Incredible Facts About Athens

This is one of the oldest cities in the world, and probably the best known, but where else features on our list?
This is one of the oldest cities in the world, and probably the best known, but where else features on our list? | Photo by Constantinos Kollias on Unsplash
Ethel Dilouambaka

Everyone can agree that Athens is an interesting city. Blessed with a rich cultural and historical past, the city is the subject of many known – and lesser-known – facts. Here is a compilation of some interesting facts you should know about Athens.
Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Book now and join one of our premium small-group tours to discover the world like never before.

Athens is Europe’s oldest capital.

Records show the city’s origins go back to around 3,400 years ago, also making it one of the oldest cities in the world.

Athens has experienced almost every form of government.

Having been inhabited for over 4,000 years, Athens has been submitted to nearly every form of government known to this day: monarchy, democracy, socialism, capitalism, even communism.

According to mythology, Athena and Poseidon competed for the title of the guardian of the city. They each offered a gift to gain favor of its people and the gods, but Athena’s olive tree was deemed more valuable than the salt water spring given by Poseidon, so her name was given to the city-state.

The ancient Olympic games were never held in Athens.

The first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. in Olympia, in Peloponnese, but the city-state of Athens also had its own games, called the Panathenaic Games, since 566 B.C.

Athens is home to the first known democracy.

Democracy was established in Athens around 500 B.C. It was based on a direct democracy system, in which eligible citizens directly voted on laws.

Greta Samuel

Athens has the most theatrical stages in the world.

It’s understandable that the Greeks take theater very seriously, as the tradition of theater dates back to the time of Athens’ first democracy – so much so that Athens is home to 148 theater stages, more than the West End and Broadway combined.

Greta Samuel

Athens hasn’t always been the capital of Greece.

Athens is Greece’s second capital city. During and after the War of Independence, the capital of the new Greek State was Nafplio, 1821–1834.

The Acropolis has a troubled past.

While the Parthenon is the central city landmark in the Acropolis, this sacred temple has known some hardship. During its lifetime, the temple has been used as storage for munitions, converted into a church then a mosque, and widely looted by former Ambassador to Constantinople Lord Elgin. It also served as army barracks and was bombed by the Venetians in 1687.

The Athens Metro hid unexpected archaeological finds.

During construction of the Athens Metro to support transportation needs during the 2004 Olympic Games, the works led to the greatest archaeological excavation in the Athens area, and over 50,000 artifacts were excavated. Six Metro stations displayed some of the finds.
Put your new-found cultural knowledge to good use and book from our selection of dreamy island trips in Greece.

A woman is responsible for sidewalks in today’s Athens.

From the late-19th century to the 1990s, the sidewalks of downtown Athens used to be paved with marble. Athens’ first female mayor, Dora Bakoyannis, decided to give the city a much-needed facelift in 2003, as the marble had aged and would get slippery on rainy days. While some of marbled sidewalks are still in place, Athenian roads and walkways were modernized, making the entire city more accessible for everyone – just in time for the 2004 Olympics.

The Hotel Grande Bretagne is the oldest hotel in the city.

The magnificent Hotel Grande Bretagne, located in Syntagma Square, was used as a royal guesthouse in the 19th century, and it served as Nazi headquarters during the German occupation of Athens in World War II.

Athens represents millennia of architectural styles.

As a city dating back to antiquity, Athens is an interesting case study of architecture and is home to a variety of styles, from Greco-Roman to Neoclassical to modern.

Greta Samuel

The marathon event was created for the modern Olympic Games held in Athens.

The marathon is a commemoration of the run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides (also known as Philippides), who ran from Marathon to Athens to report the Athenians’ victory against the Persians in 490 B.C.

Athens was the first European Capital of Culture.

The idea of the title is credited to Melina Mercouri – former actress, activist, and Minister of Culture – and her French homologue, Jack Lang.

Until recently, there was no museum of contemporary art in Athens.

The National Museum of Contemporary Art, or EMST, is Greece’s first museum of this kind. It operated from 2000 to 2003 on the ground floor of the FIX brewery and later closed for renovation. Now it is open for visitors.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article