This is Athens: Exciting and exasperating, worldly and oh so hot, a city that attacks the senses and stirs the spirit as only the cradle of Western civilization can. Homeland to gods, goddesses, and some of history's greatest philosophers and athletes, Athens boasts glorious ancient temples such as the Acropolis and its iconic Parthenon, and beautiful beaches. Best of all, Athens has the Athenians, who welcome progress, feed on the latest trends and, true to their hedonistic roots, party with Olympian stamina.
While you'll be itching to see the Acropolis, majestically crowned by the Parthenon, take a siga, siga (slowly, slowly) approach to sightseeing. Go on an architectural dig in the Acropolis Museum, explore the ancient Agorá's marketplace, where democracy was born. For cool respite, head to the National Gardens and for gorgeous sunsets, perch on the peak of Lycabettus Mountain.
Style-conscious Athenians browse for high-street fashion along pedestrian Ermou and for couture and designer jewelry in Kolonaki before brunch on Kolonaki Square. Skip the tourist kitsch in Plaka and Monastiraki in favor of poet/shoemaker Stavros Melissonos' handmade leather sandals. It's all early morning action in the 19th-century glass-and-steel Central Market, where stalls are laden with fresh fruit, nuts, and mounds of Aegean seafood.
Athens is as hedonistic as its mythology suggests. Psirri, Karitsi Square, and Panormou street are pulsating districts; Kolonaki has fashionable bars, and born-again industrial zone Gazi is nightlife central. Summer means beach to Athenians—dress up for seafront cocktails and dancing in Glyfada and Voula.
Whether it's creative Mediterranean cuisine in Michelin-starred Spondi or a take-out souvlaki, good food is taken for granted in Athens. Views of the Acropolis might distract you from the menu in Plaka and Monastiraki, where tavernas dish up Greek classics. Venture to the Microlimano harbor for fresh fish by the water's edge, and Kolonaki's trendy restaurants for a cosmopolitan feel.