Athens ( ATH-inz; Greek: Αθήνα, romanized: Athína [aˈθina] (); Ancient Greek: Ἀθῆναι, romanized: Athênai (pl.) [atʰɛ̂ːnai̯]) is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence started somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.
Classical Athens was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the seagoing development of the port of Piraeus. A center for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent, and in particular the Romans. In modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece.
Athens is a global city and one of the biggest economic centers in southeastern Europe. It has a large financial sector, and its port Piraeus is both the largest passenger port in Europe, and the second largest in the world. The Municipality of Athens (also City of Athens), which actually constitutes a small administrative unit of the entire city, had a population of 664,046 (in 2011) within its official limits, and a land area of 38.96 km2 (15.04 sq mi). The urban area of Athens (Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus) extends beyond its administrative municipal city limits, with a population of 3,090,508 (in 2011) over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi). According to Eurostat in 2011, the functional urban area (FUA) of Athens was the 9th most populous FUA in the European Union (the 6th most populous capital city of the EU), with a population of 3.8 million people. Athens is also the southernmost capital on the European mainland and the warmest major city in Europe.
The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of Ottoman monuments. Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1834, include the Hellenic Parliament and the so-called "architectural trilogy of Athens", consisting of the National Library of Greece, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Academy of Athens. Athens is also home to several museums and cultural institutions, such as the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world's largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum. 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, making it one of only a handful of cities to have hosted the Olympics more than once.
In Ancient Greek, the name of the city was Ἀθῆναι (Athênai, pronounced [atʰɛ̂ːnai̯] in Classical Attic) a plural. In earlier Greek, such as Homeric Greek, the name had been current in the singular form though, as Ἀθήνη (Athḗnē). It was possibly rendered in the plural later on, like those of Θῆβαι (Thêbai) and Μυκῆναι (Μukênai). The root of the word is probably not of Greek or Indo-European origin, and is possibly a remnant of the Pre-Greek substrate of Attica. In antiquity, it was debated whether Athens took its name from its patron goddess Athena (Attic Ἀθηνᾶ, Athēnâ, Ionic Ἀθήνη, Athḗnē, and Doric Ἀθάνα, Athā́nā) or Athena took her name from the city. Modern scholars now generally agree that the goddess takes her name from the city, because the ending -ene is common in names of locations, but rare for personal names. During the medieval period, the name of the city was rendered once again in the singular as Ἀθήνα. However, after the establishment of the modern Greek state, and partly due to the conservatism of the written language, Ἀθῆναι [aˈθine] became again the official name of the city and remained so until the abandonment of Katharevousa in the 1970s, when Ἀθήνα, Athína, became the official name.
According to the ancient Athenian founding myth, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, competed against Poseidon, the God of the Seas, for patronage of the yet-unnamed city; they agreed that whoever gave the Athenians the better gift would become their patron and appointed Cecrops, the king of Athens, as the judge. According to the account given by Pseudo-Apollodorus, Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a salt water spring welled up. In an alternative version of the myth from Vergil's Georgics, Poseidon instead gave the Athenians the first horse. In both versions, Athena offered the Athenians the first domesticated olive tree. Cecrops accepted this gift and declared Athena the patron goddess of Athens. 8 Different etymologies, now commonly rejected, were proposed during the 17th century. Christian Lobeck proposed as the root of the name the word ἄθος (áthos) or ἄνθος (ánthos) meaning "flower", to denote Athens as the "flowering city". Ludwig von Döderlein proposed the stem of the verb θάω, stem θη- (tháō, thē-, "to suck") to denote Athens as having fertile soil.
In classical literature, the city was sometimes referred to as the City of the Violet Crown, first documented in Pindar's ἰοστέφανοι Ἀθᾶναι (iostéphanoi Athânai), or as τὸ κλεινὸν ἄστυ (tò kleinòn ásty, "the glorious city"). In medieval texts, variant names include Setines, Satine, and Astines, all derivations involving false splitting of prepositional phrases. Today the caption η πρωτεύουσα (ī protévousa), "the capital", has become somewhat common. King Alphonse X of Castile in his 'General Storia' (Global History) cites etymology of Athens as: 'Athinai', 'the one without death', death here meaning ignorance.
The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist, which has been dated to between the 11th and 7th millennia BC. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 5,000 years. By 1400 BC the settlement had become an important centre of the Mycenaean civilization and the Acropolis was the site of a major Mycenaean fortress, whose remains can be recognised from sections of the characteristic Cyclopean walls. Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, it is not known whether Athens suffered destruction in about 1200 BC, an event often attributed to a Dorian invasion, and the Athenians always maintained that they were pure Ionians with no Dorian element. However, Athens, like many other Bronze Age settlements, went into economic decline for around 150 years afterwards.
Iron Age burials, in the Kerameikos and other locations, are often richly provided for and demonstrate that from 900 BC onwards Athens was one of the leading centres of trade and prosperity in the region. The leading position of Athens may well have resulted from its central location in the Greek world, its secure stronghold on the Acropolis and its access to the sea, which gave it a natural advantage over inland rivals such as Thebes and Sparta.
