The main landmark of Athens is the acropolis (412 ft/126 m high), which dominates the city and on which stand the remains of the Parthenon, the propylaea, and the Erechtheum. Occupying the southern part of Athens, the Acropolis is ringed by the other chief landmarks of the ancient city—the Pnyx, where the citizens' assemblies were held; the Areopagus; the Theseum of Hephaesteum, a well-preserved Doric temple of the 5th cent. B.C.; the old Agora and the Roman forum; the temple of Zeus or Olympieum (begun under Pisistratus in the 6th cent. B.C. and completed in the 2d cent. A.D. under Hadrian, whose arch stands nearby); the theatre of Dionysius (the oldest in Greece); and the Odeum of Herodes Atticus.
There are many Roman remains in the "new" quarter, built east of the original city walls by Emperor Hadrian (1st cent. A.D.); there the modern royal palace and gardens also stand. The stadium is E of the Ilissus River. Parts of the ancient city walls are still visible, particularly at the Dipylon, the sacred gate on the road to Eleusis; however, the Long Walls connecting Athens and Piraiévs have almost entirely disappeared. The most noteworthy Byzantine structures are the churches of St. Theodora and of the Holy Apostles, both built in the 12th cent. Athens is the see of an archbishop who presides over the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church. The city is the seat of the National and Capodistrian Univ. (1837), a polytechnic institute, an academy of sciences, several schools of archaeology, and many museums and libraries. A nuclear research center is nearby, at Aghia Paraskevi.
The cultural legacy of ancient Athens to the world is incalculable; to a great extent the references to the Greek heritage that abound in the culture of Western Europe are to Athenian civilization. Athens, named after its patron goddess Athena, was inhabited in the Bronze Age. Its citizens later proudly claimed that their ancestors had lived in the city even before the settlements of Attica were molded into a single state (according to legend, by Theseus).Early History
According to tradition, Athens was governed until c.1000 B.C. by Ionian kings, who had gained suzerainty over all Attica. After the Ionian kings Athens was rigidly governed by its aristocrats through the archontate (see archons), until Solon began to enact liberal reforms in 594 B.C. Solon abolished serfdom, modified the harsh laws attributed to Draco (who had governed Athens c.621 B.C.), and altered the economy and constitution to give power to all the propertied classes, thus establishing a limited democracy. His economic reforms were largely retained when Athens came under (560-511 B.C.) the rule of the tyrant Pisistratus and his sons Hippias and Hipparchus. During this period the city's economy boomed and its culture flourished. Building on the system of Solon, Cleisthenes then established (c.506 B.C.) a democracy for the freemen of Athens, and the city remained a democracy during most of the years of its greatness.A Great City-State
The Persian Wars (500-449 B.C.) made Athens the strongest Greek city-state. Much smaller and less powerful than Sparta at the start of the wars, Athens was more active and more effective in the fighting against Persia. The Athenian heroes Miltiades, Themistocles, and Cimon were largely responsible for building the city's strength. In 490 B.C. the Greek army defeated Persia at Marathon. A great Athenian fleet won a major victory over the Persians off the island of Salamis (480 B.C.). The powerful fleet also enabled Athens to gain hegemony in the Delian League, which was created in 478-477 B.C. through the confederation of many city-states; in succeeding years the league was transformed into an empire headed by Athens. The city arranged peace with Persia in 449 B.C. and with its chief rival, Sparta, in 445 B.C., but warfare with smaller Greek cities continued.
During the time of Pericles (443-429 B.C.) Athens reached the height of its cultural and imperial achievement; Socrates and the dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were active. The incomparable Parthenon was built, and sculpture and painting flourished. Athens became a center of intellectual life. However, the rivalry with Sparta had not ended, and in 431 B.C. the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens began.
The war went badly for Athens from the start. The Long Walls built to protect the city and its port of Piraiévs saved the city itself as long as the fleet was paramount, but the allies of Athens fell away and the land empire Pericles had tried to build already had crumbled before his death in 429 B.C. The war dragged on under the leadership of Cleon and continued even after the collapse of the expedition against Sicily, urged (415 B.C.) by Alcibiades. The Peloponnesian War finally ended in 404 B.C. with Athens completely humbled, its population cut in half, and its fleet reduced to a dozen ships.
