1. Visit the Acropolis
Nothing says Athens, or in fact Greece, like the Acropolis. Built in the second half of the 5th century under the leadership of the Athenian statesman Pericles, this symbol of the ancient world towers over the city.
A masterpiece of classical Greek achievement, the Acropolis is made up of monuments that include the Parthenon, Erechtheon, Propylaea and small temple Athena.
If you’re visiting in summer plan your visit in the cooler mornings or evenings as it gets scorching on the hill.
2. Wander the Monasteraki Markets
The Monasteraki Markets are considered a shopping mecca. In among cafés serving sublime iced coffee (or frappes as they are known in Greece), the labyrinthine backstreets house boutique stores offering a colourful array of clothing and jewellery for sale.
Go when the flea market is in full swing and you will also find stalls hawking everything from antique lamps and backgammon sets to knock-off CDs and leather sandals.
3. Savour the taste of Greek food
Try spanakopita (spinach pie), tyropita (cheese pie) and a meal of mezes (small plates of tempting snacks) for which the Greeks are justifiably famous: try taramasalata (fish roe dip), kalamaria (fried squid, below), tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip) and delicious dolmades (stuffed vine leaves).
If you’re looking for something more substantial, you won’t have to look far for moussaka (layers of eggplant and minced meat topped with a cheesy sauce and baked).
4. Take in the view from Lykavittos Hill
In the centre of Athens is Lykavittos Hill. Walk along winding paths or take the funicular to the top, where you’ll find a chapel, restaurant, and some spectacular city views. It’s also a great place to get a photo of the Acropolis.
5. Party in the Psyrri or Gazi districts
Your options range from the stylish, expensive Michelin-starred restaurants, to simple basement tavernas in the historic Plaka district.
For a true taste of where the locals go out these days, head to the newly fashionable Psyrri or Gazi districts, adjoining Monasteraki.
They are buzzing with clubs, restaurants and ouzo bars, where you’ll get a feel for the real Athens.
What you need to know about Athens
When to go: Visit Athens in June to beat the tourist hordes and enjoy the balmy evenings.
Getting there: There are direct flights to Athens from London.
Visas: New Zealanders and Australians don’t need a visa. South Africans need a Schengen visa.
Currency: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.10 EUR. language Greek.
Getting around: The metro and buses are very cheap and efficient.
Going out: Expect to pay €4 or €5 for a beer.
Accommodation: Dorm beds start from €12 a night. A double in a basic hotel starts at €60.