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T
he Parthenon, atop the Acropolis: Athens' most famous landmark.

Athens (pop. 772,072) is the capital of Greece. The area that is now occupied by the city has been continuously inhabited for over 5,000 years. The first settlers came to the area during the Neolithic Age and built their dwellings at the bottom of the rock on which the Acropolis stands today. During the 13th century BC, the mythical hero Theseus united all the communities of Attica into a single city that he named Athinai (Athens). The 6th century BC is the peak for Athens. Three leaders dominated the city: Solon, the politician and lawmaker; Peisistratus, the tyrant; and Kleisthenes, the founder of the Athenian Democracy. The three played a great part in shaping the form that Athens would take in the future. During the 5th century BC, after the victory at the Median Wars, a brand new city was built-one that will remain in history as the Classical Athens. Themistocles, Kimon and Pericles later, were the strong personalities that influenced Athens during this period. The Peloponnesian War (at the end of the 5th century BC) and the defeat of the Athenians by the Lacedaemonians brought the decline of Athens. In 86 BC Athens fell to the Romans. After Christianity spread, Athens became a small and unimportant town in the Byzantine Empire and followed the fate of the Empire. Athens surrendered to Frankish rule in 1204. The Turks followed in 1456. The modern history of Athens began in 1834, after the liberation Greece, following the War of Independence of 1821. Athens, in ruins at the time, became capital of the new Greek state and two architects, Stamatios Kleanthis and Edward Schaubert drew the first city plan. At the end of the 19th Century, neo-classical Athens became a city easy to live in; limited in area, with two- or at the most three-storey buildings and a population of around 200,000. After World War II, however, the city changed rapidly, with millions pouring in from all over the country and high-rise buildings cropping up. The area of Greater Athens occupies today the whole of the basin formed by the surrounding mountains and has a population of over 4 million.

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GETTING THERE: Athens' "Eleftherios Venizelos" International Airport offers direct connections to most European capitals and major cities, as well as points farther afield in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America. Athens is the base of operations for Greece's two major airlines, Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines, both of which offer extensive domestic destinations in addition to their international operations.

ELECTRICITY: Electricity in Greece is 220V, 50 cycles, with standard continental-type plugs with two round pins.

MONEY: Greece is a member of the Euro-zone and since 1 January 2002 its official currency is the euro (€). The euro is also the official currency of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Most major foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks (open Monday to Friday 08:00 to 13:30). Other options are exchange offices, which usually keep longer hours. Rates and commissions at travel agencies and hotels will probably not be as favourable as at banks and exchange offices. All banks have ATMs available round the clock.
Major credit cards are accepted at most tourist-oriented establishments—but always ask beforehand.

TELEPHONES: Direct-dial service is available between Greece and all other countries of the world. International calls may be placed from any of the cardphones widely available throughout Athens. Telephone cards are sold at kiosks and newsagents and most grocery and souvenir stores everywhere. Phone calls placed from hotel rooms may carry heavy surcharges.
Mobile phone networks in Greece are compatible with the European-wide GSM 800/1900 standards, but not with the systems available in the USA and Japan. Vodafone (formerly Panafon), WIND (formerly Tim) and Cosmote are the leading mobile phone service providers in Greece. Check with your home service provider to find out if Roaming Service is available for you. Otherwise, it’s possible with very little money to buy Connection Packs from any of the above companies in Greece. These are compatible with GSM 900/1800 devices and include a number and a small amount of airtime which can be easily renewed.
All phone numbers in Greece comprise of 10 digits. To call from abroad dial the international access code of your country, followed by 30 (the country code of Greece), followed by the 10-digit phone number. To call from within Greece just dial the 10-digit number. There are no area codes.

TIME: Greek Summer Time, in effect from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October, is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In winter Greece is two hours ahead of GMT.

NEWSPAPERS: A wide selection European newspapers and magazines is available in Athens, most on the evening of the same day of publication. The International Herald Tribune printed in Athens is available every morning and includes an eight-page, English-language supplement of the Greek daily Kathimerini. The English-language Athens News is published every Friday.

SIGHTSEEING & EXCURSIONS: Visitors to Athens can find a wealth of attractions in town to while their time away. Furthermore, Athens is ideally based for excursions to many of the major archaeological sites of Greece. Several tour operators in Athens offer day trips to the locations below:
The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of Attica, is easily accessible on a half-day trip from Athens. The 5th Century BC sanctuary, built on the location of older temples, occupies a magnificent location atop a cliff, which commands magnificent views of the Aegean Sea.

Delphi, site of the Delphic Oracle, was considered by ancient Greeks as the centre of the world. The Sanctuary of Apollo dominates the archaeological site, which offers unique views over the olive-tree-filled Plain of Amphissa.
Epidaurus has become a major attraction for its 320 BC ancient theatre, which continues to host ancient drama and comedy during the yearly Athens Festival. The theatre, which has a capacity for 14,000, is famous for its exceptional acoustics.
The citadel of Mycenae was the centre of the 1600-1200 BC kingdom from which spread the brilliant Mycenaean Civilisation. The ancient site, set on the slopes of a hill, commands spectacular views over the Argolic Plain and the Bay of Nauplion.
Day cruises to the Saronic Gulf islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra are organised daily out of Piraeus. Highlights include the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina, sailing through the narrow channel between Poros and the Peloponnese mainland, as well as the picturesque island of Hydra, a favourite of artists and yachties.

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