A trip to Athens is your gate­way to un­par­al­leled his­tor­i­cal mag­nif­i­cence, bold modern cul­ture and easy ac­cess to a va­ri­ety of Greece’s cel­e­brated is­lands

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F rom most stand­points in Athens, the cit y’s his­tor ica l stature is str i k in­gly clear. A ncient r uins dec­o­rate the ref resh­ingly low-r ise sk yline and tease over wa l ls and rooftops, i l lu­mi­nat­ing the cit y as they re­flect the golden Med iter­ranean sun. In­ter­min­gled among the ma­jes­tic ar­chi­tec­ture, how­ever, is a hip ur­ban cu lture ser v ing up a steady stream of mem­o­rable en­ter­tain­ment. A s you wan­der the streets in search of a con­tem­po­rar y ta ke on mous­sak a, you may find your­self in the au­di­ence of an open-air the­atre per­for­mance or mu­sic set, or face to face w ith a pow­erfu l piece of the street art Athens has be­come renow ned for. Greece’s capita l is a year-round cit y-brea k des­ti­na­tion where his­tor y, cu lture, gas­tron­omy and modern art are found in abun­dance. It’s best ex plored by fol low ing your in­stincts, and us­ing the sights that beckon from afar as your g uide. His­tory and cul­ture In Athens, you’ l l find some­thing of his­tor ica l sig nif­i­cance around a lmost ever y cor­ner of the cit y cen­tre. A s the most im­por­tant an­cient site in the Wester n world, the Acrop­o­lis is a bucket-list-wor­thy at­trac­tion, and nearby you’ l l find many other as­ton­ish­ing ar­chae­olog ica l sites, in­clud ing Hadr ian’s Li­brar y and Gate, the Tem­ple of Oly mpian Zeus and the Pana­thenaic Stad ium. To rea l ly ta ke in the enor­mit y of Athens’ his­tor ica l sig nif­i­cance, ma ke your way up Mount Lyk av it­tos, the ta l lest hi l l in the cit y, of­fer ing a panoramic v iew of the en­tire basin, in­clud ing the moun­tains that r ing the Sa­ronic Gu lf. Such his­tor ica l r iches are bound to come w ith a wea lth of mu­se­ums. T he Byzan­tine and Chris­tian Mu­seum, Na­tional Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rar y A rt, Be­nak i Mu­seum, Mu­seum of Is­lamic A rt, Acrop­o­lis Mu­seum and A rchae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum of Marathon are ha lf a dozen to con­sider. Athens a lso has a lively arts scene and a ca lendar packed w ith colourfu l events. One of the big gest on the bi l l – and one of the most fa­mous fes­tiva ls in Greece – is the an­nua l Athens and Ep­i­dau­rus Fes­tiva l, which prom­ises mag ica l sum­mer nights fi l led w ith mu­sic, the­atre and dance in var ious venues and lo­ca­tions across the cit y. Food and drink T hank s to Greece’s Med iter­ranean cli­mate, you can look for ward to savour ing high-qua lit y loca l ing red ients at the count less restau­rants, cafés and mar­kets in Athens through­out your tr ip. Yemista (stuffed pep­pers and toma­toes), sou­vla k i (a lamb, pork or chicken skewer w rapped in a pitta), sagana k i (fr ied cheese) and fava (a hum­mus-li ke d ip made w ith fava beans) are just a few cel­e­brated Greek d ishes you won’t reg ret or­der ing. For brea k fast, join the loca ls in seek ing out one of the many ba ker ies for a tiro­pita or spana ko­pita (feta and spinach pies), or kou lour i (a r ing of dough dec­o­rated w ith se­same seeds). What­ever your bud­get, you won’t strug gle to eat wel l in Athens. T he At­tica reg ion is the birth­place of Greece’s renow ned retsina w ine, and fine v in­e­yards and w iner ies can be found around Athens. Ta ke a tour of the grapev ines and sam­ple both renow ned clas­sics and new la­bels in a w ine cel lar. Athens a lso has a long-stand ing rep­u­ta­tion for a ver y lively level of night-time ac­tiv it y, and is gain­ing recog ni­tion as a hot spot for im­pres­sive cock­tai ls. Baba Au Rum is an ex­cel lent cock­tai l bar that ta kes its um­brel la dr ink s ser iously, whi le T he Clum­sies is of­ten cited for world-class bar­tenders. Beaches and sea A nother of Athens' defin­ing charms is its prox­imit y to the sea and the ac­cess it of­fers to sev­era l pic­turesque Greek is­lands. Just a 30-minute dr ive f rom the cit y lies an ar ray of inv it­ing beaches, whi le dai ly ferr ies run from Athens’ Pi­raeus Har­bour to the Sa­ronic and Cy­clades is­lands. T he Greek capita l forms part of the At­tica peninsu la, whose shore­line is beau­ti­fied by sandy beaches, hid­den coves and cr ysta l-clear wa­ters. Vou la, Vou liag meni, K avour i and Lag­o­nissi are the best k now n At­ti­can beaches, whi le at Cape Sounion you can en­joy ex­quis­ite sun­sets and the tem­ples of Athena and Po­sei­don.

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