Prefectures : Athens, East Attica, Piraeus, West Attica
Municipality of Athens Seal
Athens (Greek: Αθήνα Athína) is the capital of Greece, and also the capital of the Attica region of Greece. A cosmopolitan modern city, Athens is also famous for being a powerful city-state and a very important center of learning in ancient times. It is named after its patron goddess, Athena.
καὶ τούτων δικαζόντων ἡ χώρα τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς ἐκρίθη, Κέκροπος μαρτυρήσαντος ὅτι πρώτη τὴν ἐλαίαν ἐφύτευσεν. Ἀθηνᾶ μὲν οὖν ἀφ' ἑαυτῆς τὴν πόλιν ἐκάλεσεν Ἀθήνας Apollodorus
Athens Google Earth
In Ancient Greek Athens was called Athinai (Αθήναι, plural for Athena), and in the 19th century this name was formally re-adopted as the city's name. Since the official abandonment of Katharevousa Greek in the 1970s, however, the popular form Athina has become the city's official name.
The city of Athens has a population of 750,000, while the greater metropolitan area is home to some 3.7 million people. Currently the city(metropolitan area) is growing eastwards.
Akropolis from Space (wait a few seconds for loading)
Athens was the leading city in Greece during the greatest period of Greek civilization during the 1st millennium BC. During the "Golden Age" of Greece (roughly 500 BC to 300 BC) it was the Western world's leading cultural and intellectual center, and indeed it is in the ideas and practices of Ancient Athens that what we now call "Western civilization" has its origins. After its days of greatness, Athens continued to be a prosperous city and a centre of learning until the late Roman period.
The schools of philosophy, however, were closed in AD 529 after the Byzantine Empire converted to Christianity. Athens lost a great deal of status and became a provincial town. Between the 13th and 15th centuries the city was fought over by the Byzantines and the French and Italian knights of the Latin Empire. In 1458 the city fell to the Ottoman Empire and the city's population went into decline and conditions worsened as the Ottoman Empire declined as well. Parts of the city (including many of its older buildings) were destroyed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as different factions tried to control the city.
The city was virtually uninhabited by the time it was made the capital of the newly established kingdom of Greece in 1833. During the next few decades the city was rebuilt into a modern city. In 1896 Athens was the host city of the 1896 Summer Olympics.The next large expansion occurred in the 1920s when suburbs were created to house Greek refugees from Asia Minor. During World War II the city was occupied by Germany and fared badly in the war's later years. After the war the city started to grow again.
Location and setting
The Zappion; a conference centre designed by Theofil Hansen in 1870 is surrounded by extensive gardens
The Academy, designed by Theofil Hansen and completed in 1885, is flanked by the National Library and the University of Athens. Known as the 'trilogy', these three neo classical buildings are considered to be the finest examples of the Greek architectural order.
With its suburbs, Athens has a population of about 3.7 million (plus around 500.000 immigrants whose residential status is not stable) representing more than a third of the total population of Greece. Athens has grown very rapidly in the years after the war until ca. 1980 and suffered from overcrowding, traffic congestion and air pollution; it is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. These problems still persist, although the massive investment of recent years in infrastructure has had a significant effect in easing the problem.
Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica, which is bound by mount Aegaleo on the west, mount Parnitha on the north, mount Penteli to the northeast, mount Hymettus on the east, and the Saronic Gulf on the south-west. Athens has expanded to cover the entire plain, and is thus unlikely to grow significantly in area in the future, because of the natural boundaries. The geomorphology of Athens frequently causes temperature inversion phenomena partly responsible for its air pollution problem (Los Angeles has similar geomorphology and similar problems).
The land is rocky and of marginal fertility. The ancient site of the city is centered on the rocky hill of the Acropolis. In ancient times the port of Piraeus (modern name Pireas) was a separate city, but it has now been absorbed into greater Athens.
The centre of the modern city is at Syntagma Square (Constitution Square), site of the former Royal Palace, the Greek Parliament and other 19th century public buildings. Most of the older and wealthier parts of the city and clustered around this area, which is also where most of the tourist attractions and museums are. The newer parts of the city are mostly constructed from grey concrete and suffer from a lack of parks and amenities.