Under the dictates of Sparta, Athens was compelled to tear down the Long Walls and to accept the government of an oligarchy called the Thirty Tyrants. However, the city recovered rapidly. In 403 B.C. the Thirty Tyrants were overthrown by Thrasybulus, and by 376 B.C. Athens again had a fleet, had rebuilt the Long Walls, had re-created the Delian League, and had won a naval victory over Sparta. Sparta also lost power as a result of its defeat (371 B.C.) by Thebes at Leuctra; and, although Athens did not again achieve hegemony over Greece, it did have a short period of great prosperity and comfort.The Decline of Athens
The growth of Macedon's power under Philip II heralded the demise of Athens as a major power. Despite the pleas by Demosthenes to the citizens of Athens to stand up against Macedon, Athens was decisively defeated by Philip at Chaeronea in 338 B.C. The city did not dare dispute the mastery of Philip's son and successor, Alexander the Great. After his death Athens revolted (323-322 B.C.) against control by Macedon, but the revolt was quashed, and Athens lost its remaining dependencies and declined into a provincial city. Its last bid for greatness (266-262 B.C.) was firmly suppressed by Antigonus II, king of Macedon.
Through the troubled times of the Peloponnesian War and the wars against Philip, Athenian achievements in philosophy, drama, and art had continued. Aristophanes wrote comedies, Plato taught at the Academy, Aristotle compiled an incredible store of information, and Thucydides wrote a great history of the Peloponnesian War. As the city's glory waned in the 3d cent. B.C., its earlier contributions were spread over the world in Hellenistic culture.
Athens became a minor ally of growing Rome, and a period of stagnation was broken only when the city unwisely chose to support Mithradates VI of Pontus against Rome. As a result, Athens was sacked by the Roman general Sulla in 86 B.C. Nevertheless, Athens sent out many teachers to Rome and retained a certain faded glory as a moderately prosperous small city in the backwash of the empire. It remained so until the time when the Eastern Empire began to fall to the barbarians. Athens was captured in A.D. 395 by the Visigoths under Alaric I.From Byzantine to Ottoman Rule
Athens became a provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire and a center of religious learning and devotion. Following the creation (1204) of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (see Constantinople, Latin Empire of), Athens passed (1205) to Othon de la Roche, a French nobleman from Franche-Comté, who was made megaskyr [great lord] of Athens and Thebes. His nephew and successor, Guy I, obtained the ducal title, and the duchy of Athens, under Guy I and his successors, enjoyed great prosperity while becoming thoroughly French in its institutions. In 1311 the duchy was captured by a band of Catalan soldier-adventurers who offered (1312) the ducal title to King Frederick II of Sicily, a member of the house of Aragón. Members of the house of Aragón carried the title, but Athens was in fact governed by the "Catalan Grand Company," which also acquired (1318) the neighboring duchy of Neopatras.
The French feudal culture disappeared, and Athens sank into insignificance and poverty, particularly after 1377, when the succession was contested in civil war. Peter IV of Aragón assumed sovereignty in 1381 but ruled from Barcelona. On his initiative, the devastated duchy was settled by Albanians. Athens again prospered briefly after its conquest in 1388 by Nerio I Acciajuoli, lord of Corinth, a Florentine noble. Under the Acciajuoli family's rule numerous Florentine merchants established themselves in Athens. However, the fall of the Acropolis to the Ottoman Turks in 1458 marked the beginning of nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule, and Athens once more declined. Venice, which had held Athens from 1394 to 1402, recovered it briefly from the Turks in 1466 and besieged it in 1687-88. During the siege the Parthenon, used by the Turks as a powder magazine, was largely blown up in a bombardment.Modern Athens
Modern Athens was constructed only after 1834, when it became the capital of a newly independent Greece. Otto I, first king of the Hellenes (1832-62), rebuilt much of the city, and the first modern Olympic games were held there in 1896. The population grew rapidly in the 1920s, when Greek refugees arrived from Turkey. The city's inhabitants suffered extreme hardships during the German occupation (1941-44) in World War II, but the city escaped damage in the war and in the country's civil troubles of 1944-50.
