Set in Adriatic Sea, Corfu, or Kerkira as the Greeks call it, was picked by Homer to be Odysseus’s semi-final stop, before he managed to reach home after 20 years of wandering. Part of the Byzantine Empire, it later thrived under the rule of Venetians and French, while the rest of Greece was under Ottoman occupation. During that time Corfu became an important artistic and educational hub, inheriting numerous architectural gems, which still stand on the islands streets and squares.
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Blessed with green hills and white-sand beaches, Corfu features a picturesque historic center and enchanted medieval fortresses. If you find yourself on the island during orthodox Easter, stroll around its kadounia (narrow streets) on Holy Saturday midnight; due to an old custom, Corfiots throw clay pitchers off their balconies, along with chocolate for visitors and children.
Corfu (Greek: Κέρκυρα, Kerkyra) is the northernmost of the Ionian Islands in Greece. Located off of the far northwest coast of the country, Corfu lies in the Adriatic sea, east of Italy and southwest of Albania. Historically Corfu has been controlled by many foreign powers, notably the Venetians, and British.
Corfu is 62 km long and at its widest point, nearly 30 km wide. The island is formed by two mountain ranges. The northern runs from the west to east and consists of limestones, reached in the Mount Pantokrator (914 meters) the maximum height of the island, while the southern mountain range is less high and streches from north to south. The North of the island is wider and more mountainous. The coastal areas are well developed with good pebbly beaches. However, the northeast coast has always remained a favorite, aka Kensington on sea. It is also where the island’s oldest village ‘Old Perithia’ is located just beneath Mt. Pantokrator, a Heritage Protected Site in a designated Area of Natural Beauty. The South of the island is less wide (only a few miles across from west to east) and tends to have sandier beaches.
Towns and villages
- Corfu Town – known in modern Greek as Kerkira or Kerkyra, is the largest and most important town on the island. This is where the airport is located and where most cruise ships and long distance ferries dock. It is a small, pleasant city catering well to tourists. Its old town is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Arillas – A beach resort that still feels like a village. Arillas has a long and wide sandy beach at the northwest corner of Corfu. Beautiful nature, clear waters and a beach offering much privacy. Many naturists have been coming to Arillas for decades because of this, so if you wander off to the left or right side of the beach, be prepared to encounter naked people! Arillas is also developing fast as one of the biggest spiritual spots of the world. There are three spiritual centers offering different courses on meditation, chanting, dancing, creative arts and also many people practicing all kinds of massage. Ideal to relax body, mind and spirit. The village is also famous for its festivals. The first is held on Ascension day (40 days after Easter, 13 June for 2020), another is held in the first weekend of August and the Wine festival is held on the first weekend of September. Many hundreds of people come to Arillas from all Northern Corfu to enjoy traditional dancing, great souvlakia, local wine, and the famous, fresh Corfu Beer which is produced in the village.
- Benitses – a very old, traditional fishing village. Benitses lies 12 km south of Corfu Town, and leads to the emerald valley. The water of the springs which flow from the mountains of Aghii Deka and Stavros, join together in two small rivers, giving the area the name Pinisse (derived from the ancient Greek word ‘Pinio’) = Pinitse = Benitses. The mild climate and the natural beauty of Benitses village has attracted a lot of tourists from the beginning of the century. It is only during the last 30 years that tourism has replaced all other sources of income and now is the sole occupation of the inhabitants during the summer season. The coastal road of Benitses is full of hotels, restaurants, cafes and other shops that offering everything the most demanding visitor can ask. Benitses is surrounded by the mountains in one side and the aquamarine waters of the Ionian Sea in the other, this unique combination of nature with the hospitality of the residents, which are very familiar with different cultures, are what make visitors to love the place. 3km to the north there is the famous Achilleion palace.
- Kalami – the village is where the British novelist Lawrence Durrell and his wife Nancy Isobel Myers chose to live from 1935 until the Greek surrender in April 1941
- Kassiopi – One of the more relaxed and atmospheric resorts with a pretty bay and beach that is mostly stony. The waters are crystal clear and calm. Somewhat spoilt by the prevalence of tacky tourist bars and cafes catering to the many English tourists that crowd the town.
- Kavos – a seaside village on the island of Corfu in Greece, in the municipal district and the municipality of Lefkimmi. It is now a lively resort heavily devoted to tourism, and popular with young holidaymakers from Britain and Northern Europe.
- Kynopiastes – a traditional village of the Messi Region of Corfu and only 10 km away from Corfu town and airport, which is a must visit. Old mansions of the 17th to 19th centuries, a marble church, a 17th-century monastery and a museum (and the only one on the island) devoted to the olive tree with one of the world famous restaurants on the island tavern «Trypas», which has hosted Kings ike the Kings of Greece and England, Presidents of Countries like Konstantinos Karamanlis (Greece) and François Mitterrand (France), stars of the European and American cinema and music, like Jane Fonda, and Anthony Quinn. The narrow tiled paths invite you to walk on them, looking at the small squares and at the houses which preserve the traditional colors. The main church is devoted to the Virgin Mary and it is in the central square. It is a traditional church with unique architecture and an impressive marble entrance. Inside, there are frescoes of the 18th century Ionian School of Painting. At the edge of the village there is the monastery of Agia Paraskevi, built in the 17th century.
- Lakones – a typical Corfiot village on the slope of a green hill. You should go for a walk to Bella Vista to admire the view over the bay of Paleokastritsa and relax in one of the picturesque coffee shops. If you like trekking there is a path leading down to Paleokastritsa. The surnames of the inhabitants of the region refer to the soldiers who supported Angelokastro in the late Byzantine period, as well as to refugees from Mani. Among the houses of the 18th and 19th centuries you will find churches and traditional coffee shops. At the central church you will see donations of the first emigrants to America of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Lefkimmi – a village with a wide long sandy beach that is quiet due to being in the less busy South. There’s a practical taverna with a children’s playground. The waters are extremely calm and very shallow, even out for quite some distance.
- Nymphes – a big village with a lot of water, green and legends built on a height of 200 meters. According to a legend, in old times, the Nymphs used to bathe in the village’s waterfalls. A walk to the wells and the waterfalls is enough to make you understand why this legend exists. It is almost certain that you will come across a nymph, too and if you are lucky, you will see her bathe in the water especially in spring. After your walk to the myths, it is a good idea to visit the premises of the Agriculture Co-operative which elaborates kum-kuat and produces liquor and sweets. You will be offered some for free and you will have the chance to try the different liquor qualities (and of course, buy some, if you like). Just outside the village, you can visit Askitario, a small but historic monastery. According to tradition, here lived in the 5th century the monk Artemios Paissios from Epirus, who is said to have worked many wonders.
- Old Perithia – This is the last remaining Heritage Protected Village on the island. Located in the north east, just below Mt. Pantokrator, the village nestles in a Designated Area of Natural Beauty and records date back to c. 1350. The village is made up of 130 houses and surrounded by 8 churches, it has 4 tavernas and 1 boutique bed & breakfast making ot one of the most unique and unspoiled places to stay and a regular feature of the Durrell Week that takes place around May each year as it’s perfect for walkers and those interested in flora, fauna, insects and wildlife. A hideaway from Pirate attacks, the village has views to, but cannot be seen, from the sea, eventually tourism in the late 1960s and 1970s drove villagers towards the coast but it always remained inhabited. Today, locals and visitors alike travel to the village to see the ruins and restorations – the food is ‘mountain prices’ and often locally sourced. Such is the popularity of the village that Corfiots visit at weekends throughout the winter, to sit around the fires and enjoy the authentic Corfiot dishes. Some of the best beaches on the island are 20 minutes (8 km) drive away so you can enjoy slip away during the day and return to the peace and quiet of ‘your own village’ as the sun sets over the mountain tops.