The old campus of the University of Athens, on Panepistimiou Avenue is one of the finest buildings in Athens, together with the National Library building and the Athens Academy building. These three form the so called Athens Trilogy, built in late 19th century. However most of the university's functions have been moved to a larger modern campus east of the city centre near Zográfou. The second most significant institution of the city is the Athens Polytechnic School (Ethniko Metsovio Politechnio), where more than 20 students were killed in 1973 during demonstrations against the Greek military junta (1967-1974).
Greek entry into the European Union in 1981 brought new investment to the city along with problems of congestion and air pollution.Throughout the 1990s a series of measures were taken successfully to combat pollution. In preparation for the 2004 Olympic games the city spruced up its image with the introduction of state-of-the-art transport means, a new airport, pedestrianised areas, new museums and public squares. The city's increasingly multi-ethnic population enjoy a vibrant night-life and world-class shopping.
Illuminated Monuments are everywhere in central Athens. Here, the remainings of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the first monument visible when entering the city centre from Syngrou Ave.
Athens has been a tourist destination since ancient times. Visitors from all over the world have always been very eager to visit the famed monuments of the Acropolis. In recent decades,however, poor infrastructure, pollution and overcrowding of the city damaged its image as a place to visit. Some travel writers said that were it not for the ancient monuments, Athens would not be worth visiting, being dirty, chaotic, crowded and over-priced. Over the past eight years, the infrastructure and social amenities of central Athens have been transformed as a result of the city's successful bid to stage the 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek state aided by the European Union have poured money into infrastructure projects such as the new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, the massive expansion of the Metro system, and the new Attiki Odos ring-road. There has also been a great expansion of private investment on hotels and other tourist developments. Most importantly from the point of view of tourism, the area around the Acropolis has been remodelled, and a great pedestrian area from the Temple of Olympian Zeus to Plaka, Monastiraki and the Psirri has been constructed. This gives the visitor space for calm walks among the ancient monuments, ruins and trees, from the Acropolis, to the Agora (the meeting place of the ancient city) and then to the narrow streets of the old city of Athens (the Plaka), away from the noise of the modern city. Close to Syntagma Square (described above) is the Kallimarmaro Stadium, the place where the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896. Built as a replica of the ancient Athens Stadium, it is interesting, not only for romantic reasons but also because it is probably the only major stadium (holding 60,000 spectators) made entirely of white marble. The classic museums like the National Archaeological Museum (which holds the world's greatest collection of Greek art), the Benaki Museum (including its new Islamic Art branch) [www.benaki.gr], the Byzantine Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art (strongly recommended for its collection of elegant white metamodern figures, more than 3,000 years old) [www.cycladic-m.gr] have all been renovated for the 2004 Olympics. A new Acropolis Museum is being built ) according to a design by acclaimed architect Bernard Tschumi (http://www.culture.gr/2/21/215/21502/e21509c.html)
As for the night life, central Athens has a great number of multiplex as well as romantic open air garden cinemas, more theatres than any other European city (including ancient marble ones that are home to the Athens Festival from June to July) and many music venues including a state of the art music hall known as "Megaron" [ http://www.megaron.gr] that attracts world-famous artists all year round. The coastline - now connected to the city centre with a gleaming new tram way - boasts a series of exciting venues next to the beaches where, during the day, Athenians swim and sunbathe. The Psirri district - aka Athens' 'meat packing district'- has acquired many new bars and restaurants and is a center for young Athenians. The Plaka remains the traditional tourist destination, with many tavernas featuring 'traditional' music, but the food, though good, is expensive compared to other parts of the city. The chic Kolonaki area, near Syntagma Square, is full of boutiques catering to well-heeled customers by day and bars and restaurants by night. Some rundown central areas (south of Omonia Square) are mainly peopled by immigrants and are full of colorful if modest ethnic restaurants and shops. Casinos operate on Mount Parnitha (accessible by car or cable car) and the near town of Loutraki (accessible by car or suburban railway). An entirely new attraction is the massively upgraded Olympic Stadium Complex (known by its Greek initials OAKA). The whole area has been remodelled by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava with monuments, gardens, futuristic passages and a characteristic new blue glass roof which was added to the main Stadium. A second olympic area, next to the sea at the beach of Kallithea (Faliron), also boasts futuristic stadiums, shops and an elevated esplanade.
