Ancient ruins sit quietly amid hectic modem streets as tacit testaments to Athens’s rich history, while the Acropolis looms larger than life, a perpetual reminder of ancient glory. Byzantine churches recall an era of foreign invaders, when the city was ruled from Macedonia, Rome, and Constantinople. But the packs of mopeds in PI. Syndagma prove that Athens refuses to become a museum over the past two centuries, democracy has revived the city in a wave of madcap construction. The 2004 Olympic Games, to be held in Athens, promises an array of modem landmarks to stand proudly alongside the city’s ancient ones.
Flights: Eleftherios Venizelou (ATH; a210 353 0000; www.aia.gr). Greece’s new international airport operates as one massive, yet easily navigable terminal. Arrivals are on the ground floor, departures are on the 2nd. The new suburban rail, expected to be finished by summer 2004 for the Olympic Games, will serve the international airport from the city center in 30min. 4 bus lines run from the airport to Athens, Piraeus, and Rafina.
Trains: Hellenic Railways (OSE), Sina 6 (a210 362 4402; www.ose.gr). Larisis Train Station (a210 529 8837) serves northern Greece and Europe. Ticket office open daily 5am-midnight. Take trolley #1 from El. Venizelou (also known as Panepis-timiou) in PI. Syndagma (every lOmin. 5am-midnight, ‚0.50). Trains depart for Thessaloniki (7hr. 5 per day, ‚15). Peloponnese Train Station (a210 513 1601) serves Olympia (express: S’ihr. 2 per day, ‚4.40), Patras (4V4hr. 2 per day, ‚5.30), and major towns in the Peloponnese. From Larissis, exit to your right and cross the footbridge.
Buses: Terminal A: Kifissou 100 (a210 512 4910). Take blue bus #051 from the corner of Zinonos and Menandrou near PI. Omonia (every 15min. ‚0.50). Buses to: Corinth (lVihr. every 45min. ‚5.70); Corfu (10hr. 4 per day, ‚28); Patras (3hr. every 30 min. ‚13); Thessaloniki (6hr. 11 per day, ‚28). Terminal B: Liossion 260 (a210 831 7153, M-F only). Take blue bus #024 from Amalias outside the National Gardens (45min. every 20min. ‚0.50). Buses to Delphi (3hr. 6 per day, ‚11).
Public Transportation: KTEL (KTEA) buses around Athens and its suburbs are blue and designated by 3-digit numbers. Buy bustrolley tickets at any street kiosk. Hold on to your ticket-you can be fined ‚18-30 by police if caught without one. Trolleys are yellow and crowded, sporting 1- or 2-digit numbers; they are distinguished from buses by their electrical antennae. The Athens Metro consists of 3 lines. Ml runs from northern Kifissia to the port of Piraeus. M2 runs from Sepolia to Dafni. M3 runs from Ethniki Amyna to Monastiraki in central Athens. Trains run 5am-midnight. Buy tickets (‚0.30-0.60) in any station. Tram: 2 trams are under construction for the 2004 Olympic Games. Line 1 will run from Zappeio in Athens Centre to Helliniko. Line 2 will run from Neo Faliro along the Apollo Coast until Glyfada Square.
Car Rental: Try the places on Singrou. ‚35-50 for a small car with 100km mileage (including tax and insurance). Up to 50% student discount. Prices rise in summer.
Taxis: Meters start at ‚0.80, with an additional ‚0.30 per km; midnight-5am ‚0.50 per km. There’s a ‚2 surcharge from the airport and a ‚0.70 surcharge for trips from bus and railway terminals, plus ‚0.30 for each piece of luggage over 10kg.
The majority of ferries from Athens leave from the town of Piraeus Port. Ferries sail to nearly all Greek islands (except the Sporades and Ionian Islands). Ferries to Crete: Hania (9V4hr. daily, ‚18); Iraklion, (14hr. 3 per day, ‚21-26); and Rethymno (1 lhr. daily, ‚22). Additional ferries to: Chios (9hr. daily, ‚19); Hydra (3hr. every hr. ‚15); los (7$hr. 2-5 per day, ‚17); Lesvos (12hr. daily, ‚23); Milos (7hrž 2-5 per day, ‚16); Mykonos (6hrž 2-5 per day, ‚17); Naxos (6hr. 2-5 per day, ‚17); Paros (6hr. 2-5 per day, ‚17); Poros (212hr. every hr. ‚14); Rhodes (15hr. 2-5 per day, ‚27); Santorini (9hr. 2-5 per day, ‚19); and Spetses (4V4hr. every hr. ‚21).
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Athenian geography mystifies newcomers and natives alike. If you lose your bearings, ask for directions back to well-lit Syndagma or look for a cab; the Acropolis serves as a reference point, as does Mt. Lycavittos. Athens’s suburbs occupy seven hills in southwest Attica, near the coast. Syndagma, the central plateia containing the Parliament building, is encircled by the other major neighborhoods. Clockwise, they are Plaka, Monastiraki, Psiri, Omonia, Exarhia, Kolonaki, and Pangrati. Plaka, the center of the old city and home to many accommodations, is bounded by the city’s two largest ancient monuments the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis. Omonia is the site of the city’s central subway station. Two parallel avenues, Panepistimiou and Stadiou, connect Syndagma to Omonia. Omonia’s neighbor to the east, progressive Exarhia, sports some of Athens’s most exciting nightlife, while nearby Kolonaki, on the foothills of Mt. Lycavittos, has plenty of glitz and swanky shops. Pangrati, southeast of Kolonaki, is marked by several Byzantine churches, a park, the Olympic Stadium, and the National Cemetery.