- Roda – a village resort on Corfu’s northern coast. Traditionally a fishing village, the area has retained its character while developing in to a popular destination for holidays. Unique in the sense that the old village still exists at the heart of the resort, locals mix with the different nationalities who visit time and time again. Roda is a contained resort, without the typical sprawl. There is plenty of accommodation, bars, restaurants which offer a wide range of menus, typical Greek and Corfiot dishes, Italian, Chinese and others. Roda is a relaxed resort but has a great nightlife, with nice bands, singers and comedy shows as well as the ever popular kareoke. If you want a laid back holiday, then Roda is the place, with quiet corners and a beautiful sandy beach, Roda offers something for everyone.
The satisfactory infrastructure and the multiple possibilities for various activities are conducive for group holidays on Corfu and the nearby islands. Motivation trips, congress tourism, school trips, Ferrari or antique cars clubs and Harley Davidson groups meet here every year.
Corfu’s nature, sea and history are draws for the visitor. In a place with a tradition in tourism of at least 130 years, with Greek education and the influence of “nobility” from England, France and Venice, in a place which is used to welcoming the international jet-set for several decades now, the possibilities for sports and amusement are certainly impressive.
That said, this also means that Corfu is not the place to go if you look for an authentic Greek experience. Because of the massive influence of tourism, there is nothing of Greece left here. Even the smallest beaches are spoilt by huge resorts, overpriced “traditional tavernas” that serve burgers and English breakfast, have dessert on the menu, and have touts to try to pull you in. Only a few mountain villages are left where you can hide away from tourists and be mainly amongst the Greeks.
Corfu can be a good destination for family holidays. Corfu may not have a Disneyland, children’s museums, zoos or other things closely connected with children, but the whole island is welcoming and safe for children. In Corfu there are no tropical diseases and very little danger from criminality, violence, dangerous seas, etc. Children play safely in the streets, in the parks, at the playgrounds and on the beach.
The climate of the archipelago of Corfu is warm Mediterranean. The summer here is warm and relatively dry with a blue sky, often cooled by seasonal breezes, offering the ideal conditions for surfing, while rarely is it interrupted by rains. The mountainous areas are cooler. The winter here is mild. Rainfall occurs mainly from November till March. On average, there are 3000 hours of sun per year with an average daily sunshine duration of 8.5 hours.
Spring here is impressive and offers visitors the privilege to enjoy the wealth of vegetation and colors, combined with high-taste tourism.
Easter celebration here becomes the experience of a lifetime.
Summer is the most popular season for Corfu, with beautiful beaches and crystal water for unconcerned hours on the beach.
Autumn is the season of vintage, the period during which the whole island smells of grapes; it may be the best time to get to know the routine of the island.
Christmas and New Year’s Day in Corfu is music, hymns, carols, in a quiet, decorated place with a mild climate and a noble finesse.
Corfu International Airport is served by several airlines.
Direct ferry links exist to/ from Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi in Italy, Himara and Sarandë in Albania and Igoumenitsa and Patra on the mainland (Greece). As of March 2008, a bunk in a four-person cabin from Venice to Corfu was €107.
From/to Sarandë in Albania, a one-way ticket costs €19 in the off-season, and €24 mid-June to mid-Sept.
By road transport
- By the buses of Corfu KTEL (or Green buses), which connect Corfu on a daily basis to Athens, Patra, Thessaloniki and other places in Greece.
In your own yacht
If you come in your own yacht the Marina, Gouvia offers you a comfortable stay, very close to Corfu town, while in the town you can moor off at the NAOK harbour, as well as at the Old Port.
You can also moor off at Benitses Marina, which is situated not far from Corfu town.
There are two types of bus in Corfu – Blue buses serve Corfu town and the environs, Green buses serve the rest of the island.
The Blue bus terminal in Corfu Town is in San Rocco Square. The bus information kiosk displays timetables and provides maps showing exactly where the buses terminate (some terminate a few blocks south of the square). Bus stops have electronic displays, and self-service ticket machines. Tickets are single-journey only and must be validated on the bus. They can be bought from the machines, or from the driver (for €0.50 more).
Useful lines include the number 7 which goes to and from Dasia every 20 minutes (30 minutes on Sundays), the 10 which goes to and from Achilion every two hours, the 6 to and from Benitses (not quite hourly) and the 11 to and from Pelekas every 2–3 hours.
The airport bus is No 19 – check the timetable as frequency varies during the day with some big gaps. It is only a ten-minute ride, and costs €1.10. Number 6 Benitses bus also goes past the end of the airport access road from where it is a 500m walk to the terminal.
More information about the timetables and routes of Blue buses can be obtained through their website,which is available in multiple languages.
The Green Bus Station is near the New Port, from where buses depart for all villages of Corfu Island. Regular departures to Paleokastritsa, Sidari, Kavos, Roda, Acharavi, Kassiopi.
There are plently of taxi lines in Corfu Town.
- between the Spaniada and the cricket ground.
- at the heart of the shopping center of the town in Methodiou street
- at the Old Port
- at the New Port
- many others in Gouvia, Dassia, Benitses, Ipsos, the Airport etc.
And there is the radio taxi which can be reached by phone at +30 26610 33811
You can hire a car at the airport or through one of many local companies. In general, it is cheaper to pre-book a hire car via the Internet before arriving. Many of the roads are very narrow so it can be better to choose a small car. While there is a good road running North-South along the East coast from Sidari to Lefkimmi and from Corfu town across the island to Paleokastritsa, many roads have poor surfacing. Often the insurance provided for hire cars does not cover damage to the underside of the car so watch out for large holes in the road. Hire car companies often provide a free map but you may find it worth buying one in advance as the maps are not especially good, especially for the North-West interior.
A great way to explore the island and access beaches that can’t be easily accessed otherwise is to rent a boat. Most towns have at least one boat rental company and boats up to 30HP do not require a licence to hire.
Travel by bicycle in Corfu
In the city traffic is pretty wild and noisy.
An automatic bike sharing scheme, called EasyBike Brainbox was available to rent bicycles. As of April 2014 the system looked pretty dysfunctional.
By quad bike
There is nothing better than renting a quad bike and driving round the villages, it’s a lot of fun and a lot quicker than walking!
What to see and do
Old Corfu town, a world heritage site
There is a good variety of beaches on Corfu. On the West side of the island, the beaches are sandier while the East tends to have calmer waters. The north-east coast is also home to most of Corfu’s upmarket holiday villas. Nudist beaches are also there in quite a number.
- Sidari. A fair sized resort dominated by British tourists. At one end of the beach is the “Canal de l’Amour”: sand stone cliffs with narrow inlets, a natural archway and small paths to explore.
- Dasia and Ipsos. A narrow stony beach with relatively calm waters. The resort runs along the road so there’s a good variety of shops and tavernas.
- Glifada. A long wide sandy beach with fairly rough waters.
- Pelekas beach. Also a nice sandy beach.
- San Stefanos beach. A long beautiful beach on the north west of the island, very good for sunbathing as there is loads of sunbeds.
- Barbati beach. Crystal clear!
- Chalikounas beach. A very long, virgin stretch of land, caught between Chalikiopoulos’ Lake and the Adriatic sea. The natural landscape here is unique, it is a great place to get away from the world and just enjoy both sea and sun.
- Issos beach. Next to Chalikounas, again on the southwest of Corfu, this beach has a desert motive, because of the high sand hills right next to the seashore. Bring your bike and enjoy the terrain, or just enjoy the panoramic view from high above.
- Prasoudi beach. High cliffs hang over your head, clean waters and a mix of sand and pebbles. A remote beach that will not leave you unsatisfied.
- Mesongi beach.
