Athens

ABOUT THE CITY

Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece, dominates the Attica periphery: as one of the world’s oldest cities, its recorded history spans at least 3,000 years.  Athens is built around the Acropolis and the pinnacled crag of Mt. Lycabettus, which the goddess Athena was said to have dropped from the heavens as a bulwark to defend the city.

Athens is widely referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization, and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent. Today, Athens is rapidly becoming a leading business centre in the European Union.

Athens is known as one of the sunniest cities in Europe, with a semi-arid climate and low average annual rainfall. The suburbs have covered the barren plain in all directions and the city is packed with lively taverns and bustling shops. The cuisine is entrenched in history and punctuated by the cultures of its neighbors; you have many new experiences to look forward in your move to this city.

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    Athens Overview

    Athens (Athina) is named after Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who, according to legend, won the city after defeating Poseidon in a duel. The goddess’ victory was celebrated by the construction of a temple on the Acropolis, the site of the city’s earliest settlement in Attica.

    As a city state, the coastal capital of Athens reached its heyday in the fifth century BC.

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    Climate

    Athens is known as one of the sunniest cities in Europe, with a semi-arid climate and low average annual rainfall. The rain that does occur falls during the winter months, between mid-October and mid-April, usually as short, heavy showers.

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    Important Contacts

    Police 100
    Ambulance 166
    Fire Department 199
    Poison Center 779-37777
    ELPA Road 104
    Assistance

    Embassy of the United States of America

    91 Vasilisis Sophias Avenue

    10160 Athens, Greece

    30-210-721-2951

    AthensAmEmb@state.gov

    http://athens.usembassy.gov/ 

    Economy

    Greece has a capitalist economy with the public sector accounting for about 40% of GDP and with per capita GDP at least 75% of the leading euro-zone economies. Tourism provides 15% of GDP. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, mainly in agricultural and unskilled jobs. Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 3.3% of annual GDP. The Greek economy grew by nearly 4.0% per year between 2003 and 2006, due partly to infrastructural spending related to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and in part to an increased availability of credit, which has sustained record levels of consumer spending. Greece violated the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact budget deficit criteria of no more than 3% of GDP from 2001 to 2005, but finally appears on track to meet that criteria in 2006. Public debt, inflation, and unemployment are above the euro-zone average, but are falling. The Greek Government continues to grapple with cutting government spending, reducing the size of the public sector, and reforming the labor and pension systems, in the face of often vocal opposition from the country’s powerful labor unions and the general public.

    Holidays

    January 1 – New Year’s Day

    January 6 – Epiphany

    March 25 – Independence Day

    May 1 – Labor Day

    August 15 – Assumption of Mary

    October 28 – Ochi Day (Greek National Day)

    December 25 – Christmas Day

    December 26 – Boxing Day

    Fast Facts

    Population

    City:  745,514

    Greater metropolitan area: 3,130,841

    Area – 411.717 km² (159 sq.mi.)

    Elevation (min-max) – 70 – 277 m (230 – 909 ft)

    Internet country code: .gr

    Currency (code) – Euro (EUR)

    Official language – Greek

    Time zone – UTC+2 (Daylight savings time: UTC+3)

    Calling code – 210, 211, 212

    History

    Athens is rightfully considered to be the cradle of western civilization. It is the birthplace of democracy and home of the world’s greatest philosophers and artists, many of whom set the foundations of modern Western society.

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    By Car

    Driving in Athens is not recommended unless you have nerves of steel; it can be unpleasant and even unsafe. It’s fairly easy to get around the city with a combination of public transportation and taxis; save driving for excursions out of town. Red traffic lights are frequently ignored, and motorists often pass other vehicles while driving on hills and while rounding corners. Driving is on the right, and although the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way, don’t expect this or any other driving rule to be obeyed. The speed limit is 50 kph (31 mph) in town. Traffic tends toward gridlock or heart-stopping speeding; parking in most parts of the city could qualify as an Olympic sport. Seat belts are compulsory, as are helmets for motorcyclists, though many natives ignore the laws. In downtown Athens do not drive in the bus lanes marked by a yellow divider; if caught, you may be fined.

