The sprawling city is bounded on three sides by Mt Ymettos, Mt Parnitha and Mt Pendeli; whilst inside Athens are twelve hills [the seven historical are: Acropolis, Areopagus, Hill of Philopappus, Observatory Hill (Muses Hill), Pnyx, Lycabettus, Tourkovounia (Anchesmus)], the Acropolis and Lykavittos being the most prominent. These hills provide a refuge from the noise and commotion of the crowded city streets, offering amazing views down to Saronic Gulf, Athens’ boundary with the Aegean Sea on its southern side. The streets of Athens (clearly signposted in Greek and English) now meld imperceptibly into Piraeus, the city’s ancient (and still bustling) port.
Places of interest to travellers can be found within a relatively small area surrounding the city centre at Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos). This epicentre is surrounded by the districts of the Plaka to the south, Monastiraki to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north. Further afield is the port of Athens, the Piraeus.
- The Acropolis— The ancient “high city” of Athens, crowned by marble temples sacred to the city’s goddess Athena.
- Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio— Charming historic districts at the foot of the Acropolis, with restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city’s Roman era.
- Kifissia— The northern part of Athens, rarely visited by tourists.
- Nea Smyrni— The southern part of Athens, it is a modern European district.
- Kolonaki— Upscale residential area with many cafes, boutiques and galleries.
- Omonia and Exarheia— Formerly seedy district, it is now home to Greece’s students, anarchists and the National Archeaological Museum, somewhat revitalized by the metro.
- Pangrati and Mets— These adjoining pleasant residential neighborhoods south of Lycabettos and east of the National Garden are rarely frequented by tourists, but they do include a few hotels and a number of good traditional tavernas.
- Piraeus— The ancient port of Athens, Piraeus is today an independent, heavily industrial municipality located southwest of Athens, whose modern-day port serves almost all of Attica’s ferry connections to Crete and the Aegean Islands.
- Psiri— Former industrial district, now full of trendy and alternative restaurants, cafés, bars, small luxury hotels and shops.
- Syntagma Square (Plateia Syntagmatos)— Dominated by the old Royal Palace, Syntagma Square is the business district of Athens, complete with major hotels, banks, restaurants and airline offices.
- Zografou— Residential district on the slopes of Imitos, many university buildings are located here and there are several quirky bars and tavernas dotted around.