What to do in Corfu
- Aqualand, Agios Ioannis. 10:00am-6:00pm. It’s quite a small water park with only a few main “rides”. It is best to travel to and from the park under your own steam as a whole day there with an organised trip might be too long.
- Walk the Corfu Trail. Corfu is an ideal location for a keen walker. The North is fairly rugged with Mt. Pantokrator, the highest mountain, and beneath it Corfu’s oldest village, Ano (Upper)Perithia. At the other extreme is Korission Lake in the South; an inland lake, separated by a thin sand bar from the sea. The Corfu Trail is a 222 km long distance footpath covering the full length of the islands. The route is well signed and a book accompanies the trail, there is also an introduction, history and walking guide for Old Perithia, Corfu’s oldest village which you pass through on the Corfu Trail.
- Meditation. There are several meditation centres on Corfu, and many people practicing massage and giving all kinds of sessions, from deep tissue massage to craniosacral and psychic massage.
- Massage. There are many people practicing massage and giving all types of sessions, from deep tissue massage, relaxation, Reiki therapy. One center is Arillas in the north west of the island but there are also places in and close to Corfu town offering courses and sessions as well as mobile massage therapists who come to your villa, apartment or even boat/yacht.
- Yachting. There is a lot of yachting going on in Corfu and the Ionian, it’s an ideal spot due to calm weather conditions, Magic Islands, and fun people. Corfu and Ionian in general is an ideal place for sailing and yachting with steady fair winds all summer long. Motoryacht Pyewacket is the newest addition in Gouvia Marina, its a 20m motor charter yacht made by sunseeker with two professional UK/Dutch Crew members on there third season in the Ionian. Another operator is the Discovery Yachting offering yachts for sailing in the Ionian.
Eat at Agni Bay either in the evenings or during the day, arrive on foot or by boat, there are 3 places to eat on the beach all excellent, some of the best food ever. Water Taxis run some evenings from some of the surrounding villages. Very Romantic, but prices are high here. A very special place to be. As featured in Gerald Durrells ‘ My Family and Other Animals’
- Klimataria or Grapevine, benitses (opposite blue bus stop in benitses). 7PM-11PM. If you aren’t a seafood fan then this restaurant might not appeal to you as there are limited alternatives, although there is a good selection for vegetarians. Its a family run business and the setting, a very old building, must be the most photographed building in Benitses. Eat early to get a table as the locals rarely eat before 22.00. 10-40€.pp.
- To Fagopotion, Agios Stefanos. Worth visiting but praise in the Guardian newspaper on 13 09 08 (ostentatiously displayed at the entrance )may have gone to chef Christos Vlachos’ head. Don’t let him bully you. Some of the cooking is good, some is ordinary, and some has the feel of leftovers from the night before.
Shopping in Corfu
As elsewhere in Greece, olive wood, ceramic and leather goods are common. In addition to many tourist shops in places such as Corfu town, you will find small shops along some of the more major roads, often combined with the factory / workshop. In some remoter areas, you may find locals selling locally produced wine, honey and olive oil from small street-side stalls.
Gingerbeer. Corfu was a British protectorate and gingerbeer is one of the British style drinks that the locals adopted with enthusiasm. The Greek version is simply excellent. Ask for it at Liston or better restaurants and coffee houses. Locally it is called “Tsitsibeera”
Corfu Beer . In Arillas, in the north of Corfu there is the Corfu Microbrewery. They produce four different kinds of beer, all of them unpasteurised (so they have to be drunk within a couple of months of their production) and all of them delicious! They are so good that they were selected by J.D. Wetherspoon to produce Koroibos Beer, exclusively for the London Olympics. You can visit the brewery and have a taste of their beers. Better give them a call in advance at +30 26630 52072
Where to stay in Corfu
Corfu has countless options for accommodation – from 5 star hotels in Corfu town to spare rooms you will only find by asking around as well as many private villa and vacation rentals that are typically booked in advance or online. With so many people staying in Croatia and other hot spots, accommodation in Corfu is plentiful, but note that most of the accommodation is in the coastal areas – budget hotels are not so easy to find in Corfu Town.
- Belmare Corfu hotel (Corfu luxury hotel) (Kassiopi village). A friendly family run hotel close to Avlaki beach of Corfu island.
- Zambeta Apartments (Zambeta Apartments Arillas), Arillas, Corfu 49081 (Located in Arillas, 300 meters from the beach) , ✉ email@example.com. Zambeta Apartments is a small, family-run pension in Arillas. 300 meters from the beach, near the center of Arillas but still quiet, with a beautiful garden. Clean, light and spacious apartments for couples or singles. Two meditation centres within 1 km, a third one at 3 km. from 30 euros.
- Hotel Corfu Secret, Agios Markos , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Lowest price: 45€.
- Corfu Santa Barbara (Corfu Santa Barbara), Perivoli (South Corfu) , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Palms and Spas, Corfu Boutique Apartments, Messonghi Beach (18km from Corfu Town). Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Elegant apartments within olive groves and palm trees, overlooking the Ionian Sea. The accommodation has Suite rooms (with private outdoors jacuzzi/hot-tub, living-room) and smaller quaint Studios; all have sea views and Messonghi beach is just 100 meters/5 mins away. Free Wi-Fi in the rooms and parking on site. from 39 €/night.
- River Studios & Apartments, Messongi (Bus servise or taxi) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. River studios & Apartments for two persons, or group of friends. Rooms equipped with TV, air conditioning, kitchenette, fridge, bathroom. Swimming pool for guests available. 40€.
- Corfu Villa Lefki, Chalikouna beach. Newly built villa on a unique virgin beach, next to St. Matthew village in the southwest of the island
- Family Studios, Marathias Beach. Budget studios and apartments which was recently renovated, it is run by very friendly family and staff, situated right on the sea front of Marathias beach.
- Govino Bay Hotel, Gouvia 491 00 , ✉ email@example.com. In front of Gouvia Bay. Most of the resort is covered by green gardens, olive and palm trees. The complex is build amphitheatrically, with buildings of four to five apartments each one, all scattered around.
- Hermes Apartments Dassia, Dassia, Corfu (Opposite the Chandris Hotel).
- Kaiser Bridge Hotel, Benitses , fax: . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Hotel Kaiser Bridge is situated right on the beach, 9 km (6 mi) to the south of Corfu Town, between Perama and the picturesque fishing village of Benitses. Just 10 m from the beach, the hotel has breathtaking views of the shorelines of mainland Greece, Pontikonissi and of course of the famous Kaiser’s Bridge, once used by Queen Sissi to access Achillion Palace, which is situated just 1.5 km (0.9 mi) above the hotel in the village of Gastouri. Jorgos and the rest of the family where great hosts. Lowest price: 18€ depending on the season.
- Lena Mare Hotel Apartments, Acharavi , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Lowest price: 40€.
- Marlina Corfu Villas, Kommeno. at Kommeno bay, 8 kilometers from the airport.
- Pantokrator Hotel (Northeast of Corfu town, next to Barbati). Panoramic views over the southern part of the island.
- Saint Nicholas Hotel, Gouvia, Corfu. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00.
- The Pink Palace, Agios Gordios Beach , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 24 hours, check-out: 9AM. A backpacker spot, the hostel offers free transportation from the ferry by their pink bus, and new arrivals are given a shot of pink liquor. Activities offered at the Pink Palace include a Kayak and ATV rental, as well as a number of guided activities such as other island excursions. Most other activities on offer (of which there are plenty) revolve around drinking – the booze cruise for example (jump off the big rock naked and get free beer) and the hostel’s own club – packed out during the summer months. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room. Dorms from €18; single rooms from €30/45 low/high season.