By the 6th century BC, widespread social unrest led to the reforms of Solon. These would pave the way for the eventual introduction of democracy by Cleisthenes in 508 BC. Athens had by this time become a significant naval power with a large fleet, and helped the rebellion of the Ionian cities against Persian rule. In the ensuing Greco-Persian Wars Athens, together with Sparta, led the coalition of Greek states that would eventually repel the Persians, defeating them decisively at Marathon in 490 BC, and crucially at Salamis in 480 BC. However, this did not prevent Athens from being captured and sacked twice by the Persians within one year, after a heroic but ultimately failed resistance at Thermopylae by Spartans and other Greeks led by King Leonidas, after both Boeotia and Attica fell to the Persians.
The decades that followed became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy, during which time Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations for Western civilization. The playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides flourished in Athens during this time, as did the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates. Guided by Pericles, who promoted the arts and fostered democracy, Athens embarked on an ambitious building program that saw the construction of the Acropolis of Athens (including the Parthenon), as well as empire-building via the Delian League. Originally intended as an association of Greek city-states to continue the fight against the Persians, the league soon turned into a vehicle for Athens's own imperial ambitions. The resulting tensions brought about the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), in which Athens was defeated by its rival Sparta.
By the mid-4th century BC, the northern Greek kingdom of Macedon was becoming dominant in Athenian affairs. In 338 BC the armies of Philip II defeated an alliance of some of the Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively ending Athenian independence. Later, under Rome, Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools. The Roman emperor Hadrian, in the 2nd century CE, ordered the construction of a library, a gymnasium, an aqueduct which is still in use, several temples and sanctuaries, a bridge and financed the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
By the end of Late Antiquity, Athens had shrunk due to sacks by the Herulians, Visigoths, and Early Slavs which caused massive destruction in the city. In this era, the first Christian churches were built in Athens, and the Parthenon and other temples were converted into churches. Athens expanded its settlement in the second half of the Middle Byzantine Period, in the 9th to 10th centuries CE, and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade. After the Fourth Crusade the Duchy of Athens was established. In 1458 it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and entered a long period of decline.
Following the Greek War of Independence and the establishment of the Greek Kingdom, Athens was chosen as the capital of the newly independent Greek state in 1834, largely because of historical and sentimental reasons. At the time, it was reduced to a town of about 4,000 people in a loose swarm of houses along the foot of the Acropolis. The first King of Greece, Otto of Bavaria, commissioned the architects Stamatios Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert to design a modern city plan fit for the capital of a state.
The first modern city plan consisted of a triangle defined by the Acropolis, the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos and the new palace of the Bavarian king (now housing the Greek Parliament), so as to highlight the continuity between modern and ancient Athens. Neoclassicism, the international style of this epoch, was the architectural style through which Bavarian, French and Greek architects such as Hansen, Klenze, Boulanger or Kaftantzoglou designed the first important public buildings of the new capital. In 1896, Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games. During the 1920s a number of Greek refugees, expelled from Asia Minor after the Greco-Turkish War, swelled Athens's population; nevertheless it was most particularly following World War II, and from the 1950s and 1960s, that the population of the city exploded, and Athens experienced a gradual expansion.
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 congestion, had evolved into the city's most important challenge. 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), considerably alleviated pollution and transformed Athens into a much more functional city. In 2004 Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Athens sprawls across the central plain of Attica that is often referred to as the Athens or Attica Basin (Greek: Λεκανοπέδιο Αττικής). The basin is bounded by four large mountains: Mount Aigaleo to the west, Mount Parnitha to the north, Mount Pentelicus to the northeast and Mount Hymettus to the east. Beyond Mount Aegaleo lies the Thriasian plain, which forms an extension of the central plain to the west. The Saronic Gulf lies to the southwest. Mount Parnitha is the tallest of the four mountains (1,413 m (4,636 ft)), and has been declared a national park.
Athens is built around a number of hills. Lycabettus is one of the tallest hills of the city proper and provides a view of the entire Attica Basin. The meteorology of Athens is deemed to be one of the most complex in the world because its mountains cause a temperature inversion phenomenon which, along with the Greek Government's difficulties controlling industrial pollution, was responsible for the air pollution problems the city has faced. This issue is not unique to Athens; for instance, Los Angeles and Mexico City also suffer from similar atmospheric inversion problems.
By the late 1970s, the pollution of Athens had become so destructive that according to the then Greek Minister of Culture, Constantine Trypanis, "...the carved details on the five the caryatids of the Erechtheum had seriously degenerated, while the face of the horseman on the Parthenon's west side was all but obliterated." A series of measures taken by the authorities of the city throughout the 1990s resulted in the improvement of air quality; the appearance of smog (or nefos as the Athenians used to call it) has become less common.
Measures taken by the Greek authorities throughout the 1990s have improved the quality of air over the Attica Basin. Nevertheless, air pollution still remains an issue for Athens, particularly during the hottest summer days. In late June 2007, the Attica region experienced a number of brush fires, including a blaze that burned a significant portion of a large forested national park in Mount Parnitha, 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 (particularly the plant built on the small island of Psytalia) have greatly improved water quality in the Saronic Gulf, and the coastal waters of Athens are now accessible again to swimmers. In January 2007, Athens 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 ranks in the lowest percentage for the risk on frequency and severity of terrorist attacks according to the EU Global Terrorism Database (EIU 2007-2016 calculations). The city also ranked 35th in Digital Security, 21st on Health Security, 29th on Infrastructure Security and 41st on Personal Security globally in a 2017 The Economist Intelligence Unit report. It also ranks as a very safe city (39th globally out of 162 cities overall) on the ranking of the safest and most dangerous countries. A 2019 crime index from Numbeo places Athens at 130th position, rating safer than Tampa, Florida or Dublin, Ireland. According to a Mercer 2019 Quality of Living Survey, Athens ranks 89th on the Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranking.
