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Overview

The ancient cradle that’s still rocking

The ancient cradle that’s still rocking

Where to begin when talking about Athens ? There are 1,000-page history books on the subject. Where else can you walk in the footsteps of philosophers who created democracy, theater, booming architecture and grape-leaves-as-fashion statement ?

At first glance, Athens seems to be noisy, lacking character and polluted. And yet, for years that didn’t stop travelers from coming to see the incredible ruins built here nearly 2,500 years ago. But after a one-day visit, most head off to the Isles to cruise the heavenly blue. Today, things have changed. Especially since the Olympics were held here in 2006. Athens is cleaning up its ancient act. Even the trains have been modernized !

Popping up around the ruins, find trendy and traditional cafes and shops tucked into the narrow streets, often next to little, divinely decorated Greek Orthodox churches. For a high concentration of all things hip and upscale, head to Kolonaki near Lykavittos Hill. This is considered the "posh" area of Athens, home to rich Athenians, foreign embassies and several archaeological schools.

Wake up to a thick cup of Greek coffee before you journey to the crowded ruins. The showpiece is the grand monuments of the Acropolis. You may see some structures covered in scaffolding, as work is ongoing to preserve these ruins from pollution and acid rain. These won’t detract from the experience. You’ll immediately recognize The Parthenon— the largest temple on the Acropolis, and an enduring symbol of ancient Athens’ Golden Age nearly 2,500 years ago. Once the original home of the Elgin Marbles, a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, the pieces were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed in the British Museum. For years, the Greeks have asked for the marbles back, and for years, the Brits have responded with claims that Greece can’t give them a suitable home. But that may change now with the building of the new Acropolis Museum.

Designed by Swiss star architect Bernard Tschumi at a site south of the Acropolis, this long-overdue replacement for the musty old museum opened in June 2009. The Parthenon may have lost its marbles, but this state-of-the-art facility is ready and waiting for their return. Even without the sculptures, the new museum captures the wonder of ancient and modern Athens. Its two lower levels are aligned with the foundations of the ancient ruins beneath the building (which are exposed and open to the public). The top floor sits cockeyed, like the orientation of the Parthenon.

With your mind changed about Athens and with your Eurail Greece Pass in hand, you’re ready to hop on the 20-minute train to Piraeus. The town has the largest port in Europe serving over 20 million passengers, all seeking the whitewashed walls of the Cyclades and Iolian Islands. While lying on a beach, or sipping a Mavrodaphne dessert wine at a taverna, you’ll be glad to have not skipped the ancient, awe-inspiring city. Socrates himself would think you wise. And if you’re planning on traveling in Italy and Greece, consider getting a Eurail Attica Pass which includes round-trip ferry travel between Italy and Greece on Attica’s SuperFast Ferries, plus travel to the Greek islands on Blue Star Ferries once you’re there.

While lying on a beach, or sipping a Mavrodaphne dessert wine at a taverna, you’ll be glad to have not skipped the ancient, awe-inspiring city. Socrates himself would think you wise.

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From our travel community

Backpacking through europe from greece to scotland What pass should we get? Do we purchase a Global Pass for 1 month or 2 months? The cost difference is $1K which is significant. What is confusing is the reservation fees on top of the price of the pass, as well as the fact that several (...)

Trish | 17 November 2002 complete | 1 Comments
With a eurail global pass, are there discounts on the ferry from athens to santorini? Hi! We've bought Global Rail Passes and I was under the impression we could use them to get discounts on ferries. We are travelling from Athens - Santorini one way. Is this possible to use the passes for a discount? I am having trouble (...)

Nell | 17 July 2024 complete | 2 Comments
Paris-munich-vienna-geneva in september 2017 My wife and I wish to travel by train Paris-Munich-Vienna-Geneva then fly to Athens in September 2017. What would the best ticket(s) to purchase. The trip will take 7-8 days. My wife and I are Australian. I am 65 and my wife is (...)

Glynn Andersen | 17 May 2029 complete | 1 Comments
Does a rail pass cover subways and buses in european cities? public transportation questions Does the Eurail Global pass cover public transportation in cities? Like the local subways, trains or buses.

Krista | 12 March 2015 complete | 122 Comments
Train from athens to kalambaka I couldn't find out the train schedule from Athens to Kalambaka departing July 10. Your website says unable to find result. What does this mean? the train is currently not running, or is there an error? We are a group of 3 (2 adults and a (...)

Bianca Luo | 17 May 2001 complete | 1 Comments

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