Introduction to Athens
Located in south-east Greece with the Aegean Sea to the south and mountains on all other sides, Athens is both a historic city and a thoroughly modern megapolis. The sprawling capital is home to over 3.6 million people of mainly Greek descent, and has the distinction of being the oldest city in Europe and the one with the longest history. Classical Athens is also renowned as the cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of modern democracy – both lofty ideals for one city to carry.
While the beauty and significance of classical Athens is a given, the modern megapolis was once considered to be a sea of indistinguishable concrete buildings plagued by concerns of pollution hovering in the Attica basin created by the mountains surrounding the city. From 2000 to the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 though, the capital underwent a transformation that saw renovations of the CBD, gentrification of gritty industrial areas and a city-wide facelift in time for the world event. With all eyes on Greece, the city exuded the famed Greek filoxenia or ‘hospitality and graciousness’.
With an excellent and efficient public transport system (that neatly combines archaeological finds and high-tech ticketing systems at some metro stations) and world-class attractions found nowhere else in the world, Athens is still undergoing an urban renaissance despite the 2008 riots, GFC crisis and austerity clashes that rocked the capital and made news around the world. Athens is set to endure though, as it always has, this time with a a cosmopolitan twist where you can wander around Neoclassical buildings and modern edifices and spy pieces of history everywhere; from Classical ruins to Byzantine churches as well as breathtaking glimpses of the Parthenon.
So, brush up on your ancient Greek history, forget those stereotypical ideas of Hellenic culture and get set for an adventure into the old and the new in a city touched by the gods.