Athens International Airport – also known as Eleutherios Venizelos, if you feel up to pronouncing that – serves the city of Athens, once known as the capital of Europe. Named after Cretan politician Eleutherios Venizelos, the airport began operations in 2001 and has since won numerous awards like the ‘Golden Pillow’ – awarded by the publication, The Age – as well as an environmentally-friendly award, the ‘Green Building’ by the European Committee. Although Athens today is just the capital of Greece, not Europe, its glorious history is still world-renowned and it is an extremely popular tourist destination. Athens International is the largest airport in Greece (as of July 2014) and about 13 million passengers pass through the airport annually.
With the airport only about 35 km from the city centre, getting to Athens is easy. Tourists can take an express bus from just outside the arrivals area of the airport that will take them to the heart of the city, Syntagma Square, in about 45 minutes. Otherwise, the metro can also be boarded just near the airport, and it connects passengers over to the vicinity of Syntagma Square in just half an hour.
What to see and do
If you haven’t heard of the Acropolis of Athens, you have to visit it when you’re in Athens. If you have heard of the Acropolis, you should still visit it. Considered one of the most famous archaeological citadels in Europe, the Acropolis consists of some of the oldest, most historically significant, and imposing monuments there are in the world. Created sometime in 5th century BC, the Acropolis – also known as the Holy Rock of Acropolis – was the product of a peaceful, happy time for the Athenians, who had just defeated the Persians and established democracy. With less to worry about, the ancient artists could transform what used to be nothing more than a rocky hill into some of the monuments they are today, under the direction of Athenian statesman Pericles. Meant as a celebration of thought and the Arts, the Acropolis holds the Parthenon – a temple built in the honour of goddess Athena, a lasting symbol of Ancient Greece and one of the world’s most important cultural monuments – the Erechtheon, built for religious purposes and dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon, and many other gods.
After the Acropolis, the Syntagma Square is one of the next most iconic sites of Athens. It is considered the heart of the city, the site where almost every major event in Greece was celebrated or mourned. Constantly crowded with locals and tourists alike, the Square is still the home to political rallies and demonstrations today, but it is also a central place of leisure, meeting up and milling around for the people. Besides admiring the tranquility of the Square you can also visit the iconic House of Parliament nearby, originally built as a Royal Palace. Witness the Presidential Guard standing around dressed in their traditional uniforms, and watch them perform a ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony every hour.
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