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The City

The City

What is Athens 

The city of Athens is much more than what it seems

The cradle of democracy and civilization: yet, beyond its rich history, Athens is a vibrant modern European city with an old-town feel; ancient monuments fuse with a trendy, cosmopolitan scene. Masterpieces of significant architectural values stand tall today in a harmonious coexistence with impressive modern buildings.

German architect Ernst Ziller designed some of Athens’ most iconic buildings, giving the city the architectural identity and aesthetics needed as the capital of the new Greek state. The Presidential Mansion, Iliou Melathron (which houses the Numismatic Museum of Athens today), the National Theater, and the National Archaeological Museum give only a small example of Ziller’s heritage. On the other hand, modern buildings of high architectural value such as the House of Letters and Arts, the New Acropolis Museum, the Cultural Center-Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the National Art Gallery remind us that Athens is a part of the 21st century.

In 1981, Athens hosted the ceremonial signing of Greece’s accession to the European Union, while four years later, in 1985, the city was inaugurated as the first European City of Culture. At the dawn of the 21th century, Athens hosted the 2004 Olympic Games, a landmark in modern history, as the Games returned to their birthplace. 

This event gave rise to the construction of large modern infrastructure such as the International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”, the Metro, and the Attiki Odos highway. These and many more infrastructures represent the modern aspect of Athens.

This is why the capital of Greece is a unique travelling destination, especially for conferences: the city of Athens ties its past, present, and future into one exciting experience.

This is what makes Athens timeless

Culture

Home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, and Sophocles. Through their work, key figures of Ancient Greek philosophy led the way for modern western thought, focusing on evidence and logic. Traces of these famous Athenians can be seen around the city, kept in its world-class museums and hallmarks.

A pioneer in technology, ancient Greece demonstrated unique technological achievements, the first substantial evolutionary step in the field of innovation. The most important expression of the imaginative spirit of the ancient Greeks is the Antikythera mechanism, which measured astronomical data: this mechanism is considered the beginning of high technology.

Innovation

Ancient Greece’s contributions, as a pioneer of innovation, lay in every corner of the world. The roots of science, philosophy, and history were laid in this country. Yet, today’s city doesn’t rest on its laurels: Athens takes inspiration from this heritage, and continues to innovate. Multiple faculties call Athens home: numerous laboratories and research centers make all innovation possible. Conference organization helps to spread this knowledge to scientists from all over the world. This process opens new horizons, constantly working on new ways to improve everyone’s life.

In 2018, Athens was named the European Capital of Innovation of the year, gaining an award that recognizes European cities that use innovation to enhance their sustainability, offer opportunities for the active involvement of their citizens, and contribute to open and dynamic innovation ecosystems, while continuously collaborating with citizens in the decision-making process.

Today, responding to the global challenge of transforming cities into “smart” ones, Athens made a dynamic entry with “Project Athena”, a pioneering pilot project that will bring significant improvements to the lives of Athenians, through the implementation of innovative technological applications. With the first goal of effectively dealing with two “hot” and chronic problems faced by residents and visitors to Athens, cleanliness and accessibility, the “Project Athena” is operational today. It consists of studying and implementing accessibility measures for pedestrians and people with disabilities, and the strategic placement of sensors in the urban fabric, which collect data on street and air cleanliness, noise pollution, temperature, and humidity.

Hospitality

Greece is famous for its hospitable and kind people, a feature that visitors look forward to during their stay in the country. From ancient times, not only was every visitor considered welcome, but gained an almost holy status. This spirit has carried on to the modern era, and Athens is the perfect example of the essence of hospitality.

The Tourism industry is based on principles of hospitality. Hotel staff welcome their clients, not as ordinary customers, but as true friends. They share with them the culture of five thousand years, which focuses on friendship, kindness, and respect. In the difficult market market of tourism services, human resources are the “spearhead” and the most important reason for the differentiation of the product of Greek tourism at an international level. That is why Greece remains on the higher level of hospitality, and a favorite visitor destination.

Hundreds of hotels for many different preferences can be found in Athens, waiting to welcome their visitors from around the world, offering high quality services in every aspect of hospitality.  This is why the sector has been expanding for years, and its future looks even more prominent. After all, the greatest asset of each city is its people, and in the case of Athens, it is self-evident.