The 1950s and 60s brought unbridled expansion. Land clearance for suburban building caused runoff and flooding, requiring the modernization of the sewer system. The Mornos River was dammed and a pipeline over 100 mi (160 km) long was built to Athens, supplementing the inadequate water supply. The development of a highway system facilitated the proliferation of automobiles, resulting in increased air pollution. This accelerated the deterioration of ancient buildings and monuments, requiring preservation and conservation programs as well as traffic bans in parts of the city. The Ellinikon airport was modernized and enlarged to accommodate increased tourism. A strong earthquake jolted the city in 1999, and in 2004 the summer Olympic games were held there again.
The Greek geographer Pausanias wrote an extensive description of ancient Greece. Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Polybius were great Greek historians. Modern general works on ancient Greece include those of J. B. Bury and Michael Rostovtzeff. See also A. H. M. Jones, Athenian Democracy (1957, repr. 1986); J. C. Hill, The Ancient City of Athens, Its Topography and Monuments (rev. ed. 1969); C. M. Bowra, Periclean Athens (1971); R. Meiggs, The Athenian Empire (1972); W. S. Ferguson, Hellenistic Athens (1986); D. Kagan, The Fall of the Athenian Empire (1987); M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (tr. 1999). See also bibliography under Greece.
The Greek capital has a population of 745,513 (in 2001) within its administrative limits and a land area of . The urban area of Athens extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3.37 million (in 2005). The area of Athens prefecture spans and encompasses a population of 3,192,606. The Athens Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) is the 8th most populated LUZ in the European Union with a population of 3,894,573 (in 2001). A bustling and cosmopolitan metropolis, Athens is central to economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece. It is rapidly becoming a leading business centre in the European Union. In 2008, Athens was ranked the world's 32nd-richest city in a UBS study.
Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, Athens was also the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, Sophocles and its many other prominent philosophers, writers and politicians of the ancient world. It 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.
The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by a number of ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon on the Acropolis, widely considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains a vast variety of Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of remaining Ottoman monuments projecting the city's long history across the centuries. Landmarks of the modern era are also present, dating back to 1830 (the establishment of the independent Greek state), and taking in the Greek Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy (Library, University, and Academy). Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it welcomed home the 2004 Summer Olympics, with great success.
In Ancient Greek, the name of Athens was Ἀθῆναι atʰɛ̑ːnaɪ, related tο name of the goddess Athena (Attic Ἀθηνᾶ [atʰɛːnȃː] and Ionic Ἀθήνη [atʰɛ́ːnɛː]). The city's name was in the plural, like those of Θῆβαι (Thēbai), Μυκῆναι (Mukēnai), and Δελφοί (Delphoi).
In the 19th century, Ἀθῆναι (Athinai / [aˈθinɛ]) was formally re-adopted as the city's name. Since the official abandonment of Katharevousa Greek in the 1970s, Αθήνα (Athína / [aˈθina]) has become the city's official name.
Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 3,000 years. Classical Athens became the leading city of ancient Greece in the 5th century BC, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations of Western civilization. During the Middle Ages, the city experienced decline and then recovery under the Byzantine Empire, and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade; after a long period of decline under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Athens re-emerged in the 19th century as the capital of the independent Greek state, and in 1896 hosted the first modern Olympic Games. In the 1920s a number of Greek refugees, expelled from Asia Minor after the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), swelled Athens' population; nevertheless it was most particularly following the Second World War, and from the 1950s and 1960s, that the population of the city exploded, and Athens experienced a gradual expansion in all directions. In the 1980s it became evident that smog from factories and an ever increasing fleet of automobiles, as well as a lack of adequate free space due to overcongestion, had evolved into the city's most important challenges. A series of anti-pollution measures taken by the city's authorities in the 1990s, combined with a substantial improvement of the city's infrastructure (including the Attiki Odos motorway, the expansion of the Athens Metro, and the new Athens International Airport), alleviated pollution considerably and transformed Athens into a much more functional city.
Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica, often referred to as the Attica Basin which is bound by Mount Aegaleo in the west, Mount Parnitha in the north, Mount Penteli in the northeast, Mount Hymettus in the east, and the Saronic Gulf in the southwest. Mount Parnitha is the tallest of the city and has been declared a national park. Well-marked paths, gorges, springs, torrents and caves dot the area. Hiking and mountain-biking in all four mountains remain popular outdoor activities for many residents. The capital has expanded to cover the entire plain, making future growth difficult. The geomorphology of Athens causes the so-called temperature inversion phenomenon, and along with the failure of the Greek Government to control industrial pollution is responsible for the air pollution problems the city has recently faced. (Los Angeles and Mexico City also suffer with similar geomorphology inversion problems). The pollution of Athens was at one point so destructive, that according to the then Greek Minister of Culture, Constantine Trypanis, the carved details on the five caryatids of the Erechtheum have seriously degenerated, while the face of the horseman on the Parthenon's west side is all but obliterated. A series of strict measures then taken by the authorities of the city throughout the 1990s resulted in a dramatic improvement of air quality; the appearance of smog (or nefos as the Athenians used to call it) has become an increasingly rare phenomenon.
Athens enjoys a typical mediterranean climate, with the greatest amounts of precipitation mainly occurring from mid-October to mid-April; any precipitation is sparse during summer and falls generally in the form of showers and/or thunderstorms. Due to its location in a strong rain shadow because of Mount Parnitha, however, the Athenian climate is much drier compared to most of the rest of Mediterranean Europe. The mountainous northern suburbs, for their part, experience a somewhat differentiated climatic pattern, with generally lower temperatures and more substantial snowfalls during winter. Fog is highly unusual in the city centre but it is more frequent to the east, behind the Hymettus mountain range.
Snowfalls occur almost on a yearly basis, though these do not normally lead to significant, if any, disruption. Nonetheless, the city has experienced its share of heavy snowfalls, not least in the past decade. During the blizzards of March 1987; February 1992; 4 January-6, 2002; 12 February-13, 2004 and 16 February-18, 2008, snow blanketed large parts of the metropolitan area, causing havoc across much of the city.
Spring and fall (autumn) are considered ideal seasons for sightseeing and all kinds of outdoor activities. Summers can be particularly hot and at times prone to smog and pollution related conditions (however, much less so than in the past). The average daytime maximum temperature for the month of July is and heatwaves are relatively common, occurring generally during the months of July and/or August, when hot air masses sweep across Greece from the south or the southwest. On such days temperatures soar over .
The all-time high temperatures for the metropolitan area of Athens of were recorded in Elefsina, a suburb of Athens. The respective low-temperature record is , recorded at Nea Filadelfia. During the February 2004 blizzard (one of the worst snowstorms ever to hit the city), temperatures plummeted to at the University Campus, and at the meteorological station of the National Observatory of Athens, in Penteli.
Although air pollution remains to some degree an issue for Athens, particularly on the hottest summer days, widespread measures taken by the Greek authorities throughout the 1990s have effectively improved air quality. In late June 2007, the Attica region experienced a number of brush fires, including one that burned a significant portion of a large forested national park in Mount Parnitha, which is considered critical to maintaining a better air quality in Athens all year round. Damage to the park has led to worries over a stalling in the improvement of air quality in the city.
The major waste management efforts undertaken in the last decade (especially the plant built on the small island of Psytalia) have improved water quality in the Saronic Gulf, and the coastal waters of Athens are now accessible again to swimmers. In January 2007, Athens briefly faced a waste management problem when its landfill near Ano Liosia, an Athenian suburb, reached capacity. The crisis eased by mid-January when authorities began taking the garbage to a temporary landfill.
Athens is located within the Attica Periphery, which encompasses the most populated region of Greece, with around 3.7 million people. The Attica Periphery itself is split into four prefectures; they include the Athens Prefecture, Piraeus Prefecture, West Attica Prefecture, and the East Attica Prefecture. It is, however, one of the smaller peripheries in Greece, with an area of .
The modern city of Athens consists of what was once a conglomeration of distinct towns and villages that gradually expanded and merged into a single large metropolis; most of this expansion occurred during the second half of the 20th century. The Greater Athens area is now divided into 55 municipalities, the largest of which is the Municipality of Athens or Dimos Athinaion, with a population of 745,514 people.
Dora Bakoyanni, of the conservative New Democracy party, was Mayor of Athens from 1 January 2003 until 15 February 2006, when she joined the Greek cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs. During her tenure, she had been the 76th Mayor of Athens, and the first female ever to hold that post in the city's history; later replaced by Theodoros Behrakis. The next municipal elections took place in October 2006, at which time Nikitas Kaklamanis took over as the city's mayor.