- Sunrock (on the West Coast, down the cliff from Pelekas). Sunrock is a low-key, relaxed place, just up from Pelekas beach. Many people find themselves here in order to escape from the incessant partying down the coast, yet Sunrock has a bar and is often full of young people with a less commercially oriented party in mind. A shuttle is normally offered to carry passengers from the port, and during warmer months daily scooter rentals are available.
- The Merchant’s House Boutique Bed & Breakfast (The Merchant’s House), Old Perithia (Located in Corfu’s oldest village in the north-east of the island). Check-in: 14.30, check-out: 11.00. There are just six suites in beautifully restored houses dating back to 1828, providing a unique accommodation in a Heritage Protected Site (dating back to the 14th century) and area of natural beauty beneath Mount Pantokrator (the island’s tallest mountain). from 135.
- Castelli Cottage, Acharavi, Fourni , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Castelli cottage is a traditional 150-year-old stone house, that was restored and renovated. The guesthouse is located in a green natural environment among old olive trees and cypresses, with a spectacular view to the northern coast of the island and to the off-coast island of Othonoi.
Corfu makes a good start for a tour of the Ionian Islands. It’s also a good jumping-off place to get to Italy or Albania.
Day trips to Paxi are widely available.
Day trips to Sarandë in Albania are also very popular. This is usually combined with an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sarandë which is to be highly recommended! A tour of the Albanian Riviera is a must!
At the outskirts of Corfu Town, lays Mon Repos, a large estate which is one of the island’s most popular attractions. Built in 1831 to be Frederick Adam’s summer residence, it hosted a series of royals, including Austria’s well-known Princess Sissy. Featuring a fusion of colonial and neo-classical architecture, it is also known as Achilleion Place, due to two huge statutes of Achilles, set in its splendid gardens.
Old Perithia is the island’s oldest village, featuring some of the finest samples of Corfu’s Venetian architecture. An old pirate hideout, today it is a Heritage Protected Site. For more excellent examples of local architecture, pay a visit to the village of Kynopiastes, where you can admire 17th-century villas and walk down scenic colourful alleys.
Natural beauty meets ancient mythology at Nymphes Village. Surrounded by lush greenery and charming waterfalls, the village is supposed to occupy the area where Nymphs bathed themselves in ancient times. Nymphes also houses an excellent agriculture co-operative, where visitors can taste and bye traditional kumquat liqueur and sweets.
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Timeline of Covid-19 Infections in Greece
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Athens Coronavirus COVID-19 Update in Greece
Named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athens is the oldest, and maybe liveliest, capital in Europe. The urban city area features a bit more than 4 million residents, according to the latest census in 2011; however, every true Athenian will insist that the capital boasts half of Greece’s total population (which is about 11 million people).
Athens is often considered as an one-day stop-over, before starting island hopping; however, while summers in Athens can be a nightmare due to the combination of high temperatures, air pollution and severe lack of greenery, it is still worth a few days on its own. Balancing between European elegance and Balkan temperament, the Greek capital reveals its true self through lazy walks among ancient ruins, people watching during a typical Athenian half-day-long coffee and endless bar hopping until dawn.
The first pre-historic settlements were constructed in 3000 BC around the hill of Acropolis. According to legend the King of Athens, Theseus, unified the ten tribes of early Athens into one kingdom in around 1230 BC. This process of synoikismos – bringing together in one home – created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility.
By the 7th century BCE, social unrest had become widespread, and the Areopagus appointed Draco to draft a strict new law code (hence “draconian”). When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to create a new constitution (594). This was the great beginning of a new social revolution, which was the result of the democracy under Clisthenes (508).
In the 5th century BCE, Athens reached the peak of its fame. It was the most powerful Greek city-state, and the center of Greek cultural life, hosting perhaps the greatest cultural advances in all of human history. Fields of study like science, philosophy, history, and medicine were developed for the first time by Athenian scholars in this period, known as Athens’ “golden age”.
Later on, Athens became part of the Macedonian empire under Alexander, and still later part of the Roman empire. While it was no longer politically significant, its intellectual reputation gave it a special status until, in the year 529, Emperor Justinian ordered Athens’ academies to be closed, and the empire’s intellectual center moved to Constantinople.
Athens was thriving and prosperous during the Crusades, actually benefiting from the Italian trade during this period, however this fruitful period was short-lived, as Greece suffered badly under the Ottoman Empire, only to recover in the 19th century as the capital of independent Greece. In modern times, the Athens urban area has grown to a population of 3 million. Athens has turned into a large and bustling city, but as a result it also suffers from congestion, pollution, and poverty.
Modern Olympic Games
Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. While most of the sporting venues were outside of the city – in various locations throughout Attica- the entire urban area of Athens underwent major lasting changes that have improved the quality of life for visitors and residents alike. Aside from the excellent transportation infrastructure that was completed in time for the 2004 Olympics (from new freeways to light rail systems), the city’s historic center underwent serious renovation. Most notable among the city’s facelift projects are the Unification of Archaeological Sites (which connects the city’s classical-era ruins and monuments to each other through a network of friendly pedestrianized streets) and the restoration of the picturesque neoclassical Thissio and Pláka districts.
The ancient Olympic Games took place in Olympia from 776 BCE to 394 AD. It is a lengthy day trip from Athens to visit Olympia, but quite interesting.
Athens was just a small provincial village when it was chosen in the 1830s to serve as the national capital of the modern Greek State. Although it had a prestigious past, the city’s political, economic and cultural importance had declined over the centuries, leaving behind only its classical ruins as a reminder of better times. With the decision to move the national capital from Nafplio to Athens, architects and city planners were hired to build a new city next to the classical ruins, with grand neoclassical homes and public buildings, large city squares, green spaces, and wide avenues, making a conscious, decisive turn from the city’s Ottoman past. The city regained its importance in Greek civilization, and by 1900 had evolved into a very attractive cosmopolitan city, with abundant neoclassical architecture harking to the nation’s past.
The 20th century however, marked the rapid development of Athens. The city suffered minor damage during WWII, and suffered extensive urban planning in the decades that followed, as the nation rapidly industrialized and urbanized. In the 1960s and 1970s, many 19th century neoclassical buildings, often small and private, were demolished to make way for office buildings, often designed by great Greek architects. The city also expanded outward through rash development, particularly towards the west, as its population grew by absorbing job-seekers from the provinces. With the onset of the automobile, public officials reduced the city’s public transportation services without foreseeing the traffic gridlock and smog that would menace the city by the 1980s.
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city’s reality led to a rude awakening among local and national officials and, coupled with the country’s new found remarkable prosperity, large scale projects began to slowly regenerate the city and undo some of the damage of recent decades. Over the course of the next 15 years, money was poured into new transportation infrastructure projects, the restoration of surviving neoclassical buildings, the gentrification of the city’s historical center and the renovation of many former industrial areas and the city’s coastline. The restoration of charming neoclassical buildings in the city’s historical center has been accompanied by the construction of attractive post-modern buildings in newer districts; both of which have begun to improve the aesthetic essence of the city. Athens today is ever evolving, forging a brand new identity for the 21st century.
Weather in Athens
Spring and late autumn are the best times to visit Athens. Summer can be extremely hot and dry during heatwaves, but this rarely happens. Winter is definitely low season, with the occasional rainy or snowy day, but also an ideal time to save money while enjoying the city without countless other tourists.
Whilst peak traffic hour can be a bit smoggy on the main roads, on most sunny days the skies are azure blue. The main reason attributed for the pollution of Athens is because the city is enclosed by mountains in a basin which does not allow the smog to leave. The government’s ban on diesel vehicles within Athens and the early 1990s initiatives to improve car emissions have greatly contributed to better atmospheric conditions in the basin.
The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt. Ymettos, Mt. Parnitha and Mt. Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills [the seven historical are: Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill), Pnyx, Lycabettus, Tourkovounia (Anchesmus)], the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens’ boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (signposted in Greek and English) now melt imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city’s ancient, and still bustling, port.