Athens has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa). The dominant feature of Athens’ climate is alternation between prolonged hot and dry summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall. With an average of 432 millimetres (17.0 in) of yearly precipitation, rainfall occurs largely between the months of October and April. July and August are the driest months when thunderstorms occur sparsely. Furthermore, some coastal areas of Athens, known as the Athens Riviera have a hot semi-arid climate (BSh) according to the climate atlas published by the Hellenic National Meteorological Service (H.N.M.S).
Owing to the rain shadow of the Pindus Mountains, annual precipitation of Athens is lower than most other parts of Greece, especially western Greece. As an example, Ioannina receives around 1,300 mm (51 in) per year, and Agrinio around 800 mm (31 in) per year. Daily average highs for July have been measured around 34 °C or 93 °F in downtown Athens, but some parts of the city may be even hotter for the higher density of buildings, such as the center, in particular, western areas due to a combination of industrialization and a number of natural factors, knowledge of which has existed since the mid-19th century.
Athens is affected by the urban heat island effect in some areas which is caused by human activity, altering its temperatures compared to the surrounding rural areas, and leaving detrimental effects on energy usage, expenditure for cooling, and health. The urban heat island of the city has also been found to be partially responsible for alterations of the climatological temperature time-series of specific Athens meteorological stations, because of its impact on the temperatures and the temperature trends recorded by some meteorological stations. On the other hand, specific meteorological stations, such as the National Garden station and Thiseio meteorological station, are less affected or do not experience the urban heat island.
Athens holds the World Meteorological Organization record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe, at 48.0 °C (118.4 °F), which was recorded in the Elefsina and Tatoi suburbs of Athens on 10 July 1977.
The municipality of Athens, the city centre of the Athens Urban Area, is divided into several districts: Omonoia, Syntagma, Exarcheia, Agios Nikolaos, Neapolis, Lykavittos, Lofos Strefi, Lofos Finopoulou, Lofos Filopappou, Pedion Areos, Metaxourgeio, Aghios Kostantinos, Larissa Station, Kerameikos, Psiri, Monastiraki, Gazi, Thission, Kapnikarea, Aghia Irini, Aerides, Anafiotika, Plaka, Acropolis, Pnyka, Makrygianni, Lofos Ardittou, Zappeion, Aghios Spyridon, Pangrati, Kolonaki, Dexameni, Evaggelismos, Gouva, Aghios Ioannis, Neos Kosmos, Koukaki, Kynosargous, Fix, Ano Petralona, Kato Petralona, Rouf, Votanikos, Profitis Daniil, Akadimia Platonos, Kolonos, Kolokynthou, Attikis Square, Lofos Skouze, Sepolia, Kypseli, Aghios Meletios, Nea Kypseli, Gyzi, Polygono, Ampelokipoi, Panormou-Gerokomeio, Pentagono, Ellinorosson, Nea Filothei, Ano Kypseli, Tourkovounia-Lofos Patatsou, Lofos Elikonos, Koliatsou, Thymarakia, Kato Patisia, Treis Gefyres, Aghios Eleftherios, Ano Patisia, Kypriadou, Menidi, Prompona, Aghios Panteleimonas, Pangrati, Goudi, Vyronas and Ilisia.
Parnitha National Park is punctuated by well-marked paths, gorges, springs, torrents and caves dotting the protected area. Hiking and mountain-biking in all four mountains are popular outdoor activities for residents of the city. The National Garden of Athens was completed in 1840 and is a green refuge of 15.5 hectares in the centre of the Greek capital. It is to be found between the Parliament and Zappeion buildings, the latter of which maintains its own garden of seven hectares.
Parts of the city centre have been redeveloped under a masterplan called the Unification of Archeological Sites of Athens, which has also gathered funding from the EU to help enhance the project. The landmark Dionysiou Areopagitou 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 hills of Athens also provide green space. Lycabettus, Philopappos hill and the area around it, including Pnyx and Ardettos hill, are planted with pines and other trees, with the character of a small forest rather than typical metropolitan parkland. Also to be found is the Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars) of 27.7 hectares, near the National Archaeological Museum.
Athens' largest zoo is the Attica Zoological Park, a 20-hectare (49-acre) private zoo located in the suburb of Spata. The zoo is home to around 2000 animals representing 400 species, and is open 365 days a year. Smaller zoos exist within public gardens or parks, such as the zoo within the National Garden of Athens.
