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Attica

General Info

Attica, home to Athens, the capital of Greece, is the most southern part of the Greek peninsula. It is a beautiful, distinctive land, where the best and most well known part of ancient Greek history took place. It is also home to many renowned ancient sites, such as Cape Sounion, Eleusis, the Plain of Marathon, the Pnyx, Dionysus Theatre and many, many others. Along or very close to Attica’s coast there are a number of charming Greek islands, including Hydra, Aegina and Salamis. Due to its ideal location and mild climate, its scenic areas, its great food and mainly its historical background Attica and Athens are one of the major and most appreciated tourist attractions in the world. Athens city contains countless eating places like souvlaki or tiropita (cheese-pie) shops, taverns and restaurants of Greek and international cuisine and also archaeological sites, wonderful beaches, around some 250 theatres, hundreds of cinemas, a huge selection of night clubs for all tastes, avant-garde art galleries, museums, many picturesque traditional coffee shops and unlimited, excellent shops. Greeks, despite the austerity, are still famous for their party-like lifestyle and Athens is the centre of fun in this blessed country. That is why the Athenian nightlife is considered by many as "impossible to be found anywhere else". Attica and Athens have something unforgettable and beautiful for everybody and the Greeks have many reasons to be proud of their city. A city which is an excellent place to spend some time - whether it is your stop-off on the way to and from a Greek Island in the summer or if you visit during the other seasons and use it as your base for daytrips to explore the mainland.

History

No other area in Greece and very few in the whole world can boast of being the home of so many important historical events and sites as Attica. The history of Attica is, of course, connected with that of Athens, which since classical times, was one of the most important cities in history. It is not hyperbole to claim that for many hundreds of years Attica and Athens were the heart and soul of the civilised world. In the region’s cities of Athens, Eleusis, Megara and Marathon is where philosophy, science, literature, art, drama, democracy and poetry were born.
Legend has it that Athens' naming rights were won when Athena, the Goddess daughter of Zeus, bested Poseidon's proffered spring of crystal water with a gift of an olive tree root.. The era of Greek history when the Athenians defeated the Persians and when the fate of the free world was determined has served as an inspiration for many Hollywood blockbusters, as well as books.
The rapid, total decline that followed the defeat by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War was never surpassed and from then on, Athens lost its power and glory. The history of Attica was forever marked by that war. The centuries that followed, with the exception the Roman period (2nd century BC-2nd century AD), Athens and the peninsula of Attica were destroyed by many wars, pirate raids and invasions from tribes. Only in the mid 19th century, when Athens became the capital of Greece, did Attica begin to develop again. Today it has become the most important region of the country, a major modern Mediterranean metropolitan area, which successfully hosted the 2004 Olympic Games.