The Municipality of Athens is divided into seven municipal districts, or demotika diamerismata. The 7-district division is mainly used for administrative purposes. For Athenians the most popular way of dividing the city proper is through its neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct history and characteristics. Those include Pangrati, Ambelokipi, Exarcheia, Ano Patissia, Kato Patissia, Ilissia, Ano and Kato Petralona, Mets, Koukaki and Kypseli, the world's second most densely populated urban area. For a traveller unfamiliar with Athens, familiarity with the contours of these neighbourhoods can often be particularly useful in both exploring and understanding the city.
The municipality of Athens has an official population of 745,514 with a metropolitan population of 3.2 million (population including the suburbs). The actual population, however, is believed to be higher, because during census-taking (carried out once every 10 years) some Athenian residents travel back to their birthplaces, and register as local citizens there.
Reflecting this uncertainty about population figures, various sources refer to a population of around 5 million people for Athens. Also unaccounted for is an undefined number of unregistered immigrants originating mainly from Albania and other Eastern European countries.
The ancient site of the city is centred on the rocky hill of the acropolis. In ancient times the port of Piraeus was a separate city, but it has now been absorbed into greater Athens. The rapid expansion of the city initiated in the 1950s and 1960s continues today, because of the transition from an agricultural to an industrial nation. The expansion is now particularly toward the East and North East (a tendency greatly related to the new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport and the Attiki Odos, the freeway that cuts across Attica). By this process Athens has engulfed many former suburbs and villages in Attica, and continues to do so. Throughout its long history, Athens has experienced many different population levels. The table below shows the historical population of Athens in recent times.
|Year||City population||Urban population||Metro population|
|1921 (Pre-Population exchange)||473,000||-||-|
|1921 (Post-Population exchange)||718,000||-||-|
The city is one of the world's main centres of archaeological research. Apart from national institutions, such as Athens University, the Archaeological Society, several archaeological Museums (including the National Archaeological Museum, the Cycladic Museum, the Epigraphic Museum, the Byzantine Museum, as well as museums at the ancient Agora, Acropolis, and Kerameikos), the city is also home to the Demokritos laboratory for Archaeometry as well as several regional and national archaeological authorities that form part of the Greek Department of Culture. Additionally, Athens hosts 17 Foreign Archaeological Institutes which promote and facilitate research by scholars from their respective home countries. As a result, Athens has more than a dozen archaeological libraries and three specialized archaeological laboratories, and is the venue of several hundred specialized lectures, conferences and seminars, as well as dozens of archaeological exhibitions, per year. At any given time, Athens is the (temporary) home to hundreds of international scholars and researchers in all disciplines of archaeology.
Athens has twice played host to the summer Olympic Games: in 1896 and in 2004. The 2004 Summer Olympics inspired the development of the Athens Olympic Stadium, which has gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful in the world. The city has also hosted the UEFA Champions League final twice, in 1994 and in 2007, at the Athens Olympic Stadium and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in 1971 at the Karaiskákis Stadium, a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex. Athens has also hosted two Euroleague final fours, the first in 1993 at Peace and Friendship Stadium and the second in 2007 at the Athens Olympic Indoor Hall, alongside several competitions in other sports.
The Athens area encompasses a variety of terrain, notably hills and mountains rising around the metropolis, and the capital is the only major city in Europe to be bisected by a mountain range. Four mountain ranges extend into city boundaries, and thousands of miles of trails crisscross the city and neighbouring areas, providing exercise and wilderness access on foot, bike, or horse. Beyond Athens and across the county a great variety of outdoor activities are available and popular, including skiing, rock climbing, hang gliding and windsurfing. Numerous outdoor clubs serve these sports, including the Athens Chapter of the Sierra Club, which leads over 4,000 outings annually in the area.