The Athens Metropolitan Area consists of 58 densely populated municipalities, sprawling around the municipality of Athens (the city centre) in virtually all directions. For the Athenians, all the urban municipalities surrounding the city centre are called suburbs. According to their geographic location in relation to the City of Athens, the suburbs are divided into four zones; the northern suburbs (including Agios Stefanos, Dionysos, Ekali, Nea Erythraia, Kifissia, Maroussi, Pefki, Lykovrysi, Metamorfosi, Nea Ionia, Nea Filadelfeia, Irakleio, Vrilissia, Melissia, Penteli, Chalandri, Agia Paraskevi, Galatsi, Psychiko and Filothei); the southern suburbs (including Alimos, Nea Smyrni, Moschato, Kallithea, Agios Dimitrios, Palaio Faliro, Elliniko, Glyfada, Argyroupoli, Ilioupoli, Voula and Vouliagmeni); the eastern suburbs (including Zografou, Dafni, Vyronas, Kaisariani, Cholargos and Papagou); and the western suburbs (including Peristeri, Ilion, Egaleo, Koridallos, Agia Varvara, Chaidari, Petroupoli, Agioi Anargyroi and Kamatero).
In the northern suburb of Maroussi, the upgraded main Olympic Complex (known by its Greek acronym OAKA) dominates the skyline. The 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 Palaio Faliro, also features modern stadia, shops and an elevated esplanade. Work is underway to transform the grounds of the old Athens Airport – named Elliniko – 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, Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza) known as the Athens Riviera, host a number of sandy beaches, most of which are operated by the Greek National Tourism Organisation and require an entrance fee. Casinos operate on both Mount Parnitha, some 25 km (16 mi) 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 rail service Proastiakos).
The large City Centre of the Greek capital falls directly within the municipality of Athens, which is the largest in population size in Greece. Piraeus also forms a significant city centre on its own, within the Athens Urban Area and being the second largest in population size within it, with Peristeri, Kallithea and kypseli following.
The Athens Urban Area today consists of 40 municipalities, 35 of which make up what is referred to as the Greater Athens municipalities, located within 4 regional units (North Athens, West Athens, Central Athens, South Athens); and a further 5, which make up the Greater Piraeus municipalities, located within the regional unit of Piraeus as mentioned above. The densely built up urban area of the Greek capital sprawls across 412 km2 (159 sq mi) throughout the Attica Basin and has a total population of 3,074,160 (in 2011).
The Athens municipality forms the core and center of Greater Athens, which consists of the Athens municipality and 34 more municipalities, divided in four regional units (Central, North, South and West Athens), accounting for 2,641,511 people (in 2011) within an area of 361 km2 (139 sq mi). Until 2010, these four regional units made up the abolished Athens Prefecture. The municipality of Piraeus, the historic Athenian port, with its 4 suburban municipalities make up the regional unit of Piraeus, which in turn forms Greater Piraeus.
Greater Athens and Greater Piraeus with part of East and West Attica regional units combined make up the continuous built up Athens Urban Area (Greek: Πολεοδομικό Συγκρότημα Αθηνών), also called the Urban Area of the Capital (Greek: Πολεοδομικό Συγκρότημα Πρωτεύουσας) or simply Athens (the most common use of the term), spanning over 412 km2 (159 sq mi), with a population of 3,090,508 people as of 2011. The Athens Urban Area is considered to form the city of Athens as a whole, despite its administrative divisions, which is the largest in Greece and one of the most populated urban areas in Europe.
The Athens Metropolitan Area spans 2,928.717 km2 (1,131 sq mi) within the Attica region and includes a total of 58 municipalities, which are organized in seven regional units (those outlined above, along with East Attica and West Attica), having reached a population of 3,737,550 based on the preliminary results of the 2011 census. Athens and Piraeus municipalities serve as the two metropolitan centres of the Athens Metropolitan Area. There are also some inter-municipal centres serving specific areas. For example, Kifissia and Glyfada serve as inter-municipal centres for northern and southern suburbs respectively.
The municipality of Athens has an official population of 664,046 people. The four regional units that make up what is referred to as Greater Athens have a combined population of 2,640,701. They together with the regional unit of Piraeus (Greater Piraeus) make up the dense Athens Urban Area which reaches a total population of 3,090,508 inhabitants (in 2011). As Eurostat the FUA of Athens had in 2013 3,828,434 inhabitants, being apparently decreasing compared with the pre-economic crisis date of 2009 (4,164,175)
The municipality (City) of Athens is the most populous in Greece, with a population of 664,046 people (in 2011) and an area of 38.96 km2 (15.04 sq mi), forming the core of the Athens Urban Area within the Attica Basin. The incumbent Mayor of Athens is Kostas Bakoyannis of New Democracy. The municipality is divided into seven municipal districts which are mainly used for administrative purposes.
As of the 2011 census, the population for each of the seven municipal districts of Athens is as follows:
For the Athenians the most popular way of dividing the city proper is through its neighbourhoods such as Pagkrati, Ambelokipi, Exarcheia, Patissia, Ilissia, Petralona, Koukaki and Kypseli, each with its own distinct history and characteristics.
The Athens Metropolitan Area, with an area of 2,928.717 km2 (1,131 sq mi) and inhabited by 3,753,783 people in 2011, consists of the Athens Urban Area with the addition of the towns and villages of East and West Attica, which surround the dense urban area of the Greek capital. It actually sprawls over the whole peninsula of Attica, which is the best part of the region of Attica, excluding the islands.
