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Athens and nearby areas

Apart from being the capital of Greece, Athens is the capital of the prefecture of Attiki (Attica)

Copyright 2009 Rona Nicholls

Athen's historical centre 

Athens is a sprawling and ever increasing in size city which has all sorts of identities which depend on who and where you are. Greater Athens is a huge area that includes a coastline and mountains. It contains residential/resort areas such as Varkiza and Vouliagmeni and to the north, the exclusive areas of Drosia and Ekali, where nobody knows their neighbours and servants are employed.

One of the best things about Athens is the area around the Acropolis and the city centre that is becoming increasingly pedestrian friendly which is largely due to the 2004 Olympic Games. The metro is still being further improved and roads are being closed to cars in an effort to make Athens less frenetic. Life in the central parts of Athens and increasingly in some suburbs has become much easier for the public transport user since the 1980’s

Getting there and getting around

There is now a suburban light railway, a metro (as well as the pre-existing ‘electrico’) which is the same thing but mostly over-ground and is linked to the metro. The buses have been upgraded and some use natural gas. There are tram lines to some southern parts of greater Athens and to the edge of Piraeus that will soon extend all the way to Piraeus proper. The trolley buses are also smoother than their ancestors. Try this link for local transport. http://www.gnto.gr/pages.php?pageID=796&langID=2

Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport is linked to Athens and Piraeus by public transport enabling one to travel cheaply and efficiently. The official airport web-site here: http://www.athensairport-2001.gr/ has details of public transport means with links to the metro, suburban light railway and bus sites. For car users, the road network around Athens has been improved greatly by the advent of the Attiki Odos which is a peripheral road link that allows one to reach the airport without driving through Athens.

If you don’t travel by air you may have arrived at Patra by ferry. You can either come directly with some of the ferry companies via a coach that can be booked at the ferry boat’s reception on boarding or by train from Patra via Kiato with the main train network, OSE http://www.ose.gr/ose/content/home.aspx?l=2 and change at Kiato to the Suburban light railway for Athens. In general you will need to check information about trains as the network is being upgraded and things are changing all the time. There is also the KTEL network, Greece’s intercity bus service, available to take you to Athens. Both the train and bus-station are close to the port. The train station in Athens is linked to the Suburban light railway (Proastiakos) http://www.proastiakos.gr/ and main railway as well as being next the Metro station. The KTEL http://www.ktel.org/ bus station that is connected to the centre of Athens by taxi and bus.

Places to see

Athens has many museums and places of interest of course as it played a role in the founding of many of today’s philosophical notions.

The Acroplis in Athens is a UNESCO Monument of Cultural Heritage.

The new museum is expected to open in late 2008 or early 2009 Meanwhile the Acropolis is open to the public. Always check whether the sites and museums are open and how much they charge before visiting them.

For a list of museums and archaeological site look at the Greek National Tourist Organisation site: http://www.gnto.gr/pages.php?pageID=92&langID=2

In central Athens, strolling around is the best way of exploring. The Metro and ‘Electico’ link you to the central areas as well as buses, trolleys and trams. The central street of Ermou is pedestrianised while the streets near the meat and fish market and in the area Agiou Markou are cheaper.

Inside the meat market in the area where they sell cheese, near a couple of cafes in an ‘American Market’ It is located at the top of some warn stone steps and is well worth a visit even if only for its bizarre location. It houses tonnes of used clothes from the USA from shoes to wedding dresses as also sells handbags and teddy-bears. It is not that cheap but you can often find things in really good condition that would cost a fortune new. The nearest access road is Evripidou.

From Athinas Street which is the road that leads from Monasteraki to Omonia you can enter the area called Psyrri which has become popular in the last 10 or so years. The area still has some of the original small industries although most of it is now host to galleries, theatres, restaurants, cafes and shops. Some restaurants serve very good food. Check out the various guides for recommendations.

At the other end from Omonia Square is Monsatiraki Square which has changed form over the last few years and has now been re-opened with a viewing area of the underground river and ancient ruins. There were formally street sellers in the square selling originally, hand-made jewellry and small trinkets. These sellers now operate around the Thision area which is more open.

From Monsatiraki to Thisio and from Monasteraki up to Syntagma via the Plaka where almost all the area is devoted to tourist shops, cafes, restaurants and souvlaki joints. These areas are also popular with Athenians and other Greeks and are pleasant to walk around in most places.

Thisio is a continuation of Monastiraki and borders Petralona and Keramikos. The Sunday flea market stretches from the Metro at Monastiraki to the ‘Electrico’ at Thissio.