|Panathinaikos FC||Football||1908||Super League Greece||Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium|
|AEK Athens FC||Football||1924||Super League Greece||Athens Olympic Stadium|
|Olympiacos FC||Football||1925||Super League Greece||Karaiskákis Stadium|
|Panionios||Football||1890||Super League Greece||Nea Smyrni Stadium|
|Atromitos||Football||1950||Super League Greece||Peristeri Stadium|
|Panathinaikos BC||Basketball||1922||A1 Ethniki||Athens Olympic Indoor Hall|
|AEK Athens BC||Basketball||1928||A1 Ethniki||Athens Olympic Indoor Hall|
|Olympiacos BC||Basketball||1925||A1 Ethniki||Peace and Friendship Stadium|
|Panellinios||Basketball||1891||A1 Ethniki||Panellinios Indoor Hall|
|Panionios BC||Basketball||1890||A1 Ethniki||Helliniko Arena|
|Maroussi BC||Basketball||1970||A1 Ethniki||Maroussi Indoor Hall|
|Panathinaikos VC||Volleyball||1919||A1 Ethniki||Glyfada Indoor Hall|
|Olympiacos SC||Volleyball||1930||A1 Ethniki||Rendis Indoor Hall|
|AEK Athens VC||Volleyball||1967||A1 Ethniki||Nea Filadelfia Indoor Hall|
|Panellinios||Volleyball||A1 Ethniki||Panellinios Indoor Hall|
|Olympiacos WPC||Water polo||A1 Ethniki||Papastrateio Indoo Hall|
|Ethnikos Piraeus||Water polo||A1 Ethniki||Papastrateio Hall|
|Panathinaikos||Water Polo||A1 Ethniki||Athens Olympic Aquatic Centre|
|Panionios||Water polo||A1 Ethniki||Nea Smyrni Hall|
|Vouliagmeni||Water polo||1937||A1 Ethniki||Vouliagmeni Hall|
|Spartakos Glyfadas||Baseball||1990||National Baseball League||Helliniko Baseball Centre|
|Maroussi 2004||Baseball||1990||National Baseball League||Helliniko Baseball Centre|
|Athinaikos||Handball||1927||National Handball League||Helliniko Arena|
|Athens Rugby||Rugby||1990||National Rugby League||Athens Olympic Stadium|
|Starbucks Rugby||Rugby||1983||National Rugby League||Athens Olympic Stadium|
Athens is a melting pot of many different architectural styles, ranging from Greco-Roman, Neo-Classical, to modern. Many of the most prominent buildings of the city are either Greco-Roman or neo-classical in style. Some of the neo-classical buildings to be found are public buildings erected during the mid-nineteenth century under the guidance of Theophil Freiherr von Hansen:
The Athens Metropolitan Area consists of 73 densely populated municipalities, sprawling around the city in virtually all directions. According to their geographic location in relation to the city of Athens, the suburbs are divided into four zones; the northern suburbs (including Ekali, Nea Erythrea, Agios Stefanos, Drosia, Kryoneri, Kifissia, Maroussi, Pefki, Lykovrisi, Heraklio, Glyka Nera, Vrilissia, Melissia, Pendeli, Halandri, Psychiko and Filothei); the southern suburbs, (including Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Glyfada, Alimos, Voula and the southernmost suburb of Vouliagmeni); the eastern suburbs, (including Zografou, Vyronas, Kaisariani, Cholargos, Papagou and Aghia Paraskevi; and the western suburbs (including Peristeri, Ilion, Egaleo, Petroupoli and Nikaia). The northern and most of the southern suburbs are particularly affluent districts, inhabited primarily by middle-to-high and high income groups. The western suburbs are primarily resided in by middle income earners, with some areas resided in by middle-to-low income groups and still others by middle-to-high earners; while the eastern suburbs are primarily inhabited by middle and middle-to-high income groups.
The Athens city coastline, extending from the major commercial port of Piraeus to the southernmost suburb of Varkiza for some , is also connected to the city centre by a tram (which, although modern, can be slow during rush hour), and is punctuated by a string of popular restaurants, cafes, vibrant music venues and modern sports facilities. The area is particularly packed with fashionable bars and nightclubs, that are literally crowded by the city's youth on a daily basis. Above all during the summer months, the elegant coastal suburbs of Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni host countless such meeting-points, continuing the length of Poseidonos Avenue and Alkyonidon Avenue.
