The land of myth and legend, the place that's name has been used all over the world, the behemoth of a city that is Athens. John Milton said of the city 'Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence' the locals' say of it 'I know nothing except of my ignorance' one of the oldest locals that has ever been, Socrates.
- Athens is the capital of Greece and also holds the title of being the largest city in Greece as well.
- The population of the capital is around 600 – 700,000. This number inflates considerably throughout the seasons with almost 6 million tourists visiting every year.
- It is the birthplace of some the most influential and greatest minds that govern our thoughts even today with people like Sophocles, Aristotle, Plato, Phidias who it is said that he had seen the vision of the gods exact and brought it to man in the form of sculpture.
- It was the final point for the runner Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, who ran all the way from Marathon, Greece to deliver victorious news of the battle of Marathon. We now owe the pleasure of the 26.2 mile marathon to this person.
- The average temperature during the hotter months, May to September is in the high 20s for Celsius and pushing 80s in Fahrenheit.
- Is widely known as the birthplace of Democracy but also has lived through all types of governments.
- There are 34 towns and cities named Athens in the USA.
- The global financial crisis hit the Athenians and Greeks alike very hard so purchasing from Greek businesses is very important to anyone's visit.
- The speed limits vary on the size of vehicle you are driving for instance a moped has the maximum limit of 40km per hour where as a car can go on ordinary roads up to 110km per hour all the way to 130km per hour on the motorways where signs indicate this limit.
Athens Airport known in Greece as Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, is the only airport in Athens. This dual terminal, multiple runway landing port is situated in the south east of Greece and the airport handles over 21 million passengers per year. The airport consists of two terminals the Main Terminal and the Satellite Terminal, the main terminal handles the majority of the passengers and it's flights go to within the EU and throughout the world, the Satellite Terminal is only used when there is a major overflow of flights entering the country.
The airport itself is located about 30km from the centre of Athens, it is accessible by car which will take around 30 minutes dependent on traffic, there is also the Athens Metro which with a couple of changes will get you to the centre in around 1 hour, then there is the coach or rather four dedicated coach services that go from all over the capital to the airport and vice versa.
Hiring a car at the airport is very simple with the larger companies like Enterprise, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt all with desks in the main terminal. Other companies such as SurPrice, Carwiz and Centauro that provide competitive prices are available online.
The airport also plays home to fashion retailers that operate a best price guarantee policy, these shops include Massimo Dutti, Armani and Sugarfree. This means that if you find the exact product cheaper in Athens then they will refund twice the price difference.
History of Athens
How can this section start with anything less than a quote from one the most famous Athenians ever, Tommy Lee, 'When you're playing upside down, it takes twice the strength'. An apt quote for a history that even if you were to start reading today you wouldn't make it to the end before yours. Here's an extremely pared down, tightened version of events that shaped this monumental city and even shaped a lot of the world as it is known today.
The name comes from the great god Poseidon and the goddess Athena battling over who would be the protector of the city. The myth tells a story of a gift offering in which Poseidon being the god of the sea gave the city a spring with sea water whereas Athena goddess of wisdom, handicraft and warfare touched the sacred rock of the acropolis and an olive branch grew. The city is now known for its strength and its wisdom.
Athens has existed since the Neolithic Period, which is said to be before 3000 BCE. Most of the evidence to prove the existence of civilisation here is from the pottery that has been found near the Acropolis, there has been in the vicinity of about 20 shallow wells also known as pits, found on the northwest slope just before the spring Klepsydra. The pots hold in their detail standards of a high level of technical and artistic skill. Throughout the history of objects that were found during this time most of them tell a story of respect and courage as there is no direct evidence to say that the city itself has been overrun or sacked like most of it's neighbours, history tells us that Athens was somewhat impervious to this fate.
The Athens we know of today was founded when king Theseus united several settlements of Attica into a state and called it Athens. This unification brought about a good deal of wealth for the inhabitants through trade and shipping, with their new found wealth the citizens of Athens, the upper class at least, decided they wanted to be involved in the ruling and running of the city itself. This started riots between the poor and the wealthy, which then lead on to the eventuation of the laws of Dracon, laws such as the penalty for stealing an apple or cabbage was death and if someone owed you money you could make them your personal slave, these laws are not in Athens today. The fitting fate of Draco according to folklore is that his popularity became so great that when the people of the city came to praise him in their traditional way, throwing their hats, shirts and cloaks on his head, they threw so many that he was suffocated, mildly ironic way for him to go. This was one of the first pave stones toward the invention of democracy however the city went through almost all types of government as well, monarchy, socialism, capitalism even communism.
The city is not only known for it's political attributes, it's contributions to theatre as we know it today are paramount. The Theatre of Dionysus is said to be the world's first theatre, outside of the local lounge room, this is where the festival of Dionysus (The god of plays and wine) was held. The theatre could seat up to 17,000 people with the acoustics being of the highest quality.
To more modern day history, Athens has been where the resurgence of the modern day Olympic Games came back into four yearly life, when Pierre De Courbetin created the event in 1896 to be played out at a few stadiums that still stand there today, the Panathenaic Stadium was the site of the vast majority of the events, athletics and wrestling, then the Neo Phaliron Velodrome was used for cycling and the Zappeion for fencing. Out of the 14 participating nations the overall winners were the USA with 11 gold medals then Greece with a total of 46 medals 10 of which were gold.