Mycenean Athens in 1600–1100 BC could have reached the size of Tiryns; that would put the population at the range of 10,000–15,000. During the Greek Dark Ages the population of Athens was around 4,000 people. In 700 BC the population grew to 10,000. In 500 BC the area probably contained 200,000 people. During the classical period the city's population is estimated from 150,000–350,000 and up to 610,000 according to Thucydides. When Demetrius of Phalerum conducted a population census in 317 BC the population was 21,000 free citizens, plus 10,000 resident aliens and 400,000 slaves. This suggests a total population of 431,000. This figure is highly suspect because of the lopsided number of slaves and does not include free women and children and resident foreigners: an estimated based on Thucydides is: 40,000 male citizens, 100,000 family members, 70,000 metics (resident foreigners) and 150,000-400,000 slaves. However the numbers would include Attica and not just Athens the city.
The ancient site of Athens 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 the Athens Urban Area. The rapid expansion of the city, which continues to this day, was initiated in the 1950s and 1960s, because of Greece's 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. The table below shows the historical population of Athens in recent times.
Athens became the capital of Greece in 1834, following Nafplion, which was the provisional capital from 1829. The municipality (City) of Athens is also the capital of the Attica region. The term Athens can refer either to the municipality of Athens, to Greater Athens, or to the entire Athens Urban Area.
Athens is the financial capital of Greece. According to data from 2014, Athens as a metropolitan economic area produced 130 billion US-dollars as GDP in PPP, which consists nearly a half of the production for the whole country. In the list with the strongest economic metropoles of the world Athens was ranked that year 102nd, while the GDP per capita for the same year was 32,000 US-dollars.
Athens is one of the major economic centres in south-eastern Europe and is considered as a regional economic power in Europe generally. The port of Piraeus, where big investments by COSCO have already been delivered during the recent decade, the completion of the new Cargo Centre in Thriasion, the expansion of the Athens Metro and the Athens Tram, as well as the projected metropolitan park in Elliniko and other economic projects are the economic landmarks of the upcoming years.
Important Greek companies are Mytilineos Holdings, Titan Cement, Folli Follie, Jumbo S.A., OPAP and COSMOTE have their headquarters in the metropolitan area of Athens, while multinational companies such as Ericsson, Sony, Siemens, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, Novartis, Mondelez, Coca-Cola etc. have their regional research and development headquarters also there.
The banking sector is represented by National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank, while the Bank of Greece is also situated in the city centre. The Athens Stock Exchange, the only in Greece, has been severely hit by the Greek government-debt crisis and the decision of the government to proceed into capital controls during summer 2015. As a whole the economy of Athens and Greece has been severely hit with today's data showing a change from long recession to growth of 1.4% in 2017.
Tourism is also a great contributor for the economy of the city, which is considered as one of the top destinations in Europe for city-break tourism and is also the gateway for excursions to the islands or the mainland. Greece attracted 26.5 million visitors in 2015, 30.1 million visitors in 2017 and over 33 million in 2018, making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world, and contributing 18% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product. Athens welcomed more than 5 million tourists in 2018 and 1,4 million of them were "city-breakers" (in 2013 the city-breakers were only 220.000).
Athens is serviced by a variety of transportation means, forming the largest mass transit system of Greece. The Athens Mass Transit System consists of a large bus fleet, a trolleybus fleet that mainly serves Athens's city center, the city's Metro, a commuter rail service and a tram network, connecting the southern suburbs to the city centre.
OSY (Greek: ΟΣΥ) (ODIKES SYGKOINONIES) which is subsidiary company of OASA (Athens urban transport organisation), is the main operator of buses and trolleybusses in Athens. Its network consists of about 300 bus lines and 22 trolleybus lines which span the Athens Metropolitan Area, with a fleet of 1,839 buses and 366 trolleybuses. Of those 1,839 buses 416 run on compressed natural gas, making up the largest fleet of natural gas-powered buses in Europe and all trolleybusses are equipped to enable them to run on diesel in case of power failure.
International links are provided by a number of private companies. National and regional bus links are provided by KTEL from two InterCity Bus Terminals, Kifissos Bus Terminal A and Liosion Bus Terminal B, both located in the north-western part of the city. Kifissos provides connections towards Peloponnese, North Greece, West Greece and some Ionian Islands, whereas Liosion is used for most of Central Greece.
The Athens Metro is operated by STASY S.A (STATHERES SYGKOINONIES S.A) which is a subsidiary company of OASA (Athens urban transport organisation) and provides public transport throughout the Athens Urban Area. While its main purpose is transport, it also houses Greek artifacts found during construction of the system. The Athens Metro has an operating staff of 387 and runs three metro lines, namely the Green Line (line 1), Red Line (line 2) and Blue Line (line 3) lines, of which the first was constructed in 1869, and the other two largely during the 1990s, with the initial new sections opened in January 2000. Line 1 mostly runs at ground level and the other two (Line 2 & 3) routes run entirely underground. A fleet of 42 trains, using 252 carriages, operates on the network, with a daily occupancy of 1,353,000 passengers.
The Green Line (line 1) serves 24 stations, and is the oldest line of the Athens metro network. It runs from Piraeus station to Kifissia station and covers a distance of 25.6-kilometre (15.9 mi). There are transfer connections with the Blue Line at Monastiraki station and with the Red Line at Omonoia and Attiki stations.
The Red Line (line 2) runs from Anthoupoli station to Elliniko station and covers a distance of 17.5 km (10.9 mi). The line connects the western suburbs of Athens with the southeast suburbs, passing through the center of Athens. The Red Line has transfer connections with the Green Line 1 at Attiki and Omonoia stations. There are also transfer connections with the Blue Line at Syntagma station and with the tram at Syntagma, Syngrou Fix and Neos Kosmos stations.