The Mall Athens is a massive mall located in the northern suburb of Maroussi, providing an array of outlets. Nearby, the entirely new attraction of the massively upgraded main Olympic Complex (known by its Greek acronym OAKA) dominates the skyline. The whole area has been redeveloped according to a design by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, with steel arches, landscaped gardens, fountains, futuristic glass, and a landmark new blue glass roof which was added to the main stadium. A second Olympic complex, next to the sea at the beach of Kallithea (Faliron), also features modern stadia, shops and an elevated esplanade. Work is underway to transform the grounds of the old Athens Airport - named Hellinikon - in the southern suburbs, into one of the largest landscaped parks in Europe, to be named the Hellenikon Metropolitan Park.
Many of the southern suburbs (such as Alimos, Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Voula, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza) host a number of sandy beaches, most of which are operated by the Greek National Tourism Organisation and require an entrance fee, which is not excessive in most cases. Casinos operate on both Mount Parnitha, some from downtown Athens, (accessible by car or cable car) and the nearby town of Loutraki (accessible by car via the Athens - Corinth National Highway, or the suburban railroad).
Large parts of the city centre have been redeveloped under a masterplan called Unification of Archeological Sites of Athens, which has also gathered funding from the EU to help enhance the project. Most strikingly, the landmark Dionysiou Aeropagitou street has been pedestrianised, forming a scenic route. The route starts from the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, continues under the southern slopes of the Acropolis near Plaka, and finishes just beyond the Temple of Hephaestus in Thiseio. The route in its entirety provides visitors with views of the Parthenon and the Agora (the meeting point of ancient Athenians), away from the busy city centre.
The Athens Metro is more commonly known in Greece as the Attiko Metro (Αττικό Mετρό). While its main purpose is transport, it also houses Greek artifacts found during construction of the subway. The Athens Metro supports an operating staff of 387 and runs two of the three metro lines; its two lines (red and blue) were constructed largely during the 1990s, and the initial sections opened in January 2000, and the lines run entirely underground. The metro network operates a fleet of 42 trains consisting of 252 cars, with a daily occupancy of 550,000 passengers. The Blue Line runs from the western suburbs, namely the Egaleo station, through the central Monastiraki and Syntagma stations to Doukissis Plakentias avenue in the northeastern suburb of Halandri, covering a distance of , then ascending to ground level and reaching Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, using the Suburban Railway infrastructure and extending its distance to . The Red Line, in counterpart, runs from Aghios Antonios to Aghios Dimitrios and covers a distance of . Extensions to both these lines are under construction, most notably westwards to Piraeus, southwards to the Old Hellinikon Airport East Terminal (the future Metropolitan Park), and eastward toward the easternmost suburb of Aghia Paraskevi. The eastern part is actually no extension per se, but rather an opening of new stations between the Ethniki Amyna and Doukissis Plakentias stations. The spring 2007 extension from Monastiraki westwards, to Egaleo, connected some of the main night life hubs of the city, namely the ones of Gazi (Kerameikos station) with Psyrri (Monastiraki station) and the city centre (Syntagma station).
The third line, not run by the Athens Metro, is the ISAP (ΗΣΑΠ), the Electric Railway Company. This is the Green line of the Athens Metro as shown on the adjacent map, and unlike the red and blue routes running entirely underground, ISAP runs either above-ground or below-ground at different sections of its journey. This same operation runs the original metro line from Piraeus to Kifisia; it serves 22 stations, with a network length of , an operating staff of 730 and a fleet of 44 trains and 243 cars, and a daily occupancy rate of 600,000 passengers. The historic Green Line, a -long and 24-station line which forms the oldest and for the most part runs at ground level, connects the port of Piraeus to the northern suburb of Kifissia, and is set to be extended to Agios Stefanos, a suburb located to the north of the city centre, reaching to .
The service operated under Ethel (ΕΘΕΛ) Thermal Bus Company is the main operator of buses in Athens. It consists of a network of 300 bus lines which span the entire Attica Basin, with an operating staff of 5,327, and a fleet of 1,839 buses. Of those 1,839 buses 295 run on natural gas, making up the largest fleet of natural gas-run buses in Europe.
Besides being served by a fleet of natural-gas and normal buses, the Athens metropolitan area is also serviced by electric buses, or ILPAP, as the service is known in Athens (ΗΛΠΑΠ). The Electric Buses of the Athens and Pireaus Region (ILPAP) consists of 22 lines and an operating staff of 1,137, and the network operates a fleet of 366 trolley buses able to run on diesel in case of power failure.