Athens is not all history and Olympics, it is also people that have stood for their own place in the world, when the global financial crisis hit, the Athenians and Greeks alike were hit the hardest, the resilience of the people brought about change and have taken control of their economy in a fight to stabilise it. Tt is a beautiful place to be but like anywhere if you do not live there, go there and treat it with respect, it will treat you the same way.
A Guide to Athens
With such dense history, from a proven and from a mythological standpoint, the only place you can start is with something all Atheneans have woven into their life, the blood that runs through them, roasted aromas that fly out through the city, Coffee! Lets start with the big guns, the home runners or runners up when it comes to championships, The Underdog 2nd place in World Barista Championship 2019, these are some caffeinated professor's and professoresses. They serve up the now world renowned coffee and their menu although not overtly traditional will fill your battery wholesomely ready for the venturing ahead, things like Picada, French fries with minced meat, feta cheese and a fried egg or a lighter but still filling Red Quinoa salad make this place a Καλημέρα (kah-lee-MER-ah: Good Morning) spot. There's no reason to come all the way to Greece to eat what you could've had at home so staying with coffee and starting the day as the focus here, travel over to Oraia Ellas where the chat and coffee has been had and drunk respectively since the early 19th century, the name means 'Beautiful Greece' and their food speaks the same, with delicious Souvlaki and Kaltsounia (Parcels of Cheese and Honey) to pair with your Greek Coffee.
Day has begun and energised is the thought in the mind, now time to hike through the grandest city in the world, over the hills and the stone stairs, to see(deep intake of breath) The Acropolis, Theatre of Herodes Atticus, Monastrikaki Square, Areopagus Hill, The Parliament with the changing of the guards, Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Ancient Cemetary of Kerameikos, Ancient Agora, Stoa of Attalos, Panathenaic stadium, Temple of Hephaestus, Library of Hadrian, Theatre of Dionysus, Arch of Hadrian, Monument of Lysicrates and there are more but this is the vowel limit for one sentence. With all cities that are soaked in this much culture and history you need to be specific if you are only going to be there for a short time, if you are there for a month then see them all. The world does not usually afford us this time so look long and hard at what you care for, did you come for the gods or for the democracy? If for the gods then take yourself first to The Parthenon, Acropolis which is the temple that was built to honour the magnificent Athena, goddess of wisdom, then staying close by head over to the Temple of Hephaestus, the patron god of metal working, craftsmanship and fire, walk in the footsteps of class systems, then take a short walking journey back to the temple of Olympian Zeus, this was built on top of the outdoor sanctuary that was dedicated to the god of lightning, once you have spent time in the clouds then take yourself over to the Panathenaic stadium where man and woman have stood for themselves and against each other over the years to find gods amongst us with physical power not magic. Remember this is just one possibility of how to see a small portion of the overwhelming history of this city.
Enough with all these gods now time to take in the modernity of the city and see what the Athenians of now like to indulge in, just like Dionysus did in their theatre(must see), start with the area first Plaka, a very touristy spot close to the base of the acropolis hill, filled with souvenir shops and tavernas that poke their head out but if you go wandering away from the main parts then you can find little gems O Glykys bathed in tradition and ouzo, raki and mezedes(appetizers for sharing). Next is the neighbourhood of Psirri, known to some as the nightlife hub and to others as the home of Zampano, a bistro and wine bar that provides a live gypsy jazz band on a Sunday whilst you gorge your way through unique dishes like the Zampano eggs or the Greek Orzo 'Kritharoto' made with beef and goats cheese, divine.
Eating and drinking won't be worked off just by wandering around, you need to dance as the Greeks love to, part of the reason they host some of the biggest clubs in the world! Athens has a number of them too, with places like Acro that house the artists of now with music to sweat those pastries off, then there's also a rooftop bar called Rio Skybar Athens with it being outside there's no guarantee it will be open all year round but the parties here are explosive.
So much to do in Athens, there are plenty of services to get yourself a local guide for a few hours, free of charge and let them help you access the city they love.
FAQ's Athens car hire
Cost of hiring a car in Athens?
The prices at the airport are very competitive as there are a number of companies that operate beyond the big ones, the price for a Fiat Panda or similar, pickup and drop off at Athens international airport can be as little as €2.28 per day from Carwiz.
What's the cheapest car hire in Athens?
For a seven day rental from the airport in February the cheapest car hire found is €1.88 per day for a Fiat Panda or similar.
How much does it cost for an economy car hire in Athens?
The economy car hire in Athens is a little more than the cheapest, it's €2.59 per day for a Suzuki Swift or Similar.
What's the minimum age to rent a car in Athens?
21 is the minimum age you can rent a car in Athens and the rest of Greece. Age does incur a slight surcharge as the risk is higher. 25 is where the surcharge is generally lifted.
Are there any additional charges for renting a car?
There can be with some companies a full to empty protocol whereby if you are provided with a full tank you should bring the car back with one or you will be charged for a full one, then there is usually a €500 guarantee needed that can be cash or taken off a credit card just remember that the exchange rate at the time of return will be different from when you first rented the car to when they put the money back in your account. Enjoy car hire have made a commitment with a number of the companies to ensure a fair fuel policy is in place.
Can I have additional drivers on the rental agreement?
Provided they meet the same requirements as the primary driver, yes.
What's the best car for getting around Athens?
For comfort and price the best would be a Hyundai i20 or similar.
What if I have an accident?
Contact the local authorities first then the car company that you hired the rental from.
Which side of the road do the Athenians drive on?
The right hand side as they do in all of Greece