Places of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos). This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north. Further afield is the port of Athens, the Piraeus.
The Acropolis is the ancient high city of Athens, a prominent plateaued rock perched high above the modern city with commanding views and an amazing array of ancient architecture, mostly from the Classical period of Ancient Greece, the most famous of which is the Parthenon. A visit to Athens is not complete without visiting the Acropolis; hundreds of tourists each day accordingly make the pilgrimage.
Gentrified during the 1990s and now very popular with tourists, Plaka is a charming historic district at the foot of the Acropolis, with its restored 19th-century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city’s Roman era. Thissio, to the west side of the Acropolis, is very similar and now houses many restaurants and cafes. Between the two is Monastiraki, a very bohemian district increasingly popular with tourists, with stores selling a variety of items including antiques, cookware, souvenirs, arts and crafts, movie posters, punk culture, funky clothing, and pretty much anything you can think of. Another part of Plaka is Anafiotika and is on the northernmost place. There you will find the first university of Athens before it was relocated in central Athens. Its an oasis of calm and quietness, and there are many green spaces which are part of the green space of Acropolis.
Plaka’s boundaries are not precisely defined. Clear borders are the Ancient Agora and Plateia Monastiraki on the west, the Acropolis and Dhionysiou Areopayitou street on the south, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Leoforos Amalias on the south-east, and the west part of Mitropoleos street, up to the cathedral on the north (but Mitropoleos street and Leoforos Amalias, though boundaries, shouldn’t be considered part of Plaka, since they have a modern and fairly non-descript atmosphere). The north-eastern and eastern boundaries are a bit less well defined, but if you’re south of Apollonos street and west of Nikis street you’ll probably feel like you’re still in Plaka.
Syntagma Square is named after the Greek constitution (syntagma) that was proclaimed from the balcony of the royal palace that overlooks the square on 3 September 1843. The former palace has housed the Greek parliament since 1935.
Syntagma Square is a good point from which to begin your orientation in the city, and has been beautified within the last few years ago, and the manic Athenian traffic has been re-routed. it contains cafes, restaurants, fast food outlets, a new metro stop, airline offices.. The square serves as an occasional rallying place for demonstrations and public celebrations.
Omonia Square (Plateia Omonias) is the centre of Athens, and is composed of the actual square together with the surrounding streets, open areas and assemblage of grand buildings that include banks and offices. The neighbouring area of Exarcheia (Εξάρχεια) to the north, dominated by the Athens Polytechnic and its famous band of anarchists, is a bohemian district with lots of bars and clubs visited by students, intellectuals and people who are into alternative culture. Kolonaki is near Lykavittos Hill. The district’s borders are not very sharply defined; it covers the south and southeast slopes of Lykavettos Hill north of Vassilisis Sofias Avenue. Kolonaki is the posh area of central Athens. Traditionally the home of the in-town rich, it’s the location of a number of foreign embassies and several prominent archaeological schools, including The American School and The British School. It also has the city’s greatest concentration of trendy fashion boutiques, and many, mostly upscale, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Travel by plane to Athens
Athens airport is a major hub in the Aegean, Balkan and East Mediterranean regions. American, Air Canada, Delta, Emirates, and United maintain non-stop flights from North America (some are only seasonal), while a large number of European carriers fly direct into Athens.
Opened in 2001 as part of the infrastructure improvements in preparation for the Olympics, and is allegedly now one of the more attractive and efficient major European airports, though some old Athenian hands say they miss the messy atmosphere of the old Hellenikon. The airport has the usual array of food stands, duty-free shops, lounges, and other airport services. Free Wi-Fi is limited to 45 min. Luggage storage, run by Pacific Travel, can be found in the end of left-hand wing, arrivals level. Storage time varies from 6 to 36 hr, no automatic lockers. There is also a locker facility at Syntagma Square, central Athens (Leaveyourluggage.gr). | Opened in 2001 as part of the infrastructure improvements in preparation for the Olympics, and is allegedly now one of the more attractive and efficient major European airports, though some old Athenian hands say they miss the messy atmosphere of the old Hellenikon. The airport has the usual array of food stands, duty-free shops, lounges, and other airport services. Free Wi-Fi is limited to 45 min. Luggage storage, run by Pacific Travel, can be found in the end of left-hand wing, arrivals level. Storage time varies from 6 to 36 hr, no automatic lockers.
There is a tourist information office in Arrivals, they can provide information about Greek ferries.
There is also a small museum on the top floor with an interesting history on Athens, and a space for temporary exhibits.
- By Metro to the town center, €10 one way. Group tickets (2 or 3 persons) are also available and they provide some discount (see below). The airport Metro line is an extension of Line 3 (blue line) that takes you to the central Syntagma and Monastiráki stations. Metro riders must change trains at Doukisis Plakentias station.
- At the airport, both metro trains and suburban trains pass from the same platform. If you are travelling to the city centre, you should take the metro trains.
- Don’t forget to validate your ticket before going down to the platform and boarding a train (there are validation machines at the top of the escalators in the ticket hall). Failure to validate your ticket at the start of the journey can mean a fine of up to €200. The ticket inspectors are rigorous and won’t hesitate to call for police assistance if you start to object.
- Not all Metro trains from Athens go to the airport; typically the airport trains run every half hour, while trains in the intervals don’t go the whole route. Airport trains are indicated on the schedule and by an airplane logo on the front of the train, they are also announced by the signs on the metro platform. It’s useful to go to the Metro station the day before, explain to the agent (most speak English) when you need to be at the airport, and ask what time you should catch the airport train from that station. You can also get this information at the airport metro station, which has a desk staffed most hours by someone who speaks English. It’s possible but not necessary to buy your ticket in advance; buying in advance though means you won’t risk missing your train if you find at the last minute you don’t have change for the ticket machines and have to stand in a line to buy it from the agent.
- By Suburban Railway to Larissis Railway Station for €6 via change at Ano Liossia Station. Suburban trains are not as fast as the metro trains. A change at Ano Liossia to Line 2 (red) can take you to The Omónia and Syntagma stations; trains to Northern Greece and the Peloponnese depart from nearby Larissis station. Or change at Doukissis Plakentias to Line 3 (blue) of the metro to get to Monastiraki and Syntagma stations.
- By express bus: X93 to Kifissos Coach Station, X95 to Syntagma Square (Lines 2 and 3), X96 to Piraeus Port (Line 1) and X97 to Elliniko metro station (Line 2) for €6.00. It takes 45 min to 1½ hr depending on traffic. Buses, unlike Metro, operate 24 hours a day. When leaving to the airport early from Syntagma (before the metro opens), tickets can be bought at a kiosk next to the bus stop.
- By local bus: an unnamed bus departs frequently in front of the Sofitel Hotel to Koropi metro station (€1.80, 15 min). From there you can take the metro to Athens (€1.40). According to the metro website the ride is €10 but as of late 2017 the station official confirmed that it is only €1.40. You can also take local bus 308 from Koropi metro for the same price.
- By taxi: if you take a taxi be careful. Taxi rides to the centre cost €38 during the day and €50 during the night. Ask if the price includes toll costs.
- By metro: Athen’s metro includes three lines, the green, the blue and the red; the underground network is not yet efficiently developed, but does cover most of the city’s points of interest. Tickets cost 1.40 euros, are valid for 90 minutes and can also be used in buses and trolley buses. The blue line links to Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, but a special 8-euro ticket is required. The metro runs between 5am and 12am from Sunday to Thursday and from 5am to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
- By bus/trolley: Athens feature a comprehensive bus and trolley-bus network. Time schedules usually depend on the route, however most buses run between 5.30am and 12am. A few 24-hour routes are available, including X95 between Syntagma Square and the airport.