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    Public Transportation

    Public Transportation in Athens has improved considerably recently, and now it’s pretty easy to get around town.  The city has a really good thing going in it’s flat fare tickets.  For 1 euro, you can travel on any public transportation, including transfers, for 90 minutes.  For 3 euros, it’s good for 24 hours, and for 10 euros it’s good for the week.

    Attiko Metro

    www.ametro.gr

    The metro system in Athens is brand new and very well maintained.  No food or drink is allowed on the trains.  Standard fare is 80 cents, except to the airport, which is 6 euros.

    Suburban Railway

    www.proastiakos.gr/

    Athens Tram

    http://www.tramsa.gr/

    The Suburban Railway and the Athens Tram provide connections with Athens’ suburbs, one tickets is 60 cents.

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    Air Transportation

    Athens International Airport

    +30 210-3530000

    www.aia.gr

    The airport is 17 miles east of downtown Athens, near Spata.  It’s a nice airport that opened in 2001, so everything is modern.

    To/From the Airport

    By Taxi

    The airport is accessible by taxi on a 24-hour basis. Passengers reaching the Airport disembark at the Departures level, where they can proceed directly to the check-in counters. When leaving the airport, make use of the taxi queue next to Door 3 of the Arrivals Level.

    By Metro

    The airport is accessible via Metro Line “Monastiraki – Athens International Airport.”  Price is 6 euros, 10 for a round trip, 15 for a group of 3.

    By Bus

    Six bus routes directly connect the greater area of Athens and Piraeus to the airport. All buses disembark passengers at the Departures Level and depart from the Arrivals Level, between Exits 4 and 5.

    Media

    There are 18 daily newspapers in Athens, including Ta Nea, Eleftherotypia and Eleftheros Typos. The English-language dailies are the Athens News and the Athens Daily Post. The Hellenic Times is published weekly. Major international newspapers are also available, usually late in the morning. Entertainment listings in English can be found in the monthly Athenian magazine, the daily Athens News and the weekly Athenscope magazine.

    Most television stations carry some English-language programs. Satellite stations such as CNN, Euro News and TV5 are available on UHF channels.

    Radio news is broadcast in English on Athens 98.4 FM, and on Greek Radio 1 (91.8 FM). Galaxy Radio feature the CNN Radio News every hour on the half hour (92.1 FM).

    Telephone

    Dialing from the New York to Athens:

    Dial: 011 30 210  XXXX-XXXX

    How the number is composed:

    011 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of U.S.A.

    30 is the international code used to dial Greece.

    210 is the local area or city code used to dial Athens.

    XXXX-XXXX is the local number. Exchange X with your number.

    Dialing  from Athens  to New York:

    Dial: 00 1 212 XXX-XXXX

    How the number is composed:

    00 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of Greece.

    1 is the international code used to dial to U.S.A.

    212 is one of multiple city/area codes in use for New York.

    XXX-XXXX is the local number. Exchange X with your number.

    Embassy & Visa

    Embassy

    Embassy of the United States of America

    91 Vasilisis Sophias Avenue

    10160 Athens, Greece

    30-210-721-2951

    AthensAmEmb@state.gov

    http://athens.usembassy.gov/

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    Pets

    To transport pets into or between EU countries dogs, cats and ferrets will need to be identified by a micro-chip which meets ISO standards 11784/11785 (the Avid EURO Chip is recommended) and accompanied by their owner or by a person responsible for the pet on behalf of the owner. The pet must have a Blue Pet Passport if traveling between EU Countries or the Form EU998 if entering the EU from another country.

