Few cities in the world can boast a history quite like the story of Athens. And although the Acropolis is undeniably the most significant tourist landmark in Athens, even the countless hordes of visitors have not robbed this place of its magic - in the eyes of travellers and Greeks alike.
There is a peculiarity to Athens: quite often the city is but a point of departure, a temporary stop on the way to the countless Greek islands, and is sometimes paid very little or no attention at all. And yet there are plenty of reasons for visiting Athens, now more than ever. It is one of the fastest changing and growing of European metropolises. The stereotype of the chaotic, ugly and dirty southern city belongs to the past - not least of all thanks to the 2004 Olympic Games which brought about a certain avalanche-type effect in the life of Athens: new museums, exhibition halls, restaurants, bars and hotels. The Olympic Games only played the role of a catalyst - the city has not stopped changing. The infrastructure of the city, the real estate market and art life have experienced an impressive boom in the last few years. In 2007 Athens was proud to host its first international art biennial Destroy Athens in association with the Lyons and Istanbul biennials.
Athens is a city that lacks a traditional centre, consisting of a number of very distinct and characteristic districts. Plaka appears to be the most touristy of them all, and yet it hides secret mazes of charming tiny streets. Psirri stands out with its vibrant nightlife and striking taverns, Gazi - with its Technopolis, home to the most original culture events in the city, a string of trendy restaurants and clubs as well as the ever present packs of street dogs, so incredibly good-natured, dignified and faithful to the principles of peaceful co-existence. And, of course, Kolonaki, the snob's Athens, with its concentration of the best glamour shops and a number of great museums. Although Athens boasts an excellent system of underground railway, it is definitely a city that has to be seen through the eyes of a pedestrian - that's the only way to experience its manifold faces and unique, if somewhat harsh, charm. The beautiful and the ugly, the old and the new live side by side in Athens; green squares and streets where you have to watch under your feet; traditional Greek kitchen and international fusion cuisine; fragrances and smells; fabulous sunsets and orange smog enveloping the Acropolis in the middle of the day - it is all there. A short walk along the street, and you may suddenly find yourself in a completely different and unfamiliar city. But there is a distinctive common feature uniting this contradictory city of contrasts, this Greek metropolis - the warm, welcoming and proud people who live there. And this extraordinary bouquet of sensations and experiences where live and artificial flowers are mixed all together is the real reason that makes a trip to Athens so well worth your while.