- By tram: The tram was introduced to Athenians in 2004 and was fashioned in order to link the city center with the Olympic facilities in southeastern suburbs, which were not served by metro; it is still the most comfortable way to get to the southeastern suburbs, given that you are not in a hurry.
- By taxi: Taxis are still quite inexpensive compared to other European capitals. A fixed price is set for rides from the airport to the city center: a 35-euro tariff on day shift (from 5am to 12am) and a 50-euro tariff on night shift.
Travel by bus to Athens
Regional coaches (KTEL) connect Athens to other cities in Greece. The fleet of buses has been upgraded, which makes the journey friendly and safe. For some destinations one can also use the buses of the railroad company (OSE, see next paragraph) that might be international, but can also be used for in-country transport. At times there are collaborations with companies from adjacent countries such as Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania, so it’s advisable to ask on both the bus and the train companies about the available options.
Several travel agencies offer bus service between Tirana and Athens, also stopping at several other cities in Albania. Cost is usually €30 between Albania and Athens (same cost regardless of the city in Albania).
- Alb Trans, +30 210 520 21 85, email@example.com, €25, http://www.albtrans.net stops in the following cities: Tirana, Durres, Kavaje, Rrogozhine, Lushnje, Berat, Fier, Ballsh, Krasta, Memaliaj, Tepelene, Athens.
- Albatrans, albatrans.com.al, firstname.lastname@example.org, +355 42 259 204, €30
- top-lines.al, Albania: +355 42233050 email@example.com, Greece: +30 2105203350-1 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Papadakis Bros S.A., +30 210 52 02 551-3 (Athens), +355 42 22 41 03 (Tirana)
- Osumi Travel, 210 52 49 268 (Athens), 42 2255 491-2272 644 (Tirana), €30, or €25 between Gjirokaster and Athens, email@example.com
- Alvavel, +355 0422 34629 (Tirana), +355 0542 42476 (Elbasan), +355 0822 42847 (Korca), +355 0522 34446 (Durres), +30 210 5222436 (Athens), €30
Travel by train to Athens
The national rail service, Trainose, connects Athens to other cities in Greece, however the national railroad system is limited compared to other European countries, in effect having only two lines. One goes south to the Pelopponese. The other goes to the north, connecting Athens with the second major city in Greece, Thessaloniki. From there the line continues further to the north and all the way to the east, passing through many other cities of northern Greece and eventually reaching Istanbul.
There are two types of train you can use; normal, slow, type of train equipped with beds, and the so-called new ‘Intercity’ type which is more expensive because of a ‘quality supplement fee’ that grows with distance. For example, travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki by the ‘Intercity’ type will save one hour at most, but the ticket will be almost twice the price. ‘Intercity’ tends to be more reliable, yet more ‘bumpy’ than the normal train. As of late 2014 there are international trains to Belgrade, Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria via Thessaloniki.
Travel by boat to Athens
The port of Piraeus acts as the marine gateway to Athens, and is served by many ferries. Cruise ships also regularly visit, especially during warm months. Generally, pedestrian ferry users will be closer than cruise passengers to the Metro station providing access to central Athens; walking distances can vary considerably.
Cruise passengers on larger ships usually reach the main cruise terminal by port shuttle bus; otherwise, it can be a non-trivial walk. Smaller ships (e.g., 1200 or fewer passengers) may dock near the terminal…an easy walk. From the terminal, pedestrians face a safe, level walk of over a mile to the Piraeus Metro station; taxis are readily available to go there, but are not inexpensive.
Public transport in Athens has improved by leaps and bounds since the year 2000. The simple €1.40 (“integrated”) ticket lets you travel on any means of transport—metro, suburban trains, trams, trolleybuses, buses—with unlimited transfers anywhere within Athens (except the metro airport line east of Doukissis Plakentias and the airport buses) for 60 minutes, and you can also get a €4 ticket valid for 24 hours, or a 3-day “tourist” ticket for €20 that includes one round-trip to the airport.
The Athens Metro is efficient and attractive, and generally the only friendly way to get around Athens. Many metro stations (i.e. Syntagma) exhibit artifacts found during construction. Eating and drinking is forbidden in the metro system. During rush hour, it can become very crowded. There are three lines:
- Line : Piraeus – Kifissia, connects the port of Piraeus and the northern suburbs of Athens (Kifisia station) via the city centre. Be sure that you keep an eye on your personal stuff when using this line, and be prepared for people getting in the train and asking for money.
- Line : Anthoupoli – Elliniko connects western and southern Athens via Athens centre.
- Line : Aghia Marina – Doukissis Plakentias – Airport connects the western suburbs with the eastern suburbs (Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias stations) and the International Airport.
Validate your ticket at the validation machines upon entering the station. Failure to do so will entail a hefty fine if you are caught by ticket inspectors. The standard metro fare is €1.40 (as of June 2016) for trips between all stations except the Airport line, east of Doukissis Plakentias. This allows travel with all means of public transport and unlimited transfers for 70 minutes.
A 24-hour ticket for all public transport in Athens, apart from the Airport line, costs €4.50. This needs to be validated only once, at the start of the first journey. The standard fare to or from the Airport is €10 (as of August 2016), €18 for a return trip within 48 hours, €14 for a one-way trip for a 2-person group and €20 for a one-way trip for a 3-person group.
There are often several entrances to the stations and often they go straight to the platform, so remember which entrance is for which. It is open from 05:00 to midnight.
By suburban railway
The Suburban Railway (Proastiakos by Trainose) is a new addition to Athens’s public transportations network. The line starts at Piraeus, passes through the main line train station (Larissis) in central Athens, and forks at Ano Liosia west to Corinth and Kiato and east towards the Airport.
The new Athens Tram connects the city centre with the southern suburbs and has connections with the metro lines. There are three tram lines:
- Line : Peace and Friendship Stadium – Asklipeio Voulas Hospital connects Faliro with the southern suburbs and runs along the coastal zone.
- Line : Syntagma – Peace and Friendship Stadium connects the city centre with Faliro.
- Line : Syntagma – Asklipeio Voulas Hospital connects the city centre with the coastal zone and the southern suburbs.
Ticket prices are the same with Athens Metro (€1.40 for 60 minutes)
Travel by bus to Athens
Athens is served by a network of diesel buses, natural gas buses and electric trolley buses run by the Athens Urban Transport Organisation. The integrated ticket costs €1.40 and allows for multiple trips within 70 minutes, including transfers to the Metro or Tram and it’s available in most kiosks. Trips to the Airport cost €5. If you tend to stay for more than a week then a weekly pass for €14 is the most cost-effective. It gives you unlimited rides on almost all public transit (bus, tram, train, subway) for 7 days. You only need to validate once, before first use. Buses will not stop unless you signal the driver by raising your arm. There are no arrival time signs in any of the stations.
Canary yellow taxis are a common sight in Athens and are a reasonably priced way of getting around (if you can avoid the traffic jams). The starting fee is €1.19, after which the meter ticks up at €0.34/km (“rate 1”) or €0.64/km (“rate 2”), with a minimum fare of €3.20. Rate 1 applies through Athens city limits, including the airport, while rate 2 applies outside the city and from midnight to 05:00. Legal extra charges apply for calling a taxi by radio (€1.60), trips to or from the airport (€3.20) and heavy bags (€0.32). Tipping is not necessary, although it’s common to round up to the nearest full euro.
Taxi fare fraud is not as widespread as it used to be, but it still happens, so insist on the meter and make sure the rate is correct. At busy tourist locations, drivers try to con with a set rate that is ridiculously high (e.g. €20 for a short trip). In these cases, it is best to find another and again insist on the charge shown on the meter. If you feel you have been overcharged, ask for a receipt (they are obliged to give one) and take the plate number, then phone the tourist police to report the driver on 171.