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    Attractions

    Acropolis

    There are very few visitors who are not already familiar with the image of this distinctive citadel of ancient Athens, perched on its steep flat-topped rock above the sprawling city. It is the spot where Athens, and classical Greek civilization, began, and the site of a collection of beautiful temples, most dedicated to the goddess of wisdom, Athena. The ruins that remain visible today date from the 4th century BC, most of them erected by Pericles after the Persians destroyed many of the original Acropolis buildings. Visitors toil up the slopes past the souvenir stands and enter the site through the monumental entrance way, the Propylaia, which in ancient times contained an art gallery. To the right of the entrance is the tiny temple of Athena Nike, reconstructed and restored. The Parthenon, the greatest surviving monument of Doric architecture, is the biggest draw card on the Acropolis, built of Pentelic marble quarried from the distant mountains, which form the backdrop to the magnificent view of Athens from the Acropolis. Alongside the Parthenon is another temple, the Erechtheion, which bears holes on its northern porch where Poseidon’s trident struck it during his contest with Athena to have the city named after him. There is a museum on the Acropolis, too, where some of the carving and friezes recovered from the temples are on show, although many of the archaeological finds from the Acropolis are now housed in the British Museum in London.

    Ancient Agora

    Clustered below the Acropolis (enter from Odos Adrianou, east of Monastiraki Square) is the remains of the Agora, ancient Athens’ commercial and civic centre, where once walked and talked the great philosophers Socrates and Plato. In fact the disgraced and despairing Socrates committed suicide in a prison in the southwest corner of the Agora, by drinking poison. The area is littered with the ruins of numerous ancient buildings, including the Dionysos Theatre (the world’s oldest theatre where great plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed). One building that has been restored is the 200 BC Stoa of Attalos (a stoa is a long, low roofed promenade which served as a combination law court, municipal office and shopping arcade in classical Greece). The reconstructed building now has a museum on its ground floor containing artifacts covering 5,000 years of Athenian history.

    National Archaeological Museum

    This is the largest and most popular of Athens’ many museums, and is usually very crowded. Its vast collection includes treasures unearthed from Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann; a staggering array of sculpture including the earliest known Greek figurines dating from around 2,000 BC; frescoes from the volcanic island of Santorini; and so much more that it is recommended visitors make several visits to absorb it all.

    Piraeus

    Although not really attractive to tourists, the confusing, bustling port of Athens is the departure point for hundreds of island ferries and cruise ships, so most tourists pass through it while visiting Greece. Piraeus has been Athens’ port since ancient times. It actually consists of three harbors, with most of the tourist boats using the Zea Limani section. There are several fish restaurants in the harbor precincts, and a sprawling street market. Visitors with time on their hands while waiting for ferries can also explore the Maritime Museum at Akti Themistokleous, alongside the pier used by the island hydrofoils, which features models of ancient and modern ships.

    Plaka

    The old town section of Athens below the Acropolis has become the gathering place for travelers and tourists, particularly in the warm Athens evenings. Strolling the narrow streets of the Plaka flanked by ancient monuments, Byzantine churches and mosques, stately mansions, and inviting tavernas with vine-covered courtyards, makes a pleasant diversion.

    Kolonaki

    For a magnificent view of the Acropolis, particularly at sunset, it is possible to ride a funicular up the slopes of the Lykavittos hill from Kolonaki Square (in Athens’ smart shopping district). The railway rises steeply to the summit 912ft (278m) above the city. There is a café at the top, as well as the chapel of Agios Giorgios (St George) to go with the spectacular view.

    Syntagma Square

    The square that forms the heart of modern Athens is home to the Parliament building, built in 1840 as a Royal Palace. Tourists flock to photograph the unusually clad guards at the palace; the skirted and pom-pommed guard is changed ceremonially every hour. The square is a central point to access all the major attractions of Athens, particularly ‘museum mile’ along Vassilissis Sophias Avenue which runs from Syntagma Square. Here most of Athens’ museums are clustered, including the Benaki Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine Museum. 