The Blue Line (line 3) runs from Agia Marina and Egaleo stations, through the central Monastiraki and Syntagma stations to Doukissis Plakentias avenue in the northeastern suburb of Halandri, covering a distance of 16 km (10 mi),. It then ascends to ground level and continues to Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, using the Suburban Railway infrastructure, extending its total length to 39 km (24 mi). The spring 2007 extension from Monastiraki westwards to Egaleo connected some of the main night life hubs of the city, namely those of Gazi (Kerameikos station) with Psirri (Monastiraki station) and the city centre (Syntagma station). Extensions are under construction to the west southwest suburbs of Athens, as far as the port of Piraeus. The new stations will be Agia Barvara, Koridallos, Nikaia, Maniatika, Piraeus and Dimotiko Theatro. The completed extension will be ready in 2021 (the first three stations will open in spring 2020), connecting the biggest port of Greece, Piraeus Port ,with the biggest airport of Greece the Athens International Airport.
The Athens commuter rail service, referred to as the "Proastiakós", connects Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport to the city of Kiato, 106 km (66 mi) west of Athens, via Larissa station, the city's central rail station and the port of Piraeus. The length of Athens's commuter rail network extends to 120 km (75 mi), and is expected to stretch to 281 km (175 mi) by 2010.
Athens tram is operated by STASY S.A (STATHERES SYGKOINONIES S.A) which is a subsidiary company of OASA (Athens urban transport organisation). It has a fleet of 35 Sirio type vehicles which serve 48 stations, employ 345 people with an average daily occupancy of 65,000 passengers. The tram network spans a total length of 27 km (17 mi) and covers ten Athenian suburbs. The network runs from Syntagma Square to the southwestern suburb of Palaio Faliro, where the line splits in two branches; the first runs along the Athens coastline toward the southern suburb of Voula, while the other heads toward the Piraeus district of Neo Faliro. The network covers the majority of the Athens coastline. Further extensions are planned towards the major commercial port of Piraeus. The expansion to Piraeus will include 12 new stations, increase the overall length of tram route by 5.4 km (3 mi), and increase the overall transportation network.
Athens is served by the Athens International Airport (ATH), located near the town of Spata, in the eastern Messoghia plain, some 35 km (22 mi) east of Athens. The airport, awarded the "European Airport of the Year 2004" Award, is intended as an expandable hub for air travel in southeastern Europe and was constructed in 51 months, costing 2.2 billion euros. It employs a staff of 14,000.
The airport is served by the Metro, the suburban rail, buses to Piraeus port, Athens' city centre and its suburbs, and also taxis. The airport accommodates 65 landings and take-offs per hour, with its 24-passenger boarding bridges, 144 check-in counters and broader 150,000 m2 (1,614,587 sq ft) main terminal; and a commercial area of 7,000 m2 (75,347 sq ft) which includes cafés, duty-free shops, and a small museum.
In 2018,the airport handled 24,135,736 a huge increase over the last 4 years,In 2014, the airport handled 15,196,369 passengers, an increase of 21.2% over the previous year of 2013. Of those 15,196,369 passengers, 5,267,593 passed through the airport for domestic flights, and 9,970,006 passengers travelled through for international flights. Beyond the dimensions of its passenger capacity, ATH 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 Bucharest). The Port of Piraeus connects Athens to the numerous Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, with ferries departing, while also serving the cruise ships that arrive. Rafina and Lavrio act as alternative ports of Athens, connects the city with numerous Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, Evia and Cesme in Turkey, while also serving the cruise ships that arrive.
Two main motorways of Greece begin in Athens, namely the A1/E75, which crosses through Athens's Urban Area from Piraeus, heading north towards Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki; and the A8/E94 heading west, towards Patras, which incorporated the GR-8A. Before their completion much of the road traffic used the GR-1 and the GR-8.
Athens' Metropolitan Area is served by the motorway network of the Attiki Odos toll-motorway (code: A6). Its main section extends from the western industrial suburb of Elefsina to Athens International Airport; while two beltways, namely the Aigaleo Beltway (A65) and the Hymettus Beltway (A64) serve parts of western and eastern Athens respectively. The span of the Attiki Odos in all its length is 65 km (40 mi), making it the largest metropolitan motorway network in all of Greece.
Located on Panepistimiou Street, the old campus of the University of Athens, the National Library, and the Athens Academy form the "Athens Trilogy" built in the mid-19th century. Most of the university's workings have been moved to a much larger, modern campus located in the eastern suburb of Zografou. The second higher education institution in the city is the Athens Polytechnic School, found in Patission Street. This was the location where on 17 November 1973, more than 13 students were killed and hundreds injured inside the university during the Athens Polytechnic uprising, against the military junta that ruled the nation from 21 April 1967 until 23 July 1974.
