ATHENS (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore Athens? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short visit to the cradle of democracy.
6:00 p.m. - Start your visit from the heart of the city, Syntagma Square, just below the Greek parliament. Go down the pedestrian walkway of Ermou, the city’s most popular shopping street. Browse or shop until you get to Kapnikarea - an 11th century church built on the ruins of an ancient Greek temple - and turn left toward the Plaka district, below the Acropolis.
7:00 p.m. - Plaka, the ancient city’s oldest neighborhood boasts nicely renovated houses on narrow streets, a plethora of tavernas and souvenir shops. Find the Aerides Square, where overlapping layers of Greek history unfold before your eyes - the Classical Acropolis temples, the Hellenistic Tower of the Winds, the Roman Agora, Byzantine and Ottoman ruins.
8:30 p.m. - Have dinner in Plaka, either at the busy Byzantine restaurant (18 Kydathineon, +30210 3227368) on Filomouson Etairion Square, a lively spot where you can enjoy traditional Greek cooking and watch crowds go by. Or go up the steep stone steps to Psara’s (16 Erehtheos, +30210 3218733) for fresh fish. Sit under the tree and experience Athens as it must have been 200 years ago, not a single modern building in sight.
9:00 a.m. - Stroll through the National Gardens, on V. Amalias avenue, toward Hadrian’s Arch and the majestic ruins of the temple of Zeus, and take the main pedestrian walkway of D. Aeropagitou to the modern New Acropolis Museum, which hosts the famed Parthenon Marbles - whatever Lord Elgin left behind and replicas of the ones which are now in the British Museum in London. Make sure you look down the glass floor as you enter to view the ruins found during the construction of the museum, which also boasts some earlier finds from the Acropolis such as Archaic statues. Take a break at the museum’s nice outdoor cafe before you trek up the Acropolis hill.
11:00 a.m. Walk up the pedestrian street, past the Herod Atticus Theater, which still hosts summer performances, and climb up the Acropolis hill (+30210 3214172). Make a stop to catch your breath at the top of the huge marble Propylaia steps and get your first glimpse of the Parthenon. Tour the Classical temples, stunning remnants of the Golden Age of Athens.
12:30 p.m. - Come down and finish your walk around the hill along A. Pavlou street all the way to Thissio, past views of the Ancient Agora, ancient Greece’s gathering spot where Socrates and other philosophers taught, the Attalus Stoa and the well-preserved Temple of Hephestos. Have lunch at Kuzina (9 Adrianou, +30210 3240133) a pleasant, lively Greek eatery with a modern twist on tradition on one of Athens’s most pleasant streets. If the weather allows, opt for outdoor seating and enjoy the view.
2:30 p.m. - Take a short hop on the metro from Thissio to Syntagma and walk to the Benaki Museum (1 Koumbari st, +30210 367 1000, closes at 5 p.m. on weekdays, except Thursday when open until midnight with free admission), founded by a wealthy Greek collector from Alexandria. Enjoy a tour of Greek history - from pre-historic to modern times - beautifully displayed in a neo-classical mansion. Check out the excellent museum shop.
5:00 p.m - Walk to the nearby Kolonaki Square, where the number of designer shops rivals that of cafes. Have a drink with the fashionable crowd of Athens, who gather here to socialize and people watch.
6:00 p.m. - For the best spot in the city to enjoy the sunset, take the funicular (1 Aristippou, +30210 7227065) up to the top of Lycabettus Hill, visit the small church of St. George and take in the panoramic vistas stretching to the Aegean Sea.
8:30 p.m. - Walk back down to the posh Kolonaki area for dinner, either at Prytaneio (7-9 Milioni, +30210 3643353), a favorite spot of the area’s hip crowd on a bustling pedestrian street or at Ouzadiko (25-29 Karneadou +30 210 7295484).
9:00 a.m. - Start your day with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum (44 Patission, +30210 8217724, 8217717). The stately, 1880s building houses a vast collection of ancient Greek art - world famous marble and bronze statues, 16th century BC frescoes from the island of Santorini and the gold treasure discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in Mycenae in 1876, including the “Mask of Agamemnon.”
11:00 a.m. - Take a short taxi ride to the flea market of Avissinias Square, in the heart of Monastiraki. Visit the antique shops lining the square or the hundreds of peddlers spreading their goods on the ground. On Sundays, the area is packed with Athenians shopping and then sitting down for ouzo and meze at the numerous cafes.
1:00 p.m. - For lunch, walk down Ermou street past the district of Psyri —where English poet Lord Byron fell in love with an Athenian girl — and make your way to the Gazi area. The impressive brick towers of the old gasworks factory hover over a sprawling art exhibition site, surrounded by fashionable cafes and eateries. Mamakas (41 Persephonis, +30210 3464984) serves Greek food the way mom would make it — if she were Greek — and Sardelles (15 Persephonis, +30210 3478050) has simple, fresh seafood.
3:00 p.m. - Make your way back toward the Thissio area and visit the small, modern art collection at the private Herakleidon Museum (16 Herakleidon, +30210 3461981). The beautifully restored, 1898 neo-classical building has developed many faithful fans since it opened its doors to visitors just in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics. End your Athens visit with a drink at any of the cafes across from the museum.
Editing by Paul Casciato