked.
 The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the world's great museums. Although its original purpose was to secure all the finds from the 19th century excavations in and around Athens, it gradually became the central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all over Greece. Its abundant collections, with more than 20,000 exhibits, provide a panorama of Greek civilisation from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity. The museum is housed in an imposing neoclassical building built at the end of the 19th century, which was designed by L. Lange and remodelled by Ernst Ziller. The vast exhibition space, consisting of numerous galleries on each floor accounting for a total of 8,000 square metres, houses five large permanent collections

Greek Parliament
Every vacation portfolio should not be without a photo alongside the tall, commanding Presidential Guards, known as evzones or tsoliades.  Worth the wait is to witness the changing of the guards, a ten-minute ceremonial procedure that takes place every hour on the hour. The foustanela or skirt that is part of their uniform is made up of 400 pleats, each one symbolizing a year that Greece was under Turkish rule.

Panathenaic Stadium
Panathenaic Stadium
This must-see monument in Pagrati, opposite the Zappeion Gardens and beneath the hills of Agra and Ardettus, stands apart from the many in Athens, and, in the world. For starters, it has withheld the test of time, and is one of the few ancient stadiums to host significant international modern sports and cultural events. One glance at the roster of "performers" and "clients" over the years is testament to its unique character: from the Panathenaia festival in the 4th century B.C. to the Greek MTV launch concert in 2008. The stadium's history also reads like a who's who in Athens history beginning in 330 B.C. when Athenian financier Lykourgos supervised its construction, which at the time consisted of wooden seats and was used to house the Panathenaia festival every four years. Athenian aristocrat and Roman Senator Herod Atticus who, by coincidence, was born in Marathon, Greece, built a new marble stadium in its place in 139-140 and 143-144 A.D. with a seating capacity of 50,000 and a track of 205 metres and width of 33.35 metres. In 1869, well known architect Ernst Ziller excavated the site and in 1894, when Athens undertook the revival of the Olympic Games, architect Anastassios Metaxas backed up by benefactor Georgios Averoff drew up plans for its marble modernization. Four rows of marble seating were completed by the time the first modern Olympics took place (the others were painted white for conformity), as were five bridges that extended across the river that once ran in front of the stadium on what is today Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue. Construction was completed in its present format in 1906 and consists of 47 rows of seats and 60, 000 seating capacity. Each year the Athens Marathon terminates here.

Lycabettus Hill
At a height of 277 metres (approximately 1,000) feet Lycabettus Hill is perhaps the best spot in which to get an aerial view of the city.  The cable car Visible from here is the Acropolis, the port of Pireaus, and the island of Aigina. If a mini-trek up is not appealing, take the cable car to the top (and back down). The entrance is on the corner of Aristippou and Ploutarchou streets. If you decide to walk down the forest path you will encounter Dexameni Square in Kolonaki, where you can grab a bite to eat.

Ancient Agora, Monastiraki
Its befitting that this monument the center of commercial and business life in ancient times would later give rise to the buzzing shopping district that surrounds it today. Of course, Monastiraki does not compare to the milieu of the ancient agora, but it still continues to inspire those who live, work and visit the area.

With its undisputable charm, this area is one of the most frequented by visitors and natives alike. Plaka's winding pathways carry thousands of years of history. Walk amongst the buildings whose facades are dressed in 19th century neoclassical design and architecture. Dine at one or several of its restaurants. And explore the ancient monuments, contemporary museums and traditional souvenir shops throughout.

The Attica Coastline
Attica Coastline
Athens is surrounded by pristine beaches, where you can swim for many months during the year. Visit a beach in Athens and you are likely to feel like you're on a Greek island, as you are greeted with stretches of crystal sands, fine pebbles and blue, clean waters. The tram and bus take you to nearby, organized beaches (some offer water sports) in Faliro, Alimo, Kalamaki, Glyfada, Schinia and Varkiza in less than an hour. Ideal for the whole family is a walk on the Flisvos Marina promenades a great destination for all ages, at any time of year.

Temple of Poseidon-Cape Sounion
Temple of Poseidon-Cape Sounion
Take a road trip to the southernmost tip of Attica for a breathtaking drive along the coastal highway and you are rewarded with a visit to one of the most fascinating temples in ancient history.  It is no wonder that the ancient Greeks built the temple to their sea god Poseidon here in Sounion.  Situated on a plateau on the top of a cliff it welcomes ships and sailors even today.

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