For lovers of nature Athens can be very challenging as only few parks exist including the extensive and beautiful national gardens behind the Parliament. To compensate, Athens is close to sand beaches and very clean sea and is surrounded by four very green and easily accessible mountains that are protected national parks (Lycabetus in the centre, Parnitha and Penteli to the North and Ymittos to the South East) some of which feature also unmissable historic sites (Lycabetus,Ymittos). Mountain Parnitha 15km from the centre of Athens) has tens of well-marked paths, gorges, springs, torrents and caves and you may meet a deer in the forest. The nearby islands of Aigina, Hydra, Spetses and Poros are also sites of speactacular natural beauty and historical architecture. Work is underway to transform the grounds of the old Athens Airport -named Hellinikon- in the southern suburbs into a massive landscaped park. The Athens municipality maintains a site of tourist interest: http://www.cityofathens.gr/
The Athens Mass Transit System is currently one of the most modern and efficient systems in Europe. It consists of a large bus fleet, a trolley fleet that mainly serves the downtown area, [*], the Athens Metro [*],a tram line connecting the southern suburbs to the city center[*] and the Athens Suburban railway [*] services.
The Athens Metro is one of the most impressive systems in the world. It currently operates four lines, three of which are distinguished by the colors used in the relevant maps and signs (green, blue and red). The historic Green Line, which is the oldest and for the most part runs on the ground, connects the port of Piraeus to the northern suburb of Kifissia. The line is 25 km long and has 24 stations. The other two lines were constructed mainly during the 1990s and the first sections opened in January 2000. They run entirely underground. The Blue Line runs from the central Monastiraki district to Doukissis Plakentias avenue, in the eastern suburb of Halandri. The Blue Line then ascends on ground level and reaches Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, using the Suburban Railway rails. The Red Line runs from Aghios Antonios to Aghios Dimitrios. Extensions to both lines are under construction, most notably westwards to Egaleo, southwards to the Old Hellinikon Airport East Terminal (future Metropolitan Park) and eastwards towards the easternmost suburb of Aghia Paraskevi. The fourth line is the Athens Suburban Railway (Proastiakós) which connects Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport to the city of Corinth, 80 km west of Athens, via the central Larissa Train Station. The metro network, Suburban Railway not included, has a current length of 91 km and it is expected to reach 124 km (72 stations) by the year 2009. It is managed by three different companies, namely ISAP [*], Attiko Metro (lines 2 & 3) and Proastiakós (line 4).
The bus service consists of a huge network of lines operated by normal buses, electric buses, and natural gas run buses (the largest fleet of natural gas run buses in Europe). There are plenty of bus lines serving the entire Athens Metropolitan Area.
The tram runs from Syntagma Square to the southwestern suburb of Palaio Faliro, where the line splits in two branches. The first branch runs all along the Athens coastline towards the southern suburb of Glyfada while the other one heads towards the Piraeus district of Neo Faliro. Both Syntagma - Palaio Faliro - Neo Faliro and the Syntagma - Glyfada lines opened on 19 July 2004. Further extensions are planned towards the major commercial port of Piraeus and the southernmost suburb of Vouliagmeni.
There are many taxis in Athens, one of which can be recognised by the yellow colour, and the sign that protrudes from the top of the vehicle. They are quite cheap and during rush hours it is even considered normal to flag a taxi even when another customer is already in (although, formally, this is forbitten); in that case, if the one flagging the taxi happens to go to the approximate direction as the customer alreadyusing it and the customer does not mind (seldom if ever this is an issue), he is also allowed in, and each one give the fare they would normally give as if they were the only customer.
Athens is served, since March 2001, by the ultra modern Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport located near the town of Spata, in the eastern Mesoghia Plain, some 35 km east of Athens. There is an Express Bus service connecting the airport to the metro system and 2 express bus services connecting the airport to Piraeus port and the city centre respectively. Athens is also the hub of the Greek National Railway System. Ferries departing from the port of Piraeus connect the city to the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea.