Geography

This privileged land in the south of Europe has been treated generously by nature. Combining its blue sky and nurturing sun, the Athens Riviera is hard to beat. All large development plans in the area are a testament to its well-established future prosperity.

The capital of Athens gathers almost one-third of the country’s population. The basin of Attica, where Athens and Piraeus are located, has five mountains: Mount Aigaleo and Poikilo Mountain on the west, Parnitha and Penteli in the north, and Hymettus on the east, while the south of Athens is outlined by the Saronic gulf.

The center of Athens is surrounded by hills and parks, such as Lycabettus Hill, Philopappou Hill, and of course, the Hill of the Acropolis. Furthermore, underground rivers such as the Iridanos, Kifissos, and Ilissus flow through. Several parks of beauty also dot Athens, such as the National Gardens, the Antonis Tritsis Park, and the Park of Veikou Hill.

Athens has a typical Mediterranean climate, namely, hot and dry summers, and mild winters. Mild for the larger part of the year, it provides Athens with an average annual temperature of 18.3°C, and days with sunshine even in the heart of winter. The particularly warm summers are well-known, with the temperature often exceeding 40°C.

Cuisine

Traditional Greek food with the variety and quality of its ingredients, in context with beneficial combinations and the knowledge of centuries, enjoys a privileged position in world gastronomy. This tradition is based on four secrets: the fresh ingredients, the correct use of herbs and spices, the famous Greek olive oil, and its simplicity. Additionally, the Greek cuisine culture brought an extroverted social dimension to the table, combining taste satisfaction with entertainment and communication.

Historically, Greek gastronomy dates back to ancient times, when Archestratus wrote the first cookbook in history around 330 B.C. He was the first tο approach cooking as an art and made extensive references on the importance of eating fish and legumes, as well as drinking wine – both of which were highly appreciated by the ancient Greeks. Yet, these still remain among the typical ingredients of a healthy modern Greek diet.

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Culture

The 11th and 12th centuries were the Golden Age of Byzantine art in Athens. Almost all of the most important Byzantine churches around Athens were built during these two centuries, reflecting the growth of the town in general, as it turned into an important commercial center. The Monastery of Kaisariani, the Kapnikarea, the Catholicon of the Petraki Monastery, the Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris, and the Church of Panagia Pantanassa are only several examples of the cultural heritage of the medieval era.

Modern Greece continued its outstanding performance in philology, the sciences, arts, music, and sports, with global distinctions. Legendary composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hatzidakis, soprano Maria Callas, singer Nana Mouskouri, and the Oscar-winning musician Vangelis are only few of the distinguished Greeks who conveyed the greatness of Greek culture all over the world. George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, leading figures in poetry, honored Greece with being awarded, in 1963 and 1979 respectively, the Nobel Prize in Literature. We continue to meet more and more Greeks who participate internationally in great scientific discoveries and inventions.

This glorious past lives on side by side with the exciting present of Athens: art galleries, outdoor festivals, street art, concert halls, and open-air cinema projections, to name only a few of the ways that Athenians choose to enjoy and express themselves. These experiences give birth to the ideas of tomorrow.

Cuisine

The country, in euphoria after undertaking the organization of the Olympic Games of 2004, became a driving force for the development of Greek cuisine. Restaurants opened one after the other, turning it into such a strong trend: we can now define Greek gastronomic fashion, expressed with purely Greek restaurants, and restaurants with modern cuisine alike. Furthermore, restaurants of high quality have been created in luxury hotels, confirming that gastronomy is an integral part of an upgraded travel experience.

Over the last twenty years, the most creative chefs in the country -many of them amongst the younger generation- show surprising ingenuity and productivity, influenced by the stormy developments of the world gastronomic scene. High-tech culinary techniques, ingenious conceptual specialties, and new national cuisines were added to Greek gastronomy, seasoning it with variety and surprises.

Numerous restaurants for many preferences are at the customers’ disposal. Some stay close to the centuries-old Greek culinary tradition; others leave a fresh stamp on it. Several have received prizes from international organizations; others are well-hidden treasures, waiting to be discovered. The future looks even brighter, as the multicultural facet of Athens has been creating new tastes for everyone to enjoy.