It's no wonder that all roads lead to the fascinating and maddening metropolis of Athens. Lift your eyes 200 feet above the city to the Parthenon, its honey-color marble columns rising from a massive limestone base, and you behold architectural perfection that has not been surpassed in 2,500 years. But, today, this shrine of classical form dominates a 21st-century boomtown. To experience Athens—Athína in Greek—fully is to understand the essence of Greece: ancient monuments surviving in a sea of cement, startling beauty amid the squalor, tradition juxtaposed with modernity. Locals depend on humor and flexibility to deal with the chaos; you should do the same. The rewards are immense.
- The Acropolis A beacon of bygone glory rising above Athens's smog, this iconic citadel represents everything the Athenians were and still aspire to be.
- Evzones on Syntagma Square Unmistakable in tasseled hats and pom-pom shoes, Evzones act out a traditional changing of the guard that falls somewhere between discipline and comedy.
- The Ancient Agora and Monastiraki Socrates and Plato once discoursed at the Agora, and today you can do the same at the nearby Monastiraki marketplace.
- Opa! Whether jamming to post-Grunge in Gazi-Kerameikos—Athens's Greenwich Village—or dirty dancing on the tables at live bouzoukia clubs, the Athenians party like no one else.
- Benaki Bounty Housed in a neoclassic mansion, the Benaki Museum—Greece's oldest private collection—has everything from ancient sculpture to modern art.