Cheap flights to Athens leave from Sydney, but will likely involve two stopovers through the likes of London, China, or the Middle East. After landing in Athens, it is about a 40-minute journey into the city centre. Trains are available to take you to Larissis Station and the Port of Pireaus, which connects to the rest of Athens by Metro. You can take the Athens Metro directly from the airport to the city, but that service runs less frequently. A cheaper option is the 24-hour express bus service which takes you to Syntagma Square in the centre of Greece’s capital, or Kifissia, Athens' smart northern suburb.
Athens Metro system is the best way to get around the city. It is a cheap option with one-way fares starting from A$1. There are reduced fares for students and overseas students need only show an International Student Identity Card to be given the discount. The network was upgraded for the Olympics and now boasts 45 stations. Trains run on three lines and can be caught every 3 minutes in rush hour and every 10 minutes the rest of the day. Interestingly, five of the stations are situated at the centre of Ancient Athens, in the shadow of the Acropolis. It is unlikely that travellers will use anything other than the metro, but there are bus services. Yellow Trolleys and Blue Buses can take visitors anywhere in the city and suburbs. The trolleys run on electricity and the stops are usually yellow. The Blue bus-stops are blue. Tickets cost just over $A1 and must be bought from a kiosk or special stands in main squares or some bus terminals.
There is no shortage of mind-boggling sites in the ancient city of Athens. Top of the list is the Acropolis and its many historic buildings. The Acropolis is a world heritage listed site, set on a rocky outcrop with commanding views over the city. Its main tenant, the Parthenon, was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. There are many companies offering historic walking tours of the site, or you can do it on the cheap and wander around yourself, but be warned it can get hot in the middle of the day, so aim to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. As well as the many temples of the Acropolis, it is worth checking out the city’s world-class museums. The New Acropolis museum is dedicated to displaying and preserving the finds from the Acropolis, but the National Archaeological museum, The Byzantine and The Cycladic Art museums should also be on the to-do list. Many other attractions can be found around Syntagma Square. From there it is walking distance to the Plaka, Monastiraki, the National Gardens, Ermou Street shopping area, Kolonaki, The Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium. It is hard to avoid being caught up in the history of the city, but for some time-out from ancient overload visit Lake Vouliagmeni, where visitors can relax and take in the warm waters all-year round.
Downtown Athens is the place to head for a spot of shopping. The areas of Plaka and Monastiraki are well-equipped for travellers with many tourist shops, but with once-choked streets now closed to traffic, the entire city centre is now one big shopping mall. Cheap clothes can be found in the shopping areas of Eolou and Agiou Marou. Psiri is the party place of Athens. From about 6pm it undergoes a transformation from a working-class area to a hub of cafes, bars and restaurants and is less touristy than Plaka. For a cheap meal in Athens, don’t pass up a traditional souvlaki, served by many street vendors and found at the many tavernas around the city.
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