Tourist Office: Tsohas 7 (info booth 210 870 7181; main desk210 870 7000; www.gnto.gr.), off of Vas. Sophias in Ambelokipi. Bus, train, and ferry schedules and prices; lists of museums, embassies, and banks; brochures on travel throughout Greece; and an indispensable Athens map. Open M-F 9am-3:30pm. 13 Philippis Tours, Akti Tzelepi 3 (210 411 7787 or 210 413 3182; firstname.lastname@example.org). Open daily 5:30am-10:30pm. From the Metro, take a left, and walk 200m until you come to Karaskaiki Square. Walk toward the water; it’ll be on the left side of the cluster of offices. Sells ferry and plane tickets, helps with accommodations, rents cars, exchanges money, and stores baggage (free for the day with Let’s Go).
Banks: National Bank of Greece, Karageorgi Servias 2 (210 334 0015), in PI. Syndagma. Open M-Th 8am-2pm, F 8am-l:30pm; open for currency exchange only M-Th 3:30-5:20pm, F 3-6:30pm, Sa 9am-3pm, Su 9am-lpm. Currency exchange available 24hr. at the airport, but exchange rates and commissions may be unfavorable.
American Express: Ermou 7 (210 322 3380), in PI. Syndagma. Cashes traveler’s checks commission-free, exchanges money, and provides travel services for cardholders. Open M-F 8:30am-4pm, Sa 8:30am-l:30pm.
Laundromats: Most plintirios have signs reading Laundry. National, Apollonos 17, in Syndagma. Wash and dry ‚4.50 per kg. Open M-Th 4:30-8:30pm, F 8am-8pm.
Emergencies: Police: 100. Medical: 105 from Athens, 101 elsewhere; line open daily 2pm-7am. Ambulance: 166. Fire: 199. AIDS Help Line: 210 722 2222. Athens News lists emergency hospitals. Free emergency health care for tourists.
Tourist Police: Dimitrakopoulou 77 ( 171). English spoken. Open 24hr.
Pharmacies: Identified by a green cross hanging over the street. Many are open 24hr.; check Athens News for the day’s emergency pharmacy.
Hospitals: Emergency hospitals on duty 106. Geniko Kratiko Nosokomio (Public State Hospital), Mesogion 154 (210 720 1211). Ygeia, Erithrou Stavrou 4 (210 682 7904), is a private hospital in Maroussi. Hospital” is nosokomio in Greek.
Berval Travel Internet Access, Voulis 44A ( 210 331 1294), in Plaka near PI. Syndagma. ‚6 per hr. students ‚5 per hr. Open daily 9:30am-8pm.
Bits n Bytes Internet, Akademias 78 in Exarhia (between Em. Benaki and Zoodochou Pigis), Kap-nikareas 19 in Plaka, Chremonidou 17 in Pangrati. (210 382 2545 or 210 330 6590; www.bnb.gr). Fast-connected flat screens in air-conditioned, black-lit joints. Midnight-9am ‚1.50 per hr. 9am to midnight ‚2.50 per hr. easylnternet Cafe: Filellinon 2 ( 210 331 3034) in Syndagma. On the 2nd floor above the Everest fast food eatery, directly across from PI. Syndagma. 40 high speed, flat screen computers. Rates range from C0.80 to ‚3 per hr.
Internet Cafe, Stournari 49, in Omonia (210 383 8808; www.intergraphics.gr) on 7th floor. Gaze at the city below while checking email (‚2 per hr.). Open M-F 9am-9:30pm, Sa 10am-2pm.
Ivis Travel Internet Services, Mitropoleos 3 (210 324 3365 or 210 324 3543; fax 210 322 4205). On the 2nd floor of the building across the street from the post office in Syndagma. ‚2 per hr. ‚1 min. Open daily 8:30am-10:30pm.
Arcade Internet Cafe, Stadiou 5 (210 324 8105; email@example.com), just up Stadiou from the plateia in Syndagma, in a shopping center about 15m from the main thoroughfare. ‚3 per hr. ‚0.50 every additional lOmin. ‚1 min. Open M-Sa 9am-llpm, Su llam-8pm.
Plaka Internet World, Pandrossou 29 (210 331 6056; www.internet-greece.gr), on the 4th fl. in Plaka. Large screens, fast connection, AC, and a balcony where you can enjoy cold sodas and a great Acropolis view. ‚4 per hr. Open daily lOam-lOpm.
Museum Internet Cafe, Patission 46 (210 883 3418; firstname.lastname@example.org), on the corner of Vas. Irakliou, in Exharia. Frothy coffee drinks, AC, and email at your own personal table. Cappuccino ‚2.40. Beer ‚2. ‚4.40 per hr. ‚1.50 per 20min. Open daily 9am-3am.
Post Office: Syndagma (210 322 6253), on the corner of Mitropoleos. Open M-F 7:30am-8pm, Sa 7:30am-2pm. Branch offices in Omonia, at Aiolou 100, and Exarhia, at the corner of Zaimi and K. Deligiani. Postal Code: 10022.