A relatively new development is Gazi Technopolis. The nearest Metro station is Keramikos. Have a look here for an idea of the place: http://www.greece-athens.com/place.php?place_id=36

For details on some other areas in Athens and activities, see here: http://www.oag.com/travel-guides/destination/greece/athens/visiting-the-city/#content


Piraeus is the port of Athens and is part of the same urban sprawl although it is a separate entity and has its own boroughs as Athens does.

It was once known as Porto Leone, a name which is still used in graffiti by football enthusiasts.

Piraeus has its own ancient ruins and areas to explore as well as a flea market on Sundays.

As you approach Piraeus by the ‘electrico’ train you will see a fetching area perched on a hill to your left. This is Kastella, a well to do area in Piraeus which is pleasant to walk in and offer cafes and tavernas. There are wonderful views from here. There are two small harbours which are popular with Greeks; Pasalimani (Zea) and Mikrolimano.

Ancient sites include some parts of the Themistoclean Wall and the ruins of the main gate to the Long Walls.

At Kastella is the Syrangio and the Cave of Arethusa which date back to the Minoan Age. The Archaeological Museum of Piraeus and the Maritime Museum are worth visiting. Check the Greek National Tourism Internet site before setting off.

Piraeus is often where holidays start. It is an international port for cargo as well as passengers with regular services to many islands. Look at this link to the Greek National Tourist’s site for Port information: http://www.gnto.gr/pages.php?pageID=58&langID=2

This site also lists the other ports in Attica which are Lavrio and Rafina as well as the crossings from Agia Marina and Oropos.

Other places in Attica

Cape Sounio

Sounio is another well known site from ancient times which is about 1 ½ hour’s drive from Athens and is accessible by the local KTEL network. The Temple of Poseidon is located there. Graffiti artist extraordinaire, George Byron, who also penned a few ditties and gave his life to the Greek cause for independence, carved his name on this edifice.


This temple complex lies a few kilometres outside Athens in the general direction of the airport. It is also known as the Parthenon of the Bear Maidens. It is dedicated to the goddess Artemis. The temple is not well known, which is a shame as it also hosts a fascinating museum. There was a spring which was called sacred before the worship of Artemis was imposed on the locals. The temple was abandoned after the river Erasmos flooded the area turning the area into marshland.


This area is both a municipality and a historical site. The municipality is not far from the centre of Athens and can be reached by trolley from the centre of Athens while the Monastery and the surrounding natural beauty can be reached on foot of by car. The Byzantine Monastery is about an hour on foot from the trolley’s last stop near the public housing area.

Built in the 11th century this was a well respected and wealthy monastery. During its zenith many significant spiritual inspirational men resided there; notably, Theophanis in 1566, Ioannis Doriano in 1675 and the Abbot Izekel Stephanaki who was well versed in Greek history, literature and Platonic philosophy. Theophanis Kavallaris, from 1722 until 1728 taught grammar and science there.

Kaisariani Monastery's library was renowned and most probably owned documents from antiquity's libraries. According to the demogerontes (the council of elders) of the time, "the manuscripts were sold to the English as membranes whereas the rest of the documents were used in the metropolis` kitchens." During the Turkish siege of Athens, the manuscripts were transported to the Acropolis and were used to ignite fuses.

The fertile surrounding lands belonged to the monastery, as did various other holdings, such as St. John the Baptist, next to the Kaisariani road or those in Anavyssos.

The monks' income was substantiated by the produce from their olive groves, grape vines and beehives. The monks were also renowned for concocting medicine from various herbs.

Kaisariani as a municipality was one of the areas where refugees where housed after the tragic events of 1922 Beginning in late 1922 it is alleged that a small number of families has settled under difficult circumstances and were living in tents near the Syngrou Hospital for venereal and skin diseases in order to be close to their relatives, mostly women, or had been victims of rape and had been infected by venereal diseases. Over the next few months the government settled approximately 8000 refugees from Asia Minor.

A few months after the original settlement of the area it was chosen as the first permanent settlement. The conditions were squalid. Later buildings which stand today are two and three storey apartments that still stand and are still inhabited today.

There are areas all over Greece where refugees settled, most of them in towns. Places with the word new in the name are often places that have been settled by refugees from Asia Minor. Some examples in Athens are Neos Kosmos (New World), Nea Smyrni (New Smyrna) and Nea Ionia (New Ionia).

Places near Athens

It is possible to visit a large number of places from Athens for a day or side trip. The nearby Argo-Saronic islands are just a short trip by ferry, hydrofoil or catamaran while the Suburban light railway (Proastiakos) can take you to places like Corinth, Loutraki and Chalkida. By car or intercity bus (KTEL), you can visit Nafplio, Delphi and Mycenae.


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