Athens is served by the state-of-the-art Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (AIA) located near the town of Spata, in the eastern Messoghia plain, some east of Athens. The airport was awarded the "European Airport of the Year 2004" Award. Intended as an expandable hub for air travel in southeastern Europe, it was constructed in a record 51 months costing 2.2 billion euros, and employing a staff of 14,000. An express bus service is provided, connecting the airport to the metro system, and 2 express bus services connect the airport to the port at Piraeus and the city centre respectively. Eleftherios Venizelos accommodates 65 landings and take-offs per hour, with its 24 passenger boarding bridges, 144 check-in counters and broader main terminal, and a commercial area of which includes cafes and duty-free shops. In 2007, the airport handled 16,538,390 passengers, an increase of 9.7% over the previous year of 2006. Of those 16,538,390 passengers, 5,955,387 passed through the airport for domestic flights, and 10,583,003 passengers travelled through for international flights. Beyond the dimensions of its passenger capacity, AIA handled 205,294 total flights in 2007, or approximately 562 flights per day.
Athens is the hub of the country's national railway system (OSE), connecting the capital with major cities across Greece and abroad (Istanbul, Sofia, and beyond). However, this system is not very extensive, due largely to geomorphological factors. Ferries departing from the major port of Piraeus connect the city to the numerous Greek islands of the Aegean Sea. There are two main highways; one heading towards the western city of Patra in Peloponessus (GR-8A, E94) and the other heading to the north, towards Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki (GR-1, E75). In 2001-2004, a ring road toll-motorway (Attiki Odos) was gradually completed, extending from the western industrial suburb of Elefsina all the way to the Athens International Airport. The Ymittos Periphery Highway is a separate section of Attiki Odos connecting the eastern suburb of Kaisariani to the northeastern town of Glyka Nera; this is where it meets the main part of the ring road. The span of the Attiki Odos in all is 70 km.
1896 brought forth the revival of the modern Olympic Games, by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin. Thanks to his efforts, Athens was awarded the first modern Olympic Games. In 1896, the city had an approximate population of 123,000 and the event helped boost the city's international profile. Of the venues used for these Olympics, the Kallimarmaro Stadium, and Zappeion were most crucial. It was to be more than 100 years before the city would restage the event.
Athens was awarded the 2004 Summer Olympics on 5 September 1997 in Lausanne, Switzerland, after having lost a previous bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics, to Atlanta, United States. It was to be the second time Athens would have the honour of hosting the games, following the inaugural event of 1896. After 1990's unsuccessful bid, the 1997 bid was radically improved also including an appeal to Greece's Olympic history. In the last round of voting, Athens defeated Rome with 66 votes to 41. Prior to this round, the cities of Buenos Aires, Stockholm and Cape Town had already been eliminated from competition, having received fewer votes.
During the first three years of preparations, the International Olympic Committee had repeatedly expressed some concern over the speed of construction progress for some of the new Olympic venues. In 2000 the Organising Committee's president was replaced by Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who was the president of the original Bidding Committee in 1997. From that point on, preparations continued at a highly accelerated, almost frenzied pace.
Although the heavy cost was criticized, estimated at $1.5 billion, as is usually the case with most Olympic cities, Athens was literally transformed into a more functional city that enjoys state-of-the-art technology both in transportation and in modern urban development. Some of the finest sporting venues in the world were created in the city, all of which were fully ready for the games. The games welcomed over 10,000 athletes from all 202 countries. The 2004 Games were judged a huge success, as both security and organization were exceptionally good, and only a few visitors reported minor problems mainly concerning accommodation issues. The 2004 Olympic Games were described as Unforgettable, dream Games, by IOC President Jacques Rogge for their return to the birthplace of the Olympics, and for superbly meeting the challenges of holding the Olympic Games. The only observable problem was a somewhat sparse attendance of some early events. Eventually, however, a total of more than 3.5 million tickets were sold, which was higher than any other Olympics with the exception of Sydney (more than 5 million tickets were sold there in 2000).
In 2008 it was reported that almost all of the Olympic venues utilised for the 2004 games have fallen into a severe state of disrepair, with 21 of 22 facilities either abandoned or in various states of dereliction, causing an ongoing political scandal in Greece and acting as a warning sign for future games.