Other universities that lie within Athens are the Athens University of Economics and Business, the Panteion University, the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Piraeus. There are overall ten state-supported Institutions of Higher (or Tertiary) education located in the Urban Area of Athens, these are by chronological order: Athens School of Fine Arts (1837), National Technical University of Athens (1837), National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (1837), Agricultural University of Athens (1920), Athens University of Economics and Business (1920), (1927), University of Piraeus (1938), Harokopio University of Athens (1990), School of Pedagogical and Technological Education (2002), University of West Attica (2018). There are also several other private colleges, as they called formally in Greece, as the establishment of private universities is prohibited by the constitution. Many of them are accredited by a foreign state or university such as the American College of Greece and the Athens Campus of the University of Indianapolis.
The city is a world centre of archaeological research. Along with national institutions, such as the Athens University and the Archaeological Society, there are multiple archaeological Museums including the National Archaeological Museum, the Cycladic Museum, the Epigraphic Museum, the Byzantine & Christian Museum, as well as museums at the ancient Agora, Acropolis, Kerameikos, and the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum. The city is also home to the Demokritos laboratory for Archaeometry, alongside regional and national archaeological authorities that form part of the Greek Department of Culture.
Athens hosts 17 Foreign Archaeological Institutes which promote and facilitate research by scholars from their 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, each year. At any given time, hundreds of international scholars and researchers in all disciplines of archaeology are to be found in the city.
Athens incorporates architectural styles ranging from Greco-Roman and Neoclassical to modern times. They are often to be found in the same areas, as Athens is not marked by a uniformity of architectural style. A visitor will quickly notice the absence of tall buildings: Athens has very strict height restriction laws in order to ensure the Acropolis hill is visible throughout the city.
For the greatest part of the 19th century Neoclassicism dominated Athens, as well as some deviations from it such as Eclecticism, especially in the early 20th century. Thus, the Old Royal Palace was the first important public building to be built, between 1836 and 1843. Later in the mid and late 19th century, Theophil Freiherr von Hansen and Ernst Ziller took part in the construction of many neoclassical buildings such as the Athens Academy and the Zappeion Hall. Ziller also designed many private mansions in the centre of Athens which gradually became public, usually through donations, such as Schliemann's Iliou Melathron.
Beginning in the 1920s, Modern architecture including Bauhaus and Art Deco began to exert an influence on almost all Greek architects, and buildings both public and private were constructed in accordance with these styles. Localities with a great number of such buildings include Kolonaki, and some areas of the centre of the city; neighbourhoods developed in this period include Kypseli.
In the 1950s and 1960s during the extension and development of Athens, other modern movements such as the International style played an important role. The centre of Athens was largely rebuilt, leading to the demolition of a number of neoclassical buildings. The architects of this era employed materials such as glass, marble and aluminium, and many blended modern and classical elements. After World War II, internationally known architects to have designed and built in the city included Walter Gropius, with his design for the US Embassy, and, among others, Eero Saarinen, in his postwar design for the east terminal of the Ellinikon Airport.
All over the city can be found several statues or busts. Apart from the neoclassicals by Leonidas Drosis at the Academy of Athens (Plato, Socrates, Apollo, Athena), other notable include the statue of Theseus by Georgios Fytalis at Thiseion, of philhellenes like Lord Byron, George Canning and William Gladstone, the equestrian statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis by Lazaros Sochos in front of the Old Parliament, statues of Ioannis Kapodistrias, Rigas Feraios and Adamantios Korais at the University, of Evangelos Zappas and Konstantinos Zappas at Zappeion, of Ioannis Varvakis at the National Garden, the "woodbreaker" by Dimitrios Filippotis, the equestrian statue of Alexandros Papagos at Papagou district and various busts of fighters of Greek independence at the Pedion tou Areos. A significant landmark is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma.
Athens has been a destination for travellers since antiquity. Over the past decade, the city's infrastructure and social amenities have improved, in part because of its successful bid to stage the 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek Government, aided by the EU, has funded major infrastructure projects such as the state-of-the-art Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, the expansion of the Athens Metro system, and the new Attiki Odos Motorway.
Athens was voted as the third best European city to visit in 2015 by European Best Destination. More than 240,000 people voted.
Athens is home to 148 theatrical stages, more than any other city in the world, including the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus, home to the Athens Festival, which runs from May to October each year. In addition to a large number of multiplexes, Athens plays host to open air garden cinemas. The city also supports music venues, including the Athens Concert Hall (Megaro Moussikis), which attracts world class artists. The Athens Planetarium, located in Andrea Syngrou Avenue, in Palaio Faliro is one of the largest and best equipped digital planetaria in the world. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, inaugurated in 2016, will house the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera.
The most successful songs during the period 1870–1930 were the so-called Athenian serenades (Αθηναϊκές καντάδες), based on the Heptanesean kantádhes (καντάδες 'serenades'; sing.: καντάδα) and the songs performed on stage (επιθεωρησιακά τραγούδια 'theatrical revue songs') in revues, musical comedies, operettas and nocturnes that were dominating Athens' theatre scene.
Notable composers of operettas or nocturnes were Kostas Giannidis, Dionysios Lavrangas, Nikos Hatziapostolou, while Theophrastos Sakellaridis' The Godson remains probably the most popular operetta. Despite the fact that the Athenian songs were not autonomous artistic creations (in contrast with the serenades) and despite their original connection with mainly dramatic forms of Art, they eventually became hits as independent songs. Notable actors of Greek operettas, who made also a series of melodies and songs popular at that time, include Orestis Makris, Kalouta sisters, Vasilis Avlonitis, Afroditi Laoutari, Eleni Papadaki, Marika Nezer, Marika Krevata and others. After 1930, wavering among American and European musical influences as well as the Greek musical tradition. Greek composers begin to write music using the tunes of the tango, waltz, swing, foxtrot, some times combined with melodies in the style of Athenian serenades' repertory. Nikos Gounaris was probably the most renowned composer and singer of the time.