Must see

Attica and Athens are full of classic attractions and sights as well as modern pleasures. The famous city’s downtown museums and major historic sites are all within general walking distance, so do not forget to wear comfortable shoes, have bottled water with you and get a good map.
Acropolis, home of the Parthenon, one of the wonders of the ancient as well as the modern world, is worth a visit not only for the emblematic ancient temple but for the breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding temples below.
The National Archaeological Museum, a world-class treasure trove of ancient Greek art and artefacts is Greece’s largest museum. It offers a dramatic, very impressive trip through millennia of rich Greek history and culture, starting with the Cycladic Island civilization, the Minoans and Mycenaeans and reaching the present.
Old Plaka, in the shadow of the Sacred Rock of Acropolis is a mosaic of ancient Greek and Roman structures, Byzantine churches, buildings from the Ottoman occupation era, neoclassical villas and traditional taverns. It is also home to Anafiotika, a neighbourhood located just below the Acropolis that looks as if it was transported here from a Cycladic island.
On the southern tip of Attica, Cape Sounion is home to the overwhelming ruins of the ancient majestic Temple of Poseidon. It is the perfect spot for astonishing sunrises and sunsets and is even more wonderful on nights of full moon.. According to mythology, here is where King Aegeas awaited his son Theseus’ return from Crete, where he had sailed to kill the beast Minotaur. When Aegeas saw his son’s returning ship with black sails, he mistakenly believed his heir to be dead and, desperate, threw himself into the sea, which thus got his name, Aegean.
Athens and Attica have furthermore a dazzling number of public and private churches and monasteries, many of which were built during the golden age of Byzantine art in the region, the 11th and 12th centuries. Remnants of the basilicas churches and monasteries built at the beginning in the 5th century can also be found throughout Attica.
The Odeon of Herodus Atticus, the Irodeion as it is called by Greeks, was built by the Athenian magnate Herod Atticus in the Roman era. Since the 1950s it has been used as a venue for cultural events, the most famous of which is the Athens Festival, with the participation of performers and international theatre and music stars. The famed marketplace of Agora is another strong testament to Athens' reputation as the cradle of Western civilization. In Socrates and Plato's days it was the heart of public life. Among the site's excavations there are temples, a concert hall and long, colonnaded atmospheric arcades.
Things to do
Athens is still one of the safest capital cities in the world. So everyone is advised to get out there and have some fun! The tourist shops, the tavernas, the cafes are open till quite late. For Greeks, eating at 10 pm is early! Athens and Attica is the birthplace of the highly regarded heart-healthy "Mediterranean diet" with its emphasis on fresh vegetables, olive oil and fresh fish. So, you can eat very well in the region by dining in tavernas - casual, very often family-run establishments serving traditional Greek cuisine and a huge variety of mezedes (small plates of delicious appetizers).
The pedestrian zones in downtown Athens have not only managed to significantly reduce the inner-city traffic and the pollution which is a problem in other mega cities; they also have given shops and street vendors a new life. Pedestrians may casually stroll and shop in car-free areas that have the exciting vibrancy of street markets (or Agoras, as they are called in Greek).
The Benaki Museum is considered one of Greece’s windows on contemporary design and art and it is well worth a visit.
Of course, watching a film in one of the many open-air movie houses is also an experience one should not miss – the “summer cinemas” in the historical centre offer magnificent views of the Acropolis or other landmarks of Athens.
Kolonaki is a great (although little) neighbourhood for wandering around, for browsing through a very interesting mix of affordable and designer shops and for grabbing a coffee or some outdoor early drinks and cocktails.
Pireaus, the ancient port of Athens and still one of the largest in the world is home to many traditional scenic streets as well as a plethora of incredible, amazing seafood restaurants where one can enjoy the freshest seafood for an unbelievably low price.
If you are a luxury lover do live the experience of seeing Athens' ancient sights from the comfort of a limo with a private driver and guide.
Finally, many of the most charming Greek islands are located in the Attica region. They have a very unique feel and are ideal for day trips or longer relaxing escapes: Salamis, Aegina, Agistri, and Poros are nearby, Troezen, Spetses, and Hydra are off the opposite coast, Kythera and Antikythera require more travel time because they are located on the southern edge of the Peloponnese region. Of these islands Aegina is a very lively spot, Hydra and Spetses manifest 19th century charm as well as modern cosmopolitan charisma, Poros is the perfect romantic retreat and far-off Kythera and Antikythera still have an alluring atmospheric charm that is not easy to be found elsewhere. Finally, the Saronic Gulf’s (the sea off the west coast of Attica) largest island is Salamis, where the Greeks defeated the Persian fleet in one of the most profound naval victories in history, which changed the course of history.
Beaches and nature
Attica and Athens are surrounded by the wonderful Greek sea, which plays a major role in the regions’ everyday life. In no other capitol in the world one can be in just 45 minutes from the city’s downtown to a beautiful beach, enjoying the Greek summer.
In the summertime the centre of Athens gives its position as the “place to be” to the south and east suburbs, which lie by the seaside and become the vibrant, upscale centre of life and entertainment. Glyfada, Paleo Faliro, Kavouri, Vouliagmeni give the visitor the impression of being not in a modern mega city but on a modern Aegean island.
There are many beautiful beaches in Attica. The majority of them are spread all along the southern and the northeastern sides of the peninsula. The coastline from Glyfada to Cape Sounion is full of organized beaches, one next to the other, as well as more secluded bays, which offer a perfect setting for a relaxing day by clear, refreshing waters.
Between the public beach of Vouliagmeni and the neighbouring suburb of Varkiza there are the coves where after parking one’s car at the top one may walk down to some small pebble beaches and flat rocks with blue waters.
Anavissos has a long open beach with many fish tavernas and is a favourite destination for Athenians. There are also a few small scattered beaches between Anavissos and Sounion. In Sounion there is a small beach just below Poseidon’s temple. Public beaches in Paleo Faliro, Alimos, Glyfada, Voula, Varkiza, Alcyoni, and Lagonissi charge a small admission and offer changing cabins, self-service restaurants and other amenities, as well as water sports.
Need to know (practical info)
The most important thing about Athens is that the city practically never sleeps! Any time of the day or night you can find a place to have a cocktail, something delicious to eat, have some (or even a lot of) fun and even go shopping. Attica is served by three major ports -Piraeus, Rafina, and Lavrion. It is also the site of Athens International Airport at Spata, a major hub in the Balkan and East Mediterranean regions. The Attiko Metro is very quick, reliable and cheap and connects Athens' international airport, Eleftherios Venizelos, to the city with an a roughly 40-minute comfortable ride. Athens also offers some of the best walking options in Europe. Attica is also the homeland of the original Marathon, thought to be one of the toughest, with a course that begins by the sea near the ancient battleground and ends at the center of Athens, at the old marble Panathenaic Stadium, built in 1896 for the first modern Olympics. It follows the route of the runner Pheidippides in 490 BC, who brought the people of Athens the news that that the Persians, who had landed there with an enormous army, had been defeated.
To say that Athens is a shopper's paradise is an understatement. Searching for the perfect present for yourself or someone else here is as much fun as visiting the Acropolis! Shopping in Attica and Athens has something for everyone, whether they be a dedicated or occasional shopper: Kifissia and Glyfada are the place of top brand-name designers’ stores. Monastiraki is the ultimate destination for bargain-hunters. And Kolonaki and Ermou Street are the places to shop for the high fashion enthusiasts.
The region’s climate is the best version of the Mediterranean one, mild and temperate throughout the year. Summer begins mid May, is dry and may continue until October. Winters are mild with some rainfall and an average temperature that very rarely falls below 10°C.

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