Taxi drivers rarely obey the rules of the road. Expect that if you are leaving Athens on an early flight the driver will drive aggressively to get you there as quickly as possible.
Taxis are considered to be fairly cheap in Athens. Therefore, you can expect to share the ride during rush hours if you can find one, and at night after the Metro has shut down. If you hail a taxi which is already occupied (occupied taxis have a brightly lit TAXI sign on top of the car) the driver will ask where you want to go to before letting you in to join the other customers. Strikes by cabbies and public transit are common, so be prepared and watch the local news.
Travel to Athens by car
You can hire a car at the airport where most of the major international companies have a presence. There are also several large local companies which will deliver the car outside of the airport.
Travel by bicycle in Athens
Athens is not a friendly city for bicyclists, as it does not have many bicycle lanes, and the car drivers tend to drive quite aggressively. Nevertheless (or maybe because of this) riding a bicycle in Athens has become lately some sort of a political (counter-)action, especially by young people with an alternative lifestyle. In general, tourists not familiar with the terrible Athenian traffic are not advised to use a bicycle as a principal means of transport. But within the network of pedestrian streets in the historical city centre, rides are safe and can be quite enjoyable. A bike hire scheme is at its fledgling stages; its bike station is in Technopolis.
The “My City with a Bike” initiative, taken by the General Secretariat for the Youth and several NGOs, offers free conducted tours with free bikes every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00 all year round except for the rainy days. Booking 10 days in advance is required, either by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (+30 8011 19 19 00).
With the exception of a few touristy streets, Athens is an incredibly unfriendly place to walk (compared to other Western cities). Athens’ horrendous traffic can make crossing the street in many areas a hair-raising proposition, and walking down many streets is an unfriendly experience of noise and pollution. Cars and motorbikes parked blocking the pavements (illegal but ubiquitous) can also make a stroll difficult. The humidity of summer is exhausting, and there are few parks to provide an escape from it. Fortunately, much of the traffic-plagued area of the city can be avoided by judicious use of the new Metro, which goes most places a visitor would want to see or walk around in.
However, several central streets have been pedestrianized. A mostly car-free archeological walk starts at Vasilisis Amalias Street, passes in front of the New Acropolis Museum, Acropolis, Herodion Theatre, Thiseio (Apostolou Pavlou Str), Ermou Street and ends at the popular area of Kerameikos (Gkazi) where there are many bars and clubs. Pleasant walking can also be had in Plaka, especially its upper reaches, and in much of Kolonaki. The National Garden can provide a welcome respite from the heat and noise of the city centre. Even in Plaka and Kolonaki, your walk is likely to be interrupted by loud motorcycles zooming down the narrow lanes, shattering the peace and making you worry about your safety. Wear comfortable shoes with good traction, and make sure that you leave home any high heels or similar shoes. Some sensitive archeological sites have banned heels because the pointed heels damage the soft, slippery marble that you’re walking on.
The surroundings of Syntagma Square, along with neighboring area of Panepistimio and fancy Kolonaki, form the hottest shopping district in downtown Athens. Ermou pedestrian is the most sauntered Greek shopping street, while Kolonaki is home to chic local boutiques and well-known international designer houses; elegant Athenians drink their espresso in nearby cafés and posh bars. Well-known attractions around the area include the Greek Parliament on Syntagma Square and nearby National Gardens, Benaki Museum on Queen Sofia’s Avenue and Zappion Megaron on Queen Amalia’s Avenue. The National Library, Academy of Athens and the former building of the University of Athens are located just across Panepistimio metro station. Plenty of local and international restaurants and dinners are scattered around the narrow streets besides Syntagma Square.
Sightseeing in Athensedit
At first glance, Athens seems entirely to be composed of nasty, four- to six-story concrete buildings, lacking character and badly in need of a paint, but if you look beyond that, you will find little gems tucked in among the grey. The areas at the foot of the Acropolis, Anafiotika, Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio are home to many wonderful Neoclassical buildings, trendy and traditional cafes and shops, narrow winding streets, and incredible views of the Acropolis. Little Greek Orthodox churches are tucked in among the concrete, often in the most unexpected places. These are usually beautifully decorated with icons and brass fixtures inside, but make sure you’re appropriately dressed (no short sleeves or bare legs is a good rule of thumb, as a mark of respect).
The Acropolis is, naturally, the most popular spot of the city, along with neighboring Plaka and Monastiraki. Crowds of tourists on sightseeing scout mingle with locals strolling up the hill on their leisure time. This area is packed in ancient sites, including the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylea and Ancient Agora. Dionysiou Aeropagitou pedestrian is ideal for rambling on a sunny day and will lead you right to the New Acropolis Museum, where the marbles from the excavations at the Acropolis are exhibited. Picturesque Plaka is located right on the foot of the Acropolis, featuring narrow backstreets and charming houses from the early 20th century. Monastiraki is known for its flea market, souvenir shops and traditional taverns; street artists and performers give shows at the weekends.
The Acropolis is open daily, 08:00-19:00 during summer, 08:00-17:00 during winter. Telephone: +30 210 3214172. The normal entrance price is €20. The price is discounted or free for many categories of individuals, such as under-18s and European university students. A €30 ticket can be purchased which also provides admission to various other Athens historic sites (Acropolis and Slopes, Kerameikos and its museum, Ancient Agora and its museum, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, The Lyceum) within five days. If possible, arrive early to avoid heavy crowds, and summer heat when relevant. The queue to buy tickets can be very long – expect to wait more than an hour. If you can, buy tickets online, the ticket is then sent by email with a QR code which will be scanned at the entrance gate. There are also a limited number of free days for the public listed each year – check Acropolis’ website.
Entrance is from the west end of the Acropolis. From the Akropoli metro stop and New Acropolis Museum, walk west along Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and take the first right on to Theorias; from the Thissio metro stop west of Monastiraki, walk west to Apostolou Pavlou Street, turn left on it, and walk south to turn left on Theorias. From Plaka, you can walk south up steep Mnisikleous Street as far as you can go and turn right on Theorias. Following European regulations, disabled access to the Acropolis can be gained by means of special paths and a purpose-built lift on the north face of the hill, only for the use of those in wheelchairs.
A canteen with a wide range of food and drink is reached before you get to the ticket kiosk – but beware: refreshments are available only at exorbitant prices. You will definitely need a bottle of water with you in the hot summer, so either bring it with you or buy it from the kiosk on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, just outside the entrance. There are water fountains within the site, but the water isn’t always cold.
Guides can nearly always be found offering to show you around – at a price – at the point where tickets are checked. As an alternative, ask for the free leaflet published by the Archaeological Resources Fund, which includes a ground plan of the site and valuable information on the various monuments.
Additional historic sites and artifacts at the foot of the Acropolis are also included in the admission ticket.
This area is the capital’s hippest entertainment hub. Local youth overflows the trendy cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs around Psiri, Thision and Gazi (Keramikos), where partying stops with the first sunlight. By daylight a different facet of the area is revealed; don’t skip a visit to the ancient cemetery of Keramikos Archeological Site, along with the Archeological Museum where the artifacts from the excavations are exhibited.
Excharcheia and Metaksourgio are Athens’ alternative districts. Surrounded by university faculties, Excharcheia features an underground profile and has been the anarchists’ meeting point for more than 30 years. One of the capital’s liveliest districts, it houses countless tiny inexpensive cafes and bars; young boys and girls are also likely to hang out near the little square drinking canned beer. Metaksourgio on the other hand, has been through a major facelift the past few years; from a drug-addict rank, it is now evolving into one of the city’s hottest art-spots, with independent theaters, small galleries and sophisticated bars popping up every other week.
