Athens Travel Guide
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ART

Athens is full of possibilities, catering to all tastes and cultures. It is home to more theatrical stages than any other European city (including the famous ancient Herodes Atticus Theatre, home to the Athens Festiva, which takes place from May to October each year). In addition to a large number of multiplexes, Athens features many romantic, open air garden cinemas. Finally there are a vast number of music venues including a state of the art music hall known as the "Megaron Moussikis" that attracts world-famous artists all year round.

The Psirri neighbourhood - aka Athens's "meat packing district" - features mainstream and trendy bars making it a hotspot for the city, and a number of live music restaurants called "rebetadika", after rebetiko, a unique kind of music that blossomed in Syros and Athens from the 1920's till the 1960's. Rebetiko is admired by many, therefore virtually every night rebetadika get crammed by people of all ages that will sing, dance and drink wine until dawn. Plaka remains the traditional top tourist destination, with many tavernas featuring traditional music, but the food, though exceptionally good, is often more expensive compared to other parts of the city.

Plaka, lying just beneath the Acropolis, is famous for its numerous neoclassic buildings, making it one of the most scenic districts in central Athens. Nearby Monastiraki, on the other hand, is famous for its string of small tourist shops as well as its crowded flea market and the tavernas that specialize in souvlaki. Another district notably famous for its student-crammed, stylish cafés is Theseum, lying just west of Monastiraki.

Theseum, or Thission is home to the remarkable ancient Temple of Hephaestus, standing on top of a small hill. The Gazi area, one of the latest in full redevelopment, is located around a historic gas factory, that has been converted into the Technopolis (Athens's new cultural multiplex) for all the family and has a number of expensive small clubs, bars and restaurants as well as Athens's nascent "gay village". The relatively recent and rapid redevelopment of these areas has brought the - recently relatively forgotten - city centre back into the limelight.

The chic Kolonaki area, near Syntagma Square, is full of boutiques catering to well-heeled customers by day and bars and luxurious restaurants by night. Ermou Street, an approximately 1 km pedestrian road connecting Syntagma Square to Monastiraki, has traditionally been considered a consumer paradise for both the Athenians and foreign tourists. Full of fashion shops and shopping centres featuring most international brands, it has become one of the most expensive roads in Europe.

Near there, the renovated Army Fund building in Panepistimiou Street includes the "Attica" department store and several high-class designer stores. Some central areas (mostly just south of Omonoia Square) are mainly peopled by immigrants and are therefore full of colorful ethnic restaurants and shops, especially Indian, Pakistani and Chinese.

National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The National Archaeological museum of Athens houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece.

Construction of the museum's building begun in 1866 and was completed 1889 using funds from the Greek government, the archaeological society and the society of mecenes. The initial plan by the architect Ludwig Lange was later modified by Panages Kalkos, Harmodios Vlachos and Ernst Ziller. The building was expanded in 1939, adding a second floor.

The most recent refurbishment of the museum took more than 1.5 years to complete, during which the museum remained completely closed. It reopened in July 2004, in time for the Athens Olympics and it included aesthetic and technical upgrade of the building, reorganisation of the museum's collection and repair of damage that the 1999 earthquake left to the building.

Benaki Museum

The Benaki Museum was established and endowed in 1930 by Antonis Benakis in memory of his father Emmanuel Benakis, at the Benakis family mansion in downtown Athens. The museum houses Greek works of art from the prehistorical to the modern times, an extensive collection of Asian art, hosts periodic exhibitions and maintains a state-of-the-art restoration and conservation workshop.

Over the years it has been further endowed by various donors, and it now includes the seaside Kouloura Mansion in Palaio Phaliro, which is to house a Children's Toys Collection, the Benaki Islamic Art Museum in the Kerameikos district, the Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Museum in downtown Athens, and the Delta House in Kifissia, which houses the Historical Archive Collection.