In 1923, after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, many ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor fled to Athens as a result of the Greco-Turkish War. They settled in poor neighborhoods and brought with them Rebetiko music, making it popular also in Greece, which became later the base for the Laïko music. Other forms of song popular today in Greece are elafrolaika, entechno, dimotika, and skyladika. Greece's most notable, and internationally famous, composers of Greek song, mainly of the entechno form, are Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis. Both composers have achieved fame abroad for their composition of film scores.
Athens has a long tradition in sports and sporting events, serving as home to the most important clubs in Greek sport and housing a large number of sports facilities. The city has also been host to sports events of international importance.
Athens has hosted the Summer Olympic Games twice, in 1896 and 2004. The 2004 Summer Olympics required the development of the Athens Olympic Stadium, which has since gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world, and one of its most interesting modern monuments. The biggest stadium in the country, it hosted two finals of the UEFA Champions League, in 1994 and 2007. Athens' other major stadium, located in the Piraeus area, is the Karaiskakis Stadium, a sports and entertainment complex, host of the 1971 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final.
Athens has hosted the EuroLeague final three times, the first in 1985 and second in 1993, both at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, most known as SEF, a large indoor arena, and the third time in 2007 at the Olympic Indoor Hall. Events in other sports such as athletics, volleyball, water polo etc., have been hosted in the capital's venues.
Athens is home to three European multi-sport clubs: Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens. In football, Olympiacos have dominated the domestic competitions, Panathinaikos made it to the 1971 European Cup Final, while AEK Athens is the other member of the big three. These clubs also have basketball teams; Panathinaikos and Olympiacos are among the top powers in European basketball, having won the Euroleague six times and three respectively, whilst AEK Athens was the first Greek team to win a European trophy in any team sport.
Other notable clubs within Athens are Athinaikos, Panionios, Atromitos, Apollon, Panellinios, Ethnikos Piraeus, Maroussi BCE and Peristeri B.C.. Athenian clubs have also had domestic and international success in other sports.
The Athens area encompasses a variety of terrain, notably hills and mountains rising around the city, 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 criss-cross the city and neighbouring areas, providing exercise and wilderness access on foot and bike.
Beyond Athens and across the prefecture of Attica, outdoor activities include 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.
Beside the above clubs, inside the boundaries of Athens municipality there are some more clubs with presence in national divisions or notable action for short periods. Some of them are PAO Rouf (Rouf) with earlier presence in Gamma Ethniki, Petralona F.C.(el) (Petralona), football club founded in 1963, with earlier presence in Beta Ethniki, Attikos F.C.(el) (Kolonos), football club founded in 1919 with short presence in Gamma Ethniki, Athinais Kypselis (Kypseli), football club founded in 1938 with short presence in Gamma Ethniki, Gyziakos (Gyzi), basketball club founded in 1937 with short presence in Beta Ethniki basketball and Aetos B.C.(el) (Agios Panteleimonas), basketball club founded in 1992 with earlier presence in A2 Ethniki Basketball. Another important Athenian sport club is the Athens Tennis Club founded in 1895 with important offer for the Greek tennis.
The revival of the modern Olympic Games was brought forth in 1896, by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin. Thanks to his efforts, Athens was awarded the first modern Olympic Games. In 1896, the city had a 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. The Kallimarmaro is a replica of the ancient Athenian stadiums, and the only major stadium (in its capacity of 60,000) to be made entirely of white marble from Mount Penteli, the same material used for construction of the Parthenon.
The 1906 Summer Olympics, or the 1906 Intercalated games, were held in Athens. The intercalated competitions were intermediate games to the internationally organized Olympics, and were meant to be organized in Greece every four years, between the main Olympics. This idea later lost support from the IOC and these games were discontinued.
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 host the games, following the inaugural event of 1896. After an unsuccessful bid in 1990, the 1997 bid was radically improved, 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 been eliminated from competition, having received fewer votes.
During the first three years of preparations, the International Olympic Committee had expressed 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 forward, preparations continued at a highly accelerated, almost frenzied pace.
Although the heavy cost was criticized, estimated at $1.5 billion, Athens was transformed into a more functional city that enjoys modern 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 success, as both security and organization worked well, 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 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 most of the Olympic venues had fallen into disrepair: according to those reports, 21 of the 22 facilities built for the games had either been left abandoned or are in a state of dereliction, with several squatter camps having sprung up around certain facilities, and a number of venues afflicted by vandalism, graffiti or strewn with rubbish. These claims, however, are disputed and likely to be inaccurate, as most of the facilities used for the Athens Olympics are either in use or in the process of being converted for post-Olympics use. The Greek Government has created a corporation, Olympic Properties SA, which is overseeing the post-Olympics management, development and conversion of these facilities, some of which will be sold off (or have already been sold off) to the private sector, while other facilities are still in use just as during the Olympics, or have been converted for commercial use or modified for other sports. Concerts and theatrical shows, such as those by the troupe Cirque du Soleil, have recently been held in the complex.