There are two main highways that travel both to the west, towards the city of Patra in Peloponessus (GR-8A, E94) and to the north, towards Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki (GR-1, E75). In 2001-2004 a ring road toll-expressway (Attiki Odos) was gradually completed, extending from the western industrial city of Elefsina all the way to the Athens International Airport, after encircling the city from the north. The Ymittos Ringroad is a separate section of Attiki Odos connecting the eastern suburb of Kaisariani to the northeastern town of Glyka Nera and this is where it meets the main part of the ring-road. The total length of Attiki Odos is now approximately 70 km.
The modern city of Athens consists of what were formerly distinct towns and villages which gradually expanded to form a single large city; this expansion occurred in the 20th century. The city is now divided into 54 municipalities, the largest of which is the Municipality of Athens or Dimos Athinaion, with about one million people (the next largest are Piraeus, Peristeri and Kallithea). Athens can therefore refer either to the entire city (also called greater Athens) or to the Municipality of Athens, or even to downtown Athens. Each of the municipalities of Athens has an elected city council and a directly elected mayor. Dora Bakoyanni of the conservative New Democracy party has been Mayor of Athens (that is, of the Municipality of Athens) since October 2002. She is the first woman to be Mayor of Athens.
Athens was awarded the2004 Summer Olympics on September 5, 1997 in Lausanne, Switzerland, after having lost a previous bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics, to Atlanta, USA. It would be the second time Athens would have the honour of hosting the Olympic Games, the first one being in 1896.
After the unsuccessful bid of 1990, the 1997 bid was radically improved, and also included an appeal to Olympic history. In the last round of voting, Athens defeated Rome with 66 votes to 41. Prior to this round, the cities of Buenos Aires, Stockholm and Cape Town had already been eliminated from competition after having received fewer votes.
During the first three years of preparations, the International Olympic Committee had repeatedly expressed some concerns over the status of progress in construction work of some of the new Olympic venues. In the year 2000 the Organising Committee's president was replaced by Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who was the president of the Bidding Committee back in 1997. From that point on, preparations continued at a highly accelerated, almost frenzied pace. Although the heavy cost was criticized, as is usually the case with most Olympic cities, Athens was literally transformed into a more functional city that enjoys state-of-the-art technology both in transportation and in modern urban development. Some of the finest sporting venues in the world were created in the city, almost all of which were fully ready on schedule. The 2004 Games were adjudged a huge success, as both security and organization were exceptionally good and only a few visitors reported minor problems, mainly concerning transportation or accommodation issues. Essentially, the only notable problem was a somewhat sparse attendance of some preliminary events. Eventually, however, a total of more than 3.2 million tickets were sold [*], which was higher than any other Olympics with the exception of Sydney (more than 5 million tickets were sold there in 2000).
Athens enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, with the greatest amounts of precipitation mainly occurring from mid-October to mid-April. The rest of the year remains largely rainless, making Athens one of the sunniest cities in the European continent. Sheltered by topographic barriers from the full force of the western, rain-bearing winds, Athens has a semi-arid climate and averages less than 500 mm of precipitation annually. Winters are generally mild, with comfortable daytime temperatures and cool nights, though light frosts may occur on infrequent occasions (it has to be noted however, that Northern suburbs -that stand at a higher elevation- have a somewhat different microclimate, with cooler summers and colder winters with quite heavier average snowfall). Winter rainfall tends to occur in the form of short and sometimes heavy showers. Snow is relatively rare, although the city has experienced its share of blizzard-like conditions. The most recent examples include the blizzard of January 2002 as well as that of February 2004, all dumping heavy amounts of snow and blanketing the entire metropolitan area for days. Spring and autumn are considered ideal seasons for sightseeing and indeed for all kinds of outdoor activities. Summers can be particularly hot and at times prone to smog and pollution related conditions (admittedly, however, much less so compared to the past). The average summer daytime maximum temperature is 32 degrees Celsius (90°F). Heat waves are not uncommon during the months of July and/or August and during these events daytime temperatures can soar at or above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) or they can even sometimes (though rarely) reach the 44°C to 45°C levels (111.2°F to 113°F).
Iliou Melathron, the former house of H. Schliemann
Cities nicknamed Athens:
Athens of the East - Madurai, India
MAPS of Modern Greece from Hellenic Republic - Ministry of Tourism - Greek National Tourism Organisation
Athens view from Lykavittos, Panoramic Image
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