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An offseason visit to Athens offers a pleasant alternative

Agencies | Updated: 2017-01-14 16:08

An offseason visit to Athens offers a pleasant alternative

A man looks on waves in the southern Athens seaside suburb of Flisvos.[Photo/Agencies]

As a seaside metropolis with a lively outdoor vibe and dozens of picturesque islands beckoning nearby, Athens is more often considered a summer tourist destination than a winter escape. But if you've got more than beaches on your mind, there's plenty of upside to a brief cool visit that avoids the crowds and heat of summer.

Athens is one of the world's oldest cities, often called the cradle of Western civilization. Visitors will find monuments to ancient history on nearly every path they take. But with interesting neighborhoods, trendy shops and a variety of cafes and tavernas serving that famous Greek cuisine, Athens' attractions are not all rooted in the past.

The city is easy to get around by bus or metro and most major attractions are within walking distance. Temperatures in January average 10 C. Here's a suggested itinerary for a three-day visit.

The Acropolis

The centerpiece of ancient Greece and modern-day Athens, the Acropolis literally stands above everything else and looms majestically over the city. It is particularly striking to view at night, when brilliantly illuminated. A 10-euro ($10.6) entrance fee to the compound takes you along a course of the central structures of Greek mythology as you climb past the Theatre of Dionysus, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Herodeon - which still hosts the occasional live performance. A 20-minute walk to the top unveils the most famous structure of all, the Parthenon - a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, the city's patron. However, the scaffolding of its prolonged restoration project takes a bit away from its grandeur.

Most of the Acropolis' treasures are housed in the nearby Acropolis Museum (entrance 5 euros), such as colossal stone statues depicting mythological scenes from ancient Greece. One of the museum's most impressive features is actually the architecture that includes glass floors through which you can see the ruins that lay below. A full view of the Acropolis spreads out from the second and third floor galleries.

There are plenty of other ancient sites to visit across the city, but the most comprehensive is likely the nearby Ancient Agora on the Acropolis' northwest slope with its impressive Temple of Hephaistos nestled among ruins overgrown with green foliage from the winter rains. It houses a large assortment of ancient vases, figurines, coins and headless statues.

Lycabettus Hill

There are views of the Acropolis from everywhere, but the best one in town is from Lycabettus Hill. After a pleasant but steep hike up a winding trail, a panoramic view of the sprawling city is revealed. There's a little church at the top, Agii Isidori, and ample angles to photograph Athens. An early morning visit will put the sun behind you as you gaze across the city toward the Acropolis with the shores of the Aegean Sea lapping in the distance. Part of the fun is getting there via a stroll from the center of town through the upscale Kolonaki neighborhood, with its bustling cafes and designer merchandise.

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