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attica Athens cradle of

attica Athens cradle of civi Photo: Y. Skoulas monuments museums Kerameikos cemetery with all six sites spruced up, the ancient structures conserved and restored to a degree. No trip to Athens would be complete without a visit to the sacred rock of the Acropolis, an obvious choice for a fortress and sanctuary in ancient times. Located at the entrance of the the network of pedestrian walkways at less than 1,000 feet southeast of the Parthenon, the New Acropolis Museum houses the most dramatic sculptures of Greek antiquity. Providing 14,000 square meters of exhibition space, the glasssteel-cement building - designed by New York-based architect Bernard Tschumi – provides a permanent home to approximately 4,000 artifacts, archaeological treasures from the rock of the Acropolis. According to the National Statistical Service of Greece, the number of visitors to Greek museums jumped by 41 per cent in 2009, a hike largely due to the opening of the new Acropolis museum, a major pole of attraction that brought in over 800,000 people. Athens boasts over 50 museums, including the National Archaeological Museum that houses more masterpieces of ancient art than any other in the world, with exhibits spanning some 7,000 years. The Benaki Museum, the Byzantine Museum and the National Gallery are well worth a visit. Not far from the capital, there are many attractions in Attica that are ideal destinations for leisurely day trips. Popular destinations include the 11th-century Kaisariani Monastery, the battleground, tomb and museum at Marathon, the archaeological site of Ramnous and the splendid Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. People & Lifestyle Gregarious, hospitable and relaxed, Athenians enjoy life to the full. As in any other major city, the visitor will come across people from all walks of life, most of whom are very friendly and willing to offer assistance. Late at night, people are out all over the city, and this is one of the first things that strikes visitors. The excellent climate allows Athenians to indulge in their favourite pastime - socialising outdoors nearly all the year round. All over the city there are coffee shops and snack bars ranging from very basic to very chic. Visitors will be surprised and charmed by the energy with which Athenians engage in conversation about politics, football and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, philosophy. Cultural Events Cultural events including dance and theatre, recitals, concerts, international trade shows, conferences and symposia, public lectures, gallery exhibits, sports events and marathons are an integral part of life in this bustling cosmopolitan capital. On any summer night there are outdoor concerts from popular rocks stars to classical music, ballet, Byzantine music, the Acropolis sound and Light and the Dora Stratou Dancers. Built in 161 BC, the Odeon of Herod Atticus at the foot 24

ization Photo: Y. Skoulas of the Acropolis can accommodate up to 5000 spectators, providing one of the most important open-air venues for staging the annual Athens Festival which features music concerts and dance troupes from around the world. Superb performances of ancient and modern drama are staged at the Herod Atticus Theatre. The National Theatre of Greece stages drama performances in modern Greek with English translations provided. Undoubtedly the pride and joy of the city's cultural life, the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) comprises a modern theatre, concert and conference hall with spacious reception areas, exhibition space and a 500-seat recital hall. The Megaron Hall is a 2,000-seat auditorium hosting operatic, dance and drama performances almost daily. Perched high on its namesake hill in the centre of the city, the 4,000-seat openair Lycabettus amphitheatre hosts a variety of concerts by contemporary jazz and pop artists, as well as chamber orchestras, mainly during the summer. The open-air Dora Stratou Theatre on Filopappou Hill provides the venue for traditional Greek dances performed by the internationally acclaimed company from May to September. Natural Environment The city's mild climatic conditions and its privileged location offer visitors the pleasures of enjoying both the sea and the nearby mountains. Numerous blueflag awarded sandy beaches can be easily reached from the centre of Athens by bus, taxi or car. Mt. Hymettus and Mt. Parnes offer excellent walks and hikes. Famous in ancient times for its marble and honey, Mt. Hymettus is also the site of the enchanting 'Koutouki' cave with its marvellous stalactites and stalagmites. Visitors to Mt. Parnes may be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of wild deer that still roam parts of the pine- and fir-clad mountain. Sports & Leisure In the past two decades sports in Greece went through a major revival with a large number of modern sports facilities constructed in and around the capital. Nevertheless, the city's sports infrastructure has seen great improvements as a result of the 2004 Olympic Games that were hosted in Athens. In addition to the existing plethora of sports facilities, one big sports complex was built for the Olympics 2004, where judo and fencing were hosted. It is located on the site of a former horse racetrack at Faliron Bay and its post-Olympic use is that of a state-of-the-art conference centre. The coastal Aghios Kosmas National Youth Athletic Centre, a 78-hectare area that superbly hosted the 2004 Olympics sailing event, has undergone extensive improvements with upgrades including an expansion of the centres housing up to 204 beds. The nearly 20-year-old Athens Olympic Sports complex in the northern Athens suburb of Maroussi, including a 75000-seat Olympic Stadium, has also been upgraded. For golf aficionados there is an 18-hole golf course at the affluent seaside suburb of Sports & Leisure 25

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