    Compulsory Education

    There are private international schools in Athens for all age groups offering English-language curriculum:

    International School of Athens

    www.isa.edu.gr

    ISA offers the Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program (MYP) and Diploma Programs. It also offers a college preparatory program, enhanced by Advanced Placement courses, for students in grades 11 and 12. Working together in an English-speaking, international environment, students are able to develop the academic skills they need to prepare for higher education later on. They proceed from the child-oriented, multicultural and inter-related PYP to the academic challenge and life skills appropriate to the young adolescent in the MYP and finally to a rigorous course of study leading to the IB Diploma or AP examinations. Characterized by academic rigor, broad-based curricula, emphasis on internationalism, and attention to the needs of the individual student, ISA offers a unique educational experience to a diverse student body.

    American Community Schools of Athens

    www.acs.gr

    The American Community Schools are a system of private schools in Athens established in 1945 as the British Army School. They are located on one campus in the municipality of Halandri, at 129 Aghias Paraskevis Avenue. The student body is made up of over 600 students hailing from over 50 countries, and the school offers the International Baccalaureate PYP (Primary Years Program), MYP (Middle Years Program) and IB Diploma, as well as a non-IB track. There are 63 full-time and 19 part-time faculty, with the vast majority holding at least a Master’s Degree and a number with PhDs.

    Campion School

    www.campion.edu.gr

    Campion provides instruction in English to a student body of about five hundred consisting mainly of children of foreign residents, from kindergarten to the thirteenth grade (ages three to eighteen).

    Costeas-Geitonas School

    www.cgs.gr

    Costeas-Geitonas school is located in Pallini, in the province of Attica. The school includes a kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high-school (including International Baccalaureate).

    St Lawrence College

    www.st-lawrence.gr

    St Lawrence College is a privately owned school in southern Athens. It was founded in 1980 to cater the educational needs of British expatriates and any family which desired a British education for its children. It started with 60 children, and rapidly expanded with a present student body of over 800 at preschool, junior school and high school level. The school has an excellent record of sending pupils to the best universities in the United Kingdom and around the world.

    The Moraitis School

    www.moraitis.edu.gr

    The Moraitis School is a coeducational independent school located in Psychico, a suburb of Athens.

    Byron College

    www.byroncollege.gr

    Students at Byron College are prepared for UK public examinations from within a curriculum that is essentially based on the UK National Curriculum. The school, although operating on one site with the same school-day and holidays, is divided into Junior and Senior Schools. The Junior School ranges from Kindergarten to Year 6 before pupils continue into the Senior School. Years 7-9 follow a broad-based program of studies based on the UK’s KS3 curriculum. Years 10-11 are those years where pupils are prepared for, and take, IGCSE examinations. Years 12-13 are dedicated to the teaching and preparation of pupils for University and College education by the teaching of AS and A-level GCE subjects.

    Higher Education

    The Aegean Center of Fine Arts www.aegeancenter.org
    Agricultural University of Athens www.aua.gr
    The American College of Greece www.acg.gr
    The American School of Classical Studies at Athens www.ascsa.edu.gr
    Aristotle University of Thessaloniki www.auth.gr/home/index_en.html
    Athens School of Fine Arts www.asfa.gr
    Athens University of Economics and Business www.aueb.gr
    Democritus University of Thrace www.duth.gr
    Harokopion University of Athens http://kallithea.hua.gr/english/english_default.htm
    Hellenic Open University www.eap.gr
    Ionian University www.ionio.gr
    National and Kapodistrian University of Athens www.uoa.gr
    National Technical University of Athens www.ntua.gr
    Panteion University of Athens www.panteion.gr
    Technical University of Crete www.tuc.gr
    University of the Aegean www.aegean.gr
    University of Crete www.uoc.gr
    University of Ioannina www.uoi.gr
    University of Macedonia www.uom.gr
    University of Patras www.upatras.gr
    University of Peloponnese www.uop.gr
    University of Piraeus www.unipi.gr
    University of Thessaly www.uth.gr
    University of Western Macedonia www.uowm.gr