- Piraeus – the harbour of Athens, and Rafina (on the east coast of Attica) are the departure points for a large number of ferry services to the Greek Islands and other destinations in the eastern Mediterranean, including ports in Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and Cyprus. Fast hydrofoil, catamaran or helicopter services also take you to the Greek Islands. Italy is easily approached by boat from Patras (take a train or a bus to Patras).
- The port of Lavrion in southern Attica is being increasingly developed as a ferry port, especially for (some) Cyclades routes. Rafina and, especially, Piraeus remain the main hubs for the Cyclades and the Dodecanese.
- The closest islands, suitable for a day trip from Piraeus, are in the Argosaronic (or Saronic) gulf: Hydra, Aegina, Poros, Spetses and Salamina. Kea (also pronounced Tzia) is a very nearby destination, too, less than two hours from the port of Lavrio. If what you are thinking is an island further away from Piraeus, like Paros, Naxos, Ios, Santorini or any of the Dodecanese or Northern Aegean isles, you should probably consider with extra days off Athens because of their distance from the mainland. Flying is also an option to the more distant islands.
- Day trips to the Corinth Canal, the ancient theatre at Epidaurus and to the ancient sites of Olympia, Delphi and Mycenae are easy with a rental car. Other towns along the Peloponnese such as Nafplion are charming and worthwhile.
- Thessaloniki – tickets can be booked online in advance and the journey takes 5 hr. From here, you can travel onwards to North Macedonia and Bulgaria.
Heraklion | Covid-19 Travel Restrictions | Lockdown | Coronavirus Outbreak
Crete’s largest city and capital, Heraklion is an urban maze with little greenery and sometimes hectic traffic; however, hidden treasures are nestled among the concrete chaos of unregulated structured modern buildings.
Known from ancient times as Knossos’ port, the city had been under Arab and Venetian occupation in the Middle Ages, only to change conquerors in the 17th century, when Ottomans invaded its forts.
In recent history, Heraklion went under a major facelift before 2004, as it was one of Greece’s Olympic Cities. The historic center was pedestrianized and the waterfront was heavily reformed; today locals stroll or bike by the sea in crisp summer evenings.
Most of the city’s places of interest are located within the historic center, where distances are more than walkable. Frequent public transport serves the most remote attractions.
Historic Center and Waterfront
Venetians entrenched Chandacas (former name of Heraklion) with massive city walls. The municipal area within the walls is today called the Historic Center of the city.
Within the Historic Center one will find the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which is the second greater Greek archaeological museum, after the one in Athens. Covering a time period from the Neolithic Era until the Roman Empire, it features important relics from the Minoan civilization, along with fascinating frescos from Knossos. Don’t miss Phaestos Disk, a circular disk with pictographic inscriptions that have not yet been decoded.
By the waterfront, sits the captivating Historical Museum of Crete. Founded by Andreas Kalokerinos, of the city’s most generous benefactors, it houses fascinating collections which deal with Crete’s more recent history and folk art. Two of El Greco’s original paintings are exhibited here. Other displays include artefacts and maps from Byzantine to Ottoman period. A photo-exhibition of the city’s suffering during The Battle of Crete is presented on the museum’s second floor, while the third floor hosts a collection of folklore art.
Not far away from the Historical Museum, you will find Koules Venetian Fortress. Built in the 16th century, it was primarily used to repel Turkish invaders, before it was turned into a prison for Cretan rebels. Nowadays the grounds of the Fortress are not normally open to the public; however, it is occasionally used for temporary exhibitions.
Loggia, which currently houses Heraklion’s city hall, is a fine example of Venetian architecture; built in the 17th century, its original purpose was to serve as an exclusive club for Venetian nobles. Right next to Loggia, stands the Church of Sent Titos. Initially built more than 1000 years ago, it had been destroyed and rebuilt twice, with the current structure dating back to 1856. During this time it served as a Catholic church and a mosque respectively, until 1925, when it was turned into an Orthodox church.
On the city’s main square, one will come across Morosini Fountain. Raised in early 17th century, it is also known as Lion Fountain, because of the four stone lions that decorate its upper part. Another lovely fountain stands at the end of 1866 Market Street; Babmo Fountain, or “Falte Jami” as locals call it, is adjoined to an old Turkish pump-house, which nowadays houses a traditional coffee house.
Outside the city
The Minoan Palace of Knossos is an absolute must-see for travelers in Heraklion. Considered to be Europe’s most ancient city, Knossos thrived during the Bronze Age; the palace has gone under extensive restoration and guided tours are available in the front gate. To get to the capital of the Minoan civilization, take city bus No. 2.
Marine-life enthusiasts are welcome to visit Cretaquarium. Located 15 kilometers east of the city of Heraklion, the aquarium mainly focuses on marine life of the Mediterranean Sea, boasting 2,500 marine creatures of 250 different species.
Ioannina | Covid-19 Travel Restrictions | Lockdown | Coronavirus Outbreak
Capital of Epirus, Ioannina has a population of a bit more than 100,000 people, including 20,000 college students. Spread around the eastern bank of Pamvotis Lake, the city faces snow-capped mountains and is often surrounded by thick morning mist. Ioannina’s history is strongly attached to the period of the Turkish Rule; Kastro, the city’s historic center, still boasts several samples of superb Ottoman architecture, hidden in its cobblestoned backstreets and alleys.
Due to the large student population, a wide variety of dining and entertainment options is available throughout the year, including local “tsipouradika”, shops which serve local distilled spirits over light savories. Dare to try the city’s most famous “meze” (Greek for delicacy), frog legs!
Accommodation varies from 5-star international hotels to inexpensive B&Bs, but the best way to experience the city is a traditional guest house, where you can enjoy lake views by the fireplace and try homemade local recipes. Traditional guest houses come in a luxury version too! Heavy climate and rainy winters make the summertime the best period to visit Ioannina.
Expect to mostly walk around the city, as distances are quite short and don’t require much use of public transport. A city-bus network is also available.
Things to see and do in Ioannina
Ioannina is a small city with limited attractions; therefore, a visit can be easily combined with an excursion to the nearby Vikos National Park or a picturesque mountain village.
The Byzantine Museum is unquestionably the city’s most interesting sight. Standing over the ruins of Ali Pasha’s former palace, it is a part of Its Kale Castle, which also includes a mosque and Ali Pasha’s tomb. The museum’s collections cover the Paleochristian, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine periods. A series of artefacts, manuscripts, religious images and jewellery from all around Epirus are exhibited here.
Exhibits related to folklore art can be found in both the Municipal Ethnographic Museum and Folklore Museum. Traditional costumes, tapestries, cooking utensils, and jewelery are on display. The Municipal Ethnographic Museum is housed in Ashlan Pasha Mosque, which was constructed in 1618. Divided into three sections, each is devoted to the Greek, Jewish and Muslim population of the city respectively. Ashlan Pasha’s tomb is included into the museum’s grounds.
Those interested in ancient Greek history may want to pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum. The museum displays discoveries from several parts of Epirus, including Dodoni. However, the collection is a bit poor and there have been discussions about moving some of the findings to other Epirot cities.
If the weather permits it, don’t hesitate to take a boat to Lake Pamvotis’ tiny island, known as Ioannina Isla. It hosts a well preserved parish of traditional houses, with less than 500 residents. The island was initially inhabited by monks, who built the first monastery in the 13th century. Today, scenic monasteries are one of Ioannina Isla’s major attractions, along with the Museum of Ali Pasha, who found tragic death on the island during a battle in 19th century.
While strolling around the city’s old quarters, don’t forget to pass by Stoa Louli. Stoa Louli is an arcade, which dates back to 18th century and has been a meeting spot for locals for over a century. One of Ioannina’s most picturesque corners, it features restored buildings in typical Epirot architecture, which mostly house “tsipouradika” and taverns.