Of all Europe’s historical capitals, Athens is probably the one that has changed the most in recent years. But even though it has become a modern metropolis, it still retains a good deal of its old small town feel. Here antiquity meets the future, and the ancient monuments mix with a trendier Athens and it is precisely these great contrasts that make the city such a fascinating place to explore. The heart of its historical centre is the Plaka neighbourhood, with narrow streets mingling like a labyrinth where to discover ancient secrets.
Athens’ heyday was around 400 years BC, that’s when most of the classical monuments were built. During the Byzantine and Turkish eras, the city decayed into just an insignificant little village, only to become the capital of newly-liberated Greece in 1833. Ahead of the 2004 Olympics, almost the entire infrastructure was transformed: the Metro, trams, new ring roads and viaducts have eased the pressure of the heavy traffic.
Athens is still a rather messy and chaotic place—it wouldn’t be Athens otherwise—and despite all the improvements, still retains a great deal of its oriental charm. The whole coastal stretch from Piraeus to the old Hellenikon airport has been improved with new plantings, viaducts and paths for walking. The Plaka district is becoming more and more popular and it is on the way to catching up with Psyrri, Gazi and Rouf as regards restaurants. Discover the beauties of the Anafiotika district, at the feet of the Acropolis, and visit the ancient village still housed in the midst of the city. In Exarchia, there is still a somewhat in-your-face anarchic atmosphere around the Technical University. Meanwhile, Kolonaki is becoming more and more chic.Read More