A stroll along the multicolored marble pathway
, which leads to the Acropolis, the ancient "hill city," which is the capital's historic heart and home to the 24-centuries-old Parthenon, the spectacular semi-circular Theatre of Dionysus and the Erechtheion, which is famous for the six "maiden" pillars that support its frontage.
Many other historic artifacts also are in the Acropolis Museum
. (Dionysiou Areopagitou Street; open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, April 1 to Oct. 31, entrance 5 euros)
is the must-see Athens attraction. Get there early (or if your ship's schedule allows, go late) if you want to explore this fabulous site without excessive heat and crowds. You should stock up on snacks and drinks at the entrance to the site, as they are not available inside (though you can buy books and postcards). Entrance costs about 12 euros. (Open 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday and 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 1 to Oct. 31)
Stroll around the Central Market
to get a real flavor of Greek food and drink. Be warned though, some of the food stalls -- featuring slaughtered whole lambs and skinned rabbits -- are not for the squeamish. You'll also find decent flea market stalls near the food market if the sight of all that meat gets too much.
Stop into at least one of Athens' many fabulous museums. They include the Numismatic Museum
, former home of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, the man who unearthed the ruins of Ancient Troy and declared "I have looked on the face of Agamemnon." (Iliou Melathron 12, on Panepistimiou Street; open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, closed Mondays) And when you've had enough of peering at ancient artifacts, you can bring yourself up to date at the Museum of Contemporary Art
. (17-19 Vas. Georgiou B. and Rigilis Street; open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, closed Mondays)
Explore Central Athens and its neighborhoods. These include Plaka
, one of the city's oldest districts, which lies near the Acropolis and is famed for its lively cafes and well-stocked antique shops. Use Plateia Syntagma (Constitution Square), which has a Metro station, as your guidepost. Plaka lies south of this square, while Kolonaki
-- an upmarket district with classy boutiques, galleries and restaurants -- is at its northeast corner. Monastiraki
(charming historic districts with fine 19th Century neoclassical buildings and a good array of shops and restaurants) lie to the west of Syntagma.
If you head north from Monastiraki, you'll find yourself in Psiri
, a former industrial zone that has been transformed into a haven for the trendy and avant-garde, with lots of alternative restaurants and offbeat shops. Artsy types will also love Bohemian Metaxourgeio
(northwest of Psiri), which is home to Athens' Municipal Gallery on Avdi Square.Corinth
, about 55 miles from Athens, is worth a visit to explore the narrow streets of its old city, view its fine Temple of Apollo and Roman Agora, and sail along the high-sided Corinth Canal. Most ships offer tours there.
, spiritual heart of the Ancient Greek world, makes another good day trip. Home to the Oracle at Delphi, this site on the slopes of Mount Parnassus is one of the most famous of the ancient world -- and certainly the most mystical. Don't miss the Springs of Castalia -- where supplicants to the Oracle purified themselves before entering the sanctuary. Make sure you walk "The Sacred Way," which leads to the Temple of Apollo, the ancient Treasuries and the 5,000-seat Theatre of Delphi. The latter dates from the 4th Century B.C. and offers magnificent views and amazing acoustics (have a holler to try them out).
Take a fast ferry from Piraeus to Aegina
, the second largest island in the Saronic Gulf, which lies 16 nautical miles away (a 35-minute journey each way). You'll find excellent beaches at Souvala and Marathon as well as the classic Greek monastery of Saint Nektarios and several ancient temples dedicated to Athena, Zeus and Apollo. Don't forget to buy some delicious pistachios to nibble on the way back.
If you need of a lazy day ashore, you could stay in Piraeus
. The Archaeological Museum of Piraeus contains bronzes of Apollo and Athena from the Archaic and Classical periods of Greek art, as well as a fine collection of funerary stelae. Other attractions include the fine Greek Orthodox churches of Saint Nicholas, Saint Spyridon and Holy Trinity. For eats, visit the picturesque Mikrolimano marina, which is lined